I am Arati Prabhakar, former director of DARPA. AMA!


I led the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) from 2012 to January 2017. We ran programs to rethink complex military systems in fundamental ways; harness the information explosion to address national security challenges; and plant new seeds of technological surprise in fields as diverse as mathematics, synthetic biology, and neurotechnology. I’ll be a 2017-18 fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, where I’ll explore how we shape our technologies and how they shape us. I’m speaking at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival. Ask me anything!

Proof: https://i.redd.it/t8f7nr9b4i6z.jpg

EDIT: Thanks everyone for your questions! I am going to close out this conversation. I’m speaking in several sessions at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival and you will be able to find video/audio shortly after at this website: https://www.aspenideas.org/speaker/arati-prabhakar



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22 Comments

  • Hello Arati, what is the most interesting project (that you’re allowed to tell us about) that you worked on?

  • What the biggest misconception about doing business with DARPA if you are small business?

  • What research were you most excited about working with and why?

  • According to you, what is the most important thing to keep in mind when working in Defense?

  • What do you think will be the most important technology in the future of defense?

  • What do you know about E.T.’s and reverse engineering?

  • Do other nations have efforts that parallel what DARPA does — in size, scope, and financing? Did your federal work leave you with a positive impression of what government can accomplish (or were you sometimes left disappointed by bureaucracy)?

  • Hi Arati! How do you evaluate the success of a project? In other words, what quantitative measures does DARPA use to assess “impact?”

  • Hi! Thanks so much for doing this! How do you feel about how DARPA is represented in the media/pop culture?

  • Hi Arati. How did you manage your personal life when working at DARPA? And what’s the transition been for you going from DARPA to academia? Thanks!

  • Hi Arati, do you have any thoughts on our education system and whether it’s preparing us for the challenges you addressed at DARPA? Thank you!

  • Hi Arati! Given your work at DARPA, what do you think is the most important thing area for the US to focus on at this moment? Thanks for doing this AMA and for your work!

  • Are there any hints of options for sequential processing of data at much faster speeds? ie, 10000x single-thread performance? Or are we basically stuck forever because of the speed of light across the CPU.

  • DARPA/NSF should create/fund a national deep learning research lab. DARPA/NSF didn’t fund the original deep learning practitioners (such as Hinton, Bengio, & De Freitas) (probably because deep learning hadn’t yet yielded its outstanding results yet on benchmarks such as imagenet, wmt14, & atari), so they all went to Canada because CIFAR-NCAP was willing to give them funding and allowed them to publish all their work in the open.

    Now that deep learning and other related methods have been shown to yield the best results, why hasn’t DARPA/NSF created a national deep_learning/AI research lab (that publishes its work in the open so that the best researchers are willing to work there)?

  • Fun sounding job, also I have this question that’s burnt my head for months now. What is the meaning of life?

  • What percent of DARPA budget is spent on pure theoretical research vs engineering/prototype projects?

  • What role do you think quantum computing will play at Defense?

  • Are faster-than-light/spacewarp projects taboo at DARPA?

  • Does DARPA have a strong focus on Quantum Computing, or has that been determined to not be a priority?

  • What was D.A.R.P.A.’s biggest failure in your opinion?

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  • How do you pronounce naan bread?

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