Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mary Lou Jepsen @ Brown

Mary Lou Jepsen gave a talk at Brown on Saturday at their Commencement Forum (Robert Redford was speaking in a tent just outside). Sorry I didn't give you the heads up, I found out at the last minute myself. She was in town to pick up the Horace Mann Medal from the university. No earth shattering news was announced, but here are some points from my notes:

  • She stared by citing some statistics about the correlation between telecom (cell phone) and computer penetration and GDP growth in the developing world. This is far from the "constructionism" argument, but I think a good one.
  • Her overall argument that in the future we'll buy a screen that comes with a cpu rather than vice versa is probably correct.
  • I've been vaguely "anti-touch" (that is touch-screen) for low-cost computing, just because it hasn't been cost effective. If Mary Lou can make a touch screen as cheap as the regular XO display, I'll quickly become "pro-touch." She thinks she can, and she's earned some faith in her display wizardry.
  • I did get annoyed when, in answer to a question from the audience she said OLPC became an "unwitting flag-bearer for open source."
  • OLPC was basically Jepsen and NN for a long time.
  • As I've been saying for a while, the biggest question with OLPC is "Can they keep the ball rolling?" I left thinking "Yes," but Jepsen must have a pretty good reality distortion field herself to have gotten the XO into production in the first place, so I don't know if I should rely on my feelings. But if they can keep making and distributing some computers for, say, two more years, I think there is a good chance the remaining pieces (e.g., software) can fall into place.

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