As Newell told a Stanford conference room filled with military and intelligence personnel last September, during a three-day H4D training course for educators interested in bringing the course to departments. “We are creating a workforce of the future. Young people will infect your organization with a new perspective. They are interconnected, have spoken to more than 100 stakeholders. Would you like to hire these people? “
Plus, once the student gets the error to serve the country, they want to keep it. The course encourages them to develop “dual use” technologies – technologies with both military and consumer uses – for their government sponsors. The idea is that at the end of the course, if all goes well, they can go out looking for venture capital to make a quick buck while they wait for military regulators to process a viable contract, in spite of such a formal combination. may be unnecessary or desirable.
Many students from the first run of H4D at Stanford has run out of funding, and this year Blank reported that more than half of the students at the seminar said they would continue pursuing defense-related projects. During the 2017-2018 school year, the program expanded to eight universities, including Georgetown, Columbia, USC, Boise State, Pitt, UC San Diego, and the University of Southern Mississippi. Students at those schools will face the types of problems that sponsors are asking for so far, like developing an encrypted bluetooth network for Special Operations Command; Smart PTSD home solution for VA; augmented reality platforms for explosives detection, along with a number of needs for network security, machine learning, and other data analysis; algorithmic data analysis of satellite imagery for the Navy; and build drones for Special Operations Command, with a computer vision that could identify warriors (the team in this final project dubbed itself “Skynet”).
In other words, exactly the kind of research that Stanford students and faculty expelled from the campus in the early 1970s after years of high protests and clashes. Exactly the kinds of projects and career trajectories that an earlier generation of brilliant engineers ran away from setting up shabby Silicon Valley startups. In the 21st century, for a group of students featured on 9/11 replay videos and ISIS beheading videos, the prospect of working to improve America’s war machine is no longer stigmatized. as before. This is, at least, Blank’s hypothesis. Blank says that today’s student is more mature and patriotic than his peers in his college years. At the very least, they seem much less contradictory about their own country’s foreign policy. In the twentieth century, American universities were first a major investment in military research, and then a guide to anti-war unrest. Fifty years later, perhaps that pendulum is swinging quietly again. A year has passed, reality seems to be proving this: There was no backlash on campus. Just a little bit of twisting.
“It sounds like a step backwards for the university,” said Brian Baum, president of Stanford’s Student Alternative for Militarism (SAM) organization. “I am concerned about the idea of combining a culture of hacking with a culture of military industrial complexes. If you mix the recklessness of Silicon Valley’s standards and dizzying speed, you are opening up all kinds of new problems. However, Baum and SAM did not hold any objections to the program, focusing instead on protesting against campus speakers and pushing the school to divest from “profitable companies. from the military occupation of Palestinian territories “.
Stanford anti-war veterans have also not raised their voices. Lenny Siegel, a leader of the April Third Movement at Stanford in the early 1970s, said: “The military made Silicon Valley the center of technology, but by the 1970s, they lost control. control. “People were able to get out of the military because there were better jobs. That’s why we have smartphones today, because there are alternatives to the military … I think Steve Blank had a tough fight to move back to the guideline. “.
Blank and his teammates believe they will take over that hill. “Relationship [between Silicon Valley and the military and intelligence community] still strong, but people don’t realize it. There aren’t many positive stories about Silicon Valley helping the country, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist – they just don’t tell the press, ”said Blank. “And while I can’t set a national policy, I can hack it.”