Ever since the Internet made its way to the ranch where I was living, I’ve been deeply grateful for the generosity of the Web. Whatever I want to learn, whatever question I may have, I can generally turn over virtual rocks and unearth answers.
An exciting example recently came onto my mental radar screen: Open Source Ecology (OSE). Founder and Director Marcin Jakubowski explained the concept in his March 2011 TED talk: “We’ve identified the 50 most important machines that we think it takes for modern life to exist—things from tractors, bread ovens, circuit makers. Then we set out to create an open source, DIY, do it yourself version that anyone can build and maintain at a fraction of the cost. We call this the Global Village Construction Set.”
Jakubowski’s idea is the grown-up version of an Erector Set. In his presentation he shows a comparison between commercial and OSE tractors. “Theirs” is a used John Deere tractor that sells for $25,000 to $100,000. “Ours” is a new tractor that can be built for $12,000.
The hand-built tractor was inspired by experience. A newly minted Ph.D. in fusion energy didn’t get Jakubowski a job so he started a farm. Between start-up and maintenance costs (tractors break down), he learned a quick lesson in farming: Without low-cost tools, there was no way to make it pay. So he designed his own tractor, and OSE was born.
Open Source Ecology wrests control from a centralized system that exacts high prices while it overuses resources and builds for obsolescence. The team has designed eight machines so far, with the goal of “a repository of published designs so clear, so complete, that a single burned DVD is effectively a civilization starter kit.”
So wander around on the OSE site. Watch videos, read the blog, check out the wiki, or sign onto a forum. You’ll come away inspired and full of hope.