[conspire] NYLXS Press Release on the OLPC Project

prosolutions at gmx.net prosolutions at gmx.net
Sat Apr 26 16:11:42 PDT 2008

> From: Ruben Safir <ruben at mrbrklyn.com>
> 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. 

I disagree with this Ruben.  I believe an OS should be something the end
user is totally unaware of, and the difference between them that a
normal user might notice should be minor to trivial.

Now, when it comes to systems administration, then I believe that almost
everything you state and more applies.  Closed source platforms are
deconstructive on many different levels.

But seriously, if an OS were so complex that what you state about how
they condition normal users were true, then I would consider whatever
OS that is to be a failure, regardless of whether it is closed or open
source.  It really should be something the user doesn't notice, and when
they do actually need to configure something like a printer or external
storage device, doing so should be trivial.

One last comment I wanted to make - I actually have thought the whole
OLPC thing was totally ridiculous from the beginning.  What made me see
this was not travelling to Africa or anything, but spending a year
living in Germany, where the general relationship between people and
computers is very different than here.  In fact, I was blown away when I
came back here at how everyone is using computers for everything.  This
is very much a cultural phenomenon, beyond the utilitiarian use of
computers which surely exists as well.  Only, I think americans tend to
mask the cultural disposition towards computers with the utilitarianism.
So it was not surprising to see this american project, seemingly
well-intended, to provide one laptop per child in developing countries.  

In reality, I think the whole idea is kind of outlandish and there are
far more things that could greatly benefit children in impoverished
areas than having laptops.


> 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
> http://www2.mrbrklyn.com/resources/technology_changes_how_we_think.txt
> 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.
> 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.

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