That much is understandable, since ag-schools need to do actual literal field work on test plots, and that kind of acreage is hard to come by anywhere near Cambridge. But it also means there was nobody on campus to sanity check this OpenAg nonsense.
There should be a periodic reminder for tech-minded people to reread Ecclesiastes 1:9 every once in a while.
(Fwiw: I got curious about openag’s efforts/papers last week and made a comment here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20937105 )
* misled about state of the existing tech
* outrageous and unsubstantiated claims of its performance
* literally faking results in front of investors and stakeholders
Further info Taber links to this account from Babak Babakinejad, an MIT Media lab research scientist who describes an environment of research based on clear fabrication, and one in which the lies extended to the director colluding with MIT Health and Safety to actively mislead Environmental Protection Drinking Water Program officials about safety checks.
> What horrified me the most was that Mr Harper, as director and operator of the permit, actively worked with senior staff at MIT Health & Safety to mislead the Environmental Protection Drinking Water Program officials about his team’s activities.
The behaviour described in these threads demonstrates repeated, rampant, widespread violations of R&D integrity, without which MIT loses its capability to perform research and development at all.
It is not dramatic to say that if fabrications are allowed to to be called research, and a conspiracy of lies can dismantle safety checks, the whole lab is in dire jeopardy.
Not usually used for production; once the desired conditions have been figured out, the production system can be simpler.
“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”
- related by the Lords of Kobol ?
Not to be confused with:
PERFORM LoopBody VARYING Day
DISPLAY "Same shit"
MOVE Cow TO CowsHome(Ncows)
ADD 1 TO NCows
UNTIL AllCowsCameHome USING CowsHome
whatever may come, the world keeps revolving...
They say the next big thing is here,
that the revolution's near,
But to me it seems quite clear
thats it's all just a little bit of history repeating.
- The Propellerheads, History Repeating
In another set of articles, they're in trouble because the nitrate levels in their waste water are too high: https://www.wbur.org/edify/2019/09/20/open-agriculture-initi...
So which is it? A total sham or a polluter? These positions sound incompatible.
So it's plausible that they illegally dumped wastewater as part of whatever it is they're doing that isn't working as advertised.
It's typical for some amount of 'rigging' to exist in demos, particularly because Murphy's law has an ugly way of rearing its head. At a very minimum, almost everyone goes over the demo many times and fix or avoid any issue that causes a failure or questions that can't be easily and decisively answered.
I really did get the impression from the first articles I read on OpenAG that the claim was that they were doing absolutely nothing and that it was 100% faked. The article on the nitrates discharge was surprising to me in light of that.
I'm perhaps a bit jaded also by seeing how much computer science / signal processing academic publication is essentially fake. "The desktop version doesn't really exist but we have a basement version doing stuff" seems like a fairly mild level of deception compared to many other things I've encountered.
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." - Leo Tolstoy
edit: I wrote 'image' instead of 'imagine'
It sounds like OpenAg engineers were trying various solutions for the device, but by the end of the effort, demo culture prevailed and the end-results were faked. At some point their staff decided to dump their concentrated nitrogen solution as waste water.
This is like "Questions Raised that TED Talks Oversimplify Complex Issues".
Semour Papert and Mitchel Resnick are luminaries who helped define the landscape of computation and play for kids. E Ink came out of the lab. Todd Machover has been influential in shaping technology in music (Guitar Hero was developed by some of his students). Professors Muriel Cooper and John Maeda have had similar impact in technology and graphics arts and design.
Steve Benton's Spatial Imaging Group and its student diaspora had a huge influence on the holography and 3D display world. We developed full color reflection holography, the first holographic video system, and the first image predistortion algorithms for light fields. Our 1 meter sq. hologram was at the time the world's largest computer generated 3D display. Unfortunately, Steve died pre-Google, and his contributions are not fully recognized.
I was at the lab a long time ago (from its opening in 1985 until 1997). What made it unique at the time was breaking down the barriers between computation, technology, creative arts, and popular culture in a way that seems so natural now. On a campus where hundreds of other PhD students seemed to be working on amazing research on very detailed topics, we were building pieces of the future and demoing them daily to industry and lay people alike. That wasn't considered hard science at a place like MIT, but the ultimate impact on society was huge.
One other area of huge but unsung impact was speech technology. Chris Schmandt's Speech Research Group group envisioned and developed audio assistants that paved the way for Siri and Alexa. His students and research have also helped shape an entire field.
As for Nicolas Negroponte, he started the lab understanding that corporations were going to drive the computation and Internet revolution, while the rest of MIT was primarily government/defense funded. I have no doubt that that insight accelerated bringing technologies to market that we now consider ubiquitous.
The current funding controversy was long after my time, as is the current work of the lab. There's just plenty of innovation in the history of the lab.
