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Mitch Altman Parts Ways With Maker Fair Over DARPA Grant 169

Posted by samzenpus
from the greener-pastures dept.
SWroclawski writes "Well known hacker and hackerspace advocate Mitch Altman has decided to temporarily part ways with Maker Faire over their involvement with DARPA (as reported on Twitter and Facebook). This public parting of ways raises the question of what role government, especially the military, should play in working alongside hackers and educators."
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Mitch Altman Parts Ways With Maker Fair Over DARPA Grant

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:12PM (#39562741)

    That's the problem with most activists. They're all for freedom, just as long as people only use that freedom to agree with them. He wants Maker Faire to accept sponsors, of course, but only those that fit into *his* ideals.

    And I bet this guy would go ballistic if someone dared try to tell him what he can and can't build or invent. But now that he's confronted with the possibility of people using *their* freedom to build stuff that *he* doesn't like (for a sponsor that doesn't fit in with *his* vision), suddenly he wants to take his ball and go home.

    Also, last time I checked, Maker Faire wasn't forcing anyone to build anything. If you don't want to build stuff with military applications, then you know what--JUST DON'T!

    • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:18PM (#39562805)
      Stupid activists. It's almost like this guy thinks he's also free to do what he chooses. How dare he leave based on his principles!
      • by DesScorp (410532)

        Stupid activists. It's almost like this guy thinks he's also free to do what he chooses. How dare he leave based on his principles!

        OK, fine. If he's really principled, he can go straight home and unplug his Internet (ahem, "ARPAnet") connection.

        While he's at it, since he seems to disapprove of anything with military involvement or as a result of military research, he needs to shut his computer down for good, as computing as we know it came from military research in mechanical computing for the Army. Oh, and anything with an integrated circuit (also a result of military research... by Wehrmacht and RAF scientists, to boot) needs to go t

        • by Beelzebud (1361137) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @08:35PM (#39567397)
          So, support the military, or be a luddite. Does that about sum it up? How about this: Those technologies are already here, have already been invented, and are already a part of our lives. If he doesn't want to help them develop *new* stuff, that is his choice. Why it makes you so butt-hurt is really puzzling to me. So the guy is a hypocrite? In my experience every fucking human being on the planet is a hypocrite to some degree.
        • Oh, and don't forgot that America wouldn't exist if not for its military, so he should pack his bags and move to the arctic.

          Hey look, I can create logical fallacies too!

    • by El_Che (161286) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:18PM (#39562809) Homepage
      If you don't want to build stuff with military applications, then you know what--JUST DON'T! Er, isn't that exactly what Mitch Altman has decided to do?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by crazyjj (2598719) *

        isn't that exactly what Mitch Altman has decided to do?

        Well, that and throw a public hissy-fit and abandon the organization that's doing more to encourage invention and hackerspaces than any other group out there. It's not like anyone was stopping him from speaking his mind and encouraging people to build stuff more inline with his ideals. Instead, he elected to storm off like a petulant Eric Cartman crying "If you're not going to do it *MY* way, then screw you guys!"

        • by icebike (68054) *

          Further, to throw his public hissy-fit over the internet, which was the first invented and funded by DARPA [wikipedia.org] seems rather ironic. Why didn't he take out an ad in the New York Times.

          An amazing number of DARPA projects [wikipedia.org] end up as a wash for the military, but have wide applicability to civilian use, from TOR, to Driverless cars.

        • by ntk (974) *

          What form of expression would be acceptable to tell people that you're not working with somebody, and for what reason? Or is it important to keep this information confidential?

          Or in other words, he has done pretty much exactly what you have done: expressed an opinion online. Why is what you are saying now not some sort of "hissy fit" about how somebody you don't even know disagrees with what you think? You certainly seem to be using stronger, more strongly opinonated language than Mitch Altman.

        • by Andy Dodd (701)

          It's not like he has to do anything with the grant money.

          Also, one of the responses on Twitter made an excellent point - without DARPA, there would likely not be an Internet, without the Internet, DIYers and "independent" innovators wouldn't be where they are today.

          I say "independent" because without the sharing of information on the Internet, many of today's innovators would be nowhere compared to where they are now.

