Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Why did the US government fund research in microdrive storage, electrochemistry and signal compression? President Bush reveals the answer:
"They did so for one reason: It turned out that those were the key ingredients for the development of the iPod."
[source White House via PRnewswire, GMSV and Barry Briggs]
[see also BrewTown Politico and Engadget]

Over the years, the US Government has invested significant amounts of money into hi-tech research and development, much of it for aerospace and military purposes. Billions of dollars are poured into the space programme, but at least we get useful civilian spin-offs such as non-stick saucepans. (Wikipedia says this is an urban legend, but who can trust Wikipedia these days?) Billions of dollars are spent on DARPA, but at least we get the iPod.

This is a classic POSIWID argument. In recognition of this, I believe President Bush deserves be elected as an honorary member of the POSIWID institute for his dedicated commitment to the cause of POSIWID.

However, there are a few minor difficulties with the details of the President's argument. Although some of the iPod technology comes from Xerox Parc, some of it comes from Hitachi and Toshiba and the Fraunhofer Institute. And can the US Government take the credit for the research that enabled the iPod without also taking the credit for the research that enabled Internet porn and phishing?

It is of course possible for unprincipled thinkers to use POSIWID selectively or misleadingly, drawing attention to a minor (but popular) side-effect in order to distract attention from the major purpose. Such abuse of POSIWID would of course lead to immediate expulsion from the POSIWID institute, even for someone as prestigious as the US president.

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