[e2e] Nature mag, DARPA, and the Internet

David P. Reed dpreed at reed.com
Sat Aug 9 08:32:40 PDT 2003

This has been a fun thread, because the interpretations of history are so 

ARPA deserves a lot of credit for funding interesting, high risk ideas, and 
then *getting out of the way*.   I attribute this to a tradition that began 
with Licklider and ended with Kahn (why did he leave and form CNRI, after 
all?  Whatever it turned into, it's clear that an era was ending).   These 
folks cultivated a culture and a group of researchers who really made what 
happened happen.

That culture spread and persisted.

But does ARPA get credit for "inventing the Internet"?   Yes, in one sense 
- they created the unique Petri dish that gave it birth.   But the Internet 
involved many contributions (many more than glib revisionist tracts like 
Hafner's BBN-centric screed would allow you to believe).   And those 
contributions derived from sources far and wide, which ARPA was lucky 
enough to tap into and coordinate.

Today's DARPA is a sad, sad ghost of the past.   The organization behaves 
like a cargo cult that misses the point of their past successes.   This is 
not intended as an insult to many of the people that are funded today, or 
some of the program managers.   The choice of Poindexter is only one of 
many examples of completely missing the point.   What made DARPA unique 
will probably never be recreated, because the times are different, the 
personalities are different, and the DoD is different.

Licklider would have been fired on his first day on the job today.  Think 
about it. 

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