Friday, August 21, 2015

Kentaro Toyama

Kentaro Toyama is W.K. Kellogg Associate Professor of Community Information at the University of Michigan School of Information and a fellow of the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT. He is the author of Geek Heresy: Rescuing Social Change from the Cult of Technology.

From his Q & A with NPR's Audie Cornish:

CORNISH: You argue also that technology promised solutions to some global problems it couldn't keep. Can you give some examples of that?

TOYAMA: Sure. There's many examples. Probably the best-known one is a project called One Laptop per Child. This was founded by Nicholas Negroponte who was a co-founder of the MIT Media Lab. And his idea was that in so many places in the world, education is in shambles, and so the solution is a low-cost laptop for children. He would insist that it wasn't a laptop project as much as it was an education project. And I think in that case, it was exactly the opposite. It was in fact a laptop project. The problem with these projects is that in and of themselves, the technology doesn't actually provide the education. You still need very good adult guidance.

CORNISH: For you, why does technology tend to fall short of delivering on social change?

TOYAMA: Well, I do think they change the world in some way. The question is whether they're really causing some kind of social progress of the kind that we would be interested in, whether it's alleviation of poverty or the reduction in inequality. In the United States, we've seen a golden age of digital technology and innovation over the last four decades. But during that same span of time, the rate of poverty has actually only increased. Inequality has skyrocketed, and social mobility has stagnated. So that suggests that...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue