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OSE Context

Degeneracy is a generic term that refers to a vast number of technology (or social or economic or other) options being reduced to a small set of substantial options. This applies to both technologies themselves, and tool-chains to make those technologies. This is based on the concept of degeneracy in physics, where multiple electron wavefunctions can result in a single energy state: the wave-functions are said to degenerate to one energy level.

'Design Degeneracy is a specific type of degeneracy that determines design choices. In the OSE context, design follows:

Degeneracy refers to a narrowly-constrained - yet generative - design that results from the design process. The degeneracy refers to the notion that when all the above constraints are applied, then the resulting design solution will be quite similar - regardless of who designs it. This is one of the enabling features of large-scale, Collaborative Design. This implies that many teams working on a design problem have the maximum flexibility to collaborate - by working independently while reconciling results - with minimum Collaborative Waste of coordination. Ie, the dedign process can be a distributed process - because of shared values and tactics. This is similar to Mission Command in the miliary: each participant is maximally informed and can make decisions with minimum input from leadership.

Technological Degeneracy

In a nutshell: there are 50 million types of the same gizmo in the world - name it - from a car to a washing machine. Typically, this indicates lack of part interchangeability, throwaway nature of the gizmo because it can't be repaired, many hours of design time wasted for making 50 million different versions of essentially the same thing. OSE believes that one or few basic designs should be standardized as a Construction Set which allows many variations to exist - but based on a transparent and inclusive pattern language of modules. This allows maximum interchangeability of parts, ease of finding replacements, and effectively, lifetime design. This is intended for humans to master control over their technology base, instead of humans serving the needs of technology. This is quite opposite of non-appropriate technology today, where a single screw may cost $100, or a missing or broken specialized part renders a large machine completely useless (such as in modern tractors) for weeks until a replacement is shipped in.

To repeat - degeneracy is a term that refers to a vast number of artificial technology options being reduced to a small set of substantial options.

Toolchain Degeneracy

For Distributed Quality Control to be feasible, toolchain degeneracy is required. Simply put: everyone uses the same equipment, and that equipment is recuced to the most essential, smallest, robust set of tools. This is part of Robustification of the production process.

This refers to toolchains being reduced to a smaller set of options in terms of tools used. This can be done by degenerating multiple standards to fewer standards, and using a Construction Set Approach to do more with less.

Unless people are using a uniform tool set, uniform quality control between different fabrication facilities will not be possible.

A practical route to toolchain degeneracy is to take all existing tool makers, and agree to standards for how future tools are optimized by combining the best features of each. We thus convert an explosion of inferior options to a smaller set of robustified options - a core. This core is similar to the open core concept of linux, which is a scaffolding for building all kinds of applications.

OSE's route is to continue on its path of making construction sets, and incorporating as many elements from other projects as possible. For this, open source standards are prerequisite.


Specifically, OSE's toolchain degeneracy means that large-scale collaborative developent uses OSE Linux, FreeCAD, KiCad, Blender, Gimp, Inkscape, Arduino IDE, Cura, and other software throughout. Also, we use the Universal Axis, Universal Frame, Universal Controller, Universal Axis, Universal Rotor, Power Cube and other hardware in our builds.

Complex Adaptive Systems

  • [1]
  • Biology - [2]. The biological definition fits the. OSE context well. Ie, degeneracy is evolution to a more 'primitive' state, but primitive does not mean that it is 'worse.' For technology, the metaphor involves stripping all complexity and unnecessary features until a robust design is achieved. Robust design implies that unnecessary complexity and variation is eliminated, meaning the design solution should converge to a simpler form.
  • Chemistry context - [3]

Thus, degeneracy in the OSE context means convergence to a simpler and uniform design solution. Degeneracy is thus a property of robust design, not of design in general.

Degeneracy and Diversity

Degeneracy does NOT imply the death of diversity. Diversity is a key aspect of resilient systems. The diversity comes from the ability to produce an infinite number of options for implementation - as allowed by OSE's Construction Set Approach of modularity at all scales from parts to assemblies to product ecosystems. Thus, degeneracy build infinite verity from a smaller set of building blocks.

Here we can get into a discussion that degeneracy is ultimately about 100. This refers to the number of elements in the periodic table. This is not exactly the concept we are talking about. We are talking about macroscopic assemblies - such as how to design a wheel, engine, or microchip.

For the sake of advanced cilization, to build it's infrastructure for living and thriving with nature, there are approximately 500 Modules, maybe a 100 or so naturally occurring materials, and many life forms. As OSE progresses in opensourcing the technosphere, we will identify the key natural resources (starting materials from raw, slightly processed, to fully engineered) that are required for modern prosperity.


  • A car typically has 4 wheels, not 5 or 3. This is an obvious example, but many other much more subtle tech choices are similar in nature to this trivial example.