The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is doubling down on artificial intelligence (AI). Last month, the private defense solutions developer announced plans to invest up to $2 billion in AI technology over the next half-decade.
So, what does DARPA hope to accomplish with this investment? Unfortunately, it didn’t release many details on the project. However, the new administration has emphasized the importance of modernizing the U.S. military so that it can maintain a competitive edge on its rivals. And while China and Russia have taken a proactive approach towards implementing AI in their respective military, the United States has not. DARPA’s new investment is intended, in part, to help the United States modernize its military with newer and more effective weapons systems.
A $2 billion investment may sound like a lot of money, but it’s actually relatively small when compared to the budget expenditure of other military projects, specifically those issued by the Department of Defense. The F-35 fighter jet project, for example, is expected to cost more than $1 trillion. At just $2 billion, DARPA’s AI project sounds like a steal.
Of course, there’s still some concern about using AI in the military. Science-fiction movies, TV shows and books often depict apocalyptic scenarios with AI launching devastating attacks that destroy mankind. While obviously exaggerated, the idea that a computer controls a weapons system still raises eyebrows. As a result, military commanders are reluctant to implement fully-automated AI systems.
AI technology still has its limits. When speaking about AI, Ron Brachman explained that developing an AI system with the intelligence of a 3-year-old would require a substantial leap of technological development. “We probably need some gigantic Manhattan Project to create an AI system that has the competence of a three year old,” said DARPA’s former AI team leader Ron Brachman. “We’ve had expert systems in the past, we’ve had very robust robotic systems to a degree, we know how to recognize images in giant databases of photographs, but the aggregate, including what people have called commonsense from time to time, it’s still quite elusive in the field.”
AI has been slowly inching its way into a variety of fields and applications. Banks use it to detect fraudulent transactions, while astronomers use it to detect asteroids. And while the U.S. military has used AI for more than a decade, it’s expected to become an even more important military tool. With DARPA investing $2 billion on AI military technology, it’s safe to assume that it will one day become a standard system of the U.S. military.