Great news from Sonora, Mexico

Today’s post is a straight press release from OLPC about the plan for saturation one-to-one computing in the state of Sonora, Mexico, and about deployments elsewhere in Mexico. Now we need to talk to them about digitizing and softwareizing Spanish-language textbooks, computerizing their curriculum, and upgrading their teacher training.

MIAMI, Feb 21, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE) — One Laptop per Child (OLPC), a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide every child in the world access to new channels of learning, sharing and self-expression, announced today that the State of Sonora, Mexico, is distributing 5,000 XO laptops to elementary school children. Adoption of the OLPC program is part of the State’s larger plan to extend Internet connectivity to all its citizens. In accordance with the UN’s declaration of Internet access as a basic human right, Sonora is the first state in Mexico to establish connectivity as a human right in its Constitution.

The OLPC project in Sonora will be implemented by Nueva Generacion Sonora A.C. (New Sonora Generation), a nonprofit organization whose goal is to provide every child in the State access to the knowledge economy through strategic use of information and communication technologies and programs.

During the next three years, 350,000 XO laptops will saturate all elementary schools in Sonora. In addition, XO laptops will be implemented in more than 100 community centers that will offer connectivity and technical and pedagogical support to students and teachers and for local projects to benefit their communities. The OLPC project has the full support of Governor Guillermo Padres and the mayors of Sonora, as well as the Social Development Secretariat (SEDESOL) of the Federal government.

“Improving children’s education is a key goal for my administration,” said Governor Guillermo Padres of the State of Sonora. “Society and government must work together to support projects that will ensure a better future for all our citizens. Education is everyone’s responsibility.”

Sonora is the latest Mexican state to launch an OLPC program. In September 2010, 500 XO laptops, funded by Procter & Gamble, were distributed to indigenous children in San Felipe del Progreso, State of Mexico.

In August 2011, the General Department of Indigenous Education of the Ministry of Education distributed 1,800 XO’s to remote schools in the State of Nayarit in Western Mexico. As part of this project, the Sugar learning environment is being translated into several indigenous languages — Huichol, Cora and Mexicanero.

1,900 XOs are also in the process of being distributed to children in the State of San Luis Potosi in North-Central Mexico. For this region, Sugar has being translated into Teenek.

“Our progress in Mexico is based on partnerships between the public and private sector,” said Rodrigo Arboleda, Chairman and CEO of the One Laptop per Child Association. “Mexico is a very diverse country and we are focused on projects that bring learning to all children, including those who speak indigenous languages.”

About One Laptop per Child

One Laptop per Child (OLPC at ) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide every child in the world access to new channels of learning, sharing and self-expression. In partnership with the public and private sectors and non-governmental organizations and supported by comprehensive implementation and pedagogical services, OLPC seeks to provide each child with a rugged, low-cost, low-power connected laptop that empowers individual learning and growth.

SOURCE: One Laptop per Child

Posted in Country | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Nation calls; I answer

Chris Hayes of The Nation (That famous Liberal bias you can’t find anywhere else) tweeted:

chrislhayes Can someone write an awesome, definitive 8-10k magazine article about the current natural gas boom, fracking and climate? kthxbai

and I tweeted back:

@chrislhayes I could, but I’m too busy educating millions of poor children so that they all will be able to do it.

This is not rocket science, even if NASA satellites are one of our most important sources of data. We are talking about measuring temperature and its causes and effects. Then we have to think about the causes of the causes and the effects of the effects. All of the scientific concepts required (but not all of the experimental techniques, and certainly not the supercomputer modeling) are well within the limits of high school physics, chemistry, and biology. Of course, there are also questions of Economics and Political “Science” involved that nobody is taught correctly. For example:

