Ok… so a couple of weeks in, I have a perfectly working laser-cutter.
The controller of which (only) runs a piece of software called LaserCutter 5.3, which is one of most inadequate piles of shite I have ever seen. It only runs on Windows XP. It looks like it was written 20 years ago. It’s also cripple-ware, which means it’s been deliberately crippled to only run with a USB dongle
(this usb-stick could kill your business)
… aaaaaannnnnddd … the dongle has stopped working… which takes the entire machine out of commission until a replacement can be sent from China… only they won’t send one until the broken one has been sent back. Several weeks, minimum.
And for what? A fucking dongle?
If you’re thinking of buying a laser cutter DON’T buy one that uses a MPC6515 controller – which uses the DRM crippled LaserCut 5.3.
So… it’s looking like I might be looking at an open-source variant sooner than expected.
Here’s a stop-motion vid of open-source Lasersaur being put together. Far nicer looking machine than the commercial ones, and user-innovations (can) get fed back into the next iteration. I’m not sure that it does rastar-engraving mind… and that’s kindof crucial.
(NB: This sort of collaborate approach to putting-stuff-together may be great for learning, but it’s not generally how creativity happens. If you want to do any actual thinking, you’re probably better off doing it on your own. Collaboration is massively over-rated, in my most humble of opinions. Extroverts love it)
From Mechanical Paper Model… and to be fair, this is a lifetime’s work (or at least a decade or so) compressed into about 4 minutes… and it is pretty amazing.
And/But… (a trick of the light) the “thing” is not the robot; the thing is the video of the Making Of the robot.
It’s like the prime memetic driver is “I could do that too”… and any bit of content with that embedded in it, has more traction than something that merely looks fantastic. Which is obvious I suppose. It seems like an artefact now has a 4th dimension… a time dimension almost… a lifecycle dimension, and it feels like offering an object as a fait-accompli, is missing an entire dimension. Or maybe that’s just me.
That said, that video is less than a month old, and it’s been seen about 1/4 of a million times… which would be par for the course if it was a Brittany video or something (is there still a Brittany?)… but this is making a little robot out of paper. It’s Nerdware.
It’s a bit like a “making of” things they have for movies… but they do actually want you to make it. You’re actually told everything you need to know to make your own… encouraged to make your own… and crystallised within that intent, is all the vitality of the maker-movement, and the internet iteslf…
… as opposed to Hollywood, which although it makes “making of” movies, has reacted so stupidly to people attempting to “do that too”, that it’s basically made itself the enemy of humanity. It takes the money we give it to lobby our Govts to try to impose state/corporate censorship and surveillance on us.
This… “IP” is the direct, diametric opposite of where all the vitality and energy is coming from. It’s the diametric opposite of the future, and it’s the diametric opposite of what humanity needs. Innovation does not come from charging rent on future innovation.
I gave this speech recently – in which I went on about the 3rd Industrial Revolution… saying “Community is the Intel Inside of the 3rd Industrial Revolution”. The industrial revolutions of the past have all come about when a new communication technology meets a new energy source. So the first was Steam and Literacy. The 2nd was Petroleum and electrical communications: Phone/TV/Radio. And I said “So now we’ve got The Internet… but the energy source???” and I left it hanging – and said we don’t know what the energy source is going to be.
But after a couple of months reflection, I think the energy source is actually free information. I think the energy source is The Internet doing to Information what Jesus did to Loaves and Fishes. We suddenly have all this abundance – with information at least.
And “IP” is an attempt to take that away. We need to abolish “IP”. We need to abolish the people who are trying to inflict it on us.
… but it came to this. They were destroyed by business optimised for scarcity. Deliberately. They got rid of the guy who’s baby it was, then they borrowed money until they ran out, then they destroyed it.
If this was an (open-sourced) software project, it would be given to the community.
When I was in London once I found an entire skip of Thomas Dolby singles… 1000s of boxes – each with a black-and-decker put through them. This is what intellectual property does. It has to destroy abundance to work.
And so it came to pass… Microsoft put together a piece of hardware that was almost instantly hacked into lots of different things. They thought they were selling a game-controller, but actually they were selling a platform.
Like Lego back in the day… Microsoft weren’t entirely sure how to react to this. Their initial take was
“Microsoft does not condone the modification of its products. With Kinect, Microsoft built in numerous hardware and software safeguards designed to reduce the chances of product tampering. Microsoft will continue to make advances in these types of safeguards and work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.”
