DARPA Progam Manager Position on Self-Replicating technology

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Paul D. Fernhout

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Apr 23, 2008, 11:30:53 AM4/23/08
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More dusty stuff.

People here following my saga may also find this email either ironically
hilarious or completely outrageous. :-) Even as I was 100% serious about
what I wrote :-) -- it's just that I believe in "mutual security" not
"unilateral dominance" (as is unfortunately enshrined in current US military
doctrine, a flawed approach IMHO and almost certain to get us in the USA all
killed if it does not change :-( ).

Compare:
"Twilight War: The Folly of U.S. Space Dominance"
http://www.amazon.com/Twilight-War-Folly-Space-Dominance/dp/1598130188
"this book concludes that unilateral military dominance of space by the
United States would be a supreme mistake and that it would make Americans
less secure."
and:
"Air Force Space Command"
http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?fsID=155
"Develop, field and sustain dominant Space capabilities on time and on cost"
So, like the giant Earthship Ark,
http://www.snowcrest.net/fox/star.html
http://starlost.fanspace.com/
the USA is IMHO "heading for disaster unless ... people can save it."

We're long past the point where we (or I :-) need government funds to do
this kind of stuff, though.

Still, think what, say, two trillion dollars spent on *my* proposal instead
of Iraq would have meant for US security and *also* world security.

This part I wrote was sadly prescient: (did I say I had a relative who made
a living out of being a psychic? :-)
"We of course need to minimize military tensions around the world through
arms control, international aid, and setting a good example. This delays
the culmination of these other trend to war, but in my opinion will not
prevent them because of ever-present potential for a small group of unstable
people to use weapons of mass destruction. ... I also don't think we have a
significant choice. Such self-replicating and self-repairing systems will be
developed eventually anyway, if only from commercial competitive pressures.
The only thing we can do is slow down their development. Yet that has its
own risks of our current infrastructure being overwhelmed by current weapons
of mass destruction or sophisticated terrorism. Also, should such
self-replicating technology be developed first clandestinely by an
oppressive regime, the consequences for the United States could be disastrous."

I tried. :-(

I don't recall hearing back, but at least there was a *chance* a simple
email might have changed one person's (the HR director's :-) perspective
about trying to transcend arms races instead of win them.
"James P. Carse, Religious War In Light of the Infinite Game, SALT talk"
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-962221125884493114&q=carse&ei=AzwPSPXDMISaqQLsnMidBA&hl=en

Psyops on the Psyops people -- another dangerous game. :-(
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_operations
"Pundits in Their Pockets -- A Peek at Pentagon PsyOps and Message Control"
http://www.buzzflash.com/articles/analysis/284
"David Barstow and his team at The New York Times dug deep into some Freedom
of Information Act documents to come up with a dramatic expose of Bush
Administration manipulation of public opinion on Iraq, Gitmo human rights
issues, and Donald Rumsfeld's performance as Secretary of Defense."

Joke but supposed true story: "So the scientist put the monkey in a locked
room to study him, and when they peer into the keyhole to see what the
monkey is up to, all they can see is the monkey's eye staring back at them." :-)

Fair warning to any Psyops or military-minded people out there, :-)
think of this email about a job application like this joke: :-)
"The Funniest Joke in the World"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Funniest_Joke_in_the_World
"Each word of the joke is translated by a different person — ostensibly
because seeing too much of the joke would prove [doctrine changing]. The
narrator (Chapman) adds that one translator accidentally caught a glimpse of
a second word, and was hospitalized for weeks."

Anyway, while I'm no longer interested in that DARPA Progam Manager
position, someone else might appreciate the logic and language here in their
own planning. :-)

Constructive engagement may still be *difficult* and fraught with ethical
dilemmas and run the risks of: :-(
"Darth Vader: I am altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further."
http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Star_Wars_Episode_V:_The_Empire_Strikes_Back
And create strange bedfellows. Let's say I just hope people don't start
placing bets: :-)
"Pentagon scraps terror betting plans"
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/jul/29/iraq.usa1

I believe there are ways to actively engage at least some of the military in
constructive dialog, since the military is generally filled with some of the
smartest and most idealistic people around who have, like firefighters,
dedicated their life to service under dangerous conditions sustained mostly
by just comradeship with their compatriots (which is why it is such a
tragedy to see those young idealistic lives wasted in foolish ventures like
Iraq as opposed to settling Mars). And we *all* need at least some
*security* (even in just our software). The issue is, what does real
security look like? Wikipedia mirrored on GNU/Linux (OpenVirgle/Commons?)
Or Encyclopedia Britannica from CD-ROM on Microsoft Windows
(Virgle/Philanthrocapitalism)?