        • Yes, the US Army is the Great Satan. If only they handn't been around for WWII - the world would be such a better place, don't you think?

          Besides the nitwit hatred of the US military, the more general problem is refusing to further *shared values* with people who have other values that conflict with yours. We can all join cults of 10 people and refuse to deal with anyone whose values contradict our own, not matter how much we both might benefit. That's sure to make the world a better place too.

        • by GodInHell (258915)
          Get off my Internets -- DARPA
        • by Zadaz (950521)

          This guy is the inventor of the TV-B-Gone, which is a surprisingly Fascist device for turning off TVs in public space. Were you watching that? Oh, sorry, I won't let you. Even though it's not my TV.

          Jeez, what an asshole. It's a hissy-fit turned into technology.

          (I don't own a TV, and hate TVs in public spaces, but forcing other people in public to abide by my arbitrary opinions is a dick move.)

      • by Eponymous Coward (6097) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:44PM (#39563191)

        He should also boycott the internet because of its association with DARPA project.

    • If he wants to maintain his distance from the military to the point where he can't be involved with an organization that the military is also involved with, then he is doing what is right for him.

      It doesn't raise any questions that haven't been asked and answered a million times before, however.

      • by Dishevel (1105119)

        So tell him to get off the Internet, stop using GPS, Microwave ovens, and just about everything else that makes life easy.
        He is not standing up for his principals At least not in most other areas of his life. He is really just throwing a fit and going home.
        So he can have fun sitting at home and bitching about DARPA while using tons of stuff that we only have because of them..

        • No.

          He gets to decide where his line is, you and I have no standing to do so.

          If that makes you uncomfortable, then that's your problem, not his.

          • by Dishevel (1105119)

            His line is that the very fact that DARPA gives any money to the organization that they must be abandoned.
            Hackerspace is doing nothing wrong. His problem is that there is some funding from DARPA coming in.
            If that is his line then he needs to get off the internet.

            • His participation, his choice.

              If he wanted to walk out from Maker Faire because they chose a blue logo but he wanted green it would be just as valid.

              He may be a hypocrite for singling out his interaction with DARPA in one area only, but that is his right also.

              The fact is that most people only act on their principles when it is convenient for them, which is why the ones who actually go out of their way to consistently act on their principles are so noteworthy.

              His action, and his hypocrisy, are not particular

    • by Zerth (26112) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:27PM (#39562919)

      If the government offers you money to do what you were going to do anyway, you should take it.

      If you don't, they'll surely spend it on something you really are opposed to.

      • DARPA: Hey there! That's a pretty nifty marble shooter!
        You: Uh, thanks.
        DARPA: Here have some money.
        You: Cool!

        Two Weeks Later:
        DARPA: Say about that marble shooter, do you think you could set that up so that instead of marbles it shoots 1/2" steel ball bearings and up the velocity to 1800 m/s and a rate of 700 bearings per minute?
        You: Umm hmm.
    • Yeah, it's crazy for them to dislike something they find unacceptable. They even have the nerve to leave institutions that do stuff they don't like!

      • Yeah! He should also boycott the Internet which is based on research by DARPA! Nothing good comes from defense research!

        • The point is that OP doesn't find acceptable that he left because they allowed a sponsor linked to Defense and the Military. I said it's hardly reprehensible that he exercises his good conscience and choose to step aside if he doesn't agree with the money source. You said that they are not so bad because DARPA kickstarted the Internet, but it's irrelevant since they still do research with military applications. After all, DARPA had Project AGILE [wikipedia.org].

          • It's true that the Altman deserves props for sticking to his principles. And technically speaking, I did not say that 'DARPA is not so bad'. What I did mean to do is point out that Altman and you and I all benefit from the fruits of defense research and must own and live with this fact -- or boycott the Internet (and all those other goodies) too. Why stop at the maker faire? Why not boycott everything that has come from war spending? As long as we are stick to principles, we might as well go whole-hog!

            I'

          • The point is that OP doesn't find acceptable that he left because they allowed a sponsor linked to Defense and the Military. I said it's hardly reprehensible that he exercises his good conscience and choose to step aside if he doesn't agree with the money source. You said that they are not so bad because DARPA kickstarted the Internet, but it's irrelevant since they still do research with military applications. After all, DARPA had Project AGILE [wikipedia.org].