  • It isn’t a Free Market if corporations have the power to set prices.
  • It  especially isn’t a Free Market if corporations are able to buy legislative, administrative, and legal favors, including subsidies, tenured professorships for their tame Economists, and favorable treatment in textbooks.
  • It isn’t a Free Market if you and I can’t find out what is going on behind closed doors at corporations or in government, but legislators can trade stock based on information received in closed-door hearings. Which they can do, only because Congress exempted itself from the Insider Trading laws.
  • It isn’t a Free Market for anybody who isn’t permitted to get to it, including not just poor people the world over, but entire governments of poor countries that have no representation in global financial institutions, while the biggest countries often get to name the people running the institutions, or may have a veto over any meaningful action.
  • It isn’t a Free Market when “freshwater”/Great Lakes “economists”/Market Fundamentalists of the Milton Friedman Chicago school can deny the existence of market bubbles and crashes without being hooted out of the room.
  • Likewise for the Arthur Laffer school, also at Chicago, of “trickle-down”/supply-side/Voodoo economics.
  • It isn’t a Free Market of ideas when Creationists and pandering politicians can claim that Global Warming is a hoax without being hooted out of the election cycle. (A Creationism in schools bill was introduced in Indiana, where I live, only a few weeks ago. It appears to have been hooted off the stage. I blogged here about it, and about how much science you have to disbelieve in order to be an informed Creationist.)

But let’s get back to climate science. Here is the most important single fact about Global Warming: the reality is consistently worse, every year, than the supposed Worst-Case Scenarios in the scientific models of previous years. Yes, the models are all wrong. It’s worse. Much worse, in fact. We don’t even know how much worse, yet, but it is a safe bet that it will get worser and worser, as Lewis Carroll’s Alice might have put it.

  • The sea, air, ice, and land are all warmer than scientists thought possible by now, and will therefore continue warming at a faster rate for longer than they thought possible.
  • The seasons are shifting, and animal habitats are moving toward the poles or further up the mountains, except for species already living on mountaintops with nowhere to go.
  • We are having more and worse storms, along with more and worse droughts as evaporation increases and wind patterns shift.
  • Arctic permafrosts are melting faster. They have been holding in vast amounts of methane, which is a stronger greenhouse gas than CO2.
  • Glaciers are shrinking everywhere from Greenland to Tibet to Mt. Kilimanjaro to Antarctica, and sea levels are correspondingly rising.
  • Sea levels are also rising from expansion of the water as it warms.
  • Something like a quarter of the excess carbon dioxide is dissolving in the oceans, making them more acidic (carbonic acid, H2O+CO2=H2CO3) and weakening the calcium-based skeletons and shells of corals, shellfish, and other ocean life.
  • Warmer ocean water is killing corals, and putting at risk everything that lives in or around coral reefs.

The facts on natural gas are easy:

  • Methane has the formula CH4, and octane, as in gasoline, is C8H18. So the ratio of hydrogen to carbon is better in methane by a factor of almost 2 to 1, and natural gas is thus only half as carbon-intensive as gasoline and other petroleum-based fuels. Coal is nearly all carbon, so it is the most carbon-intensive. So natural gas is better than oil, which is better than coal, and we should substitute it in many power plants.
  • However, better is not the same as good. Cutting our carbon footprint in half is nowhere near good enough.
  • So the self-congratulatory advertising you see from oil companies (if you watch TV at all) about how wonderful their natural gas production is comes down, in the language of the unfortunately unreliable Politifact, to Pants-on-Fire! lies surrounding irrelevant truths.
  • We need renewable, carbon-neutral energy, and even more than that we need carbon-negative conservation, which turns out to save money right on the corporate bottom line. Unfortunately, conservation managers usually don’t get no respect inside corporations.

The issues around fracking are harder to explain clearly, not because of the inherent difficulty in the subject, which does exist, but is not essential for understanding the issues. The real problem is that it is harder to winnow the facts out of the propaganda from both supporters and opponents. Again the essential points require no more than high-school-level science. Here is what I think I know so far:

