Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sci-Tech watch, 29: The Jakubowski GVCS -- moving to open source industrial and information technologies for digitally empowered, mechatronics oriented development transformation in the Caribbean

Marcin Jakubowski -- pronounced "March-in" -- holds a Fusion Energy Physics PhD, but in his 2011 TED talk, he said he felt useless and so went out to found Factor e Farm, and the Global Village Construction Set [GVCS] open source industrial and development transformation long-term initiative involving several dozen key machines.  (Cf. index of machines here.) Recently, he married Catarina Mota, and emphasis has shifted to include an Open Building Institute initiative with a six months immersive training component.

Now, I have long pondered digital productivity empowered  economic development transformation for the Caribbean. 

This includes when, as a Curriculum Facilitator/ Architect, I helped design an electrical engineering degree programme and then went on to help design an environmental management one  for a second regional university. That experience led me to see the centrality of information, communication and control technologies [ICCTs, not just IT or ICT] multiplied by the Mechatronics paradigm, and to further see how pivotal sustainability is for development transformation of our region. I have also been led to see that Cuba is the sole centre of real strength in Sci-Tech in our region and that we need to work with that regional mini super-power to be. Especially with its 40+ universities. (Yes, over forty, the first of which IIRC dates to 1519.)

I know, I know; three paragraphs in, we are already in fairly heavy conceptual territory, with a torrent of ideas.

Can't be helped.

These concepts are going to be pivotal for moving our region ahead in coming decades in an increasingly unstable and dangerous world, so do bear with taking some time to explore together. The issue is strategic vision and focus for our region, to transform development, trigger self-sustaining inclusive economic growth, and to give us the strength we are going to need in the years ahead.

So, please bear with the process.

Development transformation policy is far too important to be left to:
  •  short-sighted (and too often, bought-and-paid-for, compromised, blackmailed and corrupt) politicians, 
  • entrenched senior civil servants locked into a 1950's mindset, 
  • pundits playing at "in the land of the blind the one-eyed man can be king," and
  •  fly-in, fly-out consultants, not to mention 
  • media folks playing dirty spin games, reading off cue cards and/or blindly cribbing from Wikipedia, while 
  • relying on indoctrination by the cultural marxist profs who taught them in uni. 
It is time for a radical reboot.

Metanoia, in fact.

As a preview of where we are going, let us refresh our memories on the Hayek investment triangle in community context -- we are talking about a radical re-orientation of our economies to be fit for purpose for the twenty-first century:

Thus, we face the challenge of sustainable change made in good time on sound strategic judgement:

Bearing in mind, the issue of the commanding heights of the community:

As Jesus once warned the elites of his day, it is one thing to read the weather-signs of the sky, it is another thing, entirely, to so understand the times that one knows what one's community should do.

To start the main matter, it is worth pausing to watch Marcin lecture on the Global Village Construction Set (and the famous TED talk is embedded too):

If a 38-minute talk runs a bit long, try the Open Building Institute Kickstarter -- and Kickstarter is also a piece of our grand strategic puzzle -- promo video:

(interview, here, is helpful too.)

I suspect, the machines and technologies are an incomplete, work in progress set. For instance, we know that the invention of the printing press was transformational. So paper-making and open source printing machines are an obvious cluster of additions. For these, I would like to see something like a modern mimeograph machine that scans pages, burns stencils and prints at one level, and at the next, that does the same with metal foils.  Also, a book binding machine.

Now, if we look at the GVCS, we will observe an interesting cluster: power cubes that output power as hydraulic fluid under pressure, back-hoe arms, bulldozer arms, fluid power operated vehicles and industrial robots. These point straight to the Mechatronics paradigm, of manufacturing processes and products based on the synergy of mechanisms, control and electronics and computer supervision. Where, the robot arm is the capital example (and a backhoe arm is essentially a tele-operated hydraulically powered robot arm usually used for digging etc):

So, we see that a focus on mechatronics will bring together a critical cluster of the technologies for digital productivity. The wider GVCS and the open source paradigm will allow us to address a way for a small community (such as a Caribbean island . . . ) to capture in effect a reboot for industrial civilisation 2.0:

As the Open Source Ecology Wiki summarises the philosophy:
  • Open Source - we freely publish our 3d designs, schematics, instructional videos, budgets, and product manuals on our open source wiki and we harness open collaboration with technical contributors.
  • Low-Cost - The cost of making or buying our machines is, on average, 8x cheaper than buying from an Industrial Manufacturer, including an average labor cost of hour for a GVCS fabricator.
  • Modular - Motors, parts, assemblies, and power units can interchange, where units can be grouped together to diversify the functionality that is achievable from a small set of units.
  • User-Serviceable - Design-for-disassembly allows the user to take apart, maintain, and fix tools readily without the need to rely on expensive repairmen.
  • DIY - (do-it-yourself) The user gains control of designing, producing, and modifying the GVCS tool set.
  • Closed Loop Manufacturing - Metal is an essential component of advanced civilization, and our platform allows for recycling metal into virgin feedstock for producing further GVCS technologies - thereby allowing for cradle-to-cradle manufacturing cycles
  • High Performance - Performance standards must match or exceed those of industrial counterparts for the GVCS to be viable.
  • Flexible Fabrication - It has been demonstrated that the flexible use of generalized machinery in appropriate-scale production is a viable alternative to centralized production.
  • Distributive Economics - We encourage the replication of enterprises that derive from the GVCS platform as a route to truly free enterprise - along the ideals of Jeffersonian democracy.
  • Industrial Efficiency - In order to provide a viable choice for a resilient lifestyle, the GVCS platform matches or exceeds productivity standards of industrial counterparts.
Multiply this by
  • open source software,
  •  a push for computer programming and linked technologies as well as 
  • sustainable energy initiatives and
  •  a push for agricultural transformation. Not to mention, 
  • open source building technologies for social housing, agricultural complexes, commercial and industrial spaces, etc.
Then, imagine what would happen if an alliance of. . .
  • universities, 
  • community colleges and technical schools 
  • regional research institutions, 
  • regional bodies such as Caricom or OECS
  • ministries of technology and of education,
  • schools and 
  • co-operative enterprises
. . . across our various Caribbean territories  -- including our regional sci-tech powerhouse, Cuba -- were to join together, evaluate and extend the GVCS appropriately and make a shift to the open source industrial base, sustainable development oriented paradigm Jakubowski has championed. 

Put in a major collaborative open source research and development effort. 

Look at commercialisation in terms of value added services that build on the open source base. (As often happens with open source software such as the Linux Operating System. For example the US$ 6 mn/yr Linux Foundation catalyses over US$ 1 billion of annual programming effort, for an operating system that runs much of the Internet and is the base for the Android OS used in Tablets and smart phones.)

Then, inject Kickstarter crowd source funding for projects that need that.

This sounds to me like pulling together a critical mass to capture the human, technical and financial capacity for development transformation and self-sustaining economic growth energised from within our region.

So, let us ponder, is this just possibly a key cluster of technologies that can come together to help our region trigger a generation-length cycle of development and transformation?

As in, a possible regional version of the Kondratiev long wave of economic transformation, growth and development:

Where, globally, we can trace such waves back to the 900's:

So, is this something we can at least ponder together as a thought-sparker for new thinking on regional development?

I think so. Why not now? Why not here? Why not us END