Let me first summarize my response to this article: OSE is a tool for small groups of people. There's no reason to believe it will be used any wiser than hunter-gatherers (would have) used steel. OSE provides the perfect start for making weapons. We will still need government at local, national, and world levels, which includes economics (reliable and stable money and transaction law). Our political and economic systems are largely broken as evidence by our use of 50 times more energy and technology per person since 1900 and only marginal improvement in life. OSE does not fix politics and economics. It only enables them to be more wasteful if voters do not regain control and vote more intelligently. OSE can level the existing playing field between corporations and individuals, but that is not the source of the big problems. Marcin has a 1960's style 20-something feeling for community that is based on the genetic programming that exists in many individuals, but OSE is not the solution to bringing that sense to people who lost that sense as society got too big for our communal programming. The internet itself is the solution, by making it possible for distant peoples to seem very close and no longer strangers.
Below I'll discuss the items in the article to show they are not very relevant to OSE.
- Item 1, design repository, is achieved by the internet, bypassing defunct I.P. law that only occasionally acts in the best interest of society.
- Item 2, Appropriate scale, does not give any actionable information, except for suggesting an interesting read from 1973.
- Item 3, Flexible fabrication, is apparently about digital fabrication and is meant to point out that "3D printing" flattens access to the produced goods. This, along with item 1, seem to be the core of this article, as described by the intro: "promotes the equitable distribution of wealth through a combination [of these things] towards replicability [without regard to the larger political structure]"
- Item 4, Lifetime design, ignores advances in technology by stating that if it lasts 10 times longer it is worth 10 times more. However, this may be (or is being) used as a guide for OSE: already the majority of things being constructed have not changed much in the past 50 to 150 years. This may be very relevant to OSE as it may define a constraint as to what things need to be worked on.
- Item 5, Free enterprise, points out that 1 and 3 have the ability to prevent monopolies. It seems to blame monopolies on the welfare state and Keynesian thought, which is a drastic misunderstanding of economics. Preventing monopolies can be viewed as welfare for the poor at the expense of the rich who broke no law in obtaining the monopoly (through fair, honest, mutually-agreed upon, free trade). I recommend reading http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Hudson_(economist) and http://michael-hudson.com to learn the basics of advanced classical economics (he just coincidentally happens to live in Kansas City). Marx took classical economics to its logical conclusion, which paved the way for a better understanding of economics which has not occured anywhere except in Michael Hudson's articles and video appearances. "Political economy" in 1800's America meant efficient use of energy for the movement of matter. This practical political thinking led to forced balance of trade and incubation of industry through tariffs in order to leave colony status behind (to go from a mere resource producer for the benefit of Europe to a self-sufficient industrial state). Michael Hudson explains the steam engine and steel of politics and economics. Incorrect neoliberal economic ideas are flooding the world's mind-space, largely for the benefit of interest-charging banks that no longer loan capital for the purpose of increasing efficiency of production.
- Item 6, Responsibility, means locally experiencing the consequences of your actions, largely the result of 3.
- Item 7, Radical cost reduction, is again the result of 1 and 3. (modularity and lifespan are the result or partial goals of item 1).
OK, so we have 1 and 3 as the essence of the article and the others as elaboration or food for thought. Let me explain how this ties into a larger political and economic structure.
Going into government, markets, evolution, and intelligence: Marcin has said elsewhere that politics and economics will follow the OSE technology. This is not true. OSE provides a foundation upon which a larger structure (society) can be built. OSE solves local problems and achieves local goals. As such, it is merely a tool for larger scales to utilize. Without coordination through economics and government at higher and higher levels, OSE communities (OSEs) can ban together, or act independently, to adversely affect other OSEs and others in general. Spreading OSE technology is no different than spreading steel technology. Intelligence for the whole system (let's say the human species) is not an emergent behavior of independent intelligent agents such as OSE-like communities. Intelligence does not automatically emerge except through processes like evolution which form a higher structure of laws. For example, cells obeying the laws of their programming act in the best interest of the the body carrying them. Cells also act, with less concern, for the species, because copies of similar sets of genes (similar cells) are elsewhere in the species. We have that concern for species given to us through our cellular programming, so sometimes we are more intelligent than governments. But this does not mean that governments do not sometimes need to control people and OSEs that have gone against society's best interest in pursuit of their personal goals. Cells in our body are really and sincerely programmed to act right or die. Minor changes can destroy all surrounding cells (cancer). This kind of self-enforced programming to act in the best interest of the larger society is not an option for OSE, or any other human technology (so far). So humans developed government at higher and higher levels in the same way the brain is organized to exhibit intelligence for the whole body (see Palm founder Jeff Hawkings's book "On Intelligence" for how the brain works through "HTM"). To explain how the brain and