Frequently Asked Questions
 Open Source Ecology
 How would you describe the work of Open Source Ecology (OSE) in one sentence?
OSE is working on the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) - an open technological platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small civilization with modern comforts.
 How would you describe the practical motivation of your work in one sentence?
We aim to create the Open Source Economy.
 How would you describe the work of Open Source Ecology (OSE) in one paragraph
For more information, see OSE Specifications.
Our vision is very ambitious - we are hacking society. We are building a set of machines for creating a self-sufficient modern life from low-grade, abundant local resources. We are sharing the information needed to redesign, repair and re-imagine this set, developing networks for sharing skills and raw materials, and helping each other perfect visions of self-sufficient living. We hope that having survival needs taken care of independent of the current order will give people the freedom to become deeper, more thoughtful, more creative human beings. By enabling people to live a modern life that is closely connected to the land and the biosphere, we hope to help them become careful stewards of the land. This way of life may change the game for human survival on this planet.
 Why do you emphasize the importance of material scarcity in modern civilization so much?
According to The Green History of the World – human history, and in particular ecological history – has been marked by humans encountering lush forests and leaving behind deserts. The point is that humans burn quickly through their natural resource base, multiply rapidly, and then attack their neighbors once their own resources run out. This story has not stopped. Today, empires continue their acquisitive behavior – and leave behind mass destruction. Imagine that now we could transcend this game – by using modern technology to convert sunlight to sustainable energy (solar, wind, biomass, water, others) to process the abundant “dirt and twigs” under our feet into the substance of modern civilization. This will eliminate the need for conflicts over resources. The key to this transformation is open access to the enabling knowledge and know-how - which pushes the frontiers of human technological capacity to the practical use of low-grade, abundant, local resources - creating harmony between man and nature as a result.
 What is the most important feature of OSE work?
The most important feature of the Global Village Construction Set is its nature as an integrated tool-set or ecology of products that fit together like a Lego set or jigsaw puzzle for building real infrastructures of communities. Pieces of the GVCS build upon each other; when you have one tool, then you can move on to the next. For example, once you can produce electricity, you can run an induction furnace, which in turn can produce metal that can be CNC machined to produce more devices that make electricity.
The scope of the products is not only technology, but permaculture and agroecology – integrated, regenerative, natural ecosystems that provide a wide array of products and raw materials. We aim to push the limits of transformation of materials by creating an industrial landscape in which all elements work together and even advanced materials smelted from rock are either recycled indefinitely or returned back to the earth. We are beginning to demonstrate that this can be done cost-effectively on an unprecedented small scale.
 Are you proposing that people limit their activity, downshift, and tread more lightly on the earth?
Our aim is for people to upshift to a high standard of living without the compromises – by doing more with less – by using wisdom and technology – as humans that are more capable, powerful, and responsible than at any other time in history. There is no need to sacrifice, as resources used ever more wisely or cyclically can support everybody on this planet easily – without infringing on the needs of others or on the needs of nature.
 If you endorse high technology, does that not imply certain toxic or harmful industrial practices?
Every industrial process can be upgraded to an environmentally benign, open source counterpart. That is the essence of our work. We are pursuing the complete closure of eco-industrial cycles, where there is no waste – like in nature, where there is abundance yet there is no waste. By gaining complete mastery over material transformation via open source knowledge and eco-industrial practice it is possible to produce all the same services of modern economies, but without negative consequences. We are not calling for limiting the activity of people – but we are calling for replacing harmful practices with harmonious ones.
 Do you hope to compete with the modern industrial system?
Evidence shows that we can do much better than the wasteful status quo. The question of societal well-being is not a matter of production but a matter of distribution. When open source, distributive economics become widespread, the production of goods will improve in many different ways and their distribution will reach more people.
 What makes you so sure that open source economics and products will surpass the performance of existing mainstream production?
For one, Linux has already demonstrated that once an open source project gathers enough developers and supporters – the quality of its product surpasses that of its closed-source counterpart. This is the reason why a number of open source software solutions have taken over the majority market share compared to proprietary counterparts. Other open source hardware projects are beginning to demonstrate the same for physical products. Thus, it is only a matter of time before open hardware becomes the norm. This is inevitable because of the advent of the internet. People can now collaborate over the internet – not only in the design phase, but also in physical prototyping using shared design files with digital fabrication techniques.
