IARPA in the News

Wall Street Journal

In the future, virtual reality won't require strapping a bulky contraption to your head.

Instead, imagine stepping into an empty room and then suddenly seeing life-size, 3-D images of people and furniture. Or looking down at a smartwatch and seeing virtual objects float and bounce above the wrist, like the holographic Princess Leia beamed by R2-D2 in the movie "Star Wars."


Fortunately, recent investments by the U.S. intelligence community in developing innovative means to forecast international political events suggest that Moneyball-style methods could help improve foresight and, therefore, American foreign policy. The Intelligence Advanced Research Project Activity’s (IARPA) ACE Program focuses on using methods such as crowd surveys, prediction markets, algorithms, and teams to predict international political and economic events relevant for U.S. foreign policy.


A project backed by a US intelligence agency might soon make it much easier to predict which technologies will one day become game-changers. Results revealed this week by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) suggest that clues in the wordings of, and relationships between, scientific papers and patents could foretell research successes.


“I’m not yet con­vinced it’s going to work,” Misha Pavel, an expert in neural engi­neering and a professor of prac­tice at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, said of the pos­si­bility of applying low-level cur­rent to the scalp as a means of improving intelligence.

But that skep­ti­cism has only inspired Pavel and his col­leagues, including asso­ciate pro­fessor of elec­trical and com­puter engi­neering Deniz Erdogmus, to work even harder on a project aimed at exploring their inno­v­a­tive research. They recently received a con­tract to study the phe­nom­enon from the Strength­ening Human Adap­tive Rea­soning and Problem-solving Pro­gram, known as SHARP. The pro­gram is spon­sored by the Intel­li­gence Advanced Research Projects Activity, a gov­ern­ment agency that invests in high-risk, high-payoff research.

The National Interest

Three years after the Tunisian street toppled President Ben Ali, Maidan protestors in Ukraine, with dizzying speed, triggered a major great-power confrontation between the United States and Russia. The twenty-first century is prone, it seems, to a particular type of geopolitical crisis: domestic grievances that may have once been parochial affairs—teenagers arrested for graffiti doodles mocking the Syrian president, for instance—can quickly escalate into major international-security challenges. The unpredictable consequences of local conflicts are blurring the firewalls between states’ domestic politics and U.S. national-security interests. As a result, U.S. policy makers cannot afford to underestimate or overlook domestic sources of instability. Whether in Egypt, Mali or Ukraine over the past few years, or in Turkey, Brazil or Venezuela over the next few years, domestic political conflicts around the world have the potential to dramatically reshape America’s strategic landscape. Given the continuing pattern of relatively minor domestic triggers spiraling into major geopolitical unrest, the president deserves some dedicated staff, armed with expert knowledge and cutting edge methods, helping him to predict future crises.

Business Insider

A pharmacist in her 60s named Elaine Rich routinely forecasts world events 30% more accurately than professional intelligence officers, NPR reports.

Rich — who researches world affairs using nothing more than a Google search — is one of 3,000 participants in The Good Judgement Project.

The project, created by three psychologists and funded in part by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, was put together in an effort to test the wisdom of the crowd.


The morning I met Elaine Rich, she was sitting at the kitchen table of her small town home in suburban Maryland trying to estimate refugee flows in Syria.

It wasn't the only question she was considering; there were others:

Will North Korea launch a new multistage missile before May 10, 2014?