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Dvorak Slams OLPC As 'Naive Fiasco' 740

Posted by Zonk
from the snark-snark-snark dept.
theodp writes "PC Magazine's John C. Dvorak has a unique take on the cute One Laptop per Child XO-1, deeming the OLPC project a naive fiasco waiting to unfold that sends an insulting 'let them eat cake' message to the world's poor. When it comes down to a choice of providing African kids living in absolute poverty with access to Slashdot or a $200 truckload of rice, Dvorak votes for the latter. Buy ten OLPCs if it assuages your guilt, says Dvorak, but 'I'll donate my money to hunger relief.'"
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Dvorak Slams OLPC As 'Naive Fiasco'

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  • New section (Score:5, Insightful)

    by HandsOnFire (1059486) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:22PM (#21633485)
    We have space, hardware, your rights online, apple, etc...

    Can we have a john dvorak section so I have a shot at filtering out all his crap?
    • by eddy (18759) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:10PM (#21634055) Homepage Journal
      Don't think giving him that much attention would be good, but how about one section for just "Some Analcyst says.." stories? That would be great.
    • by celle (906675) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:13PM (#21634085)
      Just filter out Zonk and Kdawson. Judging from the summaries they give I wonder if either one of them made it out of high school.
    • Re:New section (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hockney Twang (769594) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:20PM (#21634147)
      I have a solution. If you use the Greasemonkey Firefox extension or Opera userscripts, load up this little guy: http://parksideninjas.com/greasemonkey/antidvorakscript.user.js [parksideninjas.com]

      Will remove any story with a summary containing the word "Dvorak".
      • by spvo (955716) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:04PM (#21634601)
        Since your reading a dvorak article, its obviously not too effective :P
      • quarantine (Score:4, Funny)

        by epine (68316) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:21PM (#21634769)
        Slashdot degrades itself when it runs stories by Dvorak. It can't look good from any perspective when half the regular membership is tagging a story submission as troll. I'll show you how it works. Watch me degrade myself by making references to Woody Allen. In fact, I did watch Sleeper the other night. (An interesting calculation: when Allen wakes up in the year 2173, Soon-Yi will be 203 years old. Gaaa! Given enough time, he'll prove us wrong yet.) Dvorak is the Howard Cosell of the IT industry, and that's probably paying him a complement he doesn't deserve.
        • by Lord Apathy (584315) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @07:19PM (#21635291)

          I have little clue who this Dvorak is and really don't care but he really must suck if they are calling to ban his ass from /.

    • Re:New section (Score:5, Informative)

      by Breakfast Pants (323698) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:42PM (#21634999) Journal
      Here [youtube.com]'s how Dvorak works.
      • Transcript (Score:5, Informative)

        by Nazlfrag (1035012) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @11:06PM (#21637047) Journal
        INTERVIEWER: Tell us how it works John

        DVORAK: This is the formula for pissing off Macintosh users, for getting a lot of links or attention, and this has been deconstructed but never accurate, let me give you the deconstruction.

        First I'd write something that would be semi-innocuous with just enough insulting stuff to get a lot of attention from the Macintosh community. So then they would write in, and by the way it would always be done in such a way that I would have outs, in other words I would write in kind of a weasel way. I would then, then I'd get one column with a lot of numbers.

        Then I'd get a lot of hate mail and all kinds of Macintosh reaction and then I would react to it as though I was flabbergasted, that everybody misinterpreted me and they hated it and I don't get it and what was wrong with these people, which would piss them off even more. So I'd get huge hits, after that..

        INTERVIEWER: What was the point of all this?

        DVORAK: Now wait a minute, for the numbers..

        INTERVIEWER: Which numbers exactly? What numbers are you looking for?

        DVORAK: And, believe me, lots of numbers. Now then I let it simmer down for a while and when whatever position I had taken originally I would change the position exactly the opposite, and tell the Macintosh people I was completely wrong and they were right all along and the numbers would go through the ceiling! (laughter)
    • Re:New section (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Xyrus (755017) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @08:51PM (#21636015) Journal
      Give a man a fish, and he eats for day. Teach a man to phish, and he eats for the rest of his life.

      All joking aside, $200 of rice will feed them sure enough. But that is merely treating the symptom. It always has.

      Indeed, it seems a lot of the times that's what happens. People see a problem but they don't fix it. Instead they treat the symptoms of the problem.

      Now why would that be? The answer is, of course, profit. There is far more money to be made from treating symptoms than solving problems. Just look at the government. We've got the war on drugs, the war on poverty, and let's not forget our most recent addition to the family, the war on terror. All of which were started with good intentions (the road to hell and all that), but not a single one of them address the underlying problems.

      The OLPC project is actually a step in the right direction. Helping people help themselves works out a lot better than providing a constant crutch that people grow reliant on.

      And that, Mr. Dvorak, is the problem with $200 dollars worth of rice. When it runs out, they'll need $200 more. That doesn't fix the problem, it only temporarily addresses the symptom.

      ~X~
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by colmore (56499)
        Righto.

        Fighting poverty and fighting the symptoms of poverty are two very different fights. They're both worthy, but bags of food aren't going to start nonexistent economies.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by random0xff (1062770)
        No no no, that's not the problem with his argument. I think it's a straw man, is that the correct term? You see, he says that it's either food or a laptop, but that's wrong. To illustrate this: there has been a deal for laptops in Mexico, now I don't know if John Dvorak is sending money for rice to Mexico, but my guess is no he doesn't, nobody does. Same for India, or any other country where kids have enough to eat, and even get good education. These kids just don't have the means to get a computer and thu
    • agreed (Score:3, Interesting)

      by alizard (107678)
      Dvorak was informative a generation ago and funny a decade ago.

      He's a waste of bandwidth now. The only way he can get page hits now is by saying things so outrageously stupid that people promptly blog about them with links.

      Ignore him and he really will go away.
  • he's got a point. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by yagu (721525) * <yayagu.gmail@com> on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:22PM (#21633487) Journal

    It's a hard point to argue if you had only two options, food, or a laptop, the food seems a better choice. Of course there's no reason it can't be both. I think his point is worth thinking on, there are people for whom getting a computer is not much more than some diversion before they die of whatever disease they're slated to die from if they're lucky enough not to die of starvation (or unlucky enough, pick your idealogical slant).

    True that no matter how much money you send, it's never going to be enough, but also true, for the lucky ones if they manage to survive their poverty, exposure to something like a computer may offer them a starting point.

