TED Conversations

Marcin Jakubowski

Executive Director, Open Source Ecology

TEDCRED 100+

This conversation is closed.

The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is a low-cost, high-performance, open source 'civilization starter kit.'

We have identified and are prototyping the 50 most important machines that it takes to build a small-scale civilization with modern day comforts. It is an open source platform that is free for anybody to use, replicate, and improve. The GVCS can be used not only in developing world applications, but also in reinventing local production anywhere in the world. It is a community based solution for bringing wealth back to local communities. It can be used to start local food systems, renewable energy production, a construction business, parts manufacturing, or many others. Because all the plans are open source an, they can be used to start small enterprise and reduce barriers to entry.

An open source product has the advantage of a 24/7 development cycle around the globe, so it has a chance to produce superior product design.

We believe that it should take no more than a couple of hours per day of work to create wealth and to provide modern day comforts. Our goal is to tame machines to full service of humans, not humans in service to the Machine. If artificial material scarcity is eliminated by using wisdom and modern technology, then people have a good chance to focus their energies not on 'making a living', but on pursuing their true interests and creativity. This can unleash massive amounts of human potential, and can address many pressing world issues.

We are interested in distributive production - an economic system which tends to distribute wealth to the largest possible number of stakeholders for everybody's benefit. We think that the open source economy is the next economy. It is an idea worth spreading. it's also known as 'sharing,' or, 'getting along with one another.' We believe that such behavior is a prerequisite towards humanity's evolution as a species.

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  • Apr 14 2011: Your top priority now should be designing an open source washing machine to help free up trillions of collective hours for billions of women who can then reinvest their time into creating and operating your other machines.

    The Magic Washing Machine by Hans Rosling
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZoKfap4g4w
    http://blog.ted.com/2011/03/21/the-magic-washing-machine-hans-rosling-on-ted-com/
    • Apr 14 2011: It's not either/or, of course, but I think "designing" a washing machine won't free up those hours, but "helping makers make those machines" may.

      In practice, my guess is at some point we'll see how someone uses the Torch Table, the Engine and other tools, to make those washing machines, and more.

      Hey, maybe it's overkill, but maybe the tractor could have an implement to wash clothes for the whole village. ;-)
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      Apr 15 2011: It already does. The Universal Rotor of the construction set (see http://opensourceecology.org/gvcs.php) can be fitted with a reciprocating attachment - for an industrial stength washing machine. It's crazy, but we've proven this concept by using the Universal Rotor to make the tractor function as a honey extractor (see http://bit.ly/eMMjvp)
    • Apr 15 2011: Alex - there are several open-source projects to build washing machines. There was a project a few years ago called OSWash that I don't think bore fruit. There's currently an interesting group in Guatemala called Maya Pedal who are working on a pedal-powered washing machine. See http://openfarmtech.org/wiki/Washing_machine

      Communal washing machines, like the OSE tractor-powered one, are probably a lot more more economical than each family having their own.
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    Apr 14 2011: I am thrilled to learn about this project. My family (wife and four children) returned from China in 2008 and have been anxiously searching for something like this to put our weight behind. I want to do more than a few dollars a month, I want to up it to all we can give.
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      Apr 14 2011: Matthew, please contact me at opensourceecology at gmail dot com to continue the discussion. A comprehensive list of collaboration options has been put up at http://opensourceecology.org/join.php
    • Apr 14 2011: A few dollars a month can add up to a lot. $2.4M would be 10 dollars a month for 24 months, multiplied by 10 thousand people. Easy to reach, given the strength of TED! (Plus they have already started to sell the machines they build with their own hands, and that adds up.)

      That's why I became a True Fan. You may or may not like the name, but the concept is that these folks sing for everyone and if only one in ten drop a coin, then they can go on singing.

      So yes, I chip in to keep the show going. They haven't stopped in all these years, and I expect a lot more before the end of 2012, because their model is solid. Hey, even half of the tools would be a substantial addition to what the world has now, and being opensource anyone else can build on that, now or later.
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        Apr 18 2011: The few dollars a month has its place in the grand scheme of things. I get that. I am a True Fan. My anxiousness comes from needing to live a better life style. I am happier when I am completely committed to something transparent and clearly defined. Teaching Chinese, as I have done for the past three years, has been edifying. Not to take away from the joy that job brings, it is nonetheless a job where administration changes course without any thoughts of cohesion. I really enjoy cohesive team work.

