[LINK] $100 laptop could sell to public

Richard Chirgwin rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Sat Jan 20 10:35:34 AEDT 2007

Stephen Loosley wrote:
> At 09:00 AM 19/01/2007, Tom writes:
>> I am still not sure a $100 laptop for each child is the way
> Neither am I but people are working hard to do exactly that. 
> And I do think it's fat-white-west to diss these efforts to give
> remote schools free, clockwork and quite desirable laptops.
> The only people who could possibly attack anyone working
> to help others in this way would be people actually trying to
> send free pipes-to-Pakistan. They want both, why not help?
The politician's syllogism: "We must do something -- this is something 
-- we must do this".

Nobody is denying the need to help, we're debating the value of this 
particular initiative.
> And, why would one crap on efforts to help kids in any way?
> Uninformed cynicism might seem almost 'evil' to some folk.
> Basically, if you don't like it, either help or get out of the way
> is the over-whelming response one is hearing on other lists.
Sequitur please? In what way do I have to accept an instruction from 
someone, somewhere, that I need to shut my mouth because I have some 
responsibility to "get with the program"? In what way is discussion or 
debate of the merits of the idea somehow wrong or unacceptable.

I have said before - but it is wasted breath in front of a zealot - that 
if an idea is a good idea, then it can stand scrutiny. If it's not a 
good idea, then debate is the right thing to do. But if the idea - 
whether it's fibre to the home or OLPC - cannot stand discussion, then 
it's the idea which is at fault, not the discussion. "Help <our way> or 
get out of the way" is not debate, and let me be one against a hundred, 
I will still say "the idea needs debate".
> Maybe it is the wrong way to help (?) but people who would
> not be helping in any way are rushing to do just that. Laying
> off the uninformed 'rich-white-sophisticate' seems sensible.
I wish to be informed, but there are many points in the OLPC debate 
about which information is hard to come by. Let me give one example: to 
accept that OLPC is a good way to spend money on third-world education, 
I have to accept many premises all at once:
1. Computers are a better way to spend money than teachers and books
2. The relevant governments place a high value on a particular kind of 
education which is best facilitated by computers
3. The OLPC is the best or most feasible way to deliver the computers
4. The computers themselves will provide long-term value without "doing 
what computers do" and falling out of step with the information and 
software they need to access five years from now

Now: (2) is ridiculous, with many governments visibly and loudly 
anti-education; while (3) and (4) are still debatable.

As for (1): it is supported by much more advocacy than evidence. "So 
many educated people have computers" is evidence that education allows 
you to buy things, including computers; it doesn't offer evidence that 
computers support the education. "Look at all the laptops students 
carry" is evidence that there's a status race among schools, students 
and parents. And even educational software itself is subject to regular 
revolutions which suggests to someone who's watched this stuff for a 
couple of decades that we're still surveying the territory even in the west.

The OLPC is driven by fine sentiments and laudable enthusiasm. Sentiment 
and enthusiasm are good for petrol in the tank, but they're lousy 
map-readers. So what is the sin in asking these questions? That I offend 
someone's enthusiasms? I think I can live with myself...

> Cheers, linkers
> Stephen Loosley
> Victoria, Australia

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