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Such Things As Communism Could only Dream of…

Cats seems to think this is sinister. It ain’t got nothing on this though. It’s a long article but well worth reading in full. I’m excerpting bits to give the flavour.

On the surface, Shustorovich’s project is a public-spirited attempt to bring Russia’s education system into the digital era. In the 2010-11 academic year, around 300 year-six pupils from 11 schools in cities across Russia, from well-heeled Moscow to the rural Siberian city of Tomsk and the mining stronghold of Magnitogorsk, were loaned a portable hybrid e-book and tablet computer with which to learn, do their homework, revise for exams and — soon — order lunch from the school cafeteria.

But this isn’t solely a social experiment. Shustorovich, 45, wants to create Russia’s next platform for digital interactions, one that his business controls. With every keystroke and swipe on his devices, he is building a giant real-time spreadsheet of personal data. Once millions of teenagers get used to learning, interacting and connecting via Shustorovich’s proprietary system, then what need will this and future generations have for social networks such as Facebook? “Facebook is Facebook,” he says. “But adding a social network on top of the [educational platform] will be very easy.”

Unlike other electronic classroom aids, E-OK isn’t designed merely to complement books and desktop PCs, but to replace everything a pupil uses to study. Connected wirelessly (and soon via 4G) to the school’s year-six and -seven curricula — with years five and eight due to be added shortly — the devices aim to reboot how children learn, teachers teach and principals run schools. By gathering data from classroom test scores, exam results and attendance records alongside statistics from mandatory school medical checks and even food ordered by the catering staff, the system creates a real-time data chain which loops from individual schools, through regional hubs, to the Ministry of Education — right up to the Kremlin. Last June, prime minister Vladimir Putin signed a directive ordering Russia’s ministers of education and communications to evaluate and report to him personally. Both ministers have since reported back “favourably”, says Shustorovich, speaking in support of E-OK’s implementation in schools.

The trial has shown her the project’s huge potential: “The information flows from the child, to the teacher, to me and all the way to the district prefect.”

E-OK is Shustorovich’s brainchild, and the sheer scale of his vision quickly becomes apparent. He intends to rewire one of the world’s greatest bureaucracies — the Russian state.

Ultimately he intends that every child in Russia’s 50,000 secondary schools — some 16.5 million — will have their own tablet. “[The situation's] so fluid right now. But if we continue to get the sort of traction we’re getting, eventually we’ll be in every school in the country.” [He has the Russian patents and they are pending elsewhere...]

“We had three aptitudes which made us unique players,” he explains. “A long history of being conversant with technology, because we produced a huge volume of scientific information. Second, we had the experience with dealing with internet products in a financial way — our electronic sales of scientific journals and information for universities is in the high-nineties per cent [of overall sales]. And the third was that we knew how to develop school curricula.”

“…when they get their hands on our device, it’s transformative for the psyche.”

Do I need to comment further?


  1. Sam Duncan says:

    Bloody hellfire.

    By coindidence I happened to have this Ars Technica story open in another tab:

    As Bruce Schneier spent the past decade watching the growing rash of phishers, malware attacks, and identity theft, a new Internet threat has emerged that poses even greater risks, the security expert said.

    Unlike the security risks posed by criminals, the threat from government regulation and data hoarders such as Apple and Google are more insidious because they threaten to alter the fabric of the Internet itself. They’re also different from traditional Internet threats because the perpetrators are shielded in a cloak of legitimacy. As a result, many people don’t recognize that their personal information or fortunes are more susceptible to these new forces than they ever were to the Russian Business Network or other Internet gangsters.

    (My emphasis, because it highlights an important principle that applies more generally than in just this context: the danger of “legitimate” power. But it’s good to see people catching on.)

  2. Julie near Chicago says:

    “…[A]ll citizens will be conditioned from birth….” — from the Wikipedia article on /*Brave New World*/.

    The “Posted in” list about says it all if you change two headings, to “DisEducation” and “Freedom–Destruction of.”

    Fortunately for our species there will (I hope) always be a few people who will manage somehow–SOMEHOW!–to retain a measure of mental independence and a certain bloodymindedness, along with brains and raw physical courage. (Like Irena Sendler, or those Russians of the USSR who stayed on post while collecting information for the West–knowing they would probably pay, sooner or later, with torture and death). Absent them, there would be no need for Winston’s rats.

    For some reason the thing makes me think of the 1998 dystopian SF movie /*Dark City*/….

  3. Julie near Chicago says:

    Also, what Sam Duncan said. :>)

    His point moves me to observe that in /*Dark City*/, the Strangers had no independent minds and were searching for the secret of humans’ ***individuality***–in the hope that learning it, they could save their species.

    The Hive Mind was not working out so well for them….

    Speaking of Privacy, I ran across a statement somewhere yesterday to the effect that certain songbirds, if watched 24/7 for awhile, die. Further deponent sayeth not.

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