[conspire] NYLXS Press Release on the OLPC Project

Ruben Safir ruben at mrbrklyn.com
Sat Apr 26 11:13:12 PDT 2008

In response to many of the questions regarding the changes in the
OLPC project, and specifically the decision to base the project at
this juncture to a Microsoft Operating System, proponents of this
change have come out swinging against Free Software developers who
have worked for the current Free Interface, code named Sugar.  A
large segment of the critique of the against Free Software developers
like Bender is that they have put their "Open Source" agenda above the
welfare of the project.  Others claim that the "Open Source" advocates
should be pleased with the what has already been done and that the
project as it stands can either be relaunched or has already met

The problem, though, is that in many ways, the marketing and financial
positioning of the OLPC program is harder to develop then the hardware
and software. And the goals that have been met are small in light of
the original mission of the OLPC project.

An operating system is more than a commodity.  It becomes the looking
glass that develops how the user thinks and it literally shapes
the mind of it's users.  A system which is at it's core designed to
disenfranchise users from the learning experience, especially in how
the user views the software itself through learned expectations, and
forces information access through monopolistic channels and filters,
undermines the development of critical thinking skills.  In geek terms,
the operating system reprograms the end user.  The Microsoft operating
system is designed to do so from the ground up.  It is in fact the only
intended use of the Microsoft Windows Operating System franchise.

The interaction between technology on human and societal development
dates to the beginning of civilization, if not even before that.
One interesting scholarly article on the topic which is archived at
by Robin Wilson explores how the Gutenberg printing printing press causes
an explosion of mathematical usage and development, and how a large part
of that was developed by the standardization of mathematical symbols
for universal communication and expression.

"  Johann Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press (around 1440)
revolutionised mathematics, enabling classic mathematical works to be
widely available for the first time. Previously, scholarly works, such
as the classical texts of Euclid, Archimedes and Apollonius had been
available only in manuscript form, but the printed versions made these
works much more widely available.

At first the new books were printed in Latin or Greek for the scholar,
and many scholarly editions appeared. The earliest printed version
of Euclid’s Elements, published in Venice in 1482, and there is an
attractive 1492 edition of Ptolemy’s Almagest. Apollonius’s Conics
appeared in 1537, and seven years later the works of Archimedes were
published in both Latin and Greek, and there was a celebrated edition
of Diophantus’s Arithmetic in 1621, reissued in 1670, with the Greek
text, a Latin translation by Bachet, and comments by Fermat, including
his famous marginal comment on the ‘last theorem’. ....

The invention of printing also led to the gradual standardisation of
mathematical notation. In particular, the arithmetical symbols + and –
first appeared in a 1489 arithmetic text by Johann Widmann. Surprisingly,
the symbols × and ÷ were not in general use until the seventeenth
century – we’ll see how × developed shortly; the division sign ÷
was introduced by John Pell.

Needless to say, the quality of the mathematical printing in those days
was very variable. Here we see two version of Pascal’s arithmetical
triangle from the same year, 1545: Stifel’s publisher was having a
good day, while Scheubelius was less fortunate."

The most important point Wilson makes as relating to the OLPC project
is in this paragraph:

"Record was such a fine lecturer that his audience regularly applauded
his lectures. We don’t know what he looked like. For a long time, there
was only one known picture of him, but recently severe doubts have been
raised as to its authenticity. One might well ask: ‘Is this a Record?’

Record’s books were written in English, and ran to many editions. The
ground of artes of 1543 was an arithmetic book explaining the various
rules so simply that ‘everie child can do it’. As with all his books,
it was written in the form of a Socratic dialogue between a scholar and
his master."

Prior to this era of copyright and DRM encumbered communications,
the printing press caused a  prodigious discovery of the potential
of the human intellect and from it's most early uses western masters
used it to communicate with the masses, specifically targeting children
for education.  The art of printing exploded, it's teaching as a trade,
science  and technology every bit as vital to the democratization and
economic development that the West would experience from that very day
in  around 1440 when the press was invented.

