"OpenVirgle" and On funding post-scarcity digital public works (long)

3 views
Skip to first unread message

Paul D. Fernhout

unread,
Apr 9, 2008, 11:13:32 AM4/9/08
to vir...@googlegroups.com
More dusty stuff I wrote forwarded below -- made public now here mainly for
future reference.

It includes idea on the legal structure of a non-profit which is chartered
to only handle free works and after that the essay "On funding digital
public works".

A shorter version of that essay is here:
http://groups.google.com/group/openvirgle/browse_thread/thread/b92804afacd0345b

This is all also indirect commentary on:
"The Adventure of Many Lifetimes: Open Source Planet"
http://www.google.com/virgle/opensource.html
"Our civilization's most valuable export, meanwhile, will be intellectual
property. The problems our Pioneers solve in the course of their
world-building enterprise will represent an engine of invention in dozens of
lucrative areas, from biotechnology to geology, physics to agriculture. We
see the community’s system of intellectual property development evolving
from a community open source model to commercial open source (or perhaps we
mean that the other way around?). ... How should an open source planetary
development project interact with existing companies and markets? ... At
what point should Martian property move from being distributed solely among
Pioneers and open source investors to being traded to outside investors?"

So, when you get "fired" at Virgle -- it's out the airlock without a helmet?
:-)

Or access to Virgle know-how and tools you helped build, which would be the
same thing in the long run?

What kind of society would that be? :-(

We need a "post-scarcity" paradigm all the way through IMHO.

And advanced automation
http://www.islandone.org/MMSG/aasm/
plus social change ideas:
http://www.whywork.org/rethinking/whywork/abolition.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Triple_Revolution
http://www.educationanddemocracy.org/FSCfiles/C_CC2a_TripleRevolution.htm
empower us to make a prosperous society that works for everyone on Earth or
Mars or the Asteroids or Alpha Centauri or wherever.

A sci-fi novel on that theme:
_Voyage from Yesteryear_ by the author James P. Hogan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyage_from_Yesteryear
Though in practice IMHO there will be more of a mix of meshwork and
hierarchy than in _Voyage from Yesteryear_; see Manuel De Landa:
"MESHWORKS, HIERARCHIES AND INTERFACES"
http://www.t0.or.at/delanda/meshwork.htm
"Indeed, one must resist the temptation to make hierarchies into villains
and meshworks into heroes, not only because, as I said, they are constantly
turning into one another, but because in real life we find only mixtures and
hybrids, and the properties of these cannot be established through theory
alone but demand concrete experimentation."

IMHO the Earth, Mars, and ultimately the Universe will be better off if
Billionaires like Virgin founder Richard Branson and Google co-founders
Larry Page and Sergey Brin can learn to see Virgle-related-activities etc.
as a hard fun *hobby* and not a serious *business* venture. :-)

See:
"Hard Fun" By Seymour Papert
http://www.papert.org/articles/HardFun.html

See also:
"Professional amateurs"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_amateurs
"Pro-Ams occur in populations that have more leisure time and live longer,
allowing the pursuit of hobbies and interests at a professional level. For
example, authors of encyclopedia articles have traditionally been paid
professionals, but recently amateurs have entered the field, participating
in projects such as Wikipedia. Other Pro-Am fields include astronomy,
activism, surfing, software development, education, and music production and
distribution. Open source/Free Software such as GNU/Linux was developed by
paid professionals at companies such as Red Hat, HP and IBM together with
Pro-Ams, and has become a major competitor to Microsoft."

Even if, like with, say, RedHat or Google, for a time,
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=end+of+capitalism
may build businesses (or more: http://www.google-watch.org/gpower.html ) on,
say, GNU/Linux or at the edges of the Pro-Am revolution.

And I know my writing and learning on freedom (and responsibility :-)
"Freedom & Responsibility"
"Public Domain Stories: On funding digital public works"
http://www.existential-therapy.com/Special_Topics/Freedom_and_Responsibility.htm
would not be possible without something like Google. So there is positive
feedback. :-)

Things are slowly changing from when I first wrote this stuff below.

Wikipedia is a big change.

And here is a good example of a non-profit doing lots of things right IMHO:
http://www.concord.org/
"The Concord Consortium is a nonprofit educational research and development
organization based in Concord, Massachusetts. We create interactive
materials that exploit the power of information technologies. Our primary
goal in all our work is digital equity — improving learning opportunities
for all students."
http://www.concord.org/resources/browse/
"We produce a large amount of high-quality educational software that is
offered free of charge. Almost all of our software is open-sourced so you
can adapt it to your own needs or use it as the basis for your own software
development efforts."

Maybe "OpenVirgle" or whatever the name will be another:
http://groups.google.com/group/openvirgle
http://code.google.com/p/openvirgle/
But these trends will continue to play out :-) one place or another.

--Paul Fernhout

"Public Domain Stories: On funding digital public works" and "On funding
digital public works" forwarded below:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Public Domain Stories: On funding digital public works
Date: Fri, 06 Feb 2004 12:49:00 -0500
From: Paul D. Fernhout <pdfer...@kurtz-fernhout.com>
To: p...@publicknowledge.org

On your site I saw:
http://www.publicknowledge.org/take-action/action-struggles-with-ip
"Please email your story to p...@publicknowledge.org with "Public Domain
Stories" in the header. We'll present your stories to legislators, press
and the general public through a website, video and other media. Please
provide your name and a phone number where we can reach you during the
day and tell us if you would prefer to remain anonymous when we publish
your story."

One thing I found in talking to a non-profit lawyer about forming a
non-profit which is chartered to only handle free works is that it
pretty much can't be done under US law. My reason for wanting to do this
was to ensure any funds or effort or patents and copyrights (such as at:
http://www.gardenwithinsight.com/ ) which I or others donated to the
organization could be assured of only resulting in free works. Any
restriction in the bylaws can be changed by the directors fairly easily,
and any restriction in the articles of incorporation can be changed with
only slightly more work (filing something with the state). About the
only thing in our society that can really ensure non-profits maintain
free access to patents or copyrights they hold is well written contracts
between people who donate time or energy or patents or copyrights to the
non-profits (volunteers, contributors, employees), and even then this
level of freedom is only guaranteed to the extent the aggrieved party is
willing to sue. So, essentially, non-profit law has no provision for
organizations dedicated to public domain or free works. I think this at
least is a flaw in non-profit law that could be remedied somehow --
making it possible to put in an irrevocable dedication of assets to free
works when an organization is formed.

For reference here was what I had thought of putting in the articles of
incorporation or bylaws, but it now seems must be crafted into contracts
somehow:

"The following restrictions on the activities of the corporation
are intended to ensure free licensing of the results of all the
Corporation's efforts. "Free" as used in this document is intended to
mean "free as in freedom" in the same way as the Free Software
Foundation's (FSF's) current or future similar definition of "free"
licensing for software or other creative works of various types, or
alternatively following the the Debian Free Software Guidelines, defined
here:
http://www.debian.org/social_contract.html
Examples of free licenses are public domain, GPL, LGPL, GFDL, and the
Apache license. For detailed examples see:
http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html
and related writings or commentary by the FSF's Richard M. Stallman
(included here by reference). It is noted here that the meaning of
"free" especially as it applies to creative works (as opposed to
technical works) may continue to undergo revision over time, but is is
the intent here to maximize the ability of recipients of free works to
use such free works in their preferred source form responsibly in a way
entailing no direct financial cost for licensing for use or
distribution, requiring no permission for the original author to
incorporate the work without substantial changes into larger derivative
and/or collective works which may be redistributed, and ideally
(especially in the case of primarily technical works) requiring no
direct permission from the original author(s) to create and/or
distribute derivative works including modified versions of the free
works (although such derivative works may be subject to licensing
restrictions requiring the derivative works to also be licensed freely
under terms similar to the original work). The specific restrictions on
the Corporation's activities to ensure this are:
A) that any copyrights and/or patents the Corporation creates
itself, or whose creation it directly supports in whole or in part, or
which it receives as donations or otherwise comes to hold, must only be
licensed under free licenses, and
B) that any trademarks the Corporation creates itself, or whose
creation it directly supports in whole or in part, or which it receives
as donations or otherwise comes to hold, will only used to support and
distinguish endeavors which require the free licensing of all the
resulting copyrights and/or patents, and
C) that copyrights, patents, and/or trademarks held for any reason by
the Corporation may not be voluntarily transferred from the
Corporation without contractual guarantees that future holders will
abide by these restrictions, and that the Corporation is required to
enforce these guarantees to the maximum extent feasible, and
D) that the Corporation will minimize its creation, use, or handling
of any other proprietary or trade secret or confidential information to
the greatest extent legally and practically possible, behaving in as
transparent a fashion as is reasonably possible, including the full
disclosure of all financial information in detail, and the avoidance to
the maximum extent feasible of non-disclosure agreements undertaken by
the Corporation, its employees, or it agents, and
E) that in the event of the likelihood of an involuntary transfer of
copyrights, patents, trademarks, good will, trade secrets or other
valuable intangibles from the Corporation such as from the result of a
judgment against the Corporation, the Corporation must take all legal
and feasible steps to prevent the transfer or to make a voluntary
transfer to an appropriate non-profit Corporation as under section (C)
or if appropriate place the item in the public domain. Notwithstanding
any of the forgoing, as a special exception, the corporation may
purchase mass marketed consumer products or consumer services such as,
without limitation, computers and telecommunications services, which
contain or rely on proprietary copyrights, patents, or trademarks (such
as most current computer chips), but the organization is required to keep
such purchases to a reasonable minimum, and to use free software and
free content or products derived thereof in its daily operations
whenever reasonably feasible."

I think that is the minimum sort of guarantee donors should expect
before donating things to organizations that purport to use, distribute,
and create "free" works.

For a desired project to create a free and open repository of
information about how to make things, we also face apparently
substantial legal risk from the DMCA and other laws which can make us
liable for offensive content others post -- which has had a chilling
effect on that project.

I'm also forwarding this essay I sent to the Markle Foundation back in
2001 in response to a request on their site for comments. I also have a
slightly updated shorter version I created recently which is less whiny
:-) but it leaves out some of the personal aspects, and that seems to be
exactly what you want. [some snipped]
[A shorter version of that essay is here:
http://groups.google.com/group/openvirgle/browse_thread/thread/b92804afacd0345b
]

I also have another broader related essay I can send about how to save
significant money in many sectors of the US economy by non-profits and
others adopting and promulgating a post-scarcity worldview.
[Now at: http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/AchievingAStarTrekSociety.html
]

--Paul Fernhout

"On funding digital public works" forwarded below:

-------- Original Message --------
[snipped]
Subject: On funding digital public works
Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 12:51:10 -0400
From: Paul Fernhout <pdfer...@kurtz-fernhout.com>
Organization: Kurtz-Fernhout Software
To: in...@markle.org

Zoë Baird, President
Markle Foundation

Zoë-

Here is a topic to consider for inclusion in the Markle Foundation's
"Policy for a Networked Society" program. From that Markle Foundation
web site page:
http://www.markle.org/programs/_programs_policy_guidelines.stm
> The Policy for a Networked Society program addresses the
> issues created by the unprecedented changes occurring in
> our social, political, economic and legal systems as a result
> of expanding computing power, convergence, and the rise
> of a networked world. The program seeks to enhance the
> public voice in the consideration and resolution of domestic
> and international policies that need to be addressed in this
> new communications environment, with a specific interest
> in the protection of democratic values, individual liberties,
> universal access and consumer interests. ...
> We welcome ideas for topics that should be considered by the network.

Consider this email a contribution towards a "white paper" on why
foundations and government agencies should require any digital public
works they fund to be communicated to the public under free or open
licenses. I apologize I have not had the time yet to make it shorter.

=== righteous indignation on proprietary content from public funds ===

As a software developer and content creator, I find it continually
frustrating to visit web sites of projects funded directly or
indirectly by government agencies or foundations, only to discover I
can't easily improve on those projects because of licensing restrictions
both on redistribution and on making derived works of their content and
software.

Consider this license fragment from a project supported in 1993 as a PRI
by the Markle Foundation:
http://wwws.elibrary.com/s-default/info/terms.html
"You will not modify, publish, distribute, transmit, participate in the
transfer or sale, create derivative works, or in any way exploit, any of
the content, in whole or in part, found on the Service." (I pick this
example to illustrate the point in a familiar context, not to assume
the Markle Foundation still promotes such licensing policies.)

The non-profit collaborative communications ecosystem is polluted with
endless anti-collaborative restrictive terms of use for charitably
funded materials (both content and software) produced by a wide range of
public organizations. These restrictions are in effect acting like
"no trespassing -- toxic waste -- keep out -- this means you" signs by
prohibiting making new derived works directly from pre-existing digital
public works. The justification is usually that tight control of
copyright and restricting communications of those materials will produce
income for the non-profit, and while this is sometimes true, the cost to
society in the internet age in terms of limiting cooperation is high,
and in fact, I would argue, too high.

Unfortunately, the situation is even worse than that, because even
without a copyright notice or license, the default under the law
http://www.loc.gov/copyright/circs/circ03.html
is now that all works are copyrighted upon creation. So basically
everything on the internet put up by non-profits without an explicit
license granting permission to use, communicate, and/or make derivative
works also has an invisible implicit "no trespassing" sign on it as
well.

