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Why is OSE so far up the technology chain? (What about water?)
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    December 2011
    Absolutely fascinated by the idea of a Civilization Starter Kit!
    (If I didn't need the rent money from my 2400 square foot shop, I'd be sorely tempted to start building OSE machines.)

    I see Open Source Technologies as the best pathway to self-sustaining communities that could thrive even if the the rest of the world goes down the crapper (and it's difficult not to conclude that it's rapidly headed that way).

    My point is that it seems like the OSE project might actually be starting a tad too high up on the technology scale (for me, at least).
    If this were my party (and it obviously is not), my question would be, "What would we need to start a self-sustaining civilization from scratch, using only what we can scrounge?"  Under that premise, if I were to build a Civilization Starter Kit, I'd start with simple technologies for securing water (no water = no life).
    Solar water stills, DIY water well drills, water-from-air distillers (see:, etc.

    Then again, maybe Marcin is asking and answering a different question than I am and he assumes readily available water.

  • 14 Comments sorted by
  • Vote Up0Vote Down December 2011
    Since one of the GVCS 50 is a well drilling machine, I think your perspective is a bit sideways - the point isn't starting from scratch - its starting from where we're at, to make designs that allow people to continue with what has been made.  We're not bootstrapping, we're creating the genesis of a design/idea set that is then supposed to undergo mitosis.  A global village construction set can both support people AND make another global village construction set.  Creating the first one is far more easily and realistically done from the previous and readily available non-gvcs technology that exists.  You don't evolve a new idea set entirely from scratch - you use the current idea sets as the fundamental basis.  To say 'we need to start with water' you may as well be saying 'we need to discard everything we know about hydrology and physics and start over'.  Machines are merely a realization of our ideas, and the ideas are merely being mutated and refined from existing knowledge, not built from complete scratch/ignorance.  Same for the initial set of machines.
  • I was just having that "where does the water come from" discussion with someone last night.

    Our conclusion was that it's less a question of how far up the technology curve you start and more a question of how big your initial investment is. If you literally start from scratch then your plan has to include a way for a group that can barely keep itself alive to produce enough profit to gradually buy the tractor and CEB press and whatnot. On the other hand, if you pool some resources so that on day one you have a CEB press and tractor and well-drilling rig and stuff like that, then you have a much better chance of actually getting a toe-hold and becoming self-sustaining.

    The suggested beginning to a village based on the GVCS would most likely include a long list of materials and tools you should buy from commercial sources before you start. Things like pliers and PVC pipe, for example. It makes a lot more sense for the GVCS to be a smarter way of doing things, not an alternative just for the sake of being contrary. If it's more economical to hire a professional well digger to get you a couple wells on day one then do that. You don't need to insist on doing EVERYTHING yourself.

    I'm not sure if it will ever make sense for the GVCS to include a machine for producing plumbing. That stuff is already a commodity. Unless someone comes up with a way to do the whole thing more efficiently then a GVCS alternative would actually be less efficient. Might as well solve the plumbing problem if it arises. No sense going and looking for work that's unnecessary.

    Making tubes is surprisingly difficult. They're almost always a flat sheet that's rolled and sealed somehow. Making the seal permanent is not a trivial thing. Then plumbing requires tubes of certain materials for various reasons. Maybe the bioplastic extruder will be able to produce a blend that works well as plumbing. But, if it does then that would just be one more machine you needed at the beginning of construction and its productivity would depend on what area you happened to be building your village. The time lost collecting raw material and processing it into plumbing components might not make up for the savings, in which case you'd be better off just buying your first batch of components commercially.

    I dunno. There's a lot of uncertainty in how this idea would actually be applied in the real world. There will probably end up being a wide array of solutions.
  • I think of this as the "bootstrapping problem" - how do you get from where you are now to an industrial grade replicable toolset (which is what the GVCS is).  I started a page to address that issue, and the basic idea is to move up from hand and portable power tools, to stationary power tools, to industrial grade tools, using each level to build the next level of tools.  For example, I found instructions to turn a hand electric drill into a sort of Drill Press. That is not as good as a full blown commercial drill press, but it's a step up and pretty cheap and easy to make.  So wherever you are now, as long as you can keep upgrading, you eventually get there.  The current Civ Starter Kit assumes you have an acetylene torch to cut stuff with.  Well, if you don't have that you can start with a hacksaw, or metal cutting blade in a circular saw.

    Along with the mechanics of building the higher level machines using the lower ones, is the question of paying for materials.  If you have a good paying job and can just buy stuff, great, but what if you don't?  My approach would be to sell products and services from what you have now to afford the next level.  For example, you have a sawmill and some portable tools.  You can do remodeling and storage buildings/garages with the lumber you produce, and use that to buy materials for the next tool upgrade.
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    December 2011
    I have had the same thoughts as Jesse, and yet I can understand why the GVCS is starting a step up from the basics. Ive always understood the GVCS of as being made by industrialized countries for industrialized countries. In this, it would be assumed that a person or people has immediate access to the basic nessesities of life, with a little extra to put towards building materials. If this project was being run out of a third world country with third world budgets and needs in ind then it would obviously contain fundamentally different machines then the ones that were chosen.

    For someone without water, for example, a machine that collects and purifies water would be the number one priority. A person with no need to think of water because it is in abundance will not include such a machine in their construction set and will instead focus on other things, like a tractor. Ultimately it would be preferable to have both the basics (water, food, shelter) AND the current GVCS on the same DVD so to speak. This way it doesn't matter where you are on the resource scale, there is still something there for you to work towards.

