future computing (Alexander Kirch/Shutterstock.com)

IARPA: It's time for better computers

It's no surprise classical computing systems are struggling to deliver near-real-time results as they process the massive amounts of data increasingly required for national security and science missions. To meet escalating demands, we will soon need much more advanced computers that can assist humans -- and each other -- with complex data-intensive tasks, according to the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency. 

In an Oct. 17 request for information, IARPA calls for research proposals on new computer hardware and software architectures as well as intelligent computer environments that understand their own state. These Future Computing Systems should be able to learn new concepts and apply that knowledge to assist humans in achieving specific goals. 

IARPA outlines three key aspects of FCS:

  1. A knowledge base of cognitive and computer system management functions.
  2. A machine-learning capability that is integrated with the knowledge base so the system can reason and learn from experience.
  3. A system design that delivers reasoning and learning algorithms efficiently and transparently, while providing increased capacity, capability, response times and agility.

Besides providing accelerated processing, IARPA expects FCS will be smaller and more energy efficient than current systems and be able to scale from desk-side systems to data centers.  Extensive fault tolerance, security and operational safety also are expected.

Responders to the solicitation should describe system architectures that will deliver the performance of FCS and identify the technologies required for hardware and software that will make such systems possible within the next 20 years. Although IARPA is not looking for research on quantum computing, new materials or nanotechnology, it said those areas inform development of enabling technologies.

IARPA will formulate a potential program based on responses, which are due Dec. 14. Read the full RFI here.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.


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