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August 15, 2003 » 5:31 am

DARPA’s Bizarre Failures

Today’s Los Angeles Times published, “Army of Extreme Thinkers”, which compares DARPA’s great successes with some of its unusual failures:    (7O)

But the price of success has been an equally impressive record of scientific kookiness. And now, in a darker era of amorphous terrorist threats, even some of its staunchest supporters are feeling a twinge of anxiety over such projects as the Future M A P terrorism market.    (7P)

In the 1970s, DARPA studied telepathy and psychokinesis. Another project was to create a mechanical elephant for traveling through the jungle.    (7Q)

According to the article, 85-90 percent of DARPA’s projects fail to accomplish their stated goals. Nevertheless, Paul Saffo is quoted as saying that DARPA has “paid back its investment by orders of magnitude.” I would love to see a study that showed this.    (7R)

This year, DARPA granted $2.7 billion on more than 200 projects, including $12 million for creating a brain-machine interface.    (7S)

This article makes me think of Donald E. Stokes’s Pasteur’s Quadrant: Basic Science and Technological Innovation (Brookings Institution Press 1997). When I get a chance, I’ll pull up my notes and post a review.    (7T)

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