 What is your end state or vision?
Our vision is a world where every community has access to an open source Fab Lab which can produce all the things that one currently finds at a Walmart cost-effectively, quickly, on-demand from local resources. We envision these Labs being self-replicating and multiplying like rabbits. This would be a giant leap for distributive economics – where resource constraints no longer apply. People would then have a chance to shift a significant portion of their energy to interests beyond mere survival. The end state is super-skilled workers, free of control from remote power centers, as people in communities regain their power to thrive without strings attached to their happiness. The scope of production should include everything from food to fuels and energy to semiconductors and metals.
 What is the minimum size of a community that can attain absolute prosperity and autonomy?
Our analysis indicates that about 200 people would suffice to produce all the items present in modern civilization, including semiconductor and microelectronics fabrication up to the level of 1990s technology. The analysis involves assessing the range of the various material and product needs of civilization, along with the labor/machine/skill requirements for each product.
 OSE is talking about ecological integrity and prosperity, but why do we hear so much about inevitable environmental destruction and die-off?
Without question, humans have caused much destruction to the planet and to each other. However, we don't believe that public discourse is the solution. If it was, then the problems would have been fixed a long time ago.
Instead, we call for people to take personal control of the industries they participate in. Empowered by personal control of the means of production, and inspired by the emerging awareness and responsibility for their global footprint, we can break out of this cycle.
We don't like to use scare tactics. If humans disappeared from the face of the earth, nature would swallow up and overgrow the human presence within years and things would be just fine. Or, if humans just wised up a bit everything would also be fine. Our message is for everybody to take responsibility for the world around them. Energy is abundant. Technology can be created readily. We are nowhere near the earth's carrying capacity. Therefore we call on you to take personal responsibility to transition to sound living, a way of living where we not acting destructively, nor facilitating and funding others to act destructively.
We are simply promoting open source ecology. We urge you to take full accountability for your global footprint, to take full advantage of open knowledge and distributive economics and learn to thrive in a modern lifestyle founded on abundant, local resources.
 How can we hope for future prosperity if we are currently in an energy crisis?
The energy crisis may be best described best as lack of awareness or commitment. Did you know that if we used commercially-proven techniques of generating electricity from the sun via solar concentrators with mirrors – then only 0.3% of the land mass of the United States would be required to provide all of the electricity needs of the United States? Anyone with technological literacy and a small amount of business sense will notice that this fact renders any notions of energy scarcity obsolete.
Companies such as Ausra can implement solar concentrator electric systems cost-effectively in the Southwest of the US, on the scale of a power plant. By open-sourcing technology, we can typically reduce cost 5- to 10-fold. If we reduce the cost of solar concentrator technology by just a factor of 2, most of North America (which is not particularly sunny) could use this method to generate cheaper energy than any existing technology. Furthermore, open-sourcing solar concentrators would make them feasible not only for power plants, but also for much smaller, decentralized production. This is one of our goals at OSE.
 Are you suggesting drastic cost reduction as a result of open-sourcing of hardware technologies?
Drastic cost reduction is a well-known feature of open source products, where collaborative development eliminates various inefficiencies for the benefit of both the user and producer. We have demonstrated about a 5-fold reduction of cost over the competition with The Liberator – sale price of $8k vs $45k for the competition. The RepRap open source printer project has demonstrated a factor of at least 10, where prior to RepRap, one would have to pay $10k for a 3D printer. Similar trends are observed for many other open source variants of proprietary technologies.
 Are your technologies open source, and what does that mean according to OSE standards?
Our technologies are open source in the traditional sense of open access to published blueprints (“source code”) for the technologies. The OSE definition also includes an open business model – namely, that we share the business model openly by documenting fabrication economics and ergonomics, sourcing information, economic analysis, and other details which help others to replicate a profitable enterprise.
 Are you not afraid of others stealing your ideas and business models?
We believe that the more people who use and produce goods according to OSE Specifications, the better the world will be, and we want to help them succeed. The more people building and testing the tools, the healthier the project will be. Even the work of those who acquire patents after building on our work are overall a positive contribution – since patents expire after some time.
