Military researchers to apply artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to combat medical triage

March 18, 2022
Difficult domains involve disagreement among trusted decision-makers; no right answer exists; and uncertainty and time-pressure create challenges.

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. military researchers are asking industry to develop artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies for difficult jobs like combat medical triage, which refers to sorting wounded warfighters according to their need for medical attention.

Officials of the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., issued a broad agency announcement (HR001122S0031) this week for the In the Moment (ITM) project.

DARPA researchers are asking industry to develop algorithmic decision-makers that can help humans with decision-making in difficult domains like combat medical triage.

Difficult domains are where trusted decision-makers disagree; no right answer exists; and uncertainty, time-pressure, resource limitations, and conflicting values create significant decision-making challenges. Other examples include first response and disaster relief.

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The DARPA ITM project focuses on two areas: small unit triage in austere environments, and mass casualty triage. ITM seeks to develop techniques that enable building, evaluating, and fielding trusted algorithmic decision-makers for mission-critical operations where there is no right answer and, consequently, ground truth does not exist.

Researchers are looking for capabilities that:

-- quantify algorithmic decision-makers with key decision-making attributes of trusted humans;

-- incorporate key human decision-maker attributes into more human-aligned, trusted algorithms;

-- enable the evaluation of human-aligned algorithms in difficult domains where humans disagree and there is no right outcome; and

-- develop approaches that support the use of human-aligned algorithms in difficult domains.

Difficult decisions occur when the decision-maker is confronted with challenges that include too many or too few options, too much or too little information, uncertainty about the consequences of decisions, and uncertainty about the value of foreseeable outcomes.

ITM seeks to develop AI and machine learning algorithms based on key human attributes as the basis for trust in algorithmic decision-makers, as well as a computational framework for key human attributes and an alignment score match the algorithmic decision-maker to key human decision-makers.

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ITM is interested in the notion of trust, or the willingness of a human to delegate difficult decision-making to AI computers. The project also will focus on human-off-the-loop, algorithmic decision-making in difficult domains to understand the limits of such a computational framework.

ITM is 3.5-year, two-phase program that focuses on four technical areas: decision-maker characterization; human-aligned algorithms; evaluation; and policy and practice.

Decision-maker characterization seeks to develop technologies that identify and model key decision-making attributes of trusted humans to produce a quantitative decision-maker alignment score.

Human-aligned algorithms should be able to balance situational information with a preference for key decision-maker attributes. Evaluation will assess the willingness of humans to delegate difficult decisions to AI computers.

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Policy and practice will develop recommendations for how military leaders can update policies to take advantage of AI and machine learning in combat medical triage.

Companies interested should upload abstracts by 30 March 2022, and proposals by 17 May 2022 to the DARPA BAA website at

Email questions or concerns to Matt Turek, the DARPA ITM program manager, at [email protected]. More information is online at

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