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Technology: Cognitive Simulation Tool
Agency: Naval Research Laboratory
The Naval Research Laboratory has patented an artificial intelligence and cognitive modeling technology designed to better understand what can happen in culturally diverse circumstances. It’s called the Cognitive Simulation Tool, and it could very well change the way we interact with people from different cultures.
So what is it?
The techno-babble for the Cognitive Simulation Tool is that NRL has patented this technology so it applies to a learning algorithm grounded in social science to model interactions of agents/actors from different groups or cultures. The tool embedding this technology uses agent-based simulation of preference-driven agents endowed with cognitive maps representing their causal beliefs.
What does that mean?
That means that this is simulation technology that allows us to get a better understanding of what can happen when two very different groups have to interact with each other. Agents can modify their cognitive maps through social learning, and a user can seed the simulation with diverse belief structures and activate the simulation to predict coalitions/conflicts and shifts of allegiance.
Basically, it’s a what-if social scenario simulator (say that ten times fast).
What does it do?
I don’t think I need to tell you that the balance of social interaction can be a delicate one.
When it comes to speaking or working with foreign nationals, being able to respect them and possibly encourage cooperation to a mutual benefit can be influential, and in some cases necessary. This technology is designed to measure the impact of a foreign presence on a society before systems collide. It can predict coalitions, population attitudes in response to exogenous events, and even visualize group information.
How can this help the warfighter?
Service members typically spend a lot of time interacting with different people from different social, economic and religious backgrounds. Having a better understanding of how to approach people is as valuable as having situational awareness. Indeed, it’s a viable element of SA. This tool could provide service members with the skills they need to interact with diverse groups effectively and positively, while also teaching them how to be more effective at certain forms of communication.
Also it includes a video gaming system, so that’s bound to be fun.
I think everyone could benefit from a little social interaction training. If people could plan ahead on how to interact with others I think the world would be a less awkward place.
Imagine how different first dates would be if you’d already ruled out all those cheesy one-liners and unfunny jokes. Or an interview simulator that allowed you to figure out if your self-depreciating humor would fall flat or not. Now I’m not saying this Cognitive Simulation Tool is capable of that – it’s certainly not going to fix all the awkward conversations in the world – but it can help service members to cross certain cultural barriers in times where it could really be important to do so.
Like on a deployment. Or establishing new multi-cultural collaborations. Or ordering food in a foreign country.
Now, this is something that falls under the heading of education and homeland security, but really I think it would help our warfighters to become better, more effective ambassadors to these other countries. Part of our mission is to be able to connect to people from other countries. It’s intuitive that we ought to prepare our troops for any and all circumstances they might encounter.
Having adequate training that prepares warfighters for any real-world scenario is important.
Having a social interaction simulator is, in my opinion, a long time coming.
My take on this is make it so, NRL. And besides, you know I’m a fan of anything that brings us that much closer to a holodeck.
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Jessica L. Tozer is a blogger for DoDLive and Armed With Science. She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for technology in the military.
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