Regarding patents, we publish openly – so that it is not possible for someone else to prevent us from using our own designs. Patents require originality and once our designs are published openly, no one else can patent them.
 If you publish your business models openly and give your information away freely, how do you still maintain competitive advantage?
We maintain collaborative advantage by our ethics, integrity, primacy and zero-waste policy. We use the tools to provide for our own needs, which cuts operating costs. We prefer DIY solutions to hiring others, which cuts costs further. And community-based, voluntary labour ensures near-zero labour costs and constantly improving products.
We believe simply that the energy that our commercial competitors spend on protectionism, and therefore their limited ability to collaborate openly, is a huge waste and liability. We, on the other hand, are free to contribute all of our energy to creative development. For this reason, we are not overly concerned about license violations against us or about policing – because we'd rather spend our time creating. Protectionism, policing, excessive structuring, and bureaucracy are forms of waste that we tend to avoid – based on our zero-waste policy of promoting post-scarcity economics.
 What are the basic productivity specifications for your tools?
The open source tools must be competitive in productivity with their commercial counterparts. We aim to provide the same service as existing machines, with a high productivity-to-labor ratio. To give some round numbers, a one or two person operation producing lumber, fuel, metal, foodstuffs, or any other product should produce a minimum of $1k worth of product per day.
 If you are to compete with mainstream industry, wouldn't you have to make millions of dollars per day from a given operation?
Large corporations have to make millions each day because their costs are also millions of dollars per day. Their net gain is much smaller. We do not have the same constraint if we build everything ourselves - from dirt to product.
Our capital costs are replaced by the cost of labor used to produce goods from free natural resources. With negligible material costs, the value that our labours produce is all profit. Thus, earnings of $1k from a micro-production enterprise translate to $50-100 per hour per person – which is a healthy wage for a skilled worker.
Rather than use expensive, specialized materials, we use labour to turn free resources into the materials we need. Of course, this requires the technical capacity to convert raw feedstocks like wood and dirt to the high-value products – which is one of the basic goals of our experiment. We are in the initial stages of testing this hypothesis.
Unlike commercial competitors, we have no sales and marketing overheads.
 You must be kidding. If you make all of your feedstocks from scratch, you will never be profitable, because that takes too much time and complexity, no?
We calculate that if we produce our own materials it will cost us about 30% less compared to buying those materials off-the-shelf. We've done this for the case of an induction furnace producing our own virgin steel from scrap rather than buying steel from a vendor. See Technological Recursion. This is a good start, but we hope to go one level deeper and extract metals from minerals. This should lead to further cost reduction over off-the-shelf purchasing. The economics are even more favorable when we use our own products in production.
 Are you suggesting that it is more efficient for communities to produce their own goods than to work for someone else in order to be able to purchase the same goods from outside sources?
Yes. Initial evidence suggests that it is more efficient by a factor of 5-10. The implications of this for liberation are profound.
 Are you suggesting that every person in the community must do a wide array of tasks in order to provide such an economy?
While the individuals in the community will not be specialists, they will be general specialists who participate in division of labor. If a community has a minimum of 200 people, there are many hands to divide the necessary tasks for thriving.
 What are the labor requirements for handling all the productivity of the initial GVCS 50 technology set?
Assume a 20 person prototype community, prior to the creation of a 200 member one. One custom fabricator can produce for the community and still have ample time for market production of all the mechanical tools (that is 18 of the 50, including cars and bulldozers). Assume each machine takes about 40 man-hours of labour to build. Thus, one person could make all heavy equipment for agriculture and construction and utility tools from open source plans. The total number of items may have to be 22 – say 5 cars, or one car per 4 people. One builder/architect would cover construction needs. One engineer could run the solar turbine, steam engine, heat exchanger, gasifier, and pellet production with the pelletizer. This would require only about a month of labour per year. That accounts for 23 of the tools. One farmer can run an orchard, garden, nursery, field crop, dairy, chicken, and a bakery. That accounts for 27 technologies, with 20 people each working 50% of the time.
The next person is the digital craftsman – running the CNC torch table, lathe, mill, drill, ironworker, oxy-hydrogen cutter, 3D printer, and welder. (Up to 35 technologies now.) This person could make, from raw metal, hydraulic motors (36 tools now) and steam engines, and replicate the tools. This would require working about 1/6th of the time, or two months a year. The last person is the digital metalsmith – with the capacity to run an induction furnace, hot rolling of steel, moldless robotic arm casting, wire extrusion – the last of the set for a total of 40 tools – that enable production of virgin metal from scrap.
