DARPA's 'AI Next' Program Bearing Fruit.

Author:Tadjdeh, Yasmin
Position:Algorithmic Warfare

* The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency made headlines last fall when it announced that it was pledging $2 billion for a multi-year effort to develop new artificial intelligence technology.

Months later, DARPA's "AI Next" program is already bearing fruit, said Peter Highnam, the agency's deputy director.

DARPA--which has for decades fostered some of the Pentagon's most cutting-edge capabilities--breaks down AI technology development into three distinct waves, he said during a meeting with reporters in Washington, D.C.

The first wave, "describe," focused on developing platforms that employed a rules-based system. These AI platforms are the basis of commercial products such as TurboTax, he noted.

The second wave is "recognize," and is made up of the machine learning systems that are prevalent today. Such systems can classify objects of interest and take the burden off of human analysts who often must pore through mounds of data and turn it into actionable information. However, while the theory behind these second wave technologies was established in the 1970s, much more work still needs to be done to mature them, he added.

The third wave, "explain," is where the future of AI is headed and focuses on adding context and trust to artificial intelligence platforms, Highnam said.

"We haven't completed the second wave of technologies,... there's a lot more to do," he said. "'Explain' is where we're going now."

DARPA's AI Next program has three thrusts: to increase the robustness of second wave AI technologies, to aggressively apply second wave systems to new applications and to further examine third wave technologies, he said.

Second wave AI technologies still lack robust underpinnings, he noted.

"We have a lot of really good examples of successes, but the notion of being able to use a second wave technology in a safety critical situation on its own isn't there yet," he said. "We have a lot of robustness work to do, a lot of basic theory, a lot of AI system engineering to be developed."

The agency has been employing a variety of contracting methods to get at the development of new second and third wave systems, he said. It has already released 10 broad agency announcements for Al-related programs that will require major research proposals and multi-year work.

But alongside that are what are known as AI exploration, or AIE, awards which are meant to fast-track new and emerging technologies, Highnam said.

"We don't know what the third wave is...

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