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Dvorak Slams OLPC As 'Naive Fiasco'

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the snark-snark-snark dept.

Education 740

theodp writes "PC Magazine's John C. Dvorak has a unique take on the cute One Laptop per Child XO-1, deeming the OLPC project a naive fiasco waiting to unfold that sends an insulting 'let them eat cake' message to the world's poor. When it comes down to a choice of providing African kids living in absolute poverty with access to Slashdot or a $200 truckload of rice, Dvorak votes for the latter. Buy ten OLPCs if it assuages your guilt, says Dvorak, but 'I'll donate my money to hunger relief.'"

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New section (5, Insightful)

HandsOnFire (1059486) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633485)

We have space, hardware, your rights online, apple, etc...

Can we have a john dvorak section so I have a shot at filtering out all his crap?

he's got a point. (3, Insightful)

yagu (721525) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633487)

It's a hard point to argue if you had only two options, food, or a laptop, the food seems a better choice. Of course there's no reason it can't be both. I think his point is worth thinking on, there are people for whom getting a computer is not much more than some diversion before they die of whatever disease they're slated to die from if they're lucky enough not to die of starvation (or unlucky enough, pick your idealogical slant).

True that no matter how much money you send, it's never going to be enough, but also true, for the lucky ones if they manage to survive their poverty, exposure to something like a computer may offer them a starting point.

He also raises good points... computers are hardly more than advertising pipelines, and unless you're already savvy, it's hard to suppress an rid the experience of the deluge of ads. Also, how many sites are in SiSwati or isiZulu these days?

Heck, I've seen and read of schools investing millions in computers with no tangible results in students' scores, grades, or even elevated interests in learning. The big problem is actually teaching something at all, ever, no matter the tools selected for education.

Yeah, sometimes Dvorak's nothing more than a grumpy old man who rants. I see him in this article as a grumpy old thoughtful and compassionate man. Kudos to him for raising the issue.

Re:he's got a point. (5, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633579)

You know, there are lots(like tens of millions) of people that get enough to eat most of the time, but still live in poverty. These laptops give them the opportunity to learn, and to share good ideas amongst themselves, ideas that may help them run their farm at a greater profit, or save time and labor.

One thing is sure, it wouldn't work if no one bothered trying.

Re:he's got a point. (4, Insightful)

packeteer (566398) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633691)

I think hunger relief is often the the far less useful money that gets rid of guilt. Somehow people think if someone is not literally starving they don't deserve their help.

Yes people are still starving but it is less than it has been before and the reason for hunger is almost always political, economic, or weather related. Much of the human reasons for keeping people hungry are dealt with when you educate and empower the population.

I don't think it is fair to consider people who have enough to eat often by subsistence farming to be too rich for our aid. This laptop plan may or may not be the best way but it is far from useless or harmful. I guess we will find out soon enough.

Re:he's got a point. (5, Funny)

shawb (16347) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633603)

Give a man a fish, and he can eat for a day.

Teach a man how to 419 [wikipedia.org] and he can fish for a lifetime.

Re:he's got a point. (1)

Poltras (680608) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633623)

True that no matter how much money you send, it's never going to be enough, but also true, for the lucky ones if they manage to survive their poverty, exposure to something like a computer may offer them a starting point.

"Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you will not have to listen to his incessant whining about how hungry he is."

Seriously, the problem doesn't lie with or within the OLPC program. The problem lies in that we're still mainly sending money. What do you want them to do? Buy iPods?!?

Re:he's got a point. (5, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633649)

"Of course there's no reason it can't be both."

Considering that the OLPC isnt intended for demographics who have no food, people like Dvorak would be that reason...

There's a large and emerging segment of 'semi-poor people' who have food and most other necessities, but for whom educational material is a significant cost. One of the main points of the OLPC is to cut educational material costs while creating a load of other capabilities.

Personally I think the OLPC is already a huge success; I'd attribute the interest in it as a large part of the driving force for low-cost laptops such as ASUS Eee.

"Yeah, sometimes Dvorak's nothing more than a grumpy old man who rants."

Yeah, well, no different this time.

Re:he's got a point. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633695)

It's a hard point to argue if you had only two options, food, or a laptop, the food seems a better choice. Of course there's no reason it can't be both.


Umm... fundamentals of economics? If you only have 1$ to give, you can only give 1$. You can't give it twice.

Hunger is a distribution problem (4, Insightful)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633727)

There's plenty of food in the world. The issue is one of distribution, not lack of ability to grow it. Typically hunger and poverty go hand in hand with war and social inequalities. If you look at the Global Hunger Map [declanbutler.info] (requires Google Earth), you'll see hunger is worst in the Middle East, central Africa, and parts of India. Sending rice or laptops to those places will help little until they can establish safety and equality.

Re:he's got a point. (5, Insightful)

ShieldW0lf (601553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633749)

He also raises good points... computers are hardly more than advertising pipelines, and unless you're already savvy, it's hard to suppress an rid the experience of the deluge of ads. Also, how many sites are in SiSwati or isiZulu these days?

That is bullshit. The OLPC project includes Squeak, a Smalltalk programming language, and has simple sensor and control devices available that can be used to have Squeak programs interact with the real world. A child who can program in Squeak grows into an adult who can solve problems, think logically, develop and use technology and compete globally. I've been guiding my 7 year old in it, and she's already made her first object oriented game, so clearly, it's suitable for the task.

Re:he's got a point. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633803)

You can feed them and keep'em ignorant and they'll just be more of them next time.

Teach them, give'em the tools to help themselves and let the ones that cannot or will not evolve die.

