Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Harnessing Complexity

Systems comprising multiple and diverse interactions

Showing 47 results for Complexity + News RSS
In early September, DARPA hosted Wait, What? A Future Technology Forum in St. Louis. There, 1400 people gathered for a national discussion and showcase of new ideas and advances in the technoscape, among them optical techniques for seeing around corners and neural interfaces that allow people with paralysis to control a prosthetic limb by thought alone. At the forum, DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office (DSO) ran a pair of breakout sessions titled Science, Disrupted: Beyond the Limits of Intuition, Computation and Measurement, with the hope of learning from attendees what they imagine could throttle up science into an even more powerful engine of discovery and technology than it is now.
Complex interconnected systems are increasingly becoming part of everyday life in both military and civilian environments. In the military domain, air-dominance system-of-systems concepts, such as those being developed under DARPA’s SoSITE effort, envision manned and unmanned aircraft linked by networks that seamlessly share data and resources in real time. In civilian settings such as urban “smart cities”, critical infrastructure systems such as water, power, transportation, communications and cyber are similarly integrated within complex networks. Dynamic systems such as these promise capabilities that are greater than the mere sum of their parts, as well as enhanced resilience when challenged by adversaries or natural disasters.
The explosive growth of global digital connectivity has opened new possibilities for designing and conducting social science research. Once limited by practical constraints to experiments involving just a few dozen participants—often university students or other easily available groups—or to correlational studies of large datasets without any opportunity for determining causation, scientists can now engage thousands of diverse volunteers online and explore an expanded range of important topics and questions.
Advanced materials are increasingly embodying counterintuitive properties, such as extreme strength and super lightness, while additive manufacturing and other new technologies are vastly improving the ability to fashion these novel materials into shapes that would previously have been extremely costly or even impossible to create. Generating new designs that fully exploit these properties, however, has proven extremely challenging.
Whether designed to predict the spread of an epidemic, understand the potential impacts of climate change, or model the acoustical signature of a newly designed ship hull, computer simulations are an essential tool of scientific discovery. By using mathematical models that capture the complex physical phenomena of the real world, scientists and engineers can validate theories and explore system dynamics that are too costly to test experimentally and too complicated to analyze theoretically. Over the past half century, as supercomputers got faster and more powerful, such simulations became ever more accurate and useful.