            It is also reprehensible to walk away from a project that has the potential to kindle kids's interest in science simply because DARPA chose to fund it. Is he also going to stop having any relationship with breast cancer research (should he had one) because DARPA funds said research (which it does)? Furthermore, where is the moral moral objection of using the Internet and GPS, DARPA inventions that facilitates military operations as well as civilian ones? If DARPA decides to fund research for a new Malaria v

            • In summary, you can't claim to dissasociate yourself completely from DARPA while being more than willing to use DARPA's technology to proclaim such dissasociation, not unless you are ok with hypocrisy.
    • 1. electricity becomes widespread, generators invented, hydropower, lights, medical devices, car batteries, etc.

      1.a. governments immediately use electricity to torture and execute prisoners, employ it in the holocaust, etc.

      2. nuclear physics pushes back our understanding of reality, and discovering that E=>mc*c

      2.a. governments immediately use nuclear weapons to murder hundreds of thousands of civilians, cause countless cases of cancer, and start an arms race that , on several occasions, comes within a fe

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The internet was originally called ARPANET! Arpa was the precursor to Darpa. With out government backing the internet would not exist as we know it!

    Move on Nothing to see here!

    • by Nyder (754090) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:26PM (#39562911) Journal

      The internet was originally called ARPANET! Arpa was the precursor to Darpa. With out government backing the internet would not exist as we know it!

      Move on Nothing to see here!

      No, I'm pretty sure Al Gore invented it.

      • Yes but don't ignore the fact that the Al Gore robot program was originally funded by DARPA.

        Hey, talk about a drone! That guy practically invented the concept! (Thank you, I'll be here all week! Try the veal!)

    • by jabberw0k (62554)
      Exactly -- how can he protest DARPA's involvement without boycotting the entire Internet? Clearly the RFC process is poisoned, as is TCP/IP, and... and... well, everything. Aircraft, submarines, jet engines, and even TANG breakfast drink would not exist without the military. Send this gentleman a bucket of sand in which to hide his head, please.
    • by brit74 (831798)
      And don't forget that the self-driving cars project was a DARPA project. Google's current self-driving car project was done by hiring a bunch of guys involved in the DARPA project ("Google hired several veterans of DARPA challenge teams." - http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/thinking-tech/googles-self-driving-car/5445 [smartplanet.com])
    • Actually the internet came from various places. Yes there was ARPANET that formed the majority of it. The UK formed JANET in parallel. A lot of the packet switched network concepts came from the UK too. Like all of these developments. There's no one source. When something comes of age it comes of age. I suspect if ARPA hadn't been there something else would have arrived and we'd still have the internet. It would just be subtly different.

  • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby&comcast,net> on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:15PM (#39562773)

    They should take their self righteous ass off of the the Internet too. Darpa has funded many, many things that have gone on to serve the public good.

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      Or to put it another way, instead of being self-righteous about DARPA, maybe he should be glad they're joining up with hackers instead of finding new ways to kill impoverished people in 3rd world nations?

      • What do you think DARPA is interested in all this stuff for? Shits and giggles?

        • by MozeeToby (1163751) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:56PM (#39563363)

          It's DARPA, quite probably the one sub-branch of the US military which has actually improved the human condition. I could list all the research that DARPA has supported over the years, but I suspect I'd be wasting my breath (or fingers as the case may be).

        • DARPA was founded after Sputnik. Their mission is 'creating and preventing strategic surprise'.

          Something Sputnik certainly provided.

          This particular grant funds makerspaces in high schools. Obviously this is something with broad benefits if you think technology is overall a good thing.

  • Ridiculous (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:19PM (#39562827)

    "This public parting of ways raises the question of what role government, especially the military, should play in working alongside hackers and educators"

    Not a particularly good question, however. The government should play whatever role it can, so long as it's not a hindrance. After all, without DARPA where would we be today?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      it's unfortunate that research funding for CS in the US is only politically justifiable if its attached to a potential military
      application.

      but thats just the way it is here. moral issues aside I just wish it wasn't so silly to rephrase all your problem statements
      in terms of the 'warfighter' and express things in cheesy quad charts with weapons platform clip art on them

    • After all, without DARPA where would we be today?

