Very insightful commentary by Eric Hunting.
The context is the following: following our presentation of the work of John Robb on Resilient Communities, Vinay Gupta commented that he sees only potential amongst the poor people in the South.
This view is challenged by Eric who things that open production will be developed concurrently but separately, in the more industrially advanced Western countries, vs. the rest of the world.
I really recommend you take the time to read this strategic insight.
“No question, the developing world and the urban poor are going to benefit more sooner from Post-Industrial technology and community systems than western people. So, yes, this stuff does seem to indeed make far more immediate sense to pursue elsewhere. There it is an immediate matter of life or death. But the knowledge and skill pool that must be tapped into to cultivate these technologies, designs, and systems is largely here in the west, embodied by middle-class technical professionals. So, in fact, these things do have practical importance here. We’re learning the necessary skill set to move beyond an increasingly decrepit model of civilization into a new one as well as re-learning the skill set we need to effectively interact with the rest of the world in a viable way -to stop the knuckle-headed patterns of relating to the world that produce perpetually ineffectual relief efforts. That may not be a matter of life or death in the here and now for western people, but it’s still a practical pursuit in that it is necessary for the purpose of harnessing the knowledge pool of the middle-class for the purpose of developing those technologies we wish to deploy elsewhere.
To put it another way, Post-Industrial technology means different things to people in the west and to people in the rest of the world. In the west this about re-asserting control of our own lives through the assertion of control over the basis of our standard of living and re-establishing the lost skills and culture of community in the process. As a dividend, we potentially recover huge amounts of personal time sacrificed to other people’s profit we can re-invest in amplifying this pursuit. Elsewhere, this is about establishing a means to, at first, survival, and ultimately an entirely new standard of living. And even between the urban and rural poor in industrialized countries and in the rest of the world there are great differences in the context of the situations people are subject to and so, again, these technologies will have different meanings in each situation. People are not poor for the same reasons everywhere. If subscription farming works somewhere else besides middle-class towns in Europe it will work for very different reasons and probably not exactly the same way. This will be the case for most Post-Industrial tech.
We cannot create a model Post-Industrial community that works in the west that also works in the rest of the world too. We can’t engineer this like a tin can lunar habitat to be mass produced and dropped by spaceship all over the world. All we can do is cultivate a collection of technologies that are relatively adaptable and modular and can thus be repurposed in local contexts. (and we can’t always control how that’s going to turn out. OScars WILL be turned into ‘technicals’. All we can do is hope that, collectively, the technology we disseminate precludes the compulsion to do that most of the time)
So the pursuit of Post-Industrial community development in the west and for the rest are -at least- two completely different, if related, pursuits with different purposes. They may share common technology but that’s about it. Very different strategies must be employed in each context. Post-Industrial technology is nascent. We’ve barely started on the means to replicating our tools. It can do a lot of good right now and that’s worth pursuing, but it’s nowhere near enough. There are too few of us to matter. So what’s important now is accelerating the pace of the technology development so it can be disseminated to the rest and be independently perpetuated there, and right now that’s a job we have to start predominately in the west, were the knowledge is. This will be more two-way in the future as outreach efforts have impact, but right now the flow of technology is still predominately west-to-the-rest. So the logical purpose of the western Post-Industrial demonstration community is creating an environment optimized for recruitment and innovation -NOT creating a model to replicate in Africa- to encourage as many people as possible to participate in this tech development. Such a community may specifically pursue technology appropriate to the developing world as part of its agenda. But you won’t get that many middle-class technical professional participants willing to trade their own standard of living for the privilege of participating in that. To harness these minds to their fullest potential means providing the largest number of them possible with an environment that frees them from squandering their time on mere subsistence -or turns their activity into a means, and incentive, to realize that freedom. And THAT’s why creating these infrastructures in the west is just as important as doing it elsewhere. (this, of course, is the very same reason TMP2 pursues the cultivation of a Post-Industrial society. It’s that productivity dividend it banks on for eliminating the drag of Earth’s chronic problems and for freeing society to pursue space. Spaceship Earth has no ejector seats or lifeboats. We get our act together here or we never get anywhere else. This is a surprisingly radical point of view in the space advocacy community)
Develop here. Deploy there. Two very different tasks in two very different environments. They can be pursued concurrently, but the technology remains under-developed and flows predominately from the former to the latter right now and so optimizing that is the immediate priority.”