From DARPA to Toyota… so quickly… (reflection on the entrepreneurial state)

I’m reading The Entrepreneurial State (on my new Sony Digital Paper, which btw is far and away is the most awesome e-reader created  as of 2015…), which makes a pretty strong case that gov’t research funding, rather than VCs and startups, has been the primary engine of tech innovation….

Self-driving cars are not discussed in the book but seemed to me an example of this — DARPA’s driving grand challenges seemed to rather quickly pave the way for Google and then pretty much every car company to jump into the self-driving cars arena.   All of a sudden self-driving cars are the new common sense rather than a niche techno-futurist idea.    But it was US gov’t investment that mediated this leap, getting the tech to the point where companies felt it was mature enough for them to jump in.

So beholding the recent DARPA robotics grand challenge, I wondered if it would have the same effect.   Would it spur companies to invest on follow-on technologies, taking up where the DARPA-funded entrants (largely universities, often with gov’t funding independent of DARPA) left off?

I didn’t have to wonder long though.   Yesterday I saw news that Toyota is putting USD $1 billion into US-based AI research labs — and that this AI effort will be run by Gil Pratt whose last job was at DARPA, running the robotics grand challenge.

The time-lag between the entrepreneurial state putting funding and focus on a certain idea or area, and big corporations taking over as R segues into D, grows shorter and shorter as the Singularity grows nearer…

(Whether we want the AGI revolution to be led by big companies is another question.  Obviously I’m pulling for a Linux-style open-source AGI, perhaps centered on OpenCog — AGI of, by and for the people … and the trans-people! ….  But that’s another story…)


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