Of course the best alternative is to leave them the f*k alone. Just kick out all the meddling white assholes and let them evolve on their own.

Given 300 years of isolation they may be past the iron age.

Re:he's got a point. (5, Informative)

Gossi (731861) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633809)

I've got a question. Does everybody on Slashdot believe that all of Africa is starving babies with flies covering their mouths? That's a serious question, by the way. Because whilst there are certainly places where that is still happening and it's terrible, there's a fuck of a lot of places where it isn't like that.

Re:he's got a point. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633821)

"It's a hard point to argue if you had only two options, food, or a laptop, the food seems a better choice."

But then again, there are hundreds of millions of people out there who have enough food, but who need better education and the XO is intended to give the just that.

Believe it or not, the XO is not intended for people who are starving.

So, the only point Dvorak makes again and again is that you can even earn your living with trolling on the internet. Quod erat demonstrandum!

Who is Dvorak? (1)

tristian_was_here (865394) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633489)

Who is Dvorak? The only Dvorak I know is a crippled keyboard.

Re:Who is Dvorak? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633565)

Who is Dvorak? The only Dvorak I know is a crippled keyboard.
Dvorak is a troll. All he does is write articles that get people upset and bring in ad revenue. He needs to be ignored.

Re:Who is Dvorak? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633693)

he also does the crankygeeks podcast, totally content free

RTFS (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633593)

"PC Magazine's John C. Dvorak". If you can't be bothered to do a simple search to find some of his other stuff or more information on him, you really shouldn't be on the internet.

Re:RTFS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633661)

If you don't ask questions, you don't learn
If you do asks questions, some twat will criticise you for asking the wrong person.

Re:Who is Dvorak? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633709)

If Dvorak said it, it must be wrong.

Re:Who is Dvorak? (4, Informative)

mollymoo (202721) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633747)

John C Dvorak is a notorious professional troll. His MO is to post something which is carefully designed so it will be interpreted as highly inflammatory (like this story), but he's always careful to give himself a plausible "out" by never being absolute or explicit, so he can later claim he was misinterpreted. If you read this article, you'll see all the hallmarks - he never actually says that computers for the third world are a bad idea, or that education isn't better than food relief. He just wants people to think that's what he's saying because it's controversial and gets the hits.

This confirms it (5, Insightful)

Jooly Rodney (100912) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633491)

You know, I was a little nervous about giving them money, but now that I know Dvorak's against it, I'm convinced it was the right thing to do.

Hmmm. Let see (5, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633495)

Slams Linux in 94 and says that it will never go anywhere ESP. on servers. Says that it will never replace unix (took ray norda to task for letting go of Unix and moving to Linux). IIRC, said that SCO was dead on WRT Linux stealing code from Unix. So on, and so on.

I long ago quit reading him, because he long ago became worthless.

Re:Hmmm. Let see (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633673)

He also thought mice would never take off.

Quote:

"The Macintosh uses an experimental pointing device called a 'mouse.' There is no evidence that people want to use these things."

Re:Hmmm. Let see (3, Funny)

Tomy (34647) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633697)

Going back even further, I read an article of his in the DOS days where he said the average user didn't need multitasking. Around the same time he complained about TSR's [wikipedia.org] not playing well together.

I wish he'd give stock tips. I could short whatever stock he recommended and make a fortune.

Re:Hmmm. Let see (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633779)

Nobody is so worthless that's not usable as a bad example.

Dvorak is one of many.

Give them fish... (5, Insightful)

renesch (1016465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633497)

...but above all don't teach them how to fish!

Re:Give them fish... (5, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633619)

"Light a man a fire and you'll keep him warm for a night; light a man afire and you'll keep him warm for the rest of his life."

[Some random /. sig]
 

Re:Give them fish... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633717)

I agree. In this case, give them a laptop and in reponse to "How do I fish?" say "Google it".

Dictators like to steal (4, Insightful)

danbert8 (1024253) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633499)

Rice can be stolen and then resold on an international market for money. I was under the impression that XOs could only be used in a certain area or they'd be useless. So the real question is, would you rather give $200 of rice to a dictator that the people will never see, or try and get them a machine that can help spread education and freedom to peoples all over the world?

Re:Dictators like to steal (1)

Uthic (931553) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633613)

And the laptops can't be stolen, and then rendered for parts ?

I guess its the old fish story. (2, Interesting)

Bonzoli (932939) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633503)

Give them a fish you feed them for a day, teach them to fish you feed them for a lifetime.
Or at least till global warming kills all the fish.

Is Dvorak just posting stupid comments again so he can get posted on slashdot and improve his readership?

OLPC is not naive (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633505)

Man does not live by bread alone.

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to phish and he will eat for a lifetime.

That's not unique. (5, Informative)

mabinogi (74033) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633509)

That's not a unique take, that's the same old tired objections that we've been hearing since the project started.
The XO is not intended to go to children who can't afford food. How dense can some people be?

Oh wait - it's Dvorak, silly question.

Re:That's not unique. (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633655)

Maybe you're right. But giving someone a $200 laptop assumes that that's the best thing you can do for them with $200. And it also assumes that they're incapable of making that judgment themselves if you simply gave them $200.

The truly poor don't need a laptop. Or, in other words, if your need for a laptop is high on your list of needs, that means you're not truly poor.

There's certainly nothing wrong with trying to help people with laptops. It's good. It probably helps in real, tangible ways. But something like providing medicine and medical care is clearly better.

Re:That's not unique. (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633823)

If you give them $200 it will only end up in the pockets of the corrupt governments in these countries.