Here we have covered:
- Custom fabrication of industrial machines
- Agriculture – providing a varied, complete, diet all year round
- Fuel and energy – biomass pellets, evolving to solar turbine over 2 years
- Construction – this requires a few months the first year to establish the community and only occasional expansion after that
- Metal production – to provide the raw materials for digital fabrication
- Digital fabrication – precision engineered tools
It is surprising to say it, but just six people working on a cushy schedule can provide food, energy, housing, fuel, and technology for a community. We could still handle 14 more people in other trades, as all needs are already covered.
This entire package may be assessed in more detail by breaking it down into phases: the startup phase requires the most work, the above covers an intermediate running phase where the community is beginning to stabilize. At the final stage, where the community is fully established, more labour-saving should be possible with more skills and more automation.
The limiting factor in using tools is not human labour, but engine horsepower. This is determined by the amount of land available. An acre yields pelletized biomass equivalent to about 500 gallon of diesel and a gallon of diesel yields about 20hp hours, so every acre brings in about 10,000 hp hours. This is like getting 100,000 slaves for one hour, or about 100 slaves for 125 work days. The point is that one acre growing biomass provides substantial energy.
 Is OSE interested in generating economic surplus by centralized production?
We are interested in economic surplus not via centralization, but via decentralized production that uses digital fabrication to produce a wide variety of tools for the local community, whatever size that community may be. Centralization has to date been accompanied by poor distribution of wealth, and our work aims to address this point.
 What is the scale of the production operations that you are proposing?
E.F. Schumacher has explained clearly in his seminal book Small Is Beautiful that human enterprises beyond a certain size simply break down and economies become dysfunctional. We see many examples of this today: instabilities in megacorporations, burgeoning governments and inflated financial institutions.
We know that two workable solutions are reducing the scale or getting better at management. OSE is focusing on designing and building functional communities beginning at the smallest scale of feasibility – as the simplest, practical experiment for proving our hypothesis. We believe that a modern, resilient community may be built with as few as 200 well-rounded, general specialists. Our prototype community experiment aims to demonstrate this point, and other implementations at other scales are encouraged in parallel.
 How far along are you in your work?
We are mere babies, given that only one of the 50 technologies of the GVCS - The Liberator - has so far reached Full Product Release status, while 5 others have been prototyped: the LifeTrac tractor, Power Cube I & II, Soil Pulverizer I & II, MicroTrac I, a heavy duty drill press I, a 150-ton hole puncher I, RepTab I, the CNC torch table and Hexahatch I & II, the open source chicken incubator. The steam engine, heat exchanger, and burner prototypes I are forthcoming by January, 2011. We have already demonstrated that machines such as tractors can be built cost-effectively by a small facility with basic tools. Digital fabrication is the next step; this will reduce costs further. Examples include using the CNC torch table to cut tractor parts or a CNC mill for making hydraulic motors. In a later phase, we hope to produce electronics, design a desktop semiconductor foundry, and build a 2000 sq foot silicate foundry to produce metal.
 Is the GVCS the final product of OSE work?
There are 3 levels of the GVCS, each with progressively more complex technologies and more independence.
The first level is building the 50 tools above. These are essentially complete products, produced from off-the-shelf components bought from elsewhere.
GVCS II focuses on producing components.
GVCS III focuses on producing raw materials to produce the components.
Each level does more of the production with local materials until ultimately we end up being able to make metals and semiconductors - the basic ingredients of a high-tech civilization - from local minerals.
 Do you believe there is a technological fix for everything?
We like to see ourselves more as humanitarians who have recognized simply that material well-being is the foundation of any civilization, including that of a spiritually-advanced civilization. Our work aims to eliminate material scarcity as the dominant driving force of civilization dynamics. With full bellies and warm bodies, people will be free to pursue their passions. Technology is merely a tool to help accomplish these goals.
 What do you foresee as the deeper political effects of your work?
Governments as we know them become obsolete with the advent of open source ecology, as do all structures for collecting and redistributing resources with significant collateral damage.
Distributive, collaborative production with universal access to advanced, appropriate tools will be so productive it will outcompete existing businesses. We foresee an equal playing field of competent, well-organized, small-scale, decentralized republics after the borders of empires dissolve through a natural progress of evolution. This is true whether one lives in the first, second, third, or fourth worlds; these distinctions likewise dissolve with open source ecology.
 What is your greatest challenge in completing the GVCS?
We're basing our entire design on economically-proven technologies, so the challenge is not the technology itself. The challenge is the lack of awareness of the bright futures that are possible. This limits the amount of support for our work. Most people are overspecialized and generally technologically-illiterate. The era of the integrated human and generalist has not yet arrived, but this is likely to change due to increasing access to rapid, integrated learning opportunities.
 Does open source ecology provide any solutions to the various conflict hot-spots scattered throughout the globe?
While armed conflicts are complex in their origin, they typically have at least some origin in the material security of the parties in question. On many occasions, population issues exacerbate such struggles.
Our solution is to build solid means of production in afflicted areas, accessible to all. The wealth and abundance these create will chase out the material scarcity that feeds conflict.
When communities rely on local resources for their survival, regenerative use of resources keeps populations in balance with the capacity of the environment. When supply and demand are balance, no one feels the sting of scarcity.
Thus, we believe that open source ecology can start to chip away at war – and at best, can put a stop to it altogether.
 What do you suggest as a progressive legal structure for OSE communities?
We propose registering OSE communities as non-governmental organizations (NGOs), specifically as private-contract, full-liability enterprise communities.
We suggest that land holdings be organized as permanently evolving preservation sites of human heritage.
The purpose of these communities should be to serve as 1000 points of light across the globe that show a positive example of sound and fulfilling living.
As such, we propose that these communities function as development facilities for helping their surrounding economies to transition to resilience. We further propose that as NGOs, OSE communities should act with full responsibility for their actions and should not seek limited liability or other means of outsourcing accountability to third parties.
 What is Open Source Ecology?
OSE is a movement for healthy interaction of human and natural ecosystems, based on land stewardship, regenerative use of resources, open access to information, and distributive economics. These guarantee well-being to all the planet's denizens. “Open source” comes from the open source software and hardware movements, and ecology refers to the harmonious interaction of natural and human elements to the benefit of all.
 Where are you based?
We have a physical facility – Factor e Farm – a dedicated 30 acre research lab for testing all the concepts, in the Kansas City area, Missouri – where the experiment began in 2006.
 Isn't this just revisiting the back to the land movement of the 1970s?
It's more than that. How farms operate has changed dramatically since the 1970s. On most commercial farms, mechanization has increased steadily, while new seed, fertilizer, and irrigation technologies have increased production dramatically. There has also been significant research and development in both biointensive agricultural techniques and permaculture. These techniques helped make intensive food production that improves soils and requires little to no ongoing input of resources possible for many small farms and communities. Some mechanization and technology is synergistic with these techniques in ways that maintain their ethos of ecological responsibility. Given this, there are many new possibilities for what a self-sufficient community can be.
The internet has also changed what a self-sufficient community can be. The internet makes it easy to share knowledge and collaborate on problems with people who are far away. This makes bazaar-style open-source software development possible, and it’s starting to have the same effect on hardware. Automated fabrication — computer numerical control — could make it possible to do a lot of machinery design and construction with less labor and less capital investment than was needed back in the 1970s.
Biointensive agriculture and permaculture are powered by design. It is now possible to share design development and improvement of agricultural systems in ways not possible before interconnectivity through the internet. We can develop a truly open source permaculture. OSE is also working to create RepLab, a digital fabrication workshop. A functioning workshop could allow people to instantly share plans across the internet and produce machines and machine parts on a small scale in a short time frame.
Response adapted from a comment by Kragen Javier Sitaker on | hackaday.com
 Why use machines? Aren't traditional farming methods less wasteful and toxic?
Why use machines? Time. Subsistence farming is exceptionally labor intensive. Modern tools bring the power to lessen labor burdens and increase quality of life substantially.
An integral part of our work is creating industrial processes that are fully in harmony with ecologically responsible living. We are pursuing completely closed ecological industrial cycles, with which there is no waste. Right now we are building tools and machines to get us to this point. Developing the prototypes and first builds of the #Global Village Construction Set does require some industrial inputs from outside, along with their negative impacts. This a preliminary step needed to take us deeper into the process of creating a truly ecological approach to technologically modern self-sufficient living.
 Isn't mass production and specialization more efficient/better?
Mass production can be far more efficient, and much of this efficiency is gained through the externalization of costs. There are a number of negative externalities usually produced by business-as-usual production that are not factored into market cost:
- Transportation: Taxpayers paying for roads are subsidizing distribution costs.
- Pollution: Water, soil, air, and noise pollution cost everyone, most intensely the economically disadvantaged. It is often the case that when industrial pollution is tolerated, products cost less. It can be more efficient to avoid environmental remediation.
- Worker alienation: Treating workers as valued contributors often runs counter to goals of efficiency.
- Aggregation of wealth: Centralized production is especially conducive to centralization of wealth.
Certainly, some industries gain more efficiency through externalization of costs than others. It may be that mass production of some things will continue to be preferable, but what those things are remains to be seen. Open Source Ecology seeks to create technologies that do not rely on these negative externalities for efficiency. When these externalities are factored into efficiency calculations, one finds in many cases that it is more efficient for communities to produce their own goods, by a factor of 5-10. The implications for liberation are profound.
Further, greater efficiency can be undesirable. Increasingly efficient systems can become very reliant on a certain set of external conditions to allow them to function. In the rare event that a major shift were to occur, much of business-as-usual production could suddenly lose its ability to operate and would have to transform rapidly at great cost or perish. OSE is working to allow people to build resilient communities that are tied only to the land, allowing them to weather a wide variety of external changes.
 Doesn't this ignore the global trend of urbanization?
In theory, this approach is modular and scalable to larger communities and greater population densities. The limit to population density arises from finite sunlight energy and limited resources. Sunlight energy is currently intensely underutilized, while using technological resources in a closed eco-technological cycle reduces resource inputs as it reduces waste. Food production at high population densities might not look much like traditional farming, but it does at least theoretically jive with what OSE is creating. Other implications of large-scale settlements need to be explored.
Our analysis indicates that about 200 people is the minimum needed to produce all the items present in modern civilization, including semiconductor and microelectronics fabrication up to the level of 1990s technology. The analysis involves assessing the range of the various material and product needs of civilization, along with the labor/machine/skill requirements for each product. Whether larger communities are desirable has yet to be seen.
 Global Village Construction Set
We are building new machines by recombining existing technologies. The Global Village Construction Set is designed to become a fully integrated set of machines for creating a self-sufficient modern life from the resources of a small amount of land.
The plan for the GVCS has 3 levels, each taking the project a step farther away from reliance on outside inputs:
- Level 1: Building a set of machines as complete products using off-the-shelf components.
- Level 2: Building tools to build components for the machines of level 1.
- Level 3: Building machines and processes to introduce raw materials into an ecological industrial cycle to serve as materials for the components of level 2.
See a summary of our current progress.
 What are these 50 technologies in particular?
See Global Village Construction Set for a list
 Why not buy these tools and machines at my local store?
Farm and construction implements bought in the current market are limited because their designs are the intellectual property of the companies that produce them. This results in low accountability. While higher quality, cheaper machines would fare better in a pure market system, the market system we're working our way out of is far from pure. This results in higher prices. Drastic cost reduction is a well-known feature of open source products. See a graph of estimated price comparisons.
- Reasons proprietary technologies are more costly:
- Planned obsolescence: Companies routinely sell products with a limited useful life in order to maximize profits. When products wear out quickly, sales go up. The overall cost is much higher than the cost of buying one quality product.
- Competition through advertising: Rather than competing by reducing prices or increasing product quality, entire industries may set uniformly high prices while companies in that industry compete with each other through advertising only. The consumer loses.
- Regulated repair: Proprietary technologies require keeping users in the dark about machines' design and inner workings. Warranties discourage tinkering by requiring repair by licensed repair technicians. This repair can be very costly, and add greatly to the overall cost of the machine.
- Advantages of OSE technologies:
- Lifetime design: The technologies of the GVCS are designed to be easily taken apart and fixed. These simpler machines are built to last a lifetime.
