Open Community Manufacturing: Key to an Equitable Society
The direction we’re trending is that the same amount of profit will be generated in the world but will be generated by everyone, in a way that is more equitable – in an equitable distribution of wealth mode.
- Joe Justice, Founder of WikiSpeed
Introduction to 3D printing
Introduction to 3D printing
Introduction to 3D printing
The Rep Rap project – the self-replicating machine that started it all
TED Talk – how open hardware will take over the world
Open Source Ecology’s founder Marcin presents the Global Village Construction Set
Some may be aware of the growing fascination of open-source techniques applied to manufacturing but few know the profound implications this will have in transforming our entire society. In fact, it may not be an exaggeration to claim that open community manufacturing may actually save the human civilization!
Until recently, manufacturing has been a centralized process with only a minority able to afford to open and operate capital intensive factories. Trans-national corporations are the natural consequence of such a system and they have grown so large that their individual profits are larger than the GDP of many countries in the world. These transnational manufacturers are effectively monopolies that control entire markets. The energy, pharmaceutical, transportation and food industry are all controlled by a handful of large players. This monopolizing tendency of unfettered capitalism is responsible for the inequity and environmental problems in the world today. Their unrivaled power and capital allows them to manipulate politicians and control policies to make them good for profits but bad for people, the planet, and ultimately their own self-interest.
Developed country markets are saturated and these same transnationals are now focusing their attention on countries of the South. China, India and African countries are projected to have the highest rates of economic growth as governments in these countries attempt to transform the poor into the middle class. As Brazilian medical researcher Carlos A. Monteiro points out:
The saturation of developed market economies with ultra-processed products may also explain why transnationals appear to be aiming for double-digit growth—sales that increase by an annual 10% or more—in the South. For instance, the growth of the Nestlé line of “popularly positioned products” is up to 25% a year, and the market for these products in Asia, Africa, and Latin America is now estimated to be over CHF 80 billion, or a little over $US 87 billion. In Brazil, the consumption of ultra-processed products has already risen from less than 20% of calories in the 1980s to 28%, but this figure is still well short of 60%, the possible saturation level. Similarly, the current prevalence of obesity in Brazil (14% among adults in 2009), has some way to go before it reaches the levels seen in countries like the UK and the US (currently 24% and 34%, respectively) – Carlos A. Monteiro
For example, food giant Unilever now makes more profit from selling products to the Base-of-Pyramid in developing countries than in selling in developed countries. The inherent inequity of transnational corporation lay in the theft of opportunities to citizens in the local market and vulnerable dependency. By encouraging sales of transnational corporation products, the end result is always capital flight, leaving local communities destitute and dependent. The prime example of vulnerable dependency is agri-giant Monsanto’s attempt to force farmers around the world to stop using traditional seeds and to buy their genetically modified seeds, effectively making all farmers dependent on one giant transnational corporation for their food security. The lack of transparency, biased science, dirty tactics and vast sums of money spent on lobbying reveals the ulterior motives of these companies.
They are the harbingers of ecoside and their products are more and more thought to be the source of human biota ecoside as well.
Ecocide and Economic Crisis Hand in Hand
With each passing day, the global ecocide and economic crisis continue to grow in tandem and unabated. This is no coincidence, for the plunder of resources, rampant pollution, corporate power supported by government cronyism and the vast inequity between the minority rich and majority poor all coexist as one mutually interdependent network. They all arise from the same malaise of a broken economic system which is fundamentally rooted in the psychopathy of profit.
Profit is a concept whose very abstraction brings about the greatest harm, for when a business’s sole purpose is to maximize the numbers in an account, the real-world impacts on life and ecological health fall by the weigh-side. The term “profit” gives business an air of respectability. In contrast, greed, the raw emotion that often underlies and drives profit is a term business is careful to keep at a distance.
While not all people who run businesses are consciously driven by greed, the systematic principle of greed is the modus operandi of corporate growth. Businesses are encouraged to grow as large as the can, capture as much market as they can and to dominate and beat as many competitors as they can. This drive easily co-opts the values of even the most principled people.
