Author: Tomás Díaz de la Rubia (page 1 of 2)
In June of 2015, The
US Army Research Laboratory released a paper entitled Visualizing the
Tactical Ground Battlefield in the Year 2050: Workshop Report. In it, the ARL identified seven
interrelated capabilities they thought would set the future battlefield
scenario apart from the current one. The items they uncovered were: augmented
humans; automated decision-making and autonomous processes; misinformation as a
weapon; micro-targeting; large-scale self-organization and collective decision-making;
cognitive modeling of the opponent; and the ability to understand and cope in a
contested, imperfect information environment.
Two things these seven items have in common are the steady march toward
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, and the desire to integrate a “human-in-the-loop”
with each one of these emerging technologies.
With greater intelligence and autonomy comes the need to
discuss and debate how these new technologies may alter the way in which we, as
human beings, think about the future of war and security. Purdue University is
celebrating its sesquicentennial in 2019 with a year-long Ideas Festival
focused on major topics at the intersection of technology and society. Discovery
Park is contributing to the Ideas Festival and tackling these important
questions of our time by hosting thought provoking conferences such as our Ethics, Technology, and
the Future of War and Security Symposium.
On May 14, as part of Purdue’s 150th
Anniversary Ideas Festival, Discovery Park had the honor of welcoming experts
from across the country and from industry, academia, and government to discuss
the ethical, legal, and social implications of a cyber-, autonomous tech- and
AI-driven war. Through wide-ranging panel discussions punctuated by
thought-provoking keynote addresses, the sphere of future warfare and security was
dissected and discussed. The general tone was recognition of the inevitability
of advancement, but tempered by the idea that this technology must have the
seeds of ethics and morality sown deep into the soil of development. Speakers
and panelists concurred in the hope that these advanced technologies may be
used to make future wars more humane and even preventable. Inherent in this vision is the knowledge that
a truly global conversation and robust debate is essential to define now the
rules and boundaries of future wars. How will different cultures interpret the
social, ethical and legal issues that arise from a fully autonomous, AI-driven
society capable of waging war and compromising an adversary’s security by these
As we have discussed often in the
pages of this blog, the United States is in what arguably might be one of the
most difficult and consequential technology races of its history. Great power
competitors and other state and non-state actors alike are all making great use
of today’s global technology race to advantage their economic and national security,
sometimes in ways that might be considered abhorrent by liberal democracies the
An overriding theme was that the
problems we’re facing aren’t new, but technology is forcing us to look at them
through a different, modern lens. The
rules of war haven’t changed, but the tools of war have, which requires an
in-depth global conversation about ethics, morality, and law.
Patrick Wolfe, Frederick Hovde Dean
of the College of Sciences at Purdue opened the symposium by reminding the
audience that AI-related algorithms have been around for over forty years.
However, it is only in the last decade that the fusion of these algorithms with
low-cost, high performance commodity computing and massive amounts of data from
an ever growing number of ubiquitous sensors and internet-connected devices has
made the current exponential expansion in the application of AI to societal
concerns a reality. He warned, however, that the current set of algorithms is largely
evolutionary relative to those of the 1970’s, which were designed to be rather
opaque, and are indeed rather primitive still. Much progress is needed if AI is
to be trusted as a decision-making augmentation capability for consequential
human endeavors beyond picking a book or a movie online, such as for example,
Paul Scharre, author of Army of None, was on hand to provide
history on the rise of autonomous weapons and posed two critical questions: Are
autonomous weapons illegal? Are autonomous weapons ultimately destabilizing? The
answers, as you can imagine, are not cut and dried. Scharre points to the
historical precedent for banning certain weapons of war and, makes a compelling
case for autonomous weapons undermining stability, pointing out that runaway
autonomous weapons have the capacity to push nations to the brink. Ultimately, it boils down to policy-making
and rule-setting, and we are already behind the curve.
Author and strategist P.W. Singer had
a different take on security, providing insight into the cyber-threat and
pulling information presented in his book, Like
War. He stated, “We live in a world where virality trumps veracity,”
explaining that in this modern, digital age, where currency is the number of
likes and shares instead of dollars and cents, the truth is often buried
beneath layer upon layer of lies. “Coughing in everyone’s face,” — spreading
untruths through shares, knowingly or unknowingly — is the modern plague.
“The best way to prevent a great
power war is to be prepared to win one,” stated Robert Work, former Deputy
Secretary of Defense. While claiming
that the United States will not back fully autonomous weapons, but will instead
a human-in-the-loop in the decision making process, he reiterated the
importance of robotics, AI, and autonomy. He noted that increasingly
sophisticated narrow AI systems incorporated into a Third Offset Strategies will
be vital to the defense of the nation, and that the U.S. must lead the way
without hesitation. Advanced AI as an augmentation
tool, not as a human replacement, is a critical element in both the preparation
and the deterrence of war.
Heather Roff, from the Johns Hopkins Applied
Physics Laboratory and a Nonresident Fellow for Security and Strategy at
the Brookings Institution, asserted
that there are many wide-ranging ethical problems that come with using AI in
warfare and even outside the warfare arena. She shared an example from a
military personnel point of view: AI could analyze a constant stream of soldiers’
physical and mental health data to promote, deploy, or otherwise discriminate
among categories of individuals in a manner that could easily be inherently
biased. These potential biases and their
effects on the individuals should be carefully investigated and considered.
The capstone of this conference was the keynote speech from
Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats. Director Coats reiterated the
need for research and advancement of AI, but cautioned that the United States
is not the only player on the field, and our greatest adversaries are making
tremendous strides in advancing these technologies, and focusing foreign
influence campaigns against our liberal democracy and the American people. They seek to undermine the freedoms of U.S.
citizens, but the U.S. intelligence community is well positioned to counter
these attacks. One of six initiatives created by the Office of the Director of
National Intelligence is the hiring of “a right, trusted, and agile workforce,”
to ensure the U.S. intelligence community remains the best in the world. He also
stated there is currently underway an unprecedented reach to private industry
and academia to partner on crucial Intelligence issues. Purdue University is stepping up to be a
critical contributor to this mission, and to provide the cross-disciplinary expertise
required by the U.S. intelligence community.
Purdue has long been a proponent of interdisciplinary
research of the type that drives this discussion of science, engineering, and
society. The mission of the Purdue Policy Research Institute (PPRI), which
co-hosted this event is to foster high-impact, interdisciplinary research to
solve wicked problems. As a part of this symposium, the PPRI hosted an open-call essay competition to provide
an opportunity for students from across all disciplines to consider the topic
at hand and provide a creative take on their own perspectives. The winners of
the competition were Jessica Eise, Purdue University Communication student, who
submitted a creative writing piece that describes a potential outcome of a
crucial programming error; Kevin Schieman, University of Notre Dame Philosophy
student, who submitted an opinion piece on embracing values when developing
autonomous weapons policy; and Muriel Eaton, Purdue University Medicinal
Chemical Molecular Pharmacology student, who provided a fictional podcast made
to sound like a recording for a time capsule.
