Monday, October 23, 2006

Dumb, If True 

There are some stories one can't believe because they are incredible. This is one, if it's true, and I don't believe yet that it is. Apparently, a change in the law now prohibits DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, from handing out cash prizes for winners of its robot car contests. If true, the idiocy of such a decision is hard to overstate. DARPA gained tens of millions of positive publicity for the agency, the Pentagon and most importantly, robotic technology it seeks to develop with the prize program. Taking that away for the next and more complicated challenge of program development is dumb.

I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist but it looks to me as if there was a cock-up in writing the law -- an oversight in the rush to complete a bill. My guess is funding will be restored soon enough, and the Associated Press story was designed to do just that. Leak it to the media, and watch the fur fly. Washington bureaucrats are masters of this sort of thing. They are better at PR, in their own ways, than PR practitioners.


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