Regina Dugan, the departing leader of DARPA, the Pentagon's research wing, made an impassioned pitch for failure at a recent conference hosted by the non-profit group TED, whose mission is to promote ideas worth spreading.
Though Dugan recently announced she is leaving her post for a position at Google, in her talk, "From Mach-20 Glider to Humming Bird Drone," she discussed DARPA's recent developments, including a robot that can run like a cheetah, and the agency's greatest hits, such as the Internet.
Championing the scientists and engineers at DARPA, Dugan also stressed that the agency's success comes from not fearing failure.
"When you remove the fear of failure, impossible things suddenly become possible," she said. "The path to truly new, never-been-done-before things always has failure along the way."
When asked if she worried about the Pandora's Box-like nature of some of DARPA's advancements that result in unintended consequences, Dugan talked of the importance of advancing technology.
"Look, our singular mission is the creation and prevention of strategic surprise. That's what we do. It would be inconceivable for us to do that work, if we didn't make people excited and uncomfortable with the things that we do at the same time," Dugan said. "Now, our responsibility is to push that edge and we have to be of course mindful and responsible of how the technology is developed and ultimately used. But we can't simply close our eyes and pretend that it isn't advancing. It's advancing."