Interestingly, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development
(OECD) recently unveiled principles for the innovative and
trustworthy development and application of artificial intelligence. For nearly
a year, the Trump administration worked closely with OECD partners and standards
are now set amongst member democracies that are practical, flexible, and
value-based. The OECDs current
recommendations on privacy, digital security and responsible business conduct
are now buoyed by these new standards in this rapidly-evolving field. This
commitment from the United States and the OECD member countries to priorities
like removing barriers to innovation and discovery, prioritizing long-term
R&D, building the AI workforce, and fostering public trust are consistent
with the discussions and finding of the conference, and precisely what’s needed
to further and rapidly advance responsibly in this critical arena.
Please stay tuned for more information as we will soon be
posting a video link to our Symposium on Ethics, Technology, and the Future of
War and Security and encourage you to hear for yourself what the experts have
to say. As Director Coats, Secretary Work and others said, the United States
must ensure that we have the most qualified and best trained workforce to serve
our national security, and that we retain technological superiority over our
adversaries at all time. Purdue is leading the way!
Breaches in cybersecurity are so
common that we’re becoming numb to the latest “attack-of-the-day” news stories.
Complacency and turning a blind eye to the threats in our homes and all around
us is not the answer to the growing problem of cybersecurity. Consider that a
successful hack has already been demonstrated on a pacemaker; the influx of
simple, weakly-defended IoT devices, not to mention vital equipment and
services such as infusion pumps, utility companies with aging infrastructures, wearables,
and connected vehicles all provide fuel for life-changing and, indeed,
life-threatening attacks. At the discovery of the infamous Stuxnet computer
worm nearly two decades ago, The Economist magazine
declared it “a new kind of cyber-attack.” Now “new” isn’t remotely an adequate
adjective and doesn’t even begin to describe the threats we face today — this
is the challenge we’re up against.
life-changing technology has crept stealthily into our everyday lives, and hardly
a day goes by without a story in the news about a data breach, hacking, or
spying. Facial recognition, voice recognition, security cameras, sensors, and
connected appliances — all the imagined technology of the science fiction
cartoons, TV shows, and movies of the 60s and 70s — are coming to pass and now
we’re left having to deal with not only the benefits of, but also the problems of
a connected society. So, what is to be
done about it? What is to be done when the threat of having a nation state hack
a national election or take down a power grid is a very real possibility? How
do we stay one step ahead of the hackers, and is it even possible? As systems become more abstract and less
physical, the scope of trying to prevent a breach must change, and the opponent
must be met on their playing field. If it is an arms race to artificial
intelligence, the Internet of Things, and quantum information, likewise it is
an arms race to defend it.
In a utopian society, The Internet of Things would
provide a feedback loop to ensure the ultimate in customer satisfaction,
efficiency, and security. We, however,
do not live in a utopian society and the unnoticed but ultimately gaping,
exploitable chasms in the fabric of IoT have been pounced upon like a lion
hunting an antelope. The tiniest hole, the most miniscule aberration in code
becomes a pathway to allow nefarious activity to ensue. Like it or not, our lives are out there and
they’re vulnerable, and by all accounts, it’s getting worse. Patches and updates aren’t the answer. Systems must be built
with security baked in, not provided by firewalls and add-ons installed after
the fact. With that, systems become too cumbersome and every new application or
piece of hardware becomes a potential entry point. With the proliferation of cloud computing services, organizations that
host other companies’ data will find themselves vulnerable to the hacker’s idea
of economy of scale. Why bother with a
desktop computer when you can leverage an entire cloud’s worth of data for
There are multiple challenges to overcome. It seems to have become human nature to
automatically click on links. Therefore, one challenge is education and, along
with that, awareness of social engineering strategies; education of the general
public as to the schemes and advances of the cybercriminals, the compelling
ways they get you to bypass common sense and click on that enticing link and
share your information. Ransomware is the bane of cybersecurity and IT
professionals and although random ransomware attacks are down in general,
targeted, focused attacks still make the news.
Holding data hostage is a particularly egregious type of extortion — the
potential impact is mind-boggling, and many organizations still don’t have a
reliable, responsive disaster recovery solution.
Lest you think it is all doom and gloom, there are
significant bright spots on the horizon, not the least of which is the Annual CERIAS
Cybersecurity Summit here at Purdue. The
Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security
(CERIAS) is one of the world’s leading centers for research and education in
areas of information security that are crucial to the protection of critical
computing and communication infrastructure. Its multidisciplinary approach to
problem-solving includes faculty from six colleges and more than 20 departments
across the Purdue campus. As one of the important events in the cyber security/infosec world, the
annual CERIAS Cybersecurity Summit on April 9-10 attracts participants from all
over the country for two days dedicated to all things information
security. Ray Rothrock, CEO of RedSeal,
Inc. kicks off the list of distinguished speakers with his keynote on Digital
Resilience. Panel discussions on such topics
as artificial intelligence, sustainability, space
exploration, and health and longevity feed into Purdue University’s 150th
Anniversary Celebration theme of “Giant Leaps.”
David Ebert, Interim Director of CERIAS and Professor of
Electrical and Computer Engineering, commented on the upcoming symposium,
stating “This will
be the 21st CERIAS Symposium and the importance of security and
trusted information over the past twenty years has greatly increased.
Trustable, reliable information is extremely important in the development and
all of the application uses of AI/ML – humans need to understand the factors
leading to the advice from these algorithms and make sure there is no bias in
how the algorithms were trained.” Ebert
continues, “Cybersecurity and trusted information affects and integrates
research across campus and disciplines including trusted microelectronics,
secure and trusted systems with parts from across the globe, autonomous vehicles,
advanced manufacturing, agriculture, as well as social and behavioral sciences
and ethics.” The takeaway is that
cybersecurity is no longer an ethereal problem of the future, it’s a very real
threat that has the capacity to touch every aspect of everyone’s life. As a
result, it is the cross-disciplinary research efforts of institutions like
Purdue that will ultimately level the playing field between the desire for a
useful, safe, connected environment and those trying to destroy it.
One area of Purdue excellence in
security is privacy-enhancing technologies, and its importance is growing. For
instance, blockchain technology has spread rapidly through finance and supply
chains as an efficient, secure traceability mechanism, and Purdue leads the
efforts toward improving its privacy. A blockchain is a distributed and
replicated ledger of all transactions, where transactions are ordered in a form
of a chain. Each ledger entry (block) can only be created after solving a
time-consuming cryptography puzzle (also known as proof of work) before it is
appended to the ledger, preventing adversaries from altering already-added
blocks to the chain. However, all of the blockchain transactions are publicly
known, and access control and privacy compliance is a huge concern. Over the
last six years, Purdue Professor Aniket Kate’s team has been building and
analyzing blockchain-based solutions for finance and supply chains. His
projects include building automotive supply chains for Ford Motors and digital
supply chains for Northrop Grumman. He particularly excels at analyzing and
understanding blatant privacy vulnerabilities in the ad hoc blockchain-enabled
traceability solutions in the wild, and developing privacy-enhancing
solutions towards resolving those vulnerabilities.
This is a
topic that will touch everyone eventually and I invite you to visit the CERIAS
web site for more information. Please also check out the Discovery
Park web site to see other exciting events we have
scheduled this year. Stay safe out there in cyberspace.
