inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #26 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Fri 2 Sep 11 05:42
    
Bryan,

At the small group level, it's often best to organize in traditional
fashion.  OS organization doesn't work well if you want to dig a ditch.
 However, connecting to other orgs can definitely be an open source
effort.  Share methods/techniques for improving local production, etc.

Schools?  I'm seeing more and more virtual learning beyond the basics.
 MMOs and games hold the most promise as one of the best learning
tools ever developed.  Lectures and standard testing is best done via
online (that's the majority of higher ed).  There shouldn't be any
reason that kids, or anybody for that matter, should have any lecture
that isn't given by the best people on the topic (in the world).  
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #27 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Fri 2 Sep 11 05:43
    
Lena,

Love kickstarter.  Unfortunately, it's not an investment.  It's a
donation.  I would love to allow people to earn some return on the
money they put in.  
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #28 of 195: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Fri 2 Sep 11 12:49
    
Being a big fan of industrial design, I'm wondering about the thinking
behind the remarkable selection of "resilient" objects here.  They
seem pretty eclectic: this thing reads like a WHOLE EARTH CATALOG after
an asteroid strike.  


http://www.miiu.org/wiki/Resilient_Things_by_Top-Level_Category

I'm trying to get my head around the world implied by these lifestyle
items.  Are the users of these resilient objects supposed to get
resilient and STAY resilient, in the sense that they're commonly toting
a poncho, wool socks and a canteen?  Or does this envision some kind
of layered resiliency, where the situation is sometimes Paleolithic 
but more often all about practicing open-source economics on a
fabricated keyboard?  

This list clearly implies some kind of rubberized toggle-switch
between bare-survival disaster ops and everyday high-tech.  How
resilient are people supposed to get, realistically?  How many times
can people flop between the one and other condition before it all just
muddles-out into a dark age?  
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #29 of 195: J. Eric Townsend (jet) Fri 2 Sep 11 12:55
    
> P2P wireless changes the entire game.  

The ACM Sigmobile journal is often pretty dense and hard to read, but
just looking at the abstracts gives you an idea of the level research
(and amount of funding) going into setting up and maintaining
spontaneous/ad-hoc mobile wireless networks.    The
presentations/talks lists from prior conferences is also interesting:

<http://www.sigmobile.org/mobihoc/>
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #30 of 195: Rip Van Winkle (keta) Fri 2 Sep 11 15:06
    
From your Jasmine revolution piece
>The organizers, whoever and wherever they are, have repeatedly called
on people to gather in a range of popular and public areas in the
centre of major cities across China – shopping malls and university
campuses – and go for a stroll every  Sunday afternoon to call for
minor political change. These public areas are, at that time of day,
normally filled with young people and out-of-town domestic tourists,
all now potential ‘protesters’.

Ha! Reminds me of the times in the 70's and 80's when a gay rights
group would declare a "Wear Blue Jeans In Solidarity" day!
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #31 of 195: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Fri 2 Sep 11 16:26
    
The thing about communications infrastructure, increasingly, is that
it's not necessarily in the hands of a government to shut down. The
corporations that have built the infrastructure and charge for its
operation are steadily becoming more relevant to the working of
communications than governments. There are even communications networks
in areas where there is essentially no government (such as Somalia or
the Maghreb.) 

It seems to me most corporations aren't interested in shutting down
communications infrastructure--after all, it's how they make their
living. But they are interested in controlling flows of information in
a way that supports their bottom line vs. supporting the ability of all
people to access and use the infrastructure in ways that support
resilient communities.

In fact, it seems to me that the existence of transnational corporate
entities runs counter to at least two OSW principles. Good OSW
guerrillas can fairly readily co-opt (rather than own or build) various
forms of infrastructure from governments, but it probably gets more
complicated when corporations are creating and running the
infrastructure. Second, the open source enterprises that you are
discussing are by definition an anathema to profit-based corporate
hierarchies. 

I'd be interested in your take on this. I think you're right on the
money when applying OSW principles to governments, but how does the
picture change when taking on corporations? Leaning forward a little
more, how does the picture change when taking on governments that have
essentially been hijacked by corporate and/or criminal enterprises? 
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #32 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Fri 2 Sep 11 17:40
    
Bruce, 

Yes.  MiiU is eclectic and will likely remain so. The selection of
items is based on what people think are resilient.  For the most part
it appears to be items that will last a long time, do tasks you
probably will need to do in the future (but don't have a tool for now),
and are easy to fix.  There are also quite a few DIY recipes on the
site from making detergents to building a solar reflector to installing
a geoexchange system.  We're also building a section on permaculture
plants/etc..  

So, the site is currently focused on helping people survive the short
term effects of economic failure:

1) Preparing people for living in a world with fewer commercial items
and less income.
2) Dealing with shortages of basic items from food to energy to
products.

