[hackerspaces] DARPA Sponsored Hacker Space Assessment

Will Bradley bradley.will at gmail.com
Tue Dec 6 19:03:04 CET 2011

Nobody is likely to stop an undercover fed from getting info in a
hackerspace, and a non-undercover fed might even still be welcome. But to
voluntarily submit to a federal hackerspace assessment? Sorry, if you want
my address you have databases for that. Volunteering info to a fed who was
no warrant is something I'm sure the EFF would caution against.

Also, the extent to which I'm concerned about "good PR" with the feds is
easily taken care of by making sure we don't support illegal/immoral
activities (i.e. hacking into a bank) and generally projecting a good
educational image. Yes, we're open and not nefarious. No, Big Brother does
not love you.

When I hear of DARPA doing nice things I think of Enron supporting Little
League. Yeah it's nice, but its real purpose is so Enron apologists can say
"but they do so many nice things!" when someone points out that they're
evil. Also, you don't need a corporate sponsor to play baseball in the
park. In fact, supporting feel-good things is PR 101. "The CIA can't be
doing horrible things in their secret prisons, they paid for Jimmy's

It's funny that you use the word PR, because PR was invented as a way to
manipulate, influence, and "engineer consent" by Freud's nephew. His
masterpieces include A Public Relations Counsel (1927) and Propaganda
(1928). Look at his list of campaigns; quite impressive, ranging from
convincing women to smoke and establishing bacon & eggs as "All American",
to overthrowing the government of Guatemala for Chiquita, all through PR.
On Dec 6, 2011 10:21 AM, "Matt Joyce" <matt at nycresistor.com> wrote:

> I figure that DARPA would be no different than any other person.  Most
> spaces are open.  They have open houses and open events and they would
> likely be invited in the same as anyone else.  That's kind of the point of
> the more public spaces.  I doubt even the private ones would care that much
> about who attends their open events.
> So I do not see how many would have a real moral quandary here.  If the
> space is open, it's open to DARPA visiting.  Also, It's good PR.  DARPA
> isn't the fire inspector or the FBI... they are not going to come arrest
> you.  But, reaching out to an entity like DARPA and being open about who
> you are and what you do demonstrates that you "have nothing to hide".  And
> while we all value privacy on an individual scale, and I am a proponent of
> that...  Letting someone like DARPA know you exist and being friendly with
> them may be useful down the line when the Byron Sonne of your hacker space
> ends up being arrested for possession of instruments of DIY hobbies.
> I get it that some of you guys are super paranoid.  And I am aware that
> sometimes courting attention is not wise.  DARPA isn't going to care if you
> have an unmarked bottle of ferric chloride sitting next to a bottle of
> whiskey.  Or an open flame in the center of your floor that you are driving
> RC cars through.
> But, down the line if some sort of PR disaster befalls you because of
> someone who would care about these things...  It might be nice to be able
> to say "we not only have not been involved with anything nefarious we've
> been open about everything we do.  Even DARPA has been invited in and shown
> what's up."
> More to the point...  DARPA has a lot of capacity for making
> recommendations for education entities.  In fact NSF partners heavily with
> DARPA.  DARPA also does a good deal to ensure that the next generation is
> as smart as can be... it's in their interest to do so.  If hackerspace
> design patterns make people smarter... they will want to try to make that
> approach ( pedagogy ) more available.  In short they may end up being a
> huge fan.
> Law of unintended consequences swings both ways.
> -Matt
> On Tue, Dec 6, 2011 at 7:44 AM, Jesse Krembs <jessekrembs at gmail.com>wrote:
>> Dear All
>> In light of the recent discussion ("will the fruits of our labors be
>> used for, good or for evil?") I figure it would be time to ask a
>> question I have been pondering for some time.
>> Would the hacker space that you are a member of participate in a
>> assessment of your hacker space if it was sponsored by DARPA?
>> Additional information to consider:
>> DARPA would be the sole receiver of this the information collected
>> during the assessment. It would not be shared with the general public
>> or the participating hacker spaces.
>> The assessment would be of an open nature. With all the information
>> provided by the hacker space being assessed as they feel fit.
>> The requested information would be broad (state of financing, number
>> of members, project, interests, tools, aspirations, history, etc) but
>> not particularly specific.
>> For example:
>> How many members and what the sociological breakdown is.
>> There would of course be some very specific questions but not
>> particularly intrusive I think. Name, address, contact info.
>> The idea is that the assessment would be in person by the DARPA
>> sponsored individual, with the assessor taking pictures of the space,
>> making floor plan maps, inventory of major equipment (we have a
>> lathe!). I think this is a good opportunity as well to provide a
>> narrative history of the space and other relevant topics.
>> Feel free to answer me on or off list. I'm not interested in launching
>> a big discussion football BTW, just trying to get a sense of what the
>> community at large thinks. The work/life change required to perform
>> this work is quite massive and figuring out some fact before hand
>> would be key.
>> Thank you.
>> --
>> Jesse Krembs
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