Open Source is the Future
I love the Global Village Construction Set, but I want to situate it within the movement towards an open future that looks not only possible, but also desireable and inevitable. Richard Stallman, the founder of the open source movemet and the Free Software Foundation advised the future creators of all the tools that built the toolset that built Linux and all other free software, don't just duplicate what the closed source tools do, but make it do them better, reduce limitations, extend and improve features. The only surviving closed OSs are Windows and OSX from Apple, and OSX is based the open source Berkley Unix is at least partly open. It compiles and runs most OS tools and they are widely available. Android is Linux under the hood, and although parts of it are produced by a very large company, they release pretty much all of it to the community, maybe after some delay.
The Construction Set is not Enough
The point is that we to create a similar situation with open manufacturing where we replace all of the components of our whole system of production with Commons Based Peer Production. The construction set would begin to address the issue of local reliance for basice economic operations and the production of most essential goods, but lets imagine we get to the point where we have our own currencies and financial systems such that the global network of villages is completely self-sustainable. Such an economic system wouldn't be complete, it would be like a developing country, still needing a certain amount of export for hard currency to buy the highly technological products that our economic system would still depend on unless we are to remain permanently technologically backward.
The Importance of the Design
This is to say we need Global Technology and Design Commons for the broader efforts to move to commons based production as well as supporting the broad arrays of groups and networks already building common spaces for production. There are people who want to share chip designs in a commons and they have a large space of shared work alredy. Unfortunately this space still depends on closed chip foundaries who are not open to sharing their circuit and production technoligies. We would need an effort to close this gap and other gaps in our systems of production. A group could invest in chip production starting with equipment that is just a bit behind the state of the art and available as bargans, and over time source and build our own facilities based on the knowledge commons. With political support for commons based production, public spending on research could directly build parts of the knowledge commons, or they could retro-actively open all research funded in the past.
Of course, the political sphere is ripe for commons based production, and would be essitial to bringing about such changes in public support. We would also want better support in the law for commons building and sustainability. There are precedents, but almost all of this is new. We will need to develop and experiment with new forms of governance that respect the autonomy of collectives such as groups, networks or fields. We will want to develop open currency systems that will make for the possibilities in the stewardship of the economy.
I am imagining our integrated economy developing on the rules and ethics of a Gift Economy, and a currency system that is less about hoarding and greed and more about needs and desires. In a gift economy, we all imagine ourselves to be every man or any woman, as with Rawles original position we consider what would be fair without knowing or considering our position in the economy or society. In economic transactions, we pay costs and give appreciation, we reciprocate labor. We don't try to gain advantage. Debts cannot be incurred though gambling, neither can advantage. Currency is not scarce, you can get what you need when you need it.
One commons we need is the currency system itself, which includes not just the tokens you exchange, money as we have known it, but a system of credits to support the distance in time and space from production to consuption. The money system would not be so much about allocaton of resources, but it would make market systems an available means for price-setting for long term regulation of production. It would be more about tracking resources and enabling stewardship to operate. The currency system can generate anonomized records of flows that are key indicators to the overall health of the economic system. Communities in the global network would know if more or less of what they are making would be needed, or if more efficient producers and automation are making their plants obsolete and they should retarget to other products, maybe move to automation on these other products. Consume the output of communities specializing the the production of automation systems and upgrade your production. If there already is enough of everything being produced, then maybe all is well. Or maybe some re-balancing will leave everyone with less work and more leasure time. Automation would actually be helping relieve the many of labor burdon without also making them unnecessary to the system.