  • Fracking can be done safely, but sometimes (occasionally? frequently?) is not. Only a modest number of wells, apparently drilled by a few rogue companies, have been definitely found to have gone bad, leaking natural gas into groundwater, out of the many thousands drilled. A few companies have not used the proper bore sealing techniques for the parts of the holes penetrating groundwater formations, and those that have been caught have been penalized, sometimes even barred from further drilling. Many more companies have been found mishandling used fracking fluids returned up the boreholes, allowing them to contaminate soils, water, and air. Here enforcement appears to be lagging.
  • The fracking industry operates under the so-called “Halliburton” exemption to the Clean Water Act, championed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, previously CEO of Halliburton. Among other things, this prevents the EPA from requiring disclosure of fracking fluid composition.
  • Water wells can penetrate gas-bearing formations, notably in Pennsylvania. This occasionally results in water that can be set on fire at the tap. There are isotopic tests that can distinguish these from gas coming out of much deeper shale formations via fracking, but there appears to be no public data source covering enough such test results. Neither the Corporate Right nor the Populist Left is willing to discuss such results in public.
  • Noted fracker T. Boone Pickens has publicly denied the existence of any of the known problems. Others in the industry have compared the opposition to fracking to an insurgency, and claim to be using military counter-insurgency and psychological warfare techniques on opponents.
  • On the other side, the documentary Gasland fails to acknowledge that gas contamination of wells can come from natural sources.

As with Global Warming, we have a question capable of scientific answers, which is unfortunately mired in pseudo-economics and partisan politics.

All of this can, as I said above, be explained at the high school level, and should be addressed in Open Education Resources. We also need to put this to elementary school students, and find out how much of it we can explain to them. What would happen if we could teach a billion children at a time about all of this stuff, and get them together to discuss what to do about it?

Posted in Economics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Open, shmopen

Open APIs Are the New Open Source

By Jay Lyman
02/14/12 5:00 AM PT

There was a time 10 years ago or so when open source was “good enough” — that is, it served as a viable, often lower-cost, lower-hassle alternative to the proprietary software of the day. Today, all software is generally more open, and I believe we’ve reached a point when non-open source software is often “open enough.”

At first I couldn’t believe that I was reading this in a Linux publication. We don’t need Open Source, much less Free Software with all of its freedoms? We should, apparently, rejoice in vendor lockin, where a company insists that we can only run its software on its Web site, because it has deigned to allow us to access its API to write software for its benefit. That’s plenty open, according to Jay Lyman. I commented:

Open APIs are still closed source and non-Free


Posted 2012-02-14

The point about Free Software is not that you can write software to work in somebody else’s walled garden, but that you can modify it and distribute the results under the same or compatible licenses. This is true just as much for cloud computing as for desktops and other devices. Being able to use only the vendor’s instance of software is not nearly open or Free enough.

I work with FLOSS Manuals on collaborative documentation of Free Software, and I have had an instance of their Booki/BookType Free Software set up for my other work as Program Manager for Replacing Textbooks at Sugar Labs. It is vital to what we do that we can modify this software for use on our own server, not least that we can localize it for those writing textbooks for millions of children in more than 40 countries around the world. We are also looking toward the time when we integrate education software into our textbooks, a function not currently supported in Booki/BookType.

Similarly we run customized installations of Wikimedia software for the Sugar Labs Wiki; Pootle for localizing Sugar into a hundred languages; and Moodle for coursework and classroom management on school servers in many of our deployments.

Apparently such freedoms to get on with the mission are inconceivable to many in corporate America and elsewhere. It will, however, be second nature to students in our programs, who will graduate from high school in coming years with twelve years of experience in computers and in Freedom.

If your company is happy under vendor lockin, then good luck to you. You’ll need it.

Posted in Economics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Grants for college textbook replacements

I received this announcement on the Internet Society‘s Public Software mailing list. The Saylor Foundation provides online college-level courses at no charge, but also without college credit. (The Open Education Resources University (OERu) project is working on creating a system of free course materials with paid examinations for credit.)

What we need next is the same deal from some other organization for creating primary and secondary school textbooks, with support for translation to the hundred or so languages that Sugar is being localized to. The total required, at $20,000 per textbook, would probably be between one and two million dollars, depending on how many local versions are required on topics such as civics, health, foreign languages, and so on, and how much support will be needed for translation.

