Physicist Designs DIY Green Utopia Construction Set

A Princeton-educated physicist-turned-farmer is growing more than vegetables on 30 acres in Missouri. Marcin Jakubowski is developing a collection of machines designed to build and support villages that sustain themselves with everything needed for modern life—from energy to finished products.

“I am convinced that by injecting a little wisdom into our technology, we can tame technology for true human service,” Jakubowski says in an online biography.

Jakubowksi and members of the group he founded, Open Source Ecology, have constructed prototypes of 40 machines. The machines have interchangeable modular components that can be recombined for different applications, like garden tractor, car, or greenhouse.

The group is finalizing schematics it will publish free online. Plans for eight machines already have appeared through the Global Village Construction Set wiki.

“I believe that open society and open source economic development is a route to abundance and prosperity for all,” Jakubowski says. “I am convinced that until we learn to share, there will not be enough for everybody. Sharing means engaging in open source economic development… where everybody has access to best practices, optimized product designs, and access to local production.”

Using interchangeable parts and modules, the machines should be able to complete any task necessary for closed-loop manufacturing, Jakubowski says, with no need to import materials or energy from beyond the village.

A 2011 TED fellow, Jakubowski raised the curtain on his project during his fellowship presentation last month, but the Kleig lights flashed on Thursday when Leah Messenger wrote about his project for The Atlantic.

All of the machines, from the tractors to the laser cutter to the backhoe to the cement mixer, are designed to be modular, require only one engine, and be built with interchangeable parts so that a single machine can perform multiple functions. The machine that clears the land for the foundation of a building, for example, can then be reconfigured to pulverize the cleared soil into uniform pieces just under a centimeter in size. The same machine is then retooled again to transform that soil into bricks.

via The Atlantic.

Frustrated with the irrelevance of his education—B.S. from Princeton, PhD from Wisconsin—to pressing world issues, the Polish-born physicist turned first to farming, then founded Open Source Ecology in 2003. The group has been developing the machines for two years.

Jakubowski’s TED biography reads like a manifesto.

“I am a boundary-crossing iconoclast who believes that material well-being should not be a privilege that only the few can enjoy. I believe that the necessity ‘to make a living’ should not be an underlying force in civilization that prevents people from pursuing their true passions,” he says. “I am also convinced that economies based on artificial scarcity are coming to the end of their useful life.”