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Comment on Intellectual Property and the Future of @Home Manufacturing by Paul Fernhout

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Adam, I don't think most people yet get the scale of the transformation that is happening in our society. As I explain on the main page of my own website, there are five interwoven forms of economic transactions -- subsistence, gift, exchange, planned, and theft. The balance between them will shift with changes in culture and technology. What we are seeing with the open manufacturing movement is, potentially, a huge increase in the subsistence, gift, and planned parts of our economy made possible in part by exchanging information through the internet as well as lots of new freely shared designs and skills. At the same time, a combination of robotics (and other automation, all made possible by cheaper computing), better design (whether from hot or cold fusion devices or thin-film solar panels or better materials), and voluntary social networks (especially with volunteers cooperating through the internet on free and open source digital public works), are decreasing the value of most paid human labor by the law of supply and demand (suggesting the exchange economy be rethought with a "basic income"). I wrote elsewhere to Andrea Rossi about his (alleged) cold fusion device he is so secretive about to "protect". The key point I made, the same as applies to open manufacturing in general, was that breakthrough clean energy technologies (or 3D printing or whatever) will change the very nature of our economic system. Such a technology will shift the balance between these five different interwoven economies we have always had. Inventors who have struggled so hard in a system currently dominated by exchange may have to think about the socioecenomic implications of their invention in causing a permanent economic phase change. A clean energy breakthrough or a 3D printing breakthrough will probably create a different balance of those five economies, especially back towards greater local subsistence and more gift giving (as James P. Hogan talks about in "Voyage From Yesteryear"). So, to focus on making money in the old socioeconomic paradigm (like by focusing on restrictive patents or copyrights) may be very ironic, compared to freely sharing a great gift with the world that may change the overall dynamics of our economy to the point where money does not matter very much anymore. We can talk about short-term issues of how to get from here to there without vast harmful disruption as well as how to survive economically as individuals during this social phase change like water boiling into steam (whether ideas you suggest about trying to reward people along the value chain or a "basic income" or whatever). But that is the big long-term picture as I currently see it.

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