The economic system has been irrevocably gamed by its top players – top business people, top politicians, top technocrats – riggin it so that they continue to prosper while the majority continues to suffer. The masses of the rich are drugged and consumers are sedated by distracting entertainment and consumption while the masses of the middle are rapidly shrinking and entering the burgeoning masses of the poor who are constantly in survival mode. Everyone is entrapped in a system that feeds inequity with no escape – except a cataclysmic one that will bring the house of cards tumbling down, to start the boom-bust cycle anew.
All over the world, the converging streams of crisis with no end is site is bringing about a growing recognition that this system is fundamentally flawed. From Occupy to Arab Spring, people are awakening to the vast inequities and ecocide afflicting human civlization. And amidst all of this chaos, it is open-source tools and movements which are springing up everywhere to take back the commons from the plutocracy.
Democratizing Manufacturing; a Key Building Block to a Just Future
Just as Microsoft had been fearful of the rapid encroachment of open-source software such as Linux in the 1990’s and 2000’s, now producers of 3d goods such as car, machine and general products are watching the stirrings of open-source hardware in their industries. Today, we are on the verge of an open-source manufacturing revolution which may will have far greater implications of the open-source software revolution of the past decade. In fact, with open-source manufacturing rapidly advancing with each passing day, all the building blocks are being put in place to form an entirely open-source framework for society:
- open source software tools for everything from productivity to education to technology integration
- open source governance
- open source manufacturing
- open source, peer-to-peer digital currency
- collaborative consumption and reputation currency
Needless to say, this poses a huge threat to corporate interests, whose model of wealth concentration is threatened with a radical dieback or transformation if open source and open community manufacturing successfully scale.
In the first part of their paper, Carson & Taylor write about renewable energy saying:
A public policy geared toward the public good whether it comes from the government, business or local level communities, would seek to mitigate neoliberal development models which act more like leaches than community symbiots. Public policy should not be used to privilege the existent destructive corporate order, but instead provide for the space necessary for alternative polycentric solutions.
Sustainable energy generation, transmission and distribution are socio-ecological in nature. Engineering expertise must be combined with evidence of social outcomes as well to optimize solutions and combat neoliberal economic tendencies of ecological destruction. What is needed is a diverse partnership of major institutions to free market actors to participate in this next generation of clean energy development. There may be no better institution equipped to participate in this initiative than the electric power cooperative.
eschewing the politiking which gives green development and access to same cast of greed-driven corporate characters who helped cause the mess – such as Oilman T. Boone Pickens partnership with notorious polluter and tax evader G.E. to monopolize wind farms in Texas. What keeps the plutocracies stranglehold on the market is an entire network of conspiration:
The large corporation and centralized government agency do not exist just as discrete individual organizations. Beyond a certain level of proliferation, such large organizations crystalize into an interlocking and mutually supporting system. Even the small and medium-sized firm, the cooperative, the non-profit, must function within an overall structure defined by large organizations. As Paul Goodman put it,
A system destroys its competitors by pre-empting the means and channels, and then proves that it is the only conceivable mode of operating.(17)
…[T]he genius of our centralized bureaucracies has been, as they interlock, to form a mutually accrediting establishment of decision-makers, with common interests and a common style that nullify the diversity of pluralism.(18)
Open Source Hardware and Open Community Manufacturing
Surprisingly, the low capital investment costs of open hardware and open community manufacturing has the potential to return labor with the strength it once possessed. In the United States, labor unions came into existence before the mid-19th century and were formed by striking craft workers. These workers and their portable tools were, in essence the factory and if their conditions were not met by the employer, they could simply walk out with their tools, leaving behind only a large room with 4 walls. After the mid-19th century, factory automation took away labor’s power – mostly because unions could not afford the expensive capital outlay of the automated labor-saving equipment. Now, through the advent of the internet and open-source manufacturing, the tide has again shifted back to the workers. Today, it only takes a PC, programming skill and a good idea to become the next Facebook. In his earlier book, The Homebrew Industrial Revolution, an Low Overhead Manifesto Carson notes that in the past 20 years, manufacturing production costs that can yield “factory” quality goods have plummeted two orders of magnitude – Rep Raps, 3D printers, DIY lathes & CNC machines, etc have essentially eliminated the capitalists advantage.
The authors write:
Modular design is simply the stigmergic development of physical goods. It is a massive force multiplier because it spreads capital outlays for R&D out over as large a product ecology as possible. Common platforms can be customized among the widest possible variety of products, and modular components to be used over an entire product ecology
The cheap open-source and community-scale manufacturing technology and stigmergic (distributed) organization offer the cooperative movement and the entire alternative economy the potential to act as an “army of Davids” to:
- eliminate the majority of the cost of any produced item today – the economic rent of Intellectual Property
- drive down total costs of day-to-day needs
- create goods that are designed to last long
- thereby frees people from the shackles of dehumanizing, non-subsistence, low-wage labor, and puts individuals and communities back in the driver’s seat of their personal and collective livelihoods
Carson and Taylor write about the power and scalability cooperatives (940 electricity cooperatives in the US alone) will give the open community manufacturing movement to face their corporate Goliaths:
Taken together, the cooperative sector has enormous potential to not only proliferate growth in renewable energy, but to also foster deep, meaningful community development. This is especially true given the technological developments of recent years, which amount to an enormous force multiplier for the resources available to the alternative economy and go a long way toward nullifying the conventional capitalist economy’s advantage in resources.
If one counts all the cooperatives in the US, their membership serves an astounding 350 million members.
The authors close the paper with a challenge to us all:
Cooperatives represent one of the best examples of latent capacity ready to be engaged for true social change. Remember, there are over 700 grocery coops (300+ are looking to come online), 900+ electric utility coops, 400+ telecom coops, and 7000+ credit union coops; there is a lot of opportunity to make these individual shops into a tangible movement and create a real counter economy. Can we make it happen?
Question: How do we stop trans-nationals whose combined momentum is pulling the planet and its people down a path of ruin?
Answer: Open Source Systems
The Transnational companies of the world are set on a path of planetary ruin. Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Business, Big Government is continuing the momentum that will carry us over the planetary cliff. UN Climate Change talks with 200 plus nations continue to stall. It is apparent that the plutocratic approach is stuck and the result is global paralysis.
For the first time in history, the rapid advances in software and hardware offer the possibility of democratizing manufacturing – and with it to shake the foundations of the transnational’s stranglehold on power. Open Source offers the only true way to make the scale of step changes required to pull humanity back from the brink of disaster. The reason is simple – open source is FOR THE PEOPLE and BY THE PEOPLE. It is an expression of people power. If change is going to come, it must come from the people.
Software tools and principles are spilling over the hardware world bringing a bout a revolution in manufacturing. The principles of the Open Source software movement are merging with manufacturing to create open-source hardware and open-source manufacturing. These tools, for the first time ever, allow professional level manufacturing to be democratized. This is extremely important, as when it is combined with cradle-to-cradle design techniques the circular economy will provide a practical basis for the redistribution of wealth.
In particular, these techniques can unleash wealth creation potential latent in developing country rural communities and create practical, prosperous and resilient communities.
Open Source Ecology – a Leader in the Field of Open Source Hardware & Manufacturing
OSE is busy designing the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS), a set of 50 tools that founder Marcin Jakobuski and his group established as fundamental tools for establishing any modern civilization. OSE is making all its plans open source and downloadable from its website and is an international open source initiative. This toolset is a very low capital cost way for communities to build their own community level manufacturing. To start building these tools, you need a basic shop with a welding torch, some cutting and other basic tools and access to stock metal.
