Civilization Boxset: Is Open Sourced Hardware the Future?

From by Morgan McKean
Civilization Boxset: Is Open Sourced Hardware the Future?

Marcin Jakubowski founded Open Source Ecology (OSE) in 2003 with a big vision: to use local resources on a parcel of land, work with a dozen people for only two hours per day, and create a self-sustaining industrial civilization with a modern standard of living. The result of his effort is Factor e Farm, a 30-acre outfit in rural Missouri where Jakubowski and his team have used open-source hardware to assemble what Jakubowski has called a “civilization-in-a-box.”

According to the Open Sourcing Hardware Association, open-source machinery is “hardware whose design is made publicly available so that anyone can study, modify, distribute, make, and sell the design or hardware based on that design.” By exploring the potential of open-source hardware, OSE aims to tackle artificial scarcity, or as Jakubowski explains, the human-created insufficiency of resources that exists in modern society.

The organization is currently in the process of creating blueprints for a Global Village Construction Set (GVCS), which consists of the 50 machines identified as the instruments most essential to modern life, such as a tractor, an oven, and a cement mixer. GVCS produces these tools from local and recycled materials, and intends the products to last a lifetime. According to Jakubowski, the machines are 50 times more cost-efficient over their life cycle compared to industry standards and are about five to eight times cheaper than machines produced by industrial manufacturers. 

In his TED talk, Jakubowski, who earned a PhD in fusion physics before deciding to become a farmer, claimed that access to do-it-yourself open-source machinery has the potential to lower barriers to farming and “unleash massive amounts of human potential.” He cited that the GVCS designs have enabled him to build a tractor in six days, press 5,000 bricks in one day, and plant 1,000 trees in a 24-hour time period. Through open sourcing, the GVCS aims to demonstrate that industrial productivity on a small scale around the world is achievable, enabling farmers and communities to become fully self-sufficient and sustainable.

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