Posts Tagged ‘DARPA’

Ignorance Is Futile:

Just one of DARPA’s many AI programs cost taxpayers $150M. Now basically considered a success, SRI who built “Siri” has now sold it to Apple for up to $250M. In effect, we’ve all paid $1 to help build a Skynet prototype. Since I don’t agree with this type of research, for many reasons, I want my tax refund.

Siri is the product of DARPA’s “PAL” program, which stands for Personal Assistant that Learns, or Perceptive Assistant that Learns, Cognitive Assistant that Learns (CALO), or even Reflective Agents with Distributed Adapted Reasoning (RADAR), depending on which DARPA person you talk to. Here’s DARPA’s “PAL” promo video:

They’ve in effect completed the program:

The software, which learns by interacting with and being advised by its users, will handle a broad range of interrelated decision-making tasks that have in the past been resistant to automation. A CALO will have the capability to engage in and lead routine tasks, and to assist when the unexpected happens. To focus the research on real problems and ensure the software meets requirements such as privacy, security, and trust, the CALO project researchers themselves are using the technology during its development.

Venture Beat just detailed article on the transaction. Along with telling people “you want the virtual assistant to be as smart as someone talking to you on the phone and doing Google searches to answer your questions”, they also mentioned some important details:

Curt Carlson, the president and chief executive of SRI International, is very excited about the Siri intelligent agent technology that his organization sold to Apple in April for a rumored $150 – $250 million. He expects it will show up in future iPhones, but he also believes that SRI’s additional technologies from virtual assistant research will become part of even more rich applications in the future.

SRI was spun out of Stanford University more than 60 years ago to commercialize research. First named Stanford Research Institute and later renamed SRI International, it became independent from Stanford University in 1970 and now has more than 2,200 researchers working on things such as the cool artificial intelligence, speech recognition, natural language processing, location information, and agent technology that is part of Siri.

Siri, spun out of SRI 18 months ago, is a virtual personal assistant technology. Its first application launched in February as a free iPhone app that lets you perform tasks such as making dinner reservations by speaking into your phone and letting a virtual assistant do the rest.

In 2003, SRI got a $150 million grant to start CALO — the Cognitive Assistant that Learns and Organizes — to develop virtual assistant technology over five years. The effort included 25 world class partners and it incubated ideas from government and commercial researchers.


One of the projects that the military is interested in is the Command Post for the Future. It is an assistant for generals in a command post that helps make decisions about how to fight wars or skirmishes.


Commercialization of ideas started four or five years ago under the lead of Norman Winarsky, vice president of ventures, licensing and strategic programs at SRI. In that process, SRI takes its ideas and finds an entrepreneur in residence to make the idea into a startup. If they can figure out a big market opportunity and a compelling business model, they launch it. That’s what happened with Siri. Upon being spun out, Siri got another $24 million from Menlo Ventures and Morgenthaler Ventures.

But Siri isn’t the end of SRI’s research. It is just one part of it. Another startup using the SRI technology is Chattertrap, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based startup that will apply the personal assistant concept to online content. The idea is to create a personal information service by figuring out what kind of news you like and delivering a personalized newspaper to you.

In 2007 WIRED Danger Room interviewed Tony Tether, then DARPA chief, and he covered both PAL and CPOF:

NS: Do you know of anything that Darpa’s working on right now that’s really game changing?

TT: Yes — our cognitive program. The cognitive program’s whole purpose in life is really to increase the tooth-to-tail ratio [military-speak for the number of combat troops to the number of support troops].

… Our cognitive program’s whole aim is to have a computer “learn you,” as opposed to you having to learn the computer. We’ve got the technology to the point where we can now apply it in Iraq to a system that we also developed called CPOF, Command Post of the Future. It is a distributed command and control system.

NS: I mean, I don’t have to tell you that people have been promising cognitive computers [since..]