IE: Out of control IP bollocks again. But then (for whatever reason… the cool kids took over?) they backed off… and now they’re celebrating the diversity of innovation that arose. This is their “Kinect Effect” page… a screen-grab below in case they delete it.
Microsoft’s Vision Of A World Without IP:
They’re quite deservedly proud of what’s being done – it’s not just people using it to control micro-copters, there are real, life-saving and enhancing benefits here.
Now Kinect is fairly unique in the range of possibilities it can offer – but what Microsoft have inadvertently done here, is offer a glimpse at what the world would be like if EVERY innovation was re-useable by other people. As it should be. If we abolished the illogical, immoral and detrimental-to-human-progress-and-happiness notion of “Intellectual Property” completely.
You can never tell how an innovation is going to be reused down the track… what starts out as a cute toy, winds up being a mechanism for a space-elevator, and any idea that if you innovate (based on thousands of years of prior-innovation) you have the right to choke upstream innovation, is just wrong. Everything should be GPL… or better still, public domain. Make money from things or services, not by creating micro-monopolies on ideas. That’s just evil.
Sure we need to make money (for the moment) – but making it by choking the innovation of others is immoral and unproductive… especially as this “control of information” aggregates upstream and is specifically used by corporations to stifle competition… which it is.
And in case you’ve been indoctrinated into thinking that people don’t create unless they’re paid, this sentence you’re reading has been written by me for free, is served via WordPress (which runs 20% of the world’s new, active websites) which runs over PHP, Mysql and Linux – which runs the majority of the world’s web servers. And there are fortunes being made from these things… but it comes from the world of abundance, not artificial scarcity. Human innovation is not a scarce commodity.
Microsoft have accidentally opened a window onto the world of abundance.
“why is it that wifi coverage in disaster-zones, war-zones, slums, refugee camps is better than what I can get in my classy hotel?”
To which I replied “Because your classy hotel is interested in creating “billable events”, so they optimise for scarcity”
Now Optimizing For Scarcity” is a concept I first heard in the video below – John Perry Barlow speaking at a conference hosted by one of the world’s most repressive “IP” regimes, for the benefit of large corporations – the gist of the entire event being “how can corporations and govts control the web?”. They invited JPB by mistake.
So that’s where it’s from.
Optimizing For Scarcity.
This is what corporations tireless and relentlessly do – they are completely about “making the maximum amount of money while delivering the smallest amount of value.
The reason hundreds of millions of people die of… well, lack of these…
is because the institutions that deliver them are privatised, and therefore optimised for scarcity… and for those that aren’t privatised, there is a relentless pressure for them to be privatised. This is the end-goal of IMF colonialisation… to privatise the basic life support system, because when you do, you’ve basically got the population over a barrel.
Which is why in Bolivia it was illegal for people to collect rainwater from their rooves.
Which is why the first thing the US imposed on Iraq was a law making it illegal for farmers to plant seeds from the previous year’s crop.
Which is why in London, Rent is over 50% of the average income.
Which is why education has gone from being a basic human right, to an “investment”, the cost of which is geared to barely justify itself.
This is why the chocolate bars are so much smaller than they were when you were a kid. It’s not because you got bigger… they actually ARE smaller. It’s because there are people who’s only job it is, to pour over spreadsheets to see how more money can be charged for delivering less.
The purpose of bean-counting is to deliver fewer beans, for the same money.
The purpose of “IP” is to stop you re-planting the beans.
We need to recognise that optimising for scarcity is killing more people than Mao, Stalin, Hitler, and all of the religious nuts in the whole of human history put together (which for the record, is 67M + 47M) (Christianity was only marginally less dangerous than the black death).
We need to recognise that while corporations are good for providing soap and laptops, when they get into a position where they control life-support, they (systematically) become extremely dangerous.
We need to recognise that the bias towards optimising for scarcity is actually built into our currency – which is lent into existence as a scarce resource, rather than representing value created.
Or, in a nutshell, we need open-source everything.
One of my themes here (or at least tags) is “Are We There Yet” Technology – ie: technology that we’re always hearing news about, but which never seems to fucking arrive.
You know what I’m talking about.
Matchbox-sized video projectors
Personal Robots that actually do anything useful
The Biotech revolution
And so on. I’m not talking about flying cars or laser cannons or trans-galactic space flights or those stupid see-through screens… not sci-fi stuff that everyone wants because they’ve seen it in a movie, I’m talking about the stuff that fill blogs.
