Over the past week, we have geared our discussions of Open Source towards ecology and the great benefits and impacts it can have on a society and community in need as well as promoting social and environmental growth. One of the instruments that is promoting this growth, is a hydroponics system.
Hydroponics systems are very useful and provide many environmental benefits. These systems can grow all sorts of vegetables, fruits, and herbs. Additionally, hydroponic systems can be built in almost any setting (small or tight areas), and more importantly provide an alternative to inadequate land or soil. There are many variations of hydroponics systems that are appropriate for any climate settings. Also, these systems do not need soil to grow. Hydroponics systems are very cost effective and affordable. Small refugee camps that are struggling to produce an adequate amount of food can greatly benefit from these systems. Not only do these systems not need soil but also many plants grow up to 50% faster than plants in soil.(1) This shows that the growth of hydroponics systems could be the answer to diminishing the amount of people affected by world hunger. Refugee camps can build as many hydroponics systems as they can sustain, while producing crops that they otherwise couldn’t have done due to climate restrictions or other barriers, and in a faster manner as well.
From the evidence above, one can see the monumental affect hydroponics systems can have on different communities and areas. More so, all of the designs are open source, making it a viable option for those in need.
Many of the discussions in the past week have discussed the various aspects of open source resources, technology, and information. Additionally, we have discussed how different technological and industrial markets are positively impacted and developed through open source, while others are still driven by intellectual property rights and patents, one being the automobile industry. However, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors, has made extreme efforts and possibly the first step in converging such a IP driven industry into an open source one.
Elon Musk decided to destroy all patents surrounding Tesla’s research in order promote the development surrounding electronic vehicles. He believed that these IP driven patents were actually operating as “landmines” and inhibiting the progress of finding a better solution to electronic vehicles. However, there is one key fact that is striking and may be the underlying reason as to why Musk switched to open source. Currently, electric vehicle programs are minute for major manufactures, and do not even make up 1% of vehicle sales for these big guns. Is this the actual reason Musk switched to open source? Without the incentive from large manufacturers, Tesla didn’t have to worry about a possible threat from Ford or GM “tweaking” the information and using it for their own benefit. Which even if it wasn’t in good faith would be extremely difficult for Tesla to prove in court, considering the large manufacturers are way more wealthier and it would be a long court process where the large manufacturers could continue to stall a hearing.
I think it is safe to say that Musk realized that Tesla was stuck and needed help developing its electronic vehicles. Additionally, there was no threat from large manufacturers and only the benefit of getting contributions from the open source community.
In our first two class sessions and readings there were many discussions about the benefits of intellectual property (IP) within a developing country: propelling economic growth, increasing general health, and cultivating an innovative nation. However, I believe that there needs to be a combination of both Intellectual Property laws and regulations to motivate foreign investments which stimulates economic growth as well as Open Source information that supports innovation and creation combined with an increase in knowledge with regards to education.
We can think of a developing country like a developing student. Khan Academy, a world-class free educational website, is a great example of how Open Source can foster knowledge and educational development. Many poor school districts within the United States that lack up-to-date resources (i.e. textbooks or unqualified teachers) are able to implement Khan Academy’s courses to excel the education of its students. More so, those institutions that are up-to-date and are the staple and epitome of a higher education can use Khan Academy as a secondary aid to teaching. This same principle parallels the needs of a developing country. There needs to be some sort of systematic structure or entity that can protect the ideas of others and foster the guidelines necessary for sustainable growth (schools), but included must be resources open to the public in order to foster innovation, personal productivity and exploration, and an intellectual curiosity of development (Khan Academy).
A quote from our reading states, “developing countries need to adopt strategies to improve their infrastructure in ways that promote the technological development necessary for sustained economic growth,” and more so these developing countries also need to adopt open source practices that allows anybody to retrieve information of a topic that they want to research. Through Open Source we can take IP and build upon it, enhance it, making it better and creating a greater value over time.