Ronda Hauben on 22 Aug 2000 15:34:34 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> L.A. Times column, 8/14/00 -- Tech Policy(part2of2)

(Part 2 of 2 part response)

Gary Chapman <> writes:

>Ronda seems to think, because of my column, that I'm against basic 
>research, or basic scientific research. Nothing could be further from 
>the truth.

>The issue that we've been fighting in the U.S. is that we (many 
>progressive activists who work on science policy) believe that basic 
>scientific research should be INCREASED, but -- the all-important but 
>-- supplemented with and guided by "national goals" that are 
>democratically derived. Republicans don't believe in national goals 
>for science policy. They don't want any intermediate or "bridge" 
>programs between basic research and the private sector. This is an 
>old, Vannevar Bush-era model of science policy that other nations 
>abandoned long ago.

I don't see the Republican and Democratic science policies as different
in essence. Nor do I see that the Republicans want to support the 
Vannevar Bush-era model of science policy.

The Vannevar Bush-era model of science policy is in fact what
has given us the Internet and interactive computing. Unfortunately,
no one that I know of in the US government, including those in
DARPA, are supporting such a policy at present.

The Vannevar Bush-era model of science policy is what made it 
possible for Vannevar Bush to work at a high level inside the US
government during WWII to support the technological 
and scientific advances needed in fighting WWII.  

After the war Vannevar Bush did a study with the help of many
other scientists in the National Academy of Science (which is 
an organization created by the US government for scientific advice 
to the US government but which is a private entity). 

The report of the study was called "Science: The Endless Frontier" 
and it documented the need for government support for basic research
in science and technology. It proposed the need to provide this support
to researchers in the university community as  that was where
Bush and other scientists felt that there would be the most open
and welcoming environment for the needed scientific work.

I have a paper describing Bush's work and the kind of scientific
research he proposed. It is online at

I welcome discussion on the paper by you Gary, and by others 
on this mailing list.

This is part I of a longer paper (I have by now done the first
5 parts). Part II and III show how the Vannevar Bush-era
form of basic research is what people in the Department of 
Defense like those in AFOSR (The Air Force Office of Scientific
Research) struggled to provide support for.

And Licklider knew of what was happening in AFOSR as he was
on the scientific advisory board for the Air Force and knew 
the other researchers in the DoD (US Dept of Defense) research 

My research has documented that there was struggle inside the 
research organizations in the DoD during the 1950's against
product oriented pressures on research and for support for
basic research in areas like communications. Such efforts
provided support for Licklider's scientific research before 
he came to ARPA, and then was the kind of support he gave 
researchers when he came in to ARPA in 1962.

So it seems that any effort to characterize the US Republican
Party science policy as a Vannevar Bush-era program would
need a lot of explanation as I see no sign of the Republican
Party in the US supporting basic research the way Vannevar
Bush outlined in "Science the Endless Frontier" nor the way
the report was actually implemented by people who fought
within the US Department of Defense to maintain support
for scientists doing such research in the 1950s or 1960s.

>Ronda's ideal of the "old Internet," the one fostered by ARPA, was 
>actually NOT the kind of basic research Republicans favor, but a real 
>technology development program of the kind that progressive science 
>policy activists support.

I wonder why Gary Chapman says this? What study is this based on?

Licklider's program at ARPA in 1962 is described in the paper
he did before he went to ARPA titled "Human-Computer Symbiosis".

Licklider had in mind the creation of human-computer symbiosis,
of interactive computing, of human-to-human computer faciliated 
communication. Licklider had done scientific work with the 
nervous system of cats and was deeply interested in the brain
and how the brain functioned. 

Along with other scientitists like John von Neumann and Norbert
Wiener, Allen Newell, Herb Simon and several others, Licklider's, 
interest in the brain was an encouragement to see how the 
computer could become an intellectual aid to the human and to 
understand human intellectual activity.

And Licklider's interest in the brain gave him a strong basis to 
support computer and human-computer development.

So the research in interactive computing that led to the 
development of the Internet actually is the child of the 
studies in cybernetics that went on in the 1940's and 1950's.

Licklider attended Wiener's study circles in the late 1940's
and Walter Rosenblith, a scientist working with Wiener, took
on to help Licklider understand the implications of Wiener's 

This has very interesting implications as Rosenblith later
also was at the 1961 meetings at MIT on the Future of the Computer
and he and Licklider talked about the importance of the 
human-computer partnership as the path forward in research.

