FAQ

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Contents

[edit] Reporter Questions

Unless noted otherwise, the below responses are from Marcin Jakubowski, OSE Executive Director.

[edit] Fortune Society

Fortune Society August 2013

Q: Are there any people in NYC attempting to build OSE equipment, in particular the open source LifeTrac tractor/skid loader?
A: Not that we are aware of.
Q: What are the challenges with the use and sale of the tractor?
A: We are currently in the pilot phase - see LifeTrac 5 for documentation of the New Orleans pilot project. We are currently building LifeTrac 6. The current challenge is to optimize for cost while retaining robust functionality of a simple wheel mounting system using our Modular Wheel Units. By re-introducing articulation to the tractor, which allows for low forces to be exerted on the sheel units, we believe that we have a working tractor.
Q: Has anyone successfully sold a tractor?
A: We had a production run in 2011 where we sold 2 tractors to early adopters.
Q: Is there anyone who has successfully used the LifeTrac as a skid loader for a significant amount of time?
Q: How does the LifeTrac compare to commercial technology?
A: First step for LifeTrac is pilot projects ptiot to it becoming a commercial product.
Q: Has anyone been able to do significant testing on the LifeTrac?
A: We have about 200 hours logged on LifeTrac. We put on about 200 hours on LifeTrac 1 and about 200 hours on LifeTrac IV.

[edit] Neon

Neon August 2013

Q: There are already 67 machines of the GVCS built all over the world. Can you give me some more information about some of these machines, f.e. who are the people that used your blueprints, are they mostly from the US?
A: Yes. See Prototypes Built and Cost.
Q: For what purpose are they building GVCS machines, is it mostly for university projects - or is it actually for farming?
A: If is for agriculture, construction, energy production, fabrication, and materials production.
Q: Can you tell me something more about the project in Guatemala and the one in Italy?
A: Yes. Please see the links in the image at Prototypes Built and Cost.
Q: And which feedback did you get so far from the people who made GVCS machines?
A: We are aware of 2 successful brick presses and one Power Cube that are currently in use building homes, and of 1 tractor in use in New Orleans - LifeTrac 5. We have excellent direct feedback from the 2 brick press projects. We have also heard directly that the tractor Prototype III had issues with the couplers (same as we experienced in early 2012) and is currently not operational.
Q: What was for you so far the most difficult machine to build?
Q: How much time does it take to build your machines? For example the tractor or the earth brick press?
A: We built the brick press in one day with 12 people on December 18, 2012. We have build the last tractor in 5 days, and our goal is to bring each machine down to 1 day of production.
Q: Do you need a workshop and / or help from other people to build your machines?
A: We are getting the machines down to 1 day of production exactly so that we can host weekend workshops - where people build the machines in a single day.
Q: Can you tell me some details about the process of building you machines: Did something surprising happen to you once? What is the hardest part for you? Any funny stories?
A: We invite the customer to build the machine with us. We are developing a production model called Collaborative Production - where we do not sell machines, we sell our service of mentoring people to build their machines.
Q: So far your machines have been reproduced in countries like the USA or Italy. But there aren’t so many developing countries in the list (I think it is only Guatemala). What do you think is the reason for this?
A: The builds require a workshop, electricity, and electronics. Many places may not have access. Also, we need to refine our designs so that the machines are more robust.
Q: How much feedback do you get? From people who build the machines? From engineers? From companies? Scientists?
A: We have little feedback to date. We know of 2 users who are using the brick press currently to build their house, and one said this - http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Shuttleworth_Fellowship_2013_Submission#2._Dan_S.-_Second_Replication We have also seen cases where the machines broke. We are developing a better review and development process to capture the full learnings.

