Innovation Stuntmen Interview

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Date: 13. January 2011

  • What is the intention of OSE?

We’re basically working on a replicable tool set that would be sufficient to provide the infrastructure of modern communities, in a nutshell.

  • Is OSE meant to renew our society?

The concept is that it’s a regenerative development that we can eventually reinvent the economic system such that it’s harmonious with natural life support systems. So it’s a pretty deep package. We’re trying to consider the whole picture of what we’ve learned from society in terms of best practices so that if we’d have to start from scratch we’d have all the best practices that we can put into play, to make prosperous communities and where also people get along beyond the resource conflict.

So on one level we want to address a simple concept, how do we transcend the fact that resources and their scarcity is still determining the way humans interact. On a personal level, we have to work and so forth. And on a global level there’s geopolitical conflict that’s a result of still the economy of scarcity that we live in, and we’re just asking, well, can we transcend that through a realistic program.

  • If I was to explain to my child how that new world would look like, what would I have to tell him?

Yeah, it would be communities that are pretty much autonomous from external control. That means they can provide everything that they need from local resources. Because if we ask this question, we know right now that society depends on global flows to make everything happen, global material flows and global trade. And we’re saying the other alternative is if we used modern appropriate technology to process the more common abundant materials around us to build communities that are just more resilient in their ability to both provide for themselves and provide through any shock because they actually have the capacity to do so, because of the knowledge and tools available.

So take it as civilization and then rework it to I think the biggest aspect of it would be appropriate scale. We talk a lot about the scale of villages, like 100 people where you can know everybody face to face and yet still provide enough division of labor to provide for a modern quality of life. That’s the general picture. So take some value that looks like what it does today except it’s survival based or productivity based economy, just based on totally different principles focusing on ability to use local abundant resources.

  • In terms of an emotional approach, what does OSE appeal to in terms of human emotions?

Freedom I think would be the single word. A place where people are in control of their life. Self-determination. Because the remote power centers are removed from the equation and the basic design. Fulfillment I would say would be also kind of coming from a similar place. Fulfillment that you’re now when you’re free you can pursue the things that are your passions and things that you really like as opposed to being forced to do certain things just to survive. So that would be fulfillment, the ability to create, your world in a way that you want it to, so it goes back to control of your life and being free.

  • Let’s talk about economics. There are so many open source models popping up all over the globe. Our question is do you think that all those open source principles might indicate the need for a new age of economics?

We claim that open source economy is the natural evolution of where the economy goes to, and the key there being that you have enough of a rigorous process that ends up with tools that are equivalent or superior to industrial productivity. And personally I see that missing in a lot of the different projects. But that’s definitely one of the key design elements, the effectiveness, efficiency to put the economic system into what we call distributive economics. That’s what you end up with. Where it’s no longer monopoly capitalism determining, being the dominant force, but the fact that everybody has open access, and the tools to do so.

  • Would you consider OSE compatible with the old economy? Does that fit in somehow, or is it something that has to be detached?

I think for a long time it will run in parallel because different people right now have different ways they like to live, or different options they like to pursue in their life. A lot of people are satisfied with the way things are, and what we’re saying is that, okay, here’s an option that if you like it you can take that as a realistic alternative. In the future we think that, if something simply works better, and that’s where we’re aiming, if we’re producing something that actually works, we think that more and more people will transition to that, and perhaps that could be the dominant paradigm of the future. But there’s nothing that says that the two patterns can’t coexist, and they will for a long time probably.

  • Do you think that there is a place for corporations within OSE?

If we take a look at the big picture, there’s a lot of evidence that the efficiencies that the mainstream industrial system claims today are not really true if you consider the whole system’s picture. So we think that if you actually scale down from mega corporations, global corporations, to much smaller ones – and we can’t tell what that scale will be – but if you’re familiar with Schumacher and Small Is Beautiful, do you know that book, for example?

  • No, I don’t know.

People have written about it, Schumacher is one of the seminal figures who wrote about the concept that at a certain scale of organization businesses and society simply breaks down, and that’s what we’re seeing today. So there’s a lot of discussion going on that flexible fabrication or small scale fabrication production is not only competitive but superior to in terms of being efficient. And that’s what we’re trying to prove on the ground, what exactly are those scales?

We think that when corporations become more efficient, part of that efficiency will probably be reorganizing into smaller units of organization. Like, for example, take energy. Take oil. If oil runs out or whatever happens to that setting, one option is distributed energy production. That’s a definite proven business model and that’s probably done better by communities taking charge of such operations instead of one global corporation taking the whole show. So I think the case can be made where the reduction in scale is likely to happen.

