Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

There would be no Silicon Valley without the military industrial complex. Period.

But I think there are problems with getting too close to the Pentagon and then trying to operate internationally as a purported neutral information platform.




While I mostly agree with you on a historical basis, I don't agree with you on a theoretical basis.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc. The military invented a lot of things "first", or at least provided the use-case and funding for a lot of things.

But that doesn't necessarily and always mean that people couldn't have invented something without military funding and uses in mind.

For example, the military probably invented the sandbag bunker, but I have one in my back yard. I am sure I would have figured out how to invent that piece of technology on my own for my own non-military needs.

So, maybe someone out there would have thought that electrified silicon is an excellent way to facilitate virtually all global communications.


The practical aspects of modern computing were to a large extent born from US defence funding. Starting from the theoretical roots: Von Neumann architecture [0] and various defence projects including ARPA[1].

"But that doesn't necessarily and always mean that people couldn't have invented something without military funding and uses in mind."

Sure, it doesn't. But funding and large number of end users combined with price-inelastic demand for your product enable product development and field testing like no other scenario does.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Draft_of_a_Report_on_the...

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Dream-Machine-Licklider-Revolution-Co...


The problem with your comparison is that IT took tens of years of investment before it produced anything truly useful. It is very hard to imagine that research being funded for years and years without financial return by anything other than a state-level actor. And in most capitalist democracies, especially in the US, the only politically-viable way for the state to massively invest in an endeavor is to do so through military spending, which is what happened with IT.


I'm not so sure. Mechanical calculators were profitable, and one those were good enough the jump to the first programmable computer [1] was fairly small and would have happened even without Nazi funding. That computer was used for German aviation research, so it's likely it would have been bought by other research institutes. From there you have a fairly straight forward path of incremental improvements that open up new markets, until we arrive where we are now.

But I will agree that the transition to silicon would have taken another decade without the space race.

1: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z3_(computer)


> But that doesn't necessarily and always mean that people couldn't have invented something without military funding and uses in mind.

It's not so much about the Military specifically, but about public funding in general. In short: world-transformative technological innovations tend to come out of public funding, where the license to experiment, sheer volume of funding, and isolation from market pressures enables smart people to build transformative things.

So yes anyone could have invented X, but probably not if they had to operate on the market and without a money-fountain to tap into.


Without the government there would be no military.

Thus your line of reasoning is really an argument for some degree of government and centralized planning, as opposed to total free market innovation. That Silicon Valley owes its existence to the government as much as if not more so than the free market.

As a socialist, I have no qualms about that. I'd just rather our communal resources and effort be spent on things other than the military (industrial complex). If Silicon Valley is a good thing (debatable), we could choose to make it happen without the military. It's all a matter of cultural will.


Well it's not just a matter of or cultural will, but rather of other people's will. The army exists in part as a defense mechanism from outside forces, and you can't single handedly decide not to take part in wars.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: