I am a strong proponent of disruptive technologies and what their impact is on societies and economies.
Disruptive technology is a term coined by Harvard Business School professor Clayton M. Christensen to describe a new technology that unexpectedly displaces an established technology.
Everyone knows the impact of such technology on the music industry through the rise of peer to peer technologies such as Napster, Limewire, torrents etc. global music sales have nearly halved in 10 years from 1999 to 2009 when they moved from $15bn to $7bn. We are clearly witnessing the trend in media where the coming of alternative media through social networking, YouTube, personal blogging and podcasts is threatening the life of major publications worldwide as the industry has been disrupted by this alternative freely available, free to share and collaborate on technology.
Furthermore, we are also well aware of open-source software and its impact. We can mention lots of projects going on in the world of software from major operating systems like Linux Vs Windows, to accounting software like Front Accounting Vs Quick Books, and mobile phone software like Android Vs Mac OS. open-source software is more collaborative, free to distribute and modify, and is building communities around them. These are the key attributes of this open-source model.
What we are now witnessing around the world is a movement towards open-source hardware, and at this point, this is where I feel we need to put some attention. This movement is sharing designs, instructions, parts lists, wikis and all detail concerning the making of machines, creating a global community of collaborators and replicators and is publishing all their works on the internet.
The reason I feel that we need to put some attention to this movement is because hardware is something that can change people’s lives in such material and tangible ways. The examples discussed above on music, media, software have enabled many of us access the technologies either free of charge or at a low cost. Therefore open-source model is not only a low cost model, but a model to achieve a mass impact on our communities.
So what does open-source hardware avail us? One of the most fascinating projects I am following is Open Source Ecology. This is an organisation that is publishing an open-source DIY list of 50 machines, called the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS), a single DVD with all the information on what it would take to create a civilization with modern day comforts. The list includes bread ovens, circuit makers, computer controlled machines, wind turbines, tractors, brick making machines and so on, all following the attributes of open-source model.
Not only can we breakthrough into farming, manufacturing and construction through the reduced barriers of entry like high cost and copyright, but also be able to disrupt the current economic and social setting which is dominated by artificial scarcity, increasing our chances of solving problems that our societies and country is facing at large. When we are faced with a power shortage, we have steam engine plans; when we are faced with the housing crisis like the one we are faced with right now of a shortage of over 500,000 units, we will have an open-source Compressed earth brick machines which make 5,000 bricks a day (effectively 1hourse per day).
I am able to point at many other examples of open hardware and how its changing our lives like the Earth Bag building technique which is a low cost housing method which I personally have tested and is a real solution to our housing needs.
I wish to share this information with Freethought Kampala members at the March Freethinkers’ Night. I believe that it’s about time we implemented some real solutions to our problems. And what better way to do this than by starting with an education process that exposes such disruptive technologies!
Presented by: Yusuf Mulinya
The March 2012 Freethinkers’ Night will take place on Thursday, 29th March, at 4 Points Bar & Restaurant, Centenary Park, Kampala, starting 6PM. Entrance is FREE.
If you are an open minded person whose opinions are formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason and are interested in meeting like-minded individuals – you are more than welcome to join us.