David Brin: Should the Defense Department fund the next wave of tech?

  • Published on January 2nd, 2013

By David Brin

Every decade since 1900 — except one — has seen some fantastic U.S. originated technologies burst forth, creating so much new Maker movementwealth and ability that American consumers could afford the prodigious trade deficits that have uplifted half of the world’s population into the middle class.
Jets, rockets, computers, pharmaceuticals, satellites, telecom, lasers, the Internet… only the first decade of the 21st century saw this fecund creative wave interrupted  – by grotesque interference at the top and a treasonous “war on science.” (Sustainable energy might have been U.S. led, instead of by Germany and China.)  Regaining this fertility of creative energy should be a top national priority.
Should DARPA be supporting the creation of “hacker-spaces” to replace old fashioned metal and wood shops in high schools?  I’ve been involved in the Maker Movement for some time, keynoting a couple of events and creating a maker-themed graphic novel TINKERERS.  And the burgeoning of creativity in high schools is well illustrated in Vernor Vinge’s terrific novel of our near future – RAINBOW’S END. (And you’ll glimpse it also in my latest novel, EXISTENCE.)
One can easily see why DARPA is investing in the hacker/maker development. The more young Americans who are skilled at turning ambitious innovative concepts into prototypes, the stronger the innovative culture and gusher of new inventions and capabilities will be. This is a matter of national security in too many ways to count. Here’s just one.
Is it a movement best fostered by the U.S. Defense Department?  Of course not.  The maker culture is mainly pushed by open-source geekdom with an anarchist-individualist bass rhythm that I’d never quash if I could!
But when this wholesome thing also just happens to coincide with clear national interest?  Sorry guys.  Choke back the reflex. Accept that your government wants you to succeed.  Take the money. Use it to make wonders.  Help make a new world.
(Originally appeared at Contrary Brin.)

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