In the short 600 years since technology has revolutionized communications,
through the printing era, into the wireless and wired analog era, the
broadcast media era and through to today with the digital media era
humanity has evolved directly in response to the use, development,
deployment and education with communications media, and diverse
(classically defined) liberal education has been the cornerstone of world
civilization as it has spread from the West to every corner of the world.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, in her ground breaking book, "Infidel", repeatedly
describes how her interaction with libraries and books.  Why surrounded in
a world of Islamic Brotherhood lectures and learnings with the repeated
mantra of "TOTAL OBEDIENCE" by local figures in her life such as Boqol
Sawm and Sister Aziza, Hirsi-Ali found comfort in cheap romantic novels.
She writes, "  But the allure of romance called to us from the pages
of books. In school we read good books, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen,
and Daphne du Maurier; out of school Halwaa's sisters kept us supplied
with cheap Harlequins. These were trashy soap opera-like novels, but
they were exciting — sexually exciting."

Hirsi-Ali has the advantage of literacy and the support of a free press.
The purpose of the OLPC project is also literacy.  Not just the literacy
of the pen, and the literacy of mathematics, politics and  arts,
but computer literacy, the new medium which will be required for the
development of children worldwide to fully share in our emerging enriched
worldwide culture.  There are too many stumbling blocks as there is.
The quoted material above was far too arduous from me gather into this
message.  The text, instead of being able to be be quickly cut and pasted
into this window had to be typed by hand because online resources like
Google-Books was prevented from making it available as text.  It was
only because of my 20 years of steep education in this topic, and my
ability to reverse engineer the protections that have been enforced
in this media that I was able even locate the appropriate material to
present this point to an interested public on this important point.

The Microsoft Operating system is designed to restrict digital
access according to information in order to optimize a monopolistic,
non-competitive agenda, the most essential restriction being the discovery
of the basic tools and carnal knowledge of the computer systems, the
modern printing press, itself.  This directly conflicts with the core
OLPC charter and goal.  While that can be ridiculed as an "Open Source"
agenda and irrational hangup, I'd argue based on the historical evidence
that the accusatory tone of such statements are fundamentally flawed
and very much more in line with the kind of rationality which one might
expect from a despot philosophy such as which might come from controlling
Communist Party in today's Red China.

The agenda, design and functionality of the Sugar interface, and it's
origins in GNU software and Linux kernels in specious and spurious.
Oxymoronic as that may sound, it is not the devotion to "Open Source"
which makes the move from Sugar to Microsoft Software untenable to
the goals of the One Laptop Per Child program. It is the change from a
classically Liberal based education program, a cornerstone of Western
and World progress to a regressive monopolistic platform which inhibits
by design those Western values and the knowledge of humanity so that
it can be adapted to other native cultures and thereby help assure the
survival all of mankind as a free, informed and tolerant civilization.

What, may I ask, is it intended that we teach these children in the
third world with a billion laptops?  That is the only relevant question.
Sugar is designed from the ground up to answer this question.  Obviously
the Microsoft product has no such agenda.

Ruben Safir
President NYLXS

http://www.mrbrklyn.com - Interesting Stuff
http://www.nylxs.com - Leadership Development in Free Software

So many immigrant groups have swept through our town that Brooklyn, like Atlantis, reaches mythological proportions in the mind of the world  - RI Safir 1998

http://fairuse.nylxs.com  DRM is THEFT - We are the STAKEHOLDERS - RI Safir 2002

"Yeah - I write Free Software...so SUE ME"

"The tremendous problem we face is that we are becoming sharecroppers to our own cultural heritage -- we need the ability to participate in our own society."

"> I'm an engineer. I choose the best tool for the job, politics be damned.<
You must be a stupid engineer then, because politcs and technology have been attached at the hip since the 1st dynasty in Ancient Egypt.  I guess you missed that one."

© Copyright for the Digital Millennium

More information about the conspire mailing list