When a suicide bomber attacked Kabul International Airport in August last year, the death and destruction was overwhelming: The violence left 183 people dead, including 13 U.S. soldiers.
This kind of mass casualty event can be particularly daunting for field workers. Hundreds of people need care, the hospitals nearby have limited room, and decisions on who gets care first and who can wait need to be made quickly. Often, the answer isn’t clear, and people disagree.
To that end, DARPA’s In the Moment program will create and evaluate algorithms that aid military decision-makers in two situations: small unit injuries, such as those faced by Special Operations units under fire, and mass casualty events, like the Kabul airport bombing. Later, they may develop algorithms to aid disaster relief situations such as earthquakes, agency officials said.
The program, which will take roughly 3.5 years to complete, is soliciting private corporations to assist in its goals, a part of most early-stage DARPA research. Agency officials would not say which companies are interested, or how much money will be slated for the program.
Matt Turek, a program manager at DARPA in charge of shepherding the program, said the algorithms’ suggestions would model “highly trusted humans” who have expertise in triage. But they will be able to access information to make shrewd decisions in situations where even seasoned experts would be stumped.
For example, he said, AI could help identify all the resources a nearby hospital has – such as drug availability, blood supply and the availability of medical staff – to aid in decision-making.
“That wouldn’t fit within the brain of a single human decision-maker,” Turek added. “Computer algorithms may find solutions that humans can’t.”