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).
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.
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?
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/>
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!
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?
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?
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).
John Robb (johnmrobb) Fri 2 Sep 11 17:55
Question. Is this going OK? Is it interesting?
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?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Sat 3 Sep 11 03:58
This is beyond interesting, thanks for being with us John.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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).
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.
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?
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?
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.
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).
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.
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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