The longer term goal is speed up the transition to the local
production of food, products, water, and energy at a level that exceeds
the current practice in quality.  I believe there is a new
local/virtual economy out there that's much better than the one we
currently have and we should do as much as we can to bootstrap it into
existence.  I hope that we'll get many more pages that support that
effort after I get my book out.

Finally, there's an underlying business model for the site that we're
still refining. The idea is that people working on the site have the
potential to make an income from doing so (part of being resilient). 
As of right now, anyone that builds a good page can get 100% of the
affiliate revenues from that page.  While that has led to more
commercial products than DIY products, I think it is going to be better
for the effort in the long run.  I like the idea that a site helping
people with being resilient should also help the people building the
site become resilient (some are making $200-300 a month recurring
already). 

Does that answer the question?
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #33 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Fri 2 Sep 11 17:50
    
Thanks Eric. So true Rip.  

Christian, 

It works as well against companies as it does against governments. 
Infrastructure gets co-opted all of the time, whether it is from a
government or corporate source.  Think cable TV service in Latin
America.  

There are also black market infrastructures.  There was a multiMW
electrical network in Baghdad built by the locals.  I suspect some of
the disruption of the government infrastructure was a result of this
network hurting the competition.

Nigeria's MEND, an open source movement with a brand name, took on a
corporation in the Delta.  They damaged up to 1 m barrels a day of
production, mostly from their target:  Shell.  After talking with the
senior Shell exec in Nigeria responsible for dealing with MEND, he told
me that they were inches away from closing up shop and leaving the
country.  

There area also lots and lots of examples of guerrillas trouncing
companies in Iraq.  I think I put a couple into my book.  Unless a
company has gov't support (paying for contract 300% contract
delay/overruns and extensive security), they usually don't stand a
chance against OSW guerrillas.  The only reason Shell stayed as long as
they did, is that the contract was worth xxx billions (Nigeria has the
light sweet crude  American cars love).
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #34 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Fri 2 Sep 11 17:55
    
Question.  Is this going OK?  Is it interesting?  
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #35 of 195: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Sat 3 Sep 11 01:15
    
Absolutely. Even more interesting for the fact that many of these
issues are starting to impact us industrialized world readers. Of
course, as you've pointed out more than once, people in the developing
world have been dealing with these kinds of issues for a long time. 

I'd like to ask a few more questions about the role of criminal
networks in OSW. You've pointed out a couple examples where localized
OSW groups have extracted serious concessions from transnational
corporations. Several economic observers (most notably Moises Niam and
Misha Glenny) have described how the liberalization of capital and
trade has gone hand in hand with an explosion in transnational criminal
organizations. Of course, many insurgent groups have been able to take
advantage of this relationship by producing or transporting illicit
goods and communicating money and information through the transnational
net. Some insurgent movements, like the FARC, have become so dependent
on this relationship that they are synonymous with criminal activities
and their original ideology is almost lost.

If the goal is to create resilient localized communities, how do we
avoid the trap of dependence on criminal activity? Or to put it another
way, what is the best way to maintain a localized focus rather than
surrendering to the vast wealth that is available through transnational
crime?

In a larger sense, is the OSW model applicable to creating a resilient
global community that is not vulnerable to transnational criminal
activity--particularly when many things OSW networks may do now may be
considered illegal or illicit? 
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #36 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 3 Sep 11 03:58
    
This is beyond interesting, thanks for being with us John.
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #37 of 195: Bruce Sterling (bruces) Sat 3 Sep 11 07:50
    
Yeah, John, that does answer the question; you are saying that the
site looks that way because that's the way a site gets built under
modern circumstances.  Obviously it's better to have an eclectic site
that exists than to have a rigorous site that doesn't exist.  Go for
it.

But it still looks-and-feels rather baffling, because of its pot-luck,
rummage-sale, crowdsourcy feeling.  The designer Constantin Boym just
remarked on Twitter that there may be a project for him in your site. 
I can imagine him curating its darkest elements and turning them into
some kind of New Depression design-fiction.

There is something happening on that site that feels very true to
modern life. I'll tell an anecdote.  Today, I'm trying to review a pair
of pants.  They're 5.11 Tactical pants, basically mountain-climbing
gear, that was turned into cop and SWAT gear, that is now transforming
into civilian resilience gear.  Basically, the pants for multitool
freaks who clank when they walk, but don't wanna look like circus
clowns.  The pants haven't changed all that much with the years.  The
society has changed around the pants and new demographics are stepping
into them.

I've been wearing 5.11 Tactical gear for a decade, which is why the
manufacturers approached me, but the John Robb aspect of this tale is
that *I didn't have to pay money for the pants.*  I'm literally wearing
pants that I received because I said I would talk about them on the
Internet.  And I will, too, but if I didn't, what would they do, sue
me?  It's weird.

