Affordable, practical small-scale manufacturing
Way back in the last millennium, in the 1970s, there was a brief "back to the land" movement. Idealistic city folk threw off their corporate shackles, bought land, and had this idea they could be self-sufficient. Of course there is a whole lot more to living off the land than bib overalls and good intentions. It's a lot of work, requires a lot of tools and machines, and a lot of skills and knowledge. Practical manual skills are in short supply in these modern times and tools are expensive, so the learning curve, costs, and hard physical labor defeated a lot of wannabe hardy pioneers. The concept was sound: to take control of the production of life's essentials such as food, energy, and shelter, to live more harmoniously and leave a less-destructive footprint on the planet, to live in a healthier way, and to control technology for the benefit of the people using it. It all sounds good, but making it work was the beastly part.
Fast-forward to now, and open source and the Internet have changed everything. Marcin Jakubowski is a physicist who tried farming, and quickly learned that he had no practical skills or knowledge. So he began his education anew, and came up with the concept of affordable, practical small-scale manufacturing to build and maintain a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts. He figured that it would take a set of 50 different industrial machines to do this, and this is the Global Village Construction Set (GVCS).
The GVCS includes a tractor and implements, brick press, sawmill, well-drilling rig, induction furnace for melting scrap metals, 3D scanner, 3D printer, welder, solar concentrator, and a CNC circuit mill for printing circuit boards. The idea isn't to scrape out a marginal existence, but to build high-quality essential tools for a fraction of the cost of their commercial cousins, use them to help build a good life, and possibly some income-producing surplus.
The stakes are considerably higher for people in poor countries. GVCS offers the potential to put the means of essential production directly into the hands of the people who need it.
The specifications for the GVCS machines are the opposite of mass-produced commercial technology: low-cost, user-serviceable, high performance, durable (no planned obsolescence), and open source. The open source aspect covers designs, instructions, schematics, budgets-- everything anyone needs to know to build their own machines, and it is all freely available and free to share. A single dvd is a civilization starter kit.
The GVCS is in its infancy, and is already attracting a lot of attention and support. Check out this two minute video to see some of the machines in action.