        If it is possible to get me, my wife, and our children involved in this process today.... we are ready! We want to feel that genuine satisfaction when you lay down to sleep with only thoughts about a real contribution to yourself, to those you love, and to those you may someday meet. Then, to wake up the next day filled with optimism about reaching some new accomplishment.
  • Apr 25 2011: This is the power to thrive and not just survive. This is the joy of sharing and the abundance of our collective fruit. This is the future and this is what we all want when we are of sound mind. This is what the earth and all life needs us to do.
  • Apr 24 2011: What can I do to help? I can design, 3d model, and prototype. I'm also not a bad technical writer.

    I work in a challenging industry, and have gotten pretty good at lean manufacturing systems. Also have had plenty of time with my boots on the ground, and loads of practical experience, including scrounging and scrapping.

    Let's make this thing happen. Sooner would be far better than later. How do I get source files and/or submit designs?
  • Apr 22 2011: Beam me up Scotty!
  • Apr 21 2011: This is a long way from a free blueprint for something that can compare with a John Deere tractor is it not? How do they perform against those? Did you self build the engines on these? This is very short of what one would have taken the implications of your TED talk to be?
    It all seems to be in the future to my mind. I think the impression there is that there are blueprints which will enable people to build a John Deere comparable tractor. There are not any such blueprints are there? I can't find any for sure. Secondly, if one wanted to DIY these items, the information is readily available anyway? I haven't seen, on any of the links that I have been able to find anything which would enable one to construct a working tractor: could you send me such a link, specifying, for example, what the engine components are, what fuel you would need to use and anything else a farmer would need to know. These look, to the extent they work at all very poor machines, very poor indeed. You do not have a machine ready which can be put on trial with a John Deere then? Yes or No?
    • Apr 21 2011: The tractor is not yet in full release. This means that the tractor is in the final phases of development, hence the prototype designation. Once the design is finalized, then it will be made available to all.
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      Apr 21 2011: The complete 3D design model with the correct dimensions for the Tractor and Power Cube is here - http://openpario.mime.oregonstate.edu/projects/lifetrac3d/files . The complete bill of materials for the frame and hydraulic system is here - http://openfarmtech.org/wiki/LifeTrac_II_Part_Sourcing . All other existing designs are at our repository, http://openpario.mime.oregonstate.edu/projects/ose . We are currently working on full, professional fabrication drawings for the CEB press, and on CAM files for producing the tractor with digital fabrication assist.

      We are using off-shelf compoents right now. We look forward to full product release within 2 months, and after than, we plan on open-sourcing the hydraulic motors, pumps, and engines themselves, for further cost reduction.
      • Apr 24 2011: All right- I got a couple of the files, and managed to find the program to open them.

        Some constructive criticism may be needed here, and I'd be happy to help out with it. What you've drawn this up in is not an actual design program- it's more of a 3d art renderer. While this might work, you are going to need to invest more work than is actually required, and it creates an inferior result. From what I've got on my screen right now, the only thing that I am actually make out is that there is a battery involved, and that is simply because it says the word battery.

        The concept may be ok, but I can't even really determine what this object is supposed to do. Engineering drawings, even in a conceptual phase, tend to be pretty uniform- they have evolved over time to communicate information efficiently and effectively, and the system works.

        While this program may be usable given enough time and effort, locking it into a non-standard format makes it difficult to use and interpret. The best way to do this is to model in 3d, then generate prints with dimensions that use top, front and side views, with an isometric drawing and bill of materials on the front page. While it may be heretical in an open-source project, it would be well worth it to take advantage of the powerful commerical software on the market if you have the means.

        That being said, if you have even a hand-drawn picture, I could model it and make prints in .pdf format for you. That is the final form you will need anyway- a guy who is just going to me this should not need to learn complex new software to do it. I would need dimensions and a description of what you are actually trying to accomplish with this power cube. I can provide an example of the standard format, if you like.
  • Apr 20 2011: A terrific idea and most welcome. The idea that everyone needs to have all the tools and expertise misses part of the point of a VILLAGE where such things as tools and expertise are shared and traded for. It might well be a godsend for struggling farmers even in North America to be able to get a working tractor for $20,000. How much grain does a farmer have to sell at $8 bushel to pay for a tractor he paid $250 000 for, not including interest (or the cost of seed, planting harvesting etc?)

