The Charisma Machine (2019, MIT Press) 4 stars

A fascinating examination of technological utopianism and its complicated consequences.

In The Charisma Machine, Morgan …

From Man-boy Dreams to Broken Screens

5 stars

This book was a surprise to me. I knew very little about the "One Laptop Per Child" programme, and never really set out to learn more. I also did not expect a book about such a niche topic to be interesting enough for a duration. But Morgan G. Ames' brilliant critical analysis is about far more than that programme. It is about techno-utopic dreams and how they get inflated by the charisma of those who come up with them. OLPC was the brainchild of some of the founding members of the MIT Media Lab, and was put forward as a scheme that would empower poor children into becoming keen technologists in the future.

Ames' anthropological writing is sharp and often funny, her analysis is bulletproof, and her conclusions are damning. The programme was a complete failure: The machines were expensive, prone to breaking, under-used, poorly designed for purpose and unpopular …