DARPA Wants To Use Insect Brains to Control Robots

Monday, 14 January 2019 - 11:17AM
Military Tech
Monday, 14 January 2019 - 11:17AM
DARPA Wants To Use Insect Brains to Control Robots
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Adapted from Pixabay images
Because strapping backpacks on bees and making them do our bidding is not enough, DARPA (The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has issued a presolicitation notice to the scientific community for what it is calling an Artificial Intelligence Exploration (AIE) opportunity. According to the notice, the agency wants to use insect brains to control robots because it hopes that the new research would make for improved AI systems in the near future.

"As AI has taken on progressively more complex problems, the amount of computation required to train the largest AI systems has been increasing ten-fold annually," DARPA wrote in a brief. The agency added that the tradeoffs between computing power and factors like size/weight will become very important, and said that while current neural architectures are looking to nature for the former, they have not necessarily been following the function of the natural world and its creatures, namely miniature insects. "Nature has forced on these small insects drastic miniaturization and energy efficiency, some having only a few hundred neurons in a compact form-factor, while maintaining basic functionality," the brief explains. "Furthermore, these organisms are possibly able to display increased subjectivity of experience, which extends simple look-up table responses to potentially AI-relevant problem solving. This research could lead to capability of inference, prediction, generalization and abstraction of problems in systematic or entirely news ways in order to find solutions to compelling problems."

There are two phases to the project, which will last approximately 18 months. The first, as outlined in the project document, lasts for 6 months and involves the submission of all the necessary research paperwork (physiology reports, analyses, descriptions, etc.). The second phase picks up around month 9 and is when the prototyping and proof-of-concept stuff happens. The project and what DARPA hopes to learn from it all is interesting, but also really weird. At least they're looking to insects and not other small complex creatures with faces. A computer with a monkey brain is a horror movie waiting to happen.
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Artificial Intelligence
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