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Marcin Jakubowski’s open farm: the most important social experiment in the world?

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
22nd January 2008

Marcin Jakubowski has written a reply to our earlier thoughtpiece linking the peer to peer information economy to the material economy.

He writes:

The answer to the p2p link of immaterial and material economy is integration. This is what we’re testing at our lab.

The key summary is: 1. Develop open source design for products voluntarily. 2. Develop fabrication facilities, voluntarily. 3. Optimize everything, voluntarily. 4. Provide goods for market from an open source, optimized, replicable production facility.

How to do this voluntarily? Funding is needed. That’s where a funding mechanism is needed, and that, to me, is the cutting edge of open source economic development. With this funding mechanism, we fund production facilities, optimize, and everyone benefits: low cost, high quality products, that cannot be matched by standard businesses because the open source variant is lean, mean, and optimal. This is what we’re working on.”

The funding project he mentions above is in fact a 3-year deployment plan for a world-class research center for Open Source Economic Development. Sam Rose is summarizing the complex proposal here.

His, partially misnamed because misleading ‘open farm’ project (it is so much more than that, as it combines permaculture with permafacture, i.e. sustainable manufacturing, is perhaps the most important social experiment in the world.

So I would like to use that occasion to give some background to his project. Marcin is an advocate of Neosubsistence which should not be mistaken for autarcy or voluntary poverty:

He explains:

That is the term “we apply to a lifestyle where people produce tangible (physical) wealth, as opposed to dealing with information in the information economy. We are talking about basics: even though we live in the information economy, we cannot deny the reality that human prosperity is founded on the provision of physical needs upon which the meeting of all higher needs is predicated. Neosubsistence is related to the information economy in that the information economy is a foundation for neosubsistence

The project is of considerable importance because it represents a concerted effort that is derived from a synthetic understanding of sustainability, and the very concrete effort to build a self-sustaining, but also open and therefore trading global village, which combines local production with cooperation on a global scale around open global design.

The project is first of all a farm, with naturally self-replicating plants and animals, but at the same time it is an attempt to combine this this with a self-sustaining environment for the flexible manufacturing towards local needs.

Martin’s project therefore comprises a reliance on (I’m citing paragraphs from his document):

- Flexible manufacturing, i.e. a production facility where a small set of non-specialized, general-function machines is capable of producing a wide range of products if those machines are operated by skilled labor. It is the opposite of mass production, where unskilled labor and specialized machinery produce large quantities of the same item. When one adds digital fabrication to the flexible fabrication mix – then the skill level on part of the operator is reduced, and the rate of production is increased.

- Digital fabrication, i.e. the use of computer-controlled fabrication, as instructed by data files that generate tool motions for fabrication operations. Digital fabrication is an emerging byproduct of the computer age. It is becoming more accessible for small scale production, especially as the influence of open source philosophy is releasing much of the know-how into non-proprietary hands. For example, the Multimachine is an open source mill-drill-lathe by itself, but combined with computer numerical control (CNC) of the workpiece table, it becomes a digital fabrication device.

- a global repository of shared open source designs - introduces a unique contribution to human prosperity. This contribution is the possibility that data at one location in the world can be translated immediately to a product in any other location. This means anyone equipped with flexible fabrication capacity can be a producer of just about any manufactured object. The ramifications for localization of economies are profound, and leave the access to raw material feedstocks as the only natural constraint to human prosperity” (end of quotes)

Marcin has developed an integrated strategy to build the minimal set of machines that are necessary to construct a community of 100 people, and that can exist in a system of open franchising. This means that the system is conceived to be self-replicating as a totality as well. What this means is that anybody interested in creating a global village of the same style, will find all the documentation needed to do so, and can rely on the training and assistance of the pioneering communities.

He calls this strategy:neo-commercialization

Neo-commercialization means that we can both ‘commercialize’ a product – make it available for sale at competitive prices to others – and help others replicate the enterprise itself. We are interested not only in production, but also in business replication by others, because it’s good for the world. The replication goal is grounded firmly on the open source nature of the entire development program.”

The concept of neo-commercialization embodies both our own ability to produce and earn from the products, as well as our interest to disseminate the products via open franchising. Open franchising means that our products and production processes are under an unrestricted, open license, where users are free to decide for themselves as to how they will use, develop, or market the technologies. There are no strings attached. It is our private interest to have people contribute back to open production capacity, but we are not interested in policing the use of our creations. We are interested in maximum dissemination, because we believe that our products have a beneficial contribution to society. People are free to make living from our products, and modify them how they choose.”

Progress can be monitored at www.openfarmtech.org

We are dedicating a full section of our wiki on peer production in the physical sphere, where you can find documentation on many of the underlying principles that inspire Marcin’s project.


5 Responses to “Marcin Jakubowski’s open farm: the most important social experiment in the world?”

  1. Marcin Says:

    The 3-year deployment plan for a world-class research center for Open Source Economic Development is being posted at openfarmtech.org/index.php?title=Proposal_2008. You can download the document at openfarmtech.org/OSE_Proposal.doc.

  2. Factor E Farm Weblog » Blog Archive » Turn Up the Heat Says:

    [...] Vinay just informed me today of a great post on our work on BoingBoing, a Directory of Wonderful Things. That’s great. Recently, Steve Bosserman wrote a great post on how open source products can make economic sense, with the CEB press as a case in point. P2P Foundation claims that the work of Factor e Farm may be the most important social experiment in the world. Michel Bauwens wrote a further review of the economic model based on Steve Bosserman’s post. I comment that this is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the transformative economic potential of peer economies. [...]

  3. P2P Foundation » Blog Archive » Community Supported Manufacturing - Careers in Global Village Engineering Says:

    [...] some details, which provide supporting information as to why Michel called us potentially the most important social experiment in the world. We also raise the discussion on right livelihood as a likely byproduct in a peer-based [...]

  4. CEB Vault Construction Workshop | Open Source Ecology Says:

    [...] workshop, which will be a part of a triple-vault living structure for use by participants of the Factor e Farm experiment. Construction includes wall finish, water-sealing, and topping it off with a living roof. The first [...]

  5. mobin rafiq Says:

    Marcin Jakubowski

    Can you please send me your mail and you mobile no and also skype.
    I have lot of ideas and can be a great contribition .I am working for poverty reduction projects and strongly believe creating jobs is a must for poverty alleviation.

    Mobin Rafiq
    Social Entrepreneur
    57 Northumberland Road
    North Harrow

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