Re:That's not unique. (1)

ZeroSerenity (923363) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633659)

Then who or what is this laptop made for? I can see this, at best, being a tool for children in elementary schools (I had a laptop since third grade, supplied by the school) to get them closer to computers and allow them to learn somehow, but they'd have to be locked down heavily. Like no internet, no games (durring class) and some other things. I'd include a heavy range of software from simple learning tools and educational software, to things like programming tools and stuff of the like to have the kids play around and use these machines to seriously help them.

Giving computers to children who can hardly read isn't going to help. I'd rather give the money to a food bank.

Not a unique argument, but a good one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633713)

We all know Dvorak's a troll. But there are people who are starving (or in need of shelter, medical care, or other basic services). Wouldn't your charitable dollars be best spent helping the very neediest?

prioritization of resources (2, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633753)

The XO is not intended to go to children who can't afford food. How dense can some people be?

Which is exactly the problem; the XO project ignores the people most in need, and for those it doesn't ignore, it hands them a pound of cake instead of a hundred pounds of rice. The guy's talent and resources could have gone to better causes. It's an exaggeration to say "you could buy food with that money", but the continent needs basic literacy, which is achievable with paper, pencils, a schoolroom, and a teacher. It needs agricultural and job skills training, also achievable with basic, inexpensive materials.

Re:That's not unique. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633767)

The XO is not intended to go to children who can't afford food.

Of coures it is! It's called One Laptop Per Child, not One Laptop Per Child Who Can Afford Food. Or perhaps some children who can afford food (or whose parents can afford food) will get two XOs so that it is One Laptop Per Child on average.

I think he's missing the point (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633519)

Looks like Dvorak--as many others--are totally missing the point of the OLPC program. It's not for places where people are starving to death. It's for places where kids are able to go to school and get some education. The OLPC program is designed to get kids in developing countries access to technology where they otherwise wouldn't have it.

Not all third-world countries are starving to death. Quite a number have the basic needs covered, but they need effective education, and the OLPC program aims to supplement that education.

Re:I think he's missing the point (4, Informative)

Matt Perry (793115) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633769)

Looks like Dvorak--as many others--are totally missing the point of the OLPC program.
Dvorak isn't missing the point. He's trolling for ad dollars. He admits as much. [youtube.com] Don't click on the link and feed the troll. Nothing to see here, just move along.

Why Not Both? (1)

cyberbian (897119) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633525)

While I can understand that John sees the OLPC as a flawed mechanism to alleviate the problems facing the developing world, would it not make much more sense to offer both types of aid? Given that there is an increasing gap between the information haves and have nots, it seems to me that the OLPC project is a good first step in closing the gap. Furthermore, with the increased information awareness, many of the hunger relief mechanisms may quickly be eradicated. As children and communities in the developing world gain access to the combined knowledge of the first world, perhaps it goes a long way to solving the 'Give a man a fish, teach a man to fish' problem...

A free truckload of rice destroys their farmers... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633527)

...a free laptop destroys their pc hardware industry. ;-)

give a man a fish... (4, Funny)

fyoder (857358) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633529)

... and he will eat for a day. Show him how to monetize his web site with google ads, and he can go to the market and buy fish with the money he makes.

Re:give a man a fish... (2, Insightful)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633589)

I thought of that saying also when i first saw it (minus the google ad part). It boils down to a short-term fix versus a long-term fix. Giving food directly is a short-term fix, but will not solve the underlying causes and may result in yet more starving people a decade down the road. The laptop idea is to spark the economy so that the population can lift itself out of poverty without handouts. Whether it will work or not, who knows? The point is that both solutions should be respected.
     

Give a man a fish ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633533)

Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.
Teach a man/child that the world is a huge place and anything is possible then something wonderful happens ... provided that child/man doesn't starve.

Hunger certainly is important. HOPE may be more important, for humans.

Rice is good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633535)

...but think of all the pr0n that one can find on that series of tubes known as the interwebs.

Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633543)

Teach a man to fish, you're just assuaging your guilt, according to Dvorak.

He's an Idiot (1)

explosivejared (1186049) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633545)

Feed them for a day or gradually give them the tools to where they can eventually become self-supportive and successful societies? Hmmm.... that's a tough one. Sure there needs to be a whole lot of hunger relief, but without charitable development on industry, education, etc., the third world will never become more than a welfare state dependent on the fickle benevolance of their rich neighbors. OLPC is just as important as hunger relief. OLPC represents an effort to promote education, the most important tool any modern society can have. So OLPC may just be more important than immediate hunger relief in the long run. The way to respect a human being is to help them make themselves able not to make them little more than beggars. Give them food sure, but also teach them how they do better for themselves and be able provide their own food one day.

That's it, Dvorak, treat the symptom (1)

osgeek (239988) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633547)

The cause of the hunger in the first place is the lack of mental feeding. Hungry bellies are just a symptom of the broken society over there. Sure, money can buy rice to feed the hungry kids for a while. They'll still be hungry when that money runs out. People have been throwing food supplies at Africa for generations and Africa is worse off than ever.

As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for ya?"

Maybe Dvroak should have a nice big cup of stfu while someone tries something different this time.

Re:That's it, Dvorak, treat the symptom (1)

Mi5ke561 (1002900) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633773)

Dvorak misses something else. Frequently, good things happen in spite of the drawbacks. For the most part, right now, Africa is a welfare project for self perpetuating NGOs that put a bandaid on problems but which never, ever really deal with the root problems. And while they may have loads of good will, for the most part they end up perpetuating what has become a perpetual mess.