Peru is a land of contrasts— sky-painted
mountains and the mysterious Amazon, a wide desert that brushes the blue
Pacific, and areas of a thriving tourist and natural resources-based economy paired with smoldering socio-economic
unrest and political turmoil. A resilient but vulnerable nation committed to
developing a strong educational ecosystem and the largest annual GDP growth in
Latin America in recent years, Peruvians also struggle with significant
environmental issues that impact the quality of their water and the food they
produce, the need to adapt to a changing climate, and the need to transform
their economy from one focused on natural resources extraction to one centered
on value-added products and technology-driven innovation. It is at this crossroads of past and future,
resilience and vulnerability, that the Arequipa Nexus Institute was born, an
enterprising marriage of institutions on a quest to make a sustainability and
technology-drive innovation a reality for Peru’s future generations.
The Arequipa Nexus Institute is an
ambitious collaboration between Purdue University and the Universidad Nacional
de San Agustin (UNSA), located in Arequipa, Peru. Launched in April 2018, the
goal of the institute is to work together to develop high social impact
solutions to the numerous challenges that lie ahead for the Arequipa region,
and for Peru and Latin America. Measuring the economic and social benefits that
mining, intensive agriculture, and burgeoning urbanization have brought against
the inevitable downside (desertification, soil erosion, and damage to water
resources, to name a few) generates a dangerous equation. The fallout from climate change is an
undeniable fact of life in Peru. The
cost to economies, ecosystems, and livelihoods cannot be underestimated. Any attempt to balance this equation must
contain solutions that are grounded in the unique lifestyles, behaviors, and
attitudes of the residents of the region, and be tailored to local ecosystems,
conditions, and ecologies.
Discovery Park’s Center for the
Environment is Purdue’s administrative and collaborative link to UNSA and the Nexus
Institute. Working with leadership and faculty at Purdue and UNSA, C4E has
developed a research and educational ecosystem that leverages Purdue’s
strengths and maps them to UNSA’s and Arequipa’s needs. The
Nexus Institute links over 50 Purdue University faculty spanning 7 colleges
with 40 faculty from UNSA into a
program to study the interconnected food-energy-water systems in the region. The
institute also provides funding for 23 postdoctoral researchers working between
Purdue and UNSA, and myriad students at both institutions are involved in the
research as well.
The vision of the Nexus Institute is
for UNSA to build core research capacity and capability in the Arequipa region
of Peru in relevant areas, nurture the research ecosystem to provide novel,
best-practice solutions to the area’s challenges, and turn research and
education into practical applications and local solutions with high societal
impact. The research underpinning this institute is coordinated through the
activities of thematic programs that emphasize 1) Sustainable Watershed Management and the development of data,
models, and tools to address food, energy, and water management, 2) Research on
Soil and Water Quality that establishes and supports monitoring stations for soil,
sediment, and water, and creates research facilities for analysis of soil and
aquatic microbiology, geochemistry, and environmental contaminants, as well
as research in spatial mapping and
visualization, 3) Work on Agricultural
Innovation and Demonstration to promote sustainable crop and animal
production using advanced technologies in genetics, breeding, storage, and pest
control, and 4) Social Sciences and the Environment addresses socio-environmental
challenges related to food and water security, agriculture, and mining, and
empowers the local community to be involved in decision-making.
in the Nexus Institute are designed to accelerate solutions to Peru’s complex, interconnected socio-economic and environmental
challenges. Key to success are meaningful collaborations among U.S. and Peruvian university
researchers, local communities, government, industry, and other stakeholders. For instance, a team led by Laura Bowling
(Purdue) and Edwin Bocardo (UNSA) is working to address
concerns about the sustainability of water
resources management in the Arequipa region, which is threatened by
water scarcity, degraded water quality and a changing climate. The team uses an iterative
approach to stakeholder engagement within the region’s urban and rural
communities to co-produce cutting-edge decision-making tools based
on the application of state of the art land surface models. Their
work will help understand how climate change is impacting local and
regional resource management and how community livelihood, structure, and
vulnerability are affected by these changes. Other digital mapping platforms
will be created to put existing and newly acquired data in the hands of decision makers and practitioners allowing
for science-based management and assessment of the impact
metals, and salinization on soil quality in this this newly-created,
intensively managed landscape. Coupled
with the on-going collaborative development of
new interdisciplinary laboratory’s and analytical facilities at UNSA, these types of projects will form the basis for science-driven, culturally-relevant,
and co-produced land
management best practices.
the Nexus Institute laid the foundation for expansion to other areas and
universities in Peru. Indeed, two new
MOUs have been signed, one between Purdue and Asociación Nacional de Universidades Públicas del Perú (ANUPP-Perú) — the
national association of Peruvian public universities, and the other between
Purdue and REDISUR (the Interuniversity Network of Southern Peru) that will
foster continuing cooperation in education and research between the
entities. These agreements have
established a collaborative framework for conducting international research for
all public universities in Peru and for all the public and private universities
under REDISUR. By standardizing this
framework, future partnerships have a clear roadmap which will facilitate a
smoother path to more productive, high societal impact research.
Peru and other like-minded countries in Latin America have the natural resources, the educational systems, the culture and the people to become future global economic growth engines. Their way of life and their global views are consistent and aligned with those of the West in general, and of the U.S. in particular. The value of interdisciplinary, international cooperation has been demonstrated and is incontrovertible. By creating these research and education-driven programs like the Arequipa Nexus Institute, not only do we hope to have a positive impact on major societal challenges, but to open up new pathways for stronger relations that will lead to a better understanding between the peoples of Latin America and the United States, and to better and stronger economic development and opportunities for all.
Tomas Diaz de la Rubia is the Vice President for Purdue’s Discovery Park. Tim Filley, professor of geochemistry and soil science in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and the Department of Agronomy at Purdue University, is the director of Discovery Park’s Center for the Environment.
In Douglas Adams’ book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Deep Thought was a city-sized computer created by a pan-dimensional super-intelligent race of beings that was tasked with coming up with the Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. After seven and a half million years of calculation, the rather disappointing answer to this vast “question” was…42. Having checked the answer thoroughly, and being certain that it was correct, Deep Thought tells the crestfallen recipients of the answer “I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you’ve never actually known what the question was.”
The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is a bit esoteric, and as Adams’ book intimates, no computer, no matter how long it operates for, will ever come up with an answer to such an existential question. But, what if you could calculate the answer to a more “mundane,” yet important question that you cannot answer today, and do it in just a fraction of the time? What if you could encrypt communications in such an unbreakable manner that you would never have to worry about computer security ever again? What if you could interrogate the deepest mysteries of quantum mechanics to design new materials and processes to provide infinite fusion energy to the planet? What if you could design new drugs to cure diseases for which we have no permanent answers today? What if you could answer those intractable questions and somehow know what is currently unknowable?
Quantum physics. Quantum information. Quantum computer. The word “quantum” stirs up all kinds of descriptors – fast, small, huge, powerful, nano, uncertain, entangled, invisible, discrete — some more useful than others. Just what is a quantum computer, quantum information, or, for that matter, quantum science? Why are we hearing so much more about it now? Isn’t it just the purview of dorky, bespectacled scientists huddled around expensive machinery in dark, underground labs? The answer to the last question is a resounding NO. Quantum science is experiencing a surge of interest as researchers, students, and industry leaders across the globe race to build a truly usable quantum computer, a machine that will be able to process unimaginable amounts of data at exponentially faster rates than today, transfer and store information with advanced cryptography, and facilitate new discoveries and myriad other applications.
