Information: Death Knell for Despots

100_dollar_laptopFor the mullahs who teach a strict interpretation of the Quran, nothing must appear quite as fearsome as this little green $100 computer. In a part of the world where secular teachers are routinely harassed and shot, and their schools burned to the ground, control of information is central to maintaining dominance for the meme complex of Islam. This game-changing device, originally conceived by Nicholas Negroponte, is set to begin production by the millions.

The XO laptop will soon become one of the world’s dominant computer platforms based on sheer numbers. With wireless internet connectivity, this little device will ensure that millions of children in the most backward areas of the world will have access to global information in ways they’ve never dreamed.

To be sure, the local tyrants and watchdogs of repressive cultural traditions will try to lock things down through net filtering and the like. But people have a way of finding their way around such roadblocks. They also tend to use technology to turn the tables on the despots. The little XO has a built-in webcam. While it certainly is meant for two-way chatting, expect to see all sorts of new videos of atrocities making their way to a worldwide audience.

Even today in the Middle East, where only a small fraction of people use the internet, things are changing. Bloggers have become the new focus for exposure of injustice, including fondling of women:

A democracy activist who never leaves home
without a camera, he has drawn the attention of state security by
posting videos that show what many Egyptians only talk about behind
closed doors – police brutality and male harassment of women on the
street, such as fondling.

Abbas is just part
of a wave of Middle Eastern bloggers who are eroding tight government
control on information and thus drawing intense scrutiny from police.

Just think what will happen when millions of children as young as 6 have the ability to contribute. Guns and martyrdom will be no match for the free flow of information.


Comments (4 comments)

a / February 10th, 2007, 1:45 pm / #1

A stunning blow to injustice…

blacksun / February 12th, 2007, 11:34 pm / #2

Like every other technology, it will no doubt also be used to further replicate and spread religion. But I have to think that in the end, knowledge wins. It’s clear that most of the repressive belief systems thrive because their premises go unchallenged, and their target populations are isolated from diversity.

Get kids on the internet when they’re young, get them talking to each other, comparing notes. Get them doing their own search engine queries, blogging, communicating. Get them on MySpace or Islama-space, or whatever, as long as they’re involved in horizontal information transactions.

The disintermediation of information is what is of ultimate value. Before, it was all top down: Invisible god, to mullah or priest, to the individual. That hierarchical paradigm is what is thankfully coming to an end.

Mylegacy / February 13th, 2007, 8:30 pm / #3

Power structures are inately good at co-oping communication systems. I fear the little green machines will be used by the islamists more efficently than by the isolated, individuals acting on thier own exploring this new (to them) medium.

BlackSun / February 15th, 2007, 11:30 am / #4

Mylegacy, I think you are right, they will try. But what comes from top-down information is always inherently less authentic than personal organic communication. Look at the ridiculously hard time the Chinese are having controlling their internet.

A lot depends on how draconian the various regimes can get. But we are really moving into uncharted waters, where the “digital divide” will have the opportunity to shrink and finally disappear.

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