Imagine a night club where people are making things out of code, microcontrollers and steel ...elite synopsis here.
So you say you want a business plan, eh? Perhaps the monocled agents of commercialism are banging at your door? Quietly mongering some fear about liability or other such legal "entanglements", etc, etc.? Or perhaps you're a city leader and feel the pressure of having nothing for youth and other hoodlums to do in your community? Biting your nails at all the vacant space sitting unused in your depressed economy, right? Well, you're in luck, because this document is made for YOU. It's a self-organizing system, that (like the seeds floating in the air from a cottonwood tree) can be dispersed across every American city and take root with very little involvement from above. Just find the right space, set up the World Game, pour in some kids, and turn on the rock and roll. Just what you're looking for!
Hackerspace Movement: A Plan for a New Economy
author: @Xer0Dynamite, 2015, 2016
The overarching goal of the hacker and makerspace initiatives are to create a better word by fixing the failures of the old pyramidal model of [current] industrialism which focused on commodification of human beings, forgetting history, and exploitation of resources and, ultimately, replacing it with something sustainable, righteous, and human. Current oil-based capitalism is like an addict who doesn't want to admit that they have a problem -- no matter how much you say how unhealthy their behaviors are, they refuse to give up. This plan is made for implementation across any nation for villages and cities that have a minimum of: high school, surfaced road, telephone/internet connection, post office.
While the initial focus will be to create a sanctuary for those casualties of the existing economy and an incubator for the generations poorly served by it, the practical goal will be to make a bridge between high-school to-from academia and college students with industry. The best wisdom from industry itself suggests that radical socio-economic changes will be necessary within the decade, pushed by practical concerns related to Peak Oil, Peak Energy, and the predicted planetary transitions expected given our stages of human development and expansion. Done correctly, lifestyles will improve as prior excesses from the old paradigm gets churned and redeemed into new value for the Creative Economy, allowing resources to get (re-)allocated where they can make the most benefit for the community. This effort extends the efforts of generations past (like the communes of the 60’s) by integrating maximal participation rather than just “tuning in and dropping out.”
The movement has a lot of interest world-wide. It doesn’t belong to anybody no matter who may try to control it. It's not structured as like the old monolithic businesses (with a president and all their underlings), it's a socio-economic revolution: providing an interesting, safe space where high-schoolers and general community members can make economic value together with just a minimum of obstacles. The idea is to make a space so casual and accessible, they'll even meet to play Dungeons & Dragons.
Eventually, the scope of the movement will require changes across the entire commercial banking sector, away from merely securing deposits and towards new wealth generation by pairing innovators with hard-to-acquire (or otherwise expensive) tools placed in depressed but functional real estate. Ultimately, creative encounters should have outlets involving raw materials and technical know-how on-hand. Further, the public sector will have to be regrouped to address former missteps taken with the building of America and the apathy garnered by decades of misuse of the Law. For the academic sector, new bridges will have to be built to repair some of the historical detachment from the world as touched upon above. This is an arena where the players have not yet come to the fore to acknowledge the need to be engaged. A handful of academics with a passion working with high-school kids and others with similar levels of education are ideal.
Briefly, your customers are: 1) creative high-school students with time on their hands, 2) college students looking for a good space to build projects, 3) craftsmen/women of various trades that otherwise don't have access to major tools, and 4) artists/misfits of various types that have been marginalized or cast-aside from the existing economic system.
The basic plan is to create an economic sanctuary for the Creative Classes (the hackerspace aspect) and start building a new, innovative industrialism that can link with existing mechanically-inclined individuals from the community (makerspace aspect), bridging high school education with post-secondary education with the industrial economic system (that is, a virtuous circle for all groups to benefit). The main feature of these centers is it's decentralization: there's no "boss" telling people what to do: people become members, learn from each other, and participate in the community creating new value in the process.
The informality makes financing easier than most would imagine. The model is the stone-soup idea: everyone has a little contribution from the community to make it work. A couch, a toolbox, an oscilloscope, for-sale books from the library -- all these things come together at practically no cost. Most communities have surpluses of things that they'd be glad to give as a long-term loan to a place dedicated to the community. It's a non-profit and everybody wins.
This initiative is designed to be paired with hackerlofts and new living co-operatives to form the basis for radical lifestyle changes and to showcase best practices for creating a transformed society which simultaneously is both post- and neo-industrial. Hackers and makers generally require just minimalist accommodations to provide the focus towards the many improvements to the existing technological, industrial, and urban infrastructure that will be required and available as opportunities. The initial outlay and risk is miniscule.