Now I think the energy crisis is going to dissolve in the next 20 years. Maybe even the next 10. I think that a mixture of solar and gen-tech algae are going to cover it. The solar side of things is going to meet the-web-of-things half-way, and conspire to make everything very efficient… so there is no need for a house that sits in the sun all day to be on-grid for lighting (duh)… because we’ve stopped using lightbulbs that run on 240v. There’s no need for a house that sits in the sun all day to rely on a power-station 400 miles away to heat water.
Sure we might need something else – like micro nukes (still a bad idea) if we want to carry on making 18 trillion beer-cans a year… but for the stuff we actually need… for the basic civilisational hierarchy of needs, I think the problem is going to dissolve. New tech is going to cover it.
It’s a way of converting CO (and other) exhausts into ethanol. Now this isn’t some TED-oid bit of standing-ovation-fishing vapourware… they’re actually doing it. Their demo-plant in NZ is producing 5 million gallons of ethanol a year – and they’ve just sold the tech to a Korean company… which (if I’ve got this right) produces 33.7M tonnes of steel a year… which means about 50M tonnes of greenhouse-gases. Now this system won’t capture all of those gases… but to put that in perspective, the other day the pro-nuke shills were bewailing the idea that Germany getting rid of nukes was going to add 40M tonnes a year in Co2. For a couple of years.
This process will make a healthy dent in that, from one factory alone.
Read the website though. Christ on a bike, they simply cannot get over themselves re: “ownership” of the organism. Forgetting for the moment that this was partly tax-payer funded, you can’t fucking “own” life. Fuck what the law says, the law is wrong. At a basic logical level, patenting life is a software patent. We’re dealing in software here. Programming it in different ways, sure but it’s still software.
The legal frameworks constricting biotech are being put in place to fuck it before it’s even started – if this had happened with computers, we wouldn’t have an internet. We probably wouldn’t even have fucking computers.
Big talk on the insanity of IP Law from a lawyer who actually thinks we need it here:
“7 Ways To Ruin A Technological Revolution” – and looking at this, I’d say it’s not entirely off the cards that America simply doesn’t survive it’s own IP laws. If you’re starting a tech business, you’d be much better off doing it in a place like Brazil… or Iceland… or some place where you can simply tell corporate lawyers to fuck off.
For example around 1/2 an hour into that video… someone has attempted to patent the gene-sequences “OR, AND, IF-THEN, IF-NOT”. That’s fucking software. Can you imagine where computers would be if that level of ring-fencing went on back in the day?. We should physically fucking destroy these people.
I think a similar B2B before B2C thing is happening with solar – Konarka have been able to do $1 a watt for… ooh, at least a year – and every couple of months I keep visiting their site to see if you can actually buy the stuff… and apart from fucking solar backpacks, it seems to be industry-only. I might be wrong about that, but that’s the impression I get.
So what’s happening here is that the first markets to be catered to are the ones with million dollar budgets. Well, wouldn’t you? And maybe that’s where the maximum benefit is. And maybe it’s not.
Meantime, from the cheap seats…
The Makerbot of biotech – OpenPCR.org – where you (yes you) can buy a DNA sequencing machine for $512. Now this isn’t quite the same thing as Craig Venter’s DNA synthesiser… but it’s a start.
Trouble is, “the alphabet” that makes up this technology is being ring-fenced by corporate IP. This revolution is at about the same stage (we are repeatedly told) that computers were in the early 80s. Unless we radically cut back IP – and personally, I’d kill it completely, we won’t have an internet. We probably won’t even have a computer.
And on that note, here’s a computer for doing protein-folding calculations made out of lego
Probably illegal in some way… or more accurately, if you tried to sell it, you’ll probably be sued… and there’s nothing you can do about it, because you can’t afford it. IP Law is not an encouragement to innovate, it’s a threat and a tax hanging over innovation… so severe that you probably need VC money (aka: be owned by someone rich) to start anything.
Outsource everything to the Favela. It’s the only way of being safe.
I don’t know if any of that’s true actually, it is the way it’s starting to feel though.
Although I think you need mirrors and whatnot to get anything resembling a laser-beam. Still… if this gen-tech revolution that has been on the horizon for pretty much our entire lives, ever hits, it’s going to (as they say) change everything. A Golden Age. Maybe.