    He also raises good points... computers are hardly more than advertising pipelines, and unless you're already savvy, it's hard to suppress an rid the experience of the deluge of ads. Also, how many sites are in SiSwati or isiZulu these days?

    Heck, I've seen and read of schools investing millions in computers with no tangible results in students' scores, grades, or even elevated interests in learning. The big problem is actually teaching something at all, ever, no matter the tools selected for education.

    Yeah, sometimes Dvorak's nothing more than a grumpy old man who rants. I see him in this article as a grumpy old thoughtful and compassionate man. Kudos to him for raising the issue.

    • by maxume (22995) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:29PM (#21633579)
      You know, there are lots(like tens of millions) of people that get enough to eat most of the time, but still live in poverty. These laptops give them the opportunity to learn, and to share good ideas amongst themselves, ideas that may help them run their farm at a greater profit, or save time and labor.

      One thing is sure, it wouldn't work if no one bothered trying.
      • by packeteer (566398) <packeteer@noSpAm.subdimension.com> on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:39PM (#21633691)
        I think hunger relief is often the the far less useful money that gets rid of guilt. Somehow people think if someone is not literally starving they don't deserve their help.

        Yes people are still starving but it is less than it has been before and the reason for hunger is almost always political, economic, or weather related. Much of the human reasons for keeping people hungry are dealt with when you educate and empower the population.

        I don't think it is fair to consider people who have enough to eat often by subsistence farming to be too rich for our aid. This laptop plan may or may not be the best way but it is far from useless or harmful. I guess we will find out soon enough.
        • by Firethorn (177587) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:02PM (#21633967) Homepage Journal
          Yes people are still starving but it is less than it has been before and the reason for hunger is almost always political, economic, or weather related. Much of the human reasons for keeping people hungry are dealt with when you educate and empower the population.

          Today I'd even knock out the 'weather related'. The USA produces enough food by itself to feed the world, much of the problem of starving people is transportation - and politics blocking the transportation.

          It's very much a 'give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach him how to fish and he eats for life'.

          Provide a subsidence farmer, even in the form of loans, a tractor, miscellaneous equipment and supplies, and the training how to use it and you'll have somebody who isn't a subsidence farmer anymore. He can produce enough food to pay off his loans as well as free up hundreds of other subsidence farmers to do things like work in the tractor/fertilizer factories, bicycle factories, and everything else that a developed economy needs.

          With food aid I've seen unfortunate consequences: Local farmers are driven out of business*, women continue to have babies, and you end up with a population explosion of people who still can't take care of themselves. IE the food aid makes the problem *worse*. In at least one case very much worse - the food aid allowed a warlord to continue his campaign against the farmers who's farms he'd been burning.

          I'd much rather concentrate on enabling people to take care of themselves. Provide equipment, training, and the security needed for them to work if necessary**.

          Unfortunately, this is at least one order of magnitude more expensive than simply providing food. I'm of the opinion that it'd be better to do this, even if you can't feed everybody as a result of the diverted resources. The idea is that after doing this for ten years you don't need to provide food aid anymore except for short term disasters like a tsunami. Unlike current situations like with locations in Africa - which has needed food aid for decades.

          *US product can easily be superior than what a 3rd world farmer can produce, and you can't beat 'free'.
          **Like the current situation in the middle east, work on training up and equipping local defense forces, both military and police. That way you don't have to provide security forever.
          • by Anonymous Coward
            This is an incredibly important point: direct food aid competes w/ local production and serves to put farmers out of business. Note that Western food subsidies have been a major bone of contention in recent free trade treaty negotiations for much the same reason.

            The XO, on the other hand, is very unlikely to put local chip fabs and ISVs out of business. Instead, it will facilitate learning and communication.
                  kieran hervold
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mrchaotica (681592) *

            He can produce enough food to pay off his loans...

            No, he can't, because of exactly the other thing you just said: "the USA produces enough food by itself to feed the world!" And not only that, but it's subsidized too. In fact, part of the reason those subsistence farmers can't get the loans to do what you suggest now without our "help" is that food prices are so low (because of American subsidies) that they wouldn't ever be able to pay the loans back!

            With food aid I've seen unfortunate consequences: Local

          • Find out how YOU are part of the problem in 20 minutes:
            http://www.storyofstuff.com/ [storyofstuff.com]

            Dvorak has such a wonderful track record and I actually feel a little bit better now he opposes OLPC.

            Forget AIDS, people are starving! Forget cancer, people are starving! Forget USA schools, USA has starving people!
            Dvorak: "3rd World" countries are not all in the same shape.

            POLITICS are the real MAJOR problem to world hunger and too many people with the power to help are too clueless or 'evil'. Over population I'd maybe place
    • by shawb (16347) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:31PM (#21633603)
      Give a man a fish, and he can eat for a day.

      Teach a man how to 419 [wikipedia.org] and he can fish for a lifetime.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        teach a man to spoof websites and he can phish for a lifetime.
      • The Western way (Score:5, Informative)

        by markov_chain (202465) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:52PM (#21634467) Homepage
        1. Teach a man how to fish
        2. Lend him a crapload of money under the condition that he buys the fishing boat, fishing equipment and fuel from you
        3. Wait until man can't pay off the debt due to disastrous interest rates, and invoke the default clauses such as taking ownership of his business, and diverting the fish to a Western market
        4. Profit!
        • Also known as... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DrYak (748999) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @07:14PM (#21635253) Homepage

          . Lend him a crapload of money under the condition that he buys the fishing boat, fishing equipment and fuel from you


          Also known as "Windows 3$-edition pre-installed on Classmates", to put a parallel to the current situation.
          That's why Negroponte is trying to push hard for open-source solutions.
          So there's no restrictive conditions. So people target by the OLPC can actually own the technology and not be hooked and dependant on a western seller (Microsoft).
      • by Deadstick (535032) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @08:16PM (#21635737)
        Give a man a fish, and he can eat for a day.

        Teach a man to fish, and he can sit in a boat drinking beer for a lifetime.

        rj

    • by Znork (31774) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:36PM (#21633649)
      "Of course there's no reason it can't be both."

      Considering that the OLPC isnt intended for demographics who have no food, people like Dvorak would be that reason...

      There's a large and emerging segment of 'semi-poor people' who have food and most other necessities, but for whom educational material is a significant cost. One of the main points of the OLPC is to cut educational material costs while creating a load of other capabilities.

      Personally I think the OLPC is already a huge success; I'd attribute the interest in it as a large part of the driving force for low-cost laptops such as ASUS Eee.

