Open Source Ecology is a network of farmers, engineers, and supporters that for the last two years has been creating the Global Village Construction Set, an open source, low-cost, high performance technological platform that allows for the easy, DIY fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a sustainable civilization with modern comforts. The GVCS lowers the barriers to entry into farming, building, and manufacturing and can be seen as a life-size lego-like set of modular tools that can create entire economies, whether in rural Missouri, where the project was founded, in urban redevelopment, or in the developing world.
8 thoughts on “Open-sourced blueprints for civilization”
This is actually pretty awesome. I’ve always been intrigued by people who live “off the land”, which was quite common only 100 years ago. The average farmer had a relatively small vegetable garden which kept his family feed during good times and bad. A larger field would supply staple crops like potatoes or corn, with the surplus to be sold or traded. A visit to the dentist could be paid for by a contract to deliver his produce on a weekly basis for a certain number of weeks if he couldn’t raise enough cold hard cash on the market. Most farmers had enough skill with other trades, such as blacksmithing or carpentry to rely on their own ability if they couldn’t find the right price on the market.
Today’s economy is driven too much by the expectation to specialize in one niche skill and depend on the “free market” to supply labor and materials for all of your other needs. Heavy regulation leads to entry barriers that either drive up costs that are passed to consumers or give existing suppliers an unequal negotiating position to set their prices (think about the cost of medical care and the relation to the rules governing the practice of medicine). I don’t think people can be politically “free” if they cannot be economically “free”, so I think this project is important and likely to play an even bigger role in the developing world. Most of the world’s metals and minerals have already been mined, so we already have a head start by having so much post-industrial scrap available for relatively easy fabrication. I think that after the world experiences “peak oil” there will be a return to self-reliant, subsistence based communities in many parts of the world, but they will have more knowledge and access to industrial scrap to produce their own energy and build/maintain their own machinery, so at least people should not have to revert back to pre-industrial methods. The biggest long term threat however is the availabilty of semiconductor devices, as these just aren’t scalable to village based production.
I agree with a lot (maybe most) of what you write, but I think the prejudice a lot of people display towards “specialization” gets the story largely wrong, nowhere more so than when it comes to food. Growing all your own food may insulate you from inflation and economic downturns, but it exposes you to the risk of a failed harvest, which, like financial crises, tends to be something of a black swan event. The last large-scale famine in the Western world, the Great Irish Famine, occurred in what was one of the most undeveloped and subsistence-oriented economies of its time.
I will, however, agree strongly that regulation can create unnatural barriers to innovation. In areas like healthcare and education, what we have is largely an extension of the medieval guild system, which is best seen as a form of monopoly. I often wonder if the real innovation in these areas in the next century will come from countries like China and India, who simply cannot afford to replicate things like our physician-centric healthcare system on a large scale.
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[…] Open sourced blueprints. Så er vi ovre i den tungere afdeling. Som udgangspunkt kun for den voksne. Bygger på en vision om at lave et “Global Village Construction Set” med vægt på at gøre sig selvforsynet med maskiner. Dvs. fra bunden lave skrabede, billige maskiner, der opfylder et behov, som vi ellers er nødt til at betale dyrt for at få adgang til. Idéen er spændende, men om den kan snige sig ind under gældende dansk sikkerhedslovgivning, er jeg som udgangspunkt ret usikker på. Tanken har dog fortjent en plads sammen med de andre former for maker/hacker-tiltag. […]
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