My last entry in this blog sparked an interesting conversation with Yuna, and I felt that it deserved to be a post in its own right. Since asking for and receiving his permission to use the material, I’ve been mired in getting the first “leg” of the FabLab Library and Index up, and that work completed last evening (we now have over 40 products in the library’s index), so I turned attention back to the blog proper.
Everything Yuna mentioned in our conversation was true. Around the world, there’s a big push BY the planned obsolescence hegemony to minimize, and ultimately to outlaw sharing. Now, ostensibly, their focus is on piracy. Illegally sharing digital media files, but their actions and activities have ripple effects and ramifications that spread through other areas as well, including the open source and DIY communities.
How could it not? If people no longer need the government to provide them water and electricity…if they no longer need Big Agriculture to provide them with food, that’s a threat to the established order of things, and the folks at the top of the pyramid like the established order of things just fine, thankyouverymuch.
We’re not just talking about the digital world, either. It’s happening in the physical as well. Monsanto’s patenting of hybrid seeds, and the slow but steady disappearance and lack of availability of heirloom seeds makes it increasingly difficult for a person to take control of his or her own food supply in any meaningful way – at least without casting one eye back over your shoulder to see if a Monsanto lawyer might show up on your doorstep demanding to have a look at your seed stock.
Besides, having truly independent and empowered citizens complicates their lives (government and big biz) in other ways. For instance, what GOOD is gun legislation banning the sale of this or that, or requiring background checks when anybody with a few high-tech tools in their garage can just PRINT a gun, any time they want (and get all the files needed to do so for FREE, on the internet?) And if you can make almost everything you could ever want yourself, you might start thinking that you don’t really need the Corporatocracy at all. WORSE, you might start spreading your way of thinking and living to a wider audience, which would further erode their profits.
All true, and all unquestionably problematic for an effort such as this. I believe that when the villains of our story begin to appear, this is where they will initially come from. People who don’t understand what we’re doing, frightened by it, and utterly convinced that if we’re even marginally successful, then it must be because we’ve stolen someone else’s work and are using it illegally.
It’s something we’re going to have to be on guard against, and it’s something I’ve been personally careful to avoid thus far in the project’s design. If you go to the FabLab Library Index, for example, you’ll find that every entry is sourced. All the materials here are either open source and freely available elsewhere, or have been used with permission (raised beds, for example). That won’t stop our detractors from poking around and checking for themselves, and it may not stop them from trying to shut us down anyway–after all, as the network grows, it’s going to be an increasing threat to corporate profits, and I don’t suspect they’ll like that much), but that’s the reality.
If you don’t believe it’s an actual problem, check out the report by the National Coalition for the Homeless from 2014. Across the country, a growing number of cities are making it ILLEGAL to share food with the homeless. That’s crazy, but that’s where we are. Some areas are even trying to ban sustainable living. No growing your own food, no providing your own water…things like that. See here, here and here for examples. They’re actually telling people they can’t camp on land they own!
There is some good news though. A survey of DIY websites like Instructables shows a vast, vibrant, and growing community. The rise of 3d printing and the growth of independent FabLabs around the world have already proved that distributed manufacturing can (and is) working. Nearly 80% of the computers in use today run open source software.
The existential threats to these movements are quite real, and big business would like nothing better than to see it all go away. To see everyone, everywhere beholden to “The Company” for everything they need, and that puts everyone in the open source/DIY ecosystem in something of a “rebel alliance,” underground category. Play the Planet will be a part of this ecosystem, and as such, as our own network grows, we’re going to have to reach out, connect with, and assist the other members of this community. Only by uniting our efforts can we prevent the Corporatists from dominating everything. From making literally everything you have and everything you do, their business. So if you’re feeling a bit rebellious, find an open source or DIY community to start hanging out in. It could be Play the Planet, or it could be one of the others. Doesn’t matter. Ultimately, we’re all on the same team. Let’s keep the Genie out of the bottle where it belongs.