For example, consider this excellent essay you wrote on "Improving Life
in the Information Age" as a president's letter on the Markle site:
http://www.markle.org/news/presidents_letter.pdf
Without an explicit license, and I see none in that document which
includes neither of the words "copyright" or "license", I would have no
clear right to email that file to friends, reduce it in size from 269K
Acrobat file to about 10K of plain text, or permanently archive it
should the Markle Foundation web server fail or simply be reorganized.
Was that really your (or your staff's) intent when making that digital
communication? Obviously you likely intended nobody rewrite your
opinions, but does it take such complete restrictions on communicating
your message and making related derived works to accomplish that? The
fact that the Acrobat file has no document security restrictions :-(
cannot be taken as a license to use it any way I want, especially given
a legal climate where copying can now be a felony under the DMCA. These
issues might not have seemed as important thirty years ago with a paper
letter mailed to me because it would probably have been reasonable under
copyright in 1970 (given that it is an open letter) to make a single
expensive photostat for a friend, post the original physical copy on a
bulletin board, or keep the physical copy in my own files indefinitely.
(Actually, since the letter has no copyright notice, in 1970 it would
have been in the public domain, protected only by "moral rights" and
laws related to libel or misrepresentation or privacy.)

I apologize if that example is slightly embarrassing but it nonetheless
shows the exact point I wish to raise in a Markle Foundation specific
way -- how the non-profit sector could make better use of free or open
licensing to communicate better. You're in good company, as most
non-profit materials on the internet also lack explicit licenses for
redistribution or any sort of modification. The bottom line is that the
real problem won't be fixed by your putting a license at the bottom of
your next president's letter or modifying that previous one. It will
only be fixed when all non-profits everywhere on a daily basis take this
licensing issue into account in all their communications. To avoid such
irony myself, I added a license allowing redistribution at the end of
this email, although, frankly, I myself don't normally do so with most
letters I write.

I would prefer to use tools and protocols that made such licensing
issues easier to take care of without thinking much about them all the
time (if such tools or protocols existed, but in general they don't
yet). The commercially dominated world (including to an extent W3C)
spends most of its time thinking about how to restrict freedom to
communicate, not how to ensure such freedom, which is obvious
from the titles and author affiliations (ironically under "company") of
most of the position papers here:
http://www.w3.org/2000/12/drm-ws/pp/Overview.html
So is it really any surprise that the most common communication tools
(including Adobe Acrobat) reflect this bias even as the world moves to
clarify (an in practice probably further restrict) some of the things
that can be legitimately done with digital objects as "fair use"?

This long (freely redistributable) email essay is born in part out of
that repeated frustration of a desire to archive, communicate, and, in
some cases, improve public content. As someone who (as part of a
husband/wife team) has effectively given to the public a six-person year
effort funded out of our own pockets (an educational garden simulator
with source under the GPL),
http://www.gardenwithinsight.com/
I now feel enough righteous indignation and moral justification to get
on this email soapbox on what should be done with internet content
funded by public or tax-exempt money in educational and other arenas
(not that you have to listen. :-)

I have also CC'd this to some groups or people I mention as doing a good
job who have an interest in free or open content -- and that should not
be taken to mean I am in any way formally connected with those people or
speak for them or that they endorse any of my comments in any way.

=== post-scarcity economics and exponential growth ===

To understand my larger point, one must first understand where the
physical technological capacity behind the information age is heading
over the next thirty or so years.

Perhaps allowing content producing 501(c)3 non-profits to tightly
control their copyrights made sense in the past. Driven by cuts in much
non-profit funding in the 1980s and early 1990s, many non-profits moved
to funding models requiring more entrepreneurship. For many non-profits,
that has meant selling copyrighted materials, and they effectively
became no different than commercial publishers -- except for receiving a
charitable subsidy that perhaps allows break-even cost production for
smaller audiences otherwise underserved by the the mainstream for-profit
press. Acting as subsidized presses has been an important mission for
non-profits, and both Cynthia and I have helped with it. We assisted
NOFA-NJ in producing two versions of the New Jersey Organic Market
Directory -- which was subsidized by among others the Geraldine R. Dodge
Foundation.

But, I would argue, it no longer makes sense to enable non-profits to
function mainly as subsidized publishers operating in an otherwise
conventional for-profit way through selling copyrighted material.
Assuming subsidized publishing made sense at some point, what has
changed recently? Widespread internet use is one obvious thing. In
general, the bigger picture is that a more cooperative "post-scarcity"
economy is emerging.
http://www.google.com/search?q=post-scarcity
This post-scarcity economy is made possible by such things as:
* the exponential growth of technological capacity (including the
internet),
* increasingly widespread knowledge, and
* new ways of collaborating pioneered by free software and open source
developers.

Exponential trends aren't always obvious. Most people fail to comprehend
that computers will likely be about a million times faster for the same
cost in twenty to thirty years simply by doubling in price/performance
every year or two (assuming our society doesn't meet with another
disaster like war or plague before then). For example, almost everyone I
ask about how much faster they think computers will be in 10 years says
about 10 to 20 times faster, when they are more likely to be 100 to 1000
times faster. People all laugh in disbelief when I say I expect them to
be a million times faster in twenty to thirty years based on what has
already happened in the industry compared to thirty years ago.

Yet even conservative computer engineers say Moore's law will hold for
at least ten years without many major changes in how things are done.
http://www.research.ibm.com/journal/rd/443/preface.html
Computer expert Raymond Kurzweil discusses this (and more) in his essay
on how people maintain an "intuitive linear view" despite the facts
supporting the "historical exponential view":
http://www.kurzweilai.net/articles/art0134.html
He suggests that failure to take into account exponential growth is one
reason we usually overestimate how much change can happen in the short
term and underestimate how much change will happen in the long term.
I've also written an essay on this topic as well:
http://www.bootstrap.org/dkr/discussion/0126.html

Just one thing possible with today's computer technology is cars that
drive themselves. I was in one around 1986 (ALVAN/NAVLAB at CMU)
http://www.navlab.org/projects/navlab_overview.html
when the computers to run it cost a million dollars. I have since heard
of people who now use this technology routinely (although clandestinely
for liability reasons) using a laptop that costs about $1000. Such
technology could greatly change our society if widespread. It has the
potential to give commuters hours more free time every day to do other
things while being driven. It could possibly free up parents in suburbs
from needing to chauffeur children. It could allow elderly people living
in suburbs to be more self-reliant for longer. This technology exists
today -- although there remain organizational issues to resolve,
especially related to insurance and liability, before it becomes
widespread.

What will computers 1,000 or 1,000,000 times faster make possible?
Numerous people including Kurzweil speculate on this.
Here is another person's positive spin (Hans Moravec):
http://www.transhumanist.com/volume1/moravec.htm
And here is one person's negative spin (Bill Joy):
http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/8.04/joy.html
This is an attempt at laying out both perspectives side by side:
http://www.tecsoc.org/innovate/focusbilljoy.htm
And this is some related commentary from numerous perspectives (centered
around Jaron Lanier's comments):
http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/lanier/lanier_index.html

There is still an opportunity to do what we can to make something good
happen out of all this -- to help shape how post-scarcity society
develops. Non-profits could have a major role to play in shaping that
society humanely, rather than just watching a society evolve that is the
ultimate conclusion of a competitive arms race among capitalist
organizations creating ever increasing technological capacity
of a certain amoral type to increase profits and reduce costs.

If one doubts computers can become a million-fold faster for the same
price, consider that computers have already improved a million fold or
so in price/performance over the previous thirty or so years as a
historical exponential fact.
http://www.frc.ri.cmu.edu/~hpm/book98/fig.ch3/p060.html
A new laptop computer can easily outcalculate the highest end early
1970s Mainframe which cost tens of thousands of times more. Likewise,
bandwidth will be enormously improved in terms of price/performance in
that time frame since a single optical fiber to the home could stream
terabits or more per second.
http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,35079,00.html

Many scarcity-based economic assumptions about information production
and distribution may cease to make sense in many arenas, as society
continues to absorb the increased computing and communications capacity.
Many scarcity-based assumptions already don't make sense with today's
level of computing power and bandwidth. Similar changes are happening in
other non-computer fields as well.

Or to look at it another way, Buckminster Fuller's "Comprehensive
Anticipatory Design Science" is starting to flower despite inattention
http://www.bfi.org
like a forgotten rose bush. Hopefully we can avoid the thorns.

=== post-scarcity information economics and non-profits ===

Even in a "post-scarcity" or "gift" economy, some things remain scarce,
like human attention or trust. This new economy is driven in part by
peer status, which does have indirect physical, economic, and other
benefits.
http://www.well.com/user/mgoldh/natecnet.html
James P. Hogan wrote a novel "Voyage from Yesteryear" around 1982 on a
similar premise describing a gift economy governed by status:
http://www.jamesphogan.com/books/voyage/baen99/titlepage.shtml

Nowhere is a post-scarcity economy more visible today than with content
on the internet. However, does the funding plan for most digital public
works made by non-profits incorporate a post-scarcity perspective?

There are a lot of non-profit projects being funded out there
(especially educational and digital library ones) which have a component
of attempting to charge for access to the results of charitably funded
work as part of their business plan. Some completely restrict access
(and redistribution) to a local paying community. In fact, most
government funding agencies and foundations encourage such restrictions,
on the (often flawed) assumption that such restrictions will make the
project self-sustaining financially. Rather than single out another
example, let me point as a contrast to a foundation:
http://www.centerforthepublicdomain.org/
and an organization it funds:
http://www.ibiblio.org/
that are both doing a great job at enlarging the public domain as
opposed to shrinking it.

An outdated scarcity perspective in the non-profit community is still
manifesting itself, however. There remains a continued emphasis on
charitable projects which include plans for restricting access to the
resulting publicly funded digital works now, in the hopes of creating
revenue streams later. The funded organization usually proposes
continuing to improve the work itself under its solitary control using
money derived from selling licenses to the work. Contrast this with, for
example, the post-scarcity development of the GNU/Linux operating
system, made by thousands of volunteers contributing improvements to an
initial base contributed by Linus Torvalds and the Free Software
Foundation (FSF) GNU project.

The old scarcity criterion towards selecting what makes a viable project
(based on a recurring royalty stream for static content) is completely
at odds with the new post-scarcity model (based more on streams of
attention, status, service, and customization). The new collaborative
development process made possible by the internet (resulting in a work
made by sharing licenses to copyrights made by a distributed network of
authors funded indirectly by other means) is fundamentally different
than the old process (resulting in a work made by centralized copyright
ownership with a development process funded by selling licenses to the
result).

=== scarcity still exists and may recur ===

Certainly scarcity still exists in the world since 24,000 people starve
to death daily
http://www.thehungersite.com
and billions of people still live in poverty.
http://www.worldbank.org/poverty/mission/up2.htm

Scarcity to the point of starvation has a personal meaning to me as one
of my relatives (a great step-uncle) starved to death during World War
II in the Netherlands (during the "hunger winter") when my mother was a
teenager. As a result, my entire family has been and still is affected
by my mother's reactive attitude towards food derived from living
through that period of scarcity and watching her step-uncle die.
However, these deaths are (and were) primarily for political, not
technological, reasons.

I would argue that the copyright status of non-profit works (including
ironically UN documents about agricultural techniques) is part of this
political problem. Still, like with my mother, anyone who has lived
through extreme scarcity may be forever changed and have difficulty
adapting to new conditions. This is a topic James P. Hogan goes into in
detail in "Voyage from Yesteryear" as a scarcity culture tries to
conquer a post-scarcity culture.

Technology can help alleviate some political problems by helping
currently limited charitable resources to do more. That is one reason we
wrote our garden simulator -- so people could more easily learn to be
self-reliant in growing their own food. But what is the point in making
such a simulator if people who need it can't get it? That's one reason
we made it free of cost. But since others could potentially make it
better than we could, that is why we made it free in the sense of
allowing derived works under the GPL license.

=== how copyright ownership corrupts the non-profit mission ===

Strangely enough, as a for-profit company, some of our biggest
competitors are non-profits including groups with much larger staffs
supported through universities and research institutes and funded by
grants -- who sell their software at higher prices than ours. Frankly,
we have a difficult time competing in this arena, but we also question
to what extent their funding derives from software revenues.

Beyond the obvious financial advantages such non-profits have, we are
also on unfair ground. Such non-profits can see our privately funded
core technology platform, since our two non-free products draw on the
public code base for our garden simulator. However, we can't see how
their publicly funded systems work because they generally keep them
closed and proprietary.

For example, there is on sale a $60 a copy product similar in some ways
to our garden simulator but written by a non-profit group years after
ours (apparently with NASA grant funding):
http://www.cotf.edu/BioBLAST/
I'm not saying BioBLAST wasn't worth funding, or that it doesn't have
some interesting features perceived as useful for its target academic
audience compared to the garden simulator, but that group probably could
have added those features onto the garden simulator, which was out with
source under the GPL around two years before BioBLAST was released.
There may be legitimate reasons why they wouldn't want to build on our
privately funded work, but what really frustrates us is that we can't
easily build on their publicly funded work if we wanted to. Their site
hasn't been updated in over a year, so how long will it be before the
software and content just fades away and NASA's "investment" is lost?
There is no way we or anyone else could support BioBLAST or maintain it
if we wanted to.

One "non-profit" project (funded in part by the German government and
sheltered in a large research institute) even tried to steal our
PlantStudio trademark and related good will last year, registering
plantstudio.com and pointing it at their site. That created a legal
tussle that has already taken almost half of the paltry $8000 or so
gross direct revenue from our products (the total over the last three or
so years). The problem is still not completely resolved almost a year
later and has caused us quite a bit of distress affecting our other
work. Pessimistically, such distress could have been part of their
intent to disable a major competitor. Or maybe optimistically, they
thought we were deserving of abuse both because we were "for-profit" and
[price comparison deleted due to German law prohibiting it]. In any
case, given that our net revenues for doing our educational projects
including opportunity cost and interest would easily be minus one
million dollars, this situation adds insult to (financial) injury.
[And yes, it was foolish of us in hindsight to try to save money by not
registering plantstudio.com ourselves earlier.]