      "Yeah, sometimes Dvorak's nothing more than a grumpy old man who rants."

      Yeah, well, no different this time.
    • by PIPBoy3000 (619296) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:43PM (#21633727)
      There's plenty of food in the world. The issue is one of distribution, not lack of ability to grow it. Typically hunger and poverty go hand in hand with war and social inequalities. If you look at the Global Hunger Map [declanbutler.info] (requires Google Earth), you'll see hunger is worst in the Middle East, central Africa, and parts of India. Sending rice or laptops to those places will help little until they can establish safety and equality.
    • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:44PM (#21633749) Journal
      He also raises good points... computers are hardly more than advertising pipelines, and unless you're already savvy, it's hard to suppress an rid the experience of the deluge of ads. Also, how many sites are in SiSwati or isiZulu these days?

      That is bullshit. The OLPC project includes Squeak, a Smalltalk programming language, and has simple sensor and control devices available that can be used to have Squeak programs interact with the real world. A child who can program in Squeak grows into an adult who can solve problems, think logically, develop and use technology and compete globally. I've been guiding my 7 year old in it, and she's already made her first object oriented game, so clearly, it's suitable for the task.
    • Re:he's got a point. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Gossi (731861) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:50PM (#21633809)
      I've got a question. Does everybody on Slashdot believe that all of Africa is starving babies with flies covering their mouths? That's a serious question, by the way. Because whilst there are certainly places where that is still happening and it's terrible, there's a fuck of a lot of places where it isn't like that.
      • Thank you (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Thank you.
        I've been working in Africa for a while, and I swear that the Army is the only organization in the US that gets it. "Not a big fan of the army or wars, but the Army is doing more teaching there then any of the other organizations I've gotten to work with.
      • by cmacb (547347) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:33PM (#21634279) Homepage Journal

        Does everybody on Slashdot believe that all of Africa is starving babies with flies covering their mouths?


        Not everybody, but quite possibly a majority, as our attention deficit culture certainly overwhelms us with such images, failing to supply much in the way of background information.

        Dvorak has taken the classic straw-man approach of defining OLPC as something that it is not, and then using unassailable logic to point out how that thing which it is not is a very stupid idea. Add to that the fact that he doesn't make a single suggestion about alternative strategies, but simply says that this (mischaracterized) idea is dumb.

        It would be bad enough if he is doing this just to get hits (a strategy he jokingly admits to), it's downright frightening to think that an industry "legend" might actually think this way. I've been on board with some of his windmill tilting of the past, but this makes me wonder whether I'd ever want to waste the time on him again.

        Had I not canceled my subscriptions to such publications long ago I sure would consider it now.
    • Re:he's got a point. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Zibblsnrt (125875) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:54PM (#21633873)
      It's a hard point to argue if you had only two options, food, or a laptop, the food seems a better choice.

      I seem to have missed this memo; I wasn't aware that the OLPC project was aiming its materials at the type of children who appeared in 1980s benefit concert videos, or that the population of the developed world was nothing but an utter monolith of absolute poverty.

      Then again, this is Slashdot, which is utterly incapable of discussing the developing world as anything other than a straw man parody of itself...
    • by markov_chain (202465) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:00PM (#21633945) Homepage
      You miss the point of the OLPC. It is NOT intended to be yet another 'throw computers at schools' project. OLPCs are not intended to run your Powerpoint. The biggest innovation of OLPC is not the hardware, it is in fact the open, education-oriented software stack. There is a key on the keyboard specifically set aside to switch to source code editing of the running application; think on that for a while and realize what kind of philosophy and corporate culture is needed to support such a deceptively simple feature. No other vendor on the planet can come close; all they are interested in is expanding mind share and pushing yet another office machine.

      I can relate to the attractiveness of the project from my own sour process of growing up under the MS umbrella. The defining experience installing every new version of DOS and Windows is a short-lived sense of accomplishment at having a clean, new, working installation followed by an empty feeling of betrayal at the inability to do much with the system, the useful bits being locked down behind undocumented APIs and binaries. The ensuing months would be filled with waiting for next issues of random computer magazines, grasping at crumbs of knowledge some two-bit writer would be merciful enough to publish. An issue describing video card registers would keep me going for a year. How much more would I have learned with an open, documentation-filled machine like the XO? If on top of this it contained encyclopaedic information about building stuff it would be a dream.

      About the food thing, can you explain how local farmers can get established if they can't sell their produce at a profit because they are being undercut by free food? Do you suggest to keep the free food flowing forever?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by j0nb0y (107699)
        Yeah, you're definitely right. When I was a kid my Apple ][c had BASIC built in. MS DOS came with QBASIC. I grew up hacking those until I eventually downloaded DJGPP and got my feet really wet in C/C++. Windows versions since Windows 95 don't include anything suitable for kids who want to learn how to program.

        Perhaps the XO is a return to the old days in some respects. You don't need a powerful machine to have something useful. Power users want powerful machines, but for most uses, a $200 laptop will
    • by IAR80 (598046) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:11PM (#21634069) Homepage
      I think we are to much entrenched in our superiority feeling towards African people, evidently a reminiscence from the "good old" colonialism time, that we deem them inferior and unable to do anything for themselves. In the 19th century we wanted to "civilize" them and now we just throw them scraps from the table to feed their starving children. The situation they are in is a clear result of colonialism and economic neoclonialism for which we are directly responsible. Giving them a bowl of rice to survive until tomorrow is not going to solve the problem. Helping them to build sustainable economies will probably do it. The laptop for child is a long shot but it might break the vicious circle they are in by creating a better educated new generation that will refuse to work in the diamond mines for 1$ a day so that some f.... Belgian company gets filthy rich. I guess that is "our" greatest fear! That someday they won't be dependent on us and IMF and their natural resources won't be open for plunder. I hope that day comes sooner!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by StormReaver (59959)
      No, he doesn't have a point. Dvorak is, always has been, and apparently always will be a bloody, flaming idiot.

      Not all 3rd world countries are dying of starvation. These computers are not aimed at 3rd world populations that wonder if they are going to survive through the week. There are 3rd world countries with relatively stable food and water, but which lack the education to participate in a computerized world. That is the target market for these introductory computers.

      Dvorak has contributed absolutely
    • by sbaker (47485) * on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:54PM (#21634493) Homepage
      Mr Dvorak has obviously never heard the expression "teach a man to fish".

      Sure, you can spend $200 and get a short-term benefit for a bunch of people. But when they've finished eating that truckload - what happens next? You have to buy them another truckload then another and another.

