July 05, 2006

The Sharks of DARPA

I wrote this about a year ago; I'm cleaning out my drafts folder.

As every schoolchild knows, what became the Internet was at first ARPANET, one of the many projects by which the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency nurtured the development of computer science and technology in the US. ARPA eventually became DARPA, but for a long time retained its character of a patron of basic and curiosity-driven research. Lately, however, it seems to have lost its touch, what with the whole terrorism futures markets debacle, "total information awareness", and so on. (I myself was for several years sustained, as a graduate student and post-doc, by my adviser's DARPA grant, familiarly known as cooperative agreement F30602-00-2-0583, part of the TASK program. Of course, it's not for me to say where our work fell in the spectrum from foundational to flaky.) The sad but predictable response has been to demand that DARPA de-emphasize basic academic research in favor of working with private-sector contractors for short-term military payoff.

All of which is by way of lead-in for this post to the connectionists mailing list:

Postdoctoral position in neurobiology / engineering in Woods Hole

A 4-year DARPA research project, funded annually, to steer the behavior of sharks in the natural environment through stimulation of selected sensory brain areas. Expertise in brain stimulation, multi-electrode recording and neural data analysis most desirable. Interfacing with wireless data transmission and stereotactic electrode positioning.

A year earlier, a Boston Globe story had more information, but lacked the admirably matter-of-fact tone of the job-ad.

I don't see much by way of follow-up, but I haven't looked very hard. For all I know, this work is already well on its way to giving us a beloved childrens' classic.

Learned Folly; Minds, Brains, and Neurons

Posted by crshalizi at July 05, 2006 09:55 | permanent link

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