Nicholas Negroponte delivering the Forrestal Lecture to the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD, on April 15, 2009
December 1, 1943 |
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Academic and computer scientist|
We have to make machines understand what they're doing, or they won't be able to come back and say, 'Why did you do that?'
My goal is not selling laptops. OLPC is not in the laptop business. It's in the education business.
We all learned how to walk and talk by interacting with our environment, with real goals and rewards.
Cell phones were more popular in Cambodia and Uganda because they didn't have phones. We had phones in this country, and we were very late to the table. They're going to adopt e-books much faster than we do.
When you meet a head of state, and you say, 'What is your most precious natural resource?' they will not say children at first, and then when you say, 'children,' they will pretty quickly agree with you.
Nature is pretty good at networks, self-organizing systems. By contrast, social systems are top-down and hierarchical, from which we draw the basic assumption that organization and order can only come from centralism.
Giving the kids a programming environment of any sort, whether it's a tool like Squeak or Scratch or Logo to write programs in a childish way – and I mean that in the most generous sense of the word, that is, playing with and building things – is one of the best ways to learn.
We've been working now with computers and education for 30 years, computers in developing countries for 20 years, and trying to make low-cost machines for 10 years. This is not a sudden turn down the road.
Learning by doing, peer-to-peer teaching, and computer simulation are all part of the same equation.
Everybody agrees that whatever the solutions are to the big problems, they… can never be without some element of education.
Even in the developing parts of the world, kids take to computers like fish to water.
One of the arguments here at OLPC is, if 100 million kids could have an Asus running Windows, is that better with two million kids running the XO? And the answer is yes. We want kids connected and the largest possible number is the goal.
Companies cannot really see beyond their current customer base. They explicitly or implicitly do things to protect their current customers. And the last person to want real change is your customer. This is why most new ideas come from small companies that have nothing to lose.
Linux is its own worst enemy: it's splintered, it has different distributions, it's too complex to run for most people.
It's hard to propose a $100 laptop for a world community of kids and then not say in the same breath that you're going to depend on the community to make software for it.
If you take any world problem, any issue on the planet, the solution to that problem certainly includes education. In education, the roadblock is the laptop.
Key is the question of where do new ideas come from. Historically, four places: government labs, big corporations, startup companies, and research universities.
Big companies are looking closer term, and even the most technological companies spend less than 1% of sales on research. Startups have suffered the burst bubble.
Give One, Get One generated about 100,000 zero-dollar laptops. Somebody else paid for them, but from the recipient's point of view, that's zero.
This is just the beginning, the beginning of understanding that cyberspace has no limits, no boundaries.