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Re: <nettime> L.A. Times column, 8/14/00 -- Tech Policy(part2of2)
Ronda Hauben on 25 Aug 2000 00:24:01 -0000


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


It was a bit disappointing to see that Gary Chapman seems to feel that the
discussion over US science and technology policy is useless. 

Instead that folks should just support the Democratic Party and hate the
Republican Party. 

This seems to call for mischaracterizing the support for basic research as
the Republican Party position.  In this way one can claim that support for
basic research is illegitimate, after all isn't it so because otherwise
why would the Republican Party support it. 

To the contrary. I haven't heard nor seen any support from the Republican
Party for basic research in computer science. 

Instead I have heard them talk about how you need more product oriented
research. Or military specific research toward weapons.

However, the basic research supported in computer and communications
sciences (then called information sciences) in the US Department of
Defense up into the 1970's was the kind of research that has given the
world interactive computing and the Internet. 

Thus to create a straw man, i.e. some form of "basic research" that is
called for by the Republican Party and then knock it down as Gary does in
his original column that I responsed to and his subsequent answers to me,
doesn't help to encourage any discussion about the needed science and
technology policy in the US. 

Fortunately there is a movement in the US that is independent of either
party. And this movement documents that both parties are acting in a way
that is contrary to the US constitution in that they have disenfranchised
the US people and instead have provided for various means of exerting
power over government to the big corporate interests in the US. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to a science and technology policy, such a
situation can have very serious effects not only in the lack of new
science and technological development that it will foster, but even more
seriously in taking scientific and technological advances away from the
public and putting them instead into the hands of the same powerful
corporate interests that are already wielding far too much power over the
US government and the US society. 

Gary Chapman <gary.chapman {AT} mail.utexas.edu> wrote:

>Ronda Hauben has a strong background in the history of technology policy
>in the U.S., and equally strong opinions. Getting into a debate with her
>about the history of U.S. S&T policy would be interesting but
>unfortunately something I just don't have time to do these days. Moreover,
>the kinds of things we disagree about would require serious megabytes to
>develop, and would be like trying to squeeze a dissertation into a Palm
>Pilot. 

Gary, earlier you said you agreed with me. Now you claim it would take
"megabytes" to explore the disagreements. I welcomed the fact that
discussion is needed about the nature of the policy that will be carried
out by the US government, and am disappointed that you are bowing out of
any discussion of the policy you urged people to support just 10 days ago. 
.  >Joel Yudken and I published a long critique of US S&T policy,
including >the Clinton-Gore approach, as well as a lengthy set of
recommendations >about what we should be doing instead, in our 1993
publication "The 21st >Century Project: Setting a New Course for Science
and Technology Policy."  >This was a 250-page document that would be
difficult to summarize. 

It's disappointing that you can't even offer the gist or central idea of
it. 

>I'd also recommend, as a critique of the Vannevar Bush model of science, 
>Dan Sarewitz's excellent book, Frontiers of Illusion: Science, Technology 
>and the Politics of Progress (1997). 

I wondered if you have not only read this critique but also Bush's report
"Science: The Endless Frontier". 

I appreciate the reference to the critique but the report and the
achievements of ARPA/IPTO under Licklider and subsequent directors, where
the program was much as Bush proposed, is something important to consider. 

The National Research Council document some aspects of the Licklider and
subsequent IPTO programs in their report "Funding A Revolution"  published
by the National Academy of Science in 1999. 

And they speak to the importance of taking history as a guide in policy
discussion and development. So if you aren't familiar with this report
perhaps if you don't feel the urge to take a look at what I have written,
you can at least look at the NAS report. 

If you are interested in the study I have done about Bush and the
development of IPTO, the URL where I have the paper I did a little while
ago is:  http://www.columbia.edu/~rh120/other/arpa_ipto.txt

(...)

>Basically, Ronda's difference with me is that she seems to equate "basic
>research" with non-commercial, public interest science and technology, and
>"product-oriented" research with commercial interests. 

You are misrepresenting what I have written. I was interested in the
development of the Internet and of Unix and of other special advances of
our times. After documenting the history that I found as best as I could
research and document it (as in papers that were put online as early as
1992 and on), I realized I was missing an understanding of an important
part of how these developments were achieved. I realized that I needed to
understand the ARPA piece better. 