And yes this does relate to going to Mars, see the bit about: "deploy these
systems in a wide variety of environments (desert, ocean, underground,
urban, rural, arctic, air, *space*)." :-)

Any way, non-violence does not mean non-engagement. :-)

Even if. in the end, the most likely thing is just:
"Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%22Repent,_Harlequin!%22_Said_the_Ticktockman
paraphrasing from memory: "After all, he was easily located once they knew
his name (whois. Google maps), and they had him go on national TV, say he
was sorry, and then his time card was quietly switched off."

--Paul Fernhout
[Still waiting on my email "OpenVirgle/Commons/Surman vs.
Virgle/Philanthrocapitalism/Edwards" to make it past the moderators, so that
reference is a forward link instead of a backward link. Lets see if this
email gets through the filters. :-) ]

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: DARPA Progam Manager Position
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 1999 11:41:32 -0500
From: Paul Fernhout <pdfer...@kurtz-fernhout.com>
Organization: Kurtz-Fernhout Software
To: n...@darpa.mil

N... L...
Human Resources Director
DARPA

Dear Mr. L...:

The description of "Working as a DARPA Manager"
http://www.darpa.mil/body/information/DARPAManager.html
sounds like a possible vehicle for something I want to accomplish
related to my perception of the USA's core defense needs.

I am writing to express my interest in pursuing a position under section
1101 of the Strom Thurmond National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal
Year 1999
http://www.darpa.mil/body/hiring.html
as a DARPA Program Manager with the mission to support efforts to create
decentralized self-replicating and self-repairing systems and related
technology and infrastructure (including knowledgebases and analysis
tools). The most similar current work at DARPA is probably the Agile
Manufacturing Initiative of the Defense Sciences Office.
http://www.darpa.mil/dso/rd/Manufact/Manufacturing.html

Around 1979, I was selected for a Navy Science Award, which came with a
handsome leather briefcase I still use. This was for a
computer-controlled robot I developed in high school. Since then, I have
continued to remain interested in robotics and advanced manufacturing
technology, and their implications for our society and its military.
These interests led to experiences ranging from spending time with
roboticists at CMU such as Red Whittaker and Hans Moravec, to developing
one of the first 2D kinematic simulations of self-replicating robots in
a sea of parts (around 1987), to exploring new methods of knowledge
representation (similar to William Kent's ideas in his book "Data &
Reality").

I agree with Hans Moravec on several points; one of them is the
implications of this chart:
http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm/book98/fig.ch3/p060.html
showing the likelihood of human level computers for $1000 by around
2020. The effects on our society of such systems will be profound.
Around the time children conceived now are entering college, superior
intellects
might be purchasable for a fraction of a year's college tuition (and
further, those machine intellects may even be controlling robots with
superior physical manipulation skills). This means a fundamental
discontinuity in our economic system. And that means a huge risk of
disruption and chaos as today's dreams collide with tomorrow's realities
-- both at home and abroad.

Out of those technology interests and other interests in arms control,
ecology, and evolutionary biology has come my belief that there is a
need to create a radically decentralized and dispersed industrial
capability, capable of surviving future wars and disasters and of
supporting human survival. And further, this capability should be
capable of supporting "survival with style" (to borrow a phrase from
author Jerry Pournelle).

The uncertainty surrounding Y2K shows the depth of our current potential
vulnerability -- that we know so little about how things are made and
distributed that we could not even properly assess our vulnerability to
disruptions. Further, another indication of the vulnerability is that we
need to rely on interdiction to stop terrorism related to
infrastructure, as opposed to having systems so resilient they resist
such acts and actively repair themselves.

Albert Einstein said, "With the advent of the atomic bomb, everything
has changed but our thinking." The arms race cannot be won. It is the
greatest enemy. It is almost certain that advanced nuclear, chemical,
biological, kinetic, and informational weapons will be used in the
twenty first century. In addition, advanced research into intelligent
robotics for defense and industrial purposes will almost surely produce
a competitive life form to humanity (however unintentionally, because of
the reality of evolutionary dynamics).

What can the DARPA and the United States military do to defend against
these threats? Such threats simply cannot be handled by preparing to win
the last war. They cannot even be handled by preparing to win any war.
Our only true defense is in changing the nature of the game. We could
instead deploy systems that can create faster than other systems can
destroy. This is the defensive strategy of algae and duckweed -- to
simply grow faster than it can be consumed.

I know it is difficult to conceive of systems that can grow faster than
H-bombs can reduce them to ruble. I believe this is possible in the long
term through self-replicating technology widely dispersed throughout the
planet and space -- in much the same way duckweed on a lake can easily
persist despite hundreds of ducks eating millions of individual duckweed
plants daily.

