Re: [rp-ml] Open source whatchamacallits

From: Adrian Bowyer (
Date: Wed Aug 10 2005 - 17:21:18 EEST

I agree with all that Steve says below, but with two very important caveats.

First, all the scams that he describes companies using at the moment rely on the
fact that the design of the hardware is controlled by those companies. That in
turn relies on the fact that it costs millions of dollars to set up an X-box
factory, or whatever. But if anyone can make an X-box as easily as they now
burn a CD full of downloaded MP3s, then company control evaporates and the
restrictive encryption mechanisms they use for market control become useless.

Second, if the open-source fab machine can copy itself (which is what my group
is working on), then again no company can control it. All you have to be able
to do is ask your neighbour to make you a fab machine if his machine is idle
tonight, and before you can say, "Geometric progression," the things are all
over the world.


Incidentally, one interesting area in all this that hasn't, I don't think, been
addressed is pharmaceuticals. If one's home-fab machine allowed one to make a
microfluidic chemistry set - which ought to be reasonably straightforward - then
what's to stop patients making 50mg a day (take after meals) of Roche's latest
billion-dollar patented heart drug? Remember that patent law allows individuals
to make something that's patented for their own private use...

Of course legal prohibitions on opiates, THC, cocaine etc go right out of the
window too (as do the profits of the ghastly drug smugglers). But I think the
above scenario is the more intriguing; especially as it has the potential to
allow open-source collaborative drug development.

The tricky question of drug trials (notoriously expensive) then arises. But if
I publish a molecule and a synthesis pathway on the web and say that this has
not been properly tried, but that the five mice that I gave it to have not - so
far - been Gathered to God, then I can't see any real legal or physical obstacle
to brave people trying it on themselves. Some will get better, others will
croak, and the ad-hoc trial statistics will accumulate...



Steve Baker wrote:
> Adrian Bowyer wrote:
>> Remember that companies (and money) are only a means to an end, not an
>> end in
>> themselves. If it becomes simpler and more efficient to do without
>> either,
>> then that's what we will do.
> That's true - but companies are self-sustaining, evolving machines.
> They do
> things that no human really wants them to do - but which is fiscally
> efficient.
> Hence, we should expect big companies to resist a world in which they are
> no longer required to manufacture things.
> Expect strong digital rights management (DRM) on these machines
> (allegedly to
> "protect our designs and intellectual property" - but in fact to lock you
> into designs purchased from that company).
> This is precisely the way Microsoft have been working to lock out
> OpenSourced
> software. The advent of supposed-DRM built into your computer's
> hardware at
> the CPU level will completely prevent software not 'approved' by them
> from running
> on that machine.
> If you find this hard to believe, look at the X-box game console. It has
> encryption built into the CPU chip so that the software that allows the
> X-box
> to boot has to be encrypted using a code that only Microsoft knows.
> This prevents
> me from writing my own software to run on that machine. In this particular
> case, some clever people figured out a way around it - but you can be
> absolutely
> certain that X-box II will be iron-clad. Future generations of PC may
> be unable
> to run Linux because the DRM forces them to run only Windows.
> I have computer games that I wrote for the fun of it that would run on
> the X-box.
> I'm very happy to give them away for nothing to anyone who wants them. But
> Microsoft doesn't want that to happen because if people are playing
> freeware
> games then they aren't paying $50 a shot for games from companies that pay
> Microsoft $20 for every game they sell.
> I can't make my games get through MS's DRM - so they won't run on X-box
> - period.
> If I buy a 3D printer from Microsoft (or anyone else with similar business
> practices) then what chances are there that I'll be able to download
> freeware
> designs from the web and fabricate them 'for free'?
> You might argue that other people would make 3D printers that compete
> with MS
> by allowing OpenSourced material to be replicated on them - but you'll
> notice
> that this hasn't happened in the Video Game console market.
> There was once a company called 'Indrema' who wanted to make a video
> game console
> that would run free games (as well as selling commercial games for it).
> The
> problem is that the X-box sells for $200 but costs Microsoft $350 to
> manufacture.
> They make a profit because most gamers buy an average of 12 games for their
> console over it's lifetime. If MS makes $20 per game in licensing fees,
> they
> make an average of $240 per machine on games licensing. That offsets
> the $150
> they lose on selling the console in the first place.
> Poor Indrema had to sell their console for twice the price of an X-box -
> and nobody
> would buy it. (In fact, their venture capitalists spotted this flaw in
> the plan
> and the Indrema console never even hit the store shelves).
> The general public are too stupid to realise that whilst the X-box costs
> less to
> start with, the $50 games are going to cost them more in the long run
> than a more
> costly game console which could sell games for $30 and still make money.
> You see this attitude everywhere. The cost of inkjet printers is WAY
> below the
> cost of manufacturing them - they make all their money on the INSANE
> prices they
> charge for ink. But there is an arms race between the printer
> manufacturers
> and the ink cartridge refill market. If you can refill your cartridges
> for
> nearly $0, then the printer manufacturer goes out of business. So they now
> have encrypted protocols between the printer and the ink cartridge that
> verifies
> that it's genuine and that it hasn't been refilled.
> This business model is appearing everywhere. Sell something cheaper
> than your
> competitors - but reap the profits in some kind of post-sales scam - and
> you'll
> beat out the opposition every time.
> This could EASILY be the way the home fabricator goes.
> I hope not.
> ---------------------------- Steve Baker -------------------------
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