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Re: <nettime> On ARPA's 50th Anniversary
richard on Fri, 22 Feb 2008 08:45:19 +0100 (CET)


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Re: <nettime> On ARPA's 50th Anniversary


Hiya,

Ronda's article is very good as far as it goes, but it is telling that
even smart leftie Americans provide only a partial account of the origins
of the Net.  Here's an alternative take on this history which summarises
the analysis in my Imaginary  Futures book:

http://www.imaginaryfutures.net

Enjoy!

Richard

====================

Conventional History

*       America and Russia are fighting the Cold War;
*       Russia launches Sputnik - the first space satellite - in 1957;
*       American sets up ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency) to  
          carry out "blue skies" research;
*       ARPA appoints JCR Licklider to organise its research into  
          information technologies;
*       Licklider prioritises computer networking for time-sharing  
          mainframes and military communications;
*       ARPANET launched in 1969;
*       Marshall McLuhan, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Daniel Bell  
          prophesise that the Net will create a new post-industrial 
          stage of human civilisation;
*       After successive reiterations, the Net becomes either the  
          triumph of dotcom capitalism or the advent of cybernetic 
          communism - or both at the same time.

Unasked Questions

Why did ARPA appoint Licklider - an admirer of the socialist-pacifist
Norbert Weiner - as its head of information technology research rather a
more conservative warrior-academic-bureaucrat?

Why did the US government generously fund research into computer
networking in the immediate aftermath of the launch of Sputnik?

Since computer scientists don't like sharing their equipment with  members
of their own departments, why did ARPA force them to link their precious
mainframes  into a common network?

Why did ARPA claim that expensive and flaky computers would provide a  more
reliable form of battlefield communications than cheap and reliable
switches?

Was it more than a coincidence that McLuhan, Brzezinski and Bell
identified the Net as the hi-tech harbinger of a new civilisation?

Why have American academics and journalists airbrushed the cybernetic
communist movement in Russia out of the story of the Net?


Hidden History

*    America and Russia divide Europe - and the rest of the world -  
          between them at the 1944 Yalta conference;
*    Norbert Weiner proposes meta-theory of cybernetics at the 1945-8  
          Macy Conferences in the USA;
*    America and Russia begin the Cold War in 1948;
*    Death of Stalin in 1953 leads to the gradual opening up of the  
          totalitarian system in Russia;
*    Weiner's writings inspire the emergence of cybernetic communist  
          movement in Russia which advocates the construction of the 
          Unified Information Network;
*    Russia launches Sputnik - the first satellite - into space in 1957;
*    American sets up ARPA to carry out "blue skies" research;
*    CIA claims that America is threatened by a growing "cybernetics  
          gap" with Russia;
*    ARPA appoints JCR Licklider to organise its research into  
          information technologies because - like the Russian cybernetic 
          communists - he's a  disciple of Weiner;
*    Licklider prioritises computer networking under the cover of  
          enabling the time-sharing of mainframes and improving 
          military communications;
*    Marshall McLuhan predicts that the Net will create the global  
          village in his 1964 best-seller Understanding Media;
*    US government sets up Towards Year 2000 commission under Daniel  
          Bell in 1964 to devise the American ideological alternative 
          to cybernetic communism;
*    ARPANET launched in 1969;
*    Daniel Bell and Zbigniew Brzezinski publish articles prophesising  
          that - under American leadership - the Net will create a new 
          post-industrial stage of  human civilisation;
*    McLuhanism without McLuhan is embraced as the dominant ideology  
          by both radical and conservative intellectuals within the 
          American empire;
*    After successive reiterations, the Net becomes either the triumph  
          of dotcom capitalism or the advent of cybernetic communism - 
          or both at the same time.


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