Saturday, December 20, 2008

SJ’s Longest Now G1G1 2008 : give a laptop, change the world

SJ’s Longest Now G1G1 2008 : give a laptop, change the world
Jonah Johansen

Comment on November 16th, 2008.

Ah yes teens can play video games while waiting for the UN truck to deliver the next weeks food shipment. Never mind that the surrounding fields go un-plowed and un-planted because there is no fuel for the tractors and no market for agricultural production thanks to those food shipments.

The sole result of 20 years of billions of dollars in food aid to Ethiopia has simply been the doubling of the number of hungry people and not a bushel of increased production.

Give every person in Ethiopia a $3000 Laptop with free wireless connectivity in 2009 and you will have 100 billion dollars of feelgood self-congratulation in America, being called a visionary by Thomas Friedman on The Charlie Rose Show and a million more hungry Ethiopian children.

Michael Stone

Comment on November 18th, 2008.

Tell me why requiring US buyers to buy two isn’t unlawful national origin discrimination.


Comment on November 20th, 2008.

I agree with Jonah Johansen. Ok, so the kids can learn how to use a laptop and can see other kids around the world with it. How does that create jobs for their future or get their land fertile and growing food? Yes, education IS important, but I think healthier, stronger children are more important that technologically savvy ones. Let’s get them living a quality life first before we give them gadgets!

Faisal Haddad

Comment on November 26th, 2008.

OMG… are you people serious? They can’t feed themselves but they’ll be laptop and wireless savvy? They can’t tend to their own medical needs but they’ll be able to surf the web? They can’t communicate about ending their own tribal conflicts but they can email the rest of the world details about the horrific massacres?
Jonah has it right and I’ll add that this is merely another exercise in “feel good mental masturbation” where the root of the problem is not being corrected but a liberal application of “toss them a distraction” helps us sleep better at night.
Anyone supporting this should have their logic examined by a professional. Just as the early American settlers got off their ass, plowed and tended the fields, worked to overcome every hardship, adversity, and obstacle to bend the earth to suit their subsistence needs; these underdeveloped peoples should get off their ass and quit repopulating until they have molded their environment into a sustainable existence.
Let them use the XO machines to dig furrows and plant crops!


Comment on November 27th, 2008.

I agree with those who say it’s stupid to give the underdeveloped kids a laptop to “play video games on” instead of teaching them to make the land useful. However, I think if these kids see how other kids are doing in more fortunate areas, they will be more inclined to “get off their ass” and do something about it to be more like them. They can search online for ways to plow and fertilize the land, and maybe send a request to the UN to send seeds to plant. If they use the internet to learn, they can develop very quickly. All they have to do is “take a look around” to the other areas of the world to see what they too can achieve.


Comment on December 19th, 2008.

My personal experience is that this kind of program works with kids who are at risk, and not the most vulnerable or poor. I appreciate deeply the comments above that say a laptop is frivolous or ignoring the problems of kids whose most basic needs have not been met (safety, food, shelter, physical and mental health, love.) Without this foundation, thriving and learning are impossible. And yes, it is easy to criticize a project that ignores this – it’s a sexy feel good tech solution that increases the market of computer literate future consumers. Is that philanthropy?

But so many kids are on the brink of expanding their opportunity, even in the poorest countries. It’s the really lucky kids in poor countries, if given the chance and the tools, who will create lasting change in their communities, and who will benefit directly from programs like OLPC. Hopefully their friends and neighbors will also benefit from the expanded opportunity as well. And if only the users benefit, well those are kids who would have suffered from ignorance. I have a hard time begrudging their opportunity. It’s not fair, and it’s not perfect, but then who ever said life was either? Or said another way, the enemy of good is perfect.

Another group of kids this will benefit is the wealthy, the Get1 kids. I hope this project will help them understand more about poor nations, introduce them to philanthropy, and hopefully develop their sense of compassion. For all the kids this benefits, this is a very good opportunity. It’s not the best or most important project, but I believe it has its place among many worthy endeavors.

These are some select comments from the Get One, Give One post on a blog post about the program. I feel the need to respond to ideas like this and challenge them. The easiest post to tear apart it Michael Stone's. Here is a prime example of someone who has comprehended, or read, almost nothing before he shoots his mouth (or fingers) off. The G1G1 program does not require US buyers to do anything different than any other buyer. If I lived in Rwanda, Uganda, Mozambique, South Africa, or the Congo and I wanted to purchase a laptop I would be charged the same $400 USD as someone in the UK, Russia, or the Americas. That $400 buys a laptop for myself and gives a laptop to some kid in a developing country. I suppose you might say that deciding to give kids in Africa a gift is illegal gift-giving discrimination, but then you'd be an idiot.

I think my next favourite post is Jonah Johansen's. I will in no way dispute his argument that billions of dollars in food aid only increases the amount of hungry people. In fact, that's probably a fairly sound argument. His first fallacy is in this statement:
$3000 Laptop with free wireless

The OLPC is not a $3000 laptop by any stretch of the imagination. Its only features above and beyond my $800-when-I-bought-it-2-years-ago laptop are durability and lower power consumption. If my laptop cannot be sold for $800 today, what makes Johansen believe $3000 is a good number to invent? It's a terrible fallacy and one Johansen should be ashamed of.

you will have ... a million more hungry Ethiopian children.
somehow manages to conclude that providing laptops causes hunger. I can only just fathom an inkling of the kind of reasoning that could produce such an incredibly uneducated and unintelligent link. If anything, it's difficult to say that an increase in technology could increase the amount of hungry lives. However, even this base assumption could not be farther from the truth. I am not aware of any situation where further education did not improve the general quality of life. With the OLPC connectivity that allows these children the opportunity to be exposed to other points of view, these kids will most likely expand their intelligence which will affect all areas of their lives. In university, we have classes such as writing and philosophy, yet these subjects do not seem to provide one single "bushel of increased production." What is their purpose? Because they do, in reality, provide an increase in production. When I learn about the Economy of Batch, I realize that it's almost as easy for me to produce 500 gallons of porridge at once. This frees up the 50 other people, who used to produce smaller batches of porridge, and allows them to produce other things of value. Exposure to other ideas will improve the quality of life for these kids, period.

I'll have to respond to the other comment(s) later.