[SIGCIS-Members] Essay on Silicon Valley and behaviorism

Dave Foster davidfos at usc.edu
Mon Jan 4 12:34:55 PST 2021


Enjoyed your chapter. I was a DoDer for a number of years working in
the Naval Air Systems Command. Any DoD computing world innovations I
saw were generally in systems analyses and emulations of systems of
systems. It's expensive and perhaps "too hard" to live fire volleys of
long range missile at multiple moving targets for either offensive or
defensive experiments. The acqsys appeared to be entirely comfortable
with the choices made by industry and the computers within embedded
weapons systems was generally not very sophisticated - perhaps the
computational engines for remote sensing systems are the exception.

One reason appeared to be the management of technical risk. E.g. a
mature chip not something on the leading edge was generally at the
core of encryption and operating systems computing. Partly the reason
was that the volumes of DoD systems were not significant compared to
the consumer tech volume - I recall a lot of dreaming about the "real"
SAASM solution for GPS sets but DoD couldn't find a foundry to design
and make a single chip, so the Beta three-chip design became the
defacto architecture. And the inventory of pre-SAASM JDAM guidance
kits produced in the early 2000's are based on late-1990s Power PC
chips and these remained in not-insignificant inventory numbers thru
the 2010's. However, the services did have FIFO plans for the tailkits
so perhaps by now those are mostly expended.

The platforms do change. But many of the overarching planning and
analytical methods remain largely as they were designed in ancient
times decades ago, e.g. PPBE/PPBE, NNOR/NMRP (and service analogs),

DoD has little margin in its budget for really new ideas - nearly all
of the DoD budget funds legacy ideas. This incentivizes incremental
innovations over the novel. This isn't a DoD thing - as you note in
referencing Christensen, internal financial demands are innovation


Dave Foster
davidfos at usc.edu
806-282-4856, linkedin.com/in/david-w-foster

On Mon, Jan 4, 2021 at 12:11 PM Anne Fitzpatrick
<acbfitzpatrick at gmail.com> wrote:
> Shreeharsh,
> Thanks for sharing your very interesting and thoughtful piece!  Glad to see other social scientists researching Big Tech and trying to make sense of where it is headed and understand those who work for that industry. In a similar vein, I'd like to share the attached with the SIGCIS community; it's a book chapter I had published in November on the future of High Performance Computing, written as part of a philosophical homage to Professor Joe Pitt at Virginia Tech's Philosophy Dept.
> I don't have much of a public persona but I work for the Department of Defense as a Tech Director by day, and serve as an adjunct Prof at Virginia Tech's Science & Technology Studies Department in my off hours, where I wrote this chapter.  Apologies that this version isn't machine readable but the electronic version hasn't come out yet.  Happy New Year to All.
> Best,
> Anne
> 703-981-3470
> On Mon, Jan 4, 2021 at 11:01 AM Shreeharsh Kelkar <shreeharsh at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Dear all,
>> I wanted to share a new piece I wrote on whether Silicon Valley engineers are behaviorists that might be of interest to people on this list. I argue that they are not--though I'm agnostic on whether calling them behaviorists is tactically useful. Given the expertise of everyone on this list, I'd love to know if you have any feedback/thoughts/reactions.
>> Wishing everyone a happy holiday season!
>> Best,
>> Shreeharsh
>> _______________
>> Shreeharsh Kelkar
>> http://www.shreeharshkelkar.net
>> _______________________________________________
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