For the most part, those people don't have much in the way of capital and they don't have the knowledge to leverage what they have into something useful. The hope is that if they learn to read, and handle some math, they can use that computer and the web as a great big version of something that I really miss-- The Whole Earth Catalog. And that book wasn't just a list of neat stuff, it was a great way to give people ideas. And with a little luck, those African kids will look at our new modern equivalent, get an inspiration, take stock of such capital and resources that they do have access to, and maybe make their lives a little better. And if one in a hundred does that, it seems to me that the whole project has been worth the effort put into it.

I read someplace, once upon a time, that the definition of insanity was doing the same boneheaded thing over and over again and expecting a different result each time. What the NGOs in Africa are doing is a lot like that. If things like the XO break that cycle, even a little bit,
that's a whole lot better than what we're seeing now. In the end, like it or not, the people who are going to have to solve Africa's problems, are the Africans themselves and if those little computers help them make a move in that direction, then the whole program will have been successful.

One thing's for sure-- what's been done to date hasn't worked, because the Africans are still starving, still suffering various plagues, and still so dirt poor that the route to upper mobility is for a kid to become some dirtbag warlord's Kalashnikov Coolie. Everybody complains about it, but I see damned few people offering an alternative. Negroponte is one of the few. And instead of a bunch of static, he deserves an attaboy for that.

Contrarians like Dvorak are useful people to have around, but sometimes they're wrong and this is one of those times.

STOP SUBMITTING HIS DAMN ARTICLES! (1, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633557)

I'm sick of reading about him! He's always wrong! It would be illegal to kill him but we can still killfile him, right? I never want to read another Dvorak headline again! Don't feed the trolls!

BRILLIANT! (5, Interesting)

lakeland (218447) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633559)

After all, can you think of a single project Dvorak has claimed as a failure that didn't succeed spectacularly? His criticism is a strong hint that OLPC is no longer a niche player and is about to make major inroads.

On a more insidious note, Dvorak is an analyst-for-hire. He only comes out with an opinion when somebody pays him to have that opinion. That means one of the big players has decided they want bad PR about OLPC. I wonder if it was Microsoft, Intel, or somebody else?

Give a man a fish... (2, Insightful)

Iphtashu Fitz (263795) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633561)

... and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll feed himself for life.

True I could go out and pay for some food for these folks, as many do. But unless we start investing in in their future they'll just end up dependent on handouts for generations to come. Many organizations are already offering food to the poor but not very many are investing in giving them access to high tech training that could help them get out of poverty. Hopefully OLPC will prove effective in doing just that.

The 80's called: they want their stereotype back. (2, Funny)

chris_mahan (256577) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633567)

Dvorak needs to head over to ted.com and learn a thing or two.

For example: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former Finance Minister of Nigeria gives a talk on Aid versus trade:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/152 [ted.com]

Why does someone pay this guy? (4, Informative)

sayfawa (1099071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633571)

I've heard some dumb shit from this guy before but this breaks the mold. That rant wasn't even worthy of one of the AC trolls around here.

How many times has it been said over and over and over again: the OLPC is not for the starving countries with the distended bellies and flies in the eyes. They are for countries that have generally good health and food but just aren't rich enough to provide computers for their students. It would have taken about one freaking minute for him to find that out. Instead he lets us know (again) what an ass he is.

Re:Why does someone pay this guy? (1)

kebes (861706) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633669)

You're absolutely right.

I refuse to click on the links or RTFA because this is clearly another Dvorak "grab-clicks-by-posting-inflammatory-tripe" attempt. Seriously, the quotes from the summary are precisely the standard criticisms that have been leveled against OLPC many times before (and are even summarized on the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] ). The rebuttals are pretty obvious and have been provided in innumerable Slashdot discussions on the topic.

Dvorak's argument is both a straw man and a false dichotomy. A straw man, because no one is advocating giving laptops to that segment of the world population that is so poor that starvation is truly their overriding concern. A false dichotomy, because spreading knowledge and education is not mutually exclusive with addressing issues of poverty and starvation. In fact, the best way to help a people better themselves is to address immediate threats (such as war and imminent starvation), but to also educate and provide the populace with the tools to take control of their situation and improve it.

OLPC is not trying to send laptops into regions where the social and technical infrastructure cannot support them. The aim is to help those countries that want to improve education and spread of knowledge. The list of participating countries [wikipedia.org] makes this pretty clear. These are not countries of "absolute poverty" that Dvorak conjurs up--these are countries that are trying to improve themselves and succeed in a competitive international market.

Just let them die already ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633573)

Seriously, it's overpopulation and nature's doing a good job at killing off the shit..
Lets not interfere.

We've been feeding the poor for years.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633585)

We've been raising money to feed the poor in other countries for decades now, and we're still doing it, so I'm guessing handouts of food aren't the best long term solution (not that I'm saying we should let millions starve and die until we work one out) but this OLPC thing doesn't appear to be taking food from their mouths so maybe in 20 years time we'll be able to outsource all our support to Ethiopia instead of China?

Zonk, you're an idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633595)

Just tag this 'falsedilemma' and move on.

What the poorer countries really need (1)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633601)

Is for the richer countries to stop giving them access to easy credit, foreign aid and programs like this. Give them trade opportunities instead. That's the only way you are going to encourage them to create real economies that will alleviate poverty. The obstacles to these people creating wealth and getting themselves out of poverty are a whole hell of a lot more complicated than just access to computers...

