Right at this moment, hundreds of U.S. government analysts are trying to solve the exact same problem. Each is tackling a number of major national and international security issues, from cyberthreats to terrorism, global health crises and public safety problems. Without easy, trusted data sharing, these analysts, who the nation relies on to solve the most challenging of worries, cannot benefit from shared knowledge—a hurdle that adds to inefficiencies fostered by redundancies, reinforcing the public’s perception of ineffective federal bureaucracy.
The U.S. government wants to buck the trend of years of steady but slow progress to make computers much smarter at everyday mundane tasks. The Defense Department and other agencies want to pick up the pace to mirror the disruptive advances of years past that led to the Internet, Global Positioning System and Siri.
Private companies already might be beating the government to the finish line, producing advances some say are equal parts inspiring and troubling. The technology blitz has prompted government and industry officials alike to sound cautionary alarms about advanced artificial intelligence.
One year ago, scientists announced that they had designed artificial intelligence that displayed a humanlike ability to learn on its own. The breakthrough raised the possibility that machines could one day replace human intelligence analysts.
That day will not come.
To date, analytical software has significantly aided but not supplanted human analysis. Viewing the analytical process as a relay race, the better the software, the closer the analyst is to the finish line after the machine passes the baton. The analyst adds vast contextual understanding of the entire problem necessary to even grasp the baton.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already all around us: It’s the mobile personal virtual assistant, and the Google-created computer program that defeated the world’s champion of the ancient Chinese board game, Go. It’s the self-driving car that soon will be taking you to the office. There’s no doubt machines are smarter than ever, and getting smarter all the time.
Vencore Labs Inc. - Applied Communication Sciences, Basking Ridge, New Jersey, has been awarded an $8,169,720 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for software and reports. Contractor will provide research, development, demonstration and delivery of a machine-intelligence for advance notification of threats and energy-grid survivable situational awareness software system. Work will be performed at Basking Ridge, New Jersey, and is expected to be complete by July 27, 2020. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition with 70 offers received. Fiscal 2016 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $1,353,354 are being obligated at the time of award.
BAE Systems Information and Electronic Systems Integration, Technology Solutions-Advanced Information Technologies, Burlington, Massachusetts, has been awarded a $9,402,650 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract for software and reports. The contractor will provide development and integration of the latest advancements in machine learning that benefit this effort as well as architectural enhancements that increase the flexibility and agility of applying analytics to solve space situational awareness problems and take full advantage of high-performance computing capabilities and multiple forms of visualization of the reasoning performed by the analytics involved in this effort.
SRA International Inc., a CSRA Co., Chantilly, Virginia, has been awarded a $7,525,000 indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity contract for research in trust in autonomy for human-machine teaming. Contractor will provide basic, applied and advanced technology development research, development and demonstration for understanding the trust calibration process. Work will be performed predominantly at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, and is expected to be complete by March 24, 2023. This award is the result of a competitive acquisition with five offers received. Fiscal 2016 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $480,985 are being obligated at the time of award.
The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) has awarded an $18.7 million contract to the Allen Institute for Brain Science, as part of a larger project with Baylor College of Medicine and Princeton University, to create the largest-ever road map to understand how the function of networks in the brain’s cortex relates to the underlying connections of its individual neurons. The project is part of the Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) program, which seeks to revolutionize machine learning by reverse-engineering the algorithms of the brain.
Remember this scene from The Graduate?
Mr. McGuire: I just want to say one word to you. Just one word.
Benjamin: Yes, sir.
Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
Benjamin: Yes, I am.
Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
Turns out, plastics was pretty hot. Great tip, Mr. McGuire. I wonder what, if anything, Benjamin did with that tip. More importantly, what is the one word for today?
I think I have it. The word is Cambric. Cambric the finely woven linen? No, CAMBRIC the finely woven acronym:
Researchers are linking together the power of the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and cloud computing to create a personal assistant to provide total situational awareness to first responders. The advanced program is wise enough to provide only the information necessary for each user, smart enough to ask questions and versatile enough for virtually anyone to use, including firefighters, warfighters, factory workers and home owners.
If all goes well, the system is set to begin prototype testing within the next 16 months, and an initial capability could be fielded soon.
For centuries, information revolutions have spurred dramatic sea changes not only defining how people gather, archive and share knowledge, but also fundamentally altering how they communicate and even think. From the dawn of the spoken word to the development of written languages and the invention of the printing press, telegraph, personal computer and now smartphone, innovations in communication have revamped the course of human understanding and interaction.
In my earlier blog about artificial intelligence, I touched on the growing interconnectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT) and how it provides a pathway for connecting technology. The IoT concept envisions all technology in the information technology enterprise being connected on a global scale. Unfortunately, such a complex architecture will affect the individual components of technology and how information is protected. Extrapolated, it means that protecting information is unattainable.
It all began with Dolly, perhaps the most notable sheep in the last century—or any century for that matter. Dolly was the first animal to be cloned from an adult somatic cell. To put this phenomenal technical accomplishment in perspective, when she was born in 1996, a high-end personal computer with 8 megabits of memory and a 400-megabyte hard drive cost between $3,000 and $4,000. Today, a laptop with 4 gigabytes of memory and a 500-gigabyte hard drive is less than $400.
In December 2014, Stephen Hawking, the renowned theoretical physicist, warned the world that true artificial intelligence (AI) could mean the death of mankind. Well, that got my attention. His comments stirred up a maelstrom of support. Small wonder, but the AI argument has been ongoing since the late Isaac Asimov wrote the Foundation series.
Hawking’s statement did complement a blast by Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and a strong advocate of driverless cars, who two months prior at the MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department's 2014 Centennial Symposium responded to the discussion about AI by saying, “With artificial intelligence, we are summoning the demon.”
It's nice when Fido obeys commands, but isn't it even better when he instinctively anticipates those directives? Apply this concept to unmanned systems-robotics to be exact-and the warfighter has a more foolproof companion by his side on the battlefield. That's the idea driving the U.S. Army Research Laboratory's Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance (CTA) to advance the state of the art in unmanned technologies and move them more quickly into theater. Robots will eschew remote-control guidance, relying on programming that gives them autonomy via artificial intelligence.