9 Mar 2009
Open source economics is the alternative
Roberto Perez famously had a beer with me and confidently proclaimed that Cuba was moving towards an open source economy...one of those once in a life time amazing moments, like having the folks from Plane Stupid round your hacienda d-locking the Wall brothers to items of furniture or getting an email from Hugo Blanco (!).
Doc Lawson sent me some stuff on open source as the new economic alternative to capitalist catastrophe...underneath the cobble stones a beach as Guy Debord used to say (or was it the other way around).
In case you haven't seen this...Cheers Richard
http://greenerblog.blogspot.com/ -------- Original Message --------Subject:
Can we build a world with open source?
Date: Sun, 08 Mar 2009 15:17:42 From: Dr Gerson Machado < >
The global recession, coinciding with an unprecedented expansion of > social networks ought to give it a big boost and turn the new model > into a global force. If you fancy an open source mobile phone try > Openmoko.com <http://www.Openmoko.com>.
Want to be part of an open > source project building a different kind of car? Look at > theoscarproject.org.
Can we build a world with open source?
The Guardian, Thursday 5 March 2009
Vinay Gupta is a Scottish-Indian engineer who designs low-cost homes for poor parts of the world or disaster zones, and then makes them freely available on the internet so others can do the building. His flagship is the Hexayurt shelter system, which costs around $200 (£142). It uses common building materials, including insulation boards - which, he claims, are a third of the cost of a tent. The business plan is to cut the price of essential goods and services to the point where the poor can afford them.
Gupta is just one example of a global movement that offers an alternative to the scandalous tales of banking avarice that have saturated the world's media. We are often told that the best things in life are free, but few have ever tried to build it into a business model. Yet it is curious that while financial capitalism is in global meltdown, a completely different kind of entrepreneurial activity - call it commune-ism - is rising, from an admittedly low base. This is the act of doing things for the common good, for nothing - either from altruistic motives or because you expect to get compensated by using the product of someone else's free endeavours.
Until recently, this kind of activity - known generically as "open source" - has been confined to software through such brilliant communal projects as Wikipedia, the Firefox browser (which now has 21.5% of the global market) or the Linux operating system. Interestingly, such products don't appear in the figures for gross domestic product (GDP) - at least, not until they are used in something that can be bought, such as a low-cost Linux computer. It is unrecorded wealth and if the movement grows we will have to look afresh at how we measure the wealth of nations. Open source was given a boost last week when the UK government dropped its hitherto shameful neglect to give an endorsement for public services to use open source rather than proprietary software where it delivers best value for money.
Whether this is just an empty gesture to take the wind out of the sails of the Conservatives - who have made capital out of claims that £600m could be saved by using open source in public projects - remains to be seen, but it is a step in the right direction. Open source is on a roll and the interesting thing is that it is now expanding into hardware. The global recession, coinciding with an unprecedented expansion of social networks ought to give it a big boost and turn the new model into a global force. If you fancy an open source mobile phone try Openmoko.com. Want to be part of an open source project building a different kind of car? Look at theoscarproject.org. Other interesting initiatives include openfarmtech.org where they are developing open source ecology including building eco-villages or akvo.org, specialising in sanitation. Wired magazine recently reported on the progress of Arduino, the Italian firm that makes a successful open source circuit board. There was a plan for an open source house via the Flickr photo site but there hasn't been much activity recently.
Open source hardware doesn't have the same power as software if only because the final product, as opposed to the designs, can't be replicated for no extra cost as software can. It has a different kind of potential as it can use networks to liberate the creative energies of frustrated employees or jobless people all over the world in order to build products people actually want that reflect local realities, including availability of materials. It is a paradigm that fits a networked age in which the actual manufacture of goods is outsourced. If governments of the world are worried about where new products and jobs will come from when the recession eventually ends, then they could do a lot worse than to encourage the building of products by the people for the people.