Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Pentagon To Crowdsource Weapons Software Testing

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the top-score-top-gun dept.

The Military 80

An anonymous reader writes "The Pentagon plans to fork over $32 million to develop 'fun to play' computer games that can refine the way weapons systems are tested to ensure they are free from software errors and security bugs, according to a Defense Department solicitation. The goal is to create puzzles that are "intuitively understandable by ordinary people" and could be solved on laptops, smartphones, tablets and consoles. The games' solutions will be collected into a database and used to improve methods for analyzing software, according to the draft request for proposals put out by the military's venture capital and research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency."

cancel ×

80 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Ender's Game? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752158)

Mr. Card should be proud.

Re:Ender's Game? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752426)

[Insert repetitive and incoherent babbling about who is and is not a shill and/or troll here*]

*Childish namecalling and replying to yourself as an AC optional

The Last Starfighter (3, Funny)

Scrameustache (459504) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752214)

If you get really good at the game, they give you a real spaceship to pilot!

Re:The Last Starfighter (1)

stanlyb (1839382) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752220)

But only if there are bugs to fight, oh wait, ROFL.

Re:The Last Starfighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752274)

This was also used in the pilot of Stargate Universe.

Re:The Last Starfighter (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752394)

note when a General says something that might be funny ITS NOT A JOKE (unless you see one of his staffers laugh first)

Re:The Last Starfighter (2)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752432)

note when a General says something that might be funny ITS NOT A JOKE (unless you see one of his staffers laugh first)

"You can't fight in here -- This is the War Room!"

Re:The Last Starfighter (1)

Divide By Zero (70303) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752458)

Greetings, Warfighter!

You have been recruited by the United States of America to defend the frontier against Iran and the Middle East Armada.

Re:The Last Starfighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38755692)

How about the other way around:
As-Salmu `Alaykum Jihadist! You have been recruited by the [insert your the name of your local organization] to defend the frontier against Israel and the Armada Americana.
Ah, the irony. And pizza.

Re:The Last Starfighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38759234)

Reported to Homeland Security.

Re:The Last Starfighter (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752568)

Another useless attempt to be funny. Yay!

So back on-topic, why would you want to help these assholes? It's amazing how much less military spending you need when you aren't trying to be the world's cops.

Re:The Last Starfighter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752876)

Yeah. Solving a puzzle and getting to pilot an ancient spaceship is awesome. Too bad you'll be stuck in another galaxy!

you only think its a game (1)

schlachter (862210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752946)

You only think its a game, until you try to log off in mid battle, and some men in black show up at your basement abode and insist that complete the mission. Ender's Game, anyone?

Re:The Last Starfighter (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 2 years ago | (#38753706)

If you get really good at the game, they give you a real spaceship to pilot!

Indeed and you don't even know about it!

This isn't the first time they've tried this Crowdsourcing thing - there's currently a Abrams tank at the bottom of the middle of the Atlantic, with a great hole blown in its side, which was supposed to be run around Fort Hunter Liggett, in California, based upon use patterns, moderation and metamoderation on /. Which should tell you something ... it'll all end in tears (and give several lucky tube worms a new home.)

Reminds me of... (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752240)

reading Ender's Game back in grade school.

Does it matter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752290)

What does all the testing in the world do for you if you give your cheapo friends sweetheart bid-free contracts? That advanced Predator Drone XXI is still unable to get kitty from tree.

Re:Does it matter? (5, Funny)

PlatyPaul (690601) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752494)

Sure it can.

Oh, you meant intact.

Re:Does it matter? (2)

gnick (1211984) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752806)

"Help! Help! Mr. Wiggles is stuck in that tree!"

"Don't worry ma'am, we'll get rid of that tree for you." [BLAM] "That will be $90k. Here's your USAF lapel pin and novelty US flag for Mr. Wiggles's funeral and seven cap guns for his 21-gun salute - We'll bill you for those later. You're welcome, have a nice day."

Need Hardware (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752322)

I'd love to work on the testing software, but I'm going to need some hardware to make sure it interfaces correctly. Just drop off a jet fighter and a couple smart bombs and I'll be set.

Why release it outside the US military, at all? (2)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752396)

Why release it outside the US military, at all?

Sure there are some ordinary people in the various branches of the military.

Makes no sense.

Re:Why release it outside the US military, at all? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752830)

I do weapons safety, including software.

In short, no one in the DoD systems engineering group really gets the big picture here. When you see someone with stars/flag/O-8+ or an SES position touting safety in the DoD, they are always referring to operational safety. Safety as a weapons system design element is typically (70% in USN, 85+% in USMC, Army is even worse) considered red tape, and a waste of money. The exception to this is aeronautics development programs in all branches, with an exception within those groups for UAV's (despite their need for software safety more than anyone). So aero "gets it", except UAV's are still clueless.

