For $56, farmers in India can control the pumps that irrigate their fields… which saves them walking for miles, sometimes for nothing, because the pump-driving-electricity is a bit erratic. It’s called Nano Ganesh.
I can see this as a general principle becoming very widespread – cellphones as controllers for everything. This is looking something like physical telecommuting – where instead of working (in your underpants) on information-processes that are anywhere on the planet, you’re working on physical activities… farming for example.
There’s a movie that I haven’t seen yet that seems to have a fair bit of this – in an entirely unpleasant and exploitative sort of way:
Which you can watch in Spanish etc, because the one with that gravelly hollywood-ese American voice-over is simply too stupid to live.
It’s a nightmare vision this though… it’s not labour-saving in the sense that a farmer saves herself walking for miles just to turn a pump on and off, it’s labour-saving in the sense that the cost (and therefore value) of human labour has been pushed down to the point that people have become inhabitants of matrix-like virtual-sweatshops.
And this is an inevitable artifact of the fact (and I’ll say it again) that our money system is not based on abundance of production, but is lent into existence (at interest) as a scarce resource. Our monetary system has poverty built into it.
He’s made an appropriate technology that can be put together anywhere on the planet… he’s done the whole open-source thing – the “design” is there for anyone to use for free, and he even shows people how to make them themselves (in fact there’s a video of him making one in 3 minutes on his site), but his business is selling the actual physical product (and satellite items). He’s retired, has a massive youtube channel which he uses for chatting and customer support… offers advice on hiking and safety etc… his video channel has videos of his cat…
I really like the way there’s no delineation between life and work and play… it’s all the same thing. In addition to this, the process is the product. The whole life-cycle is there for anyone to see. No secrets. No SEO. No $30,000 site makeovers and Web-2.0 consultancy.
I’d buy one of these just because I like the guy. This is good advertising. There’s no deception or clever marketing techniques – it’s just someone being himself, doing something that he’s good at and likes doing.
So there you go. Here’s a wood-burning variant, with a little electric fan
(from : and the conversation in the comments contains a fair bit of knowledge as well)
Which is something that has caught on, and proliferated throughout the entire neighbourhood. What we need to do (now that 1/2 the human race have cellphones) is to hone the teaching-aids… video, text, diagrams etc etc such that information like this can be spread rapidly, globally.
Which in some ways misses the point, but raises points of its own… maybe the way around dumping/recycling the billions of plastic containers that we throw away each years is to make them useful in their own right.
As an even more tangential aside, I bought a bottle of water here in NZ the other day – the container of which boasted it was made of cellulose… looked and felt (and tasted) just like a normal plastic water bottle. I left the empty container on the seat of my car in the sun – when I came back it had shrunk to the size of a lightbulb.
Neologism of the day : Junkstrapping – which is like bootstrapping, but using junk rather than off-the-shelf components.
And here it is:
The design philosophy is something like:
- made out of bits you can find pretty much anywhere for free-ish.
- no permanent attachments – no glue, staples, nails etc so you can experiment/swap bits
- avoid big bits of stuff – because they can be hard to find.
- flexible design so it can be built round the hardest to find bit – the glass.
So there it is. It’s
- 3 layers of cardboard box cardboard,
- a couple of bits of polystyrene
- a window pane
- a load of beercans cut in half and crimped together
- a bit of copper tube at the top
- all connected together with bicycle inner tube.
All of which I scrounged from local businesses – the most beneficial aspect of which is that you get to talk to and befriend local business peeps… apart from the beer cans which I was forced to buy and drink myself. I also put tape around the edge of the glass because its sharp etc.
So there you go. I’m going to go through a bit of an experimental phase… I think double glazing it would be a good idea, and it will need to be water-proofed. I’d like to get away without using polystyrene if I can as well.
But there it is… a reasonably overcastish sort of day, but bright enough to cast a shadow…
… and the bit of pipe sticking out the side is too hot to touch.
I’ll make an instructable or something once I’ve gone through a few more iterations. I’ll need to get some more beer cans as well probably.
The wind-up radio guy won all sorts of prizes (if memory serves) for bringing the possibility of radio etc to people who don’t have access to electricity – and to be fair, I’m a lot more interested in innovation for people at the bottom than people who like to think of themselves as being at the top…
… so it is with a certain wry disdain that I present to you…. The Self-Winding Cellphone, from the posh-blog “Born Rich” which is every inch an expose of the poverty of design-ideas being thrown at the wealthy. It reminds me of the crashingly tasteless Brady-Bunch era craft-fad of sticking seashells to ashtrays – except this time round you stick Swarovski crystals to things, and flog them to oligarchs… or more accurately, fill magazines with them and flog them to people addicted to envy. I mean really… don’t you people feel… “owned”?