      Arguing in the editorials page of the local newspaper?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since the Hackers (or Hacktivists) and Makers are the only serious threat, with the tools and means to challenge established order in case of mass uprising against our society surrendering everything to the Banker-Kings, it is only natural for the military to take "interest" in these communities...

  • I can imagine there might be good and bad reasons to part ways, and I'm wondering if he's explained himself somewhere.

    If the DARPA involvement is just to encourage cleverness and the sciences, I don't think he has a leg to stand on (or his principles are WAY different than mine), but if DARPA is having the kids build specific technologies being used for military applications, it might be worth parting ways over it.

    • by crazyjj (2598719) *

      From what I gather, it was one of those generic DARPA "We want to encourage the engineers of the future!" grants that they hand out for PR more than anything.

    • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh&gmail,com> on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:39PM (#39563119) Journal

      If the DARPA involvement is just to encourage cleverness and the sciences, I don't think he has a leg to stand on (or his principles are WAY different than mine), but if DARPA is having the kids build specific technologies being used for military applications, it might be worth parting ways over it.

      At best they want to encourage science education so that maybe they'll have more scientists to choose from to build the weapons of tomorrow. At worst they're staging robotics competitions with obvious and only thinly-veiled combat applications. If you watch videos of these things it's not too unusual to see military brass walking among the competitors in full dress uniform, so the competitors obviously don't give a shit what they're contributing to.

      • by Improv (2467)

        Yeah, that at-best/at-worst thing is what I'm getting at. Something as generic as better science education is broadly awesome, and avoiding a sponsor (provided they're not a demanding sponsor) for that is pretty dumb. The at-worst concern is worth thinking about though, as would be potential "cultural rot" caused by accepting aid for now and possibly needing to pull back from it later should it head over to type-2.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    So one guy doesn't show up. That's fine. DARPA will get his ideas anyways if they go global.

    Meanwhile, by funding science, unlike the rest of the government (hi Congress), DARPA might make technology more accessible for kids that might otherwise not see it.

  • One thing is for certain: there is no stopping them; DARPA will soon be here. And I for one welcome our new military overlords. I’d like to remind them that as a trusted geek, I can be helpful in rounding up others to toil in their hackerspaces.
    • Id like to congratulate you on using the full version of the quote with appropriate paraphrasing throughout.

  • Oh, the Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr 44 (180750) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:34PM (#39563027)

    And in a move of supreme irony, he is glady leaving to support Chinese Hackerspaces:

    Here's a clue, kiddo - try to find anything of significance in China that doesnt have involvement from the People's Liberation Army. But you got no problem supporting that?

    • by Deano252 (2555908)
      Where do you think his TV B Gones are made.
    • by Zadaz (950521)

      I thought it was ironic that he used the Internet to announce it. And even cited the Internet as one of the things that (D)ARPA perpetrated for its evil goals.

      Taking a look at the project that raised his hackles it looks like it's diverting funding from the military to education. Not sure I can find too much fault with that.

  • by gelfling (6534) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:34PM (#39563033) Homepage Journal

    Please by all means boycott all civilian technology every developed out of the military such as THE INTERNET.

    • by sneakyimp (1161443) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:53PM (#39563317)

      People just don't realize that the path of technology is almost ALWAYS military -> business -> consumer. Wars have resulted in tremendous advances in techology. The bigger the war, the greater the advances. Some examples of military technology now used for consumer applications:
      * computers
      * computer networking
      * cellular phone technology
      * jet airplanes (even prop planes too - the Wright brothers worked for the military in WWI)
      * rockets, space travel (perhaps not consumer-level yet but SOON)
      * nuclear technology

      Nothing -- and I mean NOTHING -- quite gets the mind racing to invent like contemplation of one's one mortality or enslavement.

      I support the guy's right to boycott anything he likes over principles and sort of admire it too, but I kind of hold it against him at the same time.

    • by jklovanc (1603149)

      You can add jet aircraft, computer, GPS, radio networks, the US Interstates, etc.

      As to interstates being alternate airfields that has been debunked but many were designed to transport troops from bases across the US.

  • by MrQuacker (1938262) on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:35PM (#39563037)

    Seriously, if anything they should have been more cooperative and helpful. DARPA has all the cool toys. Not to mention they can help you do cool things you cant do otherwise. Rockets, lasers, etc.

