Global Village Construction Set
= integrated toolset for the construction of economies that utilize local resources: open source, flexible fabrication - applied to Community Supported Manufacturing – as a viable route to an industrial system free of geopolitical compromise.
= a collection of open-source, appropriate technology tools that can be integrated into the village economy.
"Founder of Open Source Ecology Marcin Jakubowksi is creating open blueprints for the building blocks of civilization, starting with the Global Village Construction Set. This set of 50 low-cost machines will allow anyone to build all the infrastructure a community needs – including, at Factor E Farm, one of his own." (http://blog.ted.com/2012/07/27/civilization-reboot-fellows-friday-with-marcin-jakubowski/)
Interview of Marcin Jakubowsky conducted by TED Blog:
"The Global Village Construction Set is wildly ambitious idea. How did you get to it?
In childhood, I always thought about technology. My father’s a scientist and my mother’s a teacher, and early on I felt science was an incredible human invention that should be able to make life good for everybody. So I always wanted to do something awesome with technology.
But the further I went in my education system, the less useful I felt. By the second year into my PhD in fusion energy, I felt alienated from the work I was doing: I still thought fusion would be the solution to human energy problems, but the more I looked into it, the more I realized it wasn’t the answer. It’s got a lot of issues, including radioactivity and the fact that it’s another centralization technology. I felt it would not contribute to an honest solution to a sound technology base for humans. So I started thinking, “Well, what is a sound technology base? And how can we thrive with the amazing technology that we have?”
This is how the Global Village Construction Set originated. What if we were to start from scratch? Can we create communities that are truly spectacles of human progress that don’t end up getting wrapped up in all the geopolitics and compromises we have in society today?
How did you decide to make it open source?
While I was working on my PhD, I noticed I couldn’t talk openly to other groups because we had some hot material. So I thought, “Wow. Even in academia I can’t collaborate openly.” I felt this limitation was simply reducing my ability to learn — such an opportunity wasted.
The Open Source Ecology concept comes from trying to answer the question, “What happens when you truly collaborate openly with others?” That applies to all the sectors of society, from business to everything else. At the moment, most people don’t work together. Each company has its own proprietary R&D department. There’s a lot of reinventing the wheel going on. I feel that if we simply collaborated, we could accelerate progress by 10- to 100-fold.
That’s the essence of open-source: we’re trying to build on what already exists, and then contributing back to that and letting everybody benefit from it, as opposed to benefiting only a few. So it’s a shift in a mindset from zero-sum game to post-scarcity.
What are the machines, and why are they the essential building blocks for civilization?
The set of machines I’m developing covers agriculture, energy, transportation, production — essentially every piece of human infrastructure we rely on to provide a modern standard of living. Do you eat? Yeah, you eat. So you need agricultural equipment to feed people optimally – everything from a tractor to a bakery oven. What other tools might we need? A circuit maker, industrial robots, renewable energy equipment, construction equipment, fabrication equipment. For transportation, a car — a 100-mile-per-gallon renewable energy car, which will run on a modern steam engine using pelletized biomass as a renewable energy source. Algae could potentially work, as well. For renewable energy, we are working on a solar concentrator that’s essentially a point-focus dish-like system made of multiple mirrors, but on a 5-to50-kilowatt unit scale. These are scalable and modular, so we can build a number of them and produce a lot of power.
All our designs are modular. For example, you can detach the wheel units on the tractor by turning a lever, pulling one bolt, and detaching the wheel for use on another device such as a micro-tractor or a truck or a bulldozer, maximizing the flexibility of the package.
With the fabrication part of this technology infrastructure — computer-aided fabrication, things like CNC torch tables or precision machining, circuit mills and 3D printers — products can be designed in a LEGO-like fashion. We focus a lot on bolt-together, modular design. In principle, that’s what we’re aiming for. Once we optimize the designs, I would say in about one month with, say, four people, you can produce everything using advanced fabrication machinery: tractors, cars, bulldozers, backhoes, agricultural combines, cement mixers, well-drilling rigs — about 30 different mechanical devices in a month’s time with super-efficient production. I need to emphasize that we haven’t accomplished this yet — but the evidence that we have gathered so far indicates that this will be the reality of efficient, distributed, open-source production.