    In the current format, with current goals, it may be wise to view the project as an "Industrialized" Village Construction Set. Just my personal opinion of course, but it does make sense.

    On the topic of water, another interesting technology is the Living Machine by John Todd:
    I would also recommend the book "from eco-cities to living machines" by John Todd. It is a great read:
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    December 2011
    Although there is a "Well Drilling Rig" listed as one of the GVCS50, I think that it would be far more ecologically responsible to focus on harvesting rainwater & better water storage, because that can be done effectively anywhere that there is at least 7 inches of rainfall annually (per real-world-experiences of Mike Reynolds of Earthship fame).

    This way, we don't encourage folks to further deplete already declining aquifers, and at the same time, they may be better able to slow or stop needless erosion and topsoil losses in places with seasonal flooding/seasonal dry spells.
  • It's less about what is responsible and more about what is pragmatic. The organization has to prove itself if it's going to have any hope of getting the support it needs. That means it has to harvest the low hanging fruit first.

    Once they've got a couple dozen machines into alpha or beta prototypes, and a network of collaborators validating the designs, THEN they might start worrying about other machines. It's far better for OSE to build a tractor that just does tractor things, for 1/10th the price of a commercial tractor, and get lots of positive attention, then to fail to build something that will save the third world, and disappear into obscurity like so many previous organizations have.
  • Im afraid access to water is one of the fundamentals of any community.  The solutions have been the same for as long as humans have been around, you either put your community next to a source of fresh water (ie lake or river) or you get it from the ground (ie a well).  Rainwater can supplement these but you wouldnt want to rely on it as your only source.  Obviously as our ability to pipe water has improved, the distance our communities have got from these sources has increased but the fundamentals remain the same.

    What you do with the water once you have it is more of an issue.  Dirty water kills millions every year.  2 simple solutions:

    1)  Most of the power generation via steam could be used to provide clean distilled water for drinking.

    2) The Center for affordable water and sanitation is not mentioned in the wiki but provides their educational materials free, the biosand filter is particularly interesting as it is scalable
  • In third world countries (typically hotter than temperate), probably the easiest way to sterilized water is to set a clear plastic bottle of to-be-refined water in the hot sun on a hot tin roof. A few hours at high temperatures will make the water safe to drink. Plastic bottles are easily available as trash in much of the world. And a lot of houses even in the slums have tin roofs.

    But I do think that there are some tools that would be better if they were peddle powered… incidentally, these are easier to build with the gvcs tools than larger ones.. and I am not aware of an open-source data base of such tools.

    But if gvcs is not for developing nations (or Apocalyptic developed nations), what is it for? Is OSE just an open source hardware group that makes a tractor and brick press? No, the idea is for village-level autonomy, with some vitamins added in to get started. The amount of "foreign exchange currency" needed is supposed to be Very small once you have a gvcs to make another. This is why I think this is aimed at places without access to much of this external infrastructure or parts. Heck, an induction furnace is one of the very last things needed UNLESS you're going for autonomy. In that sort of discussion, we must also discuss producing plumbing (and before that sheet metal) and a Fischer tropch get up for making all manner of plastics, lubricants, etc.

  • Perhaps as a supplement to the global village construction set a database of open source pedal powered machines would be quite useful because of the fact that they are much cheaper and so can be bought and open-sourced much sooner and thus replicated much sooner. They are also likely to be more Capital efficient since they will be used much more frequently than similar heavy duty motorized tools. And for many jobs they will be more convenient because of the lack of need for additional energy sources and the much easier transportation of the machinery.

    It should be a lot easier to make this database of tools which are pedal powered because $10,000 should buy a dozen or so of these pedal powered tools including plans. A full tool set for making textiles from sisal leaves or milkweed or dogbane through to the textiles and ropes and twine itself would be pretty cheap and within reach of a tribe or an individual in a developed nation. And pedal powered tools could also be easily modified to run on electric power or hydraulic power, though the reverse is not true. And since the target size of the village is 200 individuals many of these tools are far more suited for a community of that size because there doesn't have to be one ironworker for each set of 200 people for example.
  • two quick points:

    1) You cannot use steam power to simultaneously distill drinking water.  You have to use and recycle distilled water in the system, or go through high pressure boiler tubes like they were cheap and risk system failure.

    2) The depth to water table can be determined through simple DC electrical measurements (one or more car batteries).  This is called the electrical resistivity tomography, and it can indeed be done DIY with basic math.

    Bonus 3) Rainwater in cisterns is great.  Also, Solar or combustion energy can be used to condense water on humid nights, which takes the same amount of energy as to boil the same quantity of water.
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    September 2012
    Here is a couple youtube videos about an atmospheric water condenser that has been made for irrigation but could easily be used for drinking water.
    Video 1
    Video 2

    It reminds me of the moisture farms in Star Wars on Tatooine.
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    October 2012
    Regarding Plumbing: if you're starting 'from scratch' or have a really tight budget, you can use bamboo canes for pipes, and considering several bamboo species hold all the top world records for fastest growing plant, production is not exactly difficult.
  • Vote Up0Vote Down
    February 2013
    Steam can absolutely be used to distill or pasteurize water. Just use the heat (i.e. heat exchangers)! Navy ships use steam heat to distill thousands of gallons of potable water hourly. Also, very little energy is required for pasteurization when heat regeneration is used (use heat to take water to high temperature for pasteurization, then use the hot water to preheat the incoming cool water). Add a sediment filter and perhaps a charcoal filter and water can can be processed from most fresh water sources or shallow wells at high rates and with good quality water had by using this approach.

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