Re: [rp-ml] Open source whatchamacallits

From: Steve Baker (
Date: Wed Aug 10 2005 - 17:34:56 EEST

Brock Hinzmann wrote:

> As that infinity begins to spread, how can
> someone make money by making it easy for someone to find their way
> across the commons? Authorization, authentication, quality control,
> digital rights management, social networks, and so on.

There are ways to make money.

1) Sell raw materials.
    This seems obvious - but we'd hope that all of these
    plastic gizmos could be recycled in the home - so perhaps
    we don't need as much raw materials as you might expect.
    Also, I believe that if people feel they can fabricate
    something anytime they want it - and then recycle it just
    as easily - they won't keep as much 'stuff' in their closets,
    kitchens and garages as they do now. So there will be less
    raw material 'out there' than there is now.

2) Sell designs that are better than the OpenSource designs.
    * Because they use some patented technologies.
    * Because they come with safety guarantees.
    * That require servicing of some kind.

3) Fabricate stuff that's beyond what a domestic device can do:
    * Sell services to fabricate large parts
    * - or parts that need to be made of exotic materials (which
      might be dangerous or impossible to fabricate with a domestic
      3D printer).

4) Assemble parts into whole machines that are just too complicated
    for someone to assemble themselves.

5) At least initially, you'll have to buy stuff like motors, computer
    chips, sensors and bearings to put into your designs. There will
    be a market in churning out the three standard sizes of electric
    motors, the four different grades of 'smart' circuit boards and
    the dozens of different sensors that are too small or intricate
    to fabricate on a domestic machine.

It's all very well to have a refrigerator-sized box in your garage
that can produce all the parts to make a car - but you still have to
bolt them all together and make it work. How many people could (or
would want to) be presented with all of the individual parts of a
Ford Explorer and have to assemble it before they could drive it?

Who would trust a car made from OpenSourced parts? What would happen
if a wheel fell off halfway down the freeway? Who would you sue?

There is a market for trustworthy designs.

So there must be a class of items that you'd WANT to pay someone to
fabricate for you.

Personally, I think there will eventually be a stable equilibrium
in the OpenSource software world.

If OpenSourced software totally took over from commercial products,
there would be no jobs left for programmers. If programmers could
not make a living, they'd have to switch to a different career path
and as a direct consequence, there would be less OpenSourced software
development. That would lead to more places for commercial products
to make money - resulting in more jobs for programmers and more
OpenSourced stuff.

That's a stable equilibrium. Once reached, it will be hard to disturb
since it's self-correcting.

There has to be an equilibrium point where commercial companies can
make enough money in niche markets to employ the programmers who (in
their spare time or whatever) produce the bulk of the OpenSourced stuff.

I believe the exact same thing would be true for OpenSourced designs
for everyday items. Stuff like plates and knives and forks, simple
kids toys - those things would be likely to be 100% OpenSourced.
Complicated things like microwave ovens, cars, personal jetpacks
or whatever would be commercial products. Somewhere in between
would be a grey area where OpenSource and commercial would have to
fight it out.

---------------------------- Steve Baker -------------------------
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