The Saylor Foundation pays USD 20,000 to each author of a university textbook which is then made available under a CC-BY license. You can see below four winners this year:

The Open Textbook Challenge

Elementary Linear Algebra (PDF) by Dr. Kenneth Kuttler of Brigham Young University – MA211 Linear Algebra I

Linear Algebra, Theory and Applications (PDF) by Dr. Kenneth Kuttler of Brigham Young University – MA212 Linear Algebra II

Computer Networking: Principles, Protocol, and Practice (PDF) by Dr. Olivier Bonaventure of the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium – CS402 Local Area Networks

Real Analysis I (PDF) by Dr. Elias Zakon of the University of Windsor – MA241 Real Analysis I

Deadline May 31, 2012, for the next round of proposals. Please forward to other lists

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

TED naysayer bashes OLPC

The TED talk

Aleph Molinari: Let’s bridge the digital divide!

presents a useful though not outstanding addition to the array of computer-based education initiatives, but unfortunately Molinari promotes his program by gratuitously bashing one-to-one computing in general, and the OLPC XO in particular. His presentation is further marred by a jarring mistake in the most elementary arithmetic.

If we wanted to buy a $100 computer for each of the 4.8 billion people currently on the wrong side of the so-called Digital Divide, that would come to $480 billion. However, Molinari’s talk says, and repeats, the claim that it would cost $480 trillion. Obviously such a figure is unaffordable. But it is a fiction, a fantasy, a product of massive innumeracy that should have failed the laugh test when he first made the mistake. It should also have failed the laugh test when the TED people were considering this for a TED talk.

Molinari then claims that we cannot afford the environmental degradation of providing several billion low-cost computers to the world, even when they are XOs, the epitome of Green design. XOs contain no poisonous heavy metals in their batteries, and no mercury in their screen backlights. Even the XO-1 runs on record low power, usually 4-5W, often less, and later models draw even less power. The XO-3 has a solar battery charger built into its cover, providing electricity at no cost and with no pollution from power plants.

This environmental claim is almost as innumerate as the previous arithmetic error, carrying the implication that we cannot afford to end poverty because we cannot let the poor have anything of value. It should not even be necessary to refute such nonsense.

The first half of the talk is thus much worse than useless, and detracts greatly from the second half, which is OK once the XO-bashing is over.

So I wrote a comment on the site:

Forget the strawman figure of $400 billion [[I couldn't believe he said trillion.]] all at once. Here is how to figure expenses on an OLPC XO laptop deployment worldwide:

One billion children each need a laptop at, say, $200 every four years, so $50 per child per year. Fifty billion USD annually, or less with under $100 netbooks such as the Doel in Bangladesh. Plus

  • internet, which countries have to deploy regardless
  • electricity, free on the solar-powered XO-3
  • digital textbooks, free after startup costs for writing and translation
  • teacher training, required regardless
  • support, such as warehousing and replacement. Much the same for textbooks and netbooks.
  • recycling. I have talked to a number of recycling companies, all of whom want the XO contracts around the world. Millions of the same unit, designed for complete separation of metal, various colors of plastic, battery components, and so on, disassembled with a single Phillips screwdriver. Even children can do it.

Now, what do we get for all of this, long-term? Well, for starters,

  •  The end of poverty, when every child comes out of school ready for an information-age job. The end of subsistence agriculture and day labor at starvation wages, as part of that.
  • The end of preventable disease, disability, and death. You still die, but most likely after a much longer, more productive, and more fulfilling life.
  •  The end of oppression of poor and despised minorities.
  • A massive dent in government corruption. Hey, computers can’t make people honest.
  •  The end of wars of oppression and plunder.
  •  Several tens of trillions of dollars annually in new economic activity.
  • The chance for a billion children to work together on the remaining hard problems.

What, then, is the cost/benefit ratio, or the Return On Investment, for such a program? I couldn’t say, because I cannot put a dollar value on the lives saved from misery, despair, and death. But I can say that it is worth $50 per child per year to obliterate the digital divide fully.

Posted in Economics, Infrastructure | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

“Creation Science” in Indiana

SENATE BILL No. 89 in Indiana reads, in full,

The governing body of a school corporation may require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science, within the school corporation.

