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Re: <nettime> L.A. Times column, 8/14/00 -- Tech Policy(part2of2)
Ronda Hauben on 22 Aug 2000 18:45:02 -0000


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


(Part 2 of 2 part response)

Gary Chapman <gary.chapman {AT} mail.utexas.edu> 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 http://www.ais.org/~rh120/other/arpa_ipto.txt

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 organizations. 

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 research. 

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 -
http://www.columbia.edu/~rh120/other/centers-excellence.txt) 

>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 phenomena.

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 http://www.ais.org/~hauben/netbook/

>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 e-commerce?? 

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"
(http://www.rand.org/publications/MR/MR1139/

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

Ronda
ronda {AT} ais.org
http://www.ais.org/~ronda/
http://www.columbia.edu/~hauben/netbook/




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