Where do you find the material for all these machines?
Right now, we buy materials off the shelf. But part of the set includes an induction furnace and hot metal rolling processes. So you can actually take scrap steel, melt it down, and roll it out into virgin steel. So any place that has a scrap metal yard, you can take that and essentially reboot civilization from there.
How many of the machines have you already finished?
We’ve got four beta releases of machines — a tractor, a brick press, a soil pulverizer and a hydraulic power unit. All together, we’ve got about 15 prototypess including the CNC circuit mill, CNC torch table, micro-tractor, cement mixer, dimensional sawmill, ironworker machine and heat exchanger. We’re working currently on the modern steam engine.
All our machines are open source — anyone can download the designs and budgets. But we are also selling our machines readymade. We’re working on optimized production to the point where we can sell compressed earth brick presses to earn $20,000 per month, allowing us to bootstrap-fund further development. We are streamlining fabrication such that eight people can produce one press in one day with collaborative production. It costs $4,000 in the materials, and we sell the presses for $9,000 — clearing about $5,000 per machine. We plan to have four production runs per month, and the rest of the time we’ll spend developing the kit and the community. People are contacting me all the time about getting the brick presses, so we have a market. Most of the time I have to tell them, “Hey, download the plans, have your fabricator build it. We’re building capacity right now.” (http://blog.ted.com/2012/07/27/civilization-reboot-fellows-friday-with-marcin-jakubowski/)
Strategy laid out by Marcin Jakubowski of Open Source Ecology here at http://openfarmtech.org/index.php?title=Organizational_Strategy#Context_and_What_is_Right_Livelihood.3F
"The approach of this project is to identify a small but comprehensive infrastructure base of robust, widely applicable solutions for living and working in new communities that are aimed at transforming the world. The community can be as small as a couple, such that no special deviation from the societal norm of a household needs to be invoked. The bottom line is living and working according to principles of right livelihood. If living and working as such is taken seriously, then it is advantageous to form communities of more than one couple, such that division of labor distributes the effort necessary for meeting the group's needs.
With this in mind, we focus on creating an environment for living and working, and a process by which the people to populate this environment are identified and aligned. The initial step is to 1 develop the technology base for the living infrastructure, 2 produce a well-define earning model for the community, and 3, provide an explicit productive infrastructure, 4, produce self-replicating flexible and digital fabrication infrastructure, 5, develop means of using onsite feedstocks as much as possible.
The infrastructure base is first and community is second. One cannot organize people in a state of optimal quality of life if the means to support these people is not available. This is a simple consequency of the generally-accepted principle of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs: basic needs come before higher needs. The basic needs are those including housing, energy, food, mobility, etc. It is on the adequate provision of these needs that we must focus initially when building a new community - if our goal is right livelihood. Right livelihood is predicated on autonomy in the provision of these basic needs. Otherwise, uncontrollable external forces such as employers, governments, or external providers of needs- produce misalignment with the most fundamental interests of the community. This means external influence over the community - a recipe for compromise of both true interests and life quality.
The premise of this development effort is that such infrastructure package has not yet been made available to people. All the technologies exist already, but one must pay dearly for them. Much of the technology requires specialists, is proprietary, or is inaccessible because of the distractions of marketing.
The infastructure-in-a-box includes FEH-RLM-LE: Food, Energy, Habitat, Right Livelihood, Mobility. It constitutes a Learning Environment and a particular way of living. An inherent consequence of this package is transformation. This is because, if self-sustaining, self-replicating units as such are devised, then they solve today's great unsolved 'mysteries' - hunger, poverty, ignorance, overpopulation, and war. Minimal management greenhouses and edible landscapes address hunger, as people place at least some food production back in their hands. Personal and digital fabrication, fueled by open source design, as well as agriculture and information work, leaves no poor among us. Ignorance is dispelled as people take charge of their own education and enlightenment through experiential, entrepreneurial, research lifestyles. Overpopulation is addressed as only the number of people is invited into a particular community as can be supported by indigenous resources. War is addresses as we provide our own energy, fuels, building materials, and foodstuffs - and don't have to attack others for their resources because we ran out of ours.
