Reading: The Department of Mad Scientists: How DARPA Is Remaking Our World from the Internet to Artificial Limbs

The book is by Michael Belfiore. Very interesting peek into not only the projects of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) but its formation and culture.

It really is a mad scientists dream. I’m only about a hundred pages in but it is a fascinating story. I’m on the third chapter right now, titled “The Intergalactic Computer Network”. That in itself is funny because we’re not even close to that yet but it is a fascinating peek into the creation of the internet.

For example, the whole thing got going by the U.S. Air Force giving then ARPA a spare IBM designed and built AN/FSQ-32XD1A computer. These computers had originally been designed to run a nuclear response system called Semi-Automatic Ground Environment or SAGE system used to compute RADAR data in the event of a Russian air attack.

Well, this lead to the formation of the Arpanet, to link computers together. There is one quote that makes me chuckle. It is pure British humor which is great for its understatement and overstatement characteristics. It comes from what I’d consider to be the father of packet switching named Paul Baran.

“I get credit for a lot of the things I didn’t do, I just did a little piece on packet switching and I get blamed for the whole goddamn Internet, you know.”

Thus far a very good book, an easy read. One that I’ll have to add to my permanent collection. Yes it is a library book.


So I’m much further into the book now, at the part where Belfiore talks about the DARPA Urban Challenge and how it’s starting to filter into production now.

For example, the reasoning I use to backup my estimate of autonomous vehicles occurring sooner than later is mentioned on page 164 of the book. Things like adaptive cruise control, lane follow, etc. The book says it’ll be on high end vehicles but the two I’ve mentioned are on the Toyota Prius already.

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