Trusting Autonomy

The “single greatest finding” of the Air Force’s Technology Horizons science and technology vision document is that the service could reap “enormous increases in capability and manpower efficiencies and cost reductions” through much greater use of highly adaptable and highly autonomous systems and processes, Werner Dahm, USAF’s chief scientist, told attendees at AFA’s Air & Space Conference on Monday. For example, USAF’s air and space operations centers would benefit from autonomized reasoning and control since humans are already reaching the limits of their abilities to manage increasingly large amounts of information on ever faster timescales, he said. But ensuring that these autonomized functions are working properly is a looming challenge. “What we don’t have today is the ability to do verification and validation of highly adaptable, highly autonomous systems,” said Dahm. This means the Air Force will have to devise novel ways “of certifying and establishing trust in autonomy,” he said. “There are a lot of directions that have high value, but that is the highest priority, for sure,” Dahm told the Daily Report after his address, when asked where he’d apply extra funding in the science and technology realm.