Quotes from The Pentagon's Brain

Annie Jacobsen ·  560 pages

Rating: (1.4K votes)


“As part of the animal sentinel program, going back to 1999, scientists had been making great progress training honeybees to locate bombs. Bees have sensing capabilities that outperform the dog’s nose by a trillion parts per second. Using Pavlovian techniques, scientists cooled down groups of bees in a refrigerator, then strapped them into tiny boxes using masking tape, leaving their heads, and most of their antennae, poking out the top. Using a sugar water reward system, the scientists trained the bees to use their tongues to “sniff out” explosives, resulting in a reaction the scientists call a “purr.” After training, when the scientists exposed the bees to a six-second burst of explosives, some had learned to “purr.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“To address strength and endurance issues, Goldblatt initiated a program called the Mechanically Dominant Soldier. What if soldiers could have ten times the muscle endurance of enemy soldiers? What if they could leap seven feet and be able to cool down their own body temperature? What if the military benchmark of eighty pull-ups a day could be raised to three hundred pull-ups a day? “We want every war fighter to look like Lance Armstrong as far as metabolic profile,” program manager Joe Bielitzki told Washington Post reporter Joel Garreau a decade before Armstrong resigned from athletics in disgrace.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“What might sound like science fiction elsewhere in the world at DARPA was future science.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“I am here to urge [you] that all must recognize that simulation is fundamental to readiness for war,”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“Over the next five years, DARPA’s biohybrid programs advanced at an astonishing pace. Microprocessor technology was doubling in capacity every eighteen months. By June 29, 2007, when Apple rereleased its first-generation iPhone, Americans could now carry in their pockets more technology than NASA had when it sent astronauts to the moon.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain



“Now McElroy was the U.S. secretary of defense. He took office with a clear vision. “I conceive the role of the Secretary of Defense to be that of captain of President Eisenhower’s defense team,” he said. His first job as captain was to counter the threat of any future Soviet scientific surprise.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“What we have in mind for that agency,” McElroy told lawmakers, was an entity that would handle “all satellite and space research and development projects” but also have “a function that extends beyond the immediate foreseeable weapons systems of the current or near future.” McElroy was looking far ahead. America needed an agency that could visualize the nation’s needs before those needs yet existed, he said. An agency that could research and develop “the vast weapons systems of the future.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“Von Braun and his team had just launched America’s first successful satellite, Explorer I, and as far as the public was concerned, von Braun’s star was on the rise. But Army intelligence had information on von Braun that the rest of the world most definitely did not, namely, that he had been an officer with the Nazi paramilitary organization the SS during the war and that he was implicated in the deaths of thousands of slave laborers forced to build the V-2 rocket, in an underground labor-concentration camp called Nordhausen, in Nazi Germany.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“President Eisenhower was fed up with the interservice rivalries. Having commanded the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe during World War II, he held deep convictions regarding the value of unity among the military services. As president, he had been a crusader against the excessive waste of resources that came from service duplication.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“Christofilos’s theoretical Astrodome-like shield was the hoped-for result of exploding a large number of nuclear weapons in space as a means of defending against incoming Soviet ICBMs. By Christofilos’s count, this likely meant “thousands per year, in the lower reaches of the atmosphere.” These explosions, he said, would produce “huge quantities of radioactive atoms, and these in turn would emit high-energy electrons (beta particles) and inject them into a region of space where the earth’s magnetic fields would trap and hold on them for a long time.” Christofilos figured that this electromagnetic field could last months, or perhaps longer, and that “the trapped electrons would cause severe radiation—and even heat damage—to anything, man or nuclear weapon, that tried to fly through the region.” In short, the idea was that the arming and firing mechanisms on the incoming Soviet ICBMs would be fried.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain



“Licklider believed that computers could one day change the world for the better. He envisioned “home computer consoles,” with people sitting in front of them, learning just about anything they wanted to. He”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“He wrote a book, Libraries of the Future, in which he described a world where library resources would be available to remote users through a single database. This was radical thinking in 1960 yet is almost taken for granted today by the billions of people who have the library of the Internet at their fingertips twenty-four hours a day. Computers”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“McNamara’s electronic fence, which the Jasons called an “anti-infiltration barrier,” was constructed along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, at a cost of $1.8 billion, roughly $12 billion in 2015. It had very little effect on the outcome of the Vietnam War and did not help the United States achieve its aim of cutting off enemy supplies.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“Ten years earlier, participants from the same movement had fought to kick the French out, and had succeeded. Now they were fighting for the same cause. The insurgency was not an insurgency to the locals, Zasloff and Donnell said. It was a nationalist struggle on behalf of the people of Vietnam.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“Zasloff and Donnell said that in their POW interviews they had learned that very few fighters understood what communism meant, what it stood for. Hardly any of the Vietcong had even heard of Karl Marx. It was a fact that the Vietcong had patrons among the Chinese communists and that the same patrons had been helping the North Vietnamese, giving them weapons and teaching war-fighting techniques. But what the local people were after was independence.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain



“Castle Bravo had been built according to the “Teller-Ulam” scheme—named for its co-designers, Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam—which meant, unlike with the far less powerful atomic bomb, this hydrogen bomb had been designed to hold itself together for an extra hundred-millionth of a second, thereby allowing its hydrogen isotopes to fuse and create a chain reaction of nuclear energy, called fusion, producing a potentially infinite amount of power, or yield. “What this meant,” Freedman explains, was that there was “a one-in-one-million chance that, given how much hydrogen [is] in the earth’s atmosphere, when Castle Bravo exploded, it could catch the earth’s atmosphere on fire. Some scientists were extremely nervous. Some made bets about the end of the world.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“the group listed dangerous insufficiencies that DARPA had to shore up at once: “Inadequate nuclear, BW, CW [biological weapon, chemical weapon] detection; inadequate underground bunker detection; limited secure, real-time command and control to lower-echelon units [i.e., getting the information to soldiers on the ground]; limited ISR [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] and dissemination; inadequate mine, booby trap and explosive detection capabilities; inadequate non-lethal capabilities [i.e., incapacitating agents]; inadequate modeling/simulation for training, rehearsal and operations; no voice recognition or language translation; inadequate ability to deal with sniper attacks.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“The SWG proposed that DARPA accelerate work in all these areas and also increase efforts in robotics and drones, human tagging and tracking, and nonlethal weapons systems for crowd control.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“Poindexter’s background was in submarines, and there was an analogy here, he told Tether. Submarines emit sound signals as they move through the sea. The 9/11 hijackers had emitted electronic signals as they moved through the United States.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“The hijackers had rented apartments, bought airplane tickets, purchased box cutters, received emails and wire transfers. All of this could have been looked at as it was happening, Poindexter said. Terrorists give out signals. Genoa could find them. It would take enormous sums of time and treasure, but it was worth it. The 9/11 attacks were but the opening salvo, the White House had said. The time was right because the climate was right. People were terrified.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain



“Scalable Social Network Analysis. The SSNA would monitor telephone calls, conference calls, and ATM withdrawals, but it also sought to develop a far more invasive surveillance technology, one that could “capture human activities in surveillance environments.” The Activity Recognition and Monitoring program, or ARM, was modeled after England’s CCTV camera. Surveillance cameras would be set up across the nation, and through the ARM program, they would capture images of people as they went about their daily lives, then save these images to massive data storage banks for computers to examine. Using state-of-the-art facial recognition software, ARM would seek to identify who was behaving outside the computer’s pre-programmed threshold for “ordinary.” The parameters for “ordinary” remain classified.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“These systems,” said Armour, referring to human brains, “are the product of evolution, optimized by evolution for a world which no longer exists; it is not surprising then that, however capable our cognitive apparatus is, it too often fails when challenged by tasks completely alien to its biological roots.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“Just a decade before, in the wake of the Vietnam War and with his agency’s budget slashed, Stephen Lukasik had appealed to Congress to allow DARPA to pursue “high-risk projects of revolutionary impact.” Lukasik told Congress that in the modern world, the country with the most powerful weapons would not necessarily have the leading edge. He argued that as the twenty-first century approached, the leading edge would belong to the country with the best information—with which it could quickly plan, coordinate, and attack.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“Brown believed that technological superiority was imperative to military dominance, and he also believed that advancing science was the key to economic prosperity. “Harold Brown turned technology leadership into a national strategy,” remarks DARPA historian Richard Van Atta. Despite rising inflation and unemployment, DARPA’s budget was doubled. Microprocessing technologies were making stunning advances. High-speed communication networks and Global Positioning System technologies were accelerating at whirlwind speeds. DARPA’s highly classified, high-risk, high-payoff programs, including stealth, advanced sensors, laser-guided munitions, and drones, were being pursued, in the black. Soon, Assault Breaker technology would be battle ready. From all of this work, entire new industries were forming.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“TIA was a system of information systems that could read everything without reading everything. It was a system of systems that could observe and then connect everything the human eye could not see.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain



“By the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Eisenhower’s test ban had failed, and the United States and the Soviet Union had both returned to nuclear weapons testing. Twice during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, on October 20 and October 26, 1962, the United States detonated two nuclear weapons—code-named Checkmate and Bluegill Triple Prime—in space. These tests, which sought to advance knowledge in ARPA’s pursuit of the Christofilos effect, are on the record and are known. What is not known outside Defense Department circles is that in response, on October 22 and October 28, 1962, the Soviets also detonated two nuclear weapons in space, also in pursuit of the Christofilos effect. In recently declassified film footage of an emergency meeting at the White House, Secretary of Defense McNamara can be heard discussing one of these two Soviet nuclear bomb tests with the president and his closest advisors. “The Soviets fired three eleven-hundred-mile missiles yesterday at Kapustin Yar,”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“If a mentally superhuman race ever develops, its members will resemble Johnny von Neumann,” Edward Teller once said. “If you enjoy thinking, your brain develops. And that is what von Neumann did. He enjoyed the functioning of his brain.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“By contrast, Dresher and Flood found that the minority of game players who refused to testify against their criminal partner were almost always of the liberal persuasion. These individuals were willing to put themselves at risk in order to get the best possible outcome for both themselves and a colleague—just a single year’s jail time.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“In separate meetings, Army, Air Force, and Navy commanders each insisted that outer space was their service’s domain. To the Army, the moon was simply “the high ground,” and therefore part of its domain. Air Force generals, claiming that space was “just a little higher up” than the area they already controlled, tried to get Secretary McElroy interested in their plans for “creating a new Aerospace Force.” The admirals and vice admirals of the U.S. Navy argued that “outer space over the oceans” was a natural extension of the “underwater, surface and air regime in which [the Navy] operated” and should therefore be considered the Navy’s domain.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain


“DARPA’s original autonomous robot designs were developed as part of DARPA’s Smart Weapons Program decades ago, in 1983. The program was called “Killer Robots” and its motto offered prescient words: “The battlefield is no place for human beings.”
― Annie Jacobsen, quote from The Pentagon's Brain



About the author

Annie Jacobsen
Born place: in Middletown, Connecticut, The United States
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Popular quotes

“[об американцах]
— Я понимаю, они — туристы, не отличающиеся очень уж развитым воображением. Вспоминаю, как училась там в школе. Ребята там казались мне гораздо более открытыми, по крайней мере в том, что касалось личных пристрастий. Всегда рассказывали, что чувствуют.
— Да дело вовсе не в том, что они об этом не рассказывают.
— А в том, что недостаточно чувствуют?
— Да и не в этом тоже. Недостаточно знают. Не позволяют себе много знать. Как с этим Грамши, о котором ты говорила. — Он помолчал и добавил: — Всё всегда делают по правилам.
Джейн помолчала немного.
— Питер писал о чём-то вроде этого в одном из писем. Как вначале тебе нравится их прямота… а потом начинаешь тосковать по извивам.
— Я испытал то же самое. Прозрачность — прекрасная вещь. Пока не начинаешь понимать, что она основана не столько на внутренней честности, сколько на отсутствии воображения. И эта их так называемая откровенность по поводу секса. Они просто не понимают, что утратили.”
― John Fowles, quote from Daniel Martin


“It struck me that Lee was in many ways our true hero. Lee was the one who did the dirtiest jobs, quietly, without fuss, without going into big emotional scenes. He was so efficient, so reliable, so brave. Whenever we fell short, he made up the gap. I'm not just talking about the red hot moments, when enemy soldiers were shooting at us, when we were within a moment of death. I'm talking about the sourer times too, when we were so tired we could hardly remember to breathe, or we were so bored we'd pick at each other just for something to do, or so distressed we'd wish a soldier would come along and blow us into oblivion with an M16. At all those times Lee stood strong. He was like the Wirrawee grain silo. You could see the grain silo from miles away, tall and reliable. It stood for Wirrawee, and it gave you a safe comforting feeling to know it was there. That was how I'd felt about Lee during the war.”
― John Marsden, quote from The Other Side of Dawn


“Well, I was thinking this very thing. I was thinking: I am going to die today, but Jesu also died, so he knows how it is with me. And I was thinking, would he know me when I came to him? Yes! Sitting in his hall, he will see me sail into the bay, and he will run down to meet me on the shore; he will wade into the sea and pull my boat onto the sand and welcome me as his wayfaring brother. Why will he do this? Because he too has suffered, and he knows, Aeddan, he knows.” Beaming, Gunnar concluded, “Is that not good news?”
― Stephen R. Lawhead, quote from Byzantium


“Наше общество — это общество хронически несчастных людей, мучимых одиночеством и страхами, зависимых и униженных, склонных к разрушению и испытывающих радость уже от того, что им удалось «убить время», которое они постоянно пытаются сэкономить”
― Erich Fromm, quote from To Have or to Be? The Nature of the Psyche


“Bodies count, of course - they count more than we're willing to admit - but we don't fall in love with bodies, we fall in love with each other. We all know that, but the moment we go beyond a catalogue of surface qualities and appearances, words begin to fail us, to crumble apart in mystical confusions and cloudy, unsubstantial metaphors.”
― Paul Auster, quote from Oracle Night


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