      What's needed is a way to let these people become self-sufficient.

      I imagine a small African village containing 20 teenagers who speak good enlish, are kick-ass programmers with knowledge of the way the outside world works - and web access. I think they can find enough out-sourced work to earn enough for a $200 truck of rice every once in a while.

      I imagine a village with land enough to grow coffee - and the net-savvy ability to sell the stuff directly to gormet coffee drinkers at $10 a pound rather than to big business at $0.10 per pound (I bet it's less than that). Their money accumulates in a PayPal account that they use to buy their rice. Sure they have some bad years when the coffee harvest fails - but they have enough cash banked to tide themselves over - and enough basic math and statistics and weather data from the Web to allow them to analyse how often this is going to happen and therefore the amount of storage they need to store their product and keep running the operation over the rough times.

      Tribal rug makers can sell their rugs on eBay for hundreds of dollars - they can use the computer to allow customers to upload designs like CafePress does - they can go into the custom rug making business.

      Actually - the main thing they can do is to tell me (by replying to this post) exactly why all of my ideas are stupid and how they have much better ones of their own.

      This is a MUCH more fulfilling life than sitting out there hoping that Mr Dvorak will send them a truckload of rice sometime in the next month. The OLPC group are attempting a long term fix - the short term problems will still be short term problem for a long way to come - but if just one generation of decently educated, net-savvy kids can emerge from this - the impact will be stunning.

      So - you can give a man a fish and he eats for a day - or you can teach a man to fish and he eats forever. But, if he doesn't understand the basics of fish ecology, he probably destroys his local fishery by overfishing it. So if you teach a man to get gainful employment on the world stage, he can buy all the goddamn fish he needs just like you or I do.
    • Hell, what do you know, this little article has actually pissed me off enough to get me contribute. A fair achievement in my long and almost entirely parasitic slashdot relationship.

      Before we even start on a response, the eternal question arises: Did he, or did he not donate a single google ad earned cent to hunger relief as he so glibly concludes at the end of his tirade?

      Somehow I suspect he smugly punched the submit button on his blog and went back to browsing around looking for more soft targets to lure
    • by Bombula (670389) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:33PM (#21634889)
      The OLPC issue is an interesting one on slashdot because it lays bare the cultural and economic myopia of the geek culture - however smart we may be. The fact that this time the article is being raised by an incendiary pundit is just fuel for the fire, and Dvorak's own pithy quips about sending food instead of laptops is just more of the same geek myopia coming from the other end of the spectrum. Of course sending food only alleviates symptoms and doesn't solve underlying problems, and of course food relief must be temporary because if permanent it would negate the possibility of creating viable food economies. If Dvorak doesn't know this, then he's an ignorant fool, but that is far more charitable than assuming he does know this, in which case he is a malicious bastard.

      I'm merely a hobbyist geek. But I AM a professional sustainable economic development consult who has spent twenty years living and working in developing countries. In my opinion, the OIRP is not a bad thing by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not the ideal use of resources either. At best, it is an important part of the total socioeconomic development package that must be deployed in order to alleviate the plight of penury and destitution that is the lot of hundreds of millions of children living in developing countries around the world. Are there more important individual components within that package? Yes. Access to potable water is more important than access to information. Access to food is more important (although as many posters have pointed out, it is not the biggest problem). Access to electricity is more important. Access to transportation is more important. And, of course, security and health are more important. But does that mean that access to information is unimportant? Of course not.

      It may be that the hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of man-years put into the development of this project could not possibly have been better spent address one of the more critical issues I just mentioned. I honestly don't know. What I do know is that the always-hyperbolic nature of the discussion on slashdot shows that the vast majority of readers are not well enough informed about issues of international development to legitimately engage in reasonable and nuanced debate on the subject.

    • The usual disclaimer: I will not read a Dvorak column, so I am ass-u-ming here that if he does bring up this point, he does so so cursorily that you did not think it worth mentioning.

      The financial justification for the OLPC is NOT OLPC vs rice, but OLPC vs printed textbooks. The OLPC is financed by replacing printed textbooks.

      You lose heavy, out of date, hand me down textbooks which are almost certainly in some foreign language, expensive to obtain, expensive to distribute.

      You gain up to date digital textb
  • This confirms it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jooly Rodney (100912) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:22PM (#21633491)
    You know, I was a little nervous about giving them money, but now that I know Dvorak's against it, I'm convinced it was the right thing to do.
    • I wish it were that simple.

      Before I get started, yes, I can't think of Dvorak as anything else than the infamous "why is my Idle process eating up 99% of my CPU cycles?" idiot. Yes, I think there may be some merit to OLPC. Still, just saying, reality isn't as simple as "The village idiot is against X, therefore X is the right thing to do."

      The problem is that RL problems are almost never dichotomies. This is not a 2-choice RPG / Japanese dating sim / whatever. Sometimes when it looks like the choice is betwe
  • Hmmm. Let see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:22PM (#21633495) Journal
    Slams Linux in 94 and says that it will never go anywhere ESP. on servers. Says that it will never replace unix (took ray norda to task for letting go of Unix and moving to Linux). IIRC, said that SCO was dead on WRT Linux stealing code from Unix. So on, and so on.

    I long ago quit reading him, because he long ago became worthless.
    • Re:Hmmm. Let see (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:38PM (#21633673)
      He also thought mice would never take off.

      Quote:

      "The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a 'mouse.' There is no evidence that people want to use these things."
    • by Tomy (34647) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:40PM (#21633697)
      Going back even further, I read an article of his in the DOS days where he said the average user didn't need multitasking. Around the same time he complained about TSR's [wikipedia.org] not playing well together.

      I wish he'd give stock tips. I could short whatever stock he recommended and make a fortune.

  • Give them fish... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by renesch (1016465) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:22PM (#21633497)
    ...but above all don't teach them how to fish!
  • by danbert8 (1024253) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:22PM (#21633499)
    Rice can be stolen and then resold on an international market for money. I was under the impression that XOs could only be used in a certain area or they'd be useless. So the real question is, would you rather give $200 of rice to a dictator that the people will never see, or try and get them a machine that can help spread education and freedom to peoples all over the world?
  • That's not unique. (Score:5, Informative)

    by mabinogi (74033) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:23PM (#21633509) Homepage
    That's not a unique take, that's the same old tired objections that we've been hearing since the project started.
    The XO is not intended to go to children who can't afford food. How dense can some people be?

