DARPA to Invest $2 Billion in AI and Machine Learning Over Next 5 Years

September 17, 2018 - 3 minutes read

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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has always been focused on accelerating the progress of technologies with profound potential. So it’s no surprise that it’s interested in artificial intelligence (AI).

Last week, the ambitious experimental arm of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced it would be investing $2 billion in AI and machine learning development in just the next five years.

Accelerating the Third Wave

The large investment amount will be spread across a multitude of endeavors under a program dubbed the “AI Next” campaign. “Machines lack contextual reasoning capabilities, and their training must cover every eventuality, which is not only costly but ultimately impossible,” says Dr. Steven Walker, director of the program. “We want to explore how machines can acquire human-like communication and reasoning capabilities, with the ability to recognize new situations and environments and adapt to them.”

This mission aligns with DARPA’s AI Exploration (AIE) program, an initiative for fostering the “third wave” of AI, intelligence that can comprehend and explain how it comes to conclusions. Announced just last July, the AIE program will be a “key component” of the “AI Next” campaign.

But it will be far from the only focus; “Key areas of the campaign include automating critical DoD business processes, such as security clearance vetting or accrediting software systems for operational deployment,” according to the agency’s website.

Still Anyone’s Game

DARPA has over five decades of AI research experience. But in the last few years, countries like China have eclipsed these efforts and those of U.S. AI hubs of development like San Francisco. Earlier this summer, China made its intent to become an AI leader by 2030 known to the world.

AI, especially machine learning, is still in its nascent stages. The technology still has numerous flaws, such as bias, to wrestle with. Despite this, the potential of AI cannot be overstated. It could transform various aspects of society, from how the general public interacts with technology to how governmental institutions work.

In DARPA’s case, they’ve painted a picture of their vision for AI: “DARPA envisions a future in which machines are more than just tools that execute human-programmed rules or generalize from human-curated data sets. Rather, the machines DARPA envisions will function more as colleagues than as tools.”

What do you think of the current AI race? Let us know in the comments!

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