P2P Foundation Blog post

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September 14, 2011

Global Village Construction Set: Open Source Blueprints for Civilization


It has been years since my last update to the P2P community. You may be aware that 4 years ago, Michel Bauwens questioned whether we are the most important social experiment in the world, and Steve Bosserman has reported on the economic ramifications of our work. We've gotten more data points since then. As founder of Open Source Ecology, I would like to summarize our current status and near-term goals.

First, begin with my TED Talk for an overview from earlier this year:

Those are certainly ideas worth spreading, as in TED's logo – but what is the substance?

Core Deliverables

At the present phase, our core deliverables are machine prototypes, documentation (see CEB Press, Power Cube, and Tractor as examples), and distributive enterprise business models that anyone can access to bring wealth to their communities. This year, will be delivering the OSE Christmas Gift to the World: 4 full product releases (tractor, CEB press, soil pulverizer, Power Cube) by this year's end, as well as full documentation – to make replication a straightforward reality. You can read more points of the more general OSE Platform on our wiki.

We are beginning to demonstrate economic significance. To test the significance of our tools, we not only develop them, but dogfood them, and take them to market – as part of open business model development. Last year, we cleared $3k. This year, we cleared $25k from our production run of tractors and CEB presses, which we put back immediately into the operation to bootstrap further development. Next year, we expect to clear $125-250k from production.

Of our core deliverables, the last step of distributive enterprise development is entrepreneurship training. This relies on the availability of both prototypes and crystal-clear documentation. Such training can be the foundation for a post-scarcity economy.

Using existing technology, we believe firmly that it is possible to attain a modern standard of living at 2 hours per day of labor - while remaining completely within the limits of natural life support systems – while avoiding geopolitical compromises. Our goal is to lead the creation Technology for the People as a regenerative force for creating prosperity wherever soil, sunshine, and water are found.


Since the TED Talk, this project has grown tremendously.

We are committed to continuing on a smart and lean effort for changing the world – without bloat that can spoil good ideas. We have built this project on the open source approach. We went 100% to crowd funding in 2008 when our own resources ran dry, and started the 1000 True Fans Campaign in 2009. The True Fans are donors who give donations from $10 to $100 per month for 24 months, and they have been the uninterrupted mainstay of our work. Read what other True Fans are saying and subscribe. If you are a direct stakeholder who would like to see our results sooner rather than later, you may want to consider a subscription.


This year, we have shown significant earnings for bootstrapping further development. We also began to take tax deductible contributions through our fiscal sponsor – though we are cautious about avoiding pitfalls of institutionalization. We see the latter as a temporary step that can assist in the emergence of the open source economy. We've also observed that very few interests are opposed to the ideals of Open Source Ecology – as we are positioning ourselves as an absolutely creative approach. Everybody knows there are problems, and everybody wants solutions.

We have also seen first evidence of independent replication. Currently, there are 2 efforts in Texas building the CEB press, Power Cube, and LifeTrac. We are working on perfecting our documentation. We have had several fabricators-in-training at Factor e Farm who are interested in starting their own productive enterprises in other locations. That's the distributive economy at work.

Near-Term Goals

Our Phase 1 goal is completing the 50 GVCS prototypes and documentation by year-end 2012, with about $4-5M of funding. Crowd funding, earnings, and the non-profit sector are our 3 sources of support. Our metric of success is the number of successful entrepreneurs that we help to train.

Read the GVCS Rollout Plan. We've got a long way to go, and people say that we're crazy. We are confident that the support is gaining epic proportions. The main challenge remains the due diligence of. finding entrepreneurial, interdisciplinary, boundary-crossing developers - with the skills and dedication to make this ambitious project a success. With good project leaders, we can secure resources. The basic process is producing concrete proposals for each of the technologies. We encourage you to submit a nonexclusive proposal bid for our review. If the due diligence is there, we will find a way to fund it through our extensive network of supporters, especially the TED community.

The problem is quite tractable – as we are not inventing anything new. Therefore, this is a process which lends itself to massive parallel development. The question is – does the world have the will to make this happen. It's up to you to vote with your energy and contribute to the core deliverables – we're an open source project.


January 1. 2013 will mark the kickoff of the social experiment which Michel alluded to in the first paragraph. We will be testing whether it is possible to create a materially-prosperous community, whether right here at Factor e Farm or in the heart of Africa, on the scale of Dunbar's number in size - that enjoys 1-2 hour per day work requirements to provide a modern standard of living (including ability to trade) – via wise use of productive technology - while at the same time avoiding contribution to geopolitical compromises. We aim to generate data points on the above. These data points will include: practical work requirements in hours; level of technology achieved; level of specialization reqiured; ergonomic constraints; sufficiency of local resources; happiness, satisfaction, and meaning found in the population.


So how do we get there? Our current strategy is building a solid team at Factor e Farm to be able to manage a much greater, global, parallel development effort. The on-site team is the agile development team which can move forward both on the prototyping and organizational aspects.

To do this, we are planning an ambitious construction plan this season. It calls for the construction of 10 living units and a 5000 square foot fabrication facility here at Factor E Farm. Tnis would finally bootstrap us to the comfortable living and working environment for developers at Factor e Farm. Infrastructure was a persistent issue throughout our history. We started from raw land – and we continue as one of the world's few, if not only, off-grid digital fabrication facilities. This is part of our civilization reboot experiment. Historically, I prioritized getting on the world map with open source hardware – because we did this all on a $1.5k/month budget from True Fans and supporters (we are now over $10k/month, with $4k from True Fans).


As part of our development work – and to provide the much needed infrastructure at Factor e Farm - we are putting the tractor, CEB press, soil pulverizer, and Power Cube through the most rigorous field tests to date. We’ve already achieved the highest brick pressing rates of any open source model (16 bricks/minute, 5,000 bricks/day), and now we’re aiming to complete the package - by achieving $5 per square foot construction costs, while remaining within industry standard construction schedules. Our goal is to improve dramatically upon the efficiency of natural building - far surpassing the benchmarks of earthbag, cordwood, strawbale, cob, rammed earth, adobe, earthship, and papercrete techniques, while keeping the ecological footprint to bare minimums. We’ll publish a full energy accounting report, including embodied energy estimates for materials and the “joules per day” of both biological (slide: a human being) and electromechanical systems (slide: of the tractor). .

See a video of the proposed workshop and living units, and read more on the wiki:

(video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSS8kuejE6k&feature=player_embedded)

This will be a complete closure of taking this equipment from the drawing board and first prototype almost 4 years ago – to full application towards accommodations for GVCS developers and enrepreneurs-in-training. We plan on doing this at breakthrough cost and spectacular ecological performance – while remaining within industry standard construction schedules.

In addition to the open source CEB press, tractor, soil pulverizer, and power cube– we will use the first prototype of the open source dimensional sawmill, open source tractor loader-mounted cement mixer, and square baler – to provide construction materials from on-site feedstocks. This includes brick, lumber, and hay-bale insulation – to deliver super-insulated housing at $2/square foot for construction materials. We will document this carefully.


We ran into a slight pickle, in that the $60k enabling construction grant did not yet materialize. So we took to the crowds with an emergency recovery plan, and have so far raised about $18k (some of this is not shown in the ChipIn widget) in under one week from dedicated supporters. We still have about a day left and $2k to go to reach our goal of $20k, so if you are interested in us succeeding, please chip in:


It's not easy building the world's first open source village. Challenges such as the one above need to be negotiated daily, and recovery plans are a regular part of the game. See the Open Source Ecologist for an inside look from one day on the ground. Stay tuned for more exciting news.