Start with principles of replicability. Our fundamental principle is that information is the critical, frequently absent component enabling the success of endeavors. To create a replicable program, necessary information must be openly accessible, and better yet - open source - to enable people to learn the necessary techniques. In particular, to create a community, information related to the successful deployment of infrastructure must be available." (http://openfarmtech.org/index.php?title=Organizational_Strategy#Context_and_What_is_Right_Livelihood.3F)
"I would like to call everyone's attention to the work of the Open-Source Ecology group, and its Factor E Farm demonstration project. Factor E Farm provides constant updates on the progress of specific projects at their blog.
OS Ecology's central focus is developing what it calls an Open-Village Construction Set: a collection of open-source, appropriate technology tools that can be integrated into the village economy.
Because they are open-source rather than relying on proprietary designs, and because they use locally available and vernacular materials as much as possible, they are extremely inexpensive. Just as important, the machinery is replicable, using locally available materials (including scrap and waste from the industrial economy). This means that once the initial prototypes of all the machinery are built, the entire system is almost infinitely replicable using only the labor of the people who want to adopt it.
The projects furthest along the road to completion are:
1) the Compressed Earth Block (CEB) press, which uses rammed earth as a building material, and can be produced at 20% of the cost of the cheapest available proprietary design.
2) the Life Trac, an open-source tractor, which can run on biomass fuel produced on-site, and is intended to serve (among other things) as power source for the CEB press, the sawmill, and the multi-machine (about which see below).
3) the solar-powered steam turbine generator. This project abandons the possibly futile hope of getting the unit cost of photovoltaic power competitive with that generated with fossil fuels, and instead uses a solar collector to power a steam turbine for operating an electrical generator. OSE hopes to get the unit cost down to $1/watt.
There are some 28 projects in various stages of planning. Unfortunately, limits in funding and available labor force OS Ecology to focus on a few projects at a time and put the others on the back burner.
For example, one vitally important tool ultimately envisioned in the Construction Set is the multimachine, which has been independently prototyped elsewhere, but has yet to be integrated into OS Ecology's on-site project. The multimachine is a multi-purpose machine tool, providing the equivalent of a cheap desktop metal shop, which can also be used to produce other multimachines from scrap metal.
In "The Unplugged," Vinay Gupta wrote of a movement of people "buying out at the bottom" by using "Buckminster Fuller's means to promote Gandhi's ends." This is the largest and most advanced single project I'm aware of for putting that philosophy into practice. It is very much of a kind with what the Village Earth Appropriate Technology Library, and the Intermediate Technology Development Group have attempted. But it goes much further in 1) promoting village-scale manufacturing technology and integrating machine production into the village economy, and 2) attempting an organized prototypiing effort aimed at distributing it as an open-source package.
The OS Ecology project relies heaviy on crowdsourcing for its funding, and on the work of volunteer laborers living at the Factor E Farm site. Marcin Jakubowski and the rest of the team are working in near-emergency mode trying to get as much of the Open-Village Construction Set as possible prototyped and the complete designs publicly available. The more on-site labor and the more funding is available, the more projects that can be developed simultaneously. The goal is to get the construction set, as a whole, on a sustainable path toward unlimited growth by fission and replication, and to promote its adoption wherever people can benefit from it.
The urgency is heightened by increasingly ominous signs that the old corporate industrial economy is entering a "perfect storm" of terminal crises, from the culmination of a century's worth of chronic overaccumulation, Peak Oil, and all the rest of it. The OS Ecology team want to get the building blocks out there, and the knowledge of them as widely dispersed as possible, in order to have the infrastructure for resilient local communities in place on the ground and ready to start replicating itself virally. As Jakubowski told me by private email, this might be what pulls us out of Great Depression 2.
Marcin would be grateful for any help he can get. This includes funding. More importantly, it includes contributions of sweat equity by anyone with engineering, shop, or other tech skills who'd like to help on-site for room and board. And I'm sure he'd also like to hear from anyone involved in similar projects in the human-scale technology movement, who might have suggestions for collaborative effort and mutual support.
In short, Marcin et al are working under a deadline, and putting everything they've got into the effort. For anyone with the time or resources to help, I can't recommend this strongly enough as a worthy project.
You can subscribe to contribute $10/month, or make a one-time donation via PayPal, at the support page."
Marcin can be contacted at [email protected]