Open Source Ecology is a U.S. nonprofit dedicated to creating an open source economy through global collaboration. The organization is best known for their Global Village Construction Set (“GVCS”): a set of 50 industrial and agricultural machines that are meant to serve as a source code for a civilization. All of the included machines – from tractors to circuit boards are considered to be fundamental to contemporary life. The intent is that the 50 machines are modular and complementary such that they form the DNA of larger, more complex systems; they can be endlessly recombined to fit the needs of communities the world over.
Their designs are open sourced, and the materials are cheap and widely available. Notably, all designs are required to meet the same performance criteria as their commercial counterparts. Open Source Ecology was founded by Marcin Jakubowski, who conceived the idea after he purchased a farm in Missouri. A practical need for a tractor prompted Jakubowski to invent his own tractor in an open source format. Eventually, he and the early contributors to OSE produced a tractor that can be made in about four days for roughly $6,000 in parts (a typical tractor costs $25,000 to $120,000). The tractor success prompted OSE to create a list of other machines essential to civilization and begin designing them along the same lines.
The true animus behind OSE’s work is autonomy. Developing communities are often hamstrung by the need for expensive equipment and patented technologies. OSE’s work puts productive power in the hands of communities themselves; they can design, build, and develop along lines that are meaningful to them, even where resources are scarce.