[iDC] One Laptop Per Child - MIT/Negroponte Initiative

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Wed Jan 2 21:58:15 UTC 2008

Very well put, Steve.  I have been thinking about those LED lights a
lot, lately.  They are very good. But they could be bad if they
lengthen the workday without a correpsonding rise in wealth relative
to the cost of living.  Most people, especially desperate people,
would leap at the opportunity to increase their income...  they have
little choice.  LED lights alone are not necessarily enough to provide
the social good that they make possible.

To make an analogy....  I live in Michigan, in the USA, and most
people here do understand that their standard of living is taking a
steep nosedive.  They want to preserve that standard of living, so
they take out credit cards and shop at Walmart, without fully
considering the long-term consequences to these behaviors.  Or if they
are considering the consequences....  they don't necessarily have the
wiggle room to make the necessary economic adjustments to avoid credit
card debt if they wanted to.  Some people just spend too much money on
crap that they don't need.   But we have been told for years that our
"economy" will cover our debts and that we ought to borrow money to
improve our credits scores and, after 9/11, protect freedom from evil.
 And here we are talking about a relatively comfortable and
well-educated class of citizen relative to the global population.

Speaking for myself, what makes me the most nervous is when this
notion of technology/innovation/development is concieved of too
narrowly.  I think sometimes we think of ourselves as giving gifts,
but if we cannot honestly discuss the heavy penalties that come with
those gifts (and if we cannot account for the human labor that has
gone into those gifts) then we are holding something back.  And that
is dangerous.

I think back on Nestle's gift of infant formula to women in Africa.
Giving away formula is an ok thing to do for people who would not
otherwise survive without it.  But denying these women information
about what this formula would do to their milk supply or, worse,
convincing them that manufactured formula is superior to their own
breastmilk is an act of homicide.  Maybe Nestle was only trying to

If we are cagey about critiquing these laptops here....  what kind of
information would we honsetly be willing to provide when we ship them
overseas?  How can we truly share these laptops if we are already
convinced that any accidents that may happen as a result of them are
just "tough luck" or "user errors."  We might as well be giving away
AKs if this is the attitude we are going to have...  I mean, you could
use a rifle as a canoe oar, right?


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