Monday’s GEOINT Foreword keynote speaker, Dr. Steven ‘Cap’ Rogers, is a senior scientist at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) serving as the Air Force’s principle scientific authority for automatic target recognition and sensor fusion. Rogers’ research focuses on Qualia Exploitation of Sensor Technology (QuEST) examining how to make an artificially conscious computer. After retiring from active duty in the Air Force, Rogers founded a company focused on developing practical applications of advanced information processing techniques for medical products. The company patented the world’s most accurate computer aided detection system for breast cancer. He has more than 150 technical publications and 20 patents. The GEOINT Symposium Show Daily talked with Rogers earlier this month to learn more about him and his plans for speaking at GEOINT Foreword.
Q. Why were you interested in speaking at GEOINT Foreword?
A. I talked to a group of GEOINT professionals who recently visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base [during USGIF’s Dayton Workshop] about the future of ISR in general and specifically how to develop solutions that scale in today’s world where we are drowning in data. The talk focused on a vision called Sensing as a Service (SaaS) as well as AFRL’s innovative approach for the development and demonstration of improved intelligence product generation, the Planning & Direction, Collection, Processing & Exploitation, Analysis & Production, and Dissemination Experimentation (PCPADx) program. That small group was so enthused by the information discussions, I was happy to receive an invitation to participate at GEOINT Foreword and have the opportunity to expose the broader GEOINT Community to the same information.
Q. Why is geospatial intelligence important, and how does it relate to your role in the Air Force?
A. We often use a geospatial tapestry to synchronize/fuse/coordinate our information. When this is appropriate, reasoning over evidence in this geospatial representation has been a mainstay of achieving our decision advantage against our adversaries. Geospatial representations have provided a clear advantage in multi-sensor fusion, which is one technology focus for which I serve as the Air Force’s principle scientific authority.
Q. Could you provide a ‘sneak peek’ of what you plan to discuss in your GEOINT Foreword keynote?
A. My talk will contain three main topics. The first is to articulate a vision for the future of ISR in the U.S. Air Force. Specifically, I will present SaaS as an approach to break the linear connection between collection, analysis, and dissemination. Breaking this linear relationship is key to scaling our ISR enterprise to break the ‘drowning in data’ bottleneck. The second part of the talk will focus on responsive sensing automation—a key tenet of SaaS. I will present a discussion on autonomy in general and specifically autonomy applied to the generation of geospatial intelligence. This effort is called QuEST and seeks to develop artificially conscious agents to process data in collaboration with human analysts. The last part of the talk will focus on the AFRL PCPADx effort.
Q. What does innovation mean to you?
A. Innovation is a term mostly used by people who don’t have answers and need a placeholder for where the research and development magic has to occur for a required mission capability to appear. To geeks like me who work in the trenches, innovation is the combining of information in unique ways to identify approaches to solve problems previously thought to be impossible to answer. SaaS is certainly innovative in the sense that it attempts to change our ISR enterprise from one that is linear to one that is service based where multiple customers are served by the collections and analyses. QuEST is innovative because it attempts to define the engineering characteristics of consciousness so we can develop computer-based solutions with the ability to respond to stimuli a designing engineer did not envision and so could not pre-program a response to. Lastly, PCPADx is innovative as a new business model for AFRL. It is not about making one more tool or gadget, but focuses on foundational human centered engineering to understand the needs of the human analyst; develop human centered engineering material and non-material solutions; and demonstrate solutions using realistic environments, data, and mission improvements needed by real operators.
Q. What science and technology trends should GEOINT Symposium attendees keep their eyes on?
A. The science and technology trends in autonomy that are not reliant on just more processing power and/or algorithmic improvements will transform GEOINT and should be closely monitored. My talk will cover one such approach—artificial consciousness. In general, I advise GEOINT professionals to be fast adopters, which can only be done via close monitoring of approaches that don’t rely on data-driven artificial intelligence (DDAI) alone. DDAI will be part of all future GEOINT solutions, but the real breakthroughs will combine DDAI with approaches that truly attack the autonomy issues associated with unexpected queries.
Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force