The Powers That Be

So, we just got to see the OLPC talk at PyCon. It was given by the fellow who handed out the first production OLPC.

And I've got my usual sci-fi feel about the OLPC thing, like it's going to wake the Overmind and such. And I don't know how silly that thought is. Even the most extreme position I've got in my head thinks that there's less than an even chance that this thing will actually happen; there's a great risk that it'll either fizzle on its own, or be stomped out by the powers that be.

I mean, how subversive can you get? How futurist can you get? Mesh networks. Pedagogy, economics, memetics.

One sad note, in that extreme position, is that if the big stuff happens, it will also include some bad shit. Seriously bad shit. Mass roundings up of XOs. Quashed uprisings by children. I don't want to think too much about it, but if you're starting to get really ugly images, you're heading in the right direction.

But one hopeful note is that the heroes of these events won't be unsung. The revolution will be televised.

And not so much broadcast as sowed. It's decentralized. Peer-to-peer. Mesh. The fundamental architecture of the OLPC project is exactly the kind of stuff that's least suppressible by tyrannical governments. In fact, it's superbly engineered countertyrranical technology. Someone's been doing some big-picture systems thinking.

I spent some time last night playing a trial of a game called GalCon. It's a resource-acquisition galactic conquest game. Implemented in Python, natch. I sucked at it, as I do at games, but after a little practice I began to hold my own against the Practice level of the bots. It reinforced a lesson I'd learned in Settlers of Catan: Grab resources fast. The importance of a given second in the game follows something like a hyperbola; no second is nearly as important as the one before it.

So taking that lesson and looking at OLPC, I'm happy that this fellow was talking about handing out a quarter million laptops in this first go. Sure, more faster would be better. But this might be enough.

Let's hope the powers that be don't yet grok graph theory.

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