Since major contractors swap employees with the DoD regularly, even mature design houses have issues. This is also reinforced by the flow of money. If the DoD PMO doesn't budget for safety in the contract, the contractor isn't going to require it.

Now, remember the above applies to all RDT&E safety. Given what you know of software systems, what do you think will bear the brunt of fielding an immature design: expensive to change HW or cheap & quick to replace SW? How many federal doD program end up short on their budget at the end of the development and integration cycle?

There is the added problem that almost no one does safety research on weapon systems. Pharma, Nuclear, Aerospace, Civil Safety: yes. Weapons... sigh. One of the issues is that if you make explosives in the US you are typically only selling to the federal government. Thus, independent research doesn't happen, either.

Should the information be released? Probably not. But the current state has major issues, and as software is more common in weapons and defense system, the resultant mishap is only going to get worse.

Re:Why release it outside the US military, at all? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752890)

Sorry for replying to myself, but:

If the system is doing it's job right, it's software development process should be following STANAG 4404 / Joint Software Systems Safety Handbook. They might be handy references if you want to "win the game"

Re:Why release it outside the US military, at all? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752958)

Among (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Armed_Forces) 1,466,545 active staff there must be hundreds of thousands potentially useful testers.

Why not order those already employed overseas who typically spend their free time playing BF3?!

Otherwise? The general public?! How do they know they don't get fake stats data from potential enemies? Go see "Tinker Tailor Spy".

This is surreal.

Re:Why release it outside the US military, at all? (1)

chainsaw1 (89967) | more than 2 years ago | (#38753304)

Because you have to know what you are doing to actively edit software code and make a positive contribution. Those who are having countless amounts of free time are typically low NCO's and enlisted, they have little college education, and have to be ready for their next mission after their buddy's truck was blown up on the last.

This DARPA grant is soliciting for a method of using those idle people to test software without those programming skills. It is not a direct outsourcing of those skills. I don't believe the published request equates crowd to the general public.

Stealth QA (2)

Lashat (1041424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752448)

I doubt that the "games" or "puzzles" would be advertising "This is a DoD test for new software."

Most likely the users will not be aware that it is a test at all.

Re:Stealth QA (2)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752554)

If they didn't spell it out, then they would be courting scandal if it ever got out. Lots of people have moral objections to weapons development - to secretly recruit their labor for something they are morally opposed to would be a huge deal.

Re:Stealth QA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752906)

> implying that war is a moral practice, and that furtherance of any warfare related activity requires a puny defenseless civilian puke's awareness or moral blessing

Re:Stealth QA (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#38753024)

> implying that war is a moral practice,

War can be moral. If a leader is slaughtering his people by the thousands, with millions more starving and on the verge of death, is it more moral to sit by and watch this happen, or invade and try to prevent the deaths of millions of innocents? If one state invades another state essentially unprovoked, is it not moral to come to the aid of the state being attacked? To go to war in the defense of another, especially of one who is an innocent, is one of the most moral things one can do.

Re:Stealth QA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38753106)

War can be moral, but is usually not. It is fought for political and monetary gains, more often than not.

Re:Stealth QA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38758648)

"Lots of people have moral objections to weapons development - to secretly recruit their labor for something they are morally opposed to would be a huge deal."

They _know_ they pay for the weapons they're opposed to, are they refusing to pay taxes too?

farmville... (2)

schlachter (862210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752956)

The DoD will soon be partnering with Zygna to test weapons that placate the masses and keep them occupied and off the streets rather than trying to overthrow our friendly dictatorial regimes.

Re:farmville... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38760504)

You assume that has not already happened .. nor about a posting board.

Crowdsourcing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752460)

Works for Slashdot, works for Wikileaks, works for the Pentagon. Yay crowdsourcing!

DARPA (2)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752468)

DARPA is involved, so read this whole story as: this is a cool idea which we think might have some potential down the line but will probably never happen.

On the other hand, this is a pretty cool idea. Not sure if you can make the puzzles strictly apply to real-life problems and still be fun, though. That in and of itself makes this an interesting idea. If they can overcome that hurdle, there is a lot of potential to this sort of thing.

Re:DARPA (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752628)

It's a very different set of problems, but people have had success getting players to solve protein folding problems for fun with Foldit [wikipedia.org] . Such games take advantage of the enormous human capacity for rapidly finding patterns, compared to computers trying to enumerate all possibilities.

Re:DARPA (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752676)

Wetware still offers impressive performance for some workloads.

Re:DARPA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38753644)

DARPA is involved, so read this whole story as: this is a cool idea which we think might have some potential down the line but will probably never happen.

He says on the internet.

