I am working on a presentation today, a riff on a theme I have often mentioned in these blogs under the title: The Internet transfigures humanity. In the course of reviewing the history of U.S. higher education in the twentieth-century, I reread President Eisenhower's farewell speech. In search of understanding the context around which he coined the famous "military-industrial complex" phrase, I discovered that higher education has a walk on role in the drama. Here is what President Eisenhower had to say:
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.
It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society.
Wow! How prescient and contemporary is this description! What do you all think about the relationship of the military, industry, technology, higher education and government?
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