Print your own house

For many years, I’ve looked at open source as the start of a new economy, a way of life, not just a model for software development. My Masters thesis looked at online communities who were volunteering their time to collaborate with like-minded people to create a better version of something that would otherwise be a commercial product.

Doubters among my colleagues and friends ask why it would happen now when it hasn’t worked in the past. To me, the answer is clearly that the foundations hadn’t been set. This is not simple philanthropy where one’s donation (usually money) benefits unknown people on the other side of the world – the donors benefit directly from others who add their complementary skills to their own. This is not communism, driven from the top down. It must be driven by the masses, and until now, the masses haven’t had the time or the tools. Nor were experts from around the world as able to easily connect and share ideas.

Despite the efforts of groups like OSCar, my vision still had limited application to physical products. It worked for software, and it could work for governance, but you still need specialised components to build a car.

Alastair Parvin, in his TED talk, Architecture for the people by the people, has shown me that we’re a step closer. The 3D printer now makes it possible for people to create the components they need even to build a house.

Where do you see this trend going next? Is an open source economy possible? What problems must be overcome? Some believe that the power-hungry few will sabotage such an economy. I worry that the raw materials used by the printer may still be inaccessible or […]

The Moral Landscape: An attack on tolerance?

The Moral Landscape, by Sam Harris, puts forward the idea that scientists can, and should, contribute to moral debate. Harris believes that the goal of ethics is the well-being of conscious creatures, which is a measurable quantity. Science may not yet have the tools or the understanding to take these measurements, but since they are measurable with science, only science can offer real insight into moral debate.

It’s an interesting idea, and I certainly don’t deny scientists the right to engage in moral debate, but that’s as far as I can go in agreeing with Harris. He believes that our society has a monopoly on understanding right and wrong and gets very defensive when presenting views of cultural relativists, people who believe that you can’t judge a culture until you have lived in it extensively. ‘Why is it even slightly controversial to imagine that some tribe or society could harbor beliefs about reality that are not only false but demonstrably harmful?’ (p25)

For Harris, ‘Moral relativism is clearly an attempt to pay intellectual reparations for the crimes of Western colonialism, ethnocentrism, and racism.’ (p47) While true for many people, and a good reason to be wary of imperialism, some of us have become relativists simply because we’ve lived in other cultures with other beliefs and realise that one way is not better than another. Such experience makes statements like, ‘they simply do not understand how much better life would be for them if they had different priorities’ (p39) false for many of the cases he protests. A Westerner might make the case that a society of sexual equality is better than the male-dominance of Japanese culture, but he would be demonstrating his lack of understanding […]

By |March 19th, 2013|Ideology|0 Comments

Occupy Wall Street for Open Source and Gross National Happiness

The recent ‘Occupy’ movement has been criticised for not having clear goals. Critics wonder how they are meant to take it seriously if the protesters can’t say what they want? I think that’s harsh. I wonder whether many historical revolutions have had a clear idea of the future beyond toppling the existing regime. It would, I believe, have been sufficient to express disapproval, then when the situation became intolerable, to take more aggressive action. Creating a new regime was surely the last step, though perhaps in the most successful cases the new was imagined beforehand.

I’ve been too focused on my anthropology masters thesis to consider joining the protesters in camping out in Martin Place, but I can understand their disillusionment. Capitalism doesn’t inspire me as an economic model either.

Bhutan gave me a new model to aspire to. Some Bhutanese are fixated on financial gain, but as a whole, the people are more interested in enjoying their lives, enjoying each other and creating a country that their children will be happy to live in. Gross National Happiness might only be a part of the model, but importantly, GNH removes the focus from finances and puts it on the environment, culture, sustainable development and the governance to make it all work.

I would be happier spending my working life in a role where I can really make a difference to the quality of someone’s life rather than simply striving for financial gain. I don’t know that the ‘Occupy’ movement has quite the same ideas, but I’m sure they see the problem with a system that’s built on competition rather than collaboration. The open source movement has shown […]

By |November 29th, 2011|Ideology|0 Comments

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