Basic activities for hackerspaces are various member-started projects, cultural events, projects, teach-ins, and game-nights. All these can bring the community together. Projects here could be pre-cut kits taken from MAKE Magazine, electronics projects copied out of books made for the concept, setting up servers and administration, etc. See the full inventory of what to start with on the link. Builderspaces, on the other hand, have bigger needs and bigger liability. There, rather than soldering irons, you have heavy machine tools and high voltages. Have a professional along with liability waivers for minors. You'll be managing large floor spaces and heavy machinery.
To ensure success in the decentralized community of the hackerspace, this initiative includes use of a technology called the Pangaia World Game. The name derives from the hippy Gaia Hypothesis of James Lovelock who conceived of the Earth as a living (self-sustaining) organism and Buckminster Fuller who conceived the concept of a world peace game -- a systems-based approach where everyone would participate in fixing the world’s social and economic problems. In this case, we're solving the problem of organizing hundreds of independent individuals -- not an easy task.
The World Game is a low-tech catalyzer on a simple cork-board to link ideas with people and resources. It stays up 24/7 and fosters a space`s "organizational memory" to showcase what people are engaged in and allows asynchronous dialog for the many people who move in and out over time. The Game exploits the perpetual tension between order and chaos, between structure and spontaneity. It exhibits the power of networks and of Reed's Law -- the ability to create 2n, super-exponential scaling by providing not only the geometric n2 value that is formed by linking people together, but the additional multiplier gained from the ability to create arbitrary groups. Such technology has the capacity to transform society in a matter of a decade rather than centuries. Trust us, we're doctors.
Whether the space is underwritten by the banks/investors or powered by the community and philanthropists, hackerspaces thrive with maximum freedom, but also can lose energy and dissipate funding without some guidance. The Pangaia Game is designed to channel this latent energy into useful projects and highlight qualified mentors and willing volunteers for every need of the hackerspace. Nonetheless, a final power may at some point be necessary or desirable.
A Statement of Purpose should be written to establish the legal relationship of the space with regard to liability, use of funds (for-profit vs. non-profit), and possible tax status, and of course it`s purpose. It's important to establish this Statement if you're going to work with a group, as it forms the core DNA in which to establish a basis of discussion and legitimacy. Liability should not be too-highly emphasized except for minors as the basis of American Law establishes a country of individuals who must watch out for themselves (despite the many failings of the legal establishment in holding up this truth). Without this, you probably shouldn’t establish a space, because eventually issues of either money or liability will arise and without establishing a sane and decent Statement of Purpose, you won't have much basis in which to argue.
All the people who help craft this core "DNA" are automatically Founders. In the cases of a space receiving Public funds (i.e. from the government) or Corporate/Bank sponsorship, an opportunity to create a Board of Directors may be desireable (presuming they accept or help the original Founders recraft the Statement of Purpose) and may be necessary in order to create the relationship with your funding sources. In such case, control should not exceed 50%, as it is not a kind of organization that can be lead from above without a clear visionary. Save that for the Game and wait to see who or what emerges.
Revenue and Funding Model:
Four sources: 1) memberships, 2) patrons (private donors and corporate sponsors), 3) events (50% of gross receipts kept by the space), and 4) retail sales of items made in the space (revenue from selling shelf-space). An alternative option is to sell shares to the community to start the hackerspace, allowing all assets to be owned by the shareholders, but keep management held by those with the passion to build it.
Community, of course, is important, but meeting expenses is equally so. Because of the community nature of the space, first-year funding can be lower than $50K and initial footage needed is only about 2000 sq ft, preferably located in warm climate, near cultural centers, including universities, coffee shops, or downtown areas. Given the right conditions, the hackerloft living quarters can be acquired simultaneously and should be co-located, otherwise it will have to remain an item “on the stack” for the future. With the partnership of banks, they could acquire and host the assets for spaces where a clear leader has emerged in a community trust.
Absent a major contributor or philanthropic angel, the initial aim will be for the initial expenses to be supplied by memberships and patrons. The other portion, as mentioned above, will come from retail sales and events hosted in the space. The house keeps 50% of all proceeds from events hosted by members and sells shelf space rather than earn commissions on sales. So members can sell things and keep all proceeds, minus a reasonable monthly shelf-fee based on size of item. Note that memberships don’t prevent other people from hanging out (over age 18) or participating as long as they’re with a member who is accepting responsibility for them.
Besides the significant revenue source, memberships give the advantage of quantifying interest of all those who walk in the door and can encourage greater participation if done right. In addition, memberships can give concreteness to liability issues as well as create opportunities with other like-minded “co-operators” (coffee houses could give discounts to members, for example). As a rough example for revenue, 50 people at an average of $50/month gives $2500/month of low-overhead revenue.
