Summary: Self-aware artificial intelligence, biology-based computers and “smart” surveillance are just a few.
Original author and publication date: Jack Corrigan – December 23, 2016
Futurizonte Editor’s Note: If we are not aware of what is happening in the present, we are not aware of the future.
From the article:
If you imagine the U.S. research community as a family party, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is your crazy uncle ranting at the end of the table and the government’s other “ARPA” organizations are the in-laws who are buying into his theories.
DARPA and its counterparts—the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity and the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy—are responsible for conducting some of the most innovative and bizarre projects in the government’s $140 billion research portfolio. DARPA’s past research has laid the groundwork for the internet, GPS and other technologies we take for granted today, and though the other organizations are relatively new, they’re similarly charged with pushing today’s tech to new heights.
That means the futuristic-sounding projects the agencies are working on today could give us a sneak peek of where the tech industry is headed in the years ahead.
And based on the organizations’ 2019 research efforts, the future looks pretty wild.
DARPA Pushes the Limits of AI
Last year, DARPA announced it would invest some $2 billion in bringing about the so-called “third wave” of artificial intelligence, systems capable of reasoning and human-like communication. And those efforts are already well underway.
In March, the agency started exploring ways to improve how AI systems like Siri and Alexa teach themselves language. Instead of crunching gargantuan datasets to learn the ins and outs of a language, researchers essentially want the tech to teach itself by observing the world, just like human babies do. Through the program, AI systems would learn to associate visual cues—photos, videos and live demonstrations—with audible sounds. Ultimately, the goal is to build tech that actually understand the meaning of what they’re saying.
DARPA also wants AI tools to assess their own expertise and inform their operators know when they don’t know something. The Competency-Aware Machine Learning program, launched in February, looks to enable AI systems to model their own behavior, evaluate past mistakes and apply that information to future decisions. If the tech thinks its results could be inaccurate, it would let users know. Such self-awareness will be critical as the military leans on AI systems for increasingly consequential tasks.
One of the biggest barriers to building AI is the amount of computing power required to run them, but DARPA is looking to the insect world to lower that barrier to entry. Through the MicroBRAIN program, the agency is examining the brains of “very small flying insects” to get inspiration for more energy efficient AI designs.
Beyond improving the tech itself, DARPA is also looking to AI to tackle some of the most pressing problems facing the government today. The agency is funding research to teach computers to automatically detect errors in deepfakes and other manipulated media. Officials are also investing in AI that could help design more secure weapons systems, vehicles and other network-connected platforms.
Outside of artificial intelligence, DARPA is also working to develop a wide-range of other capabilities that sound like they came straight from a sci-fi movie, including but not limited to satellite-repair robots, automated underground mapping technologies and computers powered by biological processes.