We of course need to minimize military tensions around the world through
arms control, international aid, and setting a good example. This
delays the culmination of these other trend to war, but in my opinion
will not prevent them because of ever-present potential for a small
group of unstable people to use weapons of mass destruction. That work
for peace must be done because it is the right thing to do. However,
others more qualified for this work than I are already engaged in this
and so I
don't see it as the best use of my time or technical skills. If such
efforts succeed, we may see the end result of the arms race as
co-evolution and symbiosis, which is the outcome of many evolutionary
arms races.

I see my role as preparing for the worst (yet doing so in a way that has
short term positive effects). If we assume that the end result of the
arms race will be catastrophic warfare amidst economic chaos, as well as
the inadvertent creation of a hostile machine intelligence, the only
possible defense is decentralization and diaspora. This requires
extensive advance development and planning if we are to have much hope
of survival, given the wide-ranging destructive capabilities of modern
weapon systems capable of poisoning the biosphere, as well as the future
capabilities of weapons and threats as yet only envisioned in science
fiction.
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/fears.htm

Specifically, to ensure survival and defend against the potential
consequences of modern warfare and terrorism, we need to:
* create a knowledgebase of manufacturing techniques, assembly
instructions, failure probabilities, and related information,
* create software tools which can use that knowledgebase to adapt
technology for terrain-specific needs -- including an arbitrary degree
of closure and self-reliance,
* create collaborative processes and licenses whereby many researchers
and other interested individuals can contribute to the creation of this
technology,
* explore manufacturing issues using the knowledgebase and tools to be
able to identify key missing or bottleneck processes,
* create new and more versatile manufacturing and materials processing
techniques (like MEMS and nanotechnology) to address critical needs for
increasing the ability of systems to self-replicate and to self-repair,
* create robust control systems for such processes,
* create a (miniature) factory system or tool set that can be used with
that knowledgebase, to be capable of a high degree of self-replication
using locally available materials and power sources,
* test and refine such actual factories and tool sets,
* train people in the operation of these systems, and
* deploy these systems in a wide variety of environments (desert, ocean,
underground, urban, rural, arctic, air, space).

In short, we could change manufacturing engineering from a hodgepodge of
how-to information and plans scattered throughout thousands of
individual organizations and obscure patents into a consolidated body of
knowledge, accessible on-line securely anywhere at anytime. A system
like the IBM patent server shows just the beginning of what such a
system will someday be like: http://www.patents.ibm.com/

I believe the ultimate survival value of these self-replicating
technologies will be most realized when they are deployed in space and
capable of duplicating themselves from sunlight and asteroidal ore, as
was first proposed by J.D. Bernal around 1928. You can see a rough
attempt in this direction by me at:
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak
Of course, such technologies, if deployed well for civilian purposes
across the globe, may also have a side effect or reducing many of the
material causes of war.

There are of course negative implications of this approach to defense
through increased resiliency via self-replicating systems. One is the
widespread ability to fabricate and maintain weapons systems using this
distributed manufacturing capability. Another is widespread economic
impacts from use this technology, both in the United States and abroad.
It is likely an entire system of (international) laws will need to arise
to govern the use of such technology, which will lead to its own set of
conflicts. Still, in balance I believe the net outcome of developing
this technology as far as "survival with style" will be positive.

I also don't think we have a significant choice. Such self-replicating
and self-repairing systems will be developed eventually anyway, if only
from commercial competitive pressures. The only thing we can do is slow
down their development. Yet that has its own risks of our current
infrastructure being overwhelmed by current weapons of mass destruction
or sophisticated terrorism. Also, should such self-replicating
technology be developed first clandestinely by an oppressive regime, the
consequences for the United States could be disastrous.

The development of flexible computer-enhanced manufacturing started with
funding from the Navy in the 1950s for CNC tools. The development of
self-repairing and self-replicating systems is in some ways the ultimate
extension of that trend, in the same way the World Wide Web and the
civilian Internet is the ultimate extension of the early Arpanet.

My only interest in a position at DARPA is to pursue the above vision,
ideally by getting many people from industry, academia, and the general
public involved in doing the research and development needed for such
systems. As you can probably guess, I have no wish to advance the arms
race to the next level by activities such as developing the next
generation of advanced weapons, since I think ultimately that strategy
of defense provides a false sense of security and will fail (with
disastrous
consequences given even the weapons of just twenty years ago).

My resume is enclosed for your consideration.

-Paul Fernhout
Kurtz-Fernhout Software
=========================================================
Developers of custom software and educational simulations
Creators of the GPL Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com

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