Nope. Because what it will do… what its promise is, is…
…dissolving scarcity… and the trouble with capitalism, is that it needs scarcity. People Not Having Enough is what capitalism lives on.
It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out… Craig Venter has done a $600M deal with the most evil corporation on the planet, Exxon Mobile… It’s not entirely impossible that in the next 20 years we’re going to see The Napster Of Food, The Napster Of Pharma, The Napster Of Energy… all from a bathtub of bugs that reinvent themselves for free. Expect Evil. Expect a lolly-scramble over “IP” in which only the bullies get anything. “Intellectual Property” is going to get uglier and uglier and uglier.
“Intellectual Property” is a fake constraint, designed to create a fake scarcity, set up so only the bullies win.
Kill the bullies, that’s my advice. If the deaths of the entire executive of every big pharma conglomerate can create the leverage to save hundreds of millions of lives, then it’s got to be done. It’s traveling sideways in time to kill Hitler. Hitler was only responsible for what? 60 Million? If a corporation tries to corner the water supply of an entire planet, then all bets are off – if it was a foreign occupying force, we’d go scrapping-mad with guns. Well it’s happening. We need to recognise that globalised corporate power is globalised baronialism, or facism or Romanism or whatever-evil-it-is-that-is-reinvented-in-every-age. We need to crush it down to a size where it is democratically accountable.
After that we can go skateboarding in the Sahara…
…if indeed we’ve turned it to concrete, which we probably haven’t. Becuz… we know humanity well enough now to know that trying to control change is almost always more dangerous than the change itself.
To be honest, I only read the title. Still… scary title… and you know… to the point.
Adendum 2: More perspective, listen to this Podcast. Forget that this isn’t happening in your village, or your city, or your country (although it probably is)… forget that this isn’t happening to you. It’s happening to us.
and put the whole lot in a blender, for about 20 years… where does that leave us?
Personally I think we (earthlings) need to start pursuing abundance as an end in itself, because otherwise what we’re doing is creating artificial scarcities that have the sole purpose of giving an aristocracy leverage to turn us all into fucking serfs.
We are not here in this world to find elegant solutions, pregnant with initiative, or to serve the ways and modes of profitable progress. No, we are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on earth, and if you ask me about those insoluble economic problems that may arise if the top is deprived of their initiative, I would answer ‘To hell with them.’ The top is greedy and mean and will always find a way to take care of themselves. They always do.
No, we are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves – like Jesus did when he pirated loaves and fishes. When he made them abundant. That’s what we’re here to do. And a damn good place to start is by creating a universal library in the sky… accessible to all humanity. This is easy and simple. It’s “with the flow of history. It is happening by itself.
It means we need to scrap the false-scarcity… the state-granted monopoly known as “Intellectual Property”. I’m done with this bullshit. Get rid of it all.
Which is pretty cool, because if there’s one thing I hate with a fiery bloody passion, it’s anything proprietary.
I need to control my video camera from a little laptop – so I buy a little laptop, and the proprietary software says it can’t install because the screen is too small – so I need to temporarily VGA it to a bigger monitor… but I can’t because those fucking cock-wits at HP have made the VGA out a proprietary cable, without providing you with the cable – so you have to ring up HP to “buy it”, but instead you get passed around a load of people and eventually wind up with someone who doesn’t pick up the fucking phone.
So yes – the project above is probably breaking the DMCA, but the DMCA deserves to be broken and the people who lobbied for it and passed it into law deserve to be thrown off the Tarpeian rock and eaten by alligators and toddlers.
And they will be. Oh yes, they will be.
But that aside, this is a neat little project – and it’s an example of… what? Something. It’s an example of something.
It’s an example of the abundance/scarcity divide not just being a pattern in the wallpaper, but being an actual, real, unspannable chasm… and this unspannable chasm isn’t just a biproduct of what’s going on, it IS what’s going on. It is the fundamental thing that is happening. There has been a shift in the technology, allowing this polarity – and now this polarity is driving the technology.
The killer app of Apple’s stuff is that greed-heads can control information, and create fake-scarcity. The killer app of the open web… of open-everything, is that it provides specific tools to break fake scarcity.