Uneffective charity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633605)

Buy ten OLPCs if it assuages your guilt, says Dvorak, but 'I'll donate my money to hunger relief.'
... and in turn do nothing to solve the problem, maybe even exacerbate it if you're not careful.

Democracy vs. rice (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633607)

If there were a village of people starving, and I could either give them democracy and let them continue to starve to death, or give them rice and let them live under a brutal dictator, I'd choose the rice, too.

The same goes for a herd of cows, except instead of rice, I'd feed them Dvorak's Straw Man.

Then again, they're hungry. I'd feed Dvorak to them, too. Poor cows.

- RG>

Who gives a shit what Dvorak thinks? (1)

dgun (1056422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633611)

How about $200 worth of rice and a laptop? Then maybe 20 years from now, Dvorak can hire some of these third world kids to write for his shitty magazine. Lord knows he could use some fresh talent.

Dvorak addressing the symptom? (1)

Buzz_Litebeer (539463) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633615)

Isn't the OLPC supposed to address the root problem that the local individuals have low education and skills and the only skill that they do have (farming) is moot because of a lack of natural resources?

No (1)

owlnation (858981) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633617)

Dvorak... sigh...

No. Seriously No. They need the laptops. The reason being that the west, in the form of Govt. aid and NGOs, sends rice, clothes and many other basic needs, to the 3rd world already -- and has done so for decades.

It isn't enough. Never is. It isn't enough, not because of scarcity of resources, but mostly because many African governments are corrupt.

Thus, the only good long term solution to this is to try to -- as much as possible -- educate the people of Africa. That way they can better understand their situation and get their dreadful governments out of power, as well as having engineering, logistical, economic, and many other skills necessary to rebuild their countries.

Let's send Dvorak to Africa for extended research into this. (minus the XO or any other laptop please)

Empowerment is the key to beating hunger. (2, Insightful)

compumike (454538) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633625)

Dvorak is shortsighted, thinking that if we can pay for meals for starving kids, that we will stop hunger. That is simply not a sustainable way of thinking about the problem. Take a look at any of the big organizations working on the issue: for example The Hunger Project [thp.org] , or CARE [care.org] . While it's convenient marketing to associate X dollars with providing Y meals (and they sometimes do this to encourage people to donate), these organizations readily admit that the real path to successfully beating the chronic problem of hunger is to empower locals to be self-sufficient.

There are concrete actions that we can take as members of the "developed" nations, and these include: subsidizing agricultural infrastructure, providing education about health and nutrition, education in general, helping to challenge laws / societal norms that restrict productivity, reducing sexism and racism, etc. But these hunger programs are specifically *not* about providing meals directly.

Chronic world hunger is a real issue (and is different from short-term famine relief, which our military and private organizations do a whole lot of), and there are things we can do to lead to a sustainable solution. Dvorak incorrectly assumes that because we can buy Y meals, we should do that instead of educating the next generation. In fact, the big organizations already tackling hunger know that empowering the locals is the key, and this is entirely consistent with OLPC's goals.

--
Educational microcontroller kits for the digital generation. [nerdkits.com]

OLPC is kind of silly (1)

MSTCrow5429 (642744) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633631)

I'm guessing the laptops aren't being given to the starving ones. I have no problem writing them off and focusing on the not about to die crowd from largest net gain perspective, but the idea that giving them laptops is going to turn them into spoiled American college brats is a bit much. I don't know what jobs are available to very poor, incredibly uneducated people, but seeing what educated people in the US end up with, they can't be good.

Leave it to Dvorak to see a half empty glass (4, Insightful)

Torodung (31985) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633641)

True to the linked article, my first thought about the OLPC project was that all it would do is show the have-nots just how much they don't have. I figured it was more likely to spur a violent, lower-class revolution than anything else. I was thinking about 18th century France at the time.

Can you imagine how someone with starving children would feel when they Wikied "Turducken [wikipedia.org] ?" It'd be like Marie Antoinette with a megaphone and a team of Solid Gold dancers.

But I also believe that technology is a need, in a technological world, and that it empowers people. I doubt this project can assuage the global poverty and resource distribution fiasco, nor was that the intent, but it may allow a new generation to help themselves.

These laptops can bring them something of value: hope. Hope tastes awful, and it needs salt, which many of the project's beneficiaries can't afford, but it's absolutely better than nothing at all.

I know this is a bit redundant, but I wanted to express Dvorak's point without all the bombast and condemnation. We're sorry you're a guilty white man, John. We're not getting on that bus.

I'm sure the OLPC is a good thing, and I know the people who buy them are doing a good thing, but I often wonder if our priorities are in the right order.

Because Dvorak is ultimately wrong. Technology, in whatever form, will absolutely change the world. I just wonder if it will be for the better.

--
Toro

Dvorak is increasingly irrelevant (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633645)

1. Pick a contentious issue.

2. Pick a side. (doesn't matter which)

3. Pick a fight.

4. ???

5. Profit!

Does it really matter what this old guy says? It isn't said to add anything to the discussion - just said to get suckers all riled up.

Why can't we do both?` (1)

noewun (591275) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633647)

Just asking.

By the way, did you know that in some African languages "Dvorak" mean "pompous douchebag"?

Re:Why can't we do both?` (1)

MrP- (45616) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633681)

It's a no-win situation.

You say: "I'll give $200 for a laptop and $200 for food"
They say: "You could have given $400 for food!"

You say: "Fine, I'll give $200 for a laptop and $400 for food"
They say: "You could have given $600 for food!"

You'll never win.

