For long, man has drawn inspiration from nature to find answers to some of the most puzzling questions. Over the course of modern history, his curiosity to seek answers never ceased. In fact, it continues to shape the way we think and how we interact with each other.
Adding yet another interesting dimension to scientific discovery, researchers at the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, are looking at the possibility of how insects could hold the key for developing new artificial intelligence-based technologies.
In a call for submission of research papers in the field, Pentagon’s Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), had recently announced that it is looking for submissions on computational framework and capabilities of small flying insects. “Inviting submissions of innovative basic research concepts exploring new computational frameworks and strategies drawn from the impressive computational capabilities of very small flying insects,” it said in a statement.
As part of the department’s Artificial Intelligence Exploration (AIE) programme, the chosen researchers will have to submit concepts aimed at understanding sensory and nervous systems in miniature insects and develop models that could be mapped onto suitable hardware in order to emulate their functioning.
For the past five decades, DARPA has been actively involved in bringing out groundbreaking technologies and it continues to lead AI innovation through its broad portfolio of R&D programmes. In September 2018, it announced more than $2 billion in new initiative called the “AI Next” campaign. The initiative is aimed at driving what they call the third wave of AI, where the department hopes to create an AI system that can work as a natural being than mimicking the inspect.
According to DARPA, these insects’ features like drastic miniaturisation, energy efficiency and compact neuron form-factor can be adopted in an AI-system to perform energy, time and space efficient operations.
Quoting the example of Megaphragma mymaripenne, a microscopically sized wasp, believed to be smaller than an amoeba, the statement said that the organism’s nervous system consists of thousands of neurons with fast integrated sense-control which can perform tasks like guidance and locomotion. It further stated that there aren’t many studies regarding the electrical and magnetic circuits within the insect to perform the task.
By inviting researchers to develop and understand the computing model behind a miniature insect’s problem-solving capabilities, DARPA hopes to make new computational strategies and create efficient approaches to contextual AI. “Understanding the computational principles, architecture, and neuronal details of these miniaturized bio-systems could provide a fundamentally new way of thinking about information processing, including with regard to time and energy requirements,” the statement read. It further stated that the chosen submission will receive $1 million as award value.
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Akshaya Asokan works as a Technology Journalist at Analytics India Magazine. She has previously worked with IDG Media and The New Indian Express. When not writing, she can be seen either reading or staring at a flower.