tv DARPA Director Talks to Washington Post CSPAN December 6, 2018 11:20pm-11:50pm EST
right now which is continue to support the afghans and put pressures on the groups in that region i'm certainltheregion i'a dialogue on that. >> great conversation. i will be back in a few minutes for a conversation but for now we will move onto the next portion of the program. before we do that please join me in thanking the terrific speaker. [applause]
returning to the stage to have a conversation with stephen walker the director. he's beehe spent a director fort year and before that he was the acting for since 2012 and has been in the operations now for a long time is our amazing government ideas laboratory credited with inventing the internet. sorry al gore. and a number of other amazing technology achievements. i want to begin by asking you to talk about this amazing institution that you run, and whether it it is adapting enough
to the way the world has changed. in a sense, darpa and the internet created an intranet in which thinternet inwhich the olt fit right, people sometimes say. the private sector is so dominant and so quite cutting-edge science and technology used to be in the government and now it's outside. start us off by talking about how in this different world you want to manage and direct. >> thanks for having me. darpa is actually 60-years-old and we celebrated that over the past year had a conference last september. when it was created it was all about preventing technological surprise and we still look at that as the main charter.
one of the ways we understand we can do that the commission hasn't really changed and we are still pursuing it robustly. we are focused on national security a department agency and department of defense. we focused on prominent programs and moved into developing things like the first stealth aircraft in the late 70s he mentioned the internet so we worked on defense problems all along the way during the last decade iraq
and afghanistan we may have gotten a bit too focused but we sort of looked up and out and started focusing on what are the races we need to win so we are focused on those. i think better than any other organization in the government bridges the gap between the commercial sector and private sector we bring in people from industry from universities and other agencies we are able to
adapt to the problems and where we are leading to these problems. >> i loved your comment that your job is to avoid the government being surprised in this way is by creating surprises herself so i want to ask you to surprise us. tell us a couple of technology areas we might not be thinking about where you think some big things are ahead. >> i can't tell you everything that they will focus on a few areas. one of the things we need to plan in the 21st century. you talked to the general a bit ago and it's one of those areas we need to win and i believe
today we are still in the lead certainly in the foundations of the artificial intelligence. darpa has had a long history of investing in artificial intelligence. some of the first language translation work that came out was all darpa sponsored work and the last decade we focused on self driving cars, some of the self driving car challenges we did out in the desert looking at how to do that and now some of those are coming to fruition. so we've had a long history and investing in it. when we think about what's relevant today we think about the three generations. first being very rules-based artificial intelligence so you can think of turbotax. if this happens then you do this. second is what folks are really talking about today which is
machine learning so winning games and being able to do better than humans and recognizing images. this is what people refer to as machine learning. it's being applied by the commercial sector and the defense sector. where they are headed and where we want to plan is looking at how to give machines the ability to understand what they are looking at or their environment giving them contextual reasoning to do that. right now if they see a picture of a cat sitting on top of a suitcase the machine will tell you that as a ca it's a cat ands a suitcase. the machine would never understand you can put the cat inside a suitcase. they wouldn't understand you don't really want to do that. but humans understand that
instinctively so how you give that sort of common sense is the next place darfur is headed. it's very much a basic research activity but it's going to be critical if we want the machines to be part nurse and not just tools which is sort of what they are today. >> so if you can develop the machine version of common sense i hope they will share it. we could use a little more. stephen hawking was one of the people when they looked at this prospect of generalized ai they say there's enormous danger to humanity in this prospect. and i would ask you to respond to that. you don't believe that.
you're not afraid of that and actually wanit andactually wanto it. what about the fear factor so many people have expressed? >> at least from the defense department today we don't see machines doing anything by themselves. we are focused on a human machine part worship, symbiosis, how to make machines smarter and i think the general said how to give more time to make that decision because time and speed and warfare is critical. given what we know about where ai is and the fragility today even in its secon the second phe machine learning it's still a very fragile capability. it's called machine learning but it's really machine trained on the large data set.
it usually fails pretty badly and so i think we are a long way off even in the third wave and that we are pursuing. it's not one of those things that keeps me up at night. >> to ask about what we were discussing with general dunford, the chinese threat if you will of dominance in this amazing new area i've heard it said that china is the opec of data because the chinese government captures everything human beings do, every time they move, anytime they buy anything or say anything, communicate anything the data is being captured and so there is a vast reserve of structured data for the machines
to learn on and our ai companies as brilliant as they are in your side is as brilliant as all of you are don't have that same resource of structured data that's available to you to learn on so people argue we are in a race we are going to lose because the other guy has the material from the machine learning part of this puppy would never hope to match. how would you answer that? >> we have programs in place to not require so much data and desist from a military standpoint the military doesn't have as much data as the commercial sector about what's going on in the environment so can we learn and train a machine with less labels and less data.
because it is fragile and requires so much, we want to make sure when we get an answer we understand why it came up with the answer and right now it's very much a black box and get an answer you might get a probability we need the computer to explain how it came up with that answer just briefly i've
this audience probably doesn't know doctor walker headed up research on cyber sonic so i would like for you to explain to the audience what hypersonic technology is all about and it said that this is an area we really are behind. the russian and chinese have stolen a march on us and have been out there building these hypersonic systems. what did you think about that, are we behind or is the world changing military technology give us the hypersonic 101. >> it is flying five times the speed of sound were more. so it's a technology that enables not only speed because you can fly faster but with the
speed comes range sick of you think about the specific theater and the range is involved in the pacific especially with a peer competitor like china standoff is important and so hypersonic's gives you the capability potentially. we've been the leaders in some areas we still are however it's been widely publicized in the press that our competitors china and russia are both pursuing the technology with great haste from the capability standpoint and fear motivated because they want a capability where they've not
been focused from a defensive standpoint on hypersonic send this country. >> there are not a lot of good options but if you are going to defend against something like that you've got to be able to send it and that may require improvements in our sensing capability that we are focused on right now looking at the new space potentially that seeing it and then being able to hit it most likely is difficult.
where we have been from a technology standpoint turning it into that capability that we want to go off and build hasn't been a priority but it's becoming more so in the last couple of years of this administration they've realized the threat and money i the mones being put towards it. >> what about lasers and weapons how far away are those it's always thought they were too heavy or too difficult to deploy. are those being sold and if so what difference would it make? >> it would be really neat. as you mentioned way to see an
issue into focus is on the front end of the piece and all of this power generation and cooling adds up so they will probably be the last application of it but we are very close to having a ship-based capability. i think the ground capability are being worked pretty heavily but darpa over the last decade or so has been investing heavily in something called solid-state fiber technology and the idea is you can have one or 2-kilowatt fiber is bundled together to produce a higher powered laser and there's a lot of advantages of doing that from the integration standpoint so we are making pretty good progress on the laser technology being able
to look at tens of kilowatts. >> in theory if you could make this work you would have a theme like in the movie that could zap an incoming plane or other object and obviously would have potential powers against anything in space presumably. >> it's always easier in the movie, but certainly you can and vision capabilities like that and i think we will be seeing some of that over the next decade. >> you mentioned earlier the question of bio research, and that's on everybody's mind after the startling news from china, the chinese scientists but it's still not clear to me how much supervision he had in creating a
new life in a test tube and crossing the frontier. as you look at the way in which biological sciences are combining with information sciences and technologies, tell us the things that interest for the debate could darpa the most. >> one of my focus areas i want to take agency to defend the homeland against access to actual threats that is the first priority that we are focused on now and under that is where i sort of stick the biology piece because i see it as a real threat, natural pandemics or wee man-made and so we are focused on buy your medication and
technologies of all types. this gene editing technology that has become available t haso much potential for good. this is how the other technologies work .-full-stop how would you be able to turn it off, how would you be able to reverse it if something got out of control or it wa word was usr various purposes this is a basic research program out into open working with universities on this but having some success
looking at how to use the technique without the effects having some success there looking at other ways to prevent a gene at it from happening. one example of this happening that is important as especially they can be used for good and evil and not everybody shares the ethical values we have in this country so we need to be prepared and that's what we are trying to do. >> i'm just curious whether you are looking at sensing technologies among other things that could detect pandemics earlier so that we could deal with them more effectively. >> several programs on is called prometheus just determining how people get sick as early as
possible so you can put prevention mechanisms in place of the disease isn't spread. another program in the area is called piii which is trying to develop a vaccine that for an on virus is detected that could help 20,000 people or more at scale in 60 days or less which is right now impossible. usually takes 18 month study developed and proven at the earliest so trying to do the impossible for program managers make a good stride. >> i have a daughter that is a fellow at infectious disease that johns hopkins and i want to call my daughter and told her that she wants to be a program manager. [laughter]
a final question that fascinates me and maybe it is the "washington post" focus but i worry about a world in which people are able not only simply to create fake news as we saw the russians did so aggressively that create fake event and digital representations of audio and video that appeared to be real but aren't and we can see go online and you will see examples of the so-called technology and i wondered if they have any ideas whether you are focusing any attention on what i would call sort of provenance of the fact knowing where the facts come from
knowing that an event, a photograph, a voice, a piece of data is real. is that something you are working on? >> it is and it's something we started in 2014, so before the russian interference and all the rest. this idea some people refer to it as gray warfare this less than outright conflict type of warfare is challenging us because in an open and free society like ours the first step is to say what is th save what , what are the facts. so they started a program to look at images on the internet
and video. they develop tools where we could actually use the pictures and the video to determine if they had been tampered with or not. the program has made a lot of progress in being able to detect things that have been placed in the picture after the fact and the video if you've made changes to it and then you help an analyst even pinpoint where the changes have been made so getting to your point we are getting to the place we can determine the facts are.
>> that is important for my business. it's time for us to wrap up that this reinforces that it's just about the coolest place in the government. when i grow up i really want to get a job at darpa. that's all the time we have for an afternoon of question if you would like to watch highlights from the conversation i would invite people to it "washington post" by.com please join me in thanking the doctor for coming to join us. [applause]