[edit] The New Yorker

The New Yorker July 2013

Q: How much time does it take to build your machines? For example the tractor or the earth brick press?
A: We built the brick press in one day with 12 people on December 18, 2012. We have build the last tractor in 5 days, and our goal is to bring each machine down to 1 day of production.
Q: Do you need a workshop and / or help from other people to build your machines?
A: We are getting the machines down to 1 day of production exactly so that we can host weekend workshops - where people build the machines in a single day.
Q: Can you tell me some details about the process of building you machines: Did something surprising happen to you once? What is the hardest part for you? Any funny stories?
A: We invite the customer to build the machine with us. We are developing a production model called Collaborative Production - where we do not sell machines, we sell our service of mentoring people to build their machines.
Q: So far your machines have been reproduced in countries like the USA or Italy. But there aren’t so many developing countries in the list (I think it is only Guatemala). What do you think is the reason for this?
A: The builds require a workshop, electricity, and electronics. Many places may not have access. Also, we need to refine our designs so that the machines are more robust.
Q: How much feedback do you get? From people who build the machines? From engineers? From companies? Scientists?
A: We have little feedback to date. We know of 2 users who are using the brick press currently to build their house, and one said this - http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Shuttleworth_Fellowship_2013_Submission#2._Dan_S.-_Second_Replication We have also seen cases where the machines broke. We are developing a better review and development process to capture the full learnings.
Q: What year did Marcin begin his PhD in fusion physics at the Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison?
A: 1996
Q: What year did he obtain the degree?
A: 2003
Q: What year did he create the Open Source Ecology web site (2003 or 2004)?
Q: In early June, at the Red Bull conference in L.A., Marcin told the audience that he had built 15 of the 50 machines in the GVCS. At the farm in July, he said he had built 17. Are the two additional machines the ironworker and the backhoe?
A: The updated results are at Prototypes Built and Cost - valid until June, 2013.
Q: How much did the tractor that was just built (LifeTrac 5) weigh in tons? approximately?
A: Approximately 3 tons.

[edit] L'Express

L'Express July 2013

Q: How many subscribers and how much funding do you get for the project now in 2013?
A: Design Sprint Participation fluctuates at around 15 - 20 per week, but expect this number to grow as OSE's schedule firms and people are able to anticipate module/machine focus points each week. This week (July 15), 21 people were at FeF building LifeTrac 5. Ops Man response
Q: How many people work at FeF
A: 4 full time staff, 1 contractor - 1 full time staff member and 1 contractor are onsite at FeF part time, working out of Seattle LA when offsite Ops Man response
Q: How many people participate all over the world?
A: As of June 2013, there were 410 TrueFanships supporting operations fiscally. Worldwide IP collaboration fluctuates depending on the modules/machines being designed. Ops Man response
Q: How was Open Source Ecology born?
Q: Why?
Q: How does it work?
Q: How many people are collaborating on it now?
Q: How many products have been realized from the documentation you put online?
Q: Do you have a business model?
Q: How Open Source can help save the planet? Why does it happen now?
Q: How traditional industry could get inspired and work like that, open sourced, one day? Traditional industry can use our blueprints.
Q: What if someone come, take some ideas and develop them with a non open source spirit afterwards?
Q: What is your personal motivation about OSE? It is to provide the deepest type of freedom.

[edit] The Permaculture Podcast

The Permaculture Podcast July 2013

Q: Marcin's background and bio:
See Marcin Biography
Q: What is Open Source Ecology?
See Open Source Ecology
Q: Why is it important?
Q: How can people get involved?
See http://opensourceecology.org/join.php
Q: Can interested parties experiment with their ideas in their local environment?

[edit] The Story of Seeds Movie

The Story of Seeds Movie July 2013

Q: What is your background and what led you to start Factor e Farm and Open Source Ecology?
Q: Is Open Source Ecology primarily focused on transforming agriculture or does it have a broader vision?
Q: What are the basic building blocks that provide for human survival today? What has made them scarce?
Q: What is the global village construction set?
A: See GVCS.
Q: What is the Open Source Economy?
A: It's an economy that optimizes both production and distribution.
Q: What are the main problems that face us with modern agriculture today?
Q: What impacts do the pricing and availability of agricultural equipment have on farmers?
A: It is not so much pricing and availability as it is that the machines are designed for planned obsolescence.
Q: Historically, the ‘back to the land’ and sustainability movements have been wary of technology. How does the Open Source Ecology model differ from the mainstream industrial model in its use of technology?
A: We believe that truly optimized technology brings one closer to nature.
Q: Is there any down side to the Open Source Ecology model?
Q: How much do your machines cost compared to corporate produced ag machinery?
A: See Cost Comparison to Industry Standards
Q: Which components of the GVCS are specific to agriculture? What could they replace on a conventional farm?
Q: Where do seeds fit into the agroecological model?
Q: How might the agroecological model begin to break up the hold that industrial monoculture has on farming and our seed system?
Q: What successes have you seen so far in the adoption of the global village construction set?
Q: In one of your videos you mention a pilot project involving urban agriculture for tractor deployment. Can you elaborate?
Q: What could agriculture look like in the future if we follow an Open Source model?
Q: Is there anything important to know that I haven’t included?