A self-winding phone is an excellent idea. Not for people who are rich but for people who are poor.
Yea, so obviously I was born back in the days (more or less) of Silent Running, although I’ve never actually seen it… and the only decent looking vids on youtube (apart from the entire movie, which I don’t have time to watch because I have the attention span of a squirrel) with proper domes and spaceships etc, also have Joan Baez singing over them which makes me feel like I’m going insane.
It looks like this:
But in space:
So anyway, that’s what I want… and now handily (handily, because we’re all fucked) there’s this Australian company that sells the bits to set up a similar (kindof) sort of thing in your backyard, (or front-room), helpfully showing you how to make one using your own bits etc.
Which is bonzer.
Click through to Youtube to see the related videos etc.
We need to learn resilience, and this isn’t a bad place to start methinks.
It’s a little power supply with rechargeable batteries, a solar panel, and a crank-handle for recharging.
I think I’ll have a go at making that – although I’ve had a bit of a tinker with solar cells recently, and they’re distressingly weak. I think there’s a lot more mileage to be gained from making devices more efficient than making solar cells more powerful. It always bugs me when people point to charts of our energy usage and make claims about “what we will need tomorrow”. We should just fucking use less. It’s not that hard. I think a major part of the problem is that people simply have no idea at any given time how much they’re using… or any way of putting that knowledge into context even if they did know. Which they don’t.
That’s why I think Graphical energy monitors are such a good idea, they’re just way too expensive at the moment. They should be free. They should be compulsory – I mean according to the centameter lot they knock a 1/4 off your power bill. What would that do to the doom-sayer’s graphs? It would fuck them up, that’s what. They’d have to get proper jobs.
Anyway, back to the Personal Power Plant thing, I think the way to go with this thing is make it a sort of open-source plug-in platform… so if you want you can plug a windmill into it, or some sort of thermo-thing… because although it may be snowing everywhere else in the world right now, where I am it’s so hot that the tar is melting out of the roads and flowing down the gutters. There’s a hell of a lot of energy blowing about the place for free all the time. We just aren’t bothering to collect it.
I think we’re going through a revolution in toolmaking… the open-sourcing of everything (bringing with it the promise of only having to work two hours a day to sustain yourself) means that what we’re doing is… going back to the beginning and reworking our entire technological history, at a more human scale.
I think this is part of the reason why it’s utterly critical to bypass or destroy the existing system of patents and copyrights. We can’t allow the simple building blocks of our life support systems to be taxed. We can’t allow innovation to be taxed… and really, it isn’t even tax. It’s more like a toll that’s arbitrarily extracted – not at a river crossing, but at a gap in a fence – and the only purpose of the fence is to create a gap that can be tolled.
But I digress… or more accurately, now I will digress: Check out these amazing dolls-house tools from David Brookshaw
Amazing. I love it when people do aesthetics to functional (albeit tiny in this case) objects purely for the sake of aesthetics… like this arduino from liquidware which is beautiful purely for the sake of being beautiful… but still works.
For some reason I find it really annoying when people do aesthetics to things that don’t (and won’t) work. What I refer to neo-paleo-futurism. It’s a waste of design talent. Or maybe it’s just playing… whatever, it still annoys me.
Absolutely – I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt because I myself have laid awake at night trying to figure out how to turn empty water bottles into algae farms. I imagined they would go sideways though… like these:
Of course when I was younger I could actually tell the future… kindof… which is to say, I managed to convince myself I could learn a lot about people’s inner psyches from looking at the backs of their hands, and their shoes.
Now I’m not so sure… but I must confess, that the fact that the plastic water bottle guy in the first vid also seems to be wearing shoes made out of plastic water bottles as well… well, that does set off alarm bells.
Still, whatever. Sometimes you know things are right, just from the way they look.
I love this stuff. It’s a green alchemical gold-rush. So much accidental greatness is going to come out of this, I can just smell it.
It’s like instructables - but a lot simpler, with a lot of general scientific building blocks/principles turned into toys etc.
This stuff has so much more imaginative potential than the mountains of injection-moulded crap that turns up in Toysrus. It would be cool to have a similar site which has building blocks of really useful technologies – like using plastic bottles to sterilise water etc. Kindof like a Lifehacker style knowledge-sharing site for the billions of people on this planet who don’t have access to clean water etc.