TT: Well, a lot of time has passed. … Since the ’90s to now, our ability to create algorithms that can reason — can more abstractly reason — about a problem and come up with answers, and also remember what they did using Bayesian techniques and changing values, has really advanced. I mean, it tremendously advanced in the past — from the ’90s to, say, the early 2000s. At the same time, computers became more powerful. We’re on the verge of having computers with densities approaching a monkey’s brain, and it won’t be long before we’ll have a computer with the density of transistors, or equivalent to neurons and almost human. What we’re missing is the architecture. So it seemed like it was time. We had great advances in algorithms for reasoning and in algorithms that learned in general. At the same time, the computers, the actual intrinsic hardware, was really approaching the density of a human brain. And so it seemed like it was time to try again. We’ve had some great success. This cognitive program I told you about is actually showing that it is learning, and it is learning in a very difficult environment. This is the program Stanford Research runs for us.

NS: Which program is this?

TT: It’s PAL [Perceptive Assistant that Learns]. And we have other related programs. One major research issue has to do with learning. If you and I learn something, like baseball, and then we go play another sport, say golf, we somehow transfer that –?? we are able to transfer some of what we learned in baseball to golf. That’s what makes humans very resilient and flexible. We have some research programs trying to come up with the same technique –?? that if you had something tackle a problem and then gave it another problem, it would do better on that second problem than if it had not had the previous experience.

PAL & CPOF are but 2 AI and Strong AI (AGI) programs DARPA is working on. In 2006, they had two offices that dealt with AI type research. IPTO dealt with “cognitive” programs, while iXo delt with “exploitative” surveillance type programs. The iXo section of the DARPA website had an animated interactive feature, for a time. I just so happened to video capture the entire thing. About 9 months later I noticed they had removed the interactive section, and immediately began work on a new video with that interface as the framework. From there I used all quotes from DARPA and related military documents, and all animations and graphics from the same sources along with the defense contractors doing the work.

I titled it “DARPA’s iXo AI Control Grid: The Official Version”, as it technically is official, being sourced entirely from their own words and displays.

See the film here, if you haven’t already.

What sucks is by about a year later I noticed that they had merged the iXo office into the IPTO office, which kind of ‘debunked’ my title as iXo was no longer a part of the website.

So at that point the IPTO office had all of their AI programs under one banner.

Today AI programs have spilled out of the IPTO office, and are now found across most of their other 5 offices. Considering that Obama made Zachary Lemnios DoD Director of Defense Research & Engineering, which makes him the boos of all DoD sciece R&D.  Zack is a major AI pioneer, and former Deputy Director of DARPA’s IPTO office.

AI, including Strong AI,  is quite literally the overarching agenda in Obama’s Pentagon, and the $150 million spent on the Siri project is only the tip of the budget iceberg. I’m working on a massive “AGI Manhattan Project” post that details every facet, and with that I intend to finish a film project I started several years ago now.

‘Skynet’ is an easy to use popular culture reference. The thing is, what they’re trying to build, makes Skynet look like played out Sega 8-bit.

NZHerald:

…there is a dark side to the success story that’s been spreading across the blogosphere. A complex but riveting Big Brother-type conspiracy theory which links Facebook to the CIA and the US Department of Defence.

The CIA is, though, using a Facebook group to recruit staff for its very sexy sounding National Clandestine Service.

Checking out the job ads
does require a Facebook login, so if you haven’t joined the site – or are worried that CIA spooks will start following you home from work -check them out on the agency’s own site.

The story starts once Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had launched, after the dorm room drama that’s led to the current court case.

Facebook’s first round of venture capital funding ($US500,000) came from former Paypal CEO Peter Thiel. Author of anti-multicultural tome ‘The Diversity Myth’, he is also on the board of radical conservative group VanguardPAC.

The second round of funding into Facebook ($US12.7 million) came from venture capital firm Accel Partners. Its manager James Breyer was formerly chairman of the National Venture Capital Association, and served on the board with Gilman Louie, CEO of In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency in 1999. One of the company’s key areas of expertise are in “data mining technologies”.