You killed civilians! (5, Funny)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752478)

Achievement "Collateral Damage" unlocked!

Re:You killed civilians! (1)

s_p_oneil (795792) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752980)

In light of the post I saw earlier about "achievements" being added to Visual Studio, Microsoft could make a DoD version and add special military achievements to it. Project types could be:

* Create new weapons system project
* Create new flight control system project ...

Based on the Visual Studio project type, you unlock different achievements when Visual Studio catches you writing bad code.

Acheivement "Take out Nuke Development Capability" (1)

schlachter (862210) | more than 2 years ago | (#38753036)

I think they will be most interested in the novel ways in which people leverage different technologies and weapons that are available to them in the game to get one up on their enemies. They could even mock up future tech ideas to see how people use them in the game to determine if they are worth funding. Stats from the game can be leveraged to improve battle doctrine or tactical training scenarios.

WTF? (2)

nrasch (303043) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752488)

So let me get this clear: We help them improve the same weapons and other systems they'll be using on us for the NDAA, SOPA, and whatever other unconstitutional laws they have in the works?

This shows how little respect for us they have as well as how stupid they think we really are.

Re:WTF? (1)

Jeng (926980) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752598)

This shows how little respect for us they have as well as how stupid they think we really are.

I am fairly sure one cannot underestimate the stupidity of the general public.

Think of the average person, now remember that half of everyone is stupider than that.

I'm doing my part! (0)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752514)

Are you?

Are you dead yet? (1)

ddd0004 (1984672) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752546)

Nope? Ok, wait for the next code release.

Interesting, but DARPA is exaggerating the problem (1)

finlandia1869 (1001985) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752574)

I take issue with DARPA's assertion in TFA that formal verification cannot be scaled up to work on a modern weapon system. My office has done it for very long time and we are very software-intensive. We and our contractors just had to get smarter as the system became more complex and requirements became steeper.

Nonetheless, I would be interested in the potential of such a process to find sneak circuits and latent problems. Use it during the development process prior to integration and verification.

Re:Interesting, but DARPA is exaggerating the prob (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752998)

".. just had to get smarter.."
code for: We have deluded ourselves that we can handle it by throwing more process at it.

And weapon system are far more complex and require far more rigor then your puny software.

Dali meets Huxley (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752576)

I don't even know what to begin to think about this. The summary tried hard. So the Gov is going to ...uh... release fun puzzles that analyze how weapons are tested? So what are the licenses on the games themselves? Will they be all locked down by copyright or can we chop them up and do other things with the code and make forks?

Is it all a honeypot?
"Sir, Mr. X. used our game to hack into us."
"Uh, well, we did ask him to look for attack points..."
"Arrest him anyway!"

Stupid. (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752656)

On one hand, it strikes me as one of those "Let's make something really stupid but plausibly usable, so all our enemies will waste their time trying to duplicate it".
On the other hand, this is just the kind of stupid I would expect from US military.

Re:Stupid. (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752976)

That are using millions of people used to improve methods for analyzing software. That's stupid.

And by "That's" I mean "You're".

Re:Stupid. (1)

Alex Belits (437) | more than 2 years ago | (#38759224)

lol wut

Stargate Universe? (1)

denis-The-menace (471988) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752668)

Looks like someone has watched SGU episode 1.

Old School (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752696)

"Would you like to play a game?"

Re:Old School (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752816)

let's play global thermonuclear war

Already Exists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38752730)

FarmVille anyone?

Polybius was a test to see if they can make insane (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#38752854)

They wanted to see if they can use photosensitive epilepsy, motion sickness and vertigo as a weapon.

Underway (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#38755492)

They wanted to see if they can use photosensitive epilepsy, motion sickness and vertigo as a weapon.

Hence the push for 3D TV, to crowd source testing of said effects on the general population.

Advanced weapon systems will consist of large-screen TV airdrops set to loop Discovery Channel shows on sharks and dinosaurs with large buckets of 3D glasses, said to incapacitate a small town in under 1/2 hour.

Didn't they do that years ago? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38753006)

Weren't they "crowd sourcing" the testing of software with the tomahawk cruise missile?...

Paranoia! (4, Funny)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | more than 2 years ago | (#38753062)

Anybody play the tabletop RPG Paranoia? The Computer (your friend, your boss, and the head of your government) was always crowdsourcing weapon testing to the player characters.

"Congratulations, citizen. You have been selected to test this box of grenades. To study the optimal grenade design, these grenades have random fuse lengths from zero to ten seconds. Please report your findings with whatever remaining limbs you can."

"Citizen, welcome to the world of high-tech weaponry. The ULTI-3600 assault rifle has a computer targeting system to maximize accuracy. Please note that to prevent friendly fire accidents, the targeting system will verbally ask for no less than five confirmations before taking any shot. To insure that you properly test this rifle it will now be welded to your arm..."