  • When and how did you get the idea for OSE?

This came out towards the end of my graduate school. I was doing a PhD in fusion energy and physics, and one particular thing I noticed about that was that I couldn’t talk openly about my research material to others, which was really inefficient. So I really started thinking about this topic and thought, what would it really be like if we can totally collaborate, be open, and not reinvent and compete for resources? And that’s where the idea of open source ecology, a paradigm of open development, open economic development, really started to formulate in that I thought it would simply be much more powerful if people worked together truly, because by definition the results could be better. So the question is, how do you devise a system that would allow collaborative development to produce superior results? That’s the concept of open source ecology.

  • The whole project is a little bit like Sim City, only in real, isn´t it?

Yes, there is a realistic comparison in that it is like a game because imagine if you’re not only playing a video game, but the video game is actually producing real results. That’s the intention of the Global Village Construction Set, that you actually have a robust set of very human useable tools with which you can get to create your entire reality.

There’s actually some collaborators in Washington state here. Right now they went to South America to do research on the ground in terms of the needs of various communities for their infrastructures. Poor communities, indigenous people who are looking for appropriate housing, food, and their entire economies. So this guy is working on first finding out the needs and then creating actually a game. It would be a life gaming type of a situation where in the game itself you’re building villages, but actually if you pay into that or through add revenue or somehow, with the use of the Global Village Construction Set, you’re actually able to implement real infrastructure in these communities.

Now, that could be feasible if the capital barriers to putting up these infrastructures are very low. So if the plans are totally open source, if you have means to train people readily, and if we could do things like even generate virgin metal from scrap steel, which is part of the technologies, induction furnace, then you’re talking about literally recreating civilization at the cost of scrap. So that’s kind of a scenario we’re actually looking at as a possible application to help further the development of the Global Village Construction Set in a real world application where the tools are actually built out by people playing a game.

  • In concrete terms, if I wanted to become part of OSE, where would I start? What would I have to do?

Right now we have an ambitious plan to finish the 50 tools within two years on a 2.4 million dollar budget. So the concrete ways to collaborate are subscribe as a true fan with a small donation per month. Become a developer on the ground, meaning if you’re a subject matter expert with lots of different engineering or organizational skills, we’re looking for people that are both the development subject matter experts and organizational support. So right now we’re in a phase of reorganizing the whole operation for rapid parallel development. So if you can help on that, that would be a way to go.

And of course in the background we have our wiki where we collect a lot of different information. People are free to collaborate on that by putting technical details and documentation towards the developing of different tools. So I think the best thing is if people are technical they should contact us,, to find out how to plug into the program.

We also have a proposal that we’re publishing right now and you can look at where exactly we are in the development status. And then the funding, at this point we’re planning on paying people for those things that people wouldn’t volunteer for. There’s a lot of things you can get in the volunteer sector. Other more complicated things like modern steam engines, extraction of aluminum from clay, we’re not going to get these people to collaborate until we pay them. So there’s funding that’s required not only to pay people but to build, to build physical prototypes that takes material. So the big push is to get the funding infrastructure developed to the point that we can raise this money.

And right now we’re actually focusing on the non-profit sector, because it’s a whole new level to try to get an investor to try to get a return on this. It’s by definition quite difficult because we’re talking about distributive economics where the users are more the beneficiaries as opposed to outside sources. So at present we’re looking at the non-profit sector as the best way to fund this. So we’re setting up that infrastructure.

And if people can help us, especially people like resource development, fund raising, that kind of stuff is in high demand here. And then the whole subject matter experts team of developers is what we’re looking for. We’re going to need about 100 people, 100 technical developers at least, with all the different topics that it’s involved with. So we’re just basically networking, building the team, doing all of that right now.

  • Do you consider yourself a revolutionary or rather a romantic?

It’s definitely not romantic because we’re putting this into practice. As far as revolutionary, what I like to say about that is that this is very basic. I think we’re proposing nothing new. The innovative part for us is that we’re actually doing it. So let people draw their own conclusions. But the concept is that we’re just taking the existing infrastructures, critical infrastructures of society, and open sourcing them to make them accessible, user-friendly, and environmentally-friendly. So in some ways, all we talk about is really sharing, and an economic system that allows that, so that everybody benefits. So that’s one of the oldest ideas. So it’s really nothing new, but it is revolutionary if we actually apply that today, because we do have the tools to make this happen today with high technology and communication, just making that appropriate can do a lot for the world.

  • We thank you very much for the interview!