[edit] Science&Vie, France

August 2013 Roman Ikonicoff

Q: I counted 8 machines already prototyped in the Factor e Farm : Press, Tractor (LifeTrac), Rototiller, Backhoe, Buldozzer, Ironworker, Torch Table and Power cube. And some other machines (being prototyped) : Cement Mixer, Sawmill, Microtractor, Laser Cutter, Wind Turbine… It’s right ? Do I forget something ?
A: Yes. Full list is at http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Prototypes_Built_and_Cost
Q: We saw, in your choice of 50 machines, a kind of "periodic table" of machines-tool: simple things that would be enough to build everything else (a "techno-diversity" classification). How did you make this choice : was it pragmatic and accidental, or very thoughtful? Why 50 ?
A: 50 because it is small enough but robust enough to meet our needs. See OSE Selection Metric - http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Product_Selection_Metric
Q: How would you describe your concept: it is not a clean slate or a new technology layer ... Is it a post-modern self-help (something like in Mad Max)?
A: GVCS is a test bed for developing a rapid development methodology - for open source product development in general.
Q: Does your project aim for self-replicability: produce all the parts needed to build these machines?
A: Yes. See technological recursion. http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Technological_Recursion
Q: What are the areas of "civilization" that you do not aim to reconstruct: medicine, computer, digital, heavy chemical industry? What you could never produce / build?
A: We will eventually build all machines up to smelting of metals and production of semiconductors.
Q: The energy and food total autonomy is an aim of your project? Or is your goal smaller?
A: No, the goal is bigger. It is to create the open source economy.
Q: A computer scientist told me that this type of collaborative work creates a kind of "technological Darwinism" (micro-variations with statistical selection + mutations) where machines evolve by the bottom (instead of by a hierarchical decision). What do you think about this analogy ?
A: It's good. I like to think of it as reinventing free enterprise.
Q: How would you describe yourself : scientific, idealist, environmentalist, revolutionary ?
A: An integrated human.
Q: How do you imagine the world of tomorrow if your system scatters relatively well (ie. : it becomes statistically significant), cohabiting with the industry standard mode ?
A: A world beyond resource conflicts.
Q: Industries are also trying to assimilate the collaborative way, but their principle are : payment + property + grip on the overall project (centralization). For example, iFab of DARPA. Do you see yourself in opposition to it or in a parallel development ?
A: No, they can help.
Q: How am I affected (directly, specifically) by your project if I am purely urban ?
A: About 50% of the tools are relevant in urban settings.
Q: What do you aim with your directory of machine-tools: help developing countries? Extend the movement of open hardware? Mutate the whole society? Make people a little more independent towards traditional industries? Give people a chance to develop DIY capacities?
A: All of above.
Q: How to avoid the exclusion of those who do not want - or do not have the time - to become handymen?
A: It is not about becoming handymen. It's about skilling ourselves up in different ways.
Q: Your project has a tendency to spread, to grow ... You even hire specialists... How will you escape the centralizing and professionalizing temptation (which creates barriers between skills)?
A: It is open source.
Q: The principle of a transparent and collaborative communication - with transfer of know-how - is typically that of scientific method (although in practice it does not work that way, as you said). Is this an attempt to export these practices to economic and social sector?
A: Yes. In particular, it's to create the open source economy.

[edit] The Soloari Report

Solari Report July 2013

Q: How did you evolve from Phd to farmer to envisioning and starting the creation of the Global Village Construction Set?
A: During my PhD, I had a deep conflict of interest regarding the irrelevance of my education to addressing pressing world issues. Based on my desire to contribute to the creation of a sustainable society, I understood that all wealth comes from the land. Therefore, I knew that my civilization reboot experiment would have to start by settling on the land.
Q: Walk us through the Global Village Construction Set and the potential of its economic impact.
A: The core of the GVCS lies in distributing productive potential by lowering barriers to entry - with respect to physial production. The core of the GVCS is machines that produce things, inluding machines that produce other machines. The economic potential lies in enabling a much larger number of producers not only access to essential tools of production, but also, to open source product designs which people can use to make the highest quality products. Think of this as developing a platform for collaborative, open product research and development - as a viable competitor to proprietary research and development. By developing the GVCS, we are also developing a more generalized platform for accelerating innovation.

