People’s all-time favorite spare time activity is socializing; either in reality (bars and clubs and homes) or in virtual reality (Facebook, MySpace, …). Now many nerds and geeks, like me, have a problem with that: it’s idle, nonsense activity, just about joking and being cool (if not drinking), but without any substance. It’s non-creative.

Here’s the solution: the hackerspace. By definition, a hackerspace is a common facility for all sorts of hacking, something like a third place (the Ray Oldenburg term) for hackers.

But what caught me is the “feel” of it. It’s very close to that of my imagined power community.

NYC Resistor hackerspace in action
NYC Resistor hackerspace in action

The image above is from a stylish Radar nineteen video about MakerBot. Remember, it’s the Open Source 3D printer I blogged about before. Now the about text of that video tells us that “Makerbot came out of NYC Resistor, a hackers collective offering shared knowledge and camaraderie.” Now what is that? And when watching the video linked above, catch the feeling of the hackerspace: nerd-friendly atmosphere, plenty of resources and intelligent people, freedom to create anything you want. Be sure to also watch this video of a Norway fab lab, with the same spirit but even longer. Wow! I am deeply impressed that this world hosts something like a geek community. I marvel at it and I’m happy that this world hosts more than just the scarcity that I experience currently. And even … this stuff is so close to my own community ideals for the “power community” 😉

(Note: This image is a screenshot of a super stylish video about the MakerBot, and is permissible as a small image quotation under Fair Use of Copyright; since MakerBot Industries is based in New York City.)

And it gets even better:

  • Wikipedia gives us a lot of background information on the hackerspace.
  • Wikipedia article on NYC Resistor.
  • There is hackerspaces.org, a global website about hackerspaces, including a global list.
  • And according to that list, there are even some hackerspaces next to where I live and want to live.
  • And there’s a blueprint: Jens Ohlig: Building a Hacker Space.
  • They are reported to offer a broad sense of community, also internationally: when you are a member of a hacker space, you are a member of the worldwide hacker space, wherever you go.
  • There is MAKE magazine, a DIY lecture for hackers (but not overly cool or challenging).
  • There is a market for geeks to sell stuff they make: makermarket.com. And of course to buy other’s. Not yet that cool items on it, but this might develop.
  • Yea, and there are women in hackerspaces! Saw some in the video. That’s an essential ingredient of social hacking 🙂

To conclude, a collection of the best video clips on hackerspaces that I found:

As many hackerspaces use CNC lathes, 3D printers, lasercutters and the like: it seems that a Fab Lab and a hackerspace are largely overlapping concepts! Where hackerspace defines more the social / community side of the thing, and fab lab the technical side (the methods how hackers can make anything they want).

The Internet contains a subculture for everything imaginable. Here is the Fabber subculture. This is especially cool that such a thing exists, as I envisioned something in that direction, esp. also for EarthOS. Here it is: the culture of creating your products yourself.

They have, so far:

  • the public inventory list for the “official” MIT fab lab specification
  • the FabCentral tools list for fab labs
  • the Makerbot, a fully open source plastic 3D printer to build yourself, backed by a company
  • the Bits from Bytes RepMan V3.1, an affordable, high-quality 3D printer for building yourself (based on RepRap Darwin principles)
  • the Bits from Bytes BFB 3000, the first fully assembled 3D printer for under  GBP 2000 (based on RepRap Darwin principles, but improved, and seemingly not that “open” as Makerbot / RepRap Mendel etc.)
  • the RepRap project, aiming at creating a self-replicating 3D printer machine, can also be built at home
  • the Fab@Home project, also an open source 3D printing (and also robocasting) project; currently, mainly printing with silicone, either direct objects from that or molds for filling in Epoxy
  • the Machines that Make project from the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms; I especially like the “fab in a box” project, which is close to the fab lab concept I have in mind
  • upcoming lower-cost commerical 3D printers, like the HP Designjet 3D printer for 13,000 EUR
  • the Thingiverse, which is like the Fabber’s SourceForge, containing downloadable data for products to mill, lathe or 3D print, tool descriptions, supplier registration for products etc.; one can already find hundreds of geometry files to download to make ones own products. Nice examples:
  • open source 3D modeling software like Art of Illusion
  • the Mobile fab lab, kind of what I want for my A-2 equipment
  • a first fab lab in Germany, open to everybody
  • FabAcademy, something like the online university for digital fabrication (as of 2010-04, they offer self-accredited certificates and diplomas, but no officially accredited Bachelor or Master yet)
  • YouTube videos on the fab lab
  • MIT index of more material on the fab lab

Some background knowledge from Wikipedia:

Ok, and what do I want to do with this stuff when I have my own fab lab? Research, how to use it. What to do with it. Make my own things. Design my Equipment System so that many things of it can be made in the fab lab. And: check if development countries can profit from fab labs. There, transportation and logistics is a big problem, so making all the parts instantly in place when demanded would be a solution. I imagine a hackerspace in Africa where people help themselves to build everything up. Inspirations:

The printed plastic parts can even be re-used to make new ones. This would be about adding the intelligence of a fab lab to local materials, to create wealth out of nothing, in an autarchic community. It would include working with stone in a 3 axis CNC mill, or even on a CNC angle grinder for cutting stone. I currently have a draft for such a machine in my TEQ4 Equipment System notes, which can create CNC-cut, LEGO brick style stones to build houses and many other structures from. Very durable stuff, made from cost-free material that just lies around!

