Simplicity 101

a simple task: make sense, quick

Two weeks ago I was told to give my first public talk in the Media Lab. The situation was far from usual. Not only would it be the first time for me to face an audience in english, my mission was to do it by delivering a report after another talk I just listened to, with 24 hours to get my presentation ready, and around three minutes to get done with it, if possible using nothing more than the projection of a single slide, all for the sake of simplicity. Interesting. And surprisingly unstressful. I was quite nervous, of course, but less than I would have expected. I was offered a rich collection of characters as my audience: Media Lab faculty, media Lab sponsors, other students, and guest speakers. Talks, mini-talks, tiny-talks and super-talks, all organized in a way that everyone there would get the spotlight at least once. Your 15 minutes of fame, would Warhol say, or maybe just three? Anyway, it will be hard to understand what this is about until I explained a little, but here is my slide:

olpclog21.jpg

I was lucky. I got to talk about a romantic project I love called olpc (one laptop per child) led by famous founder and former Media lab director pop icon Nicholas Negroponte. The olpc aims to help deliver better education opportunity to the undeveloped world, and if you think a little deeper, it could be a strategy to establish OpenSource Linux as the standard digital platform of the future. The olpc project was born in the Media Lab and has now a life of its own. Chris Blizzard from RedHat delivered a very straightforward message about it to the Simplicity people. Even though he is the ultimate hacker and one of the leading forces developing sugar (the olpc core), he didn’t showoff on tech stuff or even give us a hint of how the laptop’s user interface is gonna look like. He kept himself true to the spirit of the project and described it as a goal: to deliver knowledge and encourage learning, expression, collaboration and sharing. On the real world side of things, I still don’t understand how the laptops are going to be delivered in a functional way to the children they are meant for, specially when (mostly corrupt) governments are heavily involved in the distribution process, but I really hope for the olpc project to work.

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