I guess the next logical move would to be to put the pants on your
site and pick up a few bucks.  Or maybe I could take it out in trade,
put a tin pan on my head, and become the post-collapse Johnny
Appleseed. 
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #38 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Sat 3 Sep 11 08:11
    
Thanks Ted.

Christian,  

Ok.  Criminal networks.  This is going to be a fact of life for all of
us as capitalism hits the wall over the next decade.

Moises and Misha are great guys and we are of like mind with this. 
With globalization, finance/commerce/communication went global, but
laws/politics/etc. didn't.  IN this world, matching supply with demand
is more powerful force than any regional/national/local legal
structures that attempt to control/ban/shape it.   On a practical
level, this leads to local/national cops facing extremely large/well
funded global networks.

At that national/transnational level, the delta between an insurgent
group and a criminal group has vanished.  They are the same now.  Most
ideologies, even religions, are weak, fragmented and/or discredited.
They can't animate large populations to anything anymore.  They are
useful for animating small groups (creating a type of tribal loyalty). 
These tribes/groups perpetuate themselves by connecting to global
criminal networks and claiming a share of the proceeds.  It's their
hunting ground.

How can we avoid the trap of black globalization?  Local production. 
Food, energy, and products.  Produce as much as you can locally and
virtualize everything else.  Every little bit of production you can add
to your home, your neighborhood, and your community will help.  Do
what you can to make money in the current economy from this production.
 Then, as things get worse, connect, share, sell, trade locally and
virtually to speed income growth.  Try alternative currencies (there
some cool things that can be done here).  Build networks.  In this
environment OSW innovation is what drives productivity improvements in
local production.  Try a new production method, build a new product, if
it works, share the design for it.  If this is done without IP
monopolies (or using an alternative system for recognizing
contribution), the potential speed of improvement will be orders of
magnitude faster than what we see currently.  

Ok, I need more coffee.  The above is only one cup's worth.
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #39 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Sat 3 Sep 11 09:42
    
Bruce,

It does have a rummage sale at the end of the world type feel, doesn't
it?  Something that sets it apart from the formality of wikipedia and
the corporate commercialism of ebay.  A virtual La Salada of
ideas/products/projects.  

OF course, I do think one of the next organic economic systems (there
will likely be lots of them) will need to start in a place like this. 
Maybe not MiiU, but something like it. 
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #40 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 3 Sep 11 09:50
    
Bruce, the 5.11's sound like they are taking on a Gibsonesque life of
their own.

John, I've been reading WorldChanging2.0, edited by Alex Steffen, and
Off the Grid, by Nick Rosen...a lot of what you are doing and finding
in terms of network collaboration and communications theory seems
transferable to local action groups based around problems of the
commons - water, food, energy, etc. 

This all seems applicable to movements that are, and need, to be
happening in Industrialized countries whether one thinks we are
entering another Dark Age or merely wants to promote sustainable
futures. I realize you are focused on OSW, but do you think in terms of
the meta aspects of what you all are learning and developing?
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #41 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Sat 3 Sep 11 10:16
    
Ted,

I'm not actually focused on OSW right now.  I'm focused on laying the
groundwork for networked resilient communities.  Essentially,
communities that run themselves and produce almost all of what they
need locally.  They connect virtually to share/sell/trade and to grow
culturally.  
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #42 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 3 Sep 11 11:34
    
OOh, then we are on the same wavelength.

Johh, can you comment on this article as to lessons learned?

http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/89048-us-army-spent-2-7-billion-on-a-battle
field-computer-that-doesnt-work?obref=obinsite

The hardware all seems sound, was it a network/communications problem
that made it unusable?
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #43 of 195: John Robb (johnmrobb) Sat 3 Sep 11 12:42
    
Ted,

They didn't learn any lessons.  Too ambitious.  Not willing to look at
existing solutions.  Crazy assumptions as to what is needed.  

The easiest and best field intel/coordination system for
counter-insurgency is a simple redux of salesforce.com (or any web
based CRM).  That would let soldiers, many of whom are going to be
using that system once they get out of the military, with the software
they needed (via any device w/web interface).  Most of the rest could
have been done w/modules.  Don't think it would have cost more than
$100 m (under the assumption that the company would have gouged the
military on their pricing).
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #44 of 195: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Sat 3 Sep 11 12:59
    
John, I appreciate your straightforward answer on the utility of
ideologies--ie, they are of pretty limited use these days. But what
worries me is how compelling the concept of local resilience is going
to be when it runs up against the profit motive of corporations and
criminal groups tied into transnational nets. 

Even if a community can produce all the goods and services it
requires, there will still be an interest in luxury goods coming in
from the outside. Or even necessary goods--a corporation or
state-backed entity with enough economy of scale can still, at this
point, wipe out attempts at local production by provided needed or
wanted goods for less trouble and less cost. 

