How do we get to a future in which everyone has guaranteed access to all means of production necessary for a good quality life? What is happening at this moment towards this goal and who is doing it? How can one get involved? Read below to find some of the answers to these questions.
Wikipedia is probably the oldest large, global collaborative project to share all sorts of information on the Internet. It contains vast amounts of well referenced articles on almost every imaginable topic. Highly recommended for looking up theoretical basics of any project, or just to read and learn and be amazed.
Open Source Ecology is a site about setting up a self-sustaining living space on a farm. Founded my Marcin Jakubowski, it has been in development for several years now. Their main areas of focus are various farming equipment and a brick press to create food and building materials from locally available materials. All plans are open source, manufacturing designed to be easily repeatable all around the world.
While it mainly deals with mass produced goods at present, ebay is an important source for all sorts of components that would be more difficult or expensive to acquire from other sources. It will likely also play an increasingly important role in selling custom designed products.
GithubThis is a well known website mainly – but not only – focused on open source software projects. Some of the code is provided as part of hardware projects, such as home assistant for home automatization or ArduPilot for DIY drones and countless others.
Instructables and Hackaday are both websites dedicated to provide step-by-step intstructions and list of parts for making DIY gadgets. Two examples would be the Acoustic Tractor Beam and an Arduino based solar charge controller, but again there are many others.
Thingiverseis the currently largest platform for sharing blueprints for 3D printers.
All of these organizations have a role to play in bringing about the afore mentioned desirable future. Some are only suited for certain lifestyles, whereas others are useful for everybody. Generally pure information is more broadly usable, but hardware is necessary to make a change in the real world. Within hardware small is beautiful. The smaller a gadget, the easier it is to keep in densely populated locations or to move around. Also important is how easily accessible its containing parts are. All these mentioned websites are great starting points to effect change for a person wanting to become involved in this developing technological movement.
We live in a time when separation between production and consumption of goods is unprecedented. Food is grown by large, industrial style companies using expensive machinery in need of a global trade network to produce their parts and propellants.
Among others, there are two effects resulting from this reality that should be considered:
- Increased inequality. It has become exceedingly difficult to live independently of these networks. Due to the increased capital investment required to create vital products, the barriers to survival as an independent producer of these has also diminished. At the same time, increasing automation also decreases the bargaining power of dependent workers. While new opportunities in publishing and marketing have opened up through the Internet, empowering savvy individuals, the overall tendency is concentration of wealth and control in the hands of a few.
- Vulnerability of everyone should the network collapse. Local production would have to be rapidly developed in this case in an ad-hoc fashion. There would be massive shortages of all kinds of supplies in the meantime. It would also result in a marked technological regression, as vital parts – especially state of the art electronics – can not be produced on a small scale with present technology.
Which products and services should be prioritized?
A more detailed look at specific products or services (PoS) needed in everyday life reveals differing levels of how essential these are. Take the scale of how long a PoS will keep functioning while not connected to any supply grid for instance. Electric machinery will instantly stop when power is cut. So, given the multitude of gadgets this affects, increasing this off-grid endurance time of electric power supply seems to be of high priority. Many options exist to do this, ranging from batteries storing energy supplied by the electric grid or solar cells or local wind turbines to hydrocarbon driven generators.
At the other end of the scale are long life products such as housing, which provide shelter for decades without repair or a connection to a grid, even though this is without the built in comforts of flowing water, electricity etc.
So it seems sensible to give highest priority to increasing endurance of the PoS with the lowest initial endurance. But other factors also have to be considered. Also important is how essential a PoS is for living. It’s possible to live entirely without access to electric power, but obviously food and water are a different matter.
Another issue to evaluate additionally to these two is the required investment in time and resources to create that increased endurance. Take water as an example. It is usually needed several times a day for cleaning and cooking and is essential for survival at a duration of a few days. In many environments water is readily available, just not clean. Simple filters and boiling can convert it to be safe to drink. But what if the water source is far away or only available at certain times? Storage becomes more important in this case, with all the difficulties of keeping the storage tanks clean for long-term use and hauling this mass around. Closing the loop to recycle created waste water directly is possible to some degree, but considerably more difficult to achieve, as can be seen with the water reclamation system used on the International Space Station. Even that system can recycle only about 70% of waste water in one pass.
Creating the conditions for living independently of mainstream resource networks, while at the same time maintaining a modern technological lifestyle will require developing a multitude of tools and techniques in several areas. The process will certainly be a gradual and slow one, with many intermediate steps of partial independence. It will face resistance from all those parts of society in positions of control and whose power over others would be reduced by removal of the incentive of taking part in the system in order to live.
For these reasons, key areas to progress would seem to be physical mobility, to be able to relocate to areas with communities also interested in these same goals. Information about these places and all the techniques for off-grid living will have to be accessible as widely as possible through the use of decentralized global networks. Also important is for the PoS to be as small-scale as possible to enable their use in the widest range of environments and setups.
It is difficult to see how all this will turn out in the end, but the technologies are coming together to make this development possible. The outcome will depend on the many choices each of us makes along the way.