SandBenders

“I like your computer,” she said. “It looks like it was made by Indians or something.”

Chia looked down at her sandbenders. Turned off the red switch. “Coral,” she said. “These are turquoise. The ones that look like ivory are the inside of a kind of nut. Renewable.”

“The rest is silver?”

“Aluminum,” Chia said. “They melt old cans they dig up on the beach cast it in sand molds. These panels are micarta. That’s linen with this resin in it.”

From Wikipedia:Idoru, by Wikipedia:William_Gibson1

Context

I just posted this to Coworking Google groups

	There were some interesting things covered in this discussion/thread
	(interesting to me, anyway).
	
	One thing that is interesting to me, (as someone who's worked for
	quite a few years in the industrial/"blue collar" world before
	stepping into the realm of "information" economies), is that there are
	some possibilities for extending the Coworking model to different
	types of specialty technology fabrication, small scale specialty
	research and development, production, custom piece work, and
	collaborative design based on open design underlying license systems.
	This is what I foresee emerging to fill the demand for "retro fitting"
	our technological base and infrastructure in the US. There is lots of
	"old" infrastructure in the form of old buildings, machinery, aging
	telecommunications systems, etc.not to mention huge amounts of waste
	of re-usable raw materials, plus increasing energy and water demand,
	and decreasing supply, and increasing cost of good quality food due to
	cost of transport.
	
	I can see that it's  quite plausible that small groups with more
	"agile" network processes, and using some concepts from coworking in
	terms of sharing space , equipment costs, designs, etc could start to
	tackle these technological infrastructure evolution opportunities in
	new ways, using more "long tail" specialized production, instead of
	mass-produced goods. I think networks of independent researchers can
	work with networks of independent fabricators, and make their living
	producing and delivering small run, and specialized technology
	solutions, retro-fits to existing systems (like designing/installing
	new types of energy systems, new types of energy efficiency technology
	etc into existing building infrastructure). They could enter markets
	and compete by working with open licensed design, and by creating a
	technological cycle, and harvesting raw materials from existing waste
	material, and re-using it in perpetuity in a "technology" cycle.
	
	There really, truly is a whole new "second" industrial revolution
	opportunity waiting to happen, and Coworking can really help inform
	parts of it, in terms of making it possible for people to work in this
	sector as independents who share resources, and so can open licenses,
	and ideas that have emerged from the development of open source
	software.

(credit to DaveDoolin?, who replied with one word “SandBenders” which introduced me to this idea from CyberPunk ScienceFiction)

How it may work out

Right now, we have the networked personal computer as a kind of “great equalizer” for communications and information.

This one network-connected tool allows you to accomplish a whole plethora of things that were otherwise very resource and time intensive. not to mention the potential for collaborating with others in accomplishing those things. This one machine can potentially help a single person become quite a productive individual, in many different mediums.

We are also starting to see the emergence and evolution of technolgies like RepRap. I am imagining that this will evolve to the point where there will be a single machine that will have similar power, but in the physical production realm, instead of the data/information realm.

This one machine will allow you to:

  • Make many other machines that let you accomplish all sorts of flexbile and specialized uses.
  • Import the design data for these different machines in a computer that controls the “base” machine
  • Create machines that can process existing “waste” raw materials into new raw materials to make new things
  • Use these machines, and OpenDesign? frameworks to create technologies that work with Solar, wind, adn other re-useable resources to locally power their production machines in a clean way

This will open up a whole new way of producing physical products. This will also open up a whole new set of economic/resource sharing options.

WasteEqualsFood Raw materials will become either part of a TechnicalCycle or a BiologicalCycle (WasteEqualsFood).

CoworkingFabricators People who master these technologies will work together as loosley-coupled independents, sharing the expense of renting space, and neeed supplementary equipment, much like the existing http://coworking.pbwiki.com model for freelance software consultants.

ExistingFabricationTechnology

What we already have:

Many of the machines and technologies that I list above are still fairly expensive (tens to hundreds of thousand dollars in some cases, as of this writing). Yet, they are already far less expensive than in previous years. What to watch for, is when a set of machinery emerges that can make the machinery with capabilities listed above. Because, even if that machinery is in the $100,000 and above price range, it will be worth it, because of the capability it will provide. And, even if there are patents on the technologies listed above, there will either be ways to approximate without infringing on patents, or the manufacturers will realize this, and offer lower priced licenses to recreate their technologies.

Summary

These independent SandBenders (designer/engineer/fabricators) will be able to out-compete traditional manufacturers in many sectors of markets. They will be able to producee, AND customize a huge array of products. Existing mass production companies will start selling their own products through these people, because more and more people will be using their services. The SandBenders will have an edge by using OpenDesign? technology, TechnicalCycle, BiologicalCycle, WasteEqualsFood raw materials, OpenSource software, and money/resource pooling and cultures of sharing.

Other Resources

Discussion

Footnotes:

1. Published by Putnam in 1996

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