One Laptop Per Child
Every now and then, I come across a news item that gives me pause...and takes my breath away. I experienced such a moment when I chanced upon news of the One Laptop Per Child Project.
It’s 1971, and I’m applying myself in solving physics problems on a final exam, using...wait for it...a slide rule. Yep. I’m THAT old.
Over the course of my life, I bore witness to the birth and explosive growth of the “computer revolution.” I’ve seen, and experienced first-hand, the changes wrought in the workplace and the home by these wild and crazy things we call computers. I remember my first PC. I marveled at its capabilities although (in hindsight) they were laughably meager. I pondered then, and ponder today, the changes that computing brought to my world, our planet. I always assumed that computers will dramatically change the course of human events. They already have, in ways both positive and negative.
Computers are powerful tools indeed.
Have you heard of Nicholas Negroponte? Until this past week, I had not. He co-founded and chaired MIT’s Media Lab. He became inspired.
I want to hug this man.
Nicholas Negroponte had a vision. He envisioned the use of personal computers to educate the uneducated. Big deal, you say? Yes. His vision is a VERY big deal. Mr. Negroponte became aware that 70 percent (!) of our world’s children receive NO formal education. None. Zip. Nada. He didn’t dream of harnessing personal computers to educate the children in developed countries. Many others have applied themselves (haphazardly) to that task. No, he dreamed of placing a laptop computer in the hands of every child in every god-forsaken, exploited, impoverished corner of the globe. Well, if one is to dream, it’s best to dream BIG. Oh my...a laptop for EVERY child...imagine THAT!
The amazing thing is that his dream may very well become reality...and soon. The necessary instrument is a laptop costing about $100 to manufacture. Not some cheap toy, mind you, but a full-blown, fully capable (more than capable) laptop that is self-powered, dust proof, waterproof, and loaded with the best educational tools that modern man can provide. A laptop that can connect wirelessly to the world, a computer that can serve its owners capably and well in far-flung villages bereft of electricity or phone lines, school houses or teachers. A laptop you and I would love to own.
Is this possible?
Yes. It already exists. You see, Mr. Negroponte marshaled the resources of bright minds and generous hearts to do the impossible, proving, yet again, that “where there’s a will there’s a way.” It’s a breathtaking accomplishment. Don’t believe me? Simply Google “one laptop per child” and you will find a wealth of information about the dream, its technological manifestation, and its deployment.
Go ahead, do it now...I’ll wait.
I take a deep, long breath and imagine a world in which every child...every child...can access boundless knowledge, for the very first time in human history. I dream of a child who may come to study the Cosmos and become inspired to...achieve greatness. I dream of children whose once-blind eyes are finally opened to the world as it is...and as it may be. I dream of dreaming children...everywhere.
Who can predict what all this may mean for humanity? These laptops could be the modern-day equivalent of Pandora’s Box, revealing to all too many the disparity between the have’s and the have not’s. Maybe. Maybe knowledge and awareness will lead to envy...anger...
disgust...revolution. Maybe. Maybe knowledge will lead to further exploitation; maybe the laptops will serve as conduits for lies and more lies. Maybe...maybe...maybe. So many maybe’s.
But I truly believe in the innate goodness of the human heart.
I believe in the genius residing within each of us.
I believe in possibilities.
Each child is a boundless treasure trove of possibilities. How many scientists, engineers, healers, scholars, teachers, composers, entrepreneurs, visionaries, philosophers, mystics, poets and creators will be unleashed?
Excuse me while I catch my breath.
Imagine the possibilities!