What’s Your Problem? How AI Solved a Biological Mystery

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Pushmeet Kohli is vice president of research at DeepMind, an AI research group that is part of Google.

Every protein has a unique shape. And understanding a protein’s shape is key to understanding how proteins work to keep us healthy, and what goes wrong when we get sick. But, for decades, figuring out the shape of a protein was a hard problem that could take years of work.

Then Pushmeet and his colleagues built an AI model called AlphaFold that could accurately predict the shape of hundreds of millions of proteins. It’s one of the most impressive real-world AI success stories that we’ve seen so far. And it turns out that the lessons of AlphaFold also hold broader lessons for solving problems with AI.

The Host

Jacob Goldstein

Jacob Goldstein spent more than a decade as co-host of the Planet Money podcast. He's also the author of the book Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing, which the New…