The Los Angeles Times (registration required) has a piece on DARPA, or as they put it the the “Army of Extreme Thinkers” (makes them sound like a bunch of comic book heroes– the X-Thinkers… hey, that’s kind of cool). It argues that DARPA’s
impressive record of success offset only by the fact that DARPA has also come up with some of the most boneheaded ideas ever to spring from the government….
“When we fail, we fail big,” said former DARPA Director Charles Herzfeld, summing up the agency research disasters in an official 1975 history of DARPA.
But now, the article continues, DARPA– or some parts of it, anyway– seems to be going from bleeding edge to lunatic fringe:
[I]n a darker era of amorphous terrorist threats, even some of its staunchest supporters are feeling a twinge of anxiety over such projects as the FutureMAP terrorism market.
“These things seem truly ominous,” said Gary Chapman, director of the 21st Century Project, a science policy research program at the University of Texas. “DARPA has become a scary sandbox for people whose objectives many Americans disagree with.”
There are also the obligatory quotes from Paul Saffo, which I’ll leave to be read in their full glory.