Zeitgeist and paradigm shifts (possible solutions)

If you haven’t seen Zeitgeist the Movie, go see it now (ps. you can turn of the Dutch subtitles by clicking on the CC button). It’s free to watch online and you may copy it. It is a very thought-provoking documentary that dismisses many commonly held beliefs. It doesn’t do this in a subtle way, but the style is motivating and the general idea is: don’t just take the public image of what’s going on for the truth. You should not take things Zeitgeist says as the truth either, look for this yourself. For example about the WTC being a controlled demolition, I have my doubts about that. I don’t dismiss the possibility either, though. There’s a lot of good information out their on the WTC on Wikipedia on the controlled demolition theory. I have no doubts that a lot of this were in reality not as the US government admits, but that’s nothing new. Get used to the fact that the media misrepresent these issues. They can be influenced. But, you should form your own opinion. Be critical, there are many of bad arguments that are made to defend both theories. Also, get used to the fact that powerful people do really nasty things. I tend to seek for the ‘good’ in every person, but there’s a lot of damage done by people pursuing their own interests blindly. An inaccurate interpretation of Adam Smith’s theory says that it’s in everyone’s interest for everyone to pursue their own interests. In this interpretation the invisible hand, the market forces would regulate the system. This is not even what Adam Smith argued to be true, but now many people still defend this view. And they often do it by referring to the authority that Adam Smith had. Self-interest is bad. Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz recently said: “In this sense, the fall of Wall Street is for market fundamentalism what the fall of the Berlin Wall was for communism – it tells the world that this way of economic organization turns out not to be sustainable.” If we want to be successful and have social wealth, we must start at society’s foundation: trust. High trust societies are proved to function much better than low-trust societies. I read a major treatise on the subject of TRUST, it’s extensive but very good). Besides a lot of evidence, it’s common sense too. Society can achieve more when you trust and help each other.

Back to Zeitgeist. They do quite a lot of tricks to make things ‘feel’ like everything is evil from the bottom up. I am not so pessimistic, but there is no doubt that the current economic system is not the best system. You should be critical about how good it really is and look for alternatives. A more open, direct and transparent democracy would be much better. We should work towards an environment where sharing of ideas is promoted, not keeping ideas. Luckily these changes are happening as we speak, simply because people want it. People want to share. Open source hardware is getting bigger. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t many things that need to be resolved, so the scope of sharing can become much bigger.

Eric von Hippel of MIT states that: “In the case of open source software this is possible because innovations can be “produced” and distributed essentially for free on the web, software being an information rather than a physical product.”
— von Hippel, E., Horizontal innovation networks – by and for users, Industrial and Corporate Change Advance Access, published May 16, 2007, p. 22

Elsewhere he says:
“In a sense, hardware is becoming much more like software, up to the point where you actually fabricate an object,” von Hippel says. “That’s why you’re starting to see open source techniques in hardware. Design is largely going to shift out from manufacturers to the communities.”

RepRap and other open source fabbers are an important for distributed innovation of physical products. They will be important to this change and wil both precede and set the stage for nanotechnology, further down the road.

But the transition from the current ‘scarcity based’ economy to a resource (value) based one another is a major change. The addendum (Zeitgeist part two), focusses mostly on the financial system. It says that we should not support it. It then follows to explains the Venus Project. This is essentially a future design for cities where technology enables them to live in harmony, more or less free from work and most importantly: free from greed and corruption, because it’s a world based on abundance instead of scarcity. Many of the ideas are strong and positive. They do not explain how to make this transition though. There is some critisism to the design. Independently of Zeitgeist, while looking for example of open source hardware I found out about a community called Factor E Farm. If we’re thinking about open source, using it or perhaps even developing (like I am)… they are LIVING it. What’s even more special, they’re doing it now. That they’re getting their hands dirty is by no means an indication that they don’t have a plan. Their bigger plan is actually extensively thought through and documented.

I think that the Factor E Farm is a much better candidate to than the Venus project. Because it is an open source farm and its plans are actually being implemented as we speak. They live off the grid, are creating their own water supply based on a well that is made with open source plans. They’ve built an open source tractor, concentrated solar power applications, their own PV panels, growing seeds, making their own flour, open source housing (Hexayurt), etc. They also develop a hydraulic press to press pretty solid bricks from earth. Those can be used for construction. Sounds like fun and they have an excellent group that tinkers a lot and also gets a lot of results. As far as I can see all of their results are made open source and published. They’ve also identified RepRap and multimachine as being very useful. It would be a very interesting setting to have a RepRap over there. The video’s are nice to watch and give you a quick impression of what they’re doing. Many of the results are pretty recent. In other words, they’re really busy making this happen. You should have a look at the movies on their blog here.

I think it has the ability to spread. I hope another site will arise in Europe. To be honest, my hands are itching… But for now I’ll stick to the RepRap project, because through the RepRap, a similar decrease of dependence on outside suppliers is possible. Ecologically it is a major change, people can use their home-grown bioplastics (both biologically sourced and biodegradable). Or they can recycle waste plastic into useful products. Since we have nearly infinte amounts of waste…
I see a nice synergy where the RepRap is one of the early steps towards a more locally accountable and sustainable. More of the project plans should be ‘encoded’ in CAD files accompanying the plans. This make transferability across sites much easier. Distributed innovation is easy in software, but in hardware it’s more complicated. The RepRap takes away major impediments of developing physical stuff collaboratively while physically dispersed.

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1 Response

  1. Monday evening, I’ve been to a reading on peer production in Amsterdam (@ Waag Society). Besides the excellent talk, I met some wonderful people as well! I had heard and read about the peer to peer foundation earlier, but didn’t really dive into it then.