But then I've also been souring on the value of academia and research in general. "Publish or perish" leads to a lot of garbage getting published, as increasingly large amounts of money are thrown at increasingly small results. There's just not enough scientific truth to go around. The Media Lab, being particularly prominent and press-friendly, has this worse than many other places, but it's a problem everywhere.
There's plenty of truth, just not enough resources. It's learned behavior, the scrounging and sensationalization, that has developed in response to larger forces driving societal investment away from academia.
Have Papert or Resnick done anything in the field of compuation and play for kids that stands up to critical empirical evaluation?
Once someone like e.g. Saul Griffith came up with the idea of Kinematic Replication , others could easily replicate it (or at least anyone with a laser cutter at that time). Same goes for my projects. [1.25] For goodness sake, the source code and build instructions are published so that people can replicate it. These ideas are not like Caleb Harper's claims of high productivity versions of existing processes. They're fresh formulations of concepts one might not ordinarily have had the notion and resources to combine. Just look at Hiroshi Ishii's work! [1.5] That stuff is not hard to do once you've seen it done once- but try to be the originator of some of that stuff. That's where the magic is!
Take a look at my pal Brian Whitman's work  which was the basis of Echo Nest and eventually Spotify's recommendation engines. These algorithms are published at conferences and in journals so anyone can go in and replicate them. Brian's work isn't remarkable because it's so unbelievable it can hardly be true - it's remarkable because it dares to combine machine learning with signal processing and social media. These were all new ideas at the time and and it was up in the air whether they could work. Now they're the bread and butter of many peoples' commercial and personal activities. Anyone saying these demos are rigged is revealing their own shallowing understanding of what takes place there.
I don't know much about how the culture of the lab changed after I left and Ito became the directory almost immediately after... I do know while I was there, it was actually a bit scrappy. The original "shop" in 2004 was...a 10x20 room with a single laser cutter, single waterjet cutter, a drill press, a Bridgeport-like mill and a CNC lathe. There were tools hanging over a tattered wooden workbench. When the second building was constructed around 2008(?), shop size expanded about 10x. It went from a four floor building to 6 story building with maybe 8x the space. Ito was a kind of cult figure. I felt out of the loop bc ppl talked about him like an angel but couldn't explain to me what he'd done.
We have a lot of shiny new half empty buildings in all the colleges, and a lot of very well paid "administrators" trying to get their name on some project. Tuition and fundraising demands are skyrocketing decade after decade and there is very little to show in real benefits for students or researchers.
2. OLPC is an education program, not a hardware program. netbooks don't have the educational software, the user-editable OS, etc. that netbooks had.
2.5 The netbooks came out after the OLPC's XO-1. They were a response to it. 
3. If you want to talk about hardware power, the Asus EEE had the 630 MHz Intel Celeron processor  where the XO-1 had the Geode LX700  running at 667 MHz 
4. The original Asus EEE netbook retailed for around $300, costlier than XO-1's $200. 
So maybe there was hype and maybe it was deserved because it was cheaper, faster, and earlier than the netbook and because it included an educational curriculum?
And your claim of rigged demos beyond this Caleb Harper dingbat remains standing on nothing but a piece of dirt.
Also, the OLPC's hybrid monochrome/color display that Mary Lou Jepsen designed was truly innovative, power saving, easily manufacturable, green electronics, and it was even quite efficient and crisply legible and under direct sunlight (requiring no backlight for the high resolution 200 dpi reflective grayscale LCD pixels, which could stay on while the CPU was asleep).
She's written honestly about the Epstein situation, too:
John Perry Barlow typing away on his OLPC:
Here's an excerpt from a technical summary I wrote up in November 2008 about the OLPC display, and the problems and successes of the project:
+ Designed by Mary Lou Jepsen.
+ 1200x900, 200 dpi, 6x4 inch (152.4x101.6 mm), 6 bits (262k colors).
+ Pixel size 0.127 mm, about 1 arc minute.
+ You can always see 200 dpi grayscale, even in direct sunlight.
+ You can get color from the LED backlight.
+ Colors wash out as the sunlight gets brighter.
+ The backlight uses power (though not nearly as much as cold cathode
+ You can turn the backlight down or off to conserve power.
+ Turning off the backlight tells screen to give slightly higher
resolution, to make reading comfortable.
+ Display Design Goals:
+ Maximize the number hours of ebook reading.
+ Minimize the power consumption.
+ Maximize the resolution and readability.
+ Mesh with how human perception works.
+ Display sharp high quality text, that's easy on the eyes
during the day (reflective) and night (backlight).
+ Critical design innovations:
+ Remove the subtractive color filters that absorb 85% of the light.
+ Replace them with plastic diffraction gratings and lenses,
stamped like DVDs.
+ Much brighter display for a given amount of backlight.
+ Can be manufactured with existing technologies and processes.