Fortunately I found a few sources that were helpful in beginning to put
the ARPA part of the research jig saw puzzle together. 

And what I found was that there has been, over a period of time, a
struggle within the US research community over how to get support for the
research they are capable of doing and that can't be done without that
support. 

In 1962 Licklider was brought into the US. Dept of Defense, into ARPA, to
establish an office that would support computer science research (then
called information science) and also to support an office that would do
behavioral science research. While there is little known about the latter,
and the former provided outstanding leadership in the active ways it
supported outstanding researchers in the U.S. 

Thus, Gary, I am not equating product oriented research with commercially
oriented research, as you claim. 

To the contrary, I am outlining a very fine basic research program
established by JCR Licklider based on his notion of human-computer
symbiosis. The first task to establish that symbioisis was to get people
online and interactiving with computers. That meant there was a need for
research in the time sharing of computers, in interactive graphics, in
Artificial Intelligence. All these were ways of having the human become an
intellectual partner with the computer. 

The research that developed led to seeing computer facilitated human to
human communications as a goal of human computer symbiosis, seeing humans
learning how to cooperate and contribute new kinds of tools and new forms
of interactivity as part of the pioneering work that Licklider observed
that the socio-technical online users were involved working on. 

Licklider advocated support for these socio-technical pioneers and
learning from their experiments online as to what would be the new that
interactive computing and online access would bring into the world. 
 
>What the progressive S&T policy community has been arguing for the 
>last decade is that we need a strong basic research infrastructure, 
>but ALSO a targeted, results and goal-oriented "technology pull" policy 
>that is not serving commercial interests but the public interest as a 
>whole. 

The problem is your "targeted results and goal-oriented 'technology pull'" 
are based on what you can conceive of now, as opposed to the needed
support for the new concepts and new developments that basic research
makes possible. 

>Two Harvard scientists, Gerald Holton and Gerhard Sonnert, have 
>recently characterized these two approaches as "Newtonian science" 
>and "Jeffersonian science" (see http://www.nap.edu/issues/16.1/holton.htm). 
>Republicans, in the form of ideologues like Robert Walker and Dana Rohrbacher, 
>have condemned "Jeffersonian science" and advocated ONLY "Newtonian science," 
>or "curiosity-driven" science instead of "mission-oriented" science. While

Well I know Gerald Holton and he is a historian of science but has said
that developments like that of interactive computing and the Internet are
not part of his research. I would be happy if that would change, but that
is what he had indicated to me not too long ago. 

So he has refrained from commenting on current IT developments and the
kinds of research that has produced them or that will nourish their
continuing development. 

However, I did look briefly at what you pointed out that he wrote, and he
seems to say that one should support basic research, not that one should
call it a republican ploy. 

>Democrats and progressives have no problem with Newtonian science, they
>also believe it should be supplemented with national goals and missions
>and that there should ideally be a "seamless web" between the two
>approaches, as Harvey Brooks has put it. (The difference between the
>Democrats and progressives is that Democrats are much more likely to
>support programs that explicitly benefit private sector interests instead
>of general public interests, and Democrats are much more comfortable with
>elite-driven S&T policy.) 

But once we start to discuss national goals and missions, it seems we are
no longer discussing basic research, nor are we discussing science or a
scientific approach to the development of technology. 

When AFOSR researchers fought against product oriented research, they
called for the broadest dissemination of the results of the basic research
that was done. Then those involved with product development could read the
journals that the basic research had been described in and they could
decide what kind of product development they might see as implications
that would arise from the basic research.  (Broad dissemination was not
toward a "national goal". It was scientific dissemination which is
international.) 

I describe this struggle within the DoD in a draft paper I have done. The
URL is http://www.ais.org/~ronda/new.papers/basicresearch.txt

The conflict within the Air Force Research office came to a head before
Licklider came to ARPA. It sets the basis to understand the difference
between basic research and product oriented research and the need to
protect those involved in basic research from the pressure to create
product oriented research. 

Later, in the 1970's and then 1980's this same conflict spread in the DoD
and affected the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) that
Licklider had founded. 

And during the 1980s the Democrats under Mansfield cut back on the basic
research that was being done by attacking the DoD and its pursuit of any
sort of "basic research". This was done in the name of freeing university
researchers from having to work as part of the DoD. But it actually was a
cutback in US funds for basic research, and a pressure to have product
oriented goals for research. This led to a very difficult situation in
IPTO and it seems the ending of IPTO in 1986. 

Gary, didn't you work for Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility
in the 1980's when they were started to challenge the defense product
orientation that was becoming the thrust for computer research as part of
the Strategic Computing Initiative? 

Product oriented research can be commercially oriented research, it can be
defense related military oriented product research. 

This needs to be separated from basic research and researchers doing basic
research.  . 

This was part of Vannevar Bush's proposal. This was the AFOSR realization
of what was needed. 

As long as you allow product oriented goals to pressure the basic research
activity, the basic research activity with its broad social and scientific
orientation becomes a victim. 

Vannevar Bush said the services could do their product oriented military
development, but such development should not be thrust on those involved
in basic research. 

The Strategic Computing Initiative showed what happens when you do let the
two kinds of research get mixed up. You lose the basic research as we lost
IPTO and its broad ranging and forward directed Information Sciences
program of research.  . 

>What Ronda doesn't seem to see is that the Republican position on S&T
>policy is NOT supportive of critical national investments such as those
>that produced the Internet. 

Gary, instead of your saying the problem with basic research, as the kind
of program Licklider brought to ARPA in 1962, you avoid discussing that
kind of program by accusing me of presenting the Republican Party program. 

Instead of trying to avoid the discussion over basic research and the
lessons from Lickliders leadership of IPTO, it would seem more fruitful to
stop the name calling and discuss the lessons from Licklider's work at
ARPA. 

>In fact, Repubican ideologues are publicly arguing these days 
>that the government's role in fostering the Internet
>was a historical fluke and the system really only took off when it was
>turned over to the private sector. Democrats are countering that the
>Internet would have never happened without government support and
>coordination. So there is a difference, especially for programs like the
>Next Generation Internet at NSF or the Internet 2 consortium. 

I thought Gore was also bragging about how he was responsible for the
policy of privatizing the Internet. 

Neither party seems to have any conception of the need for determining the
government role in either the future development and scaling of the
Internet, nor of the support for basic research in IT. 

>Moreover, the Republican approach to S&T policy would intensify
>universities' growing dependence on private sector funding for research,
>they would increase the link between R&D and weapons procurement, they
>would curtail or even eliminate many civilian technology investment
>programs such as the Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles or the
>Advanced Technology Program, and they would settle for a science community
>that simply pits one sub-specialty against another for funding. Their
>philosophy is that technology only comes from the private sector, and that
>all technology is essentially a market commodity, and there is no role for
>the government in fostering any technology that has any non-commercial,
>public interest value. I'd say I have a lot of problems with that
>philosophy and I think there's room in the Democratic Party for a critique
>of that view, as George Brown demonstrated during his final decade of
>speeches and work. 

Good to hear you have trouble with the Republican program. 

But the Democratic Party program is not better. They are both evils. 

Support for scientific policy work is critically needed in the US and the
US government folks, both Democratics and Republicans have ceded policy
initiatives to the commercial sector rather than having any public
interest objectives and programs. 

There is a serious need to look at the past 40 years and learn the lessons
from the important results we are seeing from the DoD support for
scientists like JCR Licklider, Norbert Wiener, John von Neumann, and many
others.

That kind of support doesn't seem to exist any longer. 

Instead we get commercial product oriented thrusts for research programs
or military product oriented thrusts for research programs. 

But the basic research, the research that sees the important potential of
the computer and of the Internet as an intellectual partner to the human
and to human-to-human communication, such research must either be done
under camouflage or die of starvation in the US. 

And urging people to support either the Democratic or Republican Party
platforms doesn't help change the situation. There is a need for a broad
and wide ranging public discussion on these issues. Gary, I am sorry that
you are not encouraging broad public discussion on these issues, but
instead advocating the public choose to support one of the proffered sets
of evils the public in the US is faced with this election year. 


>-- Gary


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




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