    The thing that I found most encouraging is the grace to make this open access. It flies in the face of of companies trying to control through patents and GM manipulation even the plants we eat so that farmers cannot even save the seed to plant but must buy seed each year. This with the complicity of governments who are presumably being stampeded into approving GM seed by companies fearmongering that otherwise the world will starve. They don't perhaps remember the famine in Ireland when the potatoes, all the same sort, by and large, all unexpectedly came down with blight, and the staple food source failed. Also, these crops tend to be very heavilly dependant on chemicals which will be increasingly expensive as oil prices rise, as well as being problematical in terms of human health and environmental contamination of waterways through runoff. We are running as fast as possible into creating the possibility for a dire scenario to occur worldwide, fed by the profit-is-all-that-counts mentality of some seed/chemical companies.

    It is highly refreshing to see that there are still people with vision and social conscience out there. Thank you.
  • Apr 19 2011: Creating a civilization building "tool kit" for bootstrapping on the Moon and Mars should come next!!! www.moonminer.com
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      Apr 21 2011: Aluminum extraction from clay is one technology relevant to the Global Village Construction Set on earth. The techniques for doing this were developed initially for lunar extraction of aluminum to build settlements on the moon.
      • Apr 26 2011: Yes, and mmany other processes have been devised for extracting materials from lunar regolith. I am sure that can be done, but once materials are obtained on the Moon real ingenuity will be needed to turn those materials into useful products in an environment with no infrastructure as in the 3rd world. If we follow your model for the Earth on the Moon, with proper modifications, we could bootstrap up lunar industry and build SPS, LPS, or mine helium 3 if we ever master fusion. Your DIY, modular approach will be highly suitable for lunar industry....Naturally, we have lots to do on Earth first, but energy from space could power civilization in the future.
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    Apr 15 2011: I have the same experience. I'm a pathologist, and everything is great while in training in a city, But things go sour when trying to practice in a rural area in a third world country, So we worked on developing our own supplies and reducing the costs. After three years, me and my staff are still going. It's made me grow toward open source, free patents and do-it-yourself practices. I think that what you're doing can be extended to health as well.
    • Apr 17 2011: Yeah, I think that's a really important point Rolando.

      Check out this TED talk: http://www.ted.com/talks/ernest_madu_on_world_class_health_care.html. It's about building robust, DIY, modular tools for medicine, but I don't know how much they subscribe to the open-source ethic. Open Source Ecology is developing technologies for farming and industry, but the same development model can be applied to medicine and create radically better, cheaper healthcare services. Of course, the areas of medicine and industrial fabrication compliment each other; the Open Source Ecology fabrication tools will allow hospitals to make medical hardware on-site cheaply.
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    Apr 14 2011: Open source ecology is great! So great in fact, that many other organizations around the world have adopted a similar model for the areas of industry they have expertise in. Take for example the open gasifiers experimenters kit. It is an open source gasification project that provides blueprints and low cost diy wood gasification for small scale electricity production. http://www.gekgasifier.com/ How can organizations that are developing open source hardware technologies for off-grid sustainable communities work together? What is the most appropriate forum for collaboration? Is there need for an Ecology of Open Source Means of Production Conference- let's call it the Post-Scarcity Conference? Would OSE be willing to host it?
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    Apr 14 2011: Distributive Production was refined to high art in native Hawaiian civilization and way of life.. called Alohaaina. It begins with respecting the land and the sea and that people are not above nature only part of nature. These modules are ancient not new thinking. The god of the sun give many levels of free energy and healing, The wind , the sea, the goddess of the volcano all have gifts that can heal the world. But for any healing and growth.. first there must be peace... all efforts should be to realize a Day of World Peace... to show it can be done , that we can live in harmony with self and nature.
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    Apr 14 2011: What are the limits of the GVCS - or open source hardware and production – as to what we all can do in our own communities – to take the full responsibility – to make a better world?
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      Apr 14 2011: Significant limitations include, as always, limited local capacity to manufacture the GVCS, to raise capital to purchase these tools/materials, or to operate these tools. We're goina need a GVCS corps, like the permaculture movement has a permaculture corps, to dispatch knowledgeable folk to communities of modest means and a microfinance institution aligned with our vision for distributed economic development.
    • Apr 14 2011: I see some possible limits in local regulation of machines that can be bought and sold.
      Taxes are ok (when they are ok), but if there's need for certification, that's another animal.
      So I think we can anticipate resistance from the big guys, unless some of them want to build the machines themselves, of course on a non-exclusive basis.
  • Apr 26 2011: So if I wanted to volunteer my help how would I get started. I am trying to create a self sustaining gardening environment. Many of the farms around here plant only one crop and the land get used up. I want to be an example and then be able to teach others. So I am trying to turn my 5 acres into something more productive for the community.
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    Apr 25 2011: Marcin, I have a lot of respect for your project. The better your idea's the harder the critics will be. Its like in the IT, first people where sceptic about open-source. But nowadays there are a lot of open source software products that can easily compete to their commercial competitors.