+ Uses efficient environmentally friendly LEDs,
instead of fragile, expensive, high voltage, cold cathode
fluorescent lamp backlights.
+ Combination of two separate screens: sharing an LCD glass.
+ One normal backlit screen.
+ Another normal reflective screen.
+ LCD is 1200x900 square grid, with 64 gray levels (6 bits).
+ Off pixels transparent, on pixels opaque.
+ Backlit screen shines through a color filter on the 1200x900 grid.
+ Filter gives each pixel just one color: red, green, blue.
+ Individual grayscale pixels behave like sub-pixels of a normal
+ Reflective screen has reflector behind LCD grid.
+ Room light passes through grayscale LCD and bounces off of back
+ 1200x900 pixels depending on ambient outside light to display.
+ The light the user sees comes from both sources (reflected outside
light plus filtered backlight).
+ Color filters use fresnel prisms to pass most light, instead of
color filters that absorb most light, wasting less energy.
+ The amount of color and perceived resolution depends on backlight
brightness and outside light level.
+ The ambient light level of the room changes the perceived
resolution of the display.
+ In direct sunlight you see the reflective screen (exactly 1200x900,
+ In a dark room you see the backlit screen (approx. 800x600
perceived, 133 dpi),
+ In between you see both (approx. 1024x768 perceived).
+ The "official story" is "1200x900 mono resolution,
693x520 color resolution".
+ Screen layers:
+ LED backlight.
+ 1200x900 grid of color filters (fresnel prisms).
+ Semi-reflective layer.
+ 1200x900 LCD.
+ Each pixel has a single color behind it.
+ Colors are arranged in a diagonal pattern.
+ Each pixel has:
+ Fixed hue (r, g or b).
+ 6 bits (64 gray levels) of luminance.
+ Chrominance depends on relative strength of room light
+ DCON screen driver chip
+ The screen can stay on while the processor is turned off.
+ Automatically interpolates ("swizzles") lower resolution color
pixels, so the unusual screen format is invisible to software.
+ Looks just like a regular 1200x900 color framebuffer to software.
+ DCON has different modes:
+ Color swizzled antialiased.
+ Color swizzled not antialiased.
+ Video pass through.
+ Power saving techniques
+ Uses low power LEDs instead of high voltage cold cathode
+ Turns off processor while leaving the screen and wireless
+ Uses fresnel prisms to split most white light into primary
colors, instead of color filters to throw away most light.
+ Turn down refresh rate.
+ Dynamically turn off sections of the screen.
+ Green Electronics
+ Order of magnitude less power consumption.
+ Designed to use as many environmentally friendly components
+ Fully compliant with EU's Restriction of Hazardous Substances
+ One of eight laptops to receive EPEAT's Gold rating for
+ Two good things have happened to the project in the broader sense:
1) Spawned this whole netbook thing.
+ Nobody was doing that before.
+ Now 15 different major companies are doing the same thing.
+ Finally people are exploring the low cost low power end
of the laptop spectrum.
+ OLPC is still unique in that it was ruggedly designed to be
dropped and survive.
+ Other companies have not figured that out yet, and are still
making cheap low quality laptops.
2) The free software community is widely in favor of the project.
The deal with Microsoft got bad press, and most people in the
free software community mistakenly think the free software part
is over, and OLPC is now shipping laptops with Windows.
But actually they are not.
Both of my mobile browsers wont let me, and they also detect private mode
Apologies for any ads that got in.
edit: the ultimate source seems to be a press release from the Epstein Foundation, who around 2014 was surely in a PR blitz, published by Jewish Business News but since taken down. And both sources get Mitchel Resnick's name wrong, in different ways! http://archive.is/9UKAi
I'd like to hope that recent events will change things, but I tend to suspect this is more like one of those finance rulings where someone gets fined $1 for every $1000 they earned in an evil way, and that the underlying risk/reward profile hasn't fundamentally shifted. Still, every push in the right direction helps!
(Edit: I'm not downvoting the parent, it's a legit question.
But it seriously raises concerns when a straightforward factual response like this gets effectively instant 3 downvotes -- IDGAF, but contrasting the strong moral codes in tech that caused things like the Google withdrawal from the AI weapons program, there is also a strong amoral current that doesn't care about where the money comes from to do development, and it can create real consequences as referenced above.)
Wait, did Epstein earn his money illegally? I thought his "only" crime was molesting minors and pimping them out to his friends?
What's the problem with accepting anonymous donations?
Being in charge of X or Y means that you get to take the fall. There were people tasked with taking in money. When you accept a job like that part of the understanding is that you take the fall when it turns out someone you took money from is no longer acceptable to associate with him. All dollars are green once they're in the right bank account (the organization's bank account), if you're not gonna take money from pedos or other bad people, they will replace you with someone who will.
Welcome to Boston (greater boston area really). This is how we roll here.