IARPA offers $25,000 first prize in its ‘INSTINCT’ trustworthiness challenge

INSTINCTThe Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), within the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), has announced that it is launching its first challenge contest, INSTINCT, to advance understanding of human interactions that involve trust and trustworthiness.

INSTINCT — short for Investigating Novel Statistical Techniques to Identify Neurophysiological Correlates of Trustworthiness — is conducted in partnership with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory.

“Trust plays a fundamental role in many human relationships, organizations, and behaviors,” said Adam Russell, IARPA’s program manager. “Knowing who can be trusted is essential for everyday interactions and is especially vital for many Intelligence Community (IC) missions and organizations. Improving this capability to know whom to trust could have profound benefits for the IC, as well as for society in general.”

In 2010, IARPA launched its TRUSTTools for Recognizing Useful Signals of Trustworthiness — program to identify promising technologies and approaches that could significantly advance the IC’s capabilities to assess who can be trusted under conditions and in contexts relevant to the IC, even in the presence of stress and/or deception.

Research conducted by IARPA-funded teams during the first phase of the TRUST program resulted in large amounts of neural, physiological and behavioral data from interactions between informed volunteers. These data make up the underlying datasets used in the INSTINCT challenge.

INSTINCT seeks to sponsor the development and testing of innovative algorithms that can use data from one participant to accurately predict whether their partner will make trusting decisions and/or act in a trustworthy manner. Challenge “solvers” are given access to sample data against which they may train and test their algorithms. Solvers are then asked to use their algorithms to submit predictions for an evaluation data set.

The algorithm that produces the most accurate predictions will receive $25,000. $15,000 will be offered for second place and $10,000 for third. Challenges are widely recognized as a cost-efficient way to gather cross-disciplinary solutions to difficult problems, says IARPA in a news release it issued on Feb. 20. The challenge is open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, as well as teams led by such individuals. The deadline for final submissions is May 5, 2014.

With INSTINCT, IARPA is continuing to address its mission to promote high-risk, high-payoff research that has the potential to enhance the performance of IC activities. IARPA’s use of a challenge to stimulate breakthroughs in science and technology also supports the White House’s Strategy for American Innovation, as well as government transparency and efficiency.