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March 8, 2019

APL’s Chief of Intelligent Systems Weighs in on Artificial Intelligence

Intelligent Systems Center Chief Ashley Llorens

Intelligent Systems Center Chief Ashley Llorens

Credit: APL

As chief of the Intelligent Systems Center at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), in Laurel, Maryland, Ashley Llorens is at the nexus of efforts to develop a technology road map and engagement strategy for establishing the Laboratory as a nationally recognized leader and trusted partner in artificial intelligence. His recent appointments to three advisory boards not only have placed the Laboratory at the table with the best minds in AI, he said, but also give APL “the opportunity to contribute to the national discourse around AI while helping to guide our sponsors’ thinking and investments in this emerging area of focus.”

Center for a New American Security

Llorens is one of 22 former senior government officials, industry leaders and academic experts tapped to form the Center for a New American Security’s Task Force on Artificial Intelligence and National Security. Co-chaired by former Deputy Secretary of Defense and APL Senior Fellow Bob Work, and Andrew Moore, head of Google Cloud Artificial Intelligence, the group is examining how the United States should respond to national security challenges posed by artificial intelligence.

Llorens said the task force is part of a larger CNAS effort to explore how the AI revolution could lead to changes in security, global power and the character of conflict. Its members include Jason Matheny, former director of the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity; Jack Clark, policy director at Open AI; and Tuomas Sandholm, who leads Carnegie Mellon University’s AI initiatives.

“It’s an honor to engage with the top thinkers in the field, and to take the opportunity to articulate the unique needs that the Department of Defense has in terms of technology and policy — to represent APL as a trusted voice,” Llorens said. “It’s also giving us an early look at emerging trends in academia and Silicon Valley.”

Defense Science Board

Llorens has also been named to the Defense Science Board’s Task Force on Counter Autonomy, which is conducting a strategic assessment of near- and long-term U.S. counter-autonomy capabilities, including efforts in the domains of land, sea, undersea, air, space and cyberspace.

The Defense Science Board is a committee of civilian experts appointed to advise the Department of Defense on scientific and technical matters; APL Director Ralph Semmel is a member of that body.

“Advances in artificial intelligence and global technology proliferation are driving the rapid evolution and global adoption of autonomy, which is creating economic, social and military disruption,” Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin noted in a memorandum commissioning the study. “The ability of future U.S. forces to advantageously harness autonomy in both physical and information systems will be essential to address capability and capacity asymmetries.”

Llorens said the task force appointment allows APL to comment on broader themes of AI, especially in the areas of trust and possible uses of the technologies by adversarial and non-state actors. “We will be considering questions around how we make our own AI-enabled autonomous systems more robust while countering adversary use of those same technologies,” he said. “We will help the Department of Defense formulate a hypothesis about the technical nature of the space and threats and then ultimately offer recommendations on how to close critical gaps.”

Naval Studies Board

Llorens is also serving on an ad hoc committee to conduct a classified study that examines U.S. naval forces’ capabilities to maintain operational effectiveness in the face of an adversary’s efforts to deny and degrade mission-critical data. It will also examine to what extent our forces can apply techniques like AI and deep learning to make sure their decision-making processes are faster and more flexible than our adversaries’.

The committee — “Maintaining Operational Effectiveness for U.S. Naval Forces in Highly Degraded Environments: Ensuring Trusted, Resilient Data in the Face of Data Warfare” — was formed at the request of the chief of naval operations and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, under the auspices of the Naval Studies Board.

“The key question is how does the Navy mobilize all of the data available from different sources — military, commercial and open source — and bring them to bear at the right time and place to augment the Navy’s decision-making at different levels,” Llorens noted.

Of his service on these deliberative bodies, Llorens said: “While APL continues to research, develop and deploy AI capabilities, it’s important to have a seat at these tables to listen and to tell. This enables us to have a broader impact on where the nation is headed.”

Media contact: Paulette Campbell, 240-228-6792, Paulette.Campbell@jhuapl.edu

The Applied Physics Laboratory, a not-for-profit division of The Johns Hopkins University, meets critical national challenges through the innovative application of science and technology. For more information, visit www.jhuapl.edu.