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Assessing GPT-4’s role as a co-collaborator in scientific research: a case study analyzing Einstein’s special theory of relativity

Steven Bryant

Springer Link

Aug 1, 2023


This paper investigates GPT-4’s role as a research partner, particularly its ability to scrutinize complex theories like Einstein’s Special Relativity Theory (SRT). GPT-4’s advanced capabilities prove invaluable in complex research scenarios where human expertise might be limited. Despite initial biases, an inclination to uphold Einstein’s theory, and certain mathematical limitations, GPT-4 validated an inconsistency within the SRT equations, leading to a questioning of the theory's overall validity. GPT-4 contributed significantly to honing the analytical approach and expanding constraints. This paper explores the strengths and challenges associated with the use of GPT-4 in scientific research, with a strong emphasis on the need for vigilance concerning potential biases and limitations in large language models. The paper further introduces a categorization framework for AI collaborations, and specific guidelines for optimal interaction with advanced models like GPT-4. Future research endeavors should focus on augmenting these models’ precision, trustworthiness, and impartiality, particularly within complex or contentious research domains.

1 Introduction

The emergence of advanced artificial intelligence models like GPT-4 offers promising avenues for employing these technologies as collaborative partners in scientific research [1, 2]. GPT-4, and its GPT-3.5 predecessor, have exhibited human-level performance across various domains, including passing the US Medical Licensing Exams and the Multistate Bar Exam with remarkable accuracy [3,4,5,6]. These accomplishments suggest that GPT-4 could aid researchers in complex and controversial areas where human collaboration might be constrained or biased. To investigate this potential, this paper presents a case study centered on Einstein’s Special Relativity Theory (SRT), a complex theory with an extensive history of debate and scrutiny [7].

Navigating controversial scientific ideas, particularly those contesting established theories, requires a meticulous approach to counter both overt and covert biases that might impede an impartial and objective analysis [8,9,10]. It is not uncommon for researchers’ pre-existing notions to lead to a neglect or dismissal of inconsistencies that challenge their beliefs [9,10,11]. Recently, the development of Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) Large Language Models (LLMs) has opened new avenues for validation of scientific theories and ideas that conflict with accepted theories and deeply held convictions. GPT-4, a highly advanced language model developed by OpenAI, is one such example [1, 2].

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