Buy a man a fish. (3, Insightful)

nick_davison (217681) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633651)

Buy ten OLPCs if it assuages your guilt, says Dvorak, but 'I'll donate my money to hunger relief.'
Buy a man a fish, he eats for a day.

Teach a child to use a computer, he gets to work in a call center for a lifetime.

Seriously though, food aid achieves...? It pretty much ensures poor kids live long enough to breed and make even more poorer kids. You pat yourself on the back for having saved a kid today and create five that starve tomorrow.

Given the choice, I'd rather give those kids a chance at an education so they can raise their standard of life and start trying to ensure their kids, grandkids and every generation afterwards is lifted out of a situation where they need food aid year after year to support too large numbers on poorly cultivated land.

Call me mercenary but, tough as it is, I'd rather a million kids starve while the million that survive improve their quality of life and for the generations to come than save both million now and have ten million starving within a couple of generations.

In this case, Dvorak's self congratulating his short term compassion while creating a far worse long term problem and knocking those who're trying to do the opposite.

Give them weapons? (2, Informative)

Quila (201335) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633653)

A lot of the hunger is because those in power are purposefully starving them, for example if they're part of the tribe not in power and are considered to be a threat to the local dictator. You can send tons of food, and it'll get confiscated to feed his supporters and resold for cash, keeping the dictator in power and maintaining the hunger.

Or in the case of Zimbabwe, you just have a president who instituted various socialist programs and turned what was once the breadbasket of Africa into a nation of starving poor. Getting rid of Mugabe would go more towards solving the hunger problem there than a million tons of grain.

Slashdot overreaction in... (0, Troll)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633667)

$20 says that this story is tagged "troll" etc. just because it's Dvorak.

You know what, folks? He's right. OLPC is one of a long line of pet projects to "help the poor" from people with money and leadership, driven by their own egos and perceptions, not reality.

Witness Oprah's $40M school "for leadership" for African girls; total size of the school is about 150 students. It has two beauty salons, among other things, and has been described as extravagant, even ignoring that it's in the third world. That's a great use of money; meanwhile, a friend of mine spent a month in Ghana teaching kids there, and they didn't have the money for basic materials like pencils for lessons in reading and writing. But hey, 150 girls a year are whisked to a class higher than 90% of the people even in the United States; Oprah gets some pretty photo ops with them, and both the black and feminist communities love her to pieces.

How about the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation? Guess what- month-old children in Africa don't die from AIDS; they die from diarrhea because of contaminated drinking water. They don't starve because of AIDS; they starve because they need food. They don't get shot because of AIDS; they get shot because the western world stands by while genocide happens.

They don't need fucking laptops. They need clean water, food, peace, basic health infrastructure, peace, and educational/vocational/agricultural training.

Re:Slashdot overreaction in... (1)

someone300 (891284) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633799)

They need lots of things, and a laptop can certainly help with some of the things you mentioned.

educational/vocational/agricultural training.

didn't have the money for basic materials like pencils for lessons in reading and writing
The OLPC project is targetted at those who are in a situation where they've got food, and life's necessities but now need help becoming self sustaining ... this is done through education. With these fancy laptops, it's possible that they won't need to spend nearly as much on paper and resources, as well as providing a great educational link to the internet.

Who pays attention to Dvorak anymore? (1)

Ranger (1783) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633675)

I sure as hell don't. He's like the Chris Matthews of the computer world. Just another loud mouth. OLPC is a revolution. It isn't naive. It'll take off, but will have many more trials and tribulations ahead of it.

The only reason this story made the grade was to get lots of comments on what a useless columnist Dvorak is. Congrats, Slashdot editors.

Teach a man t o FARM fish .... (2, Insightful)

dmso12 (1200699) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633683)

Rather than have the various countries of Africa to overfish already stressed ecosystems (an inevitable consequence of fishing, no matter where in the world) it is better to teach how to raise native fishes like the Nile Tilapia (which apparently was the fish that Jesus fed the masses with). Free laptops will advance this goal. Tialipa are like aquatic cockroaches - they breed at 6 months, eat basically anything low on the food chain, and grow very quickly.

I'm critical of OLPC, but... (5, Insightful)

erikharrison (633719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633687)

I have some criticism here and there of OLPC, and I wonder if it will ever achieve what it hopes to achieve.

That said, I find Dvorak's comments to be horrifically offensive. The ignorance and pretension with which he is critical of OLPC and, by extension, any project that does anything other than ship limited, non renewable resources to countries where it can be stolen by corrupt bureaucrats is frankly disgusting. And the assumptions underneath! That you'll only ever make a one time charitable donation to a third world country in your life! If I didn't know that Dvorak was doing this only to be contrary, I'd say that his rhetoric belied someone who had never deeply considered the problem in third world nations before writing the damn article.

The truth is that third world countries desperately need infrastructure and education. They'll never be able to compete in the world wide industrial market, even if they have natural resources, but given sufficient education they can compete in the world information market. Is Dvorak really so short sighted as to not see that? Kids who grow up with computers can become information workers, and that requires no more infrastructure than a cheap laptop and bandwidth. But apparently that's a long term investment that Dvorak can't see - though I doubt he would be so critical of a similar education initiative in the US, which already has established resources in computer education. How hypocritical.

And there is more - a single laptop can service a large number of children, technology like the XO-1 that could let kids onto the internet can foster a generation supportive and understanding of democracy and free markets without growing up in one. I could go on and on (for example, that the nations themselves are sometimes purchasing these laptops), but I think around here I'd be preaching to the choir.