governments work differently from cells, let me describe the process in the simplest example, large corporate structure. Corporations have engineers, marketers, accountants, and lawyers to work out details at small intervals of space and time (sensation and motor control) while CEOs, CFOs, and CTOs work at much larger space and time intervals with only a vague consciousness of the details below. The managers are not any smarter, they just have a different skill set (i.e. their pattern recognition and predictive power is being used for larger space and time intervals). In the brain, the managers are the parallel to our consciousness, as we have no knowledge of the computations going on in the first layers of neurons tied to sensation and motor control. So there needs to be "management" (feedback) over larger and larger scales in the brain and in society (city, state, fed, world). Individual marketplace transactions can be free and fair, but without government to guide things at a higher level, those transactions do not act in the best interests of society. Cells are different because they are hard-wired with a lot of wise technology. They have no choice but to follow the programming. People and OSEs have to be guided not only by the marketplace, but by rules the government enforces on top of the marketplace. To summarize, it is wrong to think that OSE tools can act in a way that is beneficial to the whole of society. This is how cells operate. This is similar to faith in a free market place with zero or minimal governmental "overhead" (see the Mises and Hayak economic "religion"). It works in cells, but it does not work in markets or any other human institutions because only cells have internally-enforced, wise programming (although things like core linux and TCP/IP may qualify). Even in the body, cells were found to be in-effective for fast changing-environments so they organized themselves into brains which could reprogram behavior.
A completely free market where government only enforces honesty and fairness for each and every transaction does not exhibit intelligence at a higher level. The market is only a mathematical process that seeks the optimum solution for a given set of conditions, similar to Bayesian and neural networks. These are not really "intelligent" as they fixate on an solution after being trained. Advanced "intelligence" for survival and replication occurs when networks incorporate feedback connections (not merely feedback signals for seeking optimum settings on training data) that work across *groups* of nodes (think OSEs), capable of more general algorithmic behavior (UTM-like ability to modify themselves in response to new inputs). Giving system-wide feedback is the purpose of voting to keep check and balance on market forces. Votes flatten various forms of societal and monetary wealth through laws and progressive taxation while the marketplace seeks to create disparity for the purpose of motivation. Instead of welfare "gifts", the laws and taxes should be used like they were in the 1800's: to increase the efficiency of production by building infrastructure that also happens to further flatten wealth (equal roads, police, and education for all) and to stop monopolies (including sub-contracting utility work) and fixing other issues market forces can't address (e.g., "externalities" to market transactions such as pollution). This type of feedback can't be an inherent internal part (i.e. programmed) of the independent economic agents (people, NN nodes, or OSEs). "Governing" requires purposeful, intelligent design, or it's going to left up to anarchistic evolution (intelligent design by death of the least aggressive). We have different laws at different levels (cells, person, OSE, society) in order to exhibit intelligence at higher and higher levels for greatest benefit to society. A basic rule of law enabling a free and fair marketplace solves the prisoner's dilemma for "cooperate" at the transaction level, but higher levels of governing (truly intelligent guidance) are required to maximize productivity towards total or average happiness (which can be approximated by the median purchasing power parity GDP/person with financial and asset price (non-production) GDP removed).
OSE "codes of conduct" are the beginning of law for the OSE community. It's not needed any more than at any other "company" because we already have governments enforcing basic law. I would more seriously treat OSE as a repository for technological innovation that can solve food and shelter problems at the smallest possible level without getting philosophical or trying to venture into politics and economics. This will provide appeal to a wide variety: survivalists, DIYs, farmers, and 3rd world towns. I would also 1st seek production of profitable units rather than asking for charity. Reinvest profits in the next module. You'll only make profit where the module is needed and not available elsewhere. Zawy 14:06, 1 August 2011 (CEST)
I was going to make some comments on the economic claims of this page, but Zawy covered many of the points that I was thinking of making. So let me make a comment about Hypermodularity instead. While modularity can reduce the cost of individual machines, it comes at a hidden cost: change-over time, which is the amount of time it takes to convert from one machine to another. The Drill/Mill/Lathe Multimachine proposed by OSE is a classic example. Suppose I am in the middle of turning a piece of steel and need to drill a hole in it, then resume lathing operation. If it takes 30 minutes to set-up each "mode" of the machine, then I lose an hour's worth of time to drill a hole and continue lathing. The same would apply to milling.
Modularity really only shines when the change-over time is small (relative to the tasks to be preformed). A good example of this are hand tools that use a common battery pack. Drills, saws, sanders, shapers, scrapers, lights, etc. are available from manufacturers like DeWalt (Makita, Ryobi, etc.) that use a common, rechargeable battery pack. If I need to switch from a sander to a drill and back again, this can be accomplished literally in seconds. The change-over time is very small, thus the modularity of the system is a benefit to me, rather than a hindrance.
