One Lost-identity Per Child

I attended wikimania this past weekend, and was encouraged by the philosophers present take a critical stance towards the euphoria surrounding the 21st century agendas – Will Science, Technology, and Rationality necessarily make the world a better place? Didn’t we make the same mistake last century?

This led me to a scary thought regarding the One Laptop Per Child project, which I am generally very excited and optimistic about. The team seems to be asking all the right questions and taking all the right ideological positions with regards to the importance of viewing this project as an educational one (not a tech one), structuring the venture as a non-profit, and deeply understanding the value of free software and free culture.

But there is another freedom at stake here – one I have explored in the past (permanent records) – the freedom to remain anonymous, which is the keystone supporting personal privacy, which I am beginning to believe ought to be a basic human right.

I started thinking about how these laptops could easily become the instruments for an international id program, and for all the reasons that people are concerned about this, OLPC should seriously consider shipping with tools that support anonymous network activity. Tools like TOR, which regrettably the EFF has just had to cut funding for…

If you think this is important, perhaps you might want to chime in, and let laptop people know.

3 Responses to “One Lost-identity Per Child”

  1. November 22nd, 2006 | 12:31 am

    […] While there are a few issues I have with the project, it is really an thrilling moment in educational technology and after holding the hardware in my own hands I actually believe this vision might truly manifest. The main reason I am writing about this in the Plone blog is I have learned that the olpc’s application development language of choice is Python! […]

  2. September 5th, 2007 | 9:23 pm

    I find it sad the direction we are moving it. To think that giving away free computers to kids might be seen as some sort of tracking or Big Brother idea. But it is sad, and it is true to be worried. Combine this with Google even wanting to listen to us through the microphones built into most computers! (

    Ack! Horrible!

  3. jonah
    September 5th, 2007 | 11:16 pm

    Hey Alchemy Guy,

    For the record, I actually have alot of faith in the OLPC (, but I am not giddy with a false sense of euphoria that technology and good intentions will necessarily lead to a better world. I think a critical, skeptical, and cynical perspective is valuable methodological apparatus to bring to bear on any complex phenomena.

    Just so its clear, nobody is giving away free computers – the countries participating in the OLPC project will be taking out massive loans to finance the project. The laptop foundation is a non-profit organization, but the laptops are not free of charge.

    If you are really interested in this topic I recommend that you follow regularly since they have great coverage of the project’s progress. Last year I also wrote two essays which grapple with the social, cultural, and pedagogical implications of the introduction of this techonology:

    be well,

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