Military Embedded Systems

AI effort from DARPA seeks to enhance decision-making during military ops


March 04, 2022

Lisa Daigle

Assistant Managing Editor

Military Embedded Systems

ARLINGTON, Vir. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is developing what it calls the In the Moment (ITM) program, which will attempt to quantify the alignment of artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms with trusted human decision-makers in difficult domains -- like rapidly changing battlefield situations -- where there is no agreed-upon right answer.

In the release of the announcement of the ITM program, DARPA likens the effort to strides made in the field of medical-imaging analysis, in which techniques have been developed for evaluating systems even when skilled experts may disagree on what empirical evidence shows. An example DARPA uses is that in medical imaging, the boundaries of organs or pathologies can be unclear or disputed among radiologists. To overcome the lack of a true boundary, an algorithmically drawn boundary is compared to the distribution of boundaries drawn by human experts. If the algorithm’s boundary lies within the distribution of boundaries drawn by human experts over many trials, the algorithm is said to be comparable to human performance.

Matt Turek, ITM program manager, continues: “Building on the medical imaging insight, ITM will develop a quantitative framework to evaluate decision-making by algorithms in very difficult domains. We will create realistic, challenging decision-making scenarios that elicit responses from trusted humans to capture a distribution of key decision-maker attributes. Then we’ll subject a decision-making algorithm to the same challenging scenarios and map its responses into the reference distribution to compare it to the trusted human decision-makers.”

The DARPA announcement asserts that capture of the key characteristics underlying expert human decision-making in dynamic settings and computationally representing that data in algorithmic decision-makers may be an essential element to ensure that algorithms would make trustworthy choices under difficult circumstances.

DARPA is set to hold a virtual Proposers Day for potential proposers on March 18, 2022; for additional information and registration details, visit:

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