    Oh wait - it's Dvorak, silly question.
    • The XO is not intended to go to children who can't afford food. How dense can some people be?

      Which is exactly the problem; the XO project ignores the people most in need, and for those it doesn't ignore, it hands them a pound of cake instead of a hundred pounds of rice. The guy's talent and resources could have gone to better causes. It's an exaggeration to say "you could buy food with that money", but the continent needs basic literacy, which is achievable with paper, pencils, a schoolroom, and a teac

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:24PM (#21633519)
    Looks like Dvorak--as many others--are totally missing the point of the OLPC program. It's not for places where people are starving to death. It's for places where kids are able to go to school and get some education. The OLPC program is designed to get kids in developing countries access to technology where they otherwise wouldn't have it.

    Not all third-world countries are starving to death. Quite a number have the basic needs covered, but they need effective education, and the OLPC program aims to supplement that education.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:24PM (#21633527)
    ...a free laptop destroys their pc hardware industry. ;-)
  • by fyoder (857358) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:24PM (#21633529) Homepage Journal
    ... and he will eat for a day. Show him how to monetize his web site with google ads, and he can go to the market and buy fish with the money he makes.
  • BRILLIANT! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lakeland (218447) <lakeland@acm.org> on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:27PM (#21633559) Homepage
    After all, can you think of a single project Dvorak has claimed as a failure that didn't succeed spectacularly? His criticism is a strong hint that OLPC is no longer a niche player and is about to make major inroads.

    On a more insidious note, Dvorak is an analyst-for-hire. He only comes out with an opinion when somebody pays him to have that opinion. That means one of the big players has decided they want bad PR about OLPC. I wonder if it was Microsoft, Intel, or somebody else?
  • by Iphtashu Fitz (263795) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:27PM (#21633561)
    ... and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll feed himself for life.

    True I could go out and pay for some food for these folks, as many do. But unless we start investing in in their future they'll just end up dependent on handouts for generations to come. Many organizations are already offering food to the poor but not very many are investing in giving them access to high tech training that could help them get out of poverty. Hopefully OLPC will prove effective in doing just that.
  • by sayfawa (1099071) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:28PM (#21633571)
    I've heard some dumb shit from this guy before but this breaks the mold. That rant wasn't even worthy of one of the AC trolls around here.

    How many times has it been said over and over and over again: the OLPC is not for the starving countries with the distended bellies and flies in the eyes. They are for countries that have generally good health and food but just aren't rich enough to provide computers for their students. It would have taken about one freaking minute for him to find that out. Instead he lets us know (again) what an ass he is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by chris_sawtell (10326)

      More to the point: Why did the parent poster get a five when (s)he misses the main point by a million miles?

      It's not "... just aren't rich enough to provide computers for their students". It is "...just aren't rich enough to provide books for their students".

      Let me add to the chorus: It's an education project, not a computer project. The little green computers are just terminals to enable the kids to turn the information presented thereon into knowledge in their brains.

      If J. Dvorak had the wit to

  • by compumike (454538) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:33PM (#21633625) Homepage
    Dvorak is shortsighted, thinking that if we can pay for meals for starving kids, that we will stop hunger. That is simply not a sustainable way of thinking about the problem. Take a look at any of the big organizations working on the issue: for example The Hunger Project [thp.org], or CARE [care.org]. While it's convenient marketing to associate X dollars with providing Y meals (and they sometimes do this to encourage people to donate), these organizations readily admit that the real path to successfully beating the chronic problem of hunger is to empower locals to be self-sufficient.

    There are concrete actions that we can take as members of the "developed" nations, and these include: subsidizing agricultural infrastructure, providing education about health and nutrition, education in general, helping to challenge laws / societal norms that restrict productivity, reducing sexism and racism, etc. But these hunger programs are specifically *not* about providing meals directly.

    Chronic world hunger is a real issue (and is different from short-term famine relief, which our military and private organizations do a whole lot of), and there are things we can do to lead to a sustainable solution. Dvorak incorrectly assumes that because we can buy Y meals, we should do that instead of educating the next generation. In fact, the big organizations already tackling hunger know that empowering the locals is the key, and this is entirely consistent with OLPC's goals.

    --
    Educational microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]
  • by Torodung (31985) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:36PM (#21633641) Journal
    True to the linked article, my first thought about the OLPC project was that all it would do is show the have-nots just how much they don't have. I figured it was more likely to spur a violent, lower-class revolution than anything else. I was thinking about 18th century France at the time.

    Can you imagine how someone with starving children would feel when they Wikied "Turducken [wikipedia.org]?" It'd be like Marie Antoinette with a megaphone and a team of Solid Gold dancers.

    But I also believe that technology is a need, in a technological world, and that it empowers people. I doubt this project can assuage the global poverty and resource distribution fiasco, nor was that the intent, but it may allow a new generation to help themselves.

    These laptops can bring them something of value: hope. Hope tastes awful, and it needs salt, which many of the project's beneficiaries can't afford, but it's absolutely better than nothing at all.

    I know this is a bit redundant, but I wanted to express Dvorak's point without all the bombast and condemnation. We're sorry you're a guilty white man, John. We're not getting on that bus.

    I'm sure the OLPC is a good thing, and I know the people who buy them are doing a good thing, but I often wonder if our priorities are in the right order.

    Because Dvorak is ultimately wrong. Technology, in whatever form, will absolutely change the world. I just wonder if it will be for the better.

    --
    Toro
  • Buy a man a fish. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by nick_davison (217681) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:37PM (#21633651)

    Buy ten OLPCs if it assuages your guilt, says Dvorak, but 'I'll donate my money to hunger relief.'
    Buy a man a fish, he eats for a day.

    Teach a child to use a computer, he gets to work in a call center for a lifetime.

    Seriously though, food aid achieves...? It pretty much ensures poor kids live long enough to breed and make even more poorer kids. You pat yourself on the back for having saved a kid today and create five that starve tomorrow.

    Given the choice, I'd rather give those kids a chance at an education so they can raise their standard of life and start trying to ensure their kids, grandkids and every generation afterwards is lifted out of a situation where they need food aid year after year to support too large numbers on poorly cultivated land.

    Call me mercenary but, tough as it is, I'd rather a million kids starve while the million that survive improve their quality of life and for the generations to come than save both million now and have ten million starving within a couple of generations.

