Designing Tools for Civilization: The Future of Open Source Hardware

Everything you need in a single downloadable file.

Carbon Radio
Jan 12 · 3 min read
Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

“We know that open source has succeeded with tools for managing knowledge and creativity. And the same is starting to happen with hardware too. We’re focusing on hardware because it is hardware that can change people’s lives in such tangible material ways. If we can lower the barriers to farming, building, manufacturing, then we can unleash just massive amounts of human potential.” — Marcin Jakubowski

In his TED Talk in 2011, Marcin articulated a vision for the future where anyone can start and build a life using open source hardware. This is very relevant today as we face the threats of climate change. Places like Puerto Rico have been devastated by natural disasters, and the work of Open Source Ecology could help these communities rebuild. Communities impacted by natural disasters should have access to these easily downloadable files that have instructions for building essential machinery for life. Marcin touts, “I’ve pressed 5,000 bricks in one day from the dirt beneath my feet and built a tractor in six days.” Imagine communities in developing countries faced with the task of rebuilding after a 1,000-year flood. If given the tools, the tasks might not seem so daunting.

“If this idea is truly sound, then the implications are significant. A greater distribution of the means of production, environmentally sound supply chains, and a newly relevant DIY maker culture can hope to transcend artificial scarcity. We’re exploring the limits of what we all can do to make a better world with open hardware technology.” — Marcin Jakubowski

Marcin Jakubowski TED Talk at TED2011

Marcin Jakubowski’s work could have an even broader impact. If we apply this framework to our supply chains, it is conceivable that we could significantly reduce out carbon footprint and empower local economies by simply sending files instead of massive premade machines. Furthermore, imagine if a company like Tesla were to join in Marcin Jakubowski’s cause. We could see very elaborate open source designs for the 50 (or more) most important machines, and presumably they would all be sustainably and beautifully designed. We could build a new modern set of tools for civilization, and we could do it in our own communities with lower lifecycle costs and reinvigorate the Maker movement.

“I realized that the truly appropriate, low-cost tools that I needed to start a sustainable farm and settlement just didn’t exist yet. I needed tools that were robust, modular, highly efficient and optimized, low-cost, made from local and recycled materials that would last a lifetime, not designed for obsolescence.” — Marcin Jakubowski

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