This isn't a plea to subsidize our for-profit business -- but rather to
say something is wrong both in how we are funding our own for-profit
educational development work as "right livelihood" as well as in how
non-profits in the same arenas are funding their work.

Conflicts between for-profit and non-profit work might be lessened if
all non-profit content development work was put in the public domain or
under some sort of free license (copylefted or not),
http://www.fsf.org/copyleft/copyleft.html
so everyone, for-profit and non-profit alike, could build on it in some
way. That wouldn't help with trademark infringement issues, but
fostering a related worldwide culture of benevolence, cooperation, and
sharing in non-profits might, because that might in turn at least do
more to promote an attitude of friendly competition in non-profit staff
instead of combat over what might seem at first to be finite resources.

This is, however, most definitely a plea to think about how the tightly
controlled ownership of copyrights can be corrupting people and
organizations in the non-profit world -- because we have seen that first
hand to our dismay. Please think deeply about the difference between
"free" content and "subsidized" content. There is a world of difference
in terms of making derived works, since free content can be given away
with permission to make derived works, whereas subsidized content can't.

Similarly, the common notion of "matching funds" breaks down when
applied to whether a product is free (as in the French "libre" sense
[think free speech], not necessarily "gratuit" sense [think free beer])
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/categories.html
Since half the match needs to come from selling licenses to the work,
this means derived works can't be easily allowed. Problems also arise
when a developer matches free funds with a free license to a proprietary
underlying platform, because the combination can then never be free in
the sense of allowing derived works. For example, can I recompile
SimHealth and make improvements or port it to new platforms?

In both cases, the "free" funds from charity are contaminated by the
"proprietary" contribution and the result is essentially proprietary
(even when the price of the result is $0). It might be much better to
have half as many truly free projects as opposed to twice as many
proprietary ones, because everyone could potentially benefit from
building on the free projects, so their value each might be
(arbitrarily) 10 times that of proprietary ones.

== more subtle pollution problems ===

This contamination also happens more subtly than one might think. For
example, every Microsoft Word document or Adobe Acrobat document a
non-profit group puts out also reinforces proprietary monopolies. Word
and Acrobat are both "standards" but they are not in practice "open" or
"free" standards -- in part because they are very complex and in effect
defined by equally complex proprietary implementations (even when in the
Adobe case there is a published document defining the format).

One school of thought (mentioned recently by Alan Kay) maintains the
only true standards are ones defined by freely available reference
implementations, since any document with more than five lines will
contain ambiguities. This argues for only using standards defined by a
free implementation (as opposed to a proprietary one that is later
documented).

The fact that non-profits, foundations, and government agencies
distribute or request such proprietary document formats as primary
sources (as opposed to HTML or XML or other alternatives) shows how
deeply ingrained the proprietary data problem is. It is as fish to water
-- most don't notice it, or if they do, they bow to necessity without
even an apology.

Such policies can have direct negative impacts. For example, I know of
one group who missed an annual application for a NASA grant because the
applicant found out at the last minute their non-Adobe PDF file
generating process didn't work as expected, and plain text was not
acceptable. Yes, they cut things too close, but why add a hurdle
requiring purchasing a proprietary program to get a public money?

== is it "self-dealing" to exchange public property for salary? ===

Consider this way of looking at the situation. A 501(c)3 non-profit
creates a digital work which is potentially of great value to the public
and of great value to others who would build on that product. They could
put it on the internet at basically zero cost and let everyone have it
effectively for free. Or instead, they could restrict access to that
work to create an artificial scarcity by requiring people to pay for
licenses before accessing the content or making derived works.

If they do the latter and require money for access, the non-profit can
perhaps create revenue to pay the employees of the non-profit. But
since the staff probably participate in the decision making about such
licensing (granted, under a board who may be all volunteer), isn't that
latter choice still in a way really a form of "self-dealing" -- taking
public property (the content) and using it for private gain? From that
point of view, perhaps restricting access is not even legal?

Self-dealing might be clearer if the non-profit just got a grant, made
the product, and then directly sold the work for a million dollars to
Microsoft and put the money directly in the staff's pockets (who are
also sometimes board members). Certainly if it was a piece of land being
sold such a transaction might put people in jail. But because the
content or software sales are small and generally to their mission's
audience they are somehow deemed OK. The trademark infringing non-profit
sheltered project I mention above is as I see it in large part just a
way to convert some government supported PhD thesis work and ongoing R&D
grants into ready cash for the developers. Such "spin-offs" are actually
encouraged by most funders. And frankly if that group eventually sells
their software to a movie company, say, for a million dollars, who will
really bat an eyebrow or complain? (They already probably get most of
their revenue from similar sales anyway -- but just one copy at a time.)
But how is this really different from the self-dealing of just selling
charitably funded software directly to Microsoft and distributing a lump
sum? Just because "art" is somehow involved, does this make everything
all right? To be clear, I am not concerned that the developers get paid
well for their work and based on technical accomplishments they probably
deserve that (even if we do compete for funds in a way). What I am
concerned about is the way that the proprietary process happens such
that the public (including me) never gets full access to the results of
the publicly funded work (other than a few publications without
substantial source).

I've restricted this to talking about copyrights, but patents only make
this situation worse. Right now, a patent on MP3 technology held by a
non-profit (the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, commissioned and funded by the
Federal and Länder governments)
http://www.iis.fhg.de/amm/legal/index.html
http://www.fhg.de/english/company/index.html
is causing distress to free software developers, and their response is
to invent a new audio encoding system.
http://www.vorbis.com/
(My response to similar distress could be seen as this effort to
reinvent the non-profit sector entirely. :-)

Both these examples are by coincidence from Germany, but one could find
similar examples in the United States. Likewise, Germany has many
outstanding developers of free and open software,
"Germany Leads In Open-Source Development"
http://content.techweb.com/wire/story/TWB20001101S0016
so this situation reflects internal conflicts in German society as well.

I admit this self-dealing analogy may sound at first far fetched, but
perhaps that is another sign of how bad the situation has become as old
economic models of paper-based content distribution break down in the
internet age.

Note: this is not to argue non-profits should not be able to assert
"moral rights" or "privacy rights" over various types of content they
produce as the situation applies. For example an artist collective might
not want their digital paintings modified (even if they can be freely
redistributed), or clients at a clinic might not want their digital
records made publicly available. Both are digital works, but in one case
"moral rights" may apply, and in the other "privacy rights" may apply.
There will undoubtedly be gray areas as works fall between categories
(e.g. a work of art telling how to do something).

=== if you can't beat them, change them (and maybe that's best) ===

One might be thinking right now that the interests of this husband/wife
team I am a part of might be better served by joining a non-profit
together or individually instead of running a money-losing for-profit
educational simulation company on their own, subsidized by unrelated
contracting work. That insight might well be right. We've thought about
that as well as forming our own non-profit. Since all the advice we have
read suggests it is better to join an existing non-profit if possible
for various reasons instead of starting a new one, consider a few
attempts we have made in this direction, since our experiences may help
illuminate the current state of copyright ownership paradigm in the
non-profit sector.

So, over a year ago I went to a local mid-sized non-profit organization
with over a hundred staff members that does various types of support for
local school districts. It's a great group of people with an innovative
R&D department (rare for such organizations). I even got offered a job
at a fairly good non-profit salary (around $65K + great benefits). Why
did I not accept?

One big reason (not the only one) was that when I presented some of my
ideas for new educational content, the immediate reaction from the
director was, "We can turn this into an offering for schools and sell it
on the web across the country!" Most people might have been elated. I
was horrified.

The director was totally justified in what he said from his point of
view, and that approach fit right into business-as-usual for them. While
they do sell services (like web hosting) to schools, they also sell
content, like teacher training materials. But it made me realize that it
is the perception of content scarcity and the related mythology about
how public digital works should be funded by society that most needs to
change. Frankly, if there had not been other issues as well, I might
have decided to wage that fight in that one organization. (And even in
that conversation, I tried to present alternatives.) Still, I think that
is the reception I would get right now at most non-profits.

I also interviewed at a foundation for an MIS manager position. Even
though this foundation wanted to foster grassroots change to a more open
and just society, they could not see anything inconsistent, for example,
with using Microsoft Exchange on NT as their main mail platform (instead
of Linux). I didn't get that job, probably in part by being annoying
about Linux and Free/Open-source Software.

Not to be dissuaded too easily, I recently casually talked with a friend
in the MIS department of a major well funded (non-profit) university
about their copyright policies. He said essentially that university
policy was that faculty controlled their copyrights, but staff gave
copyrights to the university. He also mentioned a very complex set of
problems has started coming up. Faculty sometimes collaborate on content
and then one faculty goes to another university. Can the university
still make the content available? What if the faculty member continues
to collaborate from their new university? What if staff was involved in
facilitating the collaboration and content production, as they almost
always are? In short, collaboration at this university is on rocky legal
ground. Would that be a situation I wanted to walk into as either a
staff member or faculty? Would it be likely one I could fix against
entrenched habits and perceived faculty rights?

Believe it or not, one of the reasons we remain a for-profit sole
proprietorship is the complexity of non-profit law as it relates to
copyrights and self dealing. For example, we contacted the Tides Center
http://www.tides.org/center/index.cfm
several years ago to discuss fiscal sponsorship. Tides is a wonderful
organization promoting among other things communications among
non-profits and sent us their information packet. In it we discovered
that for legal reasons related to fiscal sponsorship and self-dealing,
Tides would need to own all the copyrights on anything we produced.
While we in general would trust Tides more than anyone, there are
several things that could go wrong with such an arrangement from our
point of view. It might not be clear where the lines begun
and ended with copyrights made for work given away for free and those
sold to create revenue (say as part of our consulting operations). Tides
might decide to play mother-hen and insist we sell copyrighted works we
want to give away on some notion of fiscal responsibility. Tides might
just get weird about the copyrights if they proved extremely valuable.
Likewise, Tides might abandon us if the copyrights proved a liability.
The last is not much of an issue for most content itself (Even if
controversial) since Tides repeatedly defends progressive views.
However, in the case of creating tools to help others create and share
free content, we would potentially be creating a huge liability for the
actual copyright holder, and so Tides might decide the risk was not
worth it on very legitimate grounds relating to jeopardizing the rest of
their mission. On the other hand, we as individuals with few assets have
the asset of being "judgment proof". No doubt many of these issues could
be addressed with effort if we wanted to get a grant so it is something
we still consider. But they would be easier to address if the non-profit
paradigm was different (e.g. we wouldn't have to worry at all about the
stewardship of such publicly copyrights if held by another non-profit).

Aside from liability reasons, one reason to be a 501(c)3 non-profit is
to get grants. But would such grants be available given how grantors may
still look at things? For example, when we approached the NSF several
years ago for funding for an open garden simulator available to everyone
that was collaboratively extended (before we decided to just go ahead
and release it with source anyway), the response was, "we don't see why
you just don't sell it."
http://www.gardenwithinsight.com/nsfprop.htm
Granted we may have not been the best communicators, but we did explain
why at length an open process made sense. The deeper issue we feel is
more one of a conflict of scarcity and post-scarcity paradigms, even
among those doing the giving, because in the rest of their lives
scarcity economics may still seem to rule.

There are obviously a variety of non-profits and foundations, some of
which may play by different rules. We might well still find local ones
that match our interests, are improvable with a reasonable effort, or
are willing to take legal risks compatible with their missions.

But the deeper issue in the context of the Markle Foundation's "Digital
Opportunity Task Force" effort is that, in my opinion, in a
post-scarcity internet economy I should not even have to ask a 501(C)3
non-profit if they will let me give away digital works I create in their
employ, or worry that they might abuse such works in a proprietary way.

=== how new alternatives can work ===

Obviously any approach to content generation takes money too at the
moment. Content developers usually need to buy food and pay rent, and
that money comes from somewhere, often either from a client who needs
related services, from other unrelated paying work (say, carpentry), or
from parents, relatives, or credit cards. Coordinating volunteer
contributions can be hard and thankless work, akin to editing a book,
for which it can be hard to find a long-term volunteer, so such work
often goes undone. (RedHat for example does some of this as a company.)
However the concept of "right livelihood" implies there might be ways
for a developer working in the public interest to get paid. For the next
decade or two, grants can make a big difference for funding digital
public works made by non-profit processes, especially domain specific
applications or content which don't attract as much developer interest
as programming languages, operating systems, and commonly used
utilities.

There are also some longer term ideas in the works from various sources
for voluntary payment systems that are so easy to use that people can
spontaneously pay a dollar or so when enjoying a song or even a program.
This is different in several respects from "shareware". For example, we
use a non-voluntary "shareware" payment system built into two of our
products (PlantStudio and StoryHarp software). However, as a consequence
of needing to embed such a non-voluntary system we have not released the
source for those or allowed making derived works. We would prefer to use
a ubiquitous voluntary payment system or fund those works entirely by
other means and make them completely free. We don't like the idea of
making people feel bad about themselves or that they are criminals when
for whatever reasons they don't pay for using those two products. Since
cracked versions of both programs are floating around the net (we take
it as a mark of quality :-) these restrictions, like cheap locks, only
keep honest people honest anyway. Unfortunately, these restrictions also
create criminals out of people who don't respect them, and thus these
two works are ethically tainted because of that. If it is wrong to
commit a crime, isn't it just as wrong to create an avoidable situation
that makes someone into a criminal? For the $8000 or so we have earned
from a few hundred very honest people, we may well have created
thousands or tens of thousands of criminals. That is a real social
"external cost" to the shareware method of marketing.

