BOOK: The Unfinished Revolution

From: Brian D Williams (
Date: Tue Feb 20 2001 - 13:32:08 MST

                    The Unfinished Revolution
      Human-Centered Computers and what they can do for us
                        Michael Dertouzos
                        ISBN 0-06-662067
                           U.S. $26.00

The director of MIT's Laboratory for Computer Science take's us on
an interesting trip through a possible future of personal

I thought this book did well when it stayed on the technical
material, and future scenarios, and faltered when it tried to lay
out social policy.

After a failed attempt to introduce information technology in the
third world, the author makes this observation:

"Like others who have tried to do something in this area, we, too,
came to the realization that the lack of communications, computers,
and training is not the primary problem. The bigger obstacles are
the same that have kept the poor from rising above poverty
throughout history. Lack of education is at the helm. It is
followed by lack of transportation, power, and telecommunications;
absence of capital; misuse of whatever resources may be available;
government inertia; and cultural taboos. Moreover, basic concerns
over food, shelter, and health dominate poor people's plans and
actions, as they should, ahead of the less tangible promises of
information technology."

Excellent, and yet a few paragraphs later, he contradicts himself:

" If the world has to hold out until developing nations, and the
poor in the industrial world's inner cities, fix in serial fashion
the social, political, and economic problems that plague them, we
will be in for a very long wait. What we must do instead is help
through donations, government aid, personal and corporate
contributions, tax credits, loans, and all the mechanisms we can
muster to improve education and infrastructure."

Huh? What about the misuse of whatever resources, and cultural
taboos of two paragraphs ago?

I also like this observation:

" These observations and concerns were amplified by and MIT
Laboratory for Computer Science survey about the uses of
information technology in the developing world in 1999. The results
showed that the biggest recent successes in developing countries,
disguised under all sorts of information technology experiments,
actually involved the introduction and use of POTS-plain old
telephone service."

Nevermind, it is still a very interesting book, I particularly
enjoyed the look at LCS's Project Oxygen.

Very interesting.


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Adler Planetarium
Life Extension Foundation,
National Rifle Association,, 1.800.672.3888
Ameritech Data Center Chicago, IL, Local 134 I.B.E.W

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