Alternative Links to Defence

Alternative Links to Defence

The Artificial Intelligence for Decision Making Initiative


In May 2020, the Office of National Intelligence (ONI) and the Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group announced the Artificial Intelligence for Decision Making Initiative. Individuals, businesses and universities were invited to apply their expertise to solve 23 Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) challenges relevant to Australian Defence. Emerging scholar, Dr Baylee Brits, was among the first group of shortlisted applicants.

With training in English Literature and Cultural Analysis, Dr Brits had a strong humanities background, but had been working on Artificial Intelligence topics and the intersection between the sciences and the humanities for several years. However, it wasn’t till she was alerted about the Initiative that she became aware of a possible productive link with Defence.

“When I first heard about the Initiative, I assumed it would prioritise computer scientists, so I was surprised and intrigued when I was told that the ONI and DSTG were interested in different disciplinary perspectives and methods,” she said.

Dr Brits’ project, titled ‘Behaviour Recognition in Real Time, Continuous Environments’, addressed the challenge topic ‘Deceitful/Persuasive Writing Detection’. This set out to detect when an author is intentionally exaggerating or being deceitful amongst a corpus of documents they have written.

The research utilised unorthodox skills and methods from literary studies, rather than science, to investigate and theorise AI capabilities for textual deceit detection.

“I was keen to challenge myself by working on this (seemingly impossible) research question, and to give more time to my research career after several years of teaching,” said Dr Brits, for whom, like many other recipients, the Initiative proved to be a one-of-a-kind opportunity.

Apart from uncovering a range of unconventional capabilities, it gave individual researchers exposure to defence needs, a platform to test ideas and the opportunity to establish track records. The Defence Science Institute played a leading role in executing this outcome.

With the majority of participants having no previous research engagement with Defence or National Security agencies, the Initiative identified a significant amount of new talent that can be drawn on into the future.

 “The work I did as part of the grant was just the beginning of a much bigger project on artificial intelligence and decision making; months later, I’m still kept up at night with the question: how can humanities research on AI and decision-making contribute further to defence research and priorities?”

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