Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper used a July 1984 address to the American Society of Naval Engineers to offer a master class in how the Sea Services should meld technology and innovation to maintain the nation’s advantages.1 Her speech—“Future Possibilities: Data, Hardware, Software, and People”—has so elegantly withstood the test of time, it would have been an attractive entry in this year’s Emerging and Disruptive Technology contest.2 Three key facets of the mind-set that facilitated her contributions to the national advantage would serve the Navy well if they could be embraced today. To outpace adversaries, the Navy must adopt a problem-first, future-focused, and sailor-driven ethos. The best disruptive technologies will be its fruit.
1. Hopper’s rank in 1984 was Commodore, which became “Rear Admiral (lower half)” in 1985. Her rank at retirement is used throughout.
2. RDML Grace Hopper, USN (Ret.), “Luncheon Address: Future Possibilities: Data, Hardware, Software and People,” Naval Engineers Journal 96, no. 4 (July 1984): 45–52; all RDML Hopper’s remarks above are quoted from this speech.
3. Megan Eckstein, “Navy Reverting DDGs Back to Physical Throttles, after Fleet Rejects Touchscreen Controls,” USNI News, 9 August 2019.
4. Eckstein, “Navy Reverting DDGs.”
5. John A. Lukacs IV, “Century of Replenishment at Sea,” Naval History 32, no. 3 (June 2018).
6. K. Hafner and M. Lyon, Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 41.
7. J. F. Morton, “Profound Simplicity, Part I: Aegis as a High Reliability Organization,” The Navalist, 18 September 2017.
8. D. Spradlin, “Are You Solving the Right Problem?” Harvard Business Review 90, no. 9 (September 2012): 84–93.
9. R. Garner, “NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope Returns to Science Operations,” NASA, nasa.gov, 8 October 2018.
10. Safi Bahcall, Loonshots (New York: Findaway World, LLC, 2019).
11. NAVADMIN 103/10.
12. LTJG Richard Kuzma, USN, et al., “Innovation Talk Is Cheap—Start Innovating,” U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings 145, no. 4 (April 2019).
13. D. Sculley et al., “Winner’s Curse? On Pace, Progress, and Empirical Rigor,” openreview.net.
14. S. Hicks et al., “Dissecting Deep Neural Networks for Better Medical Image Classification and Classification Understanding,” 2018 IEEE 31st International Symposium on Computer-Based Medical Systems (CBMS), Karlstad, 2018, 363–68.
15. J. Mickens, “Q: Why Do Keynote Speakers Keep Suggesting That Improving Security Is Possible? A: Because Keynote Speakers Make Bad Life Decisions and Are Poor Role Models,” USENIX 2018, August 2018, Baltimore, MD.
16. D. Sundheim, “Successful Innovators Don’t Care about Innovating,” Harvard Business Review 92, no. 10 (October 2014).