    And if it doesn't work out, hey, you're in. You now are in a position to affect change and make it run your way, or do max damage (if you so choose).

  • by Genda (560240) <mariet@@@got...net> on Tuesday April 03, 2012 @02:48PM (#39563245) Journal

    Government Bad... Private Enterprise Good....

    Its maybe time to put the failed beliefs aside. Private Enterprise has dug us all into a very neat hole, and separating it from Government is probably one of the few answers that holds any hope of saving this smoking hole that is the remains of our economy. On the other hand DARPA is one of the few things our government has gotten right. The list of truly cool things that DARPA has invested in is nothing less than impressive. We all enjoy the benefits of those things brought into existence as a function of DARPA investments.

    Let's say DARPA invests in perfecting the Hammer, because a hammer can bang your enemy up real good. By the way those hammers are great at building houses, mining mineral, shaping metal and forgings, wood working, and sculpting artwork. So that one investment has huge social implications and tremendous collateral value. I worked with a company in 1997, that was lead by a small team of engineers fresh out of MIT. They had developed a processor with a hundred processing units on a three level network, which could be reconfigured to perform a vast variety of task (our use at the time however was signal processing, many simultaneous signal processors and CPUs existing in software operating on a single chip.) DARPA invested several million to help get the technology off the ground, and ultimately Broadcom bought the technology (Cisco had their fingers in it too.) Today's VOIP takeover is the result of that technology, and it would never have happened without DARPA seeing that this made many new interesting things possible (including a single chip synthetic aperture processor for high resolution imaging from directed radar emissions.)

    I don't know if there is a Karmic debt for taking money from warriors. I'd prefer to look at the fruit the tree bears and judge it from what it contributes. In this case, DARPA has served us well, and is one of the few government organizations that I would welcome to any group of creators and inventors. This is a fine use of our tax dollars and is one area where government serves us well.

    • I don't know if there is a Karmic debt for taking money from warriors.

      Other than a patriotic goal that my country win all wars it gets involved in, there's a great reason to develop better warfare technology: As technological asymmetry increases, the total number of deaths before surrender decreases.

    • Our current economic mess has equal blame in both the private and public sectors. For example, the ridiculous loan investment products tanked because financial institutions got lost in their own shiny mathematics, and a lot of the loans chopped into the mix were bad thanks to happy unicorn and ainbow government initiatives. This shit is so widely reported and readily available that it's one of the biggest mysteries of the human race why otherwise intelligent people cling to these binary points of view, and

    • Its maybe time to put the failed beliefs aside. Private Enterprise has dug us all into a very neat hole, and separating it from Government is probably one of the few answers that holds any hope of saving this smoking hole that is the remains of our economy.

      Your first paragraph contradicts your title. Libertarianism is all about separating the government from private industry. Stuff like bail outs, government-granted monopolies, and hell, even the very existence of corporate charters are explicitly against the libertarian ideal that the government has strictly limited and delineated powers.

      What you're railing against is closer to fascism - the merging of the state and industry. Of course, in America's case it looks like the merger is being accomplished by indu

  • Mitch I'm sure realizes the greatest feat man has accomplished--sending men to the moon--was a military exercise, right? We sent a clear message to the USSR--if we can land men on the moon, we can certainly drop a nuke in the middle of Red Square. And there are all the other major breakthroughs: The Manhattan Project may have been evil--but from that research we have a cleaner source of energy and lots of medical breakthroughs.

    But Mitch doesn't want to work with Darpa? Forget that without the interne
  • I had an exhibit at Maker Faire once. I realized I was being used as free entertainment for a flea market. Haven't been there since. Maker Faire is a for-profit operation run by O'Reilly Media, whose main business is running overpriced conferences.

  • I am a scientist. I have a choice. When a government organization I don't like comes to me for help I can either
    ensure that organization gets good advice or I can refuse to help and risk that they're going to get bad advice. If no one "good" agrees to help, we're collectively ensuring they get bad advice. This is OUR government, why would we want that?

    For a moral scientist or engineer, the clear correct choice is to help the government make good decisions. "Help" may mean convincing the government NOT

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