That’s is THE killer ecosystemic-enabler of Android – people will buy Android specifically so they can break IP law… because IP law deserves to be broken. IP law is wrong – it serves wealthy corporations who have shown total disregard for the democratic integrity of the nations that host them – so it’s a moral imperative now that they be destroyed. The fact that Murdoch and Steve Jobs teamed up recently, really ought to come as no surprise to anyone. They’re vectors of the same mental-illness. Scarcity. Control. Prevention. Prohibition.
And sometimes I worry you know? The web has been attacked a lot this year, and freedom generally is being attacked everywhere… but I sometimes get these fleeting flashes of just how big, and how powerful the memosphere really is… we’re going to sweep everything before us… and what was once just a hey-neato passing novelty – entertainment… is now war.
Still whatever. Stephen Fry told me about the OpenVizsla thing – saying he’d invested in it, and that maybe we should to. So I… will.
The old model means that artists have to beg for permission to do anything, every step of the way – this is played out in the grotesque accidental parody on the “talent quest” shows that are played by the dying TV industry every single night. American Idol. America’s Got Talent…
…emotionally damaged “models” singing other people’s songs, pushed to the point of emotional/psychological collapse. If that doesn’t perfectly describe the legacy-music-industry, I don’t know what does.
3% of .001% get paid. This is the industry that’s trying to cripple the internet.
I can remember a Sonic Youth interview where they said they had an album of radio-ready songs. The optimism was tragic… pathetic. There was no way they were going to get on the radio. It simply wasn’t going to happen.
I have seen the best talent of my generation wasted and marginalised because they couldn’t get on the radio.
That video above was some guys from Scotland… friends of mine managed by my great friend Rich,
…and every time they brought out a record, he’d sit around nervously for a couple of weeks waiting to see if it was going to get radio play… they never did. It was fucking heartbreaking to watch.
This is the old model… the legacy industries. The whole thing is predicated on the “tastes” and the bribability of self-appointed gate-keepers, resulting in a structure where 3% of those .001% that “succeed” make enough money to live.
It’s all based on a series of scarcities that were once structural, but are now artificial. We no longer need them.
So. Artists now have 2 choices -
1) go via the old industry in which they’re “owned” and have a very tiny chance of being paid
2) go via the internet… via Peer to Peer recommendation by having videos on youtube, tracks that they encourage people to share. Probably won’t get paid much (artists never do (chart of methods here)), but at least it’s your show. At least when the day comes to license your track to some advertising company, YOU get the money.
#2 is the new radio. This is how people find out about things now.
Here’s that song from the top again
You’d never have heard it without a person to person network. Because it didn’t get on the radio.
If you didn’t know them from back in the day, and the internet wasn’t here, you’d never have heard it at all. It would be out of print… dead.
Oh – and that’s a fan video by the way. That’s an advert that someone has made for the for free because they love them.
Now, the golumn-oid legacy industries want to keep tight control over everything – to prevent, to restrict… they will often stop their own artists trying to be alive in the network, for example:
Bat For Lashes got their own video pulled from their blog, MGMT are thwarted at every turn, The Treadmill Guys left EMI because EMI wouldn’t let them participate on youtube, and Sony, have blocked embedding of the original of the video above, because they’re idiots, who don’t understand the medium, and I bet half the people that work for Sony spend their lives in a state of frustration, KNOWING how anachronistic and meaningless their own company is.
Which places me in a bit of a quandary because… my new fav band
They’re great, I’d like to support them but I can’t because it says “sony music”.
I am digital couch-hezbollah. I am morally bound to:
1) support independent artists
2) pirate / reclaim legacy-industry culture – and do whatever it takes to destroy the old industry.
So this is my act of civil disobedience – which is what participating members in a democracy are morally bound to do when they become disenfranchised.
Unfortunately, I’m kindof stuck over what to do when I find an artist that’s signed to the evil-empire. What I am willing to pay is more than the price of a CD… but I’m not going to give it to fucking Sony.
And they’re lobbying risibly corrupt political systems to attack the ONLY means by which all but a tiny fraction of artists can be heard – to try to turn an abundant resource into a gate-keeper-controlled one. Controlled by them.
This should be a crime. There should be a word for it. A nasty one: “attempting to create fake scarcity”. It’s morally bankrupt, and culturally bankrupting.
Peer to Peer is the new radio. It’s where all the vitality is. Without it, your band won’t get heard. Without it you won’t hear the next thing you love.
We don’t need the major record companies… we don’t need the legacy industries – and if they’re going to try to damage the web, we should delete them.