As such, modularity in and of itself shouldn't be considered a desirable feature, unless the design for modularity includes consideration of factors such as change-over time, easy of configuration, easy of re-use, etc. Hypermodularity takes this to a logical extreme. The Lego example cited is a good one. If I use a brick in one model, I can't use it in another without essentially destroying the first model. Modualarity in Legos allow for flexible construction techniques. This has more to do with interface standards than anything else. Lego bricks are usually dedicated to a specific model if that model is to persist over time. It does allow for disassembly and re-use in other models, but I don't believe that's quite the same as the modularity being described here. Nuts, bolts, and screws are a similar example to Legos. I wouldn't take a bolt out of one machine, use it in another, and then return it to the first. It is quite modular, however.
We (OSE) needs to take care to define the terms we use to make our claims. Otherwise, we will be dismissed as fools. Mjn 19:12, 11 October 2011 (CEST)
I'm with y'all on the 4 freedoms (a la GNU/GPL style) & furthermore with y'all on what I presume to be an egalitarian culture as we approach post-scarcity (in some forms, at least... the volume of aquifers and urban regions with rainwater deemed potable are declining at a terrifying rate, but I digress..)
Just a few notes- w/r/t the assertion that the development of the brain (assuming you mean higher-level, neo-cortex-based thinking) was an evolutionary change to cope with a fast-changing environment -- citation needed.
RE: Modularity - it's interesting you picked that specific time to make a remark, as that was just when Li-ion/Li-po was coming into 'viable usage' pushing out NiCad. ~6 years later, it's interesting to note that we now have porta-packs that push DeWalt 60v at 6 amp hours (though the 6ah might be at the 20v rating, as I have a hard time believing a circular saw at ~120vDC (presuming brushless DC rather than carbon+commutator bars in the armature;and lets just throw out a conservative 6 amp draw to make the numbers easier) can sustain a full half hour in a pack of that size under a standard timber framer's load...) In 3rd world countries I'd imagine it's a lot easier to go on-site with two spare packs for a light job and not have to worry about a generator.
Where was I, oh yeah. Legos. I'm totally with you Mjn, on the usefulness and agree with the benefit of having a standardized product available for consumption. Lego *does* have that connotation that once you're done with the model, you'll tear it down and re-use the pieces. On the other hand, "jellybean" components are what we usually call 'defacto standard' components. If I'm designing a board and I need a decoupling capacitor, there's a set of Japanese manufacturers (Nichicon, Rubicon, Panasonic, etc) that are tried and true which I know won't fail and start passing AC through. Likewise, a Grade 8 bolt we can just reach for and know it has certain characteristics (repeatable loadability up to $foo, a stress/strain curve we can use to determine deformation, etc). Being able to leverage components that the ASME/ISO/whomever has standardized is an excellent advantage.
For some of these components (i.e. a hydraulic motor), it's not too hard to find a reliable second hand unit on ebay/surplus sites/what have you. Most of the time, the engineering time it'd take for someone to refit a blown seal isn't worth it so you can get a 400 GPM pump for pennies on the dollar. The NRE (non-recurring engineering) expenses (i.e. our labor-hours) for us to basically rip-off the design of a tried-and-true Enerpac setup, eh, not too prudent of a move, unless there comes a time when a dearth of hydraulic motors (or gear pumps. as pumps => motors, but motors !=> pumps..so it'd likely be preferable for Community-Foo to acquire a pump over a motor) on the secondary markets - then I suggest we explore that avenue. Likewise. I've up-cycled an eBay Milwaukee "Hole Hawg" (rated @ 7.5 amps at 120rms) into a hobbled lathe that can turn 6061 alum., 12L14, and 1018 mild cold rolled. It's not like a 5-axis HAAS but it does it's job as good as a Southbend Heavy 10.
One thing that has not been mentioned yet on the site AFAIK - communications (and with it access to the world wide webs). Throwing up a 4G tower in the US is a no-go, cause, you know FCC licensing and junk, but a fully functional LTE base-station from Ettus is available for ~1200 (which is good enough for ~4miles radius line-of-site and ~2ish NLOS). If I had the time I could get that down to a few hundred units a piece, now that RF MIMO components with everything (from PLL's to stable IF tone-gens out to the power-amplifier) can be found for a few tens of dollars a chip. I don't think anyone will disagree that once a populace has been situated with appropriate, regular rations, clean and sanitary conditions, access to medical provisions, secure communication for locals and access to information are quickly moving into what society on the whole would deem a couple of core-human needs.