Joe Justice and WikiSpeed
You gotta love a name like Joe Justice – with a name like this, you might guess that Joe must be doing interesting things in life. In fact, you would be right. Joe is a software geek and a founder of Team Wikspeed: a team of volunteers distributed around the world who recently created a prototype car that is open source, modular and ultra-efficient in just three months, using processes borrowed from software development, the world from which Joe comes from. Joe’s fearless software instincts of diving head into a project, albeit with sound logic has proven that the giant multi-trillion dollar car industry, traditional home to rich industrialists is very prone to the ways of open-source. Using a budget that car manufactures would scoff at, Joe has accomplished a seamingly impossible task. In 3 months, he and his rag-tag team of open source enthuisiast from around the world have built a car that achieves an incredible 100 miles to the gallon for $25K in less than 3 months! No car company or university R+D team has come close to achieving what Joe has – and on a budget that would be considered ridiculous were it not for the fact that his car works.
A New Paradigm of Collaboration, not Competition
Perhaps the most amazing thing about Open-Source is a return to collaboration. This is a fundamentally different paradigm than tradition capitalism and big business. It’s about engaging people from all over the world to join the team and contributing to creating wealth for everyone. Team WIKISPEED applies another innovation. They apply team work methods common to the most successful software industry with such characteristics as Agile, Lean, and Scrum. Manufacturing and old-thought software teams:
- gather requirements
- design the solution
- build the solution
- test the solution
- deliver the solution
Old School Car Manufacturing
In existing automotive companies:
- the design portion of that process alone takes three to twelve years
- then the vehicle design is built for five to fourteen years
- This means it is possible to buy a brand new car from a dealer and that car represents the engineering team’s understanding of what the customer might have wanted twenty-four years ago
- Molds used for a car cost millions of dollars so they will not change for many years to come until all the cost is recouped
Team WIKISPEED new school Manufacturing
based on model of Agile software teams, the Wikispeed team:
- li>compresses the entire development cycle into one-week “sprints.”
- iterates the entire car every seven days, meaning that every seven days we reevaluate each part of the car and reinvent the highest-priority aspects, instead of waiting ten to twenty-four years to upgrade
- This process enables a completely different pace of development
The WikiSpeed process:
Borrowing Concepts from Software and applying to Hardware
- Lean software design – borrow the concept of using less stuff wherever responsible, defined in a clear, applicable way by the contemporary software team.
- Extreme Programming (XP) – borrow the practices of pairing and swarming. These practices date back at least as far as the apprentice model but have been carefully defined to replace the need for most types of training and process documentation.
- Agile software development – borrow the principle of reducing cost to make change—changes in team, materials, machinery, and even goals.
- Scrum software development – borrow clearly defined team roles and responsibilities, allowing more time spent rapidly developing product with no nonworking (management only) roles and only two meetings.
- Test-Driven Development – borrow the concept of starting with failing tests and then develop solutions to quickly identify if current work is not targeted to pass a test or is causing problems elsewhere in the system, which avoids waste.
- Object-Oriented Programming – borrow Contract-First Development, which enables the modularity of the WIKISPEED car and all other solutions.
Alastair Parvin: Architecture for the people by the people
…Choose a Design from the Growing Wikihouse Design Library
…Then Assemble the Pieces Like a Jigsaw Puzzle
Putting the Wikihouse Pieces Together
After a year and a half of prototyping, and with a growing community, WikiHouse now needs:
- Improved software tools, to disruptively lower thresholds of time, skill and cost.
- An improved community infrastructure, supporting mass collaboration.
- Projects by individuals and organisations to build the first fully-inhabited houses.
- An open challenge to build and expand a broader global design commons, exploring open technologies and materials; owned by everyone, accessible to anyone.
What is Wikihouse looking for?
- Community – Designers, programmers, makers, engineers & inventors who also think that open construction is a problem worth solving.
- Partners – Building or research projects interested in using WikiHouse or developing it.
- Funders – Funds to help us support the community and resource a full-time development team, and sponsorship towards the Open Challenge to develop a global construction commons.