So, sure, if you're only ever going to spend $200 dollars in charitable donations in your lifetime, spend it on food for starving kids. If you don't mind giving a little more then consider investing in the future of these children, rather than just hemorrhaging money into life support and hoping the situation gets better on its own.

Dvorak is an attention whore (2, Insightful)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633701)

Which is quite understandable, as his professional value stands on how many people he can piss off enough they read his articles and, maybe, click on those banners.

Anyway, this doesn't surprise me a bit.

dvorak is an idiot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21633703)

the man is an idiot. imagine solving world hunger. boom, for the next 30 years everyone is fed. then they breed. oh, wow, double the problem to solve. why not give them a laptop and hope they can figure out how to feed themselves?

How can anyone disagree with that? (0)

mastermind989 (1198825) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633705)

Without food, the kids will starve to death. Name one way that giving them laptops will be of any help.

High population growth==starvation (1)

phdel (1003412) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633707)

Increasing food supply within a population tends cause an increase in population, which in turn increases the need for food. Contraception of course would help with the problem, but missionaries in the region are against it of course so we end up with more population growth and more starvation--the missionaries are pretty much to blame for this, despite their good intentions. Combining the provision of food and contraception is really the only responsible thing to do. Also, there is a correlation between education level and reduced population growth rates...If anything the laptops will probably do more good for their society as a whole than the christian missionaries.

More babies or better lives? (2, Insightful)

Futurepower(R) (558542) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633715)

Give money for food; they will have more babies.

Give money for computers; they will teach themselves better lives.

Teach a man to phish etc... (1)

ashSlash (96551) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633721)

Sure, let's buy into Dvorak's false dichotomy and misapprehensions about the would be recipients of the OLPC units - otherwise they might learn to make their way in the modern global economy and feed themselves.

Dvorak is concerned with making controversial statements which he may, or more likely does not, believe.

Even a broken clock... (1)

andreyw (798182) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633725)

...is right two times a day. You can't seriously think you're fighting world poverty by providing these kids with laptop.

I'd be willing to extend it a bit further. If you're feeling guilt over your social standing and wish to help out the poor, there is NO need to go as far as Africa. There is not a single country on this planet, barring maybe Lichtenstein or something of similar nature, that does not have a problem with the poor. Americans - I suggest helping the "urban" and the "doun Souf" or Appalachia-inhabitants first.

There's an old quote... (1)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633737)

"Give a man a fish, and you've fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you've fed him for a lifetime." Give people in developing nations the tools they need to learn how to compete in the global economy, and you're doing far better than simply donating food. I'm not saying we should stop donating basic subsistence supplies to these nations, but wouldn't it be better if we could do something to increase their ability to educate themselves and take an affirmative step in charting their own course in future economics?

OLPC is doig well then (1)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633739)

If Dvorak says that it is a 'Naive Fiasco', then given how good Dvorak is at predicting the future, the OLPC is in good shape, then.

The press overlooks the purpose of the machine (3, Informative)

Eric Smith (4379) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633743)

The point isn't that the world's poor need computers or that they need to be on the internet. The point is that they need better education. Currently a major cost of education is textbooks. The OLPC is intended, in combination with suitable content, to replace printed textbooks. The cost of an OLPC, even at US$188, is less than the cost of printed textbooks a child needs for five years of school. By providing the children with OLPCs, it should be possible to give them a better education while saving money.

Lies! (1)

GarfBond (565331) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633745)

Anyone else get the impression that Dvorak won't be giving any charitable contributions at all, rice or not?

He's a whore (2, Funny)

fat_mike (71855) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633761)

http://youtube.com/watch?v=SAWDYaWAVQQ [youtube.com]

He admits that he says crap just to get hits and be famous. His column in PC Magazine is crap and so is his keyboard.

He's a bitter old man who's opinions mean nothing.

Sustainability (2, Interesting)

starseeker (141897) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633763)

Hunger relief is only one part of the problem - it's the old "give a man a fish, he eats for a day; teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime" thing.

Survival is ultimately a competitive business, among nations as well as individuals. Knowledge and skills are essential in order to produce virtually ANY marketable project in this world's economy, and teaching requires access to that knowledge in the first place. Textbooks are expensive, as are writing materials. Computer skills and an understanding of computers has become incredibly fundamental - to the point, in fact, where basic literacy is taken for granted in the business world.

In cases where there is no social structure and all the power is in military hands, knowledge and skills won't count for much. In many other situations it can make a HUGE difference, and just because there are worse regions of the world doesn't mean we should ignore the ones where people need additional education.

We don't want these people to have to rely on ANYBODY forever - they should be able to build their own society with their own resources eventually. We need to help kickstart the process, but we can't do it for them. To build a non-despotic government people have to invest themselves in the success of a system that is designed to educate and help people rather than grabbing whatever one can for oneself, even at the cost of personal gains that COULD be had by acting selfishly. Once enough people do that selfish actors begin to have difficulty getting more by bypassing the system than attempting to work within it, and for a democracy THAT is the beginning of stability. People need to know that for it to work. Arguably Russia has not reached that point, based on recent news reports - if the system itself were strong the penalties for voting fraud would be strong enough to deter a party (or individuals) from attempting to mess with the system. The US trend towards electronic voting is troubling for similar reasons - it makes accountability for the correct functioning of the system difficult to enforce.

Anyway, the point is that knowledge and understanding should be in as wide supply as possible, and that is the purpose of OLPC. It feeds a different hunger than food, but one in the end that is just as important to the building of a sustainable future.

Dvorak gets it right (1)

thetagger (1057066) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633775)

For the first time ever, Dvorak got an issue right from start to finish. Not only that, he has shown himself as a decent human being while at it.

