The Pentagon is investing $2 billion into artificial intelligence

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The Pentagon’s high-tech research agency laid the groundwork for the Internet, stealth aircraft and self-driving cars. Now, it’s going big on artificial intelligence.

At its 60th anniversary conference on Friday, DARPA announced a $2 billion investment to push the frontier of AI forward.

“We think it’s a good time to seed the field of AI,” John Everett, the deputy director of DARPA’s Information Innovation Office, told CNNMoney. “We think we can accelerate two decades of progress into five years.”

Artificial intelligence, which lets machines perform tasks traditionally done by humans, is a trendy topic in technology and business circles. For example, Google recently delighted and alarmed observers when it showed how an AI system could call a restaurant and book a reservation while sounding entirely human.

Breakthroughs in the last decade have inspired companies to recruit top AI talent away from academia. Machines are now much more accurate at recognizing speech, understanding images and processing words, leading to products such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Waymo’s self-driving vans.

The country’s biggest and most innovative companies rely on it to stay ahead of competitors.Waymo’s autonomous vehicles have driven more than 9 million miles on US roads thanks to artificial intelligence.

National governments, such as Canada, China, India and France, are prioritizing AI now too. They view artificial intelligence as essential to growing their economies in the 21st century. Most notably, China has said it wants to be the global leader by 2030.

DARPA’s investment will focus on creating systems with common sense, contextual awareness and better energy efficiency. Advances could help the government automate security clearances, accredit software systems and make AI systems that explain themselves.

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