Thursday, July 19, 2007

DARPA "Crystal Ball", Space War, PMC+...

Pentagon Plots Digital "Crystal Ball" to "See the Future" in Battle

Darpa, the Pentagon's way-out research arm, is looking to design a software suite that predicts the future for battlefield commanders. At the heart of the package: A digital "Crystal Ball" that forecasts how a mission is going to turn out, before it's done. No, I am not kidding.
The overall, three-year program is called "Deep Green." Its goal is to "allow the commander to think ahead, identify when a plan is going awry, and help develop alternatives 'ahead of real time.'" If it works out the way agency officials hope (a very big if), Deep Green will enable officers to out-hustle and out-think any potential foes -- and do all that planning and analysis with a quarter of the staff that it takes today.
Deep Green has a half-dozen different interlocking components, including a "Sketch to Plan" program that reads a commander's doodles, listens to his words, and then "accurately induces" a plan, "fill[ing] in missing details." That allows an officer "to specify an option at a coarse level, then move on to the next cognitive task." A related program, "Sketch to Decide" allows a commander to "see the future" by producing a "comic strip" to represent his possible options in a given situation. That may "sound exotic," the Agency notes. But "since the 1970s (and perhaps earlier), there have been novels and game books in which the reader is asked to make a decision and then is directed to a different page or paragraph, depending on the choice made."
To make these warzone versions of choose-your-own-adventure novels, Darpa proposes two pieces of software. "Blitzkrieg" will quickly model sets of alternatives, while "Crystal Ball" will take information currently coming into a headquarters to figure out which scenarios are the most likely to happen, and which plans are likely to work best. Crystal Ball will use this estimate to nominate to the commander futures at which he/she should focus some planning effort to build additional options/branches. Crystal Ball will identify the trajectory of the operation in time to allow the commander to generate options before they are needed.


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