    For the critics like it or not but open-source will develop it's way to your world.
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    Apr 21 2011: Marcin This is a wonderful idea. Do you have a site where people can organize local meet ups. If you did my apologies, but I did not see it. If you don't I really think having a way of facilitating local groups getting together would catapult his idea to another level. With High unemployment at least here in the states there is ample man power to start reclaiming the idea of creating value.
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      Apr 21 2011: Well, right now we are busy in development (as of today, still only one full product release), so this would be much more potent after we have a large number of tools developed. To that end - we're training fabricators at Factor e Farm. If you would like to learn to fabricate what we have already, join us in this production run. We'll train you so you can replicate such enterprise elsewhere. Email me at opensourceecology at gmail dot com. We now have 3 fabricators-in-training arriving next month. Join us.
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    Apr 21 2011: Marcin - great concrete move to put the next future form of economy into practice. This great idea of the "distributive economy" grows to be a global trend - from many different acteurs in different nations, often not knowing yet of each other. Giving the character of this new sharing economy, this does not come as a surprise - but still it is stunning.

    French star-philosopher Bernard Stiegler, Centre Pompidou Paris, Institute for Research and Innovation, calls it the "contribution economy". (http://tinyurl.com/3brh2a4; By the way: He developed this idea in prison, being a young man in the south of france). Prof. Reinhard Selten, nobelprize winner from Germany, researches started the idea of "irrational economy" versus the "rational economy theory". irrational economy does not lead to mainstreamed monopolies in globalization, but in local cells, local production, local know-how and sharism.

    Do we need a global web-plattform to share all local initiatives of sharism and open-source production?!
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      Apr 21 2011: Yes! The scalable, open source product development platform needs to be developed - as a viable new engine of economic prosperity. This is one of the great strides that needs to happen for Industry 2.0 and Economy 2.0 to materialize. How do we create this platform? For one, I suggest that someone join us at Factor e Farm to work with me as a full-time project manager, or possibly work from off-site. Any takers? This should be fundable. Right now, I'm beginning to see the birth of the parallel development method taking place - as subject matter experts on everything from open source cars and power generation systems are approaching us to volunteer their expertise. This is largely due to the publicity arising from my TED talk. The quality of the people approaching us is increasing steadily. The limiting factor at present is finding skilled people who can commit their energy to this work.
  • Apr 21 2011: I enjoyed reading and watching what can only be described as an act of love. I want to help...Can I translate some of your material from English to Spanish via Ted Talks? Thank you for you are giving the needy the tools to improve their lives with their own hands and that is called AMOR!!
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    Apr 21 2011: This is just a breath of fresh air to our current and monopolistic economic system that keeps making it worse and worse for the vast majority worldwide. I have seen what you guys have accomplished so far and it is very promising. Congratulations for what you guys have accomplished so far and look forward to a bright future for the sake of our survival.
  • Apr 20 2011: I saw the tractor with back hoe on on of your links Marcin; it doesn't look like it could work or is stable and safe, no cage for example. I could find no film of it actually moving let alone digging, could you provide me with a link? Also you will have, as a scientist, had controlled comparisons done with other tractors and machines? How do these tractors compare? rates of breakdown, fuel economy etc.?
  • Apr 20 2011: Prospective users might be interested in a set of tools made available by Foundations founded on the basis of a set of open source tools.
    http://www.amazon.com/Fab-Revolution-Desktop---Computers-Fabrication/dp/0465027466/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1303291962&sr=1-1
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    Apr 16 2011: Marcin, I already posted this under your talk as well, but will repeat it here.
    I checked out the building instruction of the OSE Power Cube as an example and found that
    a) one needs tools that are not necessarily available at home.
    b) one needs some technical expertise. For example welding. It's not something everybody is familiar with.
    So, while the open source and DIY concept is great in principle, it's still not practical for everybody.
    Another question that was raised in a post under your talk was whether a farmer actually would put in the time to build his equipment or perhaps rather buy from somebody who specializes in building these machines.
    But then it's not DIY anymore and we are soon back to where we are today.
    • Apr 16 2011: I don’t think > . . a community based solution for bringing wealth back to local communities.< necessarily means that each person has to DIY. If a community does it themselves (DIT?), that will work to.
    • Apr 16 2011: Linux is open. Some of my friends are developers, I'm just a user, IBM makes money off it.

