Monday, June 14, 2004

Good point from Philip Greenspun

Good point from Philip Greenspun

Phil goes to a workshop onTechnology for community-building in America

Just back from a workshop at MIT on technology for community-building in America.  The focus turned out to be poor communities.  Apparently the middle class don't need community because they can enjoy their suburban comforts.  I reflected that technology has so far mostly harmed the poor in the U.S.  In the old days when telecommunications and transportation were expensive there was a real need in our economy for the labor of the lowest economic class.  Maybe they'd work in a factory or do some kind of clerical job.  In 2004, however, our businesses can get all of the unskilled labor that they want in China or India.  Fear of crime was once a motivator for trying to improve poor neighborhoods.  But improved management techniques, universal cell phones for calling 911, innovations like the gated community and security cameras everywhere, and pure technology such as the fancy alarm system have lessened this fear.

a handful of folks had set up free wireless Internet access blankets over struggling neighborhoods in various parts of the country.  All of the academic papers written about the "Digital Divide" turned out to be nonsense.  As soon as a poor person had an opportunity to get broadband without being reamed out for $50/month by the local telco or cable monopoly the poor person was able to leap right over the exotic language and cultural barriers that sociologists had posited.  I.e., it turned out that these folks were poor, not stupid.

Yep. That is something many people tend to forget. There are many reasons why some people start out poor and remain poor, but none of them can honestly be brought down to lack of intelligence.


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