Creating the Global Village Construction Set:

Q: How did others start to help and support?
A: Once I ran out of money in the early days, I turned to crowdfunding and bootstrapped the project to the world stage on $1500/month. It was a combination of lean operation and focus. Then contributors from all over the world began showing up for Dedicated Project Visits. Currently, our largest source of funding is foundations, but we are also true to our crowdfunding roots via crowd funding campaigns like Kickstarter and we encourage people to support us with a small monthly contribution in our 1000 True Fans program, based on Kevin Kelly’s concept.
Q: How has this evolved in terms of project, design and accessibility management?
A: Project management has evolved from the early days to a core executive team that manages the contributions of a much broader global community - much like the Wikipedia model - with the added feature that we actually build machines on site. On the design side, we are refocusing our efforts currently on Design Sprints, which include the possibility of remote prototyping of scale models via 3D printing of modular components. The designed effort is managed by our Product Lead, and our Technical Community Manager feeds contributors into the design effort. By the end of this year, we will be developing more formal relationships with OSE Chapters - as contributors to core OSE design efforts. For accessibility management, we make all of our plans available for free online and as printable PDFs, such as the Civilization Starter Kit from 2012. Further, we place a lot of emphasis on instructional videos as a way to communicate build procedures. We also make all of our digital fabrication files available online so that someone can, for example, have all the parts of our machines CNC cut in local fabrication shops. For developing world contexts, we focus on providing the fabrication machines which the local populations can use to build and repair GVCS machines instead of depending on outside sources for parts.
Q: What are the process and archiving tools that have been the most useful?
A: We are developing this currently, but to date, we have been using a combination of file versioning on our wiki, and we keep other materials at Github. We intend to publish updated versions of the Civilization Starter Kit DVD on a regular basis.
Q: What is the Civilization Starter Kit?
A: This is a single disk of all of our plans which can be used to replicate the entire GVCS from scratch.
Q: What are legal issues involved in ensuring that these materials stay open source?
A: We rely on an open viral license - Creative Commons CC-BY-SA which requires derivative work to be published openly. We are currently revising our wiki contribution process so that anyone who contributes is legally bound to give OSE the necessary rights that ensure permanent, public access to any IP generated. The details are intricate, and we are currently generating the legal language specific to OSE by building upon other contributor agreements and upon existing open source hardware licenses.
Q: What is Open Source Ecology and why is it important?
A: Please see definition at Open Source Ecology Definition It is important because it appears inevitable. As humanity moves forward, we need to learn to solve problems more effectively. Open Source Ecology has an intent of making open, collaborative development the new cultural norm. We would thus be addressing the acceleration of innovation and we would thus be addressing the basic human drive for intrinsic motivation - autonomy, mastery, and purpose - as in Daniel Pink’s TED Talk.
Q: What can members of our network do to:
A:
Participate/Encourage others to participate and prototype: - sign up to our Technical Development Team -Design Sprint
Support our efforts - Encourage students or others to participate in Dedicated Project Visits - http://blog.opensourceecology.org/
Contribute/fund - sign up as True Fans - or donate - Support Open Source Ecology , including tax deductible contributions.
Stay abreast of our work - follow the Blog