      The openness means that if IBM makes money off it, I'm not denied the possibility of using it myself.

      Back to hardware, a village needs one or more builders. If they are not good, someone from the next village may move in to provide a better service.

      Again, non-exclusivity.

      Now, the specialised tools and learning issue is true, if one is thinking in terms of months or a few years. But if one thinks in terms of a carreer or a lifetime, it makes lots of sense for a young person to inmerse themselves in 2 years of training, as Marcin suggests will be doable if he gets his way, to come out able to use, understand and build at least a sizable number of all the technologies.

      Just the kind of geeky friends I have for when Linux fails me, which you bet it does cos I didn't inmerse myself in Linux like they did!

      It's all about options: globalisation should be optional, not forced like now or impossible like 1000 years ago.
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        Apr 16 2011: Vincine & Lucas, yes I agree with your comments. I guess the point I wanted to make is that it requires more than just the decision by a farmer to make his own DIY equipment. The proposed concept, probably makes most sense within a community, but not so much for a single user.
        If we talk about a community, we could even go a step further and say that not only will this community use open source DIY equipment, but, they also could share this equipment within the community.
        So instead of building 20 tractors for 20 farmers, the community could probably build 5 tractors and share them between the 20 farmers. That would lower the investment for each farmer even more.
        • Apr 16 2011: Sure! Entirely up to them, and depending on the size of their farms, what kind of crops they work with, etc.

          Also, there's the MicroTrac which may be more suited for small farms.

          It really depends on which tool we're talking about. PowerCube maybe one or more per farm. Brick Machine used once in a while.

          The main point is flexibility. A "group of 20 people with all the tools and nothing but the tools" is the more radical form, but there's bound to be a whole spectrum of possibilities. The more radical, no-compromise option makes all the other options possible.

          (I use Firefox - which is free software - to browse the web on my Windows - which is not free software.)
        • Apr 16 2011: Harald - the idea of OSE is to build self-sufficient communities. Individual self-sufficiency is a bit of a straw man; regardless of the economic system, we need to sort out the practicalities of life with our friends, not in isolation. It's more fun that way, anyway!

          http://openfarmtech.org/wiki/OSE_FAQ gives an analysis of how many people are needed to run the 50 tools mentioned in the talk on a full-time basis.
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          Apr 18 2011: Harald, I think you entirely missed the point. Whether it is entirely DYI or not- the power to make necessary machines has been returned to people in general rather that being such a complex mystery that no one would even attempt it. By making machines that are far simpler we thwart that business ploy of planned obselescence and regain the power to repair what is broken. You might just as easily complain that they will not have the same safety features or that it will require fewer to ship the tractor.
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      Apr 18 2011: I don't think that DIY is the most accurate word to describe this work. The "open source" aspect is more accurate. We are simply availing open plans for economically-significant tools and infrastructures. Then even a huge corporation, a skilled fabricator, or a first-time individual can produce economically significant products. Thus - it's useful to note that the open source plans can be used in various contexts and scales - from commercial to subsistence, from one-off to mass production. Those are extremes, and our goal is simply that as many people, communities, or regions gain the power to generate wealth without entering into harmful dependencies or unstable political relations.

