Dan Kaufman, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Information Innovation Office (I2O), was interviewed on Tuesday evening by New York Times‘ tech writer John Markoff – the first in a series of conversations with “amazing people at research labs” being produced this summer by the Computer History Museum.
During the hourlong interview, Kaufman — Markoff describes him as “not your standard, cookie-cutter DARPA official — touches on a bit of history about DARPA, his own personal background and how he landed at the agency, and a variety of projects he and his colleagues in I2O are currently spearheading.
Check out the full-length video and summary after the jump…
Imagine what the world would look like if we gave everyone the ability to solve its toughest problems, the freedom to explore the world, and the tools to build the future. These are ideas that have been driving Dan Kaufman and his research efforts at [DARPA]. He is convinced that if we build the tools and technology to empower everyone to participate, we would be amazed at the results.
Recently at DARPA there have been multiple efforts to research the mobilization and self-organization potential of social networks & crowd sourcing. Two interesting questions arise: can you use the power of the crowd to solve a specific problem, and can you find special people in the crowd to solve a problem who have never been asked before?
The power of the crowd has been explored through DARPA’s Network Challenge (commonly referred to as the Red Balloon Challenge) in which 10 large red weather balloons were placed at undisclosed locations across the U.S. for one day.
Finding people in the crowd who can contribute greatly has been explored through a recent DARPA sponsored experiment called the Shredder Challenge. In this test, the winning solution was not resolved by the “power of the crowd,” but by finding, in the crowd, those special people who may have never been asked the question. Many thought the task impossible, but it turned out that they had been asking the wrong people.
An obstacle to fully empowering the crowd is the need for software programmers. DARPA has pushed to develop tools that allow ordinary people to solve complex problems. The program Real World gave tools to U.S. soldiers to allow them to create their own mission-specific simulations, without expertise in computer programming. Those tools have now been used to build aircraft, medical, and neurological simulators.
(Contributed by Erwin Gianchandani, CCC Director)