Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Harnessing Complexity

Systems comprising multiple and diverse interactions

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The social sciences can play important roles in assisting military planners and decision-makers who are trying to understand complex human social behaviors and systems, potentially facilitating a wide range of missions including humanitarian, stability, and counter-insurgency operations. Current social science approaches to studying behavior rely on a variety of modeling methods—both qualitative and quantitative—which seek to make inferences about the causes of social phenomena on the basis of observations in the real-world.
DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office (DSO), which identifies and pursues high-risk, high-payoff research initiatives across a broad spectrum of science and engineering disciplines, will host Discover DSO Day (D3) on June 15, in Arlington, Virginia. The event is designed to familiarize potential proposers with the mission, research areas of interest, and business processes pursued by the DSO, a fundamental research office with a history of not only reshaping existing technical fields but also creating entirely new disciplines—and of transforming bold, paradigm-challenging initiatives into game-changing technologies for U.S. national security.
Computational models and simulations can be enormously helpful when designing complex military systems such as new aerospace vehicles and engines, reducing development costs and times. However, realistic, high-fidelity models require enormous amounts of computing power in order to be able to accommodate all of the different factors that may affect predictive accuracy. To mitigate this computational cost, researchers often use simplified models, but these models contain assumptions, ambiguities, incomplete information, and inputs that vary unpredictably.
Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are making virtual and robotic assistants increasingly capable in performing complex tasks. For these “smart” machines to be considered safe and trustworthy collaborators with human partners, however, robots must be able to quickly assess a given situation and apply human social norms. Such norms are intuitively obvious to most people—for example, the result of growing up in a society where subtle or not-so-subtle cues are provided from childhood about how to appropriately behave in a group setting or respond to interpersonal situations. But teaching those rules to robots is a novel challenge.
As nation-state and non-state adversaries adapt and apply commercially available state-of-the-art technology in urban conflict, expeditionary U.S. forces face a shrinking operational advantage. To address this challenge, a new DARPA program is aiming to create powerful, digital tools for exploring novel expeditionary urban operations concepts—with a special emphasis on coastal cities, where future such battles are deemed most likely to occur. The program will test the new tools and concepts in an integrated virtual environment, with the ultimate goal of developing fluidly composable force packages able to maximize tactical advantage in these complex, urban environments.