Because of the strength of the US-based Evangelical Christian missionary movement around the world, raising up Creationists in every country, and because of Creationist ideas in other religious traditions, particularly Islam, this is an issue that we have to take up in science textbooks, and also to varying degrees in political science, history, civics, comparative religion, and social studies generally. I live in Indiana, and I am getting myself right into the middle of this issue via Twitter, Facebook, letters to the editor, my other WordPress blog, and elsewhere.

Previous experience in Indiana is that the courts will firmly reject any attempt to teach “Creation Science” as science, but that it can be taught as Social Studies or Comparative Religion. I talked with Bill Jensen, Director of Secondary Education for the Bartholomew County School Corporation, today about his previous experience with such a class, the last time the Fundies tried this in Indiana, in 2004. He told me that the students, including the children of anti-Creationists, initially liked the course, and found it quite challenging to learn about religions that they were not otherwise exposed to, but when that Fundamentalist surge faded, so did interest in the class. (We actually have significant Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist populations here in the heartland, but not a lot of social integration.) I plan to get the materials for that course, if possible, and add them to the Replacing Textbooks program if their licenses permit.

I have suggested that Creationist proponents of “Creation Science”, “Intelligent Design”, and “Teaching the Controversy” should be careful what they wish for. Do they really want their children to learn that Hindus believe in an infinite sequence of creations, each by a different god? Do they want their children to learn Buddhism, which holds that there was an infinite sequence of worlds due to the working out of cause and effect, none of them created by a god? Jewish Kabbalah, which holds that this is the ninth creation? Daoism–”The One is the mother of the ten thousand things. The Dao is the mother of the One”? The Flying Spaghetti Monster? Scientology? The Church of the Subgenius? “Liberal” Christianity? Voudou? Santeria? Obeah? Mayan religion? Neopaganism? Wicca?

How about Voltaire? “I have only ever had one prayer, a short one. It is this: Oh, God, please make our enemies entirely ridiculous. God granted it.”

I have amused myself from time to time by working out how much science one has to reject in order to be a Creationist. It is not just evolution, or as they call it, “Darwinism”, as though it were merely another religion with no scientific support of its own. To begin with, evolution is a fact, or rather many billions, even trillions of known facts about such matters as comparing DNA among every species on Earth. Darwin did not invent the idea of evolution, which was already in the air (as scientists put it) in the early 19 century. What he contributed were mechanisms of evolution, namely Natural Selection and Sexual Selection working on the (at that time) unknown genetic material, and the marshaling of a vast array of evidence to support those mechanisms, starting from the known successes of artificial selection among plant and animal breeders.

It is a great shame that Darwin never opened the paper on genetics that he received in the mail from Gregor Mendel, because Mendel’s statistical approach to genetics, and the detailed results of that approach, were precisely the kind of support Darwin was looking for. But eventually genetics caught on, and after that molecular biology. Today we can say that nothing in biology makes any sense without the unifying ideas of evolution and natural selection.

I will pass over these triumphs of modern genetics, molecular biology, and other studies that have supported the ideas of Natural Selection and Sexual Selection in the last 150 years. You can read about them in all sorts of materials, such as the book Evolution: The First Four Billion Years. I prefer to return to the previous question: How much science does one have to disbelieve in order to be a Creationist?