      We are trying to document the smallest limit at which prosperity can be achieved - because the smaller the scale - the more controllable our experiment becomes. This is probably why people think that we want individuals to produce everything. In reality, we are interested in finding out the limits of what's possible.

      Personally, from my own experience, I feel more empowered the more things that I can do - so there is a strong attraction to the 'DIY' process for me personally.

      Production relies fundamentally on energy and information. Information transfer is literally free, so information no longer needs to limit production. Thus, the only limit is energy access (not material access, because energy can transform abundant natural materials into the stuff of modern civilization). We claim that this limit can be overcome by access to low-cost solar energy production (solar concentrator electric). In that case, there will really be no limit to the lowest scale at which prosperity can happen.

      The limit of an abundant energy (and information) scenario is that a single person, with the assist of automation, can run an entire infrastructure. What is the bottom line? That we can all be very powerful, if we have unleashed access to information.
  • Apr 15 2011: I love the educational possibilities that can open up from this type of thinking. Can students learn traditional subject matter by designing and building the machines, putting them to work, and then working with the output. Marcin, I have a PhD as well and often wonder if it was really useful. My interest is how to improve education for the future and this can fit really well with new ideas for education. Thank you.
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      Apr 16 2011: Open Source Ecology has a forum dedicated to Education as it relates to OSE's work. If you feel inspired to contribute, any contribution to the discussion would be appreciated. I also have been envisioning many wonderful potential applications, such as creating new off-grid "green" schools in which the curriculum could focus on technological literacy and practical life skills.
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      Apr 18 2011: Michael - yes, I think pracical skills are critical. The scope of our work is the entire infrastructure for living - so there must be something practical in there for everybody: food systems, energy, housing, production, materials, etc. I also talked to Salman Khan of Khan Academy regarding eduction based on the GVCS - and there may be opportunity for collaboration in the future, to teach such practical skills at a younger age. Dean Kamen's First Robotics Competition is another good example of hands-on education.
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        Apr 25 2011: This collaboration sounds like an amazing idea!
        Young students can greatly benefit from becoming aware of the infrastructure for living.
        In particular, the systems (a village or town) demand for energy and food, and modeling those needs would be a wonderful and insightful lesson to young minds.
        I currently use Khan Academy, and explore its instruction method. I promote its use to many young minds in south Texas.
        As for your enlightening project, I have not begun tinkering with its designs, but plan to once i return home and have access to a garage and machine shop. Will respond with picture. Thank you for your efforts in promoting a better world.
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      Apr 25 2011: We are currently negotiating partnership with Angola University - http://www.angolauniversity.org/ - the first university in Angola, and we have discussed the creation of a Department of Open Source Economic Development. Africa can lead the way in this, if not the developed countries. That would be an interesting event if this succeeds. We are currently looking for a curriculum developer to define a curriculum at the certificate, assiciate, or bachelor's degree level. See brief note on this towards the end of this blog post - http://bit.ly/eKQkJ3 . I will blog about this more fully.
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    Apr 15 2011: This is one of the most powerful models for collaboration and economic opportunity I have ever heard of - one that could be adapted for other open source initiatives. Like Code for America building on organizational model of Teach for America, I trust that many will join "us" in growing this project AND in using a version of it to support their passionate interest to accomplish something more meaningful - with others - than they could on their own. Kudos Marcin and congratulations GE for your pragmatic and socially/financially valuable support
  • Apr 15 2011: I assume the Universal Rotor runs on fossil fuels. Is this seen as a major stopper as gas prices inevitably rise?
    • Apr 15 2011: The OSE machines are built with EXternal combustion engines to run on a flexible array of fuels. You can put in olive oil, petrol, alcohol, whatever - and because they're built for disassembly, you can take them apart and wipe out the residues.
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    Apr 15 2011: Once this conversation automatically closes, feel free to add more comments at http://openfarmtech.org/forum/discussion/97/ted-talk%3A-open-sourced-blueprints-for-civilization
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    Apr 15 2011: Marcin- You are my new hero! I hope the world embraces you and your ideas.
  • Apr 14 2011: Fascinating.

    What I understand from your talk is that mass production of terminal items, (tractors, bread, etc.) is no longer as cost effective as individual production of those items, at least if one has more time than money, and if the basic materials have been already produced (steel, flour, etc.).

