IARPA in the News 2014

Psychiatric Times

On April 2, 2013, President Obama announced a new public-private partnership to develop new tools and technologies that will enable the research community to obtain a dynamic picture of the brain in action. Initially, 3 federal agencies—the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, $50M), the NIH ($40M), and the National Science Foundation (NSF, $20M)—were charged with initiating new plans for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative activities. That list recently grew to include the FDA and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA). Those activities complement work supported by the initial private sector partners, the Allen Institute for Brain Science ($60M), the Howard Hughes Medical Institute ($30M), the Salk Institute for Biological Studies ($28M), and the Kavli Foundation ($4M)....

The Current

While the Martinis Lab at UC Santa Barbara has been focusing on quantum computation, former postdoctoral fellow Pedram Roushan and several colleagues have been exploring qubits (quantum bits) for quantum simulation on a smaller scale. Their research appears in the current edition of the journal Nature.

“While we’re waiting on quantum computers, there are specific problems from various fields ranging from chemistry to condensed matter that we can address systematically with superconducting qubits,” said Roushan, who is now a quantum electronics engineer at Google. “These quantum simulation problems usually demand more control over the qubit system.” Earlier this year, John M. Martinis and several members of his UCSB lab joined Google, which established a satellite office at UCSB....

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity. Devices were made at the UCSB Nanofabrication Facility, part of the NSF-funded National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network and the NanoStructures Cleanroom Facility.

Defense One

Super strong mechanical appendages and brain implants are common fixtures of a science-fictional future. More and more, American veterans are arriving at that future before the rest of us. As a result of military-funded programs, vets are becoming the research platform for cybernetic technologies that are decades beyond commercial state of the art and that could one day elevate humanity beyond its natural biological limitations....

It’s all feel-good work that virtually any American can support, and does, though the Obama administration’s Brain Initiative, a multi-year effort funneling money to a variety of public and private institutions, also including the NIH, the FDA and IARPA.

The New York Times

Google is giving its Flu Trends service an overhaul — “a brand new engine,” as it announced in a blog post on Friday.

The new thing is actually traditional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is being integrated into the Google flu-tracking model. The goal is greater accuracy after the Google service had been criticized for consistently over-estimating flu outbreaks in recent years.

The main critique came in an analysis done by four quantitative social scientists, published earlier this year in an article in Science magazine, “The Parable of Google Flu: Traps in Big Data Analysis.” The researchers found that the most accurate flu predictor was a data mash-up that combined Google Flu Trends, which monitored flu-related search terms, with the official C.D.C. reports from doctors on influenza-like illness.

Financial Times

Among the new participants announced this month is the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency, which interests itself in US national security. In August it invited academics to submit ideas on “brain-based predictors of future cognitive performance”. In particular, the agency wanted to know, could brain structure and function be measured in such a way as to “predict who will best learn complex skills and accomplish tasks within real-world environments . . . that are relevant to national security”?