  • Essentially all of biology; that is a given. According to their hypothesis, one must believe that all species were created in essentially their modern forms approximately 6,000 years ago, except for all fossil species that went extinct and were fossilized during and after Noah’s Flood. Then there is the problem of the distribution of species since the supposed Flood, including populations spread across the tropics in both Africa and South America, but not known in the area where Noah supposedly lived and built his ark.
  • All of geology having to do with the age of sedimentary layers laid down ever hundreds of millions of years; together with all evidence of the age of volcanic deposits and of asteroid and comet impacts, earthquakes, tsunamis, and so forth. Notably, this includes the iridium-enriched, calcium-deficient thousand-year K-T boundary layer that may be associated with the extinction of the dinosaurs, but that was definitely a result of the Chicxulub asteroid impact.
  • Plate tectonics, including seafloor spreading, mountain-building, the origins of earthquakes, and so on.
  • Ice ages, that is, recurrent glaciation at intervals of thousands of years, radically transforming landscapes by moving materials hundreds, even thousands of miles. We can date glacial ice cores using the isotopic composition of air trapped in tiny bubbles.
  • The fossilization process, which almost always requires geologic time to leach out organic materials and deposit rock in their place. Preserved skin, bones, wood, and such from 6,000 years ago are, with very rare exceptions, just skin, bones, wood, and such. Ötzi, the 5,300-year-old body found in the Ötzal Alps, for example.
  • The parts of Quantum Mechanics that relate to half-lives of radioactive elements, which in turn have to do with determining the ages of organic materials within the last few thousand years (via carbon dating), terrestrial rocks up to about 3.8 billion years old, and asteroidal material even older than that. Since you can’t separate radioactive decay from the rest of Quantum Mechanics, that doesn’t leave much wiggle room for accepting the rest, except among people who don’t care about consistency or correctness.
  • All of astronomy having to do with objects more than 6,000 light years distant, as determined by parallax measurements and other techniques, and almost all of astronomy within that distance. Although some Creationists claim to believe that distant objects are really where we see them, the fact is that light could not have gotten from there to here unless you break pretty much all of physics, starting with Clerk-Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory and Special Relativity, both of which set the speed of light to a constant. That seems to leave the Creationist God playing practical jokes on humanity, or even lying, by creating the light that we see as if it were emitted from stars and galaxies far, far away.
  • All of astrophysics, dealing with stars ranging up to 13 billion years in age. To deny this is again to deny all of Quantum Mechanics, which tells us the rate at which stars can fuse hydrogen to helium, helium to carbon, and so on. We can fuse hydrogen to helium on a very small scale here on Earth, and it is extremely well measured and understood. In particular, we know how long it took to create all of the helium and heavier elements in the Sun, starting with the amount produced in the Big Bang.
  • All of cosmology, starting from General Relativity and continuing into the expansion of the Universe, the Big Bang, and the observable Cosmic Background radiation, which tells us with considerable precision the age and composition of the Universe.

I could go on through chemistry, archeology, mathematics, logical fallacies, and more, but I think that the above points are sufficient for now. Further discrepancies in Creationism cannot really discredit it any further. In the somewhat humorous theory of the bakedness of scientific ideas (starting from the popular term, half-baked, and expounded in the book The Scientist Speculates: An Anthology of Partly-Baked Ideas), so-called “Scientific Creationism” turns out to have a negative bakedness value. In the words of physicist Wolfgang Pauli, it is “not even wrong”.

To me it is more interesting to inquire why people believe in Creationism. We do not have room for a thorough explanation of the attractiveness of Creationism to Biblical Fundamentalists. I will just note two points, although there are more.

  • When Darwin published The Origin of Species, at the time of the Civil War, it was not possible to tell slaveowners and their supporters that they were descended from “monkeys”, a common term for Black Africans, still occasionally used as racist Dog Whistle code in the South. Much of the foundation of slavery as the South’s “Peculiar Institution” was the Southern Baptist theology which held that Black Africans were being punished with the Curse of Ham for a supposed transgression of one of Noah’s sons. This curse supposedly turned their skins dark, made them stupid, and made them even more morally unfit than their sinful ancestor. It was therefore only right for Whites to enslave and uplift them. In fact, it could be claimed, and it was claimed vociferously, that slaves were better off in slavery, and that it would be immoral to free them.
  • Southern Baptist theology turns on the notion of literal Original Sin in the Garden of Eden, which must therefore be maintained as literal history. Paul wrote, “If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.” (I Corinthians 15:14) Christ’s rising is to them the proof of God’s Second Covenant, for redemption of Original Sin, in this theology. It is thus entirely dependent on the historicity of Genesis. Those who deny Genesis, specifically Original Sin, are held to be incapable of Christian salvation and of morality of any kind, and indeed to be bent on the destruction of Christianity. Science is thus a conspiracy of wantonly evil liars and worse, led by the devil or the Antichrist, against all that is good, true, and necessary.

