Interview with Yochai Benkler at the UN|COMMONS conference: »Commons is a critique of neoliberalism«.
Visit also: berlinergazette.de/uncommons/
Re/production used to be a burden which kept countless people busy for most of their lives. No longer. It has become a relatively easy and mostly pleasant affair, not least because of our reliance on mesh networks. Decentralized mesh networks allow everyone to participate. They are organized in ways that avoid asymmetric dependencies and ensure that nobody can acquire a specifically privileged position.
[This text was first published in German in a collection on utopian thinking and social emancipation edited by the Berlin jour fixe initiative. “The most tangible utopia of this volume,” the editors write. “Christian Siefkes gives his voice to somebody who lives in a not-too-distant future, where the ideas of commons-based peer production have spread beyond the Internet to re-organize production and reproduction in all areas of life on the basis of decentralized, non-hierarchical, voluntary self-organization.” Technologically, not much utopian thinking was needed – all the technologies I describe already exist today, if sometimes in more basic forms. The social changes, however, are radical. License: CC-BY-SA. You can also read the complete article as PDF or EPUB.]
We produce in the kitchen or in the bathroom. Most people have some fabrication bots at home. The popular 3D printer/mill combines a 3D printer with a computer-controlled milling machine. 3D printers produce three-dimensional objects by printing multiple layers of bioplastics, metal, or ceramic on top of each other, until the desired object is complete. Within several hours, typical home 3D printers can print objects up to 50 by 40 by 30 centimeters large. That’s big enough to print most durable households items, whether crockery, cutlery, games and toys, or tools. Electrical and electronic appliances are made in the same way, except for the actual electric or lighting elements. It’s also common to print replacement parts if something breaks down or doesn’t fit.
[Eine etwas ausführlichere Version dieses Artikel gibt es auch auf Deutsch.]
This is a handout of the slides of the talk which I gave at FSCONS 2010. So far, a detailed written version of the talk exists only in German (1, 2, 3, 4), but I hope to prepare something similar in English in the foreseeable future.
The Emergence of Physical Peer Production
This is really a rich autumn in terms of conferences around peer production. The CPOV conference in Leipzig, the FCRC in Berlin last weekend and the upcoming conference in Amsterdam. And when I think of the CPOV in Amsterdam and the Hull conference in spring then it is even a rich year.
One of the interesting things is that for instance on the Free Culture Research Conference there were a couple of talks which could have been given on an Oekonux Conference very well. Seems like we adopted some topics very early when we had our first conference in 2001 🙂 . Of course I kept a couple of speakers as possible speakers for [ox5].
The vision of post-scarcity is a popular but controversial meme in the debates of peer production. Post-scarcity envisions a world where everything is free as in free beer, where no payment or accounting is requirement for anything you use. Post-scarcity ideas usually rely very strongly on advanced technology, postulating that almost everything can be automated—or at least, everything that’s not fun and pleasant to do. Post-scarcity theorists also believe that advanced technology can provide enough natural resources and enough energy in order to satisfy everyone’s needs and wishes, possibly through extracting resources from space or through speculative future technologies such as nuclear fusion power.
A weak form of post-scarcity thinking is present in one of the founding documents of the free software movement, Richard Stallman’s GNU Manifesto (“weak” because there are still necessary tasks that are neither fun nor automated away):
[This article is also available in English.]
Das Copyleft hat beim Erfolg Freier Software eine wichtige Rolle gespielt. Copyleft stellt sicher, dass alle Versionen einer Software bzw. eines Dokuments frei bleiben. Es hindert Firmen daran, »verbesserte« Versionen eines Freien Programms zu privatisieren und als proprietäre Software zu verkaufen. Die erste und bekannteste Copyleft-Lizenz ist die GNU General Public License (GPL). Die GPL ist beliebter als alle anderen Lizenzen für Freie Software zusammen – sie wird für etwa 50–70% aller Freien Programme genutzt.
Auf den ersten Blick mag die Situation in den neu entstehenden Bereich Freie Hardware ähnlich aussehen. Auch hier sind Copyleft-Lizenzen wie die GPL und die Creative Commons BY-SA-Lizenz (Namensnennung + Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen) sehr beliebt (siehe unten für eine detailliertere Analyse). Aber tatsächlich ist es um Freie Hardware ganz anders bestellt, denn das Copyleft stützt sich auf das Copyright bzw. Urheberrecht, und Hardware ist (in den meisten Fällen) nicht urheberrechtlich geschützt.
[Diesen Artikel gibt es auch auf Deutsch.]
It’s probably safe to say that the copyleft principle has been essential for the success of free software. Copyleft means that all versions of a software or document will remain free, preventing companies from creating “value-added” versions of free programs and selling them as proprietary, non-free software. The GNU General Public License (GPL)—the first and most well-known incorporation of the copyleft principle—is used for about 50–70% of all free programs, making it more popular than all other free software licenses together.
At first sight, the situation in the newly emerging field of free and open hardware might seem similar—here, copyleft licenses such as the GPL and the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License (BY-SA) are very popular too (see below for a more detailed analysis). But actually, the situation is very different for hardware design, since copyleft relies on copyright, and hardware is (in most cases) not protected by copyright law.
This post continues my coverage of the Fourth Oekonux Conference. Johan Söderberg talked about the Czech open hardware project Ronja. RONJA was developed to provide a cheap, easily producible alternative to Wi-Fi, allowing wireless data transmission between computers. Amazingly, Ronjas use visible light for data transmission, but they are quite fast (10 MBit/s) and allow reliable point-to-point data transmissions, except in case of fog.
The goal of the Ronja project was not only to build affordable open hardware for data transmission, but also to allow the creation of anonymous, censorship-proof networks that can’t be controlled by companies or the state. All design information has been published under the GNU Free Documentation License. The Ronja hardware was sufficiently successful to be employed not only by private people, but also by companies.
From March 27th to 29th, the Fourth Oekonux Conference (announcement) took place in Manchester. It was great to meet some nice people again and to meet many nice and interesting people for the first time (in real life, that is, since I knew many participants already from virtual communications and it was a good experience to finally meet them in person).
Here are some quick notes which I wrote down during the conference sessions and polished and extended a bit afterwards.
During the first day, I didn’t took many notes, since I was busy as session helper (moderating the discussions and so on). Stefan Merten talked about Current limitations of peer production, and ideas on how to overcome them. Since Stefan doesn’t like the idea of social agreements between producers which might involve a coupling between giving and taking (as I discuss in my book), he is stuck with having to hope for technical solutions. Computers are machines for making perfect copies of digital goods, and Stefan hopes for machines can take make perfect copies of physical goods—the old Replicator dream.