watching the conference concerning the $100 laptop project
from MIT and Nicholas Negroponte. First of all, this guy is off his rocker, and it encourages me immensely. He is a geek in the true sense… both him and the CTO sitting in front the press. I mean, as the press ask questions both he and her go off into details that do not relate which is a sign that their mind is running with a ton of adrenalin and passion.
“Passionate” is a great way to describe this. Problems of distribution, final cost of the laptops and other hard to take problems do not get them down. It’s not that they are ignoring it but they could do exactly that when you look at the sponsorship they are receiving. I mean, christ, Kofi Annan cracked the powers shaft of the laptop like a giddy child for the cameras. It is wonderful to see huge companies that don’t give a penny away without branding someones mind to be their slave are supporting this project passionately. It is evidence that there is money out there are pie in the sky philanthropy. So if that encourages you, then start spending some of your brain cells in thinking of other revolutions.
Where am I going with this thought… passion can get you a long ways. Just make one rule to yourself. Make the dream so brilliant that the worse case is still bright, at least.
Take Open Source and transport it to education and you have the Wikipedia effort to create easy to access and universal schoolbooks (also see Lawrence Lessigs thoughts and the discussion from his readers). Now the $100 laptop gives such an effort a platform. I also agree with Nicholas’s feeling that part of the choice that everything on the laptop should be Open Source. His vision, slogan for this device is that this help children learn learning. Open Source gives you this capability. Why? It is much more difficult to learn something when you are told to only deal at one level, and that you cannot go to another because the API’s and details of how things work is Closed Source. Hitting such a wall kills the enthusiasm you have at that moment. To maintain enthusiasm you have to force yourself to expect such walls and this breaks down and slowly kills the most affective of learning… dissecting to the core. Open Source means you can explore and not reach any walls. And these children that have these laptops are going to explore every part of it.
MS should be preparing themselves to become more transparent in their method of development so that they can exploit the children of 20 years from now that are used to more open models of innovation.
As a side note: Nicholas said that one of the things he hopes is that there will not be a big black market for the devices because peers will look down on others that are not teachers or students and that are carrying around the laptops. Ahem, B.S.. if a child wanted to sell me one for $200 I’d buy it and use it while sipping a coffee at starbucks. And you know what, everyone in the house would lust over it. No, Kofi Annan is right… to reduce that threat you need to have a commercial market as well (which Nicholas said there would be) but you need to make sure that the cost of the commercial version of the laptop is also low so that the price for someone to distribute the laptops back to a greymarket would not bring substantial profit.
As a final comment, this is one of the most amazing conferences I’ve seen. You have government dignitaries from all over the world, Kofi Anan, original creators of the Internet, a creator of the modern Laptop… all in the room referencing each other.