Something happened today that has not happened for a long, long time since I know the Internet. I was seriously bedazzled. Totally speechless. I read through complex scientific texts for hours, understanding less than half, and still wondered if all this is just a big fat joke.

Fact is, I found a blog of a guy who claims to have done nuclear fusion at his home … a star in a jar, including a 200 million degree plasma. And now he attempts to build a fusion reactor, at home. And there are several other hobbyists, approx. 24 worlwide [source], who also achieved nuclear fusion at home. I have read about home-made electron microscopes etc., and that would not be stunning to me any more … but nuclear fusion? This is so awfully crazy … hope he succeeds with the reactor 🙂

See for yourself:

Why is there no such thing as a Nobel Prize of Theology? It would be granted for major advancements in theology … .

The most prominent reason is probably that we have no well-accepted epistemology how to arrive at new knowledge in theology. People have different hypotheses (= different religions), claiming them to be true due to some revelation. But what we need is a way to test them against reality. Otherwise, theology would be about opinions only, and the war of opinions. Like flame wars in Internet forums, but nothing well-founded.

While it seems relatively simple to test, say, Hinduism and Paganism against our (Western) concept of reality (multiple millions of gods are prohibited by Occam’s razor) … how to test Christianity and Islam against reality?

Probably, history (as historical science) would help. But as with any non-empiric science, preconceptions are a great danger here. The historical-critical method of theology is full of them, and so are the interpretations of history and the Bible by believers. We would need a “sober”, scientific interpretation of history that excludes the influence of preconceptions by some sort of method …

This is an invention meant to produce, eventually, an island in international waters, to legally found ones own state on it. That’s because of the difficulties of choosing an island for such an endeavour … there is essentially no terra nullius left.

The idea is this: one or more solar powered, autonomous, self-steering, unmanned ships that has an excavator on board that will dig up stones etc. from the sea bed. When full, the ship drives fully automatically to a GPS location for dropping the dirt. It does so night and day, driving within an area that is closed for normal ship traffic. But it also has radar with automated evaluation on board to avoid collisions.

The ship also needs a catapult-type device for unloading the dirt once an area is too flat to float over it, or even is visible as land but needs to be more elevated above sea level.

Of course one would operate these ships in shallow waters, ideally dropping the dirt over something like a sunken atoll or something else that has less than 20m water above it.

And of course, the politically correct way today to reason for this invention is to “help those islands endangered by global warming”. Governments would let rain down the money to build the technology for this … and if not, there is a polemic video to persuade them. Yea, or show them the stories of all these “submerged islands” already existing. And then, after the technology was in use for some years, I would get a chance to rent it for building my own island-state … 🙂

So-called single points of failure “are undesirable in any system whose goal is high availability”; so teaches Wikipedia.

Now, systems for social security are, on the one hand, designed with this in mind: resources that need to be highly available in individual life, such as health care and nutrition, should not depend on the individual’s ability to pay for them, as this would be a SPOF. But on the other hand: in the Western “developed world”, social security systems are central, government based systems, which makes these systems fail if the state fails to pay for them. Which is a very real danger, as can be seen from the German pension insurance, which crashed for demographic and other reasons.

Again, Wikipedia teaches us the principles of reliability engineering to avoid SPOFs: reduced complexity, redundancy, diversity (of implementation), and transparency (Wikipedia article “Single Point of Failure”). All of these are not, or only to a low degree, implemented in these centralized Western social security systems. The extended family was able to perform the task better, as it was a highly redundant system, existing in tens of thousands of instances in a society. However, this type of family does no longer exist in our society.

What to do? How about experimenting with the idea of the “small autarkic community” as a shared risk community. This is not about anonymous insurance, as this is doomed to fraud and inefficiency: it lacks for example tools to really educate and motivate people to lead a more healthy lifestyle. The autarchic community is about the smallest thinkable group that can bear all risks of individual life on its own; which might be about 100 people. They would live in one house together and care for each other in all aspects of the shared risks, like caring for the sick and elderly, supporting the unemployed financially (and emotionally), etc.. One could enter at all times if one is admitted (depending on ones currrent issues, and the ability of the community to bear them, and the number of free places). And one could leave at any time, to switch to a like community at another place or back into government-backed system. But one could not be kicked out of the shared risk community; which is necessary to be a true “social insurance” type of community.

Such a 100-person community could take over other tasks that are simplified by load balancing or risk sharing in a community. Like child care. This would then be called “human crechès“. Yes, why not use this animal concept in human culture also. This is way less expensive than government’s child care units like kindergartens etc.. It can also be implemented in even smaller groups: for example, five families could form a crechè for the time before the parents return from work. Which would mean that from each couple, one person has to take one day off in two weeks to organize the crechè at this family’s home.

The Peter principle says that “In a Hierarchy Every Employee Tends to Rise to His Level of Incompetence.” And the higher people get, the more rights (to money, power etc.) they get. Combined, this means exploitation of people on lower levels, who have fewer rights (as we are in a hierarchy, after all). Applications:

  • As hierarchies are found in the economy, they create financial problems. People at the start of their career need to do all the hard work and get very little money for that, and start climbing the ladder that way, while people higher on the ladder exploit them.
  • As hierarchies are found in states and other power constructs, they create problems of power abuse.

IMHO, the problem is the hierarchy itself, not its application. Hierarchy is cool for reducing complexity in technical items, but prone to be abused when applied to social systems.