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Its new director, Regina Dugan, had shepherded Nexus 7 through the Pentagon bureaucracy.
She believed in the power of crowdsourcing complicated problems and wanted DARPA to take on a more active wartime role, rather than blue-skying technologies that might remake the military 10 years down the road.
And it turns out, that's not a career he could plan for.
Post high school, White had surprised classmates by veering into the hard sciences.
By the end of a full day, White the wunderkind postdoc felt humblingly naive. White had never been privy to the details from a practical, operational perspective.
Increasingly, that perspective involved a need to make sense of gargantuan icebergs of raw and seemingly unconnected data, to pull plans and policies out of frozen mountains of intel.
"But the connectivity of the Internet is also an unprecedented mechanism for compassion, for understanding each other, ourselves, and our world. " But by the time White traveled from his Harvard postdoc to that DARPA briefing, he had already parlayed an electrical engineering degree from Oklahoma State University into a fellowship from the Department of Homeland Security, and earned his Ph. at the Center for Language and Speech Processing at Johns Hopkins University.
White had gone grudgingly, expecting a Power Point presentation, a recruiting speech, "and maybe some theoretical question like you'd expect from DARPA -- you know, see if we can build some giant laser," White says.
Instead, he got a top-level briefing on the world at war. Their acts were brutal, but their tactics and bureaucracy were sophisticated.
Sliding toward that Black Hawk's open door, White assumed it was the end. Which is to say he's not just bright and passionate, but he's also nice and strangely normal -- qualities that might seem at odds with his role as anointed visionary whiz kid.
But apparent contradiction is White's secret sauce: He's an accomplished Ashtanga yoga practitioner who has been to war, a former government employee on a first-name basis with celebrity Buddhists and legendary hackers, and a practiced martial artist who's dedicated to the solitary sit-down science of staring at computer screens.
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He then surprised his family and himself by abandoning a pre-med track for electrical engineering.