    In this case, Dvorak's self congratulating his short term compassion while creating a far worse long term problem and knocking those who're trying to do the opposite.
  • Give them weapons? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Quila (201335) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:37PM (#21633653)
    A lot of the hunger is because those in power are purposefully starving them, for example if they're part of the tribe not in power and are considered to be a threat to the local dictator. You can send tons of food, and it'll get confiscated to feed his supporters and resold for cash, keeping the dictator in power and maintaining the hunger.

    Or in the case of Zimbabwe, you just have a president who instituted various socialist programs and turned what was once the breadbasket of Africa into a nation of starving poor. Getting rid of Mugabe would go more towards solving the hunger problem there than a million tons of grain.
  • by erikharrison (633719) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:39PM (#21633687)
    I have some criticism here and there of OLPC, and I wonder if it will ever achieve what it hopes to achieve.

    That said, I find Dvorak's comments to be horrifically offensive. The ignorance and pretension with which he is critical of OLPC and, by extension, any project that does anything other than ship limited, non renewable resources to countries where it can be stolen by corrupt bureaucrats is frankly disgusting. And the assumptions underneath! That you'll only ever make a one time charitable donation to a third world country in your life! If I didn't know that Dvorak was doing this only to be contrary, I'd say that his rhetoric belied someone who had never deeply considered the problem in third world nations before writing the damn article.

    The truth is that third world countries desperately need infrastructure and education. They'll never be able to compete in the world wide industrial market, even if they have natural resources, but given sufficient education they can compete in the world information market. Is Dvorak really so short sighted as to not see that? Kids who grow up with computers can become information workers, and that requires no more infrastructure than a cheap laptop and bandwidth. But apparently that's a long term investment that Dvorak can't see - though I doubt he would be so critical of a similar education initiative in the US, which already has established resources in computer education. How hypocritical.

    And there is more - a single laptop can service a large number of children, technology like the XO-1 that could let kids onto the internet can foster a generation supportive and understanding of democracy and free markets without growing up in one. I could go on and on (for example, that the nations themselves are sometimes purchasing these laptops), but I think around here I'd be preaching to the choir.

    So, sure, if you're only ever going to spend $200 dollars in charitable donations in your lifetime, spend it on food for starving kids. If you don't mind giving a little more then consider investing in the future of these children, rather than just hemorrhaging money into life support and hoping the situation gets better on its own.
  • by rbanffy (584143) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:40PM (#21633701) Homepage Journal
    Which is quite understandable, as his professional value stands on how many people he can piss off enough they read his articles and, maybe, click on those banners.

    Anyway, this doesn't surprise me a bit.
  • Give money for food; they will have more babies.

    Give money for computers; they will teach themselves better lives.
  • The point isn't that the world's poor need computers or that they need to be on the internet. The point is that they need better education. Currently a major cost of education is textbooks. The OLPC is intended, in combination with suitable content, to replace printed textbooks. The cost of an OLPC, even at US$188, is less than the cost of printed textbooks a child needs for five years of school. By providing the children with OLPCs, it should be possible to give them a better education while saving money.
  • Sustainability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by starseeker (141897) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:46PM (#21633763) Homepage
    Hunger relief is only one part of the problem - it's the old "give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime" thing.

    Survival is ultimately a competitive business, among nations as well as individuals. Knowledge and skills are essential in order to produce virtually ANY marketable project in this world's economy, and teaching requires access to that knowledge in the first place. Textbooks are expensive, as are writing materials. Computer skills and an understanding of computers has become incredibly fundamental - to the point, in fact, where basic literacy is taken for granted in the business world.

    In cases where there is no social structure and all the power is in military hands, knowledge and skills won't count for much. In many other situations it can make a HUGE difference, and just because there are worse regions of the world doesn't mean we should ignore the ones where people need additional education.

    We don't want these people to have to rely on ANYBODY forever - they should be able to build their own society with their own resources eventually. We need to help kickstart the process, but we can't do it for them. To build a non-despotic government people have to invest themselves in the success of a system that is designed to educate and help people rather than grabbing whatever one can for oneself, even at the cost of personal gains that COULD be had by acting selfishly. Once enough people do that selfish actors begin to have difficulty getting more by bypassing the system than attempting to work within it, and for a democracy THAT is the beginning of stability. People need to know that for it to work. Arguably Russia has not reached that point, based on recent news reports - if the system itself were strong the penalties for voting fraud would be strong enough to deter a party (or individuals) from attempting to mess with the system. The US trend towards electronic voting is troubling for similar reasons - it makes accountability for the correct functioning of the system difficult to enforce.

    Anyway, the point is that knowledge and understanding should be in as wide supply as possible, and that is the purpose of OLPC. It feeds a different hunger than food, but one in the end that is just as important to the building of a sustainable future.
  • by phrostie (121428) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:49PM (#21633795)
    did anyone else notice the interesting timing of this with other OLPC stories?

    say for example Microsoft's criticism that olpc won't run Windows?
  • by reporter (666905) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:51PM (#21633815) Homepage
    John C. Dvorak gives a specific example of a core problem: buying luxuries in the absense of satisfying basic needs.

    One of the characteristics of a failed 3rd-world nation is that its people spend money on projects that are not directly related to providing basic necessities. To understand this issue, first look at a highly successful people who transformed themselves from a 3rd-world nation into a 1st-world economic superpower. Consider the case of Japan.

    At the end of 1945, Japan was impoverished. Allied forces had bombed it back into barren rock, of which some became radioactive. In the ensuing 35 years, the Japanese people focused on the basics: building the infrastructure (e.g., railroads and public schools), acquiring industrial technology (e.g., transistors from the Americans) to expand its industrial base, etc. Specifically, Tokyo invested almost no money in military forces, space adventures, etc. By 1980, Japan became a 1st-world nation -- and the #2 economic superpower.

    Now, consider India. Its people are wasting money on a space race [slashdot.org] and nuclear weapons. This activity only impoverishes the impoverished people, who are the majority of the Indian population. The result is that the prospects for India [slashdot.org] are quite poor.

    Forget laptops. Forget space ships. Above all, forget nuclear weapons. If you are a citizen of an impoverished nation, focus on the basics: reading, writing, mathematics, science (includng agriculture), and free markets. If you can succeed at the basics (and everyone can succeed at the basics), then your nation will naturally prosper.

    Look at Japan. In the 1960s, the Japanese watched, without envy, as the Americans "won" the space race. The Japanese knew that their day in space would come, but in 1965, they knew that they must stay focused on the basics. The Japanese succeeded.

    Similar comments apply to Eastern Europe. Look at Poland. It does not waste money on either nuclear weapons or space ships. Yet, Poland is succeeding. It will soon become a Western economic superpower alongside Japan.