I live in one of the countries that will/should/would buy these things. We need better teachers, and a way to keep them willing to work in education. That would solve our problems. Right now we are in a situation where the bad teachers of today breed the worse teachers of tomorrow. Find a solution to that problem and you will end poverty. Give kids laptops and they will only play Tetris until their toys break or get stolen.

The cake is a lie.

Teach a man to fish.. (1)

nemeosis (259734) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633777)

They need both to succeed

Africa has cultural, societal, and leadership problems. When you look at the societies that have succeeded and emerged in the modern world, like the western countries, and the Asian countries - it was because these countries built great societies that worked together. They enabled their people to do great things. They became the producers and contributors to the world and to humanity itself.

The problem with food relief, is it doesn't give them a means to escape their poverty. They still remain dependent on the handouts.

The OLPC leaves this problem to other agencies that tries to help feed the poor. The idea is to give a means to help them succeed in the future. To foster in the young minds of children the ability to learn and to produce, and to hope for a better future for themselves and the world they live in.

Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for the rest of his life.

Granted, there are probably easier ways to teach the children, but the power of a computer like this allows them to network and communicate with each other. And to build valuable technical skills which can allow them to learn and collaborate.

Or, maybe it will become another fluke. Whatever the case, the African countries need to learn how to stand on their own feet.

World "Hunger"? (2, Insightful)

kenwd0elq (985465) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633785)

The problem is, there's PLENTY of food in the world; there's even plenty of food in AFRICA. The problem is that the people who run the governments there would rather starve their people for political reasons rather than to either feed them or let the people feed themselves. It used to be that enough food to wipe out hunger would rot on African wharves every year; so Americans sent them trucks, as well. The governments stole the trucks, to transport their troops. Rhodesia used to be a net exporter of food; now in Mugabe's Zimbabwe, government thugs burn out the farmers in order to seal their land, and are then surprised that nothing grows there. Marxist African kleptocracies will NEVER be able to feed their people. If Dvorak wants to provide rice for starving African children, he'd better hire mercenaries to deliver it; otherwise, the various governments will steal the food for themselves.

Classic troll (1)

Sosarian (39969) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633791)

If through something like OLPC we can encourage higher education, even programming (even
Windows!), open up an entirely new market to a skill set, the long term benefit to the economy of those countries is enormous.

I dunno, sometimes he says something useful, I kinda liked his round table television show.

But he's got to say something every week/day/month/whatever, so he just goes with whatever is in the news at that moment.

Guy's gotta eat after all.

the OLPC idiocy (1)

ppopov99 (921689) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633793)

I don't understand why this article has attracted so many comments. What Mr. Dvorak points out is completely obvious. So obvious, that there should be no need to post any messages. Apparantly though, there are enough rich, well fed morons in North America who have no clue about the world in general. Supidity, of course, is just a highly contageous disease.

Timing with other OLPC stories (3, Interesting)

phrostie (121428) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633795)

did anyone else notice the interesting timing of this with other OLPC stories?

say for example Microsoft's criticism that olpc won't run Windows?

Luxuries Versus Necessities (4, Insightful)

reporter (666905) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633815)

John C. Dvorak gives a specific example of a core problem: buying luxuries in the absense of satisfying basic needs.

One of the characteristics of a failed 3rd-world nation is that its people spend money on projects that are not directly related to providing basic necessities. To understand this issue, first look at a highly successful people who transformed themselves from a 3rd-world nation into a 1st-world economic superpower. Consider the case of Japan.

At the end of 1945, Japan was impoverished. Allied forces had bombed it back into barren rock, of which some became radioactive. In the ensuing 35 years, the Japanese people focused on the basics: building the infrastructure (e.g., railroads and public schools), acquiring industrial technology (e.g., transistors from the Americans) to expand its industrial base, etc. Specifically, Tokyo invested almost no money in military forces, space adventures, etc. By 1980, Japan became a 1st-world nation -- and the #2 economic superpower.

Now, consider India. Its people are wasting money on a space race [slashdot.org] and nuclear weapons. This activity only impoverishes the impoverished people, who are the majority of the Indian population. The result is that the prospects for India [slashdot.org] are quite poor.

Forget laptops. Forget space ships. Above all, forget nuclear weapons. If you are a citizen of an impoverished nation, focus on the basics: reading, writing, mathematics, science (includng agriculture), and free markets. If you can succeed at the basics (and everyone can succeed at the basics), then your nation will naturally prosper.

Look at Japan. In the 1960s, the Japanese watched, without envy, as the Americans "won" the space race. The Japanese knew that their day in space would come, but in 1965, they knew that they must stay focused on the basics. The Japanese succeeded.

Similar comments apply to Eastern Europe. Look at Poland. It does not waste money on either nuclear weapons or space ships. Yet, Poland is succeeding. It will soon become a Western economic superpower alongside Japan.

Hunger relief is a scam... (4, Insightful)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#21633829)

Unfortunately, most hunger relief programs are simply tax reduction scams. People donate millions of dollars to these 'aid' agencies, who spend 99% on salaries and other fancy stuff, and then deliver a few thousand tons of maize to some harbour in Africa, where it gets dumped on the dock to rot and get eaten by rats.

To deliver real aid, you not only have to deliver 10 Thousand tons of food to a harbour - you have to deliver 10 Million tons of food, plus the trains, trucks, drivers, guards, repair and resupply facilities, tents, generators, building materials, pesticides, drugs, bandages, beds, surgical equipment, doctors, nurses and more, if you wish the relief to be at all effective.
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