"The new Duo-strike vibro knife is twice as deadly as previous models, because the hilt has been replaced with another vibro blade. Pick it up, citizen. Go on. Don't you want to help The Computer test new weaponry? Or are you a traitor?"

I totally support the way our military is becoming like a dystopian comedy RPG.

Re:Paranoia! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38753984)

uh, got any more of those? I need source material for my next game...

Re:Paranoia! (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38754190)

> I totally support the way our military is becoming like a dystopian comedy RPG.

I reluctantly agree, in the sense that at least it's entertaining.

Re:Paranoia! (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 2 years ago | (#38757374)

The nuclear hand grenade. The blast radius was far, far greater than any distance you could throw the thing. You didn't test it? Traitor!

Angry Birds (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38753320)

I thought those pigs had a distinctly Persian look about them.

crowdsource? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38753684)

How many people got a chill when they saw "crowdsource" and "weapons testing" in the same heading? I had missed "software" on first glance. That made it only a little better.

Re:crowdsource? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38754260)

Count me in as a "no" to your question.

Re:crowdsource? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38756328)

Gamer?

Re:crowdsource? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38757490)

Yeah, my first thought was they were testing new weapons on protesters.

Re:crowdsource? (1)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 2 years ago | (#38757752)

Exactly! I'm probably older than you; Kent State is what flashed into my mind.

So that is where Angry Birds came from! (1)

Dareth (47614) | more than 2 years ago | (#38753728)

So that is where Angry Birds came from!

Re:So that is where Angry Birds came from! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38759358)

With 60% profits, they're a CIA drug money laundering company for sure.

In Soviet Russia (1)

Roachie (2180772) | more than 2 years ago | (#38754706)

They test weapon ON crowd!

Fuzzing? (1)

InsertCleverUsername (950130) | more than 2 years ago | (#38754840)

I can kind of grasp how the amazing parallel computer that is the human brain can solve new problems for something like FoldIt [fold.it] , but I can't see how human gamers could improve upon brute force fuzzing and static code analysis of military software. Maybe I have a lack of imagination?

Anyone care to share a vague guess how something like this might work?

Re:Fuzzing? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38759778)

I can't see how human gamers could improve upon brute force fuzzing and static code analysis of military software. Maybe I have a lack of imagination?

Anyone care to share a vague guess how something like this might work?

Just think that way...

in IT, the user ALWAYS DO things wrong... doesn't matter if the system was tested, homologated, if it WAS failproof. the user WILL find some way to get some absurd error...

if they let "ordinary people" test the software, use the system in the wrong way... they will get many absurd errors, and they can improve it.

It helps you to understand?

Lars.

Crazy Idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38755724)

Imagine if we used this technology and idea to improve society instead of improving weapons..

I am sure there are other useful applications of this, besides better ways to kill people

   

Too Late... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38756200)

Valve's already done it:

"The Enrichment Center promises to always provide a safe testing environment. In dangerous testing environments, the Enrichment Center promises to always provide useful advice. For instance, the floor here will kill you. Try to avoid it."

what could possibly go wrong (1)

dudpixel (1429789) | more than 2 years ago | (#38757292)

so if everyone who played the game intentionally did everything wrong, or played badly, would they still use the results?

Call me (1)

Anarchduke (1551707) | more than 2 years ago | (#38757612)

When they start crowdsourcing hardware testing

I will refuse (1)

xrayspx (13127) | more than 2 years ago | (#38758016)

This is one of the least ethical things I could think of to do as a gamer. If you wish to help you government, help them feed poor people. If I found out that a game I was playing actually helped my government kill other humans more efficiently, I don't even know how I would take that information.

Got this from a slashdot comment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38758020)

so time to pay it forward. This short story was linked stating that military contractors use this book as a guideline to what the future of weapons testing can become.

Military Diorama - By David Kitson
http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/35490

This is a sick joke. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38760164)

Aren't all weapons systems seen in the field ultimately tested on crowds already?

Good crowdsourcing and Bad crowdsourcing. (1)

thinkscout (1470225) | more than 2 years ago | (#38761412)

There is crowdsourcing in which you look for exoplanets or translate ancient greek texts ( https://www.zooniverse.org/ [zooniverse.org] ), crowdsourcing in which your computer folds protein models to better understand disease ( http://folding.stanford.edu/ [stanford.edu] ), and then there is crowdsourcing in which you test weapons systems to help kill people more effectively. I like how the Pentagon is skipping the recruitment propaganda part (We Need You! *pointy finger*) and just putting a gun in our hands (sic). Its bad enough that the American government spends as much as it does on "defense" without subversively enlisting people to test weapons systems for them. I won't be playing that particular game.
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?