Open source team creates apocalypse survival kit
DIY handbook for 50 top civilization-saving tools
A team of open source enthusiasts is putting together instructions for how to build 50 tools essential to establishing – or reestablishing – a civilization.
The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is being developed by the Open Source Ecology (OSE) group, and includes such basic tools as a well drill, steam engine, and brick making machine, along with more complicated devices such as a bulldozer, 3D printer, and 50kW wind turbine. These can be built from scrap or recycled materials at a fraction of the cost of commercial machinery.
“The basic principle is open hardware – building the machines to cover your basic needs,” OSE spokesman Nikolay Georgiev told The Register. “Basically, it’s about creating a civilization similar to what we have now, but on a smaller scale and all using open hardware.”
OSE bricking it
This isn’t some kind of idea spawned out of the end-of-civilization-in-2012 angst that is gripping some impressionable minds these days. Rather, it’s an attempt to make basic tools available in areas of the developing world that lack basic amenities, or for folks looking for a more sustainable lifestyle – or, for that matter, to simply to stash tool-building knowledge into the libraries of those who worry about what the future may hold.
The OSE was set up in 2003 by Princeton professor of fusion energy Marcin Jakubowski, who decided to go back to the land and start a farm in Missouri after an insight that he had no actual practical skills.
The Missouri move wasn’t a success, with fragile farm equipment and little experience, so he designed and built tools himself that were reliable, cheap, and simple designs that could be made by hand. The plan was to build tools designed for long life and maximum efficiency, and that cost the minimum to build and run.
While they won’t be winning any beauty contests, Jakubowski’s designs were capable of letting him plant 100 trees or make 5,000 bricks in a day – he even built a working tractor in six days at less than half the cost of a commercial vehicle, even when factoring in $15-per-hour labor costs.
“It’s about a newly relevant DIY maker culture that can hope to transcend artificial scarcity,” he told a recent TED lecture.
Eight basic tools, such as the four-wheel-drive tractor, hydraulic power cube, and brick maker (aka the "Liberator" Compressed Earth Block Press), are finished and the documentation is being finalized, but the team is short around $5m in funding and need more engineers to finish more-complex tools. Some tools, such as the laser cutter and circuit board printer, do seem a little ambitious, but the OSE is concentrating first on getting the basic machinery sorted out.
The Liberator DIY brick-making machine
“You have to be able to farm land,” Georgiev explained. “Then you start identifying your needs for a similar life to now and thinking how all technology could be developed. There’s not just one machine that does all things.”
A Kickstarter campaign begun last month has already reached its initial goal, but the campaign is still collecting funds to build a 5,000 square-foot production facility in Missouri, with ten living units for the development team. Documentation for the first eight machines should be online by the end of this year and the team is hoping to crowdsource specialist skills for different devices, with a goal of publishing DIY details for all 50 tools by the end of 2012.
Unfortunately, no machine complex enough to build an actual computer is on the 50-tool list, since the capabilities required are beyond a scheme that's designed to keep smaller units of people alive and in relative comfort.
“It should be possible to apply the principles to computer fabrication, but not for a group on the scale of a village. This is just the first level of the system,” said Georgiev. ®
You may think that's amusing, I'm not so sure.
James Lovelock, the man behind the oft-misreported Gaia theories, rightly pointed out a year or three ago that there is a potential big problem with the amount of modern knowledge that requires some kind of electronic gadget to read it. He didn't even go into the nightmare of incompatible media formats, incompatible applications, and incompatible file formats which the PC world have brought upon us in the post-magtape era.
If he turns out to be right...
Decades late, and sights set too high.
See "Whole Earth", for a start.
Trust me, as a dude who subsistence-level farmed his property for three and a half years, the last thing on my wish-list was a 3D printer. And it seems to me that Humanity has managed without a backyard brickmaker for a LONG time. As for a machine to plant 100 trees in a day? WTF?? I can plant about 100 seedlings in an hour by hand!
 Using 1850s technology, and totally off the grid. I wanted to prove to myself that I had payed attention to my grandfathers ... Yes, I was young, idealistic & stupid. Today, I use what I learned to help "at risk" yoof get a new perspective on life. It's amazing how fast attitudes change when you teach a kid something as basic as milking a cow, and then turning the milk into cheese. Milling wheat and running down to the coop to get eggs to make pasta is another big one :-)
No eternal Kindle.
Re: "You do realise its not beyond our current technology to build a fondleslab that would charge from Solar and last long enough to rebuild a basic technology base."
I don't think so. At least not one that you (or even a team of survivalists) could afford. A sophisticated device like that contains a number of components with limited lifetime, when you think in terms of decades instead of internet time...
Some time ago, I tried to fire up my Oric 1 home computer (bough in 1983). Power came up but it did not boot. My guess is that its EPROMs had become corrupted simply because the charge had leaked out of some of its memory cells in the 30 years since they had been written. And that was a memory device of several orders of magnitude less density than current devices.
If I were allowed to pick only one book, the one I would take into my survival bunker would the "Taitokirja" ("Book of Skills") compiled by Vilho Setälä. It is a thick tome from the 1950's full of short entries on building or fixing almost every item you would need in a 1950's -level household. The copy I have is still perfectly readable, unlike the Oric 1 EPROM.