And the same for Global Warming and the rest. Once a fundamental branch of science is a conspiracy with the Powers of Darkness, any other part of science can be made out to be just as evil. (I’m not making any of this up.)

It is also important to note that Biblical Fundamentalism, including Biblical literalism and Creationism grew up gradually in the century following Darwin’s publications. But it was not until the beginning of the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s that Young-Earth Creationism and Flood Geology became dominant. The essential work of modern Creationism, The Genesis Flood, appeared in 1961. Flood geology pretends to explain many of the points denied above as results of Noah’s Flood, including geological strata, the fossil record, and much more. However, it cannot reach the fundamental issues with Newtonian physics and astronomy, Special and General Relativity and cosmology, and Quantum Mechanics that I have noted.

Copernicus and Galileo were vindicated in Newton’s physics and astronomy in the 17th century, but it was not until the end of the 20th century that the Catholic Church fully rehabilitated Galileo. It has not made the same mistake with Darwin. But it has only been 150 years since Darwin told the Southern White Supremacists the truth about themselves, and it will take much longer for most of their descendants to forgive him.

Still, I am descended from slaveowners in the Carolinas, and I am quite proud of my Black African ancestry. I particularly like the genius who first turned the rock over and chipped the edge on both sides.

This, too, shall pass.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

Has Free Software failed?

Bruce Perens, author of the Open Source Definition, is quoted in LCA: Addressing the failure of open source complaining about our failure to make Free Software, or as he prefers to call it, Open Source, dominant in the world. I replied:

So, is the glass half full or half empty? Can we say that we have failed so soon? Is it true that not having reached our goals today means that we will never reach them? Yes, it has been decades since the beginnings of Free Software and Open Source, but only a few years since Linux became sufficiently user-friendly for common use. What we have today, in the words of Winston Churchill, is not the beginning of the end, but it may be the end of the beginning.

History shows that major social changes require at least 50 years to take hold and become the majority view. Votes (and many other changes in status) for women, the end of slavery in the British Empire, the end of colonial empires in general, gay rights, all are examples where the questions could not even be asked in public up to a certain point in time, and then it took fifty years more for laws to be passed and other effective actions to be taken. Some changes, such as the continuing gradual decay of racism, take much longer. Creationist resistance to the very idea of evolution and to scientific geology, astronomy, and cosmology, among other things, is now 150 years old. The Catholic Church did not rehabilitate Galileo for more than 350 years, centuries after it accepted Copernican/Galilean/Keplerian/Newtonian astronomy. Our issue is young yet.

Free Software/Open Source and Creative Commons are the answers to many questions not yet being asked by enough people.

  • How can governments and the public have full control of their data? Use Free Software and genuinely open standards.
  • How can the public have access to creative works in a timely manner, so that, as the US Constitution says, we “promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts” rather than enriching corporations? We need to change the copyright laws, but in the meantime we can encourage authors and artists to Copyleft their works under Creative Commons Sharealike licenses, and we can resist pernicious nonsense such as PIPA and SOPA.
  • How can we get rid of software piracy? Give everybody Free Software.
  • How can we put software into all of the languages of the world? Let the people who speak those languages do it themselves in Free Software.
  • How can we end poverty and its associated ills? Give all schoolchildren computers such as the OLPC XO running Free Software with Open Education Resources.

More than two and a half million schoolchildren around the world now use OLPC XOs, Free Sugar education software, and Creative Commons content in school and at home. Do you think that these children and the hundreds of millions more whom we will reach in years to come, will be willing, after 12 years experience in their schools, to pay the Microsoft or Apple tax on everything they do as adults?

Consider a billion children at a time using Free Software, OERs, and other Creative Commons content in order to learn how to take over the world from their fossilized elders. This is the job of every generation, while the previous generation considers it to be their job to hold off the young as long as possible. You may thank the children in advance for the freedoms they will offer you in years to come, and you may join in the effort to make it happen sooner.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments