[Noisebridge-discuss] Sigh -- I'm not helping with Maker Faires this year.

Danny O'Brien danny at spesh.com
Wed Apr 4 11:27:25 PDT 2012

On Wed, Apr 4, 2012 at 9:23 AM, Martin Bogomolni <martinbogo at gmail.com>wrote:

> The -message- is important though.

I rarely link to things unless I'm sure of their legitimacy, but sometimes
you just want other people to join you on a sceptical and critical but
openminded journey around links you'd not entirely checked out yet:


It's definitely worth reading the DARPA-sourced links here for a better
idea of the overall goals of the project Make is working with.

I've really enjoyed thinking about this carefully, and am still not
entirely sure how I feel. I think personally I would still continue working
with Make.

Strangely, though, organizations I do work for and have worked for have
even more stringent standards. Both EFF and CPJ refuse to take money from
governments at all, and I'm happy about that. Of course, I and they use
roads and public schools and pay taxes and the ARPAnet blah blah blah, but
the reason those groups don't take money is because governments are not
always your friend, and they have particular interests that may not align
with your own, and it important to consider that.

Honestly,  I have been mildly disturbed by the recent and sometimes
unquestioned involvement of hackers with state infrastructure at every
level. Often this is expressed (in the US at least) as a patriotic thing --
$GEEK_VERB for America! Some good friends work on these projects, and I see
them do it as much out of principle as someone who decides not to. But I
also get a few stories from people who have gone "this has turned out to be
less clearly a Good Thing i did than I thought", and also people who work
with them who have said "yeah, my friends are now doing Bad Things and I am
not sure they realise it". None of this has to do with making machines that
kill people, and more about the nature of working with the establishment,
established power structures, and the compromises one must make in order to
do this.

For instance, I think one of the things that is understood by those working
on the Maker DARPA project is that this *isn't* about evil killing
machines, but about providing STEM resources for kids. One of the issues
that first link brings out, though, is that  the way that DARPA *has* to
justify such educational projects internally as providing more effective
production of military equipment for the defence of the country. To quote
it, and DARPA:

The MENTOR<http://www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/TTO/Programs/AVM/AVM_High_School_Outreach_%28MENTOR%29.aspx>program
is a section of a much larger military portfolio, called the Adaptive
Vehicle Make<http://www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/TTO/Programs/AVM/Adaptive_Vehicle_Make_Program_Overview.aspx>program,
whose goal is to “address revolutionary approaches to the design,
verification and manufacturing of complex defense systems and vehicles”
through three steps; “to dramatically compress development times for
complex defense systems such as military air and ground vehicles, to shift
the product value chain for such systems toward high-value added design
activities, and to democratize the innovation process”.

I think we all understand that the military isn't just about defence in the
US -- it does a lot more than that, including one of the few public health
systems, a huge amount of educational funding for kids, career
opportunities for underresourced individuals, etc. But all of these things
have to be justified in military terms. I think perhaps the issue here is
that Mitch is taking those justifications on face value, while many others
(including I think Tim O'Reilly if you read his Facebook responses to
Mitch) are saying effectively "yes, but that's not *really* what that's

Breaking this down, you have three camps:

1) Mitch and others  who don't want to be connected with a program whose
aim is the manufacturing of complex defense systems and vehicles"
2) Some, (Matt?) who say there's no problem with being connected with such
3) Some, who say that program is so distant from the MENTOR program as it
is that you're not really connected to it, so this is a non-question.

I have no conclusions here yet, but I would definitely say that when
working with governments on projects where your own aims are expressed
verbally or by implication, and someone else's aims are expressed in
writing, it's either the aims in writing, or the government's overall aims
which trump yours. It's one of the things that governments are best at.



> A recruiter is legally bound, by the contract they have signed with
> the US armed forces, to identify and attempt to recruit as many
> qualified people as they can through a number of enticements into the
> US armed forces.  This is their primary job.
> A DARPA STEM grant comes with a couple strings attached (it must be
> spent for the purpose the grant was applied for, namely
> Science/Tech/Engineering/Math education) but it does not commit anyone
> who accepts that grant to the purpose of recruiting, or to perform a
> research task for the US armed forces.
> The thinking that goes into a Military Recruiter is: "Send out our
> most charismatic, and experienced soldiers to go find people who will
> be useful to the military and recruit them."
> The thinking that goes into the STEM education fund is : "Support
> science, technology, engineering and math in schools and get people
> interested in science.  The more people get interested in these
> subjects, the higher quality pool of people we will have in the US in
> the future to draw on."
> I'm not going to scoff at DARPA money, especially since it doesn't
> require or _directly_ encourage people to join the military.   I would
> honestly be more delighted if this money came from an education
> initiative outside of the military, but because it doesn't tie the
> carrot on the stick directly to military service, I also don't have a
> problem with it.
> IMHOI it's taking millions of dollars away from projects that might
> directly be used to hurt people, and beating it into plowshares
> through education.   I feel this kind of thing should be
> ///encouraged///.    If it comes down to it, I'd rather that every
> agency in the government that could spend money on education and
> making participation in science and technology do so.   Certainly,
> many do (from the CDC in disease prevention and education to the FDA,
> from Welfare offering job training to the NSF directly funding
> science).
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