Criminal groups are another problem, in that they may simply be strong
enough to literally kill off the ability of a small community to
become locally resilient. Some time back in your blog you discussed the
concept of primary loyalties--the strength of tribes, clans, and
criminal groups adhering to their own common bonds. Criminal groups of
a certain type are particularly good at this. While profit motive may
be the core value of a criminal group, you're certainly not going to
link up with the Hell's Angels or MS13 just by being a canny
entrepreneur. You've got to bleed a little, shed blood, and go through
the proper rituals. The primary loyalties of a motivated criminal gang
are, at street level, likely to wipe out the ability of a community to
develop local self reliance. 

So at what point does a community become strong enough to withstand
these exterior threats? What steps are necessary to get there? Or,
coming from the other end, what collapses in the current economic
structure are required to sap the ability of corporations and criminal
groups to threaten local communities?

I have to wonder if the concept of local community resiliency isn't
itself an ideology of sorts--one which many of us certainly agree with,
but which may be limited in practicality like all other ideologies
unless the right set of conditions are met. 
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #45 of 195: J. Eric Townsend (jet) Sun 4 Sep 11 16:01
    
Huge fan of 5.11 here, and it ties into something that's been bugging
me...


The average person (even a science fiction writer!) can buy a pair of
5.11 pants and use them and get all the benefits of really well made
cargo pants.

Most tools more complex than a hammer, not so much.  Hunting weapons,
especially not so much.  Canning supplies, maybe you won't get
botulism the first time you can something.  All manner of wilderness
survival gear, well the candles might be easy but if you've never
cooked with white gas in a rainstorm, it's a bad time to learn.

What I'm getting at is that I think successful OSW groups (and
resilient communities) require a high level of skills in a diverse
number of fields.  I grew up around people who lived much like people
did in the late 18th century on rural farms -- hunting, keeping game,
farming several acres of land, and using/fixing/reusing every last
thing possible.   Few of their tools were fancy unitaskers and when
one broke, they didn't buy a new one.  They knew how to make a new
handle for an axe, re-sharpen a chipped blade, make a knife out of an
piece of spring steel, etc.

I know that canning and gardening is getting trendy again, and I'm
glad to see people starting to care about keeping chickens, but those
are the outliers.  We live in a suburban neighborhood suited for
gardening and yet almost none of my neighbors grow more than a token
tomato plant or two.  Pretty much none of them hunt or fish and our
local gov't bans the keeping of any food animals like chickens or
rabbits.

Our community will not be resilient, it will be empty.  People who
have never lived off the land aren't going to suddenly develop a
lifetime of skills, they are going to pack up and go where someone can
provide for them.   Contrary to the joke someone on the well made
to the effect of, "all you need is a multitool and a collection of
Make magazines", it's my thinking that we are going to need to bring
people up to speed on all sorts of things that aren't just fun to do,
but that many people will think are icky or gross.

Without ranting like a doom-and-gloom survivalist, what strategies are
there for encouraging self-sufficiency and an honest look at what we
actually need?
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #46 of 195: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Sun 4 Sep 11 16:41
    
There's also the question of scale. How large and how diverse does a
community need to be to truly be self-sufficient and resilient? What
assets do they require?
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #47 of 195: Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sun 4 Sep 11 19:20
    
I think there's an air of unreality about applying this sort of
thinking in most parts of the U.S. As long as WalMart is still doing
well and the utilities still work, long-term self-sufficiency isn't
going to seem practical to most people. Disaster preparedness (purely
for the short term) will make more sense.

It's very different in other countries of course.
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #48 of 195: Paulina Borsook (loris) Sun 4 Sep 11 19:49
    
thinking of a friend who lives in mcmansion-land --- where the ccrs not only
prohibit anything but -lawn- (i.e. nothing so tacky as raised beds) but also
forbids solar panels (unsightly; drives down property values).
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #49 of 195: Christian De Leon-Horton (echodog) Mon 5 Sep 11 01:08
    
I think at some point, WalMart is not going to be available, and
housing council concerns about raised beds are going to become
secondary considerations. The question is what we can do before that
point. 

That's not to say there won't be any shopping at all, of course. Some
of the most interesting posts on John's blog concern bazaars and grey
market goods. 
  
inkwell.vue.417 : John Robb on War, Peace, and Resilient Communities
permalink #50 of 195: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 5 Sep 11 05:20
    
Living in Phoenix metro area, I have a two-pronged approach - develop
all the resilience possible in what I assume will be an unsustainable
area by 2050, but you never know what kind of creativity might abound,
and several off the grid plots above the 20th parallel - always nice
for retreats and camping, and if it all goes pear-shaped, sustainable
and livable, just not preferable.
  

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