Also Rosenblith recognized the general nature of communication
and the social needs of different species for communication.
And he felt that it was important not to separate the research
from these needs, not to look at communication in an isolated
way but to keep the study connected to the needs of each
species to communicate.

So the ARPA/IPTO (Information Processing Techniques Office) Program
that Licklider initiated in 1962 which set the foundations
for research about the online world and for creating interactive
computing and networking and eventually the Internet grew out
of support for basic research.

The programs of the US Democratic and Republican Parties 
in science and technology are product oriented instead
of basic research oriented.

In fact, it seems that at least the Democratic Party program
(but probably the Republican program as well as that is how
it works in the US), have come from the kind of reports 
done in the late 1980's which called for the creation of 
a civilian type of MITI (the Japanese government ministry 
that helps industry).  These reports seemed to call for a 
new form of ARPA program to create industrial innovations 
for the advancement of the US commercial sector. 

This seems to be the thrust of the research funding done
by the US government today and what they are proposing
for the future. Thus we have the US government and  
US university researchers doing the research that industry
would have done in the past, research that is interested
in what industry can do in 3- 5 years, and the long term
forward looking basic research looking ahead 10 or 20
years is not getting done.

That seems why the issues of scaling the Internet have
not been tended to by US researchers. Instead they
are required to take up the problems of the commercial
sector and how it can utilize the Internet.

But the Internet is a general nature communications medium
and it needs e-communications research to support its
development, not a priority given to e-commerce research.

>(It was in the Pentagon because that was 
>the only place where it could be supported for many years.) 

It is important to understand why basic research could be
done inside the US Dept of Defense. After Licklider tried
to return to DARPA in 1974-5 and found the environment
changed, he explained that it was important not to lose
the kind of research environment that ARPA had provided,
and if that was no longer possible within ARPA, to find
where else it could be done. But he believed that the 
technical and scientific expertise inside the DoD was
an important support for forefronts research and that
it was important that academic scientists take on to
do forefronts research. And that when he had been at
ARPA university researchers had been able to be active
in their scientific fields as part of ARPA.

Licklider also proposed that it was important to 
pressure government to support basic research and 
for scientists to be willing to work within government
to get the needed support for basic research.

>The ARPAnet program was developing technologies, deploying them, 
>fostering the intermediate sector of technological R&D, and "gluing" 
>all these things together with a vision that came from Licklider and 
>Taylor and others. This is exactly what the Republicans would kill, 
>were it to appear again in some modern form.

This is certainly where Gary Chapman and I disagree.

The ARPANET program grew out of and was a support for basic 
research. The basic research was in developing different
ways to support the human computer interactive relationship.

There were different research sites that Licklider had created
and funded. One was at MIT, Project MAC, which had a broad
mandate to support a broad range of exploration of human-computer
interactive research. 

Another site was at what became Carnegie Mellon University in
Pittsburg. There was support for a center of excellence
there to support exploring a communication science program
led by Newell and Herb Simon and Alan Perlis at CMU. Newell
describes the research at CMU as:

"We are empirical, in that we believe in constructing programs
that do things, and in learning about information processing
from the difficulties of construction and from the behavior
of resulting programs. We are theoretical, although not
so much by a dependency on formal models (such as automata 
theory) as by trying to formulate the essential nature of 
information processing. Thus many, although by no means
all, of the tasks for which we build programs are selected
for the understanding they yield, not for their usefulness
in applied work. This particular combination of theory 
and empiricism stems from the view that the key problems
today in the science of information processing are those
of discovery, formulation, representation, and immediate
generalization -- and that we are not yet at the place of 
building very elaborate or formal mathematical structures
that are significant."
(from Section III - Centers of Excellence and Creating 
Resource Sharing Networks -

>When we attack the "black box" model of science, we mean a model of 
>science that is purely and EXCLUSIVELY "science for science's sake," 
>something disconnected from any social goals, democratic oversight, 
>interdisciplinary collaboration for public purposes, any connection 
>to "'technology pull," etc. 

What is interesting about this characterization by Gary of basic research
is that it doesn't look back at how the Internet was developed,
or what Licklider did that resulted in the important developments
of our times. Instead it develops a theory that has no foundation
in our past experience and it proposes this theory for the future.

The basic research that Licklider did did indeed have social goals.

But the pursuance of science is a social process because it 
is exploring the nature of phenomena and the behavior of those

The new concepts and ways of approaching the world that are 
discovered in the process of basic research are the path to 
a future.

However, human-computer symbiosis keeps the human in the loop
and so the social needs of the human are part of what is 
connected to the studies.

