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Intelligent Machines

Arthur Bushkin ‘65, SM ‘67, EE ‘69

Information technology pioneer promotes open K-12 initiatives

Chart the history and growth of information technology and you’ll find Arthur Bushkin at pivotal moments, starting with the birth of the Internet.

Bushkin, who earned MIT degrees in mathematics and electrical engineering, was a grad student and instructor at the Institute when he was chosen through its Project on Mathematics and Computation (Project MAC) to spend the summer of 1967 with the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in Washington, DC. He led efforts related to privacy and security, and he worked on the precursor to the ARPAnet project, which evolved into the Internet. Bushkin visited many classified sites and command centers to understand how they used information so their requirements could be addressed once computers were networked.

This story is part of the May/June 2011 Issue of the MIT News Magazine
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Back at MIT, Bushkin continued consulting for ARPA and authored key reports for Congress and the Executive Office of the President on privacy and security issues. In the 1970s, he directed the Carter administration’s effort to enact the Right to Financial Privacy Act of 1978. As president of Bell Atlantic Video Services (now Verizon) in the early 1990s, he led the effort to introduce video on demand.

In 1999, he left the corporate sector to create the Stargazer Foundation, which initially aimed to promote the public good through online educational and communication services. The altruistic focus reflected MIT’s influence on him. “I’ve always felt an obligation to use the knowledge and the opportunities that I’ve received to help humanity,” he says.

After 9/11, Stargazer’s focus shifted to safety and emergency response. The foundation won an award for its technology that automated emergency communications among all local and federal agencies in DC; it was used in situations such as the anthrax scare and Hurricane Ernesto.

In 2008, Bushkin refocused his social activism on education and now promotes open K-12 resources for all students and teachers. He seeks to develop a platform where all current fee-based and free educational tools—online tutoring, educational software, curricular materials, and more—are universally available and vetted by educators. This is a huge project requiring not only new technologies but also changes to funding and perhaps to teacher-licensing regulations. Though progress has been slow, he remains undaunted: “I’m absolutely committed to doing this for the rest of my productive life.”

A divorced father of two, Bushkin lives in Vienna, Virginia, where he enjoys writing—he maintains a blog (www.artbushkin.com) and is working on a novel—and weekly jam sessions on his electric guitar. “When I’m playing rock and roll with my buddies,” he says, “the world stops.”

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