    • the Japanese people focused on the basics: building the infrastructure (e.g., railroads and public schools), acquiring industrial technology (e.g., transistors from the Americans) to expand its industrial base, etc. . . . Forget laptops.

      I believe the proponents of OLPC see aren't thinking in terms of laptops. They see them as a way to provide education, communication infrastructure, and the basis for participating in the world economy - in other words, a means to achieve what Japan did. Maybe they're

    • by enjahova (812395) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:16PM (#21634715) Homepage

      If you are a citizen of an impoverished nation, focus on the basics: reading, writing, mathematics, science (includng agriculture), and free markets.
      How, pray tell do you expect a citizen of an impoverished nation to be reading your English post on an internet forum without a computer and access to the internet? How would they do it if they didn't "focus on the basics" of reading and writing? Where are they supposed to learn about free markets and agriculture?

      Wouldn't it be amazing if there was a machine that could give them access to all of this information, as well as the ability to communicate with people from all over the world using the internet? Wouldn't it be awesome if kids could learn the basics from one little machine by teaching themselves, rather than depending on their loving despots?

      This isn't a laptop project, its an education project. It isn't a luxury, its a pen, paper, textbook, word processor, paint brush, camera, instrument, and mesh network all rolled into one educational tool.

    • by burnin1965 (535071) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:41PM (#21634987) Homepage

      look at a highly successful people who transformed themselves from a 3rd-world nation into a 1st-world economic superpower. Consider the case of Japan.

      While Japan had some serious rebuilding to do they were far from a 3rd world nation. Although significant infrastructure was destroyed and the country was in disarray they still had many people who were educated and learned in the ways of industrialization.

      Tokyo invested almost no money in military forces, space adventures, etc. By 1980, Japan became a 1st-world nation -- and the #2 economic superpower.

      Sorry, but that is a false dichotomy. The lack of investment in military development or space science is not the reason japan became a 1st world nation or an economic superpower. If somehow these investments would bankrupt a nation then the U.S. would have been bankrupted long ago and Japan would be #1.

      While I'm no expert on post World War II history I'm pretty sure that 1) Japan did not invest in military development or space science because they were expressly forbidden by the Potsdam Declaration and terms of surrender [wikipedia.org];
      (I've highlighted what I believe were real contributing factors to their recovery)

      * Militarism in Japan must end.
      * Japan would be occupied until the basic objectives set out in this proclamation were met.
      * The terms of the Cairo Declaration would be carried out and Japanese sovereignty would be limited to the islands of Honsh, Hokkaid, Kysh, Shikoku, and such minor islands as the Allies determined.
      * The Japanese army would be completely disarmed and allowed to return home.
      * Those who had led Japan to war must be permanently and finally discredited, and abandoned.
      * War criminals would be punished including those who had "visited cruelties upon our prisoners".
      * Freedom of speech, of religion, and of thought, as well as respect for the fundamental human rights shall be established.
      * Japan should be permitted to maintain a viable industrial economy but not industries which would enable her to re-arm for war.
      * The treaty was not intended to enslave the Japanese as a race or as a nation.
      * Allied forces would be withdrawn from Japan as soon as these objectives have been accomplished

      And 2) the post war Japanese economic recovery [wikipedia.org] is well studied and massive investments before and during the Korean war played a significant role in their recovery, not lack of spending on military and space development.

      Forget laptops. Forget space ships. Above all, forget nuclear weapons. If you are a citizen of an impoverished nation, focus on the basics: reading, writing, mathematics, science (includng agriculture), and free markets. If you can succeed at the basics (and everyone can succeed at the basics), then your nation will naturally prosper.

      Party correct, except the laptop in OLPC is merely a tool for "focus on the basics: reading, writing, mathematics, science (includng agriculture), and free markets". I'd suggest that Dvorak and everyone else who keeps pointing out that laptops are not needed should do some prior research into the history of OLPC [emory.edu] and perhaps then they would understand its not about laptops, its about education and learning, its about contructive learning [wikipedia.org], and its not a bunch of pretentious westerners dumping laptops in 3rd world countries, th

  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:51PM (#21633829)
    Unfortunately, most hunger relief programs are simply tax reduction scams. People donate millions of dollars to these 'aid' agencies, who spend 99% on salaries and other fancy stuff, and then deliver a few thousand tons of maize to some harbour in Africa, where it gets dumped on the dock to rot and get eaten by rats.

    To deliver real aid, you not only have to deliver 10 Thousand tons of food to a harbour - you have to deliver 10 Million tons of food, plus the trains, trucks, drivers, guards, repair and resupply facilities, tents, generators, building materials, pesticides, drugs, bandages, beds, surgical equipment, doctors, nurses and more, if you wish the relief to be at all effective.
  • by vidarh (309115) <vidar@hokstad.com> on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:55PM (#21633883) Homepage Journal
    Only a small minority of the worlds poor are so poor that starvation is a significant problem. Malnurishment yes.

    Consider countries like Nigeria for example, that is one of the countries that were considering the OLPC. Nigeria recently cleared out $18 BILLION of debt. The interest they've saved each year for a year alone would pay for a million OLPC's. Nigeria is far from rich, but has enough oil reserves that it can certainly prevent people from starving (whether the political will is there is a separate issue). Nobody should send food aid to Nigeria, because it's not what they need.

    On the other hand, even in the areas where famines are rife the OLPC would be more useful than food aid except DURING a famine. A key problem for many farming nations is lack of reliable information that is vital for farmers, such as weather reports as well as information about more effective farming methods, and even prices at the nearby markets to prevent people from literally wasting days carrying goods to markets where demand is low.

    Teaching a generation of kids in locations like that how to exploit computers and online resources will long term mean far more than disaster relief, which is what food aid is.

  • by keepper (24317) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @04:55PM (#21633887) Homepage
    I think dvorak's argument is a pretty common one amongst liberals, conservatist, and centrists alike. And one of his sentences says it all...

    ... There seems to be a notion that the poor in Africa or East Asia are just like the kids in East Palo Alto...
    Yeah dvorak... what a freaking odd and naive notion that is. That they may be able to achieve everything we can, only with the same tools. Yeap, "They" can't do it...

    We must feed them, guide their politics, make them "civilized", for obviously, they are not capable on their own. And we had no say in their current situation, we are just innocent observers , trying to "help" them.