Quantum theory has been around since the turn of the 19th century, ushered in by the names we all remember from chemistry and physics class — Planck, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, and Schrödinger, amongst others. Modern quantum mechanics attempts to describe the physical world at the atomic and subatomic level and how the physical systems at that level behave. The goal of quantum computing is to leverage the bizarre quantum mechanical rules of physics at the subatomic level to solve problems much faster than a conventional computer.
A “bit” of information in a traditional computer is either a one or a zero, on or off. Each bit can only exist in one state at a time. A quantum bit, or “qubit,” can be both a one and a zero at the same time, due to the quantum character of “superposition.” This effectively doubles the computing power of one traditional bit. Two qubits together can represent four scenarios at the same time, three qubits represent eight scenarios, and so on. The computing power thus grows exponentially with the number of qubits. The other feature of quantum mechanics that can be exploited is “entanglement,” what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” Entanglement is a phenomenon that shows that particles can be linked together, and the effects of manipulation of one particle are shown in the other, no matter the distance between them. Spooky, maybe. Exploitable? Definitely. Who will be capitalizing on this and how it will be done has become a matter of national importance.
On September 24, in Washington, D.C., the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy hosted a summit on Quantum Information Science. Participants included representatives from industry, academia, government agencies, and foundations. The event coincided with the unveiling of the national strategic overview for quantum science released by the National Science and Technology Council. OSTP and the Office of Management and Budget identified in their Research and Development Memo that quantum science is a key priority area of investment for the administration and federal agencies. Whilst the government focus will be on supporting much needed basic research, the private sector and academia need to tightly integrate basic research and engineering to create practical quantum computers and other quantum information systems.
I had the opportunity to participate in the summit representing Purdue University and applaud the initiative that the administration, the federal agencies, Congress, and the private sector are demonstrating in this critical area. Quantum Information Science will no doubt become a defining technology for the future of humankind, and a strong, early, and coordinated multi-sector focus on these technologies is essential for the U.S. to sustain its economic and national security leadership.
The National Science Foundation, the DOE Office of Science, NIST and the DOD are focused on enabling research and development in Quantum Information Science, and the new strategic programs they intend to focus on and fund in the future. In addition, leaders of various technology giants such as IBM, Microsoft, Google, Intel, Lockheed, and others are developing the technologies to build the quantum computers and systems of the future, including very interesting and effective partnerships with universities such as Purdue. Public-private partnerships will need to provide test beds and benchmarking mechanisms for new QIS technologies as they are developed.
As a prime example of such a partnership, Purdue University and Microsoft Corp. signed a five-year agreement to develop a sturdy and scalable quantum computer. The team, assembled by Microsoft, works at Discovery Park’s Birck Nanotechnology Center on developing a topological quantum computer that is especially robust against decoherence, and therefore is theoretically more stable and less error-prone. The Purdue group, led by physics professor Michael Manfra, grows and studies ultra-pure semiconductors and hybrid systems of semiconductors and superconductors that may form the physical platform upon which a quantum computer is built. Microsoft employees are embedded in the Purdue research team, and collaboration exists between Purdue, Microsoft, and experimental research sites located in universities here and abroad.
Purdue has other points of light to share in the Quantum Information arena. As light and matter are so sensitive to disturbance, it would be virtually impossible for a hacker to do their work undetected in a quantum system, and now we are one step closer to unhackable communication thanks to the work of the research team of Vlad Shalaev, a distinguished professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Shalaev’s pre-eminent nanophotonics team has created a new technique that increases the secret bit rate of photons to allow for sending much larger pieces of information on a single photon than has been previously demonstrated. More information, faster and safer.
Other Purdue researchers have received Federal grants for their work in Quantum science. Both the National Science Foundation and the Office of Science at the Department of Energy are supporting Quantum Information Science and, as detailed in the hyperlinked news release, Purdue faculty from the colleges of Engineering and Science have been funded to work on topics ranging from photon entanglement and development of photonics chips to spin-based quantum control, to the application of quantum information science to high energy physics and the development of new quantum computing algorithms for materials discovery.
The importance of Quantum Information Science—computing, communications, sensors, etc.—cannot be stressed enough, and we cannot afford to fall behind in this important science, technology, and engineering race. The few examples above are representative of the wide range of work ongoing at Purdue in this area. Many other universities across the nation have similar or even larger efforts already underway, and at Purdue, we need to focus and coordinate across the entire campus to provide a well-coordinated and effective platform from which to continuously increase the impact of our work in this important space. I am optimistic that following on this important White House summit, momentum will continue to grow and that the collective creativity and innovation spirit of all of the public and private efforts already underway and those new ones that will be created going forward, will be integrated and harnessed to create, very soon, the practical and commercial Quantum Information Systems that will define the future of competitiveness of the United States in everything, from commerce, to science, to defense, and many other sectors. Here at Purdue University, we are committed to driving this vision forward, and building on our collective strengths we will work to make the Quantum revolution a reality.
The dust lay thick upon the ruins of bombed-out buildings. Small groups of soldiers, leaden with their cargo of weaponry, bent low and scurried like beetles between the wrecked pillars and remains of shops and houses. Intelligence had indicated that enemy troops were planning a counterattack, but so far, all was quiet across the heat-shimmered landscape. The allied soldiers gazed intently out at the far hills and closed their weary, dust-caked eyes against the glare coming off the sand. Suddenly, the men were aware of a low humming sound, like thousands of angry bees, coming from the northeast. Getting louder, this sound was felt, more than heard, and the buzzing was intensifying with each passing second. The men looked up as a dark, undulating cloud approached, and found a swarm of hundreds of drones, dropped from a distant unmanned aircraft, heading to their precise location in a well-coordinated group, each turn and dip a nuanced dance in close collaboration with their nearest neighbors…
Although it seems like a scene from a science fiction movie, the technology already exists to create weapons that can attack targets without human intervention, according to defense analyst and former U.S. Army Ranger Paul Scharre. In his book Army of None, Scharre explores the future of battlefield technology utilizing autonomous weapons and artificial intelligence, or A.I.
The prevalence of this technology is pervasive and A.I. as a transformational technology shows virtually unlimited potential across a broad spectrum of industries. In healthcare, for instance, robot-assisted surgery allows doctors to perform complex procedures with fewer complications than surgeons operating alone, and A.I.-driven technologies show great promise in aiding clinical diagnosis and automating workflow and administrative tasks, with the benefit of potentially saving billions in healthcare dollars. In a different area, we are all aware of the emergence of autonomous vehicles and the steady march toward driverless cars being a ubiquitous sight on American roadways. We trust that all this technology will be safe and ultimately in the best interest of the public.
Warfare, however, is a different animal.
In his book, Paul Scharre asks, “Should machines be allowed to make life-and-death decisions in war? Should it be legal? Is it right?” It is with these questions in mind and in light of the advancing A.I. arms race with Russia and China that the Pentagon has announced the creation of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), which will have oversight of most of the A.I. efforts of U.S. service and defense agencies. The timeliness of this venture cannot be underestimated; as Robert Latiff states in his book Future War, “Battles of the future will not necessarily be fought on battlefields as we know them, but in cities, in ungoverned areas, in cyberspace, and in the realm of the electromagnetic spectrum. Even outer space will be a contested environment.” Automated warfare has become a “not if, but when” scenario.