Kickstarter has proven that tiered participation equals more participation. Tiered monthly membership structure (and their benefits):
- $5, Member: Cool card, free access to space whenever it’s open, free wifi, email address.
- $25, Hacker: Adds use of house computers, Linux account, and small storage locker.
- $125, Maker: Adds use of machines for steel, wood, plastic, bigger storage.
- $500, Crew: Gets 24-hr access code for the space, large semi-permanent floor-space or a bunk at the loft.
Additionally, there are non-builder, one-time or annual supporter levels for those who believe in the mission (aka "patrons"). These can be material assets for the space or cash. General structure:
- $2,500, Patron. Gets acknowledged on website and any publications.
- $10,000, Shareholder. As above and bi-annual shareholder update.
- $50K, Sponsor. As above with placard or other visible logo at the space. Can receive updates as desired.
- $250K, Board member. Can sit on the board and guide the movement’s development (such members not to exceed 50% of organizational control).
- $1M+, Angel who wants to change the world. Talk to us directly.
A free “day pass” could be considered for those who want to try-out the space, engage community members, and get comfortable. Such pass should have contact info, wifi password (applicable in spaces without good network admin support), and during initial period can act as a coupon good for $3 off initial, base membership. If people aren’t willing or able to pay $2 for a month’s worth of access to the space, then they shouldn't be using the space.
For starving artists, an art and projects fund should be made to co-pay the desired membership level as long as they are willing to pay the prior (lower) membership cost, renewable for upto 6 months. If they aren’t able to pay even that, then they should find a sponsor (perhaps a fellow member) to fill that next interval of membership (so someone who can only pay $5/month for a $125/month membership gets $100/month from the art and project fund, and then $20/month from their additional sponsor, paying only the remaining, basic $5/month fee). In other words, memberships should not be a barrier to participation for anyone in the community.
For corporate sponsors, they can donate goods or dollars as long as it's within the mission of the space and can keep their logo for as long as their donations are used ("these parts brought to you by Radio Hausen.").
Scaling up a Vision:
For the following table, the left column signifies the approximate monthly investment or commitment (per a given degree of magnitude) for creating the level of engagement which should promote the next level organically and automatically as the demand and interest from the community increases. So starting from the beginning:
- $10/month Notice of Incorporation: Written document informing any interested parties your intentions; business cards to help people feel like they’re part of something great, giving links to your domain, and helping them to co-create the next level of engagement.
- $100/month Digital Presence: Domain name, web page, discussion groups giving concepts behind the space, mailing list to start acquiring member interest and communication of ideas and possible space locations, perhaps a dedicated linux server and static IP address.
- $1K/month Hackerspace: Basic Physical Presence. This level has ability to create hobby and community projects with team members talking about possible large-scale projects and establish residential lofts. Non-profit level that should engage with the education sector.
- $10K/month Makerspace. Add industrial equipment and high-voltage service. Tools for woodwork, papermaking, textiles, and perhaps plasticswork. Has the ability to create products. Meet with public officials, chamber of commerce, commercial banks. Spin off a co-working B Corporation.
- $100K/month Industrial Shop. Add milling machines, welders/torches, steel forge, large bay doors. Floor space sold as part of membership. Has ability to create new automobile designs. Start interfacing with corporate sector.
- $1M/month Global Domination: space-faring scenario, every city engaged and interlinked. American karma and history resolved to create the 21st century economy: Neo-industrialism.
This roadmap can be started NOW and be executed across many cities simultaneously, scaling up to a billion people within 1-5 years. It is expected that a post-industrial society and lifestyle happen concurrent to these developments: establishing food sovereignty with permaculture and community gardens, transportation and housing co-ops, urban architecture and redesign, and new levels of civic engagement as new social structures get developed in the hackerspaces.
The hackerspace pathos could be said to borne out of places like the MIT Media Lab (and other, older groups), Homebrew Computer Club, Chaos Computer Club, phreakers and hackers of the past, and the HAM radio enthusiasts who dreamed up the idea of freely communicating to people far, far away a long time ago.
This concludes the essay: Purpose, layout, tools, revenue sources, customers, historical context, and global domination: Done.
About the author: The author was a computer engineer researching AI at MIT who left civilization and “ascended the mountain” to contemplate the situation of America. Along the way back, acquired a doctorate but became homeless while trying to plant the seeds to a new civilization. He’s still recovering and awaits the right crew to redeem the world so that children have a future beyond consumerism, debt, disease, and mass delusion.
Link to original article.