Jonathan Zittrain on Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop per Child Project

Topic: Jonathan Zittrain on Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop per Child Project

Jonathan Zittrain: I closed the book with the XO, otherwise known as the one laptop per child project, because I feel in some ways that in the developed world, we've had our romp, through generative technologies, at a time when we had the innocence of not realizing just how important they'd become. We could do stuff unselfconsciously, code those flying toasters, because it was all fun. It wasn't some huge dot com play worth billions of dollars. At the time, we were messing around. It's harder to keep that sense of unselfconsciousness going, now that we know what the stakes are, and how vitally important the technologies have become. I think the developing world, there's less, at the moment, invested in it. As the next 1 to 2 billion people get online, what technologies will they be given? Will it be in a consumerist model? Here's a new mobile phone, and you can use this mobile phone to check the weather and see crop reports and stuff like that. Very useful, but sterile. Or will it be a technology that lets people in those communities, the one nerd out of 2,000 that might be hanging around, learns to affect the way the phone works, will they have a chance to have a vote and to hack around and to have fun? I'm hoping the answer is yes, on the faith that when they do, it'll be put generally to interesting and good uses, rather than to bad ones. There are people I quote in that chapter, Gene Spafford, at Purdue, who says, "I can't believe this one laptop per child program, that's putting more or less generative laptops in the hands of kids." It's like, my god, we have the plague going on right now. What we need is to give rats to people, because he's figuring, there's already enough spam and trouble. Why would you give people the tools to make more? I guess I disagree with that, but that's a risk. It's a spin of the wheel, to see how it will be used. It's also interesting to see the ways in which the one laptop per child is a combination of sterile and generative. In order not to have kids have them stolen from them, soon after they receive them, they actually have a phone home feature. If the laptop doesn't check in at the designated school every so often, it dies, and that makes it less worthy of stealing, just like a car with a low jack that disables the car. That requires some element of control form the center.

 

Recorded on: 3/8/08

The developed world has had its romp, Zittrain says.

Related Articles

Scientists discover what caused the worst mass extinction ever

How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.

Credit: Ron Miller
Surprising Science

While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.

Keep reading Show less

Why we're so self-critical of ourselves after meeting someone new

A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.

New acquaintances probably like you more than you think. (Photo by Simone Joyner/Getty Images)
Surprising Science

We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.

Keep reading Show less

NASA launches ICESat-2 into orbit to track ice changes in Antarctica and Greenland

Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.

Firing three pairs of laser beams 10,000 times per second, the ICESat-2 satellite will measure how long it takes for faint reflections to bounce back from ground and sea ice, allowing scientists to measure the thickness, elevation and extent of global ice
popular

Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).

Keep reading Show less