Another thought on the OLPC machine

I should clarify something. I’m not against the idea of helping people in developing countries get hold of technology. The idea is a great one. What bothers me about the OLPC machine, or the XO machine, or whatever they’re calling it now, is simply the aesthetics. When I look at those machines I just feel a profound sadness — I suppose it is the way Frank Lloyd Wright must have felt when he looked at some horrible big public housing estate. Like FLW, I’m all about creating beauty. Ugliness actually repulses me. I get physically ill. Just because people are poor doesn’t mean you have to stigmatize them by putting them in ugly buildings. Nor should you give them ugly computers. There. I said it.

To those who say I shouldn’t criticize OLPC, since Apple isn’t giving away hundred-dollar Macs to Third-World kids, let me explain. That’s not our job. That’s not what Apple is here for. That’s not what I was put on earth to do. I’m here to push the state of the art, to create groundbreaking, mind-blowing designs. That’s who I am. That’s why I’m here. An artist has to find his niche. You don’t ask John Ashbery to write advertising jingles, right? You don’t ask Patek Phillipe to make a Timex. I just wish the OLPC people had consulted with us a bit on their design before they went ahead. I wouldn’t have met with them personally, but we could have found a few people to sit down and tell them how things should be done.