Assuming people need to make a living, how can people who deal in public
domain works get paid? One may object that such a "new" scheme of
sharing non-proprietary knowledge created by charitable means can never
work economically. However, there are perfectly capitalistic examples
where it has worked already.

The "new" model of making money with public domain content is actually
an old one related to guilds. Doctors and lawyers both make excellent
livings working with a large body of public domain knowledge,
interpreting it, customizing it, and applying it to client's specific
situations. Both doctors and lawyers create new knowledge that is
effectively put into the public domain in the form of medical journal
articles or court proceedings. While the average person can be their own
doctor or lawyer to an extent, there is so much to know including
certain ways of reasoning that in practice one is usually better off
getting some assistance from a professional (as well as getting some
self-education to work well with that professional) than trying to go it
alone.

Many times grants help researchers create more information for the
medical or legal public domain. But those grants don't corrupt the
process, because the results are essentially available to all
practitioners on an equal basis.

There are some medical grants that produce drug or plant patents that
probably are corrupting, but that is another issue. Patents are an
example when science (which thrives on reference chains of journal
articles) crosses over into technology (which thrives on incrementally
improved artifacts -- and artifacts can be copyrighted or patented to
prevent others from using them for a time).

To help a lawyer to understand free or open source software for example,
just ask her or him to think about it in terms of the law itself -- from
court proceedings to legislative records. While lawyers may pay for a
service like Westlaw for convenience or practical necessity,
http://www.westlaw.com/about/
they are not paying to use the law itself, say when they make an
argument in court.

Surely nobody would suggest the world was better off in the days of
18th-century England when a medical student had to crawl on top of a
roof and look in from a skylight to find out the proprietary technique
used by one group of secretive obstetricians to have a lower rate of
infant and maternal mortality than their competitors:
http://www.ogilvy.com/memorial/html/onads.htm

This guild-like process has already started with public software such as
GNU/Linux. Competent GNU/Linux system configuration experts are now in
high demand and can get good wages for dealing in purely free software.
One of the things that helps prove competence in this "guild" is having
contributed to the GNU/Linux kernel.

[Note that historically guilds often kept their methods secret from
outsiders; I'm not advocating that here.]

== why "new" alternatives need to work ===

How different is the basic issue in the secretive obstetricians example
above from when publicly funded non-profits put "no trespassing" signs
around their copyrighted works, preventing anyone else from improving on
them, or benefiting from them without paying a toll to the non-profit
itself?

Toll collecting imposes other external costs. Just yesterday I heard a
collision happen between a few cars two lanes over while driving at the
Whitestone bridge's toll plaza -- another hidden cost of tolls. People
could have died, say if an airbag killed a child improperly secured in a
front seat. Likewise, I had my license plate scanned and checked as I
paid a toll leaving an airport parking field (according to the automated
display), resulting in an extra "privacy" toll not recorded on the
receipt.

The tolls imposed by non-profits for licensing their copyrights can have
similar negative external costs. Such tolls can contribute to causing
people in developing nations to die because of lack of access to how-to
information on agriculture. Such tolls can also contribute to creating a
closed bureaucratic Orwellian society without privacy where every
viewing of information is monitored so it can be billed (consider
Acrobat Reader 5 which includes technology to scan your computer and
communicate the results across the internet -- pick "Edit | DocBox |
Preferences" to see the InterTrust warning and license). As mentioned
earlier, such restrictions can also (through temptation) create
criminals where none might have existed.

Frankly, if the non-profit world of copyright creation cannot provide a
model by slowly moving to a post-scarcity economic structure, when such
creation is already funded in large part by charity, how can the
for-profit world survive the transition without complete and painful
chaos?

Naturally, many non-profits like soup kitchens or Habitat for Humanity
are already working on a service basis, and if they collect fees for
services rendered, I'm not against that. I'm talking specifically about
copyright and patent work here, which is some of the type of work Markle
funds.

=== examples of fine-grained cooperation in action ===

How could post-scarcity economics be reflected in new ways of doing
things by the non-profit sector?

The current growth level of the internet makes possible fine-grained
voluntary collaboration on an unprecedented scale to cooperatively
develop enormous creative works, exemplified by these three
collaboratively developed sites:
http://www.everything2.org/
http://dmoz.org/
http://www.slashdot.org/

Post-scarcity collaboration has also long been shown by many of the
internet newsgroups, which include discussions and information on most
topics of human interest, somewhat archived and indexed here:
http://groups.google.com/googlegroups/deja_announcement.html
At this point, I rely on these newsgroups to do a good job as a software
developer when starting a new project with new technology. My technical
questions are almost always asked and answered already.

In short, non-profits could work together to create in total a
continually improving distributed library of free digital public works
covering all human needs. This would be a very different side of the
internet than the one full of tolls and restrictions that many
for-profit interests are working towards.

For a hint of what this might someday become, read Theodore Sturgeon's
short story written in the 1950s entitled "The Skills of Xanadu". That
story helped inspire our (hibernating) OSCOMAK project:
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/index.htm
and a related "moral license" concept:
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/license.htm

== how things go wrong with current practice ===

However, most non-profit organizations dealing with "know-what",
"know-how", or "know-why" content (i.e. science, technology, and
art/philosophy) still follow the common practice of supporting their
continued existence as they transition to the internet age by attempting
to make money directly selling digital public works funded by grants,
the same way they used to sell text books, blueprints, or art prints.

This model of fund raising has some serious negative consequences. The
main one revolves around preventing collaboration by preventing easily
making derived works. There are more subtle moral and ethical
implications as well, which Richard Stallman points out, as the age old
civic duty of sharing with a neighbor is made immoral and illegal (and
repositioned linguistically as "piracy").
http://www.fsf.org/philosophy/philosophy.html
Naturally, promoting sharing still needs to balance both "moral rights"
of authors getting credit for their works or controlling some aspects of
the presentation or alteration of aesthetic or opinion works (as opposed
to functional ones), and "privacy rights" related to personal
information. For more on these distinctions, see for example:
http://www.ipmatters.net/webcaught/interview_stallman.html
or:
http://www.fsf.org/events/rms-nyu-2001-transcript.txt

Given the ease of free content distribution on the internet, to make
money from content, organizations must create an artificial scarcity of
their content (including text and software). This entails using
copyright to impose restrictions preventing anyone from making copies of
their content, so people will pay for licenses to use their content.
Since derived works are also copies in a way, organizations must also
prevent others from making derived works.

This derived-works restriction in turns prevents cooperation through
others easily building on the works, as it does in our case with NASA's
BioBLAST. In theory, money changing hands will let things continue to
happen, and sublicensing of content for derived works does happen to an
extent in the commercial world. However, even if a non-profit
organization is willing to license their works to others for a fee for
making derived works, this entails royalty payments, carefully
evaluating complex binding legal contracts, and other arrangements whose
initial cost to set up and operate generally exceed any expected revenue
of most subsequent charitable projects, and, further, force all derived
works to be handled as commercial, not gift, transactions.

Essentially, instead of having permanent lasting benefits, the initial
charitable investment made by some foundation or government agency into
supporting a non-profit organization's content creation process just
devalues over time as the content becomes obsolete or is forgotten by
the very organization that created it -- since no one else with an
interest in the work can maintain it.

The ironic thing is that most non-profits will probably fail to make
enough money from selling their content to even justify the expenses of
doing so, so the loss to humanity is for nothing more than a funding
fantasy.

=== the tragedy of the New Alchemy Institute ===

Yet, there are millions of individuals on the internet who might
continue to improve content developed initially by non-profits, if these
individuals only had the right to do so (rights that can only be granted
by the copyright holder).

For example, I have a large selection of publications created by the New
Alchemy Institute on things like compost pile management, indoor fish
farming, and geodesic dome greenhouse construction. I paid for those
copies both for the information and to help support the institute. The
New Alchemy Institute is now defunct. I have no right under copyright
law to put these materials on a web site or to improve them , as much as
I would like to do so (until about 100 years from now). Quite possibly
obtaining such rights might cost more in time and money than creating
such materials from scratch or completely rewriting them. Even if I got
permission from someone previously affiliated with the New Alchemy
Institute or its successors to do something with the materials, how
could I be sure their information was accurate and their permission
meaningful and legally binding? Sadly, decades of innovative and
alternative non-profit R&D work done by dedicated and hardworking people
at NAI is effectively lost as far as the internet audience is concerned.
And that means, that R&D work is effectively lost to everyone in the
world as the internet continues to supplant other forms of content
distribution and use (like using inter-library loan).

In the past, when most information was sold on paper and was difficult
to modify, perhaps it made sense for non-profits to raise funds by
selling documents (as when I purchased the New Alchemy Institute
materials). But now, this old habit based on an out-dated paradigm is
preventing cooperation and collaboration to create the informational
underpinnings of a post-scarcity society demonstrating knowledge
democratization.

For me, the deepest tragedy of the New Alchemy Institute is somewhat
personal. I visited NAI around 1989 and later gave an invited talk there
to some interns, while a graduate student at Princeton. I wanted to make
a library on sustainable technology and related simulations, and NAI had
an extensive library on such topics and an interested member base and
even some Macintosh computers. But we never connected -- in part because
I was too shy and couldn't think of something coherent and fair to
propose as a way out of my boxes of being a PhD graduate student and
thinking in terms of a for-profit company selling proprietary software
requiring a substantial investment, and out of their boxes of being
mainly an agricultural technology R&D facility, selling products and
papers via their catalogue, and giving interns room and board for doing
manual labor. I was very saddened by the newsletter announcing their
demise around 1991, because I felt that working together on a digital
library of alternative technology we might have prevented that. [And
ironically Richard Stallman with his Free Software vision in Cambridge
was only about seventy-five miles away from NAI.]

For reference, all the NAI publications themselves are supposedly
available through inter-library loan at the American Archives of
Agriculture (AAA), located at Iowa State University. The library itself
became part of a "Green Center" at the same location, but I am not sure
if that is still in operation, and in any case NAI would have no way to
grant permissions for putting any works but its own on-line. Such works
would ultimately have to be rewritten from multiple sources to be put
on-line, a project probably worth doing, but something that would take
far more effort than putting on-line what exists.

=== proprietary vs. free content producer example ===

How can we prevent such tragedies from happening again and again, even
for internet-connected non-profits? One possibility is simply for
non-profits from the start to put their creative works under licenses
allowing redistribution and the making of derived works. As a corollary,
they must then obtain their funding from ways other than selling
licenses to use copyrighted works. They can still sell permission to
access an archive, as long as the works including the entire archive are
freely redistributable once accessed.

Contrast, for example, this proprietary work of hundreds of appropriate
technology publications sold as micro-fiche or CD-ROM which is still
pretty much as it was ten years ago:
"The Appropriate Technology Library"
http://www.villageearth.org/ATLibrary/cdrom.htm
with this blossoming free library to aid developing nations which is
available directly over the web:
"The Humanity Libraries Project"
http://www.humaninfo.org/
Which one has more of a future given the internet? Which one could
continue be improved if the supporting organization were to suddenly
become defunct? Which organization and development process is then
really the lower risk "investment" for a foundation grant?

The Humanity Libraries Project is the exception to the rule. The
difficulties they face and the solutions they see to them (for example,
starting a petition just to get the UN to freely license its content so
people who need it can get it: http://www.humaninfo.org/join.htm ) just
show how bad the situation has gotten and how ingrained the old habits
are. Their petition idea helped inspire this essay on enlarging the
issue to being about the copyrights of all non-profits, no just the UN
and directly related NGOs.

Copyright for most government funded work goes to the for-profit
contractor, who usually just sits on the work because it is more
expensive and risky to market a copyright than to get another government
contract. Copyright for most foundation supported work goes to the
non-profit, who also usually just sits on the work or makes only token
efforts at marketing because it is more expensive and risky to market a
copyright than to get another foundation grant. Perhaps an occasional
exception is museums who show in-house created digital works until they
become obsolete in a restricted setting (generally entered only after
the patron pays a general admission fee).

In some ways, the state of non-profit copyright ownership and licensing
is so bad we don't even notice the issue anymore.

== even designs for simple health appliances are not free ===

For example, where can one go to get a freely modifiable design
including CAD files for even a simple health-related appliance like a
wheelchair? Or worse, where is the community freely collaborating on
improving wheel chair designs? Are a few dozen intentionally-vague
patents on wheel chair design the best to be hoped for given the
trillions of dollars of investments into public works, including vast
amount of money spent on medical research?

Even if one found a wheel chair design with CAD files on the internet
(say, as a student project), could one be sure one could use or improve
it in terms of licensing? What is going wrong here, when something so
basic as wheel chair design is not freely available?

=== digital public works are not physical public works ===

The fundamentally flawed concept is that digital public works are like
physical public works. When one creates a physical public work like a
bridge, it may make sense to charge a toll to pay for its construction
or upkeep -- although even that is questionable, see for example:
http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/shouldbefree.html

This physical public works paradigm is unfortunately then applied to
thinking about most digital public works, and there is a major flaw in
the analogy. A bridge does not require much marketing. It's highly
visible by the nature of what it is and how it is built. Things are
different in the content and software realm. Marketing costs for any
commercially successful software product are typically ten times that of
creation costs. Many well funded marketing efforts fail. So, almost all
projects funded by foundations with an intent to be marketed later using
other funds will fail because the funds won't materialize. Likewise,
because the costs of production are small relative to marketing, there
is usually little value in other's licensing the works (at typically
inflated fees) as opposed to just making new ones since the marketing
costs are the dominating factor.

Word-of-mouth marketing strategies can lower marketing costs, but it may
increase support costs, and it also often takes years. This is far
beyond the funding horizon of most non-profits with paid staff. Freely
distributed collaborative efforts like Linux may survive long enough for
word-of-mouth to help them -- but that requires a different approach to
licensing.

=== patents, blueprints, and journal articles are "leftovers" today===

Plenty of public money is being spent -- it just is not connecting to
the community as digital public works. This failure to connect is also
in part because of another notion -- that patents and scientific journal
articles as funding "leftovers" are sufficient detail to support a free
technological civilization.

For an example of why this doesn't work, researchers at NASA just
discovered NASA doesn't have the rights to the 3D CAD models of the
International Space Station or the Space Shuttle. They had wanted to
make a virtual reality model of those for further research and
development of ergonomic design. Such plans are now on hold until new
arrangements can be worked out with the contractors.

Funding organizations need to break out of the mindset that the
organization doing the work to create something (in this case a NASA
contractor) should necessarily be the one to shepherd that work in the
future, and that in order to shepherd the work, their exclusive
ownership of most of the aspects of the work is justified. Both these
premises are flawed in the internet age. One group can create something
under a free license and another group can extend it if they have the
interest. A group who initially creates something under a free license
can shepherd a process involving members of the public contributing
under similar free licenses.

== what have funding policies in automotive intelligence wrought? ===

Consider again the self-driving cars mentioned earlier which now cruise
some streets in small numbers. The software "intelligence" doing the
driving was primarily developed by public money given to universities,
which generally own the copyrights and patents as the contractors.
Obviously there are related scientific publications, but in practice
these fail to do justice to the complexity of such systems. The truest
physical representation of the knowledge learned by such work is the
codebase plus email discussions of it (plus what developers carry in
their heads).

We are about to see the emergence of companies licensing that publicly
funded software and selling modified versions of such software as
proprietary products. There will eventually be hundreds or thousands of
paid automotive software engineers working on such software no matter
how it is funded, because there will be great value in having such
self-driving vehicles given the result of America's horrendous urban
planning policies leaving the car as generally the most efficient means
of transport in the suburb. The question is, will the results of the
work be open for inspection and contribution by the public? Essentially,
will those engineers and their employers be "owners" of the software, or
will they instead be "stewards" of a larger free and open community
development process?

Open source software is typically eventually of much higher quality
http://www.fsf.org/software/reliability.html
and reliability because more eyes look over the code for problems and
more voices contribute to adding innovative solutions. About 35,000
Americans are killed every year in driving fatalities, and hundreds of
thousands more are seriously injured. Should the software that keeps
people safe on roads, and which has already been created primarily with
public funds, not also be kept under continuous public scrutiny?

Without concerted action, such software will likely be kept proprietary
because that will be more profitable sooner to the people who get in
early, and will fit into conventional expectations of business as usual.
It will likely end up being available for inspection and testing at best
to a few government employees under non-disclosure agreements. We are
talking about an entire publicly funded infrastructure about to
disappear from the public radar screen. There is something deeply wrong
here.

And while it is true many planes like the 757 can fly themselves already
for most of their journey, and their software is probably mostly
proprietary, the software involved in driving is potentially far more
complex as it requires visual recognition of cues in a more complex
environment full of many more unpredictable agents operating on much
faster timescales. Also, automotive intelligence will touch all of our
lives on a daily basis, where as aircraft intelligence can be generally
avoided in daily life.

Decisions on how this public intellectual property related to automotive
intelligence will be handled will affect the health and safety of every
American and later everyone in any developed country. Either way, the
automotive software engineers and their employers will do well
financially (for example, one might still buy a Volvo because their
software engineers are better and they do more thorough testing of
configurations). But which way will the public be better off:
* totally dependent on proprietary intelligences under the hoods of
their cars which they have no way of understanding, or instead
* with ways to verify what those intelligences do, understand how they
operate, and make contributions when they can so such automotive
intelligences serve humane purposes better?

If, for example, automotive intelligence was developed under some form
of copyleft license like the GNU General Public License,
http://www.fsf.org/copyleft/copyleft.html
then at least car owners or their "software mechanics" would be assured
they could have access to the software in source form to ensure safe
operation. What might be "street legal" in terms of software
modifications might be a different story -- in the same way people can't
legally drive with a cracked windshield or a broken headlight. For
example, software changes might need to first be proven safe in
simulation before being provisionally "street legal". But, the important
thing is, foundations or government agencies funding code development
could insist on some form of free licensing terms for automotive
intelligence as a matter of public policy.

There are many other areas of human activities that the exponential
growth of technology will effect. Automotive intelligence is just one of
them that is here now and which I am familiar with from tangential
interactions at universities with people developing it. In enough time
similar issues will arise for the software behind household robotics or
intelligent devices that assist the elderly or handicapped. The IBOT
wheelchair by Dean Kamen using complex software to balance on two wheels
is just the beginning of such devices.
http://iwsun4.infoworld.com/articles/op/xml/99/11/22/991122opmetcalfe.xml

Note the IBOT wheelchair was developed entirely with private funds it
seems, so the reasoning in this essay does not apply directly to it.
Also, in general Dean Kamen is a role model of a socially responsible
for-profit inventor. Still, the issue arises of whether "Johnson &
Johnson" should be funding such development, as was the case, as opposed
to, say, the "Robert Wood Johnson Foundation", as was not, given the
public policy issue of whether individuals should be continually
dependent for personal needs on proprietary software. In either case it
would be worth it to pay billions for such innovation, and the public
will pay that in the end as a toll on for such devices.

There is a real question here of how our society will proceed -- mainly
closed or mainly open. It is reflected in everything the non-profit
world does -- including the myths it lives by. The choice of myth can be
made in part by the funding policies set by foundations and government
agencies. The myth that funders may be living by is the scarcity
economics myth. How does that myth effect the digital public works
funding cycle?

=== the cycle of failure ===

Essentially, most digital public works funded by the government or
foundations follow this process:
* public money is paid to some organization to develop some seemingly
useful digital work either as a "prototype" or as a "product",
* the contractor argues it is important to create an artificial scarcity
for the work through copyright to ensure future support of new versions
of the work by the contractor without the need for future grants,
* without marketing, which is almost always more expensive than expected
(everyone hopes word-of-mouth will be enough for an overnight success),
the work fails to attract enough interest to justify continued
distribution and minimal support costs,
* the work is quickly outdated given limited original investment in it
and rapidly changing platforms and needs, plus the PI wants to move onto
other things, and so,
* the cycle repeats, since an organization that has learned how to get
one grant probably knows better than anything else how to get another.

Very rarely, the project is a "success" in the sense of being able to
become self sustaining economically after generally a large number of
funding cycles, such as with automotive intelligence. At that point, the
idea is "commercialized" often by the private sector and often someone
makes a lot of money.

To an extent, the logic behind all this is similar to when the US Forest
service puts in $100 of logging roads for $1 in logging fees, because
supposedly cheap access to timber will promote the US economy and
welfare of US citizens (even if the timber gets sold to Japan).

In the forest example, it is the public wilderness and those who would
enjoy it spiritually or physically who suffer. In the automotive
intelligence example, it is the public domain of copyright that suffers,
and likely also public privacy and public safety. However, the same
logic could be applied to the results of creating a directory of organic
food suppliers or a book about how to achieve world peace. Restricting
access to all of them is a result of the same scarcity mythology, and
the exponential growth of technology requires a new funding mythos.

== encouraging successful collaboration ===

To break that cycle, what needs to be done?

The mythology of funding needs to shift to fostering the creation of
free works of public value. There needs to be a faith that such works if
they are of value will eventually attract further support (from public
or private sources).

How can that new mythology be implemented on a practical basis? Here are
some ideas:
1. Support free content creation processes more than specific products.
2. Support people and organizations participating in those processes,
either those making free content or those shepherding free processes.
3. Don't encourage organizations to become self supporting by selling
licenses for copyrights or patents. Suggest instead they sell services,
customization, or memberships if they want to become self-supporting --
but such things are hard to do so don't insist on them.
4. Reward with more grants people and organizations who actually make
important free content (however that is judged).

It is very hard to make effective grants, no matter how knowledgeable,
hardworking, and dedicated the foundation staff and board is. Michael
Phillips talks about this in the book "The Seven Laws of Money" based on
his experience on the board of the Point Foundation. So obviously, this
is all easier said than done. Actually, Michael Phillips argues in
practice it is impossible to give successful external grants, but
perhaps this new funding mythology of supporting free content may change
the granting landscape enough that some external grants will produce
good things, since at some point grant applicants could be judged on a
portfolio of previously developed free content in addition to perceived
public value for proposed new efforts.

=== a sure thing ===

What is an immediate thing the Markle Foundation could do to get more
digital public works built which address the foundation's interests of a
Policy for a Networked Society, Interactive Media for Children, and
Information Technologies for Better Health? Both my wife (Cynthia Kurtz)
and I have created public products at our own expense (such as the
six person-years spent to make our garden simulator). We are still
interested in free content creation processes, but have been limited
until recently in what we could do by basically having to work our way
back up to a zero net-worth over the last three years (mainly at IBM) to
pay back what we borrowed to complete our simulator and some other
educational and aesthetic projects (PlantStudio and StoryHarp software).
An investment in our work, say, by hiring us as staff members at the
Markle Foundation, with an employment agreement allowing us to create
public standards supporting free content creation processes, and
allowing us to distribute whatever content we create under free or open
licenses will at least ensure that there will be a few more public
digital works in the world. We can send resumes if there is interest.
But frankly, if you just look at our garden simulator you will see we
are competent and committed. And if you look at our comments online such
as at: http://groups.google.com/groups?ic=1&th=bc41381803b7e0c0,11
[now at:
http://groups.google.com/group/gnu.misc.discuss/msg/1e499c6db59117a2?
]
(where we attempt to shift the paradigm of digital rights management
tools from "preventing unauthorized use" to "ensuring the right to
freely use and communicate" such as to address the tools/protocols issue
raised at the start of this essay) you will see we are insightful and
innovative. We've both programmed a lot (thirty+ years in total), and we
are both working for IBM as contractors. I'm contracting through June
with IBM Research on XSLT standards. Cynthia is contracting with the IBM
Institute for Knowledge Management on storytelling based communications
and complexity. Cynthia is especially interested in issues relating to
teaching tolerance and preserving indigenous knowledge and folklore. I'm
more interested in developing a library of sustainable technology along
with better processes for collaborative development of new free works by
using clear licenses governing the use of all related communications.
However, while our content generation activities are low legal risk, any
work I do in the area of tools to help share information is of high
legal risk, and the Markle Foundation might justifiably decide not to
take on such a liability (even if it does relate to its larger mission).

=== please keep charitable content free; ask peers to do likewise ===

But even if you don't consider working with us, please, please look
seriously at the copyright policies of individuals and organizations you
do fund. Please insist all the creative work you fund is communicated to
the public under free or open licenses.
http://www.fsf.org/philosophy/license-list.html
http://www.opensource.org/
And please encourage other peers in foundations and government agencies
to do likewise (such as through the Digital Opportunity Task Force).
That way, even if we don't work directly with you on our own projects,
at least others like us can build on top of the efforts of people you do
fund. That would at least be a big improvement over the current
situation.

-Paul Fernhout
Kurtz-Fernhout Software
=========================================================
Developers of custom software and educational simulations
Creators of the free Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com

Copyright 2001-2008 Paul D. Fernhout
License: Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire email is
permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.
Note: I believe "fair use" of this work includes copying of short
sections with attribution for the purpose of discussion.

M. Thyer

unread,
Apr 9, 2008, 11:10:20 PM4/9/08
to Project Virgle
Howdy Paul,

You make some good points, however I'd like to speak about a few
differences between a working version of a program imagined by Virgle
and many of the examples you write about or cite above.

Probably the most stark contrast between the systems you've described
above and a program to send humanity to Mars would be the
infrastructure necessary to accommodate success. This is not to say
that information infrastructure would not need to exist, but, lets
consider for a moment life support system necessary for a successful
Martian landing and maintenance of a crew over a long period of time.
Command and control systems would have to be developed and integrated
into each mechanical or physical component of these complex systems.
These CCM components are essentially an infrastructure comprised of
information networks, we'll call them core information systems.

For each monitor or management control point a CCM component system
touches within any life support system there would undoubtedly and
somewhat necessarily also be a manual or physical interface to that
system. In addition to these physical control redundancies there
would need to be unique physical interfaces between the crew and, in
this case, the life support system on a routine basis to accomplish
common tasks such as maintenance and optimization.

