Can software last for a century?

The military’s advanced research arm wants to develop software that can adapt to changes and stick around for more than a century without needing to be updated.

The ambitious four-year research project announced by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) on Wednesday could lead to “significant improvements in software resilience, reliability and maintainability,” the agency predicted.

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The constant changes in data formats and programming systems, which usually cause people to repeatedly update their software, “undermine the behavior of applications” and strain resources, according to 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that access to important digital content will be lost as the software that generates and interprets content becomes outdated.” 

Being able to develop new software that would automatically evolve with new technology would help cut down on the money and time spent by the government to update software, DARPA said. It could also have a dramatic impact on the rest of the world and help lead to more resilient programming that better protects against cyberattacks that take advantage of flaws in old software systems.   

DARPA’s new Building Resource Adaptive Software Systems (BRASS) program aims to make longer-lasting software possible by using a “clean-slate” approach instead of stacking different layers of software on top of each other.

The agency started accepting research proposals on Wednesday.