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DARPA director Arati Prabhakar: Understanding social behavior is critical to national security

DARPA director Arati Prabhakar and Harvard professor Gary King examine new tools in machine learning that are helping make meaning from data in critical areas of national security. (Video: Washington Post Live)

DARPA director Arati Prabhakar spoke at The Post’s 2016 Transformers live journalism event May 18 in Washington, D.C. Learn more here.

“Social science is being reinvented because of the massive availability of data coupled with these very thoughtful techniques and the methodologies that are developing.

“I think that is going to allow us to ask questions that have been dead ends in social science for a very long time. We have a new program called Next Generation Social Science that is specifically about building the tools and the methods that would allow for a new generation of social science research. Research that could be done on a different scale than graduate students that are getting paid 20 bucks to do an experiment. Research that could be reproduced and scaled.

“The question we’re posing is: What are the key factors in collective identity formation?

“I don’t think we have very good answers to that. Certainly we don’t have practical answers that can help anyone who’s trying to do something on the ground today. Our hope is [that] through developing these techniques we’ll get some new insights in that area but also develop methodologies that scale across many more areas.

“I think it’s actually very hard to imagine an area that’s more important to national security than understanding societal behavior. The fact that we have vast new opportunities to do that, I think, is where we definitely want to tap into.”

Arati Prabhakar
Director, DARPA


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