Big Data, Synthetic Biology and Space Planes Are the Weapons of the Future

What are the military’s cutting-edge capabilities of the next decade? According to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, it’s big data, synthetic biology and space planes.

“We can see the information revolution unfolding across operations,” DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar told the House Armed Services Committee at a hearing on the FY2015 budget on Wednesday. She emphasized that it was very important to create “new tools to help us get a handle on the explosion of data.”

Amid the budget crisis in Washington, as the Defense Department is “doing more with less” after more than a decade of war, DARPA is one of the few agencies that’s seeing an increase in parts of its budget.

DARPA’s budget (PDF) reveals a growing focus not on new data sources but on developing entirely new and far-fetched methods for processing it.

The agency is requesting $13 million in FY 2015 for a program to build a so-called “models of the brain,” an increase of about $2 million from this year’s budget. The program will “establish a functional mathematical basis on which to build future advances in cognitive neuroscience, computing capability, and signal processing across the DOD. An important focus of this program will be determining how information is stored and recalled in the brain and other DOD-relevant signals and developing predictive, quantitative models of learning, memory, and measurement.”

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