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TED2011

Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization

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Using wikis and digital fabrication tools, TED Fellow Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing the blueprints for 50 farm machines, allowing anyone to build their own tractor or harvester from scratch. And that's only the first step in a project to write an instruction set for an entire self-sustaining village (starting cost: $10,000).

- Farmer and technologist
Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing a set of blueprints for 50 farming tools that can be built cheaply from scratch. Call it a "civilization starter kit." Full bio

Hi, my name is Marcin --
00:15
farmer, technologist.
00:18
I was born in Poland, now in the U.S.
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I started a group called Open Source Ecology.
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We've identified the 50 most important machines
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that we think it takes for modern life to exist --
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things from tractors,
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bread ovens, circuit makers.
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Then we set out to create
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an open source, DIY, do it yourself version
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that anyone can build and maintain
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at a fraction of the cost.
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We call this the Global Village Construction Set.
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So let me tell you a story.
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So I finished my 20s
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with a Ph.D. in fusion energy,
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and I discovered I was useless.
00:52
I had no practical skills.
00:55
The world presented me with options,
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and I took them.
00:59
I guess you can call it the consumer lifestyle.
01:01
So I started a farm in Missouri
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and learned about the economics of farming.
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I bought a tractor -- then it broke.
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I paid to get it repaired --
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then it broke again.
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Then pretty soon,
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I was broke too.
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I realized
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that the truly appropriate, low-cost tools that I needed
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to start a sustainable farm and settlement
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just didn't exist yet.
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I needed tools that were robust, modular,
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highly efficient and optimized,
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low-cost,
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made from local and recycled materials that would last a lifetime,
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not designed for obsolescence.
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I found that I would have to build them myself.
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So I did just that.
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And I tested them.
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And I found that industrial productivity
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can be achieved on a small scale.
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So then I published the 3D designs,
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schematics,
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instructional videos and budgets
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on a wiki.
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Then contributors from all over the world
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began showing up, prototyping new machines
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during dedicated project visits.
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So far, we have prototyped eight of the 50 machines.
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And now the project
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is beginning to grow on its own.
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We know that open source has succeeded
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with tools for managing knowledge and creativity.
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And the same is starting to happen with hardware too.
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We're focusing on hardware
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because it is hardware that can change people's lives
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in such tangible material ways.
02:35
If we can lower the barriers to farming, building, manufacturing,
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then we can unleash just massive amounts of human potential.
02:41
That's not only in the developing world.
02:44
Our tools are being made
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for the American farmer, builder, entrepreneur, maker.
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We've seen lots of excitement from these people,
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who can now start a construction business,
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parts manufacturing,
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organic CSA
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or just selling power back to the grid.
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Our goal is a repository of published designs
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so clear, so complete,
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that a single burned DVD
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is effectively a civilization starter kit.
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I've planted a hundred trees in a day.
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I've pressed 5,000 bricks in one day
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from the dirt beneath my feet
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and built a tractor in six days.
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From what I've seen, this is only the beginning.
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If this idea is truly sound,
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then the implications are significant.
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A greater distribution of the means of production,
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environmentally sound supply chains,
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and a newly relevant DIY maker culture
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can hope to transcend
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artificial scarcity.
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We're exploring the limits
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of what we all can do to make a better world
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with open hardware technology.
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Thank you.
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(Applause)
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About the speaker:

Marcin Jakubowski - Farmer and technologist
Marcin Jakubowski is open-sourcing a set of blueprints for 50 farming tools that can be built cheaply from scratch. Call it a "civilization starter kit."

Why you should listen

Declaring that, "We can lead self-sustaining lives without sacrificing our standard of living," Marcin Jakubowski believes that only by opening the means of production can we achieve abundance for all. Though he has a Ph.D. in fusion physics, he became dissatisfied with its remoteness, and turned back to the earth as a farmer and social innovator.

He is the founder of Open Source Ecology, which is creating the Global Village Construction Set — the blueprints for simple fabrication of everything needed to start a self-sustaining village. At Factor e Farm in rural Missouri, he's been successfully putting those ideas to the test.

More profile about the speaker
Marcin Jakubowski | Speaker | TED.com