Breyer also served on the board of R&D firm BBN Technologies, which was one of those companies responsible for the rise of the internet.

Dr Anita Jones joined the firm, which included Gilman Louie. She had also served on the In-Q-Tel’s board, and had been director of Defence Research and Engineering for the US Department of Defence.

She was also an adviser to the Secretary of Defence and overseeing the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which is responsible for high-tech, high-end development.

It was when a journalist lifted the lid on the DARPA’s
Information Awareness Office
that the public began to show concern at its information mining projects.

Wikipedia’s IAO page says: “the IAO has the stated mission to gather as much information as possible about everyone, in a centralised location, for easy perusal by the United States government, including (though not limited to) internet activity, credit card purchase histories, airline ticket purchases, car rentals, medical records, educational transcripts, driver’s licenses, utility bills, tax returns, and any other available data.”.

Not surprisingly, the backlash from civil libertarians led to a Congressional investigation into DARPA’s activity, the Information Awareness Office lost its funding.

Now the internet conspiracy theorists are citing Facebook as the IAO’s new mask.

Parts of the IAO’s technology round-up included ‘human network analysis and behaviour model building engines’, which Facebook’s massive volume of neatly-targeted data gathering allows for.

Facebook’s own Terms of use state: “by posting Member Content to any part of the Web site, you automatically grant, and you represent and warrant that you have the right to grant, to facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license to use, copy, perform, display, reformat, translate, excerpt and distribute such information and content and to prepare derivative works of, or incorpoate into other works, such information and content, and to grant and authorise sublicenses of the foregoing.

And in its equally interesting privacy policy: “Facebook may also collect information about you from other sources, such as newspapers, blogs, instant messaging services, and other users of the Facebook service through the operation of the service (eg. photo tags) in order to provide you with more useful information and a more personalised experience. By using Facebook, you are consenting to have your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States.”

Is the CIA really providing the impetus and the funding behind the monster growth of this year’s biggest dot com success story? Maybe only the men with the nice suits and ear pieces can answer that.

Network World:

Not known for taking the demure route, researchers at DARPA this week announced a program aimed at building computers that exceed current peta-scale computers to achieve the mind-altering speed of one quintillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) calculations per second.

Dubbed extreme scale computing, such machines are needed DARPA says to “meet the relentlessly increasing demands for greater performance, higher energy efficiency, ease of programmability, system dependability and security.”

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DARPA says its Omnipresent High Performance Computing (OHPC) systems will involve all manner of new research and development.  Specifically the outfit is looking for:

  • Hardware, software and algorithms for reducing and managing power requirements for high performance computing systems, including the memory and storage hierarchy
  • Hardware, software and language design that enables highly programmable systems, which reduces the need for users to be aware of system complexity, including heterogeneous cores, the memory hierarchy
  • Improved hardware and software for bolster system dependability, managing the component failure rate, and security compromises including approaches for shared information and responsibility among the OS, runtime system, and applications
  • Scalable I/O systems, which may include alternatives to file systems
  • Self aware system software, including operating system, runtime system, I/O system, system management/administration, resource management and means of exposing resources, and external environments

According to DARPA: “Advances in Commercial Off-The-Shelf systems performances were enabled by increases in clock speed, decreases in supply voltage, and growth in transistor count. These technology trends have hit a performance wall where increasing clock speed results in unacceptably large power increases, and decreasing voltage causes increasing susceptibility to transient and permanent errors. Only increasing transistor count continues to drive performance increases, with value only if energy can be minimized while optimizing the ability to efficiently utilize available concurrency. Increasing density has not helped reduce the energy costs of data transport across a chip, between neighboring chips, or between chips on disparate boards. Current interconnect protocols are beginning to require energy and power budgets that rival or dwarf the cost of doing computation.”

The extreme machines are part of DARPA’s overarching Ubiquitous High Performance Computing (UHPC) program which is looking to develop low-energy architectures and protocols for logic, memory, data access, and data transport.  It also has as goals to develop dependable computer systems that place a high priority on resiliency and security at all system levels; concurrent management and the efficient use of massively parallel resources; and run a self-aware OS that manages real-time performance, dependability and system resources,  DARPA says.