- Collaborative development: We are also documenting our plans with open source licenses so that anyone may replicate our designs. Open source development can reduce design inefficiencies. More minds and hands devoted to a problem can lead to solutions for building at a lower cost, in less time, and with fewer resources.
- Design as a set: The GVCS is being developed with a modular design that greatly reduces waste. For example, one power source can be switched from machine to machine, saving the resources one would need to have a separate power source for each.
- Modification: Because the plans are open, the tools and machines can be remixed, tweaked, and built upon. They can be disassembled and combined into new creations, modified to function better in specific environments and for particular purposes, or added to for additional utility.
- Self-replication: The GVCS, once fully developed, is designed to be self-replicating. Buying into the development of this set could mean never having to buy a new implement again.
 Why did you select 50 particular technologies, and is this list fixed?
Fifty tools are enough to build a civilization, yet a small enough number for us to achieve. With fifty well-chosen tools, we can meet people's needs of food, energy, housing, and technology. The tools are all proven technologies; no new inventions are required. This set is the simplest possible way of that building resilient communities with abundant resources.
We have selected these tools according to OSE Specifications.
The list is not fixed. As we experiment with the tools in-field and learn from these experiments, we may change the list. The services provided by the tools are relatively fixed, while the implementation may vary, if we find that a different tool matches the OSE Specifications more closely.
 Why didn't you choose (a different technology) for the GVCS?
The Global Village Construction Set is designed to be sufficient to provide the food, energy, housing, and technology needs of advanced civilization. We are choosing elements for the set that are:
- Proven technologies, requiring no new inventions
- The simplest possible that serve our goals
- In line with the OSE Specifications
Our choices are not set in stone. Along with developing and testing these tools and machines, we are beginning to use them to support ourselves. This is a tough test of their true effectiveness. If it becomes clear that a different technology would be better for achieving our goals, it will be included.
 All the important parts are made in China. How is this building self sufficiency?
Open Source Ecology is working on building the machines of Global Village Construction Set in parallel with the tools needed to fabricate them. This project is in its early stages. The complete GVCS is designed with the capacity to fabricate all of the parts needed to make a copy of the whole set from raw materials. Going deeper, some technologies for extracting/refining raw materials for the set from abundant, low grade natural resources are in their planning stages. When the first set is complete, inputs of commercially manufactured components will no longer be required. Given, it will take a lot of work to get there. See the levels of the GVCS.
Early stages of the GVCS do require parts from China. Later stages will not, as the ability to build open source versions of those parts comes online. The project is using some of the products of global society to create the tools to subvert it, taking the harvest for the seed.
 Where can I find plans?
Plans are currently spread out over multiple pages for each technology. We are in the process of formatting the documentation in an easier-to-follow way, beginning with the CEB Press. Check the GVCS page and explore the pages on each of the tools listed there to find the schematics, drawings, and plans. As we become more organized, and the project becomes more developed, there will be more to access and it will be easier to access.
 What kind of license are you using?
A comprehensive licensing strategy is currently being developed. Check back later.
 Do these machines have any relevance in the third world? Aren't they too costly?
The construction of the first GVCS, while cheaper than its commercial counterparts, is taking a significant amount of outside investment and resources. However, the set is designed to be self-replicable. This means that the cost of building subsequent sets will be much lower, a feature that may make the GVCS a feasible option for those living in poverty. A bigger hurdle is cultivating the skill sets needed to construct and maintain the GVCS. Innovative solutions are needed to facilitate a widespread adoption of the GVCS.
 Could I build a business around this?
Yes. We encourage the use of an open source business model. When people say Open Business Model, typically, people mean that the subject matter of a business model is open source. OSE goes a step further. We hope to foster the sharing not just of how to build a product, but how to market and sell it, how to organize effectively, and other important practices and processes. The business model itself is open source.
This means giving up advantages gained through proprietary information. A prospective business owner would have to accept total free enterprise, as open source plans eliminate barriers to entry for other players. In exchange, the prospective owner would gain the advantages of having a team of volunteer developers. We believe a proprietary effort can never be as effective as an open source effort because once a certain number of open source contributors are found, product quality begins to surpass anything possible with limited proprietary funding.
