Oh, hi there, SKYNET: US military wants self-enhancing software that will outlive its creators

DARPA's Hundred Years' War on bugs, upgrades and rewrites

The US military's nerve-center of secret-squirrel boffinry DARPA wants to write software capable of running for a full century without becoming obsolete.

Dubbed "Building Resource Adaptive Software Systems" (BRASS), the project [PDF] will look into the creation of a new software stack that can automatically make use of hardware upgrades and advancements in software engineering without the need for major rewrites, or the addition of layers and layers of hacks for decades on end.

Said adaptive, evolving software could ensure data stored today is still accessible scores of years later, and computer-controlled defenses installed now will continue to work as expected well into the future.

According to the project brief, the agency is throwing the door open to anyone with bright ideas on the subject:

DARPA is soliciting innovative research proposals in the areas of formal methods, program analysis, compiler design, and runtime and virtual machine implementation to realize tools for the construction of long-lived, survivable, and scalable adaptive software systems. Proposed research should investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in science, devices, or systems. Specifically excluded is research that primarily results in evolutionary improvements to the existing state of practice.

(Please, please don't let them have heard of Skynet.)

"As modern software systems continue inexorably to increase in complexity and capability, users have become accustomed to periodic cycles of updating and upgrading to avoid obsolescence—if at some cost in terms of frustration," the brainiac HQ added.

"In the case of the US military, having access to well-functioning software systems and underlying content is critical to national security, but updates are no less problematic than among civilian users and often demand considerable time and expense."

BRASS will attempt to create a software architecture capable of running over 100 years without the need for major overhauls or crises, such as the infamous Y2K bug that needed patching everywhere – and feathered a fair number of consultants' nest eggs.

"Technology inevitably evolves, but very often corresponding changes in libraries, data formats, protocols, input characteristics and models of components in a software ecosystem undermine the behavior of applications," said DARPA program manager Suresh Jagannathan.

"The inability to seamlessly adapt to new operating conditions undermines productivity, hampers the development of cyber-secure infrastructure and raises the long-term risk that access to important digital content will be lost as the software that generates and interprets content becomes outdated." ®

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