04:11
TED2011

Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization

Filmed:

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.
00:20
I started a group called Open Source Ecology.
00:23
We've identified the 50 most important machines
00:26
that we think it takes for modern life to exist --
00:28
things from tractors,
00:31
bread ovens, circuit makers.
00:33
Then we set out to create
00:35
an open source, DIY, do it yourself version
00:37
that anyone can build and maintain
00:40
at a fraction of the cost.
00:42
We call this the Global Village Construction Set.
00:44
So let me tell you a story.
00:46
So I finished my 20s
00:48
with a Ph.D. in fusion energy,
00:50
and I discovered I was useless.
00:52
I had no practical skills.
00:55
The world presented me with options,
00:57
and I took them.
00:59
I guess you can call it the consumer lifestyle.
01:01
So I started a farm in Missouri
01:03
and learned about the economics of farming.
01:06
I bought a tractor -- then it broke.
01:09
I paid to get it repaired --
01:12
then it broke again.
01:14
Then pretty soon,
01:16
I was broke too.
01:18
I realized
01:20
that the truly appropriate, low-cost tools that I needed
01:22
to start a sustainable farm and settlement
01:25
just didn't exist yet.
01:28
I needed tools that were robust, modular,
01:30
highly efficient and optimized,
01:33
low-cost,
01:35
made from local and recycled materials that would last a lifetime,
01:37
not designed for obsolescence.
01:40
I found that I would have to build them myself.
01:42
So I did just that.
01:45
And I tested them.
01:48
And I found that industrial productivity
01:51
can be achieved on a small scale.
01:54
So then I published the 3D designs,
01:57
schematics,
02:00
instructional videos and budgets
02:02
on a wiki.
02:05
Then contributors from all over the world
02:07
began showing up, prototyping new machines
02:09
during dedicated project visits.
02:12
So far, we have prototyped eight of the 50 machines.
02:14
And now the project
02:17
is beginning to grow on its own.
02:19
We know that open source has succeeded
02:22
with tools for managing knowledge and creativity.
02:24
And the same is starting to happen with hardware too.
02:27
We're focusing on hardware
02:30
because it is hardware that can change people's lives
02:32
in such tangible material ways.
02:35
If we can lower the barriers to farming, building, manufacturing,
02:38
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
02:47
for the American farmer, builder, entrepreneur, maker.
02:49
We've seen lots of excitement from these people,
02:52
who can now start a construction business,
02:54
parts manufacturing,
02:56
organic CSA
02:58
or just selling power back to the grid.
03:00
Our goal is a repository of published designs
03:04
so clear, so complete,
03:06
that a single burned DVD
03:08
is effectively a civilization starter kit.
03:10
I've planted a hundred trees in a day.
03:16
I've pressed 5,000 bricks in one day
03:19
from the dirt beneath my feet
03:22
and built a tractor in six days.
03:26
From what I've seen, this is only the beginning.
03:29
If this idea is truly sound,
03:32
then the implications are significant.
03:35
A greater distribution of the means of production,
03:38
environmentally sound supply chains,
03:41
and a newly relevant DIY maker culture
03:44
can hope to transcend
03:48
artificial scarcity.
03:50
We're exploring the limits
03:53
of what we all can do to make a better world
03:55
with open hardware technology.
03:58
Thank you.
04:00
(Applause)
04:02

▲Back to top

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