DARPA is currently proposing to take the human out of the loop,
to end research about that are part of the human-computer 
symbiosis paradigm. (There was an article by David Tannenhouse
who had been at DARPA and is now at Intel. The article is
in a recent issue of Communications of the ACM - perhaps the May
2000 issue.)

>In other words, a priesthood of science 
>that gets to build an empire of government grants and elite 
>facilities that have no obligation to the public interest. Not only 
>that, this fosters wasteful and anachronistic competition between 
>scientific fields -- scientists all scrambling for their piece of the 
>funding pie -- rule by paternalistic and conservative organizations 
>of elite science like the National Academies, and all sorts of other 
>things that are the exact opposite of what Ronda advocates.

Interesting. I have found that what developed from the support
and protection of basic research is the opposite of what Gary
suggests. I have studied the mailing lists done by researchers
who were part of the early ARPA/IPTO developments.

At the time there was protection against "for profit" related 
activity on the part of the researchers. This made it possible
for the researchers to discuss broad ranging topics like whether
science or the humanities are more important for the future
(and they decided both are important).

What I found is that basic research is needed. Support for
researchers and protecting them from commercial objectives and 
pressures is needed. That a government program supporting
university research is needed. And this is all very
different from the kind of program that the Democratic
Party or their candidate for President,  or the Republican Party or 
their candidate for President propose.

Gary seems to propose there is a difference between the two
parties and their programs, and in the process he is characterizing
the Republican Party as in support of basic research and saying
that is a problem.

I would welcome any party that would propose support for basic
research and would actually be serious to implement such a 
proposal. But that isn't the situation in the US.

>She also writes, "But there also needs to be ways found for support 
>for public interest objectives rather than for commercial objectives 
>for the results of research." Again, absolutely correct. In fact, 
>this is what The 21st Century Project, which I direct, has been all 
>about for the past ten years. It's my obligation to point out that we 
>were making headway on this project prior to 1994, when Democrats 
>controlled the Congress. After 1994, all progress toward this goal 
>came to a screeching halt. In fact, the progressive coalition working 
>on science and technology policy essentially gave up on Washington, 
>D.C., after November 1994.

To the contrary we weren't making progress toward the support of 
basic research, which is indeed a public interest objective,
in 1994. That was the period of time after ARPA/IPTO had been
ended and there was the pressure within the US government
to privatize science and technology policy and to require that
it meet narrow and commercially set objectives.

I will take a look at the testimony that Gary mentions in 1994,
but 1994 was the height of the fight against the privatization
of public policy and of the fight against the privatization of 
the NSF backbone to the US section of the Internet and I didn't
see Gary advocating any challenge to the commercialization of the 
US backbone of the Internet or the kind of policy that the US 
government was pursuing which led to that commercialization
during that period and as part of that fight.

We document the NTIA online conference an  online discussion
of people fighting against the privatization and I wonder
if Gary knows about this effort and welcome his reading about
it either in its archieves online at the NTIA or the summaries
that we have online in chapters 11 and 14 of Netizens

>Ronda and I are on the same side, although her hope for a 
>noncommercial, public interest Internet that looks like what the 
>Internet seemed to look like in the 1980s is, to me, utopian and 
>hopeless. I think the Internet of that time can serve as a benchmark 
>and an ideal for what we should fight to protect, but going back to 
>that time is not in the cards.

The fight continues for a government policy, and I add  government
institution/s that are in support of the general purpose nature of 
the Internet as a communications medium. Anyone who characterizes
this fight as "what the Internet seemed to look like in the 1980s...
utopian and hopeless" is not helping in the fight.

Gary, do you disagree that a general purpose policy is needed,
a policy that supports the development of the Internet as
a communications medium, not one that is dedicated to only

If so it would help if you acknowledge such rather than
try to mischaracterize my work and efforts as "utopian".

In fact, it is the e-commerce thrust of US science and technology
policy that cannot provide any future for the Internet. It can only 
give the world a commercenet in place of the Internet.

Is there some reason why your Institute doesn't support
the kind of research I have been doing? What does it support?

I have recently seen that DARPA has been funding Francis 
Fukuyama and others to study "Information and Biological
Revolutions: Global Governance Challenges - Summary of 
a Study Group" (

This study too has no notion that it is important to 
look back at the kind of research that made it possible
to create the current advances in computer science and instead
it ignores that history and is proposing a new direction
independent of any lessons from that history. 

Just as humans learn based on utilizing their memory 
of what they have learned in the past, so the future
of Internet development needs to be built on the lessons
of the past, not by supporting those who have proclaimed
"The End of History" .

>-- Gary


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