Notably, the physical and/or capital assets of just this one life
support system require:
More than a volunteer staff to design, integrate, build, deploy, and
maintain. At any stage from inception to retirement systems such as a
life support will require a team of specialists that understand, not
only the system and its greater lifetime goals, but their particular
part of the system puzzle. These individuals usually have particular
expertise with the system at large as well as at their stage of
involvement and can reliably be called upon to correct issues that
arise in the system life cycle long after their involvement with their
stage of project is completed.
A long term financial commitment not commonly found in quick value
realization models such as Open Source information systems. We're
talking about *very* steep investment costs that may never demonstrate
a direct profit and may take lifetimes to show an indirect profit.
Life support is a great example because its operation is key to a
manned mission, but this system is unlikely to yield anything other
than spin off technologies. It will never demonstrate a direct profit
yet you can't have a mission without it. Business interest in Mars
exploration or colonization will, by virtue of the capital assets
involved, have a very long term plan to realize their costs and return
a profit within the lifetime of the company(s) involved. The economy
we maintain here on Earth today requires that strict patent and
licence agreements are in place at a minimum.
A well defined chain of responsibility. Consider for a moment the
aforementioned life support system in use by a crew of people
stationed on the red planet. Let's suppose for a moment that the
whole system is comprised of a variety of types of sub-systems
(mechanical CO2 scrubbers, photo-synthetic algae O2 production,
mechanical filtration, CCM, and air sterilization for a start). For
each of these sub-systems we'll guess that two crew members (for
redundancy) will needs be assigned to common tasks pertaining to each
sub-system and an additional, ubiquitous operations engineer will
monitor each sub-system from mission control back on earth at any time
during any day. For the on-site crew members we'll assign one man-
hour of labor a day to his or her sub-system except the CCM component
which could be bundled under an all inclusive "fire-guard" watch.
Total per day, that's 28 man-hours of work on-site, plus an additional
24 man-hours of work back at Earth's mission control that must be
accomplished every day, rain or dust storm. Now suppose crew member
Jill sneezes on a critical component of the photo-synthetic algae O2
production sub-system and algae begins to die. O2 production levels
won't drop for some time and there's no possible way to monitor the
reproduction rate of the algae except en mass. Jill does nothing
because she's unaware of the problem she's caused. That is to say
until Jack, on his graveyard shift back on earth a full 24 hours
later, notices a steady decline in the amount of O2 being produced by
the system. Jack checks the records from the last three shifts and
projects critical O2 depletion in a week give or take. Jack raises
the alarm, Jill is awakened 30 minutes later and gathers what she
needs to address the issue including her crew colleague Martin who
also manages the same sub-system. All three O2 production engineers
run through a chain of protocols that identify a foreign single cell
bacteria in the three of the 20 algae tanks which is spreading via the
nutrient wash that is share between tanks and killing the algae. The
contaminated tanks are isolated and the contaminating agent is flushed
from the system as a matter of protocol, within a month the station's
O2 production levels are back to normal. Jill, Martin, and Jack
continue to maintain the system per protocol as their responsibility.
Or none of this happens because the chain of responsibility for
monitoring and maintenance are not defined, protocols are not
followed, all 20 algae tanks are contaminated and within a week the
crew is dead from because there just isn't enough O2 being produced.
Once a crew leaves the cradle of Earth there are no second chances.
System redundancies are not failure proof as is evidenced by the last
50 years of space faring missions. In the case of some critical
mission systems the margin for error may only be measured in nano-
seconds (think engine ignition) and failure conditions may result in
absolute mission failure (read total crew death).

Open and transparent thinking may be called for within some constructs
and even some mission objectives may be best met with Open Source
methodologies. But that said, even Praxis Corporation had a
fictitious profit margin it had to maintain in K.S. Robinson's series.
This is precisely the issue many a Mars program are presently facing
and also why they'll never get off Earth.

Why won't NASA consider planning or building a long term mission to
Mars? Why hasn't some other ambitious meta-national organization with
billions of dollars in liquid capital ready to invest done similar?
Don't you imagine that, for instance, any major meta-national oil
company in existence today has the long term planning experience,
operational experience, and capital investment necessary to complete a
mission to Mars? They'd be betting on making money how? What would
they be claiming?

The bet isn't defined well enough for Exxon/Mobile yet and we all know
that NASA doesn't take chances any more. Here's the reason people
don't develop deep sea drilling projects from the comfort of their
garages.

Let me be clear, the pessimism inherent in my synopsis above does
*not* indicate that I think this an impossible set of tasks. I'm
merely stating the obvious since Mars remains an untenable mission if
we (the interested portion of humanity) continue to operate wholly
from the "garage". Without serious, long-term backing which is tied
to either business or national interests there is no manned mission to
Mars. And unless we (the interested portion of humanity) can
demonstrate that there are either or both business or national
interests available on the red planet no one is going there.

On Apr 9, 8:13 am, "Paul D. Fernhout" <pdfernh...@kurtz-fernhout.com>
wrote:
> More dusty stuff I wrote forwarded below -- made public now here mainly for
> future reference.
>
> It includes idea on the legal structure of a non-profit which is chartered
> to only handle free works and after that the essay "On funding digital
> public works".
>
> A shorter version of that essay is here:http://groups.google.com/group/openvirgle/browse_thread/thread/b92804...
>
> This is all also indirect commentary on:
> "The Adventure of Many Lifetimes: Open Source Planet"
> http://www.google.com/virgle/opensource.html
> "Our civilization's most valuable export, meanwhile, will be intellectual
> property. The problems our Pioneers solve in the course of their
> world-building enterprise will represent an engine of invention in dozens of
> lucrative areas, from biotechnology to geology, physics to agriculture. We
> see the community's system of intellectual property development evolving
> from a community open source model to commercial open source (or perhaps we
> mean that the other way around?). ... How should an open source planetary
> development project interact with existing companies and markets? ... At
> what point should Martian property move from being distributed solely among
> Pioneers and open source investors to being traded to outside investors?"
>
> So, when you get "fired" at Virgle -- it's out the airlock without a helmet?
> :-)
>
> Or access to Virgle know-how and tools you helped build, which would be the
> same thing in the long run?
>
> What kind of society would that be? :-(
>
> We need a "post-scarcity" paradigm all the way through IMHO.
>
> And advanced automation
> http://www.islandone.org/MMSG/aasm/
> plus social change ideas:
> http://www.whywork.org/rethinking/whywork/abolition.html
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Triple_Revolution
> http://www.educationanddemocracy.org/FSCfiles/C_CC2a_TripleRevolution...
> may build businesses (or more:http://www.google-watch.org/gpower.html) on,
> say, GNU/Linux or at the edges of the Pro-Am revolution.
>
> And I know my writing and learning on freedom (and responsibility :-)
> "Freedom & Responsibility"
> "Public Domain Stories: On funding digital public works"http://www.existential-therapy.com/Special_Topics/Freedom_and_Respons...
> would not be possible without something like Google. So there is positive
> feedback. :-)
>
> Things are slowly changing from when I first wrote this stuff below.
>
> Wikipedia is a big change.
>
> And here is a good example of a non-profit doing lots of things right IMHO:
> http://www.concord.org/
> "The Concord Consortium is a nonprofit educational research and development
> organization based in Concord, Massachusetts. We create interactive
> materials that exploit the power of information technologies. Our primary
> goal in all our work is digital equity -- improving learning opportunities
> was to ensure any funds or effort or patents and copyrights (such as at:http://www.gardenwithinsight.com/) which I or others donated to the
> [A shorter version of that essay is here:http://groups.google.com/group/openvirgle/browse_thread/thread/b92804...
> ]
>
> I also have another broader related essay I can send about how to save
> significant money in many sectors of the US economy by non-profits and
> others adopting and promulgating a post-scarcity worldview.
> [Now at:http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/AchievingAStarTrekSociety.html
> ]
>
> --Paul Fernhout
>
> "On funding digital public works" forwarded below:
>
> -------- Original Message --------
> [snipped]
> Subject: On funding digital public works
> Date: Tue, 12 Jun 2001 12:51:10 -0400
> From: Paul Fernhout <pdfernh...@kurtz-fernhout.com>
> Organization: Kurtz-Fernhout Software
> To: i...@markle.org
> people who need it can get it:http://www.humaninfo.org/join.htm) just
> is just the beginning of such devices.http://iwsun4.infoworld.com/articles/op/xml/99/11/22/991122opmetcalfe...
> Creators of the free Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulatorhttp://www.kurtz-fernhout.com
>
> Copyright 2001-2008 Paul D. Fernhout
> License: Verbatim copying and distribution of this entire email is
> permitted in any medium, provided this notice is preserved.
> Note: I believe "fair use" of this work includes copying of short
> sections with attribution for the purpose of discussion.- Hide quoted text -
>
> - Show quoted text -

Paul D. Fernhout

unread,
Apr 10, 2008, 10:33:01 AM4/10/08
to vir...@googlegroups.com
M. Thyer wrote:
> You make some good points, however I'd like to speak about a few
> differences between a working version of a program imagined by Virgle
> and many of the examples you write about or cite above.

Thanks for the effort you put into a business-oriented reply. Comments below.

> Probably the most stark contrast between the systems you've described
> above and a program to send humanity to Mars would be the
> infrastructure necessary to accommodate success. This is not to say
> that information infrastructure would not need to exist, but, lets
> consider for a moment life support system necessary for a successful
> Martian landing and maintenance of a crew over a long period of time.

Remember my point: "So, when you get "fired" at Virgle -- it's out the
airlock without a helmet? :-) Or [without] access to Virgle know-how and


tools you helped build, which would be the same thing in the long run? What
kind of society would that be? :-("

So, how about "citizen" instead of "crew"?

That means a huge difference in rights and responsibilities long term.

About 20 years ago, I incorporated a "for profit" to work towards such ends
"Sunrise Universal Services" but dissolved it after a year (without doing
any substantial business under it) in large part because of realizing this
issue.

So, been there, done that, got the "corporate dissolution certificate". :-)

The saddest thing is I ended the beginnings of a "non-profit" with a few
actual supportive *members* to do that.

Related *very* dusty stuff:

=============================
Sunrise Sustainable Technology Institute Newsletter 3/20/90
[address snipped]

Sunrise Sustainable Technology Institute publishes its first newsletter.

Other firsts include: its first two members joined for $20 each one week
ago; its first business plan HyperCard stack runs on the macintosh; a first
draft of articles of incorporation is being reviewed; a first attempt at
forming a board of directors was scheduled for next Monday.

Being first is exciting, as well as stressful. Sunrise's first president,
Paul D. Fernhout, is handling the situation well. Positive feedback from
several key people has helped: Ted Taylor, Ilsa Johnson, Stella Andrassy,
Carol Allen, Jean Sinden, and Jennifer Morgan (to name a few).

Major goals over the next few months are:
1. Incorporation
2. Tax Exempt Status Application
3. 50 Members
4. Five grant proposals
5. STELLA Prototype: Sunrise Sustainable Technology Library
6. Computer Equipment
7. Office Space
8. An active Board of Directors
9. Strategic alliances with other non-profits
10. A greenhouse agriculture/aquaculture test bed

The Sunrise Sustainable Technology Institute helps people give creatively in
the field of technology. SSTI develops a public domain library of technology
(STELLA) compatible with long term human survival in style. SSTI deploys
this knowledge to allow people freedom to design their built environments.

When operational, the Sunrise sustainable technology library (Stella) is
more than a catalogue of technology. It contains the web of interrelations
between technological artifacts. For example, consider a greenhouse made of
plastic sheets covering an aluminum frame. Stella can tell you all the
tools, materials, and skills needed to make such a greenhouse by presenting
pictures of them on a computer display. Stella can then let you pick any
component and trace all the things needed to make it. Through this process,
Stella allows you to explore the entire web of technology.

But Stella can do more than help you explore. Stella can help you design.
Stella allows you to design a new type of greenhouse. Stella can help you
figure out what components go into the new greenhouse design. This is done
using a user-friendly graphical computer interface where you can see a
picture of the greenhouse as you design it. Stella can print out plans for
this new design.

However, Stella can do more than design a thing in isolation. Stella can
help you design an entire technology base to manufacture, assemble, repair,
and dispose of greenhouses. Stella allows you to track every material used
in the greenhouse's construction and what becomes of it at every stage in
the life of the greenhouse. Further, Stella can help you design the entire
web of technology you would need to do all of this to whatever degree of
self reliance you desire. Stella can show you what tools and materials you
need to import and export from your selected subset of the entire web of
technology.

Using Stella, Sunrise is developing a technological web to allow the
Institute to rely on sustainable technology for 90% of its operations.
Sustainable technology is technology that can be used indefinitely without
harm to the environment and which can be recycled or disposed of without
environmental damage. Every system developed or adapted will be put into
Stella and made public domain for anyone to use. These systems would
eventually include housing, food production, paper use, energy use,
transportation, communications, and computing. Stella would be used to
assess priorities and degrees of sustainability for all the technology the
institute relies on.

Like any living system, Sunrise will grow over time. Sunrise's growth
strategy will be to replicate itself in other communities. Each institute
will have a Stella system, and the Stella systems will all communicate with
each other to share innovations. In this fashion, Sunrise can help many
communities increase their use of sustainable technology.

As the institute grows, it will market sustainable technology it has
invented or discovered to the surrounding community on an ability to pay
basis. In addition it will provide consulting to organizations increasing
their sustainability and decreasing their negative impact on the environment.

When established, the work environment at Sunrise offers the following to
employees and their dependants: food, shelter, energy, tools, work space,
health care, day care, transportation, communication, computation, household
goods, education, a retirement plan, creative companionship, and a small
salary for a few luxuries. While no one at Sunrise will get rich, Sunrise
employees know they and their families will be provided for. The Sunrise
environment is experimental: the employees live with, work with, and test
technology they have discovered and developed. Since all work is in the
public domain, Sunrise employees know they work in service of humanity and
not a specific corporation. Sunrise employees have no fears that some
organization might shelve their ideas and deprive them of rights to use
them. By setting a high degree of self-reliance as a goal, Sunrise helps
assure stability for its employees no matter what happens to the larger
economy.

