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An Open Call for Open Hardware Technology for the Environment

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
25th October 2013


“Anyone reasonably informed today understands that we are going through a major cultural shift. Capitalism and logics of egoist accumulation have led to the destruction of the environment, and as the number of humans on earth does not cease to grow, worst case scenari beckons. The scale of environmental man-made damages suggests that we need to envision new scalable collective solutions. Everything humans do is a form of technology, so it is technology itself that needs to radically changed to revert the adverse effects on our environment. I propose this axiom to get closer to that “ideal paradigm” : “If a technology is good for the environment, it should be made available for everyone to use, modify, distribute.” That is simple enough to call for a volunteer action and establish a consensus among a group of individuals to work together towards a common objective.”

Excerpted from Cesar Harada:

“A growing number of environmentalists and economists converge to say that “in the future, there will be no difference between waste and energy” (HSCB Advertising 2012). A practical example of this is seeing the Pacific Ocean Plastic Garbage patch as an enormous storage of energy. I have been quoted “if we had the power to create these problems, we may have the force to remediate these problems […] using natural forces to remediate man-made problems”. Using natural forces -as Protei does- is one thing, but harnessing collective intelligence and appetite for profit is another powerful one.

The idea really is to exploit capitalism and individual greed for environmental good. When I say that Open Hardware technologies allow us to “create markets, not products” or “turning product into markets” the idea is to create a “gold rush” on environmental problems. If we are capable of developing an oil spill cleaning technology or a plastic cleaning technology, AND we make it freely available, we hope to see many other companies exploiting our invention for environmental good.

And that’s where what many perceive as naivety becomes effective. Our license allows everyone to “use, modify, distribute” our technology for free at the condition to “credit the authors, and contribute the improvement to our community“. That means that any company improving our technology must share with us how they improved our technology.

That means several good things :

* our technology is improved

* our community grows and everyone benefits from it

* our brand grows (and we can control the naming/trademark and credits that go with it, see “Use of a traditional trademark, quality control authorship” paragraph.)

* it is essentially free R&D for us, so the more people research, commercialise our technology, the more credit
we get, confirming our position of experts in the field

* we are constantly in contact with what other companies would call “concurrence“, that we can start to consider “collaboration” as they improve our technology.

* the environment is the big winner if we are not (financially – if another manufacturers wins the preference of the consumer / community – that’s the risk we are willing to take)

We all make some money, support ourselves.

Many are skeptical of the potential commercial success of Open Hardware. If you consider the scale of issues such as the Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch as “demand” and what’s currently available as technological “offer” to solve that problem, you will soon see that our “Open Hardware for the Environment” technology has an enormous market potential. The environmental damage “demand” is a long way ahead of environmental remediation “offer”, and “Open Hardware for the Environment” is the intellectual property to bridge that gap, to scale a technology to that level. We could use that same logic for developing health solution as a clear subject of individual and general interest – yet, many people are dying to pharmaceutical lobbies financial interest, the same way we are destroying our environment to powerful energy, industrial, agricultural etc lobbies. I believe, this is changing too.

I personally think we are at pivot moment in human history, an enlightenment : traditionally environmental issues where trusted to be best understood and addressed by non-profit (such as Greenpeace) academia and government. In recent years, many democratic countries have seen their large public enterprises privatised, public servants and politicians loosing credibility in corruption stories. Citizen do not trust anyone anymore and reclaim a democracy 2.0 that is real-time, transparent, accountable and to which they can democratically take part. As social inequalities grows and adequate natural resources shrink, the tension between governing and governed, rich and poor, responsible for climate change and victims of climate change increase, looking for a space of dialog. In a previous post, I explained how Open Hardware provides this neutral space for collaboration between Government and Citizen powered by Industries and Academia in the context of Brasil. I believe that this political pressure for affordable and transparent tools for transparent data will only amplify the growth of Open Hardware for the Environment as a market.” levitra online sale

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