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Founded in 1958 in response to the launch of Sputnik, the agency's original mission was to create -the unimagined weapons of the future.- Over the decades, DARPA has been responsible for countless inventions and technologies that extend well beyond military technology. Sharon Weinberger gives us a riveting account of DARPA's successes and failures, its remarkable innovations, and its wild-eyed schemes. We see how the threat of nuclear Armageddon sparked investment in computer networking, leading to the Internet, as well as to a proposal to power a missile-destroying particle beam by draining the Great Lakes. We learn how DARPA was responsible during the Vietnam War for both Agent Orange and the development of the world's first armed drones, and how after 9/11 the agency sparked a national controversy over surveillance with its data-mining research. And we see how DARPA's success with self-driving cars was followed by disappointing contributions to the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.
Weinberger has interviewed more than one hundred former Pentagon officials and scientists involved in DARPA's projects--many of whom have never spoken publicly about their work with the agency--and pored over countless declassified records from archives around the country, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, and exclusive materials provided by sources. The Imagineers of War is a compelling and groundbreaking history in which science, technology, and politics collide.
- ISBN-13: 9780385351799
- ISBN-10: 0385351798
- Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group
- Publish Date: March 2017
- Page Count: 496
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.6 x 1.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2017-01-02
- Reviewer: Staff
Weinberger (Imaginary Weapons), national security editor at the Intercept, scours reams of archival material and interviews former officials of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, revealing a highly secretive organization with a fittingly mixed legacy. Following Annie Jacobsens 2015 book on DARPA, The Pentagons Brain, Weinbergers complementary take is a deep organizational history rather than a technological chronicle. The now $3-billion-a-year research agency was founded in 1958 as the Advanced Research Projects Agency, with a post-Sputnik mission to get America into space. That quickly shifted into finding a science-based solution to counterinsurgency. DARPAs real purpose has been to tackle critical national security problems while freed of bureaucratic oversight and scientific peer review. Agency scientists developed the Saturn rocket, the technologies that led to GPS, and evidence supporting the then-controversial theory of plate tectonics. Perhaps most famously, they laid the foundations for computer networking. DARPA has engaged in regular turf battles with competing agencies or branches of the armed forces, and some of its big risks have resulted in disastrous consequences; DARPA spent much of the early 21st century embroiled in debates over data-mining, privacy, and surveillance. Weinbergers fascinating, if occasionally dry, account abounds with examples of technocratic arrogance in thrall to the allure of science fiction. Agent: Michelle Tessler, Tessler Literary. (Apr.)