NAB senior leaders discuss the economy and why there’s good news ahead for business.
Nicholas Negroponte of MIT Media Lab shares on the future of technology.
Digital pioneer Nicholas Negroponte co founder and director MIT Media Lab and author of the book Being Digital, shares stories and insights on the latest in technological transformation, the crossroads of civic responsibility and technological innovation and how to harness digital.
If the answer is yes, I stop doing it because normal market forces will accomplish what I’m doing any way. But what are the things normal market forces don’t do? Because they’re too far off, or they’re not part of the commercial world?
If you look at countries that are outliers in learning, Finland is always up there. In Finland, in Kindergarten through to 12th grade there’s no homework and no tests. Because there’s no competition, the kids grow up 100% based on collaboration not competition. And competition sometimes gets in the way of science and some civic responsibility.
Children are our most precious natural resource, so we asked how can we engage them in learning? What is learning? And what is learning how to learn? You can go through school and not learn a lot of things but you learn learning. And you can be very creative along the way. We thought in terms of constructionism – how kids construct versus being instructed.
Seymour Papert of MIT wanted kids to write computer programs because the process of an algorithm and code and execution was the closest a child would get to thinking about thinking. It didn’t happen because coding was hijacked by companies to make apps for us to consume versus the process itself being an engaging and learning process.
As part of the One Laptop per Child program, we distributed over three million laptops to children around the world without access to the internet. After that we experimented with a smaller project where we dropped tablets into villages where the children and adults weren’t literate, loaded with thousands of apps that were all about learning. They hadn’t seen letters apart from a few T-shirt labels. We left the tablets with a solar panel and with no instructions on how to use the tablet.
Once they were turned on every act was recorded and once per month we’d go in and swap SIM cards and get a complete record of what the kids were doing. In one village, within less than 10 minutes one kid figured out there was an on switch. In five days they were using 50 apps per child averaging seven hours per day. Within two weeks they were singing ABC songs and within six months they’d hacked Android.
For the 300 million who don’t go to school because there isn’t a school, this could have a big impact.
Connecting the last billion people is where my heart is – and it’s 90% attitude: it’s not cost, or the technology. One of the attitudes to break is related to those in the public realm. telecommunications has brought connectivity to a large number of people as a commercial practice. Good for them. But their time is over. Because the next wave is the civic and public realm.
For 30 years we’ve told our kids the public sector is for losers. As a consequence you have a world where civics isn’t as well attended as it should be. I believe the internet is a human right – a civic responsibility like light posts and roads that should be paid for by civic society.
The way to get it started, which doesn’t cost much, is a whole constellation of low earth orbiting satellites above the jurisdiction and sovereignty of every country. There would be a $5 billion price tag to connect the world and another $5 billion to run it for a decade. That is 5 weeks of what it costs the US to be in Afghanistan.
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