Sucking at the DARPA teat

Well, now. DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) is going to cut the umbilicus. “Blue sky” research by the elite of computer scientists will be cut drastically. The crying and moaning can be heard all the way from Livermore Labs to the Courant Institute. DARPA has funded loads and loads of projects with some very handsome results. Now they want to emphasize classified and sharply delineated work. No more Mr. Nice Guy.

To my mind, the uproar voiced by the elite scientists over this plan only points out how they are addicted to violence, although they will not see it that way. These scientists, most of whom are university staff and faculty, have been sucking at this sugar tit for so long, they have no regard or even care for the implications of such work. What is the mission of DARPA? Let’s not guess. Here is the mission statement of DARPA, taken directly from the DARPA Web site:

“DARPA’s mission is to maintain the technological superiority of the U.S. military and prevent technological surprise from harming our national security by sponsoring revolutionary, high-payoff research that bridges the gap between fundamental discoveries and their military use.”

So, the mission of DARPA is to make sure that the U.S. is better at killing than all the others. It follows that anyone working for DARPA is working to make better killers. This flies in the face of what is, nominally, the putative idea of the university. They are, willy-nilly, a part of the violence resulting from military operations. How to reconcile these contradictions? Well, you can’t. To work for DARPA is tacitly to condone the violence of the U.S. military. Any work performed for DARPA is fair game for use to further the aims and methods of the military The aims? A technologically superior military. True, work done elsewhere is also fair game, but when working for DARPA the connection is explicit. It is far too facile to simply assert that one’s work is “fundamental research” and therefore justified. It is a collaboration with violence and death. Killing is the business of the military. To claim otherwise is disingenuous. It matters little that a case can be made that the objectives are salutary. The case is weak, in any event.

But, you say, the Internet, the very vehicle for your communication, began as a DARPA project. True enough. The Internet began as a mechanism to facilitate better communication between DARPA researchers at widely scattered locations. I say, something very like the Internet would have evolved anyway, with or without DARPA funding. I say also that the world would be better off if universities were not complicit in what Pope John Paul II, who died earlier today, termed the “culture of death.” I may have had differences with His Holiness, but I applaud and thank him for his resolute opposition to war, even when it might seem to many that a war might be justified.

When academia becomes so in thrall to the bribe of research money that ethics and morality are cast aside, then it is safe to say that there is an addiction in play, including by inference and by explicit collaboration, an addiction to violence.

The twentieth century was by far the most violent in all of history. Yet is fair to say that the twenty first century is already on a course to be even worse. That will take some doing, but for the first time in history a single nation monopolizes power, especially military power, without serious challenge. Add to that the assertion by the wielders of that power that they have the right to withdraw arbitrarily the mechanisms whereby state power was held in check. Hitler thought he had such power. He did not. The British colonial empire thought it had such power. It did not. We have here fascism redux.

No doubt a renunciation of collaboration by university research scientists with military objectives would do little to displace the U.S. imperial juggernaut from its present course. But it would do a little. In these times, there is nought else to undertake but little actions. Cumulatively, these seemingly ineffectual actions will do their work.

It is conventional to deny complicity, or even to pronounce complicity as worthy. How else to maintain what are perceived to be rights, but are in fact privilege. The addiction to violence should not be construed as a wish to be personally violent. The addiction is rather a condoning of violence, or at best passive acceptance. If this violence is renounced, then privilege must be eschewed. This privilege, perceived as a positive factor, arises out of materialistic desire. In a nutshell, modern life is so inane that if the privilege is removed, then nothing remains. There is no substance to a life chained to acquisition and desire. It can be said that these elite scientists are not in it for the money. Perhaps. But without the money, without the funding, the work stops. If the work stops, what then? Nothing. Without content, life is bound to desire, “I want.” In this case, what is wanted is to work without thinking of the consequences, the suffering arising out of the work.

The denial is facilitated by maintaining that “we are the good guys” and the “enemy” is just that. A pure heart overcomes all. However, it is folly to think that one is purer than another. It is pretension to aver that our guys do only good things and those guys do all the bad stuff. Both sides have good guys and bad guys.

According to the Buddha, existence is suffering. Gautama held that the way to escape this suffering is to renounce desire. But to renounce desire is to renounce the SUV. No. Contrary to what I thought, I really do not have to have, must have, that SUV. Yes, to have the SUV, a metaphor of great power, so to speak, means I must turn the other way and not see the deaths of children. I must pretend that the slaughter of hundreds of thousands, of millions, is necessary for “freedom.” Nah. It’s for oil. Oil to run the damn SUV. We are taught, and willingly, to think that existence is not worthwhile without the metaphorical SUV. Fools, the SUV exists for only one purpose. It is to feed the desire for more. No person of wealth ever has enough money, enough possessions. It is for this that the SUV must be owned.

Which brings us to, what? Capitalism. It is not my purpose to deprecate capitalism. Rather I seek to point out certain truths that should be self-evident. Capitalism dovetails nicely with the urge to acquire, to accumulate. Since this mindless accumulation arises from the emptiness of our lives, capitalism therefore is simply an instrument of psychological dysfunction. Capitalism by definition depends upon expanding production. If production does not continually grow, the whole system collapses. It feeds ghoulishly upon that sickness of the heart that comes from desire, the very root of suffering. In the financial community, a corporation that does not expand from quarter to quarter is held to be failing. And it is, in the context of this world view.

Since expansion is mandatory, and since corporations are by definition amoral (despite legalisms, corporations are not persons) but synthetic.

to be continued …

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