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SDI: A Violation of Professional Responsibility. A presentation by: Rong Gu Cincy Francis Amitkumar Dhameja. SDI: A Violation of Professional Responsibility. Contents: SDI – An Overview Parnas & SDI The Role of Computers The Decision to Act Some Critical Issues Broader Questions

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sdi a violation of professional responsibility

SDI: A Violation of Professional Responsibility

A presentation by:

Rong Gu

Cincy Francis

Amitkumar Dhameja

sdi a violation of professional responsibility1

SDI: A Violation of Professional Responsibility


SDI – An Overview

Parnas & SDI

The Role of Computers

The Decision to Act

Some Critical Issues

Broader Questions

Parnas’ Advice


Our Opinion

sdi an overview

SDI - An Overview

Strategic Defense Initiative:

A U.S. government program responsible for research and development of a space-based system to defend the nation from attack by strategic ballistic missiles

Popularly referred to as “Star Wars”

Announced by President Ronald Reagan in a speech in March of 1983

sdi an overview1

SDI - An Overview

Strategic Defense Initiative:

Administered by the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (renamed Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, 1993)

Under Department of Defense, assisted by NASA

sdi an overview2

SDI - An Overview

SDI Aims:

To develop a network of satellites carrying sensors, weapons and computers

To detect ICBMs and intercept them in mid-air

To free us from the fear of nuclear weapons, and make nuclear strategic missiles impotent and obsolete

sdi an overview3

SDI - An Overview

“Some say it will bring war to the heavens. But its purpose is to deter war in the heavens and on earth. Now some say the research would be expensive. Perhaps, but it could save millions of lives, indeed, humanity itself.”

- President Ronald Reagan

sdi a software classification

SDI – A Software Classification

Four Classes of Usage

Man-rated: Software so important and critical that lives may depend on it. Examples: SDI, ATC, Medical device software

Enterprise-rated: Software critical to the uninterrupted operation of an enterprise. Examples: ATMs, Web-commerce software.

sdi a software classification1

SDI – A Software Classification

Four Classes of Usage

Good-enough: Business software not critical but maybe used frequently. Examples: Personal productivity applications, much client & single user software

Don’t-care: Non-critical, business or personal entertainment software. Examples: Games, seldom used utilities

parnas sdi

Parnas & SDI

Parnas’ Involvement in SDI :

Approached by the SDIO in May of 1985

$1000/day SDIO Panel on Computing in Support of Battle Management

Resigned 2 months later

parnas sdi1

Parnas & SDI

Professional Responsibility:

A professional

Is responsible for his own actions and cannot rely on any external authority to make his decisions for him

Cannot ignore ethical and moral issues

Must make sure that he is solving the real problem, not simply providing short-term satisfaction to his supervisor

Shouldn’t hesitate to “blow the whistle”

parnas sdi2

Parnas & SDI

Parnas’ Early Doubts:

Whether any such system could meet the requirements

Possible conflict of interests

Whether such a system would be trustworthy

Would it be useful to build a system we did not trust

parnas sdi3

Parnas & SDI

Why trustworthiness is essential:

If the system is not trustworthy

US will not abandon deterrence and nuclear missiles

Seeing both a “shield” and missiles, USSR would feel impelled to improve its offensive forces

US not trusting its defense, would join in, in the arms race

Result – a more dangerous world, instead of a safer one

the role of computers

The Role of Computers

Computers must:

Process and analyze vast amounts of data produced by the sensors

Detect missile firings, determine source, compute trajectories

Discriminate between warheads and decoys

Aim and fire the weapons

Software is the glue that holds the system together, if software is not trustworthy, the system isn’t either!

the role of computers1

The Role of Computers

Limits of Software Technology:

Lack of validation methods mean we cannot expect a real program to work properly the first time it’s used

Tests/simulations fail to uncover all serious problems

Reliability & trustworthiness – only through extensive use.

why software for sdi is difficult

Why Software forSDI is Difficult

Based on assumptions about target and decoy characteristics controlled by attacker

Espionage could render it worthless, so could overloading

Dependence on communicating computers in satellites makes it vulnerable

why software for sdi is difficult1

Why Software forSDI is Difficult

A satellite will require data from other satellites to assist in tracking, discrimination & countering noise

Realistic testing of hardware & software through “practice” nuclear wars impossible


the decision to act

The Decision to Act

Some reasons Parnas got in support of SDI:

Research money would advance the state of computer science!

The money was going to be spent anyway and Parnas should help to see it well spent!

There could be 100,000 errors in the software and it would still work properly!

the decision to act1

The Decision to Act

Some reasons Parnas got in support of SDI:

There was no fundamental law of computer science that said the problem could not be solved!

