[FoRK] Cutting through the stimulus BS
J. Andrew Rogers
andrew at ceruleansystems.com
Sun Oct 25 21:55:05 PDT 2009
On Oct 25, 2009, at 8:17 PM, Stephen Williams wrote:
>> Most of this is already under development and funded. Throwing even
>> more silly money at it won't make the research happen faster, it
>> will just waste money.
> I still disagree about that. More researchers with more resources
> and incentivized people ready to build funded solutions that are
> created has to be better than a smaller R&D and entrepreneurial
Multiplying the monkeys will not magically generate research results.
And we most certainly cannot build a solution today, multiple required
technologies simply do not exist and not for lack of research effort.
We already spend a lot of money on this from multiple directions. It
is more of a "insufficient really bloody smart people" than a
"insufficient money" problem. Unfortunately, "really bloody smart
people" are already fully employed.
A lot of technologies are bottlenecked on multiple hard, theoretical
problems that there are only a handful of people in the world
qualified to even attempt to solve. And usually those people already
are working on the problem. Developing a larger pool of people that
have the talent and knowledge to legitimately contribute something
useful will take years. You can't just pull people off the street,
slap a "researcher" sticker on their forehead, and expect results. It
takes years for even very smart people to build up the background in a
subject area to make useful research contributions.
We are already in the position where there are four nominally
qualified deadweight research programs for every productive one. I do
not see how adding a bunch of even weaker research teams will improve
the productivity, though I can certainly see how it would waste a lot
of money. In many cases, it would be a very poor investment.
> I'm advocating "get out of the way" plus "make way for" the people
> that "will" develop this technology. As an obvious example, the
> solutions to the Darpa Challenges would not have happened as soon or
> been as widely appreciated had there not been a Darpa Challenge.
The DARPA challenges illustrate the basic defect of the model you are
proposing -- which they were attempting to work around. First, that
funding is completely subject to political whim and many R&D projects
have been killed for purely political reasons without any regard for
the value of the research. Second, what the DARPA Challenge
demonstrated specifically is that much of the R&D funding has been
captured by the politically connected without regard for
effectiveness. DARPA has been spanked by Congress many times.
I'm waiting for your solution to these fundamental problems with
government-funded R&D. I do not object to funding useful R&D this
way, but you simply want to expand and throw money at a deeply broken
Also, a lot of important research problems are not amenable to the
Grand Challenge model in any case, nor easily packaged into a concept
a normal technical person could even grok. Many critical theoretical
problems are the research domains of people who've spent many years on
the problem, a population you can count on one hand.
> There are many better ideas than blindly bailing out the financial
Yet as you can see, that *is* the priority of the government. Forget
hypothetical solutions, show me one that is actually implementable.
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