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The 2001 Norbert Wiener Award

CPSR Annual Conference
October 19-21, 2001
Ann Arbor, Michigan

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The 2001 Norbert Wiener Award

Twenty Years Later: Star Wars remains Expensive Science Fiction CPSR Awards the 2001 Norbert Wiener Award to Nira Schwartz and Theodore Postol for Their Courage in Exposing that Fiction.

Computer Professionals for Social responsibility was founded twenty years ago, in part to organize the vast majority of computer scientists who understood that Star Wars was simply not within the realm of technical possibility. Twenty years later millions of lines of code - working flawlessly - the first try - remains fantasy.

CPSR Awards it Annual Norbert Wiener Award to Dr. Nira Schwartz and Dr. Theodore Postol for Exposing the Failure of Star Wars Technology. These scientists are Galileo's of our time, noting the limits of rhetoric against reality. For disagreeing with those who would accept funding on any pretense, both of these computer professionals have suffered career damage, from refused funding to unceremonious dismissal. Yet unlike Galileo, they have not renounced their findings in the face of powerful unfounded opposition.

Dr. Nira Schwartz who worked on the Star Wars project in 1995 and 1996 charged her employer, TRW, with misleading the Pentagon and the public by falsifying test results as to the ability of the system to detect real warheads from decoys. She was summarily fired, allegedly as a result of her refusal to cooperation with the publication of false test reports.

Dr. Theodore Postol, science adviser to the Chief of Naval Operations, is the expert who discredited the myth that Patriot missiles shot down Scuds successfully during Desert Storm. His independent scientific analysis of the test data concurs with Dr. Schwartz's claims of falsified results Read more recent news about Dr. Postol here.

In honoring Dr. Schwartz and Dr. Postol, CPSR celebrates its 20 years of advocacy by its membership of computer professionals working to take a broader view of the social issues of computing. CPSR's mission is to share the knowledge of the computer profession to assist society in understanding the power, promise, and limitation of computer technology.

The award is named for Norbert Wiener (1894-1964), who, in addition to a long and active scientific career that brought the word "cybernetics" into the language and laid the foundation for many aspects of modern computing, was also a leader in assessing the social implications of that new and emerging technology. Sixty-five years ago, Dr. Wiener warned of the very dangers the work of Dr. Schwartz and Postol helped to expose.

"I do not expect to publish any future work of mine which may do damage in the hands of irresponsible militarists," and he observed that ". . . the scientist ends by putting unlimited powers in the hands of the people whom he is least inclined to trust with their use. It is perfectly clear also that to disseminate information about a weapon in the present state of our civilization is to make it practically certain that weapon will be used."

The Norbert Wiener Award will be presented at the Cottage Inn, near the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Saturday, October 20, 2001 at 7:00.

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