In the fictional account above, it is the enemy combatant that, in a “strategic surprise,” uses advanced A.I.-based autonomous robots to attack the presumably victorious U.S. troops and their allies. Only a few years ago, we may have dismissed such a scenario — an enemy of the U.S. having more and better advanced technology for use in the battlefield — as utterly unrealistic. Today, however, few would question such a possibility. Technology development is global, and accelerating worldwide. China, for example, has announced that it will overtake the U.S. within a few years and will dominate the global A.I. Market by 2030. Given the pace and scale of investment the Chinese government is making in this (and other advanced technology spaces such as quantum information systems), such a scenario is patently feasible.
But, one may ask, why is this important in a fully globalized world? Those groups and nations that innovate most effectively and dominate the A.I. technology landscape will not only control commercial markets, but will also hold a very significant advantage in future warfare. In many respects, the threat of general A.I.-based weapons to national security is perhaps as existential a threat to the future national security of the United States and its allies as nuclear weapons were at the end of World War II.
Fortunately, the U.S. government and Congress are rising to the challenge. Anticipating these trends and challenges, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy announced, in a recent memo, that the nation’s top four research and development priorities would encompass defense, A.I., autonomy, and quantum information systems. This directly feeds into the job of the aforementioned JAIC, which is to establish a repository of standards, tools, data, technology, processes, and expertise for the Department of Defense, as well as coordinate with other government agencies, industry, U.S. allies, and academia. It is this last piece of the puzzle that I believe is in fact extremely important, and which Purdue University and other top academic institutions in the U.S. are uniquely positioned to provide.
It cannot be incumbent upon any one area to provide all the answers, so Purdue University’s Discovery Park has positioned itself as a paragon of collaborative, cutting-edge research which extends into the A.I. arena by the integration of several cross-cutting departments. The Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation (i-GDSI) is already answering JAIC needs for advanced A.I. research by delving into areas such as biomorphic robots, automatic target recognition for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), and autonomous exploration and localization of targets for aerial drones. i-GSDI recognized the need to converge core AI technologies with mission applications and designed the investments through an ‘AI+ Rapid Innovation’ internal RFP. ‘AI+’ motivates this very important aspect of converging technologies and operational imperatives — exactly what the JAIC is charged to do across the Department of Defense mission space. Complementary to the mission of the JAIC, the Purdue Policy Research Institute (PPRI) is actively investigating the ethical, legal, and social impacts of connected and autonomous vehicles (CATV). Some of the topics being researched include privacy and security, workforce disruption, insurance and liability, and economic impact. PPRI is also starting to investigate the question of ethics, technology and the future of war and security.
The bench is already strong for mission-inspired AI research. Purdue University is a key player in the C-BRIC (Center for Brain-Inspired Computing) project, forging ahead on “AI+” mentality by combining neuromorphic computing architectures with autonomous systems applications. The Integrative Data Science Initiative (IDSI) at Purdue transforms data into useable information by taking advantage of the proliferation of low-cost data storage and sensors. Data science is used by all of the nation’s security agencies and no doubt will be integral to the functioning of the JAIC and its mission. The opportunities for Purdue and Discovery Park to enter into a partnership with the JAIC are vast and span a wide range of disciplines and research areas. In short, we are primed to play a vital role in the future of the nation’s service and defense agencies and must be relentless in pursuing the opportunities available to us.
It has become apparent that the U.S. is no longer guaranteed top dog status on the dance card that is the future of war. In order to maintain military superiority the focus must shift from traditional weapons of war to advanced systems that rely on A.I.-based weaponry. The stakes are just too high and the prize too great to for the U.S. to be left behind. All the more reason to call upon Purdue University and its inestimable capacity to weave together academia, research, and industry for the greater good. We’re stepping up to secure our place in the future of our country, and there’s much more to come!
Today our planet sustains more human life at a given time than ever before. In the last 200 years, our population has grown from 1 billion to 7.6 billion and by 2050 the global population is estimated to reach new staggering heights, just short of 10 billion. Our society will need to change and adapt to accommodate increased urbanization and a growing middle class, an aging population and a rising demand for food, water and energy.
To address this growth, in January 2016, the United Nations announced a new effort, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is an appeal to all nations to tackle this global grand challenge. The SDGs are “a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity” by meeting various targets and indicators by 2030.
Of the 17 goals laid out by the UN, eight are closely tied to water, food and land. It is at this nexus that the heart of this grand challenge lies and our strategic theme on global sustainability is focused on. Today, many countries struggle with reliable access to clean water. Our aging infrastructure and energy grid are not optimized to allow for the coming population boom. Increased demands for energy, water and land resources are further straining the global food production system.
Can the future demands for food, fuel, clean water, biodiversity, climate change mitigation and poverty reduction be reconciled?
This is precisely the question that one of our Big Idea Challenge winning teams seeks to answer. Tom Hertel and his team have set their sights on tackling the food, energy, water, and environment nexus in their proposal, Managing the Global Commons: Sustainable Agriculture and Use of the World’s Land and Water Resources in the 21st Century. Hertel and his team posit that the sustainable development challenge is a particularly wicked problem, as sustainability is fundamentally a local concept, yet is driven by global forces. Pursuit of the SDGs will also have global consequences and analysis of these complex issues requires a holistic approach.
Hertel’s team aims to develop an interdisciplinary applied research consortium, which will analyze impact scenarios and explore policy alternatives that promote responsible public and private investment; sustainable management of critical, shared natural resources; and collective action toward meeting the SDGs. The framework Hertel’s team proposes is seamless, transparent, flexible and replicable. The on-campus resources and members of Hertel’s team are just part of why Purdue is situated to be a leader in open-source, global assessment of the SDGs related to food, land and water. Our unique combination of strengths in agriculture, computer science, engineering, hydrology, climate and global economic analysis position Purdue at the forefront of taking on these grand challenges.
Sustainable development and use of any nation’s land and water resources requires an understanding of the complex environmental, social and economic drivers that must be harnessed to maintain the availability of future food, water and energy resources with minimal negative effects. With its core strengths in STEM, advanced instrumentation, social and behavioral sciences, under its global sustainability strategic theme, Discovery Park is making connections abroad to help solve these pressing sustainability issues.
This spring, Discovery Park signed an MOU with the Universidad Nacional de San Agustin (UNSA) in Arequipa, Peru. A team of Purdue representatives visited the university to discuss how they could collaboratively tackle the biggest land, water, food, infrastructure and technological challenges facing Peru and Latin America today. The team met with UNSA leadership, faculty and students over the course of four days and exchanged information, experiences and conducted a needs assessment, which will serve as the foundation for a collaborative institutional partnership between Purdue and UNSA.
The Purdue team is working with UNSA to become a point of reference in Latin America for interdisciplinary research. The UNSA Nexus Institute will focus on four intersecting strategic themes: watershed management, environment, agriculture and soil quality. The new research hub will enable the sustainable use of Arequipa’s water, soil, plant and animal resources through the construction of state-of-the-art instrumentation monitoring and experimentation stations, the use of simulation modeling and collaboration with Purdue researchers.
