The duty to mod and make

The only way we are going to take control of our economy, and our places in it, is to become creative. Your ability to create is limited most by your capacities, and we must build upon our own capacities to take control of our environments. The first step in this is learning how your tools work. Don’t just use them, mod them and make them if possible. If you own a product, don’t know how it works, and are unwilling to alter it to suit you, then you become owned by your property instead of truly owning it. You become owned as much by the makers of your property. There is therefore a positive duty to modify your tools to suit yourself, to make the tools you can, and learn to make others. This is why the coming nanowares revolution is so threatening to the current hierarchical status quo, and why the liberation of the material world through all sorts of nanoware-type tools (including molecular nanotechnology, eventually, and 3D printing now) requires ignoring current IP schemes in favor of open source alternatives. In the meantime, jailbreak your i-devices, modify your cars, redecorate your house, knit, assemble, paint, and remake your artifacts to suit yourself.

This week, I urge you to go check out Fab@Home‘s open-source, Do It Yourself (DIY) models, and if you can find time, tinker, create, make, and mod.

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Top Ten reasons why innovating and filing patents are not the same thing

Here’s an interesting list reported by Gene Quinn at IP Watchdog, it is the list of top-ten innovating countries this past year according to the Global Innovation Index:

1 Switzerland
2 Sweden
3 Singapore
4 Hong Kong (SAR)
5 Finland
6 Denmark
7 United States
8 Canada
9 Netherlands
10 United Kingdom

Now here’s another list:

1 USA 44,855 27.5% -1.7%
2 Japan 29,802 32,156 19.7% 7.9%
3 Germany 17,171 10.5% 2.2%
4 China 12,337 7.6% 56.2%
5 S Korea 9,686 5.9% 20.5%
6 France 7,193 4.4% -0.6%
7 UK 4,857 3.0% -3.7%
8 Netherlands 4,097 2.5% -8.2%
9 Switzerland 3,611 2.2% -1.6%
10 Sweden 3,152 1.9% -11.6%

This is the top ten patent-filing countries, with numbers of patents filed in a year in each followed by the percentage of patents worldwide represented by that number, and finally the gain or decrease in filings compared with the prior year.

Of course, what is striking is not only that the top 2 most innovative countries this past year are the lowest among the top ten patent filers, but that each succeeded in innovating while actually decreasing the number of patents filed. Moreover, the 3d through 6th most innovative countries are not in the top ten patent filing list.

So, is there a correlation between innovation and patent filing? Very possibly, though it is clearly not a one-to-one correlation. But is it causal? There’s no way to know. Anyone who wants to make the case that patents are vital or even necessary to innovation has a tough row to hoe, it seems to me, given that a number of countries are innovating rapidly and well with just a fraction of the number of patents being generated in the USA.

The measure of innovation is clearly more complex than simply looking at patents filed, and the fix to a slow economy will be equally complex. Those who are selling the snake oil of “patent reform” as the key to stimulating the US economy should pay heed of the complexity involved, and these two top ten lists.

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Well, now, that didn’t take long…

In my last post, I noted that the Shapeways website offers a new marketplace for inventors who want to sell 3D specs for others to replicate objects through 3D printing. Stephan Kinsella at now calls attention to an IP dispute, thanks to Paramount Pictures, involving specs being distributed there. The dispute is over replication of fictional objects, such as an object that appears in the film “Super 8” (which I have not yet seen). The object itself is apparently quite useless, but looks pretty cool. Nonetheless, because this useless replica of a fictional object appears in a Paramount film, the film company saw fit to send a “cease and desist” letter to the entrepreneur who reverse-engineered the design from the film, and was marketing on Shapeways. The future will be so very cool, if only the IP folks don’t screw it up.

read about this sad state of affairs here:

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Now THAT’S what I’m talkin’ about!

In my new book, Innovation and Nanotechnology, I argue that new markets, not for things, but for models of things, will enable rapid distribution of ideas, and profiting without the need for IP. Apple’s AppStore, iTunes, and the previously black market (but now legitimate) Cydia Store, all show that people are willing to pay small reasonable sums for items they might otherwise easily copy for free. I believe that consumers are willing to pay for the service of innovation, even where they are unwilling to accept the property rights we have assumed exist (through the legal IP monopoly) for expressions.

Well, as I suggested, so shall it be. Markets emerge to fill needs, and the internet of things is emerging here and now with the Shapeways website, where designers can indeed market and sell their CAD/CAM specs for things, rather than try to raise capital, and invest in fabrication and delivery infrastructures.

Shapeways marketplace

The end of scarcity begins…

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Desktop fabrication – a grassroots approach

While companies like HP try to market high-end desktop fabrication, a movement of grassroots makers, striving to democratize the promise of the technology, continues to innovate in open-source, build-it-yourself 3D printers. Today I am calling your attention to MakerBot, which, for about a tenth of the price of HP’s latest commercial 3D printer, can get you into this transitional phase toward molecular nanotechnology. I mention this, and some similar projects in my book, and will post some more links in the days to come.


I call this a transitional phase toward MNT because it is beginning to achieve some of the ultimate goals of MNT. Namely, innovators wishing to move from concept, to design, to product are beginning to be able to rapidly prototype, and in some cases produce at a limited scale, without the high cost production and distribution infrastructures of the past. Keeping costs low, and moving quickly from concept to market, without having to raise great amounts of capital, means in many cases also avoiding the pitfalls and costs of IP, which is superfluous as we develop new modes of conceiving the role and profitability of innovation. I argue that creativity is a service, and we often pay people for services without even the necessity of contract, because we value those services. This is how innovation will proceed in the future, quickly, peer-to-peer, and without all the lawyers.

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Smaller, Cheaper, Open

I wanted to call your attention to an ingenious and exciting example of how the miniaturization of everything, and using open source platforms, enables the creation of a fully functional computer, the size of a USB stick, that will cost a mere $25 USD.
Check it out! I can’t wait to get one!

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Ebook coming next week

June 1, on Amazon, an ebook formatted version is due to be released. Hardcover versions have started shipping also, apparently.

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