Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyTagged Content List

Artificial Intelligence and Human-Computer Symbiosis Technologies

Technology to facilitate more intuitive interactions between humans and machines

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Throughout DARPA’s history, artificial intelligence (AI) has been an important area of groundbreaking research and development (R&D). In the 1960s, DARPA researchers completed some of the foundational work in the field, leading to the creation of expert systems, or the first wave of AI technologies. Since then, DARPA has funded developments in the second wave of AI – machine learning – which has significantly impacted defense and commercial capabilities in areas such as speech understanding, self-driving cars, and image recognition.
A key ingredient in effective teams – whether athletic, business, or military – is trust, which is based in part on mutual understanding of team members’ competence to fulfill assigned roles. When it comes to forming effective teams of humans and autonomous systems, humans need timely and accurate insights about their machine partners’ skills, experience, and reliability to trust them in dynamic environments. At present, autonomous systems cannot provide real-time feedback when changing conditions such as weather or lighting cause their competency to fluctuate. The machines’ lack of awareness of their own competence and their inability to communicate it to their human partners reduces trust and undermines team effectiveness.
Today, machine learning (ML) is coming into its own, ready to serve mankind in a diverse array of applications – from highly efficient manufacturing, medicine and massive information analysis to self-driving transportation, and beyond. However, if misapplied, misused or subverted, ML holds the potential for great harm – this is the double-edged sword of machine learning.
Current AI systems excel at tasks defined by rigid rules – such as mastering the board games Go and chess with proficiency surpassing world-class human players. However, AI systems aren’t very good at adapting to constantly changing conditions commonly faced by troops in the real world – from reacting to an adversary’s surprise actions, to fluctuating weather, to operating in unfamiliar terrain. For AI systems to effectively partner with humans across a spectrum of military applications, intelligent machines need to graduate from closed-world problem solving within confined boundaries to open-world challenges characterized by fluid and novel situations.
Artificial intelligence has defeated chess grandmasters, Go champions, professional poker players, and, now, world-class human experts in the online strategy games Dota 2 and StarCraft II. No AI currently exists, however, that can outduel a human strapped into a fighter jet in a high-speed, high-G dogfight. As modern warfare evolves to incorporate more human-machine teaming, DARPA seeks to automate air-to-air combat, enabling reaction times at machine speeds and freeing pilots to concentrate on the larger air battle.