Several Purdue faculty and Discovery Park researchers on the Purdue Team including: Tim Filley, director of the Center for the Environment; Indrajeet Chauby, department head of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences; and Daniel Leon-Salas, associate professor in the School of Engineering Technology in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, have been a critical part of the UNSA partnership and developing the projects that will drive the Nexus Institute. The joint goal of Purdue and UNSA faculty is to ensure long-lasting positive impact on our communities across all socio-economic levels and mutual knowledge exchange and collaboration.
The response from our faculty and their collaborators to get involved with and contribute to the UNSA partnership and Big Idea Challenge to address these grand challenges has been humbling. Though perhaps more importantly, the efforts of our researchers to tackle the biggest sustainability challenges facing our world today transcends these projects and are part of a much broader, integrated vision, to work across disciplinary boundaries which makes up Discovery Park’s global sustainability strategic theme.
Through the work of a number of our centers—the Center for the Environment, Purdue Climate Change Research Center and Center for Global Food Security, to name a few—our faculty are creating solutions to the problems at the heart of the global sustainability challenge. Their work is critical to Discovery Park’s vision to advance energy and resource innovation, deepen our understanding of the science of climate and resilience and develop new methods and practices to alleviate uncertainty regarding food supply and malnutrition.
The solutions to the SDGs are undoubtedly complex and will require not only understanding of these intricacies of the global sustainability nexus, but innovation as well. At Purdue, we are proud of the strides our researchers are making, which boldly confront these complex and evolving global challenges.
Ten billion people. Megacities. Massive increases in food production. Double, even triple energy demand. Impacts of climate change and the need for access to clean water. Potential pandemics. We face many challenges to sustain our planet’s quality of life, today and for decades to come. Daunting? Exceedingly so. The future of society hangs in the balance.
Rising to meet these challenges: a focused convergence of technological experts and social scientists.
From nanotechnology to synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, quantum computing and robotics, technology is advancing exponentially. As the cost of many technologies decreases, global access to their benefits increases faster than we ever envisioned. Technology, then, promises to help us tackle and solve grand challenges.
Today we speak of a future where everything is “smart” and “precise.” Precision agriculture and medicine and smart transportation, cities and manufacturing are a sampling of the current rhetoric about the future of everything. In this future, technology augments human capacity, presenting yet another challenge: fewer people will be needed in the workplace.
Heeding Societal Implications
As technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics replace humans on the job, what is the future of work?
In 1810, about 95 percent of the U.S. population worked in agriculture. Today, only about 2 percent do. In those 200 years, we transformed the nature of work, found new jobs and trained our growing population. However, exponential technology begets exponential change, and the McKinsey Global Institute predicts by 2035, just 18 years from now, about 45 percent of today’s jobs will be performed by machines. To ameliorate this transition, some advocate for a universal basic income to replace work-related income. In my opinion, the issues are broader than income support and need a fuller consideration. We must ask: What are the ethical, legal and societal implications of such a movement?
Solving these global challenges calls for addressing societal issues through deep and rigorous research. Technology and the social sciences together must inform new, “smart” policies to help us progress.
Transdisciplinary Work at Purdue Policy Research Institute
While definitive answers are yet to be determined, faculty at Purdue University’s Discovery Park are seeking solutions rooted in transdisciplinary research and education. True solutions, with positive social impact, require working across and beyond traditional boundaries that often separate humanists and social scientists from natural scientists, engineers and technologists. At Discovery Park, these disciplines converge to address global challenges.
One example is the Purdue Policy Research Institute, led by S. Laurel Weldon, distinguished professor of political science, which works across traditional boundaries to better understand how the convergence of technology and social sciences can yield well-informed policy and a better understanding of our changing world.
The power of this approach is illustrated in the Mellon Foundation-funded partnership between Purdue Libraries and the Institute. Purdue researchers are taking a unique approach in their research, developing and integrating innovative models of scholarly communication by embedding publishing professionals, library faculty and policy experts in the research and communication process. The approach is also unique in involving humanists and social scientists at the core of efforts to understand and find solutions to grand challenges.
This grant four interdisciplinary teams who are tackling issues such as sustainability in U.S. agriculture, big data ethics, climate change governance and the effectiveness of science-policy interaction, and decision support tools for flood risk mitigation.
The Institute is also undertaking research—initially through a fellowship program—in autonomous systems. While technology enabling autonomous vehicles is developing quickly, the ethical, legal and societal implications of these future transportation and mobility systems are not yet thoroughly understood. PPRI aims to catalyze the discussions, and ultimately the research, to fill this gap, again, by involving scholars from multiple disciplines and stakeholders in the research process right from the start.
Similarly, unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, are growing in popularity and for a variety of purposes. Like many technologies, they are proliferating at a greater pace than regulations to ensure safety and security without unduly restricting growth in technology and industry. The Institute has created the Drone Regulatory Research Initiative, a public/private, interdisciplinary partnership, to deepen understanding of these issues and develop fresh approaches and alternative solutions.
This project brings together engineers, aviation technology experts, social scientists, agricultural scientists and others. In 2016-2017, an interdisciplinary group of honors students worked with the Institute staff to develop a brief outlining the main uses and policy issues, and a policy brief series will run through this academic year. The Institute has also developed partnerships with Airmap and Pierce Aerospace, participates in the University Aviation Association for education and policy analysis subcommittee, and contributes to federal regulations and policy implementation of drones.
Net-Zero Energy Housing
Yet another area is the importance of policy supporting sustainable, accessible-to-all and affordable housing. The Institute is working with Purdue political science professor Leigh Raymond, former director of the Center for the Environment, on net-zero energy housing, to employ “smart” technologies to develop housing returning as much energy to the grid as it takes away. Raymond, who will be a PPRI Faculty Fellow this academic year, is leading the project, which, in partnership with the State of Indiana’s Energy Systems Network and Move Forward Program, will develop both technological solutions and a policy framework to make net-zero feasible. When technology and social policy integrate to address grand challenges, it can help us solve seemingly intractable situations.
Weldon’s own research focuses on gender equality and public policy, a grand challenge area necessitating transdisciplinary research. This year, the Institute plans to further develop work on women’s human rights and the connection to science and technology issues. A major part is understanding how social norms, including attitudes about gender, affect the ways we use or do not use science and technology to their greatest effect.
For example, technology can help or hinder women’s access to markets and economic empowerment. The Internet, for example, can facilitate opportunity for women while also being a source of online violence and harassment. Cell phones and cashless banking make it possible for women in the developing world to work and access funds without exposing themselves to sexual assault and harassment as they travel to distant financial institutions. However, women are disproportionately disadvantaged by the emphasis on cell phones in much of the developed world. The U.S. Agency for International Development estimates women in low-to-middle income countries are 20 percent less likely to have a mobile phone, a gap meaning some 300 million women in the developing world lack access to phones. Weldon will make a presentation on this subject for the Dawn or Doom series next month, and will take part in the “goalkeepers” events organized in New York City next month to focus attention on the Sustainable Development Goals and the progress that has been made on women’s human rights.
These are a few ways technologists and social scientists are partnering to address holistically some grand challenges so tomorrow’s megacities, energy and water demands and income opportunities benefit all. Look for many more convergence stories to emerge from Purdue’s Discovery Park.
