[hackerspaces] will the fruits of our labors be used for good or for evil?

Justis Peters justis.peters at gmail.com
Wed Nov 30 03:46:20 CET 2011

One of my favorite benefits of open source technology is that it is 
available globally and at equal cost to everyone. I tend to agree with 
Matt that, upon encountering a new technology, people will think of 
positive uses for it first instead of inventing ways to kill puppies (or 
other hackers or people in general) with it.

If any military wants to fund research that will be shared with 
everyone, then I think that is generally OK. My concern is when a 
government gets involved in exercising its power over the spread of 
information in order to maintain its own monopoly on power.

I offer as examples:

I am also concerned that research funded by military interests is more 
likely to get silenced or secreted away. At the very least, it can end 
up protected by patents and licensing deals which make it inaccessible 
to anyone besides military interests or very lucrative industries.

With those concerns laid on the table, I would like to specifically send 
thanks to Matt Joyce for helping me to see how DARPA and DOD can 
facilitate research that benefits everyone. Historically, I have turned 
down jobs that have any connection to the military in any way. Due to 
this thread, I am softening some of those views and I am curious to 
learn more about what my tax dollars are doing to promote global benefit 
from open source technology.

Kind regards,
Justis Peters

On 11/29/2011 08:31 PM, Matt Joyce wrote:
> I work for a .gov that does open source dev.  TOR was originally a US 
> Navy funded project.  OpenBSD was at one point almost sorta maybe 
> DARPA funded.
> There is a long history of military in Open Source.  In fact what we 
> know today to be POSIX is really just the natural evolution of DOD 
> standards on Berkeley BSD.
> Go figure.
> -Matt
> On Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 5:20 PM, Mars brown <itcamefrommars at gmail.com 
> <mailto:itcamefrommars at gmail.com>> wrote:
>       "Anything you do in the open source or public domain in that
>     field can be taken and reused with minimal effort by others for
>     nefarious purpose.  "
>     I have been thinking the same thing for some time....
>     Look at PGP.
>     Perfect example... although public domain not OS technically.
>     But there are ALOT of things that can be worried about regarding
>     open source...
>     Jaron Laniers book last year "You are not a gadget" is very
>     interesting and strongly criticizes open source as "digital
>     maoism"... and in some respects I completely agree... but am not
>     getting into his definition here... but great read - actually... a
>     very important read to all of us ...
>     How it relates here tho is that if any state agency plays too
>     strong an influence in a global and peaceful movement like HSpaces...
>     jeez... honestly it screws up my head enuff thinking about it that
>     I can't put the words together sensibly.
>     Anyhow, anything is available online.  And many of us know that
>     isn't limited to 0-day releases of harry potter films.
>     We're in a strange time culturally... very strange.  This new
>     fangled information superhighway has many exploits for us to
>     surprise each other with.
>     Like PGP - everyone has the same tools available in contrast to
>     enigma machine times.
>     Changes the game... but in the same respects does darpa endorse
>     defense tech to be developed "open source"?
>     I'm totally trolling today... sorry.... not making sense at this
>     point.   Don't hit send..... oops slipped.
>     On Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 6:40 PM, Matt Joyce <matt at nycresistor.com
>     <mailto:matt at nycresistor.com>> wrote:
>         I'd like to point out that the US is still even in it's
>         reduced capacity putting far more effort into grander ideals
>         such as space exploration than most other nations.  And while
>         you may not equate landing a rover on mars with "the
>         military", I can assure you that any form of space exploration
>         has very definite military applications.  Anything you do in
>         the open source or public domain in that field can be taken
>         and reused with minimal effort by others for nefarious purpose.
>         So, I don't really see the distinction sometimes between
>         "military application" and any other application.  Kind of an
>         extension of guns don't kill people.  People do.
>         "I just put the rockets in the air, I don't care where they
>         come down..."  - Maybe a von braun quote.
>         You can't promote open source development while at the same
>         time pretending that your work can't be co-opted to do things
>         you did not intend it to do.  Possibly things you do not
>         like.  That would be akin to Von Braun telling himself... he
>         just builds rockets to put stuff in the air.  If someone else
