Tuesday, May 13, 2008

In case you think I was too hard on One Laptop Per Child head Nicholas Negroponte in my last blog post, here's one of the milder bits from a scathing polemic by former project security guru Ivan Krstić:

I quit when Nicholas told me — and not just me — that learning was never part of the mission. The mission was, in his mind, always getting as many laptops as possible out there; to say anything about learning would be presumptuous, and so he doesn't want OLPC to have a software team, a hardware team, or a deployment team going forward.

Yeah, I'm not sure what that leaves either.

It seems Negroponte's much touted rhetoric about "an education project, not a laptop project" was all for show. As I said in the last post, it's all about shipping as many computers as possible, never mind what happens next.

And yes, that quote is mild; Krstić goes on to warn of a looming "historical fuckup unparalleled in scale," unless the project starts to seriously work on deployment. There really wasn't much more to the plan than to ship thousands of laptops in crates, and let the kids figure it out; for complaining about this, Krstić got a ticket to South America to try to make it work. Which it did, in some places, to an extent that I find surprising, but that's a report from a pilot site that received Krstić's personal help during startup; part of the problem is the lack of effective surveys to see whether that best-case report is typical. Besides, if the kids really were all figuring it out for themselves, the remaining OLPC staffers wouldn't be pleading for outside assistance. (Though, regardless, "historical fuckup unparalleled in scale" is a little much even for me. With computers, you can err a great deal, but to really fuck up, you need deadly weapons.)

The whole jeremiad is worth a read, including some interesting and useful reality checks on utopian rhetoric in the open source community...

(via OLPC news; note also this entry subjected to a lot more late editing than usual...)


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11:06 PM  

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