[edit] Neon

Neon July 2013

Q: You are working on a Global Village Construction Set which contains the 50 most important machines to build a small civilization, f.e. bulldozers, cement mixers, dairy milkers, hay cutter and so on. All these machines do already exist – so: why do you want to invent them again?
A: Because we are redesigning them for modularity, lifetime design, scalability, simplicity - and fit as part of a larger set - such that users can control their own technology. We're converting life-size technology into a life-size Lego Set.
Q: Can you tell me about the status quo of the project?
A: We just hired an executive team, are currently doing the 6 in 60 campaign, and are developing our Design Sprints to enable us to produce a prototype on a weekly basis by end of 2013. See Blog for details on the first 3 points.
Q: How did you choose which machines are the most important for human civilization?
A: We chose machines based on the Product Selection Metric - http://opensourceecology.org/wiki/Product_Selection_Metric
Q: What is the difference between your machines and conventional machines for farming and so on?
A: Main difference is that ours are designed for lifetime instead of planned obsolescence, and they are designed to be fixed by the user.
Q: How many machines did you build so far?
A: 16
Q: How did you decide which machine to construct first?
A: Based on necessity. Because we needed to farm, we built a tractor. Because we needed housing, we built the brick press. And so on.
Q: Who builds and designs the machines?
A: A globally distributed team of collaborators, guided by the core team at Factor e Farm.
Q: Do you plan as well to invent and build entirely new types of machines?
A: No. There are no inventions. Only innovations.
Q: Wouldn’t it be easier and faster to collect money to donate farming machines for people all over the world?
A: If you accept that these machines will break and the farmers will be stuck in the same condition as we were before, then this would be a good option.
Q: What is the GVCS all about: Saving costs for farmers? Making technology available for everyone?
A: It is about creating a platform for accelerating human innovation, specifically in the field of product development. We are only at our initial steps.
Q: Who are the people you hope to help with the GVCS? Is it only people in poor and under-developed countries?
A: The intended audience is anyone interested in producing physical goods.
Q: How many technical skills do you need to have to be able to build the machines?
A: If you download our plans, get parts cut via digital fabrication - then all you need is to follow our detailed assembly instructions and turn wrenches.
Q: Are there any GVCS machines already running in some place?
A: Please see Prototypes Built and Cost, click edit below the graphic, and you can click on the link to all the items numbered in green.
Q: You have an PhD in fusion physics – why did you decide to live on a farm and start OSE?
A: Because I wanted to be responsible for the state of the world, by becoming responsible for the things that I use. And, I wanted to make this option available to others.
Q: Can you tell me something about Factor E Farm? How many people live there? What are you doing there?
A: There are 8 people living on site. This is our headquarters from which we lead the design efforts, and we have machine buildouts in our workshop here.
Q: All the blueprints are available online for free – aren’t you going to destroy f.e. the farming machine industry? Is the GVCS the end of John Deere?
A: This would be pending improvements that make our machines exceed industry standard performance.

[edit] Frequently Asked Questions

[edit] Just out of curiosity, how is showing someone how to build your machine in a workshop for pay opensource? Not trying to be sarcastic, just don't really understand the whole idea of opensource and not charging people for your designs,or knowledge, etc - I just always though the term "opensource" meant giving your knowledge out freely.

Exactly. We share knowledge freely, because it's unlimited, but we do not share our time freely, because our time is limited.

The distinction to keep in mind is that Open Source is an intellectual property regime. A Business Model is a separate issue. I believe that Open Source makes the best case for business, because it accelerates innovation. The largest Open Source hardware company in the world is Sparkfun, with revenues of about $30M in 2012. So open source hardware is only about one millionth of today's economic share of the global economy.

Open Source means that you motivate individuals looking for a return on social good. This means that we can motivate high level professionals to contribute for free based on our social vision - of sharing all our plans, including business plans. We call this Distributive Enterprise.

So in summary: Open Source refers to intellectual property. A business model is a separate thing.


[edit] 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.

[edit] How would you describe the practical motivation of your work in one sentence?

We aim to create the Open Source Economy.

[edit] How would you describe the work of Open Source Ecology (OSE) in one paragraph

For more information, see OSE Specifications.

OSElogo2 sq.jpg

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 autonomy. 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.


[edit] 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 on the subject is misinformed - because it underappreciates human capacity to do more with more knowledge.

Instead, we call for people to take personal control of the industries they participate in. Empowered by closer control over 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 wisened 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. It takes a mind shift to appreciate this viewpoint.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] What are the labor requirements for handling all the productivity of the initial GVCS 50 technology set?

Wanted: Update this to reflect the current, 50-tool, GVCS. It's about an old version

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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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.

[edit] 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

[edit] 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.

[edit] Isn't mass production and specialization more efficient/better?

Usbtoserial.jpg

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 contribut=

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