While not-for-profit, Sunrise still needs money to operate. Sunrise's money
will come from the following areas:
1. Donations
2. Grants
3. Individual and Corporate Memberships
5. Proceeds from selling sustainable technology
6. Proceeds from consulting on sustainable technology
7. Proceeds from workshops and tours
8. Proceeds from selling access to databases
[not from selling the data!]

On an operating level, Sunrise will strive to utilize volunteers, exchange
services with other non-profits, and supply its needs from the in-house
productivity of its own staff whenever possible. Since Sunrise provides
most of the necessities of its staff and their dependants, salaries can be
low.

By focusing on developing, testing, and using new methods of production,
Sunrise will acquire over time a physical infrastruture that is an
embodiement of the ideas in Stella. This infrastructure will include
machine tools, housing, a seed bank, breeding stock, energy production
facilities, recycling centers, biological sewage treatment facilities, day
care centers, computer hardware, meeting rooms, vehicles, and so forth.
Employees using this capital along with Stella will be able to extend the
capital base at times without the necessity for large amounts of money.
This is possible through the use of collected energy applied to recycle
materials and manufacture them into needed items that more than make up for
the wear and tear (overhead) involved in creating them.

This is the fourty year timeline of goals for Sunrise:
1990 - 50 members, computer workstation, greenhouse, 100 items in Stella
1991 - Several staff, ten volunteers, 200 members, several workstations, on
site housing and day care, 1000 items in Stella
1992 - 10,000 items in Stella. On site energy production
1993 - 50 staff on site, 50,000 items in Stella
1995 - 200 staff on 2 sites, 100,000 items in Stella
2001 - 10 institutes, 1 million items in Stella, Desert Institute.
2011 - 30 Institutes, 10 million, Antarctic Institute
2033 - 100 Institutes, 100 million, O'Neill Habitat Institute

=============================

Paul D. Fernhout
[address snipped]
Princeton, NJ 08540
July 14, 1990

Dear Members:

Thank you for your support in developing the Sunrise Sustainable Technology
Institute as a non-profit venture. Through your support we met our first
membership goal.
A friend suggested I evaluate my strengths and weaknesses for this venture.
I did. As for weaknesses, I do not enjoy asking individuals for monetary
support or for volunteered time. However, these are at the core of most
non-profit organizations.
I am good at working intensely for short periods of time to develop new
technology, particularly computer software. Since this is where my
strength lies, I have decided to restructure my efforts toward a for-profit
venture to develop educational software as its first project. In particular
I am developing a computer game that teaches organic gardening.
The cash flow from this venture when successful will allow Sunrise to
expand to develop other software projects, such as the technology library
mentioned in our first newsletter. In addition, at that point, other people
could be brought into the company to develop and manage other self reliant
aspects of the corporation such as corporate gardens, flexible manufacturing
systems, solar collectors, and an ecological resort/conference center.
It is important to me that this organic gardening game project by itself is
a socially responsible effort. I hope it is just a first step towards more
such projects. Even if it does not allow me to go further, by itself it is
a worthwhile effort.
This is a very important part of my development strategy, since there are
many money making opportunities in this world. Earning capital through
socially responsible efforts creates positive energy in myself and others.
Earning capital through more conventional means such as helping huge
companies sell sugar to children produces negative energy. My safety net in
corporate development is knowing that even if we fail at any point the means
have justified themselves.
You may ask where that leaves your membership contribution. In order to
resolve this fairly, I am returning all contributions received. Please keep
your fluorescent lightbulb or book on 50 ways to save the planet as a token
of thanks for your support.

Sincerely,


Paul D. Fernhout
=============================

Paul D. Fernhout - Sunrise Personal Visions 3/9/90

Why did I found Sunrise Universal Services, and what is it to become?

The ingredients of my Sunrise Soup (people, books, and ideas)
O'Neill & Bernal: Space Habitats and Self Replicating Systems
Skinner: Walden Two
Norris: Socially Responsible Business and Control Data
Calthorpe and Van der Ryn: Sustainable Communities
Lovins: Brittle Power and the Soft Path
Morris and Hess: Neighborhood Power and Community Technology
Jane Jacobs: Cities and the Wealth of Nations
Coates: Resettling America
Bass: Space Biosphere Ventures and Biosphere II
Taylor: Micropolis and the renewal of the Earth
Disney: EPCOT-Experimental Prototypical Community of Tommorow
Bookchin: Post Scarcity Anarchism
Robbins: Diet for a New America
Ogilvy: Many Dimensional Man
Merril & Gage: The Energy Primer
Todd: The New Alchemy Institute
Dickson: The Politics of Appropriate Technology
Harlan Thompson: Silent Running, Robots, and Domes
Tokar: The Green Alternative
Ekins: The Living Economy
Hopkins: How to master the Art of Selling
Winner: Autonomous Technology
Simon: People: The Ultimate Resource
Commoner: The Poverty of Power

These are many times this more books and people I have not listed, but this
is a representative list and the most important.

There are two reasons I founded sunrise. One is for the convenience and
psychological edge of doing business as a corporation. The second is to
give birth to a new baby embodying parts of myself and my dreams.
I am a designer of technological infrastructures. Sunrise is my vehicle for
designing and building a sustainable technological infrastructure. Thus the
following statement of purpose for Sunrise:

Sunrise was founded to construct and support human communities in land,
ocean, and space by developing and deploying a sustainable, self-reliant,
and self-replicating infrastructure. Sunrise will own and manage this
infrastructure where possible. This infrastructure is a mix of people,
plants, animals, microbes, machines, structures, and information. The
infrastructure will evolve.

I have the vision of a self-reliant corporation that has its own industrial
base apart from the larger economy. The idea is that the corporation can
produce almost all the neccesary and luxury goods and services of life
in-house. Thus it can plan effectively for its own needs and survive.

Sunrise was founded to construct and support human communities in land,
ocean, and space by developing and deploying a sustainable, self-reliant,
and self-replicating infrastructure. Sunrise will own and manage this
infrastructure where possible. This infrastructure is a mix of people,
plants, animals, microbes, machines, structures, and information. The
infrastructure will evolve.

I have the vision of a self-reliant corporation that has its own industrial
base apart from the larger economy. The idea is that the corporation can
produce almost all the neccesary and luxury goods and services of life
in-house. Thus it can plan effectively for its own needs and survive.

The corporation will someday own O'Neill habitats in space, underwater
bases, underground cities, and communities in suburbs, rural areas, cities,
the desert, and the antartic. Domes and environmental conditioning will be
used as appropriate. Each of these communities will only trade by choice,
not out of neccesity. They will all be linked into an information network
and corporate library to share their local innovations and ask for ideas on
specific problems.

The corporation will own facilities in manufacturing, agriculture,
information processing, education, housing, dining, health care, recreation,
and so on. These facilities will be in both park clusters and in networks
spread in a community.

=========================================================

Agreement between
Sunrise Universal Services
and
________________________

For the following considerations from Sunrise during the duration of this
relationship ***:
1. Health Care
2. Near Site Child Care
3. Family Education and Therapy
4. Housing
5. Meals
6. Equity in the local company branch
7. A salary of $__________ per ______
8. Access to the Sunrise Information Network
9. Access to transportation facilities
10. 10% of royalties or profits from any individual creative work done with
the company and a lesser % of group work.
11. Retirement plan
12. Access to Sunrise recreational and cultural facilities
13. Access to Sunrise addiction rehabilitation programs
14. Access to the Sunrise manufacturing network
15. Access to the Sunrise procurement service
16. Other services as implemented
Note: Not all services may be initially available, but will be provided
eventually.

The above signed person agrees to:
1. Allow Sunrise free unlimited use of all ideas, patents, and non-personal
writing done by person in any capacity whatsoever during association with
the company, and to provide documentation of such work as it is done. Note
this require special wavers from other companies for work done for freelance
where that company wanted to hold on to all rights Such exclusive contracts
could not be morally or legally entered into under this agreement.
2. To do what work needs to be done at Sunrise to keep it functioning and
growing as a sustainable community. The demands of such work in time and
effort shall be in line with personal capacity and community norms.
3. To continually grow as a person in personal health and relationships and
to seek help as neccesary to do so.
4. To govern oneself to reasonable standards of behavior given the Sunrise
culture and the cultures it is embedded in, including becoming a productive
person.

This agreement can be terminated upon two weeks notice by either party.
Termination by Sunrise will be preceeded by a written warning of specific
causes for dismissal, with one chance for improvement.

Sign and Date:
For Sunrise: ____________________
Employee: _________________________

==============================

"Radical Plan"

I don't like patents and copyrights. So, what about this business plan:
Everything sunrise delvelops will be public domain. Donations are
appreciated, of course. But Sunrise makes its money off of providing a
service - a communications and computer network to give access to that
public domain information, and by selling goods and services derived by
using that public domain knowledge. Sunrise will not engage in development
work unless is can be made freely available. (a Non-profit?) All that is
require to use sunrise information is to acknowledge: "Some information
provided by Sunrise Corporation"? Maybe not even that.

Major concept: that just as the law is public domain, and you still pay
lawyers $150 an hour, Sunrise's technology base could be public domain and
Sunrise could still charge $200 an hour to help use it, and extend it, and
refine it to specific applications.

============================

Agreement
Agreement between
Sunrise Sustainable Technology Institute
and
________________________

For the following considerations from Sunrise during the duration of this
relationship ***:
1. Health Care
2. Near Site Child Care
3. Family Education and Therapy
4. Housing
5. Meals
6. Equity in decision making in the local institute branch
7. A salary of $__________ per ______
8. Access to the Sunrise Information Network and Stella
9. Access to transportation facilities
10. Retirement plan (extends beyond the duration of this agreement)
11. Access to Sunrise recreational and cultural facilities
12. Access to Sunrise addiction rehabilitation programs
13. Access to the Sunrise manufacturing network
14. Access to the Sunrise procurement service
15. Other services as implemented
*** Note: Not all services may be initially available, but will be provided
eventually.

The above signed person agrees to:
1. Put in the public domain all ideas, patents, and non-personal writing
done with Sunrise in any capacity whatsoever during association with the
company, and to provide documentation of such work as it is done.
2. To do what work needs to be done at Sunrise to keep it functioning and
growing as a sustainable community. The demands of such work in time and
effort shall be in line with personal capacity and community norms.
3. To continually grow as a person in personal health and relationships and
to seek help as neccesary to do so.
4. To govern oneself to reasonable standards of behavior given the Sunrise
culture and the cultures it is embedded in, including becoming a productive
person.

This agreement can be terminated upon two weeks notice by either party.
Termination by Sunrise will be preceeded by a written warning of specific
causes for dismissal, with one chance for improvement.

Sign and Date:
For Sunrise: ____________________
Employee: _________________________

=========================================================

It was writing and reading "two weeks notice" that eventually made me
realize it would never work. Again: "So, when you get "fired" at Virgle --


it's out the airlock without a helmet?

And all "intentional communities" have related issues with equity.
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22intentional+communities%22+equity
http://everything2.com/e2node/Legal%2520Structures%2520for%2520Intentional%2520Communities%2520in%2520the%2520United%2520States

==============================================

A later phase:

The Sagittarius Institute

People, Technology, and Nature
in Sustainable, Replicable, and Renewable Communities

The Sagitarius Institute has the long range goal of linking people,
technology, and the environment into a sustainable symbiosis. The institute
will work in partnership with other public and private sector organizations
to develop and deploy technology for a more sustainable society.

A more sustainable society will be less dependent on non-renewable
resources, more decentralized, more networked, more secure against economic
disruption, more efficient in energy use, high in biodiversity, healthier,
safer, less addicted, less alienated, and more fun.

The institute's early focus involves using computer and information
technology in three ways to promote this mission.

The first way is to improve the routine operations of organizations with
missions related to fostering sustainability and meeting other major social
needs, for example in the field of sustainable agriculture.

It helps organizations by providing computer system setup services, software
training, troubleshooting, operations support, programming, desktop
publishing services, administration, and organizational and management
consulting.

This sort of support has already been provided by the executive director
previously for the Natural Organic Farmer's Association of New Jersey
(NOFA-NJ), the Stony Brook Millstone Watershed Association's Sustainable
Agriculture Project, the New Jersey Department of Agriculture Division of
Regulatory Services, the Princeton Whole Earth Center, and the Princeton
International Solar Institute.

The second way is to develop computer software and other media to directly
educate and inform the general public about sustainability. This includes
showing what they can do directly to improve their lives and their
communities, such as through a computer game about organic lawn care. The
institute will form partnerships with other organizations when possible.

One project the executive director already has ongoing with Applied
Biomathematics involves a software package for ecological modeling and risk
assessment.

Another such partnership under consideration might be with the Stony Brook
Millstone Watershed Association, NOFA-NJ, and/or the Whole Earth Center to
develop a computer game about organic agriculture and its economic, health
and environmental dimensions. Players would run a simulated organic market
garden or farm tailored to local growing conditions and would gain points
for building up soil fertility and loose points for pesticide use or
groundwater pollution.

Future computer projects could involve multi-media systems at nature
centers, libraries, and museums, an interactive CD-ROM on sustainable
development and technology, and a Nintendo game about environmental issues.

The third way is to develop a computerized sustainable technology database
and holistic design system. This will allow individuals and communities to
choose their desired levels of self-reliance and risk and then design and
simulate lifestyles, communities, and economic ventures that achieve them.

It would be like a combination of the Electronic Whole Earth Catalogue, the
Appropriate Technology Source Book and Microfiche library, AutoCad,
HyperCard, Sim-City, a geographic information system, and an expert system.
The executive director has been exploring this system's development for
three years.

