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New Directions for DARPA. Beyond Strategic Computing:. ISAT Ad Hoc Working Group on DARPA Futures Initial Draft: July 12 2000 Update: July 15 2000 x 2. Beyond Strategic Computing. For 18 years, DARPA has successfully pursued the Strategic Computing vision

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New directions for darpa
New Directions for DARPA

Beyond Strategic Computing:

ISAT Ad Hoc Working Group on DARPA Futures

Initial Draft: July 12 2000

Update: July 15 2000 x 2

Beyond strategic computing
Beyond Strategic Computing

  • For 18 years, DARPA has successfully pursued the Strategic Computing vision

  • Building on this foundation, we are prepared to confront the critical challenges facing us today. These include:

    • Augmented cognition

    • High-confidence systems and software

    • New computational substrates

    • Computing and biology

The darpa strategic computing program 1983
The DARPA Strategic Computing Program (1983)*

develop a broad base of

machine intelligence technology

to increase our national security

and economic strength

Major Goals

autonomous systems

pilot’s associate,

battle management

Military Applications

natural language, vision, speech,

expert systems, navigation,

planning and reasoning

Intelligent Functional


high-speed signal processing, general purpose systems,

symbolic processors,

multi-processor programming and operating systems

HW/SW System


silicon and GaAs technology

VLSI systems


networks, research machines,

rapid machine prototyping,implementation systems & foundries,

interoperability protocols, design tools


*New-Generation Technology: A Strategic Plan for its Development and Application to Critical Problems in Defense, DARPA, 1983.

Augmented cognition

Augmented Cognition

Challenge: The volume of information and overall complexity of warfighting continue to grow at a rapid pace, in stark contrast to human cognitive abilities, which remain static:



Sensory bandwidth


Visualization abilities

On the other hand, computational capabilities have continued to grow rapidly

Apply computational power to support / augment cognitive skills, bolstering limited cognitive resources

Augmented cognition1

Augmented Cognition

Opportunity: Designs and methods that leverage new understanding about characteristic limitations in cognition:

Enhance memory

Support the analyst with data analysis, discovery, visualization

Automate new aspects of problem solving and filtering

Modulate, triage communications, information

Develop new visualization techniques to enhance understanding, increase “effective human-computer bandwidth”

Extend abilities to monitor, control semi-autonomous systems, robots

High confidence systems and software
High-Confidence Systems and Software

Challenge: Today’s systems are fragile, difficult to compose and maintain

  • Non-robust

  • Non-adaptive

  • Untrustworthy

  • Point failures bring down systems

  • Difficult, costly to compose useful systems from multiple components

  • Poor or nonexistent means for building reliable systems from necessarily unreliable components

  • Poor understanding of vulnerabilities, performance under characterized and uncharacterized attacks

  • No clear history, pedigree on data, code

High confidence systems and software1
High-Confidence Systems and Software

Opportunity: Develop hardware, software, algorithms, and overall architectures with a more fundamental approach to security and fault tolerance

  • Methods for integrating unreliable components to create reliable systems as foundation of robust computing

  • Methods for addressing, leveraging, harnessing distributed components and resources.

  • Redundancy via replication and efficient restart machinery

  • Develop new approaches to model, understand, control, react to emergent behaviors in complex computational systems at baseline and when stressed

  • Pursue understanding of robustness and adaptation exhibited by biological systems for relevance to computing

Consider architectural issues spanning multiple layers of networking, software, computation, hardware

New computational substrates
New Computational Substrates

Challenge: We are nearing the end of exponential growth in processor performance using existing technologies

  • The current silicon / fabrication paradigm leaves us within sight of a “flatlining” of the Moore’s law curve

  • Atomic dimensions will limit scaling of silicon technology

New computational substrates1
New Computational Substrates

Opportunity: Disruptive technologies for computing, based upon new computational substrates, are potentially on the horizon

  • Substrates

    • Computational fabric

    • Smart matter, MEMS

    • Quantum

    • Biological approaches to computing

      • DNA

      • Molecular electronics

      • Microbial robotics

      • Engineered genetic networks

    • Combinations of the above

Computing and biology
Computing and Biology

Challenge: An explosion of knowledge about biological systems suggests that multiple disruptive technologies lay waiting, yet we remain mired in large amounts of data and limited computational tools and models

Biological systems represent powerful architectures for sensing, processing, actuating, and fabrication, and for managing complexity in an elegant manner

  • IT, computational analysis is essential for cracking key challenges in biology

  • Increased understanding and applications of knowledge about biology will likely have significant defense implications

  • Increased understanding of biology will likely reveal new approaches to computing and materials—with significant defense implications

Computing and biology1
Computing and Biology

Opportunity: Apply computation, modeling to pursue conceptual foundations of biological approaches to:

robustness, uncertainty, adaptation, inference, replication, repair, communication, transformation, distribution, self-assembly, fabrication, ontogeny / development, identify friend vs. foe

Key conceptual challenges include understanding:

  • Modeling of genetic circuits

  • Proteomics

  • Embryogenesis / development

  • Evolvable systems

  • Engineered biology

Beyond strategic computing1
Beyond Strategic Computing

develop a broad base of

machine intelligence technology

to increase our national security

and economic strength

Major Goals

2020 Application Vision

TBD via an ISAT study

Augmented cognition

High confidence systems and software

HW/SW System


Computing, Microsystems,



New Computing Substrates from

Electronics, Microsystems, & CS