>         decides to land them in downtown london packed full of C4...
>         well that's on them.  If you hate that...  well shit you and
>         the unibomber have something in common, have you read his
>         manifesto?  Fun read.
>         This ties into the question... "Is knowledge always a good
>         thing".  I think most of us here, would say that the potential
>         for knowledge is always going to be varied.  But I have
>         general faith in my fellow man so I believe that most folks
>         when handed some new knowledge will try to think of something
>         awesome to do with it, rather than... hrmmm... maybe I can use
>         this to destroy puppies.  So I invoke "You can't stop the
>         signal Mal" level 9001.
>         Now yes, some of what DARPA funds is designed specifically to
>         make killing people easier and more efficient.  Sometimes the
>         by-product of that is, less collateral damage.  Sometimes,
>         it's a greater level of belligerence in foreign policy. 
>         Sometimes it's an unpredictable hellish dystopian future.  I
>         am not saying it's okay to support that.  I am not saying that
>         you should ignore that.
>         The reality is, DARPA funds research it is interested in.  If
>         you are interested in it too, and would do it in open source
>         anyways... then I don't see the issue with making that
>         knowledge available to them.  If they are willing to fund your
>         research, then yeah, you have to weigh what the consequences
>         of that are.  That is responsible.  You obviously want to keep
>         true to your own goals and not become a slave to someone
>         elses.   But, if the goals line up... why not?
>         Stopping bullets.  Reducing the damage IEDs cause.  Building a
>         better mine remover.  Any number of emergency medical response
>         / disaster response technologies.  Food preservatives.... etc
>         etc.  These are research areas that could SAVE lives.  Space
>         exploration relies on technology that allows us to put mass
>         into orbit, and mass in orbit alone can be used as a
>         terrifying weapon... that's ignoring the strategic
>         applications of an ICBM.  Does that mean that anyone who works
>         in the field of exploring our universe is some sort of puppy
>         hating monster?  Hell most of them work with the US gov, and
>         most of their work is reviewed and passed on to defense
>         industries for a myriad of reasons.
>         Is something as wonderful as the Hubble or the MSL some sort
>         of taboo technology now?  I say nay.
>         And I want to remind you.  DARPA isn't in the business of
>         killing people.  It's in the business of engineering peace
>         where there is none.  War and chaos do not achieve the
>         objectives of DARPA or the US military.  Their goal is to END
>         conflict.  They don't start it.  They get tasked to "end it"
>         usually on favorable terms.  You want to equate defense work
>         with "murder" I'd point the finger at the ambassadors,
>         senators, and other political entities that allow war to
>         happen.  Some of them will own that responsibility and some of
>         them will shirk it.  But to place blame on DARPA for it is
>         somewhat absurd.
>         Just some thoughts.
>               - Matt
>         On Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 3:32 PM, Phillip Rhodes
>         <motley.crue.fan at gmail.com <mailto:motley.crue.fan at gmail.com>>
>         wrote:
>             On Tue, Nov 29, 2011 at 6:03 PM, Mars brown
>             <itcamefrommars at gmail.com
>             <mailto:itcamefrommars at gmail.com>> wrote:
>             > Oh this DARPA stuff disturbs me on the deepest level.
>             Wow, yeah, this is a bit, erm, odd...
>             > It's not a big anti-military kind of opinion... so
>             please don't take it that
>             > way - but rather I want nothing to directly do with
>             death and destruction in
>             > any form for any cause.
>             >
>             Personally, being a libertarian, I would never suggest
>             that any
>             individual hacker shouldn't be
>             free to do whatever he/she wants, so long as they're not
>             violating
>             anyone else's rights...
>             but I personally *hope* hackers steer clear of helping the US
>             government and it's
>             corrupt / evil / corporatist / cronyism-based / empire
>             building /
>             civil-liberties-robbing
>             agenda.
>             Now working on technologies that have military application
>             in terms of
>             self-defense; I could
>             never argue against that.  The use of hacker skills to
>             oppose tyranny,
>             well... That I could
>             never criticize.
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