    It's a sickening point of view, but most seem to hold it, and disguise it in premises that the money is better spent elsewhere. So yes dvorak, while i do agree that there is hypocrisy in many of these actions, and a huge disbalance in wealth in this world, and that people, of all walks, should be doing a lot more... Don't knock those who are doing something ( and the likely scenario is that you knock, but dont do anything yourself ). The just way to solve poverty,starvation, and instability isnt by feeding them and controlling their affairs. It's by giving them the tools and knowledge to correct the wrong, and allow them to rise up with their own ability, which is the same ability present in any human being. Its the way we have done it, its the way they will do it.

    I'm not a religious man, but the fish versus fishing thing aptly applies here.

    ( oh, and btw,, guess why there isnt any of their languages on the web, or any content they can use.. BECAUSE THEY HAVE TO MAKE IT!!! )

    But anyways... just the usual "those people" mentality...
  • by turgid (580780) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:27PM (#21634227) Journal

    There are millions in Africa who need food, shelter, medicine and protection from "ethnic cleansing" in the very short term (i.e urgently) to save their lives, and as their fellow humans, we owe it to them.

    In addition, these people need the educational resources to better themselves and to become self-sustaining and fulfilled in the medium and long terms.

    What these people do not need is Isloamofascism, Catholic priests telling them not to use condoms, and evangelical protestant missionaries telling them that the End of the World is just around the corner so don't worry.

    What they really need is more practical projects like this giving them a "foot up" on the ladder to joining the rational, secular, educated world. With facts instead of fiction and information at their fingertips, these people can be lifted cheaply and quickly out of poverty and oppression.

    Peace and prosperity will be achieved in Africa by technological means, not by warmongers, greedy western corporations (*cough*Microsoft*cough*Nestle*cough*) and religious loonies.

  • by Sri Ramkrishna (1856) <sriram.ramkrishn ... m ['l.c' in gap]> on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:34PM (#21634291)
    Dvorak is an idiot. Africa's problems stems from it's cultural problems. For instance, the AIDS virus propogates because for some dumb reason people who have AIDS continue to have sex (forcibily at times) with women making the problem more. Nobody seems to have a civic attitude because everybody used to be tribal. I suppose we all started out this way. (btw, I realize this might be a sweeping generalization and obviously not everyone believes that, but the nature of the problem would not be this large if not a healthy portion (no pun intended) was not engaging in this kind of crap. The african libido is truly phenomenal!

    OLPC comes in because children will be exposed to new ideas (or old ideas) that when they grow up will be able to use and implement on their own. They'll learn the value of education, educate their people and then finally we can start offshoring our IT to Africa instead of the more expensive Asia! :-) Something for everyone. But seriously, Africa's time is going to come but we need to have programs like this that allow ideas to proliferate through the young due to the fact that the adults don't seem to have gained sufficient wisdom to end the cycle in the various countries.

    sri
  • by rindeee (530084) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:00PM (#21634565)
    Talk to someone in the Peace Corps. Seriously. And no, I am not in the Peace Corps. And yes, I have had this conversation with several who are. Bottom line: The P.C. tries to go in and make a people self sufficient. They try to help them establish a means of commerce, build small business, drill wells, etc. The minute the "Sally Struthers" of the world show up giving away food and life staples, the Peace Corps leaves. You see, the Peace Corps folks and their crazy ideas about helping communities become self-sustaining can't compete with give-aways. You can NOT eat a laptop. You CAN learn with it. Learn to read, write, communicate. Learn about your world, AND the rest of the world that you are completely clueless about. Learn skills and information that would otherwise be completely unobtainable. Is the OLPC going to save the world? Nope, but neither are Sally and the gang. "Teach a man to fish" and whatnot.
  • by unity100 (970058) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:09PM (#21634653) Homepage Journal
    this is the type of person i hate the most in those matters :

    some people band together, try to do a charity, they put effort to it and realize it.

    then some shitbags come up and say "hey, this is not something on top of the need list. you had better to >this
    you know shitbag, those people actually banded together, and made an effort to fix matters for a change.

    WHAT the f@ck did you yourself do ? other than "dont do that, do something else" blabber while sitting pretty in your office chair ?

    WHY are you talking against some people who actually DID something, and not doing something on the matter you have spoken yourself ?
  • by QX-Mat (460729) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:46PM (#21635029)
    On having been to Africa, I'm in complete agreement.

    What a lot of people don't realise is that most African's are fairly happy, and fairly adapted to their way of life. A computer won't help kids. A computer only helps administrators, and typists.

    One of the projects I did while in Zambia was to help renovate a school. African's would rather have more materials for their schools, working radios they can teach with, or more access to simple life saving treatment such as blood or TB vaccines.

    A rural teacher who I met simply wanted bars in the windows (holes) of his Oxfam built school so kids wouldn't climb in a steal what little supplied he had. Paper and pens were far far more useful than computers.

    We have to look at India and China. They're becoming the world Math and Scientific elite. Employing an education system Britain abandoned 40 years ago in favour of modernising. Educations works.

    Even though I dislike most religions and the dangerous ideologies they breed, religion in many developing countries is a key focus point for community driven development - people like to pitch in where there is a support structure; but support structures need money! Even if it's just food to sustain some of the 80% unemployed in Zimbabwe so they don't take to looting, hostage taking or drugs.

    There are better things to donate money to: such as anti-corruption schemes or Médecins Sans Frontières.

    Take your pick, GO TO A DEVELOPING COUNTRY AND SPONSOR A VILLAGE FOR AS LITTLE AS £50/m, just don't get a piece of technology for a child who can't charge it.

    Matt

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by oGMo (379)

      Wow, I don't think I've read a more idiotic post about the OLPC yet.

      What a lot of people don't realise is that most African's are fairly happy, and fairly adapted to their way of life. A computer won't help kids. A computer only helps administrators, and typists.

      Utterly mindlessly wrong assertions. So African kids are "fairly happy": that sounds like a great reason to deny them computers. A computer won't help them, it "only helps administrators and typists"? Do you know anything about the OLPC proje

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      A computer won't help kids. A computer only helps administrators, and typists.

      Go actually read about the OLPC or try the demo VM. It isn't a regular computer, it is computer designed from the ground up for educating children and letting them learn together. If this project was dropping Windows PCs with Office, I'd agree it is foolish. That is NOT what is happening.

      Paper and pens were far far more useful than computers.

      The OLPC is like an infinite supply of paper and pen, and a complete set of encyclopedias, a communications system that auto-discovers and promotes group communications, and a music studio, as well as a general purpose

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