    You asked about limits. I don’t know if this counts:

    I would expect some responding action by capital to decentralize their production of terminal items. It would move into regional or even local production thereby limiting, or eliminating, the manufacturing overhead of centralized; administration, marketing, sales, distribution, etc., perhaps making their items cost effective again. Decentralization of capital is, of course, bringing wealth into the communities.

    It will be interesting to see if, when & how, the unit cost of basic items like regionally produced steel and flour become lower than those centrally produced. I suspect transportation cost may become a deciding factor. There is a possibility that high energy costs will reinvigorate the railroads for the transportation of nonperishables, maintaining or extending the life of centralized production.
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      Apr 15 2011: We will explore the materials question in depth with the extraction of aluminum from clay (one of the GVCS technologies), where clay is a ubiquitous resource. Under the assumption that open source solar concentrator electric power (another one of the GVCS technologies) brings about ubiquitous, affordable, abundant, renewable energy to power processes such as aluminum production - the economics of this process may be workable on a small scale. We are literally talking about producing an advanced civilization from the 'dirt and twigs' under our feet.
      • Apr 15 2011: Marcin,

        If locally produced energy sufficient to manufacture aluminum can become a reality, that would be impressive!

        >I suspect transportation cost may become a deciding factor. There is a possibility that high energy costs will reinvigorate the railroads for the transportation of nonperishables, maintaining or extending the life of centralized production.<

        What I meant to convey is it may be more cost effective to ship steel and other heavy items by rail (low energy cost) from existing facilities that have already been built, then to; build foundries, collect steel, smelt (high energy requirement), & remanufacture small amounts of it locally or regionally.

        Certainly modular design (wonderful idea) can spread the manufacturing cost of over many items. Perhaps different procedures (more steps?) that reduce the need for expensive machines to accomplish a goal can be designed as well.

        Success seems to hinge on cheap energy, a population with more time than money, and an ethos of community sharing essential high cost machines.

        In order to choose the essential machines required for an advanced civilization, you must have decided what that the advanced civilization would need and what it didn't, and thus what its culture would be like. I’d like to know this.

        Anyway, I’ll be ‘subscribing’ at some point. Thank you for your work.
        • Apr 15 2011: >>If locally produced energy sufficient to manufacture aluminum can become a reality, that would be impressive!

          OSE aims to extract aluminium chemically rather than by smelting. This requires much less energy. See http://openfarmtech.org/wiki/Aluminum_Extraction_From_Clays
        • Apr 15 2011: Sorry to quote myself, but this is from my "true fan" entry: "Even if you end up buying stuff from elsewhere, it's best if that happens by choice, not by necessity. It was not by choice when things were local by default and it's not by choice now that things are global by default." http://openfarmtech.org/wiki/True_Fans

          Also, the world seems to be a little volatile, to put it mildly. So it'll be wise to have "backup" systems. Being able to grow our own food if we need to. Being able to supplement other people's food system if their's fails.

          I take this from the "6 ways to die" model by Vinay Gupta. We need stuff to stay alive, and it can come from near or from afar. If one breaks, we have the other. http://hexayurt.com

          That's of course essential for basic stuff like food, water, and the energy needed for basic water, basic food, basic transport (of medicines etc), basic communications. http://butteredsidedown.co.uk/scim.html

          For luxuries like the 10th pair of shoes or the 5th home computer, give me globalisation. But for the basic stuff, give me both!
  • Apr 14 2011: This is a great idea and a great work you and your organization are doing for the world Marcin. When are these blueprints going to be available for all of us? and where can we find them once they are finished.

    thank you
    • Apr 15 2011: The blueprints will be "grown" at the wiki over at http://opensourceecology.org

      Once "they" are done, the Big Hairy Ambitious Goal is to have them on a DVD.

      Actually, not "they" but "we", given that this is a cooperative effort. I'm no engineer, but I chip in (costs less than say smoking), help out with some translations, and tell others through my blog.

      There's a number of possible contributions at http://opensourceecology.org/join.php Thanks from all of us!
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      Apr 14 2011: Is it possible to get Yochai Benkler as a Mentors for Open Source Ecology through SupporTED?

      Benkler's takehome message is that once a sufficiently large development team forms, open source products surpass their closed counterparts. Meaning and purpose are the motivators for creating that development team.