As we discussed at OODAcon 2023, historically unprecedented technological disruption is now well underway on an exponentially accelerated timeline. The challenge now is activating positive outcomes while mitigating risk (ideally, with an eye towards proactive containment of unintended consequences by way of preventative strategies). Grand Challenges and Innovation Accelerators will be central to these global efforts. Following are the recent developments from DARPA’s AI Cyber Challenge (AIxCC) and NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA).
In the months before the recent 2023 NATO Summit in Lithuania, the NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic (DIANA) opened its European regional office at the Imperial College London Innovation Hub in London in May and launched its first three pilot challenge programs. This operational “standup” was all in a timeline of less than a year since the NATO Foreign Ministers endorsed the charter for DIANA in April 2022 – which outlines its mission and strategy; legal authorities; financial mechanism; governance; and the regional offices, accelerator sites and test centres that will make up its initial footprint.
DARPA is calling on top computer scientists, AI experts, software developers, and beyond to participate in the AI Cyber Challenge (AIxCC), a 2-year competition focused on automatically finding and fixing vulnerabilities to secure the nation’s most critical software.
Tasking AI to detect and automatically mitigate threats without the need for human intervention has been an often cited goal for the technology, although in practice it is not there yet. AI and other similar technologies like machine learning can certainly help enhance cybersecurity, but the concept of mostly autonomous AIs working at machine speed to accurately defend networks and infrastructure from all threats is still theoretical. AIxCC aims to change that, with major innovators in the AI space like Anthropic, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI offering up their most advanced technology to teams working on the challenge.
The challenge is set up into two tiers: a sponsored one where up to seven participants from small businesses will be paid to work on the challenge, and then an open track that anyone can participate in, with the winners from that track earning the lion’s share of the prize money.
Registration for the open track begins on December 1 at the AIxCC website.
The first qualifying event where teams that have developed defensive AI as part of the challenge can demonstrate their technology will take place in the spring of next year. From there, the top 20 teams will be invited to the semi final phase taking place at DEF CON 2024. Five teams will emerge from that phase, with each earning $2 million and being invited to the final round at DEF CON 2025 the following year. At that final phase, the top three teams will be chosen as the ultimate winners. Each will be awarded additional prize money, with $4 million given to the first place winner. Their technology could also be immediately put in place to begin defending critical infrastructure.
Judging for the challenge will be led by The Open Source Security Foundation, a project of the Linux Foundation. The OpenSSF organization will also help to get the winning software code into use as quickly as possible to begin protecting American infrastructure.
ato has chosen 44 startups from Nato member countries to take part in its first-ever accelerator programme — and 30 of them are European. DIANA is at the heart of Nato’s efforts to boost defence and dual-use innovation across the alliance. It’s set aside €50m a year to run the programme. Nato has also set up a €1bn investment fund to make equity investments in dual-use companies. As of next year, the chosen startups will participate in an intensive six-month programme, while the most successful companies will be invited to stay on for a further six months. They’ll initially receive a grant of €100k, with a possible €300k top-up.
The startups will also receive mentorship, commercial, technical and business support and the possibility to test their solutions in specially designed Nato test centres. The first cohort is focused on companies working on three areas in particular — energy resilience, sensing and surveillance and secure information sharing.
For a complete list of the companies, go to this link.
Additional OODA Loop Resources
Decision Intelligence for Optimal Choices: The simultaneous occurrence of numerous disruptions complicates situational awareness and can inhibit effective decision-making. Every enterprise should evaluate their methods of data collection, assessment, and decision-making processes. For more insights: Decision Intelligence.
Proactive Mitigation of Cyber Threats: The relentless nature of cyber adversaries, whether they are criminals or nation-states, necessitates proactive measures. It’s crucial to remember that cybersecurity isn’t solely the responsibility of the IT department or the CISO – it’s a collective effort that involves the entire leadership. Relying solely on governmental actions isn’t advised given its inconsistent approach towards aiding industries in risk reduction. See: Cyber Defenses
The Necessity of Continuous Vigilance in Cybersecurity: The consistent warnings from the FBI and CISA concerning cybersecurity signal potential large-scale threats. Cybersecurity demands 24/7 attention, even on holidays. Ensuring team endurance and preventing burnout by allocating rest periods are imperative. See: Continuous Vigilance
Embracing Corporate Intelligence and Scenario Planning in an Uncertain Age: Apart from traditional competitive challenges, businesses also confront external threats, many of which are unpredictable. This environment amplifies the significance of Scenario Planning. It enables leaders to envision varied futures, thereby identifying potential risks and opportunities. All organizations, regardless of their size, should allocate time to refine their understanding of the current risk landscape and adapt their strategies. See: Scenario Planning
Track Technology Driven Disruption: Businesses should examine technological drivers and future customer demands. A multi-disciplinary knowledge of tech domains is essential for effective foresight. See: Disruptive and Exponential Technologies.
Planning for a Continuous Pandemic Landscape: COVID-19’s geopolitical repercussions are evident, with recent assessments pointing to China’s role in its spread. Regardless of the exact origins, the same conditions that allowed COVID-19 to become a pandemic persist today. Therefore, businesses must be prepared for consistent health disruptions, implying that a substantial portion of the workforce might always operate remotely, even though face-to-face interactions remain vital for critical decisions. See: COVID Sensemaking
The Inevitable Acceleration of Reshoring and its Challenges: The momentum towards reshoring, nearshoring, and friendshoring signals a global shift towards regional self-reliance. Each region will emphasize local manufacturing, food production, energy generation, defense, and automation. Reshoring is a complex process, with numerous examples of failures stemming from underestimating intricacies. Comprehensive analyses encompassing various facets, from engineering to finance, are essential for successful reshoring endeavors. See: Opportunities for Advantage