The United States’ entrepreneurial spirit and substantial funding from venture capital firms are huge competitive advantages and key differentiators for the country. We lead the world in VC investments as a percentage of GDP and have been more efficient in converting early-stage investments into late-stage ventures than any other country in the world. As a result, the U.S. remains the center for “disruptive innovation.”
Why is this important, you might ask? As the National Venture Capital Association states, “Venture capital backed companies generate more sales, pay more taxes, generate more exports and invest more in research and development (R&D) than other public companies, when adjusting for size.”
In general, regions and nations with developed innovation ecosystems are characterized by high levels of public spending on top-tier universities, business R&D spending, venture capital investments, information and communication technology investments and tertiary education expenditures. All these factors and variables are correlated with actions taken by both government and businesses. Thus, the onus of creating a highly developed innovation ecosystem should be borne by both business and government.
Among all of these factors, the U.S. has a key differentiator and competitive advantage: the strength and quality of its research universities. All of the regional innovation clusters in the U.S. have grown around major research universities: Silicon Valley around Stanford and Berkeley; Boston around Harvard and MIT; North Carolina around UNC, NC State and Duke; Austin and Houston around the University of Texas, and so on. These universities have two things in common: a) they are all among the top research universities in the world; and b) none of them are in the midwest.
But the world is starting to take note of Purdue’s Innovation and Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.
A few years ago, then new President Mitch Daniels, observed that Purdue’s new discoveries and technologies, while numerous, were not having the kind of local and global market and social impact that one would expect from a top-tier university. Not enough patents were being filed, not enough licenses to develop new market innovations were being granted and most importantly, perhaps, very few new startup companies were being created in the local area. President Daniels believed then, as he does now, that even in a small midwest town like West Lafayette, Indiana, things could be different. He put a team in place at the Purdue Research Foundation that over the next few years would dramatically alter the status quo. Purdue made deliberate choices to create resources and remove barriers to empower innovators and entrepreneurs to move their ideas forward and to impact markets and society.
And a lot has happened over the last five years.
Just a few days ago, the National Academy of Inventors announced that Purdue now ranks #12 among the Top 100 universities in the world in terms of U.S. patents granted. This is up from 36 a few years ago, and puts us ahead of Harvard, Penn, Illinois, Northwestern and many other top institutions.
Within just the past few weeks, the Milken Institute report, “Concept of Commercialization: The Best Universities for Technology Transfer” ranked Purdue No. 1 in the Midwest and No. 1 nationally among public institutions without a medical school at creating startups and moving technologies to the marketplace. In addition, Discovery Park’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship was selected as one of 35 centers featured in the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business Entrepreneurial Spotlight Challenge. The Challenge highlights academic centers that develop cutting-edge business innovations through student learning. The Burton D. Morgan Center, in partnership with the Krannert School of Business and the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, provides essential programming related to education and the application of entrepreneurship principles.
This recent recognition comes on the heels of the Association of Public Land Grant Universities honoring Purdue University with its Innovation Award this past November.
At the heart of these accolades is an innovation ecosystem that knows how to take ideas to impact.
One of the key resources created was the Purdue Foundry at the Purdue Research Foundation. Located in Discovery Park’s Burton Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship, the Foundry has aligned resources across campus to lower barriers and empower innovators and entrepreneurs so they can realize the true potential for their inventions. The resources range from programs designed to help entrepreneurs articulate their value proposition and validate their ideas with market research, coaching, social networks and seed funding. A key process called “Firestarter” guides innovators and entrepreneurs through 10 weeks of ideation and market discovery resulting in a commercialization strategy. Entrepreneurs in residence then lend their experience and expertise to the program’s innovators and entrepreneurs as they execute their strategy.
Since the inception of the Purdue Foundry in 2013, Purdue has enjoyed record numbers of startups based on Purdue technology and a huge influx of additional startups into the Purdue ecosystem. Ninety-six startups have been created and we expect to see that number eclipse the 100 mark in the next six months, positioning Purdue University as an elite creator of startup companies among universities throughout the world. Interestingly, most of these companies are in areas distinct from the traditional software and app development that characterizes so many of Silicon Valley’s startups. Instead, the Purdue ecosystem is populated with companies focused on new technologies for agriculture, energy, drugs, aerospace, manufacturing and other fields of endeavor of great relevance to companies in the midwest and to society at large.
How many of these companies will go on to raise large amounts of capital and create new markets remains, of course, uncertain, but Discovery Park is proud to be part of this robust innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem to help ensure that the solutions to global challenges that our faculty and students develop every day have an ever-increasing impact on our rapidly evolving global society.
 Findings from the 2015 Deloitte report, Advanced Technologies Initiative: Manufacturing & Innovation, authored by Craig Giffi, Joann Michalik, Michelle Drew Rodriguez, Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, Bharath Gangula, Jeffery Carbeck and Mark Cotteleer.
I arrived at my office ready to engage in the rest of the day’s activities. On my one hour commute from my house on the beach, I had been able to participate in our weekly board meeting with partners from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. The Virtual Reality system in the Connected and Autonomous Transportation Vehicle (CATV) that had picked me up at my doorstep that morning had worked, as always, flawlessly and the global partners meeting in our secure virtual conference room had gone off without a hitch. I even had 15 minutes left over to enjoy a cup of coffee while watching the news and catching up on the day’s upcoming events.
How far, or how near, is this future? Not a day goes by when we do not read something in the press about progress in autonomous cars, virtual reality, artificial intelligence or a host of other digital technologies. Companies all over the world are innovating in these spaces at a fast and furious pace. However, and despite all the progress we read about, a myriad of technical, policy, legal, regulatory and even ethical challenges remain that must be overcome for a future such as this to become reality. In fact, I would argue that the ultimate, integrated system of systems solution appears distant.
CATVs are not about traditional automotive technology; they are about wireless communication, smart cities and smart infrastructure, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, cybersecurity, 3D mapping, big data, functional sensors, electric batteries, 3D printing and other advanced technologies that have little to do with the traditional focus of the automotive industry. As a result, the job market of the future for students that graduate from universities like Purdue will be with new and different companies that integrate software, hardware, infrastructure, and autonomy systems and sell completely new products and systems into new, yet to be fully understood markets.
Leading universities around the U.S. and the world are making a strong, strategic push to be at the forefront of the development of these new technologies. State and federal research agencies are starting to develop programs that increasingly focus research funding and policy studies into these spaces. At Purdue’s Discovery Park, we are launching a new initiative focused on research, development, testing and evaluation of technological systems and human factors for the CAT future. Building on our long and illustrious history of excellence in transportation research, we are partnering with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, the Indiana Department of Transportation, the Indiana Governor’s Office, Deloitte Consulting, the Transportation Development Group and many private sector companies to explore the feasibility and opportunity to develop a state-of-the-art CAT testing and R&D facility next to the Purdue campus.
The idea is that such a facility would attract all the leading global suppliers of CAT technologies not just to test their technologies and system solutions in a simulated but well controlled urban and rural environment, but also to partner with Purdue faculty and students in developing next generation technologies and systems. Moreover, a facility such as this would serve as a magnet for federal and state resources to perform research on advanced sensors, AI, big data and analytics, communication, cybersecurity, safety, urban and landscape design, policy and regulation, ethics and other related topics.
