For Emily, the symposium was a learning opportunity.
“I heard from so many different people at different points in their careers talk about such a variety of topics and accomplishments. Their stories opened my eyes to alternative ways of testing and applying technology to serve a variety of purposes, all ultimately related to protecting our country in some way. That gave me perspective and understanding of DARPA as a whole. The other takeaway I got from the symposium was assurance. Throughout the symposium I came across terms, topics, programs, and PMs I was familiar with. In some of the talks I had seen the visuals before and I had heard some of the objectives being presented to the entire DARPA audience. So, despite being new to the company and industry, and despite our company being small, I felt a sense of confidence that we were working on the right things.”
Johanna was excited by DARPA’s embrace of the concept that the most valuable outcomes of research cannot be predicted. “DARPA backs interesting ideas, and innovative methods, which are high risk, but can lead to surprising places. It creates the chance to create something truly game-changing, examples of which are clear in the DARPA legacy.”
Here is their summary of what they saw during this three day symposium.
60 years after DARPA was founded in 1958, the original DARPA mission is still being fulfilled: to fund advanced research and development projects for the Department of Defense. The symposium started off with a video highlighting how DARPA got started and some of the key achievements from the past 60 years. But they clearly are not interested in resting on their laurels. At the very end of the video, when the DARPA logo came back up, three words appeared: ”Past”, “Present”, and “Future”. This hinted at the theme of acceleration which would be reiterated in several forms throughout the symposium.
DARPA has identified the next front in creating advantage for the warfighter, and it’s not more, bigger, or novel weapons. It’s Time. If we can understand, decide, and take action faster than our adversaries, we have a tremendous advantage. But the fulcrum necessary for leveraging time is data. In our personal lives, we’ve all gotten used to up to date information available 24/7. Interaction with applications results in instantaneous feedback and involves people and things around the world. The use cases of interest to DARPA, of course, are not the same as the commercial sector, but they know they can use the technologies of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence across all domain spaces, from biotechnology to robotics to mission control, to shorten the time between data collection, information extraction, and the utilization of knowledge.
Not only does DARPA want to react to new data as it is generated, but the bar is being set even higher by expecting the results to be explainable by the system. Raising the bar is nothing new for DARPA, as evidenced by being the first to deliver technological advances in developing the internet, self-driving cars, and personal assistants, to name a few. However, the achievements of DARPA were celebrated with a word of caution at D60. While DARPA has done some great things and continues to raise the bar, technology is moving fast and we need to keep up.
The fast pace of technology developments to meet the increasing demands and expectations of consumers results in shorter life cycles for technological advances and requires a nimble research force. DARPA recognizes this increased development speed as we accelerate into the future. In order to address the need for speed, fast-track programs have been developed and shortening the time between development and deployment has become a critical component of the R&D programs.