Parnas – and other SDI critics – are demanding perfection!

the decision to act2

The Decision to Act

Parnas Resigns…

Found no scientist who disagreed with his conclusions

Every reply argued with statements other than those Parnas had published

“Taking money allocated for a shield against nuclear missiles, while knowing that such a shield was impossible, seemed like fraud to me” – Parnas

some critical issues

Some Critical Issues

The “90%” Distraction

3 layers, each 90% effective – overall leakage is less than 1% as effectiveness multiplies

Parnas reveals

90% figure picked for illustration

Assumes performance of each layer is independent of others


some critical issues1

Some Critical Issues

The “Loose Coordination” Distraction (Eastport Group, Dec. 1985)

Phase I architectures – excessively tight coordination between “battle stations”

Software difficulties could be overcome with loose coordination

New Phase I studies be started

critical issues

Critical Issues

The “Loose Coordination” Distraction

Parnas Argues

Loose coordination???

Loose coordination – reduced communication between stations

Later sections discuss need for extensive communication – Inconsistency

critical issues1

Critical Issues

Eastport Group’s Unstated Assumptions

Battle stations do not need data from other satellites to perform their functions

 False!!!

Data from other satellites is essential for accurate tracking and discrimination between warheads & decoys

critical issues2

Critical Issues

Eastport Group’s Unstated Assumptions

An simple battle station is a small software project that will not run into software difficulties described before

 False!!!

Each battle station is unlikely to work, impossible to test, impossible to trust

critical issues3

Critical Issues

Eastport Group’s Unstated Assumptions

The only interaction between the stations is by explicit communication

 False!!!

Communication through weapons, sensors and through shared targets. Weapons, destruction of targets creates noise.

critical issues4

Critical Issues

Eastport Group’s Unstated Assumptions

A collection of communicating systems differs in fundamental ways from a single system

 False!!!

A collection of communication programs is mathematically equivalent to a single program. In practice, distribution makes the problem harder, not easier

some critical issues2

Some Critical Issues

1985 CPSR-MIT Debate:

David Parnas,

Joseph Weinazenbaum

(Against SDI)


Charles Seitz,

Danny Cohen

(In favor of SDI)

some critical issues3

Some Critical Issues

Parnas’ arguments:

Specifications cannot be known in advance

Realistic testing is essentially impossible

Hard real-time deadlines do not allow repair during use

No foreseeable advance in software tech changes this

Therefore – It is not possible to construct SDI software that you could trust to work

some critical issues4

Some Critical Issues

Steitz’s arguments:

The current objective of SDI is to conduct the vigorous research necessary to build a defense system

Such a system can be written using conventional software techniques coupled with radical hardware architecture

This will greatly aid in the testing, simulation and modification of SDI

some data on sdi

Some Data on SDI

TOP 10 SDI contractors 1983-1986:($Thousand)

Source: Council on Economic Priorities 1987

some data on sdi1

Some Data on SDI

Distribution of requested SDI funding in major research areas in

FY1985:($ Million)

Source: Waller et al. 1986: 15

broader questions

Broader Questions

Is SDIO sponsored work of good quality?

Phase I studies – Eastport vs. SDIO contractors/evaluators

Big promises, low quality

Bypasses scientific review processes, no real scientific contribution

broader questions1

Broader Questions

Do those who take SDIO funds really disagree with Parnas?

Remember the reasons Parnas got in support of SDI?

The blind led by those with their eyes shut

Often people indulge in unprofessional behavior just to not displease the customer

broader questions2

Broader Questions

The role of academic institutions

Institutional pressures in favor of accepting research funds from any source

A researcher judged on his ability to attract funds

DoD is a major administrator of research funds – consequently many institutions are working on SDIO

broader questions3

Broader Questions

Should we pursue SDI for other reasons?

Parnas says

“Good research stands on its own merits; poor research must masquerade as something else”

“Over funded research is like heroin, it leads to addiction, weakens the mind, and leads to prostitution” – Prof. Janusz Makowski

parnas advices

Parnas’ Advices

Determine participation in defense projects by:

Considering effectiveness of project

Prioritizing legitimate defense interests of the country

Emphasizing individual responsibility

our opinion

Our Opinion

Is SDI really impossible???

As our technologies evolve the system becomes more realistic

Present systems show some signs of success

Reliability/trustworthiness can be achieved through testing

Testing can be done via computer simulations (e.g. Nuclear Tests are no longer necessary)

Changes in hardware (Sensors, weapon delivery systems, etc.) can compensate for no advances in Software technology

Better algorithms should be developed to counter noise, detect decoys, etc.

“SDI is the way to go” – Amit, Cincy, Rong