Open source businesses generally create revenue by offering services related to an open source project. For example, you might create a revenue stream through offering supplementary services around the GVCS, such as building the machines for others or using the machines to offer services to others. Open source business models for software can be seen in action, but these models have not been well explored in the realm of hardware development. The viability of such a project has yet to be proven.
 You say it's free yet you ask for money. How come?
- In English, but not in other languages, "free" can mean both "freedom" and "zero money", and you need to look at the context to decide which meaning is being used in a given circumstance. The GVCS will be free in the sense of "freedom": anyone will be able to download our documentation and make copies of it. Anyone will be able to build machines without paying (us or anyone) for that right. If information is distributed in a DVD, a price may be charged for the medium and the work of making a copy, but the information is still free in terms of your freedom to use it and distribute it.
- Of course, we as developers need money to sustain our developement effort: if we work on a prototype for several weeks, we need to eat to stay alive, and we also need to buy parts, write documentation, and a variety of other tasks. That money comes from True Fans, from specific donations, and from our first sales.
- Later, when the machines are documented, ourselves and other people will take on a different role, not as developers (which is a one-time activity) but as makers (which happens once for every machine that's built for somebody else). If someone makes a machine for you, they can of course charge for their work, for the price of the parts, and get some reasonable profit - just like in any other sale in the world.
- A common phrase in the Open Source Movement compares Free Speech and Free Beer. Free speech means freedom. For beer, it does cost money to feed the inventor, and it does cost money to fill each glass. But you are free (as in freedom) to pass around the recipe.
- In short, we need some money to create free(dom) recipes. Once done, the recipes will be available to everyone at no cost. You'll be free(dom) to make the machines, and also free(dom) to pay for others to make the machines for you.
 How can I help the project?
We are looking for many kinds of help from people of all types, places, and skill sets. We're seeking donations of time, money, expertise and materials. We're also searching out contractors for some project development and grant writing tasks. Find out what you can do to get involved and keep this project moving forward.
 More questions?
 Do I have to build it myself?
 Don't most people lack the skills to build these, anyway?
Yes. Most of us have became too specialized. We need to balance it by becoming more generalized. We are planning education on these skills plus a 2 year immersion learning after building the GVCS.
 What is distributed production and where does Open Source Ecology fit in?
 How did you start the OSE project?
As far as I remember I thought of technology as a tool that can benefit all of humankind, that's why I pursued education, got PhD in Physics. I was sadly disappointed of the type of stuff I was learning. So towards the beginning of the PhD I started thinking that what I was doing was not really consistent with a better life quality for all. At that time when I was thinking about what kind of pattern society could benefit all I started to think about Open Source Technology for sustainable living. I was convinced by the time I was in grad school that the only way we can make life better for everybody is through open sharing of information that is relevant to our economic process because otherwise we will always gonna be in this competitive "dog eat dog" kind of setting, forgetting that there is abundance out there, nature provides abundance, and if we are wise we can live prosperly without conflicts on this planet Earth.
I met a guy at the beginning of grad school, an Indian guy who run a class of life-style engineering where I learned yoga, meditation, breathing, Indian cooking and so forth. And at that point is when a huge transformation started to take place in me because through meditating more just getting insights into how things work I basically disconnected. I was able to kind of discover my mind or accelerate the process of discovering what does it really mean. The bottom line is you observe the problems on Earth and you say "Why aren't we solving all these issues", what is the problem, why is technology not making life truly better for everybody, unprecedented prosperity, fewer work hours. That technology promise has never been delivered and everyone who has got a curious mind would ask "Why? What is going on?" And that's when I started thinking about my involvement with technology. And at some point having absolutely no technical skill, I mean I started chemistry in undergrad, never had any practical skills in terms of hardware. But at some point I said, "Wow, I need to master my ability to manipulate physical objects in terms of my own survival. Let's start there. Can I live on my own? And can I use products that are totally sustainable. And since I found that not many of them at my local Walmart shelves, I decided that I will make a lot of stuff for myself because of this moral imperative if you may to live absolutely sustainably. Because simply it is possible, doable, and I was convinced that I have to do that because it just feels good for one and I will not be contributing to global ills of all sorts.
 More Reading
- Wiki Participation FAQ
- Product Development Method FAQ
- Distributive Economics FAQ
- OSE Specifications FAQ
- Crash Course FAQ
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