This blog was originally published on October 13th, 2007. It was published on TypePad and can be found here.
OLPC's XO laptop is coming. You can buy it starting Nov. 12th 2007. The little green computer costs $200.00, and in order to get it, you have to buy a second one for a needy child. You can purchase them at xogiving.org
So, you might say, for $400.00 I can get and be a part of the most positive and exciting use of computer technology? To which I would reply "Yep, AND it is also the most exciting thing to happen to Linux and Open Source EVER".
First some background on the OLPC project. The project adheres to five core principles: (1) child ownership; (2) low ages; (3) saturation; (4) connection; and (5) free and open source. Secondly "It's an education project, not a laptop project". — Nicholas Negroponte
Open Source software and open source principles are going to revolutionize the way we educate children on the macroist of macro scales... World Wide. Children who have access to the XO laptop and the educational infrastructure provided by the XS (School Server) are going to have the greatest educational resources any child has ever had literally at their fingertips.
There are entire continents in the world where learning and education are thought to be as important as food and water. Entire families in Asian countries such as India and China will achieve great sacrifice for their children and their children's schooling.
It is astounding to think what will happen in these countries when and if every child were to have an XO and their schools were outfitted with XS's. I would argue that these children from the youngest of ages would have access to the entire body of human knowledge. The XS's will contain a large library of curriculum resources. But, it will also act as a gateway to the larger Internet and its billions of resources. Children in the most remotest of places will have access to Calculus and not just one or two resources, but the entire Calculus body of knowledge. From the earliest uses in the Egyptian pyramids to its modern engineering application.
What happens to a civilization when an entire generation has access to and the initiative to pursue learning anything? In just 18 years there might be an entire cohort of young high school graduates who have completed the learning and curriculum of a post doc in physics. What will these kids work on when they get to college? Can you imagine the innovation that would be possible? The OPLC XO and XS could very well facilitate the next golden age of human thought and global world wide innovation. More and more biological scientific research is done via computation and less and less is being performed in a wet lab. Is it possible that the students will not need expensive laboratory materials, and that their learning can be done via their computers? Well, I'd say so, and I'd also mention that the computers themselves are a computational learning tool.
The laptop software is entirely open source. Children who receive the laptop will have access to all the code, that makes up and runs the little green laptop. Children will be able to develop, and extend their laptops functionality. It is a development environment designed to entice and develop children past computer literacy and into computer expertise. Will the greatest flaw of my generation be our marriage with Microsoft? Our inability to hack our way out of a paper bag? Our blind faith in the expensive decisions of gigantic, monopolistic companies and industries. Will we wake up 18 years from now, and not only be more stupid than children, but also not be able to use their tools?