One Laptop Per Child project proves to be about ego, not education

MIT Media Lab director Nicholas Negroponte had a vision: Millions of third-world children lacked laptops and therefore the means to learn of his greatness. He founded the One Laptop Per Child Project with a singular vision: He, Nicholas Negroponte, would bring laptops to these children, so that they could know that he, Nicholas Negroponte, brought laptops to them. An effort founded on egotism has foundered on egotism. Like attracts like; Negroponte brought other narcissists into the fold, only to see them leave to find more room for their self-loving to expand. Mary Lou Jepsen, OLPC's hardware chief, left in January to start a for-profit company, Pixel Qi; now Walter Bender, OLPC's former head of software who left in April, has started a rival for-the-children effort.

Bender and Negroponte are quarreling over open-source software, a subject which one doubts the laptopless of the third world care about, if they have even heard of it. Negroponte wants OLPC's XO laptops to run Windows; Bender wants to adapt its open-source Sugar software to multiple platforms through his new nonprofit, Sugar Labs. Any platform, that is, except an XO laptop running Windows, since it appears that Negroponte's request that Bender adapt Sugar for Windows is what precipitated the dispute.

The OLPC Foundation is looking for a new CEO, Negroponte says. For that role, we nominate Helen Lovejoy of The Simpsons, the one who famously uttered "Won't somebody please think of the children?" At this point, a cartoon character could do no worse.