SRI International is a fascinating research organization with a long and varied history.
This month, SRI International International put out a news release celebrating 65 years of innovation.
SRI is known throughout the science community as an organization that often steps outside the bounds of mainstream science.
Additionally, it is known throughout the communities of fringe science enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists as an organization that often stands on the cutting edge of the next “impossible” breakthrough.
Finally, it is also known within skeptic circles as the organization that sometimes explores areas of science that is rather ridiculous – a foregone conclusion of impossibility.
However, many would say that where there is funding, you will find scientists willing to examine just about any possibility you could imagine.
The History of SRI International
After years of receiving funding from area businesses throughout the West Coast, the trustees of Stanford University decided to establish an official research institute at the University.
That institute was founded in 1946, nearly a year after the U.S. had dropped atomic bombs on Japan and ended WWII.
Initially, the organization was called “Stanford Research Institute”. Then in 1970, the Insitute had grown to the point where it could exist independent of the University. It was then renamed to SRI International.
What is particularly interesting about the Institute is that it professes to exist under a noble mission statement. On the SRI FAQ page, the authors write:
“We are committed to discovery and to the application of science and technology for knowledge, commerce, prosperity, and peace.”
However, given the history of research conducted there, and the resulting profits that its work has brought its clients, one would not be blamed for questioning just what percentage of those efforts are altruistic, and how much is primarily focused on the “commerce, prosperity” part of the equation.
Setting the Corporate interests aside, the truth is that throughout its long history, SRI really did produce some of the coolest technologies that exist today.
They Discovered That?!
Now, anyone that has seen some of my past research into remove viewing and the fringe scientist by the name of Hal Puthoff knows how I feel about his endeavors into the world of Scientology e-meters, his exploration of whether or not eggs have feelings, and his activities within Ufology leave a great deal to be desired.
While they certainly do not advertise it these days, Hal Puthoff was the principle researcher conducting psychic/remote-viewing research at SRI in the 1970s.
It was eventually government-funded, and then brought into the realm of black-research into the early 1980s at the Air Force, the Army, as well as under the DIA during the years until a few sane people within the government recognized that the U.S. was bleeding money into this endless, non-productive research and squashed it for good.
But if you think that the fact that the organization funded psychic research is indicative of poor management and unstable mental state of the decision-makers, you would be mistaken.
Amazing SRI Accomplishments
Despite that episode, SRI has actually produced amazing discoveries since it was first founded. A few of those include the following:
–> In 1969, SRI hosted the Network Information Clearinghouse, one of the first four nodes (computers) that made up the Internet of the time, known as ARPANET. It could be said that history was made when the very first Internet transmission took place on October 29, 1969 between the University of California at Los Angelos, and Stanford Research Institute at Menlo Park.
–> In the late 1960s, Douglas C. Engelbart developed the very first computer mouse. It was a rudimentary device made of metal and difficult to use, but it was eventually licensed to the major computer companies and became the critical computer tool everyone uses today.
–> SRI developed “Over-the-Horizon Radar”, which essentially transmits high-power radar beams off of the earth’s ionosphere to reflect it back to earth many miles away. This allows the detection and tracking of objects over an impressive 1600 nautical miles.
–> Were you mesmerized when you first saw the Wizard of Oz scene where Technicolor takes over in Oz? Well you can thank SRI, because it co-created Technicolor too.
–> Did you cry when you saw the baby moving in side your stomach when you had your first ultrasound? Yeah, you can thank SRI for that too.
–> 60 Years ago, SRI came up with a system of printing electronic numbers on the bottom of checks that allowed for them to be automatically read and and posted by electronic systems. The general system is still in use six decades later.
–> SRI was one of the first organizations in the world to examine the concept of artificial intelligence long before the concept of computer chips and high-power processors were even in existence. During the 60s and 70s, SRI developed “Shakey” a robot that used a TV camera, a range finder, a radio antenna and various other technologies of the day – combined with a SDS-940 computer running Fortran and Lisp software – to successfully manage simple tasks requiring artificial intelligence.
The bottom line is that, even though SRI gets a lot of flak from many skeptics for the silliness that went on there in the 1970s involving Scientologists playing around in the labs, pretending that they could see over long distances with their mind – for the most part SRI really was actually a first-class research institute that has had a tremendous impact in the world within which we live today.