The Biggest AI Led Scientific Breakthroughs So Far

by Tanya June 07, 2024

Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the world right before our eyes, with science being just one field of academia that has embraced significant changes. Scientific breakthroughs facilitated by AI have exploded since the early 2020s.

The number of institutions and amount of academic research using AI technology is skyrocketing, and it’s all happened within a concise time frame of the last 18 months to 2 years. We could sit here all day and discuss how scientists implement AI in their research, from basic data collection models to incredibly sophisticated 3D scanning and stem-cell research.

Many experts within the industry believe we’re quickly getting to a stage where AI will dominate all research requiring only small core teams of scientists to oversee it. According to AI news reporters, it’s akin to the rise of computers and high-quality telescopic imagery — all of which enhanced the quality of research and made findings more accurate.

AI opens up new avenues, and it is innovative more from a software perspective than a hardware perspective. However, that doesn’t mean it can’t enhance hardware and work in collaboration to make once-in-a-generation breakthroughs. We’re already beginning to see some of these potential breakthroughs emerge, from incredible disease prevention research to generative learning tools.

Self-driving vehicles

A lot of scientific research in the 2010s revolved around alternative fuel sources. As the world slowly begins to bottleneck under excessive oil consumption and to use up non-renewable resources, electric vehicles have risen in importance. They are quickly becoming the number one type of vehicle on the roads. Electric vehicles became such a success story that they propelled Elon Musk to the top of the charts as the world’s wealthiest man.

While this initial rise has cooled off, and Musk’s eye-watering $44 billion gamble on X (formerly known as Twitter) is causing him to lose money at an alarming rate, he still sits in third place behind Jeff Bezos and Bernard Arnault as the world’s richest person.

Like all the world’s top entrepreneurs, Musk has his finger in many pies using cutting-edge technology to make money. His research and development team has explored two big topics over the last year: AI and self-driving vehicles. Although AI encompasses much more, it is the foundation and the main building block of self-driving vehicle technology.

Given the rapid increase in sophistication of AI technology, it’s now moulding self-driving programs, helping to clearly define lane identification systems and innovating motion-detection systems, so self-driving cars are able to react within milliseconds to prevent hitting objects, pedestrians or other vehicles on the road. Every facet of this sector has experienced huge breakthroughs due to AI, and many companies are looking to test and roll out the technology within the next couple of years to see how it works on real roads, dealing with live hazards and risks.

Healthcare risk-scoring

If you’ve been for a medical or healthcare check-up recently, you may have experienced some incredible technological changes thanks to AI. Dermatologists now use advanced AI programs to highlight areas of concern, including moles, rashes and other abnormalities.

Risk-scoring programs immediately collect the data, scan the images and provide a risk score. Ultimately, the dermatologist has the final say, but the technology has advanced to the point that it’s streamlined appointments and checks, freeing up time for specialists to focus on human-specific areas and allowing AI to optimise the data analysis.

Dentistry is another field of healthcare that is changing due to AI. Many patients who have concerns can now send in imagery of their teeth or gums, and AI can scan the imagery and provide an analysis, overview, potential areas to examine and a course of treatment. 3D printers can also use AI tools to print detailed breakdowns of teeth, allowing dentists to create specialist, unique treatments.

Dealing with brain injuries – innovative aftercare

Perhaps the most stunning breakthrough scientists have experienced using AI over the last few years is the vast improvement in speech and voice recognition technology. Neurologists first began exploring the technology in 2022 and it’s now become a key feature in post-stroke care. In some cases, it’s resulted in patients being able to speak and communicate despite having experienced a debilitative stroke.

This technology has gone far beyond the mechanics of speech and voice recognition. AI-powered trousers have been trialled and have been shown to have an incredible impact on those people who have lost their ability to walk due to a brain injury caused by a stroke or another damaging health condition. By stimulating muscle groups in the patient’s legs, AI hones in on muscles and joints that were damaged by a stroke, resulting in many patients being able to walk again.

Super-resolution imagery, also powered by AI, has been a revelation in neurology. Brain scans can be examined in precise detail within a few seconds. While scans must always undergo a further, detailed check, technology has become an integral feature of this area of science.

Researchers within this field are excited at the anticipated innovations we could see in the coming years. With such considerable breakthroughs in a short window, who knows where it could be in the next 20 to 25 years?

Legal patents and documentation

Scientific researchers must operate within the legal and ethical frameworks for their research programmes. Many of these institutions are funded via government subsidies or university grants.

They have both a legal obligation and a duty to ensure their research is holistically beneficial. AI poses challenges in this regard as it becomes more autonomous and still lacks strict, urgently needed regulations. Scientists and researchers must draw their own lines in the sand.

Legal patents and documentation help to detail the steps and measures in place regarding research. It also ensures that researchers from that specific institution who have succeeded in breakthrough research are given the legal protection to share their research and potential changes in the industry that emerge.

AI has transformed the way people write and research papers and legal documentation. ChatGPT’s ability to pass complex legal exams and produce sophisticated research analyses has paved the way for the industry to downsize. AI is now responsible for penning many of these patents and ensuring that the legal professionals who specialise in writing them can edit and oversee them rather than spending painstaking days ensuring every word is correct.

Whether this will have a net positive or negative impact in the long term is something that is currently dividing people in law and science, but it’s a huge breakthrough regardless. No matter which field is impacted by AI, it will inevitably lead to job losses and job creation, but society must benefit. Otherwise, it’ll start to pose major questions from both a societal and economic perspective.


Artificial intelligence is only at the beginning of its journey. While the impact it will have is still up for debate, there’s unanimous agreement within scientific research and discovery that AI is here to stay and will change the landscape of research forever. It’s an exciting time, and over the next 10 or 20 years, we could see some of the greatest-ever scientific breakthroughs emerge almost exclusively thanks to this technology.

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