DARPA says it expects prototype UHPC systems by 2018.

WIRED’s Danger Room had too much relevant content so far this year for it to make sense trying to repost it all. The code from pasting their headlines went haywire, no time to manually fix, sorry.

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NEXTGOV:

The Obama administration has called for the development of a computer network that one security expert said on Tuesday resembles a controversial system that President Bush initiated after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which was eventually abandoned due to public outcry over invasions of privacy.

In 2002, under the leadership of John Poindexter, former national security adviser to President Reagan, the Defense Department began building the Total Information Awareness system to discover, combine and filter information that may flag incidents indicating terrorist activities. Defense envisioned a program that would probe private databases, including those containing Americans’ personal credit card accounts, medical data and cell phone records.

The system, which the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency oversaw, later was renamed the Terrorism Information Awareness program to make it seem less threatening. TIA effectively was killed when Congress refused to fund parts of the program for fiscal 2004 because citizens viewed it as an encroachment on their privacy.

TIA resembles an initiative President Obama called for after the failed attempt to bring down a Detroit-bound jet on Christmas Day, said K. A. Taipale, executive director of the Stilwell Center for Advanced Studies in Science and Technology Policy and a member of the Markle Foundation Task Force on National Security in the Information Age. He revived talk of such a system at a discussion in Washington on using information technology that can make relationships among huge amounts of personal information worldwide to prevent another homeland security disaster.

“The name may have scared a lot of people but the programs were directly addressed at solving some of these problems,” Taipale said at the Tuesday event, hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonprofit think tank.

He said the system is similar to what Obama called for in a January memo regarding the failed bombing attack in December. The president ordered the director of national intelligence to clarify the role of counterterrorism analytics in “synchronizing, correlating and analyzing all sources of intelligence related to terrorism” and expedite IT upgrades to improve “knowledge discovery, database integration, cross-database searches, and the ability to correlate biographic information with terrorism-related intelligence.”

Obama’s agenda closely matches the technical approach to TIA, Taipale said. That section “was the initiating idea and business purpose statement of TIA — Total Information Awareness,” he added. “This is the stuff we started many years ago and just haven’t followed through.”

According to DARPA’s Web site, the TIA system focused on the development of “a large-scale counterterrorism database”; the invention of “new algorithms for mining, combining and refining information for subsequent inclusion into the database”; and “revolutionary new models, algorithms, methods, tools and techniques for analyzing and correlating information in the database to derive actionable intelligence.”

Concerns that TIA would be used to persecute citizens prompted Congress to limit funding to include only processing, analysis and collaboration tools that assist counterterrorism foreign intelligence. Robert Atkinson, the foundation’s president and also a member of Markle’s task force, noted that the program was eliminated in a manner that discouraged anyone from even contemplating such a system again.

“TIA was the DARPA-funded project to work on the tools to solve these problems, and TIA got killed because all those editorials and the privacy lobby turned it into a collection program,” Taipale said. “Now we’re 10 years later, and we don’t have the tools.”

Chris Tucker, the founding chief strategic officer of the CIA’s venture capital firm In-Q-Tel, acknowledged that the name of the program was bad branding. But “the key thing is it was good information management, good data management,” he said. “Whether the enterprise is asking the right questions or the wrong questions is a different issue.”

Tucker also urged greater funding for spatial technology, the equipment for tracking the practice of tracking information across space and time.

“When you connect the dots, you’re connecting dots on a map, literally, a geographic map,” said Tucker, now a principal at Yale House Ventures, a portfolio of social initiatives and technology companies. “And it’s something we do not do very well.”

When the president goes into his situation room he can view a map, he noted. “Can he actually marshal all the information across the entire national security enterprise on to that map? Not well enough,” Tucker said. “If the big guy in the White House can’t marshal this in a way that is necessary, don’t expect [the first responders] to be able to.”