This grand vision is compelling, but we are not the only ones thinking this way. Therefore, we need to lean on the tremendous interest of our faculty and students to develop a coherent strategic roadmap that will identify our competitive advantages, and will tell us where to play and how to win. To do this, we can build from a foundation of excellence.
Faculty at Purdue have been, and continue to be, involved in federal and state programs that focus on the future of transportation. Prof. Srini Peeta in the School of Civil Engineering has been a leader in the development of integrated and sustainable transportation solutions through his leadership of the NEXTRANS Center, a U.S. Department of Transportation center in operation since 2007. NEXTRANS’s Driving Simulator Laboratory is a quasi-living laboratory for mobility and safety research, interactive learning and outreach that develops behavioral and operational models and assesses impacts to address current and emerging needs. A new center, also supported by the U.S. DOT, and led at Purdue by Prof. Peeta in partnership with the University of Michigan and other Midwest universities, CCAT, will explore the full picture of how communities can best transition to connected and automated vehicles.
Prof. Greg Shaver in the School of Mechanical Engineering has partnered with Cummins and Peloton, a California Start Up, to explore the future of connected and autonomous class-8 trucks via a new grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E). Prof. Darcy Bullock, also of the School of Civil Engineering is the longtime leader of the State of Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) Joint Transportation Research Program which facilitates collaboration between INDOT, higher education institutions and industry to implement innovations that result in continuous improvement in the planning, design, construction, operation, management and economic efficiency of the Indiana transportation infrastructure.
Similarly, Prof. Andrew Tarko, a world leader in transportation safety studies and in civil engineering, leads the INDOT-funded Center for Road Safety, which seeks to provide data and knowledge for a changing automotive transportation system, to foster and coordinate transportation research in both technical and policy areas. Prof. Richard Voyles, in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, works with his students to develop 1/8th scale autonomous cars for testing behavior and performance in extreme environments.
In addition to these and other ongoing automotive and transportation research efforts, Purdue has exceptional capabilities through its faculty in the colleges of Science, Engineering, Agriculture, Liberal Arts, Health and Human Sciences and the Purdue Polytechnic Institute related to control systems, cybersecurity, AI and machine learning, landscape architecture, consumer psychology, policy, robotics and many other topics, all of which are related and fundamental to progress toward an autonomous future.
By weaving our strengths together into a tightly knit and coherent transdisciplinary effort, and creating the public and private partnerships necessary for success, I believe that when we sit in an autonomous vehicle fifteen or twenty years from now on the way to a new destination, we will be able to look back with pride at the role that Purdue University played in leading and enabling the success of the massive societal transformation that autonomy represents.
Since the inception of the digital age, the United States has been the unchallenged global leader in computing technology, but with little public attention, our advantage has been eclipsed. We are now engulfed in a computing technology race that is as portentous as any military conflict we have ever faced before.
TOP500, the organization that monitors and ranks the world’s supercomputers, reported last summer that China has developed two different computer systems that are now the two fastest on the planet. Just 15 years ago, China had none of the top 500 supercomputers in the world, but today, it has more than any other nation, including the United States. China’s new Sunway TaihuLight achieves speeds that are five times faster than the fastest supercomputer in the United States — and it achieves those speeds with Chinese-made chips.
Supercomputers are used to simulate and study everything from the paths of hurricanes to the genetic origins of man and are critical to future advances in healthcare, the development alternative energy resources and national security. While China’s latest advance does not yet fundamentally change the balance of power, the impacts are clearly visible on the horizon and should be a wake-up call to policymakers.
It is no longer science fiction to imagine an adversary’s use of the first, large-scale practical quantum computer to decrypt previously unbreakable encryption keys that would blind us to enemy military movements while our own would be entirely visible to the enemy. While such a practical quantum computer does not exist today, China is investing billions in their development.
The race is on.
We can no longer rely on decades of military superiority or the so-called technology “offsets” like nuclear weapons, and stealth technology and global positioning satellites. While we may hold a technological lead, it is tenuous: the other runners are advancing on us, clearly visible in our peripheral vision.
The challenge before us is clear. If we are to stay ahead of the ever-growing wave of global technological innovation, we must out-invent, out-discover and out-innovate our adversaries — and we must do so on a constant, daily basis.
There is no third offset. There is only a continuous offset, the keys to which are speed and effectiveness in translating basic research, discoveries and technological advances into affordable operational products and systems that move quickly into actual, practical use. Our singular mission can be described in three words: rapid, affordable innovation.
To accomplish this mission, we have launched the Institute for Global Security and Defense Innovation (i-GSDI), where our researchers from across campus will converge all of the relevant academic disciplines, including the social and behavioral sciences, to ensure the university’s focus and commitment to national security and defense innovation. With the launch of i-GSDI, Purdue will be a leading innovator for the nation’s defense and security community. The Institute will provide integrated, world-class scientific, engineering, policy, economic and social science problem solving capabilities and solutions.
The Institute was launched in conjunction of the Global Security and Defense Symposium on Dec 1, 2016, where speakers highlighted the critical role of research universities in global security. Throughout the course of seven keynotes and four panels, the notion of convergent thinking across technology, policy, the social sciences took center stage as a necessary approach to a world of increasing, and increasingly complex, challenges.
The Institute is already assembling faculty and student experts and thought leaders for workshops and integration strategy sessions in key areas of autonomy and hypersonic flight technology, with others to follow shortly after.
This convergence is not confined to campus. On the contrary, and by necessity, i-GSDI is also leading strategic partnerships with critical organizations, including the Naval Surface Warfare Center-Crane Division, Sandia National Laboratories, the Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), and the Air Force Life Cycle management Center. Each of these partners has recognized that Purdue brings critical, complimentary expertise that both broaden and deepen their respective missions.
Longstanding partnership areas with NSWC Crane, such as trusted microelectronics and power/energy storage, are growing at the same time as new areas like model-based systems engineering (MBSE) analytics and hypersonics are emerging, altogether making the relationship truly strategic for both sides.
Similarly, i-GSDI is developing a deep understanding of the needs of the AF Global Strike Command in areas central to our nation’s nuclear deterrent, such as Nuclear Command, Control and Communications. In support of this mission, the Institute is leading a new relationship with Louisiana Tech University, a key local supporter of AF Global Strike, in order that the two universities can maximize impact on the Command’s mission needs.
Purdue is proud to be one of five universities in the Sandia Academic Alliance Program. The i-GSDI has taken the lead in identifying and connecting critical research needs with combinations of Sandia staff and Purdue faculty. These efforts have already produced numerous research efforts and products, and again are drawn much more clarity to the Purdue ecosystem on the critical technologies needed for a “continuous offset”, including advanced energetic materials, hypersonic systems and novel propulsion concepts, next-generation computing and cyber security, to name a few.
The opportunity for Purdue to contribute to our nation’s security and well-being continues to grow. Faculty teams are converging and responding to grand-challenge-scale proposal solicitations from DOD, DHS, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and others in areas such as homeland security, employing Internet of Things technologies on the battlefield, energetic materials, etc. With sustained support from the government, the private sector and venture capital, universities like Purdue that embrace this commitment to developing innovative, convergent technologies will help ensure our continued lead in defense technology — and the security of our nation.