The institute is funded principally through fees for computer services and
royalties from sales of software and other educational media. Donations
are welcome. The institute does not yet have 501-C-3 tax exempt status but
will be applying for it. To do so it needs to get service fees and
royalties accepted as exempt function income. The Institute will also apply
for grants alone and in partnership with other organizations.

The institute is funded principally through fees for computer services and
royalties from sales of software and other educational media. Donations
are welcome. The institute does not yet have 501-C-3 tax exempt status but
will be applying for it. To do so it needs to get service fees and
royalties accepted as exempt function income. The Institute will also apply
for grants alone and in partnership with other organizations.

Paul D. Fernhout is the executive director and chief bottle washer. He has
a B.A. in cognitive psychology from Princeton University. He was later
manager of the university's robotics and expert systems laboratory and then
a PhD graduate student in civil engineering, operations research, and
statistics. Since then he has administered an organic farm certification
program and been president of a computer consulting corporation. He is
presently pursuing a PhD in Ecology and Evolution at SUNY Stony Brook.

======================================

Notes on Technology Library

Many collections of technology have been created. For example there is the
Whole Earth Catalogue, the Energy Primer, and a book called The Appropriate
Technology Sourcebook. The institute will have a far more interrelated
computerized technology library as its core. This project goes beyond their
approach of cataloging technology and having pictures of it. The heart of
this project is modelling the interrelations of technology using the
emerging computer technology of hypertext and network modelling.

This fundamentally interdisciplinary and integrative approach will provide
new insights into the nature of our technology. It will allow one to design
more than specific technological artifacts. It will make possible the
design of entire technological systems and the economies that accompany
them. It make possible tracking specific substances, like lead, in a
technological system, and figuring out ways to eliminate their use. This
technology library will allow people to mix and match technologies and see
what industries are necessary for them to have the artifacts they want.

Imagine having a computerized library of tools and their interactions
arranged in such a way that would allow anyone to explore the implications
of any technological artifact or assembly. For example, imagine studying
the automobile. One could examine all the seperate component parts -
windshields, frame, radio, tires on a computer workstation. One could also
examine all the systems needed to put the automobile together. Pictures
would appear for all the diverse elements. Then, one could explore the
tire, and all the technology required to create it. One could explore this
network indefinitely, and examine all the interrelations fundamental to the
industrialized economy we live in.

Imagine the benefits of understanding this web. With powerful enough
information management tools, one could invent new technological webs.
These new webs might be simpler or more robust than the one we live with
now. A new web might be designed that would be more sustainable. It would
consist of products that were more secure, self-reliant, self-replicating,
durable, low cost, non-polluting, energy efficient, evolving, and pleasant
to use. For example, it might have at its base solar collectors, windmills,
renewable fuels, and organic farming. The system could help answer the
questions: what do we need for such a technology and what don't we need?

==========================================

I met my wife around then and things settled into a more modest
"Kurtz-Fernhout Software: Developers of custom software and educational
simulations."

I learned to: "Think globally, act locally, plan modestly" :-)

I still think there were a lot of good ideas there (so I am sharing) but I
did not have the social skills etc. to make them happen then (plus computing
was much more expensive then :-).
"Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business"
http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/16-03/ff_free

Although in a way, Google approaches some of those "Sunrise Sustainable
Technology Institute" ideals:
"At Google, we’re committed to helping build a clean energy future."
http://www.google.com/corporate/green/energy/
"Google Opening Day Care Center For Bitty Googlers"
http://insidegoogle.blogspot.com/2004/11/google-opening-day-care-center-for.html
"Massage interviews?"
http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2007/05/massage-interviews.html
And so on.

> Command and control systems would have to be developed and integrated
> into each mechanical or physical component of these complex systems.
> These CCM components are essentially an infrastructure comprised of
> information networks, we'll call them core information systems.
>
> For each monitor or management control point a CCM component system
> touches within any life support system there would undoubtedly and
> somewhat necessarily also be a manual or physical interface to that
> system. In addition to these physical control redundancies there
> would need to be unique physical interfaces between the crew and, in
> this case, the life support system on a routine basis to accomplish
> common tasks such as maintenance and optimization.
>
> Notably, the physical and/or capital assets of just this one life
> support system require:
> More than a volunteer staff to design, integrate, build, deploy, and
> maintain. At any stage from inception to retirement systems such as a
> life support will require a team of specialists that understand, not
> only the system and its greater lifetime goals, but their particular
> part of the system puzzle. These individuals usually have particular
> expertise with the system at large as well as at their stage of
> involvement and can reliably be called upon to correct issues that
> arise in the system life cycle long after their involvement with their
> stage of project is completed.

Again, sci-fi novel on that theme:


_Voyage from Yesteryear_ by the author James P. Hogan
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyage_from_Yesteryear

"Since the availability of power from fusion reactors and cheap automated
labor has enabled them to develop a post-scarcity economy, they do not use
money as a means of exchange, nor do they recognize material possessions as
symbols of status. Instead, competence and talent are considered symbolic of
one's social standing-resources that cannot be counterfeited or hoarded, and
must be put to use if they are to be acknowledged. As a result, the
competitive drive that fuels capitalist financial systems has filled the
colony with the products of decades of incredible artistic and technical
talent-and there are no widespread hierarchies."

> A long term financial commitment not commonly found in quick value
> realization models such as Open Source information systems. We're
> talking about *very* steep investment costs that may never demonstrate
> a direct profit and may take lifetimes to show an indirect profit.

Then it is not a conventional business.

> Life support is a great example because its operation is key to a
> manned mission, but this system is unlikely to yield anything other
> than spin off technologies. It will never demonstrate a direct profit
> yet you can't have a mission without it. Business interest in Mars
> exploration or colonization will, by virtue of the capital assets
> involved, have a very long term plan to realize their costs and return
> a profit within the lifetime of the company(s) involved. The economy
> we maintain here on Earth today requires that strict patent and
> licence agreements are in place at a minimum.

Many think "strict patent and licence agreements" are holding us back at
this point. We got dogs, agriculture, jazz and language without them. :-)
http://www.kurtz-fernhout.com/oscomak/need.htm
"Self-replicating technical artifacts such as dogs, corn, and trees have
been in use by humanity for thousands of years. While humans cannot lay
credit to the original creation of such systems, they can claim the
adaptation and selective breeding of these for defense, food, and building
materials."

See:
"Debian New Maintainers' Guide"
http://www.debian.org/doc/maint-guide/
"General Resolution: Endorse the concept of Debian Maintainers"
http://www.debian.org/vote/2007/vote_003
"""
#The initial policy for an individual to be included in the keyring will be:
* that the applicant acknowledges Debian's social contract, free
software guidelines, and machine usage policies.
* that the applicant provides a valid gpg key, signed by a Debian
developer (and preferably connected to the web of trust by multiple paths).
* that at least one Debian developer (preferably more) is willing to
advocate the applicant's inclusion, in particular that the applicant is
technically competent and good to work with.

All additions to the keyring will be publicly announced to the
debian-project list.

#The initial policy is that removals from the keyring will occur under any
of the following circumstances:
* the individual has become a Debian developer
* the individual has not annually reconfirmed their interest
* multiple Debian developers have requested the individual's removal for
good reason, such as problematic uploads, unfixed bugs, or being
unreasonably difficult to work with
* the Debian Account Managers have requested the removal

#The initial policy for Debian developers who wish to advocate a potential
Debian maintainer will be:

* Developers should take care whom they choose to advocate, particularly
if they have not successfully participated as an Application Manager, or in
other mentoring roles. Advocacy should only come after seeing the individual
working effectively within Debian, both technically and socially.
* Advocacy messages should be posted to debian-newmaint or other
relevant public mailing list, and a link to that mail provided with the
application.
* If a developer repeatedly advocates individuals who cause problems and
need to be removed, the Debian Maintainer Keyring team may stop accepting
advocacy from that developer. If the advocacy appears to be malicious or
particularly careless, the Debian Account Managers may consider removing
that developer from the project.
"""

All "volunteer". :-)

Remember (written in 1964!):
http://www.educationanddemocracy.org/FSCfiles/C_CC2a_TripleRevolution.htm
"The Cybernation Revolution: A new era of production has begun. Its
principles of organization are as different from those of the industrial era
as those of the industrial era were different from the agricultural. The
cybernation revolution has been brought about by the combination of the
computer and the automated self-regulating machine. This results in a system
of almost unlimited productive capacity which requires progressively less
human labor. Cybernation is already reorganizing the economic and social
system to meet its own needs. ... But major changes must be made in our
attitudes and institutions in the foreseeable future. Today Americans are
being swept along by three simultaneous revolutions while assuming they have
them under control. In the absence of real understanding of any of these
phenomena, especially of technology, we may be allowing an efficient and
dehumanized community to emerge by default. Gaining control of our future
requires the conscious formation of the society we wish to have. Cybernation
at last forces us to answer the historic questions: What is man's role when
he is not dependent upon his own activities for the material basis of his
life? What should be the basis for distributing individual access to
national resources? Are there other proper claims on goods and services
besides a job? Because of cybernation, society no longer needs to impose
repetitive and meaningless (because unnecessary) toil upon the individual.
Society can now set the citizen free to make his own choice of occupation
and vocation our accepted modes of “work.” But in the absence of such a new
consensus about cybernation, the nation cannot begin to take advantage of
all that it promises for human betterment."

So you really only need a small percent of the population to want to be
"maintainers".

> Open and transparent thinking may be called for within some constructs
> and even some mission objectives may be best met with Open Source
> methodologies. But that said, even Praxis Corporation had a
> fictitious profit margin it had to maintain in K.S. Robinson's series.
> This is precisely the issue many a Mars program are presently facing
> and also why they'll never get off Earth.

Mars will happen. It is happening -- right now in a way.

If we had a very good design tested rigorously in simulation, say for
something like this:
"Self-Replicating Lunar Factory And Demonstration"
http://www.islandone.org/MMSG/aasm/AASM51.html#5
finding a billionaire or foundation to give the effort a billion dollars to
actually build a seed and launch it to the Moon, an asteroid, or Mars would
then be the easy part. There are already billionaires active in space, but
we are probably talking about a tens of billions of dollars of volunteer
effort -- many thousands of people working for a decade or more -- before
grantors are going to put that much hard currency on the line in a lump. And
of course, it might take a few tries before the first seed works well enough
to make habitats and passenger vehicles to bring people to them.

> Why won't NASA consider planning or building a long term mission to
> Mars? Why hasn't some other ambitious meta-national organization with
> billions of dollars in liquid capital ready to invest done similar?
> Don't you imagine that, for instance, any major meta-national oil
> company in existence today has the long term planning experience,
> operational experience, and capital investment necessary to complete a
> mission to Mars? They'd be betting on making money how? What would
> they be claiming?

A short term time horizon is a well known fundamental failing of present day
capitalism.
short term time horizon capitalism.

As for NASA, they would if 100X more of USA tax dollars weren't directed to
"defense":
http://www.lexrex.com/enlightened/articles/warisaracket.htm
"WAR is a racket. It always has been. ... A racket is best described, I
believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the
people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted
for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war
a few people make huge fortunes. ... WELL, it's a racket, all right. ... It
can be smashed effectively only by taking the profit out of war."

So, in a way, "war racket capitalism" keeps NASA down. :-(

Maybe we need to make NASA the racket? :-)

> The bet isn't defined well enough for Exxon/Mobile yet and we all know
> that NASA doesn't take chances any more. Here's the reason people
> don't develop deep sea drilling projects from the comfort of their
> garages.

http://www.luf.org/

> Let me be clear, the pessimism inherent in my synopsis above does
> *not* indicate that I think this an impossible set of tasks. I'm
> merely stating the obvious since Mars remains an untenable mission if
> we (the interested portion of humanity) continue to operate wholly
> from the "garage". Without serious, long-term backing which is tied
> to either business or national interests there is no manned mission to
> Mars. And unless we (the interested portion of humanity) can
> demonstrate that there are either or both business or national
> interests available on the red planet no one is going there.

Debian is free and has the "long-term backing" of the human spirit (and now,
at the Ubuntu edges, Canonical).
http://www.canonical.com/
"Canonical's mission is to realise the potential of free software in the
lives of individuals and organisations. In just three years, Canonical has
been globally recognised as a leading provider of services to both
individual and corporate open source software users. We achieve our mission by:
* delivering Ubuntu, the world's best free software platform
* ensuring its availability to everyone
* supporting it with high quality professional service and engineering
offerings
* facilitating the continued growth and development of the free software
community"

Same someday for something like OSCOMAK.
http://www.oscomak.com/
"The Oscomak project will foster a community in which many interested
individuals will contribute to the creation of a distributed global
repository of manufacturing knowledge about past, present and future
processes, materials, and products."
The project’s short-term benefits will include
* technology education,
* historical education,
* collaboration,
* sustainable technology development,
* public science literacy, and
* knowledge democratization.
The project’s ultimate long-term goal will be to generate a repository of
knowledge that will support the design and creation of space settlements.
Three forces – individual creativity, social collaboration, and
technological tools – will join to create a synergistic effort stronger than
any of these forces could produce alone. We hope to use the internet to
produce an effect somewhat like that described in "The Skills of Xanadu" by
Theodore Sturgeon (available in his book The Golden Helix)."

I may not have had what it takes by myself to do something like that, sigh.
But some here might if they think of space settlement as a hobby -- so I am
sharing the ideas here.

--Paul Fernhout

Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages