DARPA unveils new incubators for cognitive dissonance detection, quantum bio-computing and more

August 9, 2019


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DARPA rolls out four new incubators dealing with Cognitive Dissonance Detection, Quantum Bio-Computing, Hardware Trojan Identification, and Rethink Physics Modeling.

Today, DARPA launched the addition of four new incubators on the Polyplexus portal, raising the total to 16 since its inception, with eight being active.

Launched in March, 2019 the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency‘s (DARPA) Polyplexus portal is an online, professional, technical conversation between the research community and DARPA Program Managers that will lead to the opportunity to submit abstracts and full proposals for a research and development project.

Think of DARPA’s incubators not in the traditional startup incubator sense, but as incubators of ideas through conversations that lead to a final proposal.

Read More: DARPA launches Polyplexus social network with 3 tech incubators

Cognitive Dissonance Detection Incubator

All technology can be used for good or ill. The Cognitive Dissonance Detection Incubator sounds like something that could do a lot of good to prevent conflicts or clashes between communities, but I’m always skeptical that these types of projects could also be used to manipulate human behavior.

The Cognitive Dissonance Detection Incubator seeks to develop and validate ideas:

  1. For detecting and identifying cognitive dissonance – or when a person or community holds two beliefs that are in conflict, and specifically when a belief is in conflict an action
  2. For predicting when confronted with the conflict, what action the conflicted will take to resolve the tension (e.g., change beliefs, change actions, add rationalizing thoughts, trivialize the inconsistency, etc.).

Of particular interest is how repeated and recursive cycles of confrontation and resolution shift belief and/or actions over time – weeks, months or even years. What are clever ways we can study this?

Dr. Bartlett Russell

Dr. Bartlett Russell

The Cognitive Dissonance Detection Incubator will be headed by Dr. Bartlett Russell who manages the “Gamifying the Search for Strategic Surprise” program at DARPA.

“I’m excited by the potential of Polyplexus to bring DARPA a greater diversity of performers, to mature ideas more quickly, and to develop interesting cross-disciplinary connections. I invite researchers to explore the many DARPA funding opportunities currently on the platform,” said Dr. Russell in a statement.

DARPA Defense Sciences Office intends to make at least one award of up to $100,000 and one year duration as a result of this process.

Quantum Bio-Computing Incubator

Quantum computing is a fascinating subject, and it is in its very early days. According to Caltech theoretical physicist John Preskill, “A quantum computer would be able to efficiently simulate any process that occurs in Nature.”

Read More: DARPA to exploit quantum computing without a quantum computer

The Quantum Bio-Computing Incubator will explore whether some biological phenomena manifest and exploit quantum entanglement.

“If there is a distributed or non-local role for entanglement in, for example, robust fault tolerant information transfer in DNA replication, a deeper understanding could impact not only our appreciation of biology and medicine, but also could advance quantum computing and neural interfaces to computers using molecular electronics,” the incubator description reads.

Dr. Michael Fiddy

Dr. Michael Fiddy

The Quantum Bio-Computing Incubator will be headed by Dr. Michael Fiddy who manages a number of programs at DARPA including, but not limited to, ‘RadioBio’ and ‘Fundamental Limits of Photon Detection.’

“It’s great to have this innovative platform that allows me to connect directly with the broader creative, scientific community and accelerate innovation in this area,” said Dr. Fiddy in a statement.

DARPA Defense Sciences Office intends to make at least one award of up to $100,000 and one year duration as a result of this process.

Hardware Trojan Identification Incubator

The Hardware Trojan Identification Incubator will look to breed a new type of cybersecurity mechanism that “can be inspired by biology, mimicking the human immune system.”

Scientists are realizing that nature provides the best models for design and efficiency. I would argue that nature is intelligent.

Read More: Nature is intelligent: Pentagon looks to insects for AI biomimicry design

While the Hardware Trojan Identification Incubator looks to mimic our immune systems, could our immune systems also be enhanced if we were to introduce this technology into our bodies via an implant?

According to the incubator description, “The human immune system protects the body from pathogens, like germs, viruses and other potentially harmful foreign bodies. If we become infected, our immune system is able to identify and attack the threat in an attempt to keep the body healthy.”

“When an SoC (System on Chip) is at risk of being attacked, this facility should identify and eliminate the threat. It’s essentially an attempt to investigate immune system strategies for SoCs.”

Serge Leef

Serge Leef

The Hardware Trojan Identification Incubator will be headed by Serge Leef who manages the ‘Supply Chain Hardware Integrity for Electronics Defense’ program at DARPA.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the ideas that Plexors put forth. It will be all the more the interesting if the Evidence and Conjectures come from an array of disciplines,” Leef said in a statement.

DARPA anticipates making up to five awards of up to $20,000 each and up to six months duration as a result of this process.

Rethink Physics Modeling Incubator

According to the Rethink Physics Modeling Incubator descprition: “The degree of complexity of systems and the number of physical phenomena that are important to characterize their behavior are both increasing.

“We are rapidly approaching the time when current approaches to modeling and simulation – i.e., arduous conversion of symbolic differential equations into computable algebraic form and then combining the physics by synchronizing the computations and data transfer across meshes with millions to billions of elements – will make accurate simulations problematic and untimely.

“Are there mathematical approaches to describe physics in a way that these representations can be converted directly into accurate, computable forms with methods that can be automated?”

Dr. Jan Vandenbrande

Dr. Jan Vandenbrande

The Rethink Physics Modeling Incubator will be headed by Dr. Jan Vandenbrande who manages a number of programs at DARPA including, but not limited to, ‘Open Manufacturing’, ‘Enabling Quantification of Uncertainty in Physical Systems’, and ‘Fundamental Design’.

“It’s a great opportunity – to engage with a network of researchers as they share emerging science, see how the ideas evolve, and take part in the conversation,” said Dr. Vandenbrande in a statement.

DARPA Defense Sciences Office intends to make at least one award of up to $100,000 and one year duration as a result of this process. In addition, the information gathered in the incubator may serve as the basis for a future program.

Polyplexus Incubators

DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office intends to fund up to 30 one-year seedling efforts developed through Polyplexus incubators over 18 months.

These funding opportunities are capped at a maximum of $100,000 each. They will roll out at a pace of approximately two per month.

Polyplexus is composed of three integrated components:

  1. A public information feed where users can promote interesting research and connect it to other research via tweet-like summary statements called micropubs
  2. A private tool for synthesizing new ideas, known as micropub portfolios
  3. An incubator environment. Incubators allow research sponsors in government and industry to post specific topics of interest and find research and development specialists to address their challenges.

Polyplexus, an R&D propulsion lab, is a global platform designed to accelerate access to scientific evidence, hypothesis development, research proposal generation and sponsor engagement.

Developed for scientific researchers and research sponsors, the platform creates a database of easily accessible cited evidence, and disrupts the current research process to facilitate faster idea generation and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

An open, public platform, Polyplexus is currently in alpha with founding sponsor DARPA.


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