Masi Oka: A Hero for One Laptop Per Child Marketing

olpc global ambassador
Masi Oka: OLPC Ambassador

At first glance, I was confused as to why One Laptop Per Child would appoint Masi Oka as their "global ambassador" to sell OLPC as the premier method for learning, self-expression and exploration in the developing world. But then, reading his biography, I found that Masi is no computing cream puff:

Masi went on to graduate from Brown University with degrees in Mathematics and Computer Science and a Theatre Arts minor. Oka pursued an acting career while taking his first job at George Lucas’ Oscar-winning special effects house Industrial Light & Magic (ILM).

Today, despite his successful career as an actor, he continues to provide ILM with technology for groundbreaking effects for more than 30 films.

With that impressive technology background, expect his commercials – both online and on television – to be both entertaining and educational. Yet I wonder how large Masi's actual role will be. Isn't Nicholas Negroponte the lead salesperson for OLPC? And doesn't Negroponte discount the idea of marketing in this traditional way?
olpc negroponte
OLPC's first Global Spokesperson
"But, of the 250 people who are working on it, if you want to think of a sales and marketing department, which is kind of an odd concept for a non-profit, but you're looking at it. Okay. I [Nicholas Negroponte] do that all alone."
Regardless, I do hope Masi will bring a little honesty to the OLPC message. As the price increases, Negroponte's initial, fanciful "$100 laptop" marketing spin is giving him blowback competition, and now we're learning that even he knew his 10 million laptop production figures were faked for effect:
Negroponte confesses to "bluffing" on the original numbers to create momentum for the project. "You need scale to change people's minds," he said. "We must create an avalanche."
May Masi Oka create an avalanche of reality in the OLPC leadership. He can start with Negroponte on cost vs. price and then help Jepsen understand the "mass production" concept.

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I love Heroes and find the Hiro character endearing. But beyond the already converted, that is the masses of geeks that love Heroes and love the OLPC product, how does Mr. Oka going to be a more convincing or knowledgeable or even compelling spokesperson?

It's preaching to the choir. For those that are not "in the know", it may sound like a cheap sales pitch (look! a Hollywood star! well, a minor, geeky Hollywood star!) or a cynical, I-care-for-the-poor-kids, Madonna-adopting-a-boy attempt to be nice and caring. I don't for a moment deny the sincerity of Mr. Oka disposition, and certainly commend him for dedicating his time to a cause he finds worthy. But really, in the developing countries OLPC wants to help, who's going to care about him?

Pardon my difficulties with the English language, but isn't 'bluffing' just marketingspeak for 'lying'?

This begs the question: What else has been a 'bluff'?

It's one thing when a private firm acts this way -- the reality distortion field is a bit unseemly when we are talking about 'a non-profit for the world's poor children'.

Bluffing is in its essence is lying. But its also a standard action by card sharks in poker games, and not considered unethical in such games.

When you're playing with millions of dollars and millions of children's lives, bluffing should not be done by the leader of a nonprofit he wasn't to be compared with the Red Cross or the Church.

That's more the actions of a clod-blooded capitalist launching a laptop project, not an education project.

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