Sunday, July 15, 2007

System Big Play

An Open Source Hardware Design and Manufacturing Project

How Many LEGO System Blocks go to the Landfill?

  • The ones that are vacuumed up
  • The ones stepped on and broken
  • The ones chewed by the dog

LEGO System Blocks are too useful as a creative toy to throw away.

What if the world were made in out of a System of parts like the LEGO System?

That would be System Big Play.

Today, when it is time to reconfigure the built environment the result is demolition.

Items that could be reused are not. It is too difficult to disassemble them or they are too cheap in manufacturing to be reused.

The future can be different.

System Big Play: An Open Source Hardware Design and Manufacturing Project

The Vision

The Stake

The current life cycle of most materials used in the world is:

manufacture -> specialized purpose -> use -> disposal or recycling

The new model that this project proposes to create is:

manufacture -> generic purpose -> specialized assembly -> use -> disassembly -> generic purpose -> repurposed specialized assembly -> use -> disassembly -> generic purpose …

The System Big Play project exists to drive this paradigm change on how materials are used worldwide. By calling upon the wisdom and power of a worldwide community of people, the System Big Play Project will promote resource reusability. By providing free designs for generic purpose interlocking parts, it increases the opportunities for businesses to manufacture interlocking these generic interlocking parts. By restricting the use of these items to non-military applications it will promote a peaceful world.

Desired Outcomes

  1. A large community of design contributors
    1. An international and multilingual internet community with tools to support the development of part design
    2. Thousands of designs that are freely available via the Internet
  2. A large community of design manufactures
    1. Many smaller manufactures worldwide, creating generic parts
    2. Assembly manufactures who create valued end use products
  3. An agreed upon set of standards for interlocking generic parts
    1. A standards system with multiple levels
    2. A certification body
    3. Ongoing review and update of the standards and certification criteria
  4. The acceptance in the market place of products created using standardized generic parts
    1. Demonstration of the products in the market place
    2. Measureable increase in the use of generic parts in the market place
  5. The development of repurposing programs world wide
    1. Creation of businesses that disassemble used items into generic parts for repurposing
    2. Development of tools to assess the quality and condition of repurposed parts
    3. Creation of recycling programs and guidelines for parts deemed too damaged for further use
  6. A measurable reduction in the rate of consumption of natural resources for creation of material goods within the world

Desired Impacts

  1. Excite engineers about the possibilities of contributing to world resource reduction
  2. Elicit hope within people of impoverished economies about small manufacturing development
  3. Bring happiness to millions by providing quality of life improvements
  4. Reduce the apparent size of the world by encouraging international cooperation and multilingual communication.

The Theory

The Collaborative Community

These changes, among others, are ushering us toward a world where knowledge, power, and productive capability will be more dispersed than at any time in our history—a world where value creation will be fast, fluid, and persistently disruptive. A world where only the connected will survive. A power shift is underway, and a tough new business rule is emerging: Harness the new collaboration or perish. Those who fail to grasp this will find themselves ever more isolated—cut off from the networks that are sharing, adapting, and updating knowledge to create value.

Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, Wikinomics–How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

The System Big Play project is about creating a collaborative community that can create technologies and create innovative ideas. The project is about the people who will create and share the technology.

It is the intention of this project to be part of the major paradigm shift that the authors have outlined. This project is expected to be a “Big Play” against the established norms of product lifecycle and to help usher in the era that they have predicted.

The Right People

The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first got the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. They said, in essence, “Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.”

Jim Collins, Good to Great

The System Big Play project seeks to find those people who are passionate about the concept and believe in working on world changing activity. The organization will also seek to fill key positions with competent leaders.


The case for diversity is actually a hard nosed one – it can radically improve your collective wisdom.

James Surowiecki, The Collaborative Landscape

The community must have a high international content. This will improve the range of ideas, the number of uses found, and bring about world wide acceptance of the technology.

Peace Promoting

"I like to believe that people in the long run are going to do more to promote peace than our governments. Indeed, I think that people want peace so much that one of these days governments had better get out of the way and let them have it."

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States of America

In James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds”, he discusses the danger of a crowd divided and how that will destroy information sharing. The purpose of this project is to create a world community of contributors to a new technology that will greatly help humans and the environment we live in. Individuals will not contribute to this goal if they feel their contributions may be used against them. Therefore the project will seek to protect the technologies created by its community from use in military applications.

Artistic Creativity and Play

We take this observation one step further by suggesting that knowledge work, which adds value in large part because of its capacity for innovation, can and often should be structured as artists structure their work. Managers should look to collaborative artists rather than to more traditional management models if they want to create economic value in this new century.

Rob Austin and Lee Devin, Artful Making: What Managers Need to Know About How Artists Work

The project seeks to create a community environment where individuals can express their creative and artistic passions. Individuals are to be acknowledged and celebrated for their contributions. The community is expected to be a place of fun, play (make that big play) and innovation.

What next

Summer 2007

Finding the Right People - Focus on find the correct people for the board of directors of a 501c(3) nonprofit organization to manage the development of the community.

Building the place to play - the current plan is to build out a joomba content managment system as the base for the online community. If you are interested in helping with this project please contact Dave Graham at +1-(970) 484-4577.

More about System Big Play

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