Society has become so complex that all the complexity begets more complexity. And if that’s not complex enough for you, jobs have become so specialized that hardly anyone knows how anything is made or works. Join Jason, Rob, and Asher as they contemplate how to make a microphone from scratch, break down the tertiary jobs in a pirate economy (parrot tenders and eyepatch makers), and explain the Lloyd Dobler hypothesis. They also explore a conundrum: even though the industrialized economy is bumping into the limits to growth and risking environmental meltdown, most people remain locked into their specialized jobs and continue to propagate the unsustainable economy. The Do-the-Opposite segment features a healthy dose of simplification and a fascinating interview with Marcin Jakubowski, the founder of Open Source Ecology and the Global Village Construction Set. For episode notes and more information, please visit our website.

Transcript

Rob Dietz  

Hi, I’m Rob Dietz.

Asher Miller  

I’m Asher Miller.

Jason Bradford  

And I’m Jason Bradford. Welcome to Crazy Town, where human waste is our favorite renewable fuel.

Rob Dietz  

The topic of today’s episode is complexity and specialization. And stay tuned for an interview with Marcin Jakubowski.

Rob Dietz  

Hey, Asher, Jason, don’t you guys like it when we have a guest in the studio who can riff with us? Somebody who’s actually smarter projects that maybe there’s some intelligence to this conversation.

Jason Bradford  

And talk about something new. We talk about the same stuff all the time.

Asher Miller  

Yeah, can can that person actually just take my place? And then I can take a break from this?

Rob Dietz  

Our audience is going, “Yes, yes. How ’bout all three of you just take a break, and we’ll hear from someone decent, who actually knows what they’re talking about. That would be great.” No, look, the reason I bring it up is it would be nice to have someone else in studio but if we do that, we’re gonna have to get a fourth microphone and I’ve been having this moral dilemma about that. Cuz, you know, we talked about consumerism and so kind of the last thing I want to do is buy some specialized piece of electronic equipment from an Amazon store that’s sourcing parts out of China or something like that. So I have a proposal for the two of you.

Asher Miller  

Okay, what’s that?

Rob Dietz  

Let’s make our own microphone.

Jason Bradford  

When the three of us do this, not just the two of us. We send a proposal for the two of you.

Rob Dietz  

Oh, well, it would be better – 

Jason Bradford  

That’s how I interpret –

Rob Dietz  

Don’t you need someone to to coordinate this process?

Jason Bradford  

You could be the manager. 

Asher Miller  

Yeah, like that. I like that. Okay.

Rob Dietz  

No, okay, I’ll tell you what, I’ll roll up the sleeves, too. Let’s all three of us go out and make a microphone. You think we can do this? 

Jason Bradford  

From scratch here? Yeah.

Rob Dietz  

Yeah. What would the final product look like?

Asher Miller  

I could draw one. 

Rob Dietz  

It’s a microphone made out of dirt.

Jason Bradford  

I could grow you know some like fiber crop or something like that. 

Asher Miller  

So wait. Just so I understand you’re saying not just build it with like parts of we’re able to order. You mean like actually all the parts manufactured.

Rob Dietz  

Yeah. Let’s mine and manufacturer everything we need for growing. Like you’re saying Jason we can make a hemp microphone,

Jason Bradford  

Sure. I actually have no idea how to do that. I do know how to grow plants but beyond growing the stuff, I just kind of like I let it go from there . . . 

Asher Miller  

Well, honestly it would have to be tin cans and string that we just found laying around.

Rob Dietz  

Yeah, I mean we would have to find it because I’d like to see us try to make a tin can.

Jason Bradford  

Now there’s a great story actually. This brings up the story of this guy, Thomas Thwaites, a British guy. And I think about 10 years ago so or maybe a little longer than that he tried to make a toaster from scratch.

Rob Dietz  

That might be easier than a microphone, I don’t know.

Jason Bradford  

Oh he tried to think of something that he thought he could actually do. And he bought the simplest toaster, the cheapest toaster you can buy and he disassembled it and it had 400 parts. 

Asher Miller  

400? 

Jason Bradford  

400 parts. It was the simplest toaster. Then he classified the parts by like the materials that were in them. You know, metal, plastic, mica, types of metal, you know, iron, base copper, and any weight at all. So he said, okay, “I need this much copper and this much iron that I make a steel out of somehow and the mica was for insulation.” So there’s, you know, you can go see YouTube videos, there’s a book about it, and it took him a year and cost him 10s of 1000s of dollars. And it blew up as soon as he started using it. Like catching on fire.

Asher Miller  

He needed Robert to like pedal. Remember Robert?

Rob Dietz  

Right, the guy who can generate like 500 watts or whatever. 

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, so it was an epic failure, but he kind of thought it was successful. It’s all one of these like success-failure

Rob Dietz  

Sounds like he should have set out to make a landmine instead of a toaster. He would have been totally successful.

Jason Bradford  

But yeah, he apparently had to find some like 15th or 16th century metallurgy book because metallurgy is so complex and industrialized now they had to figure out – how did they used to do it in the olden days?

Asher Miller  

That’s what I was saying like poison the rivers . . . 

Rob Dietz  

He had to get copper. Is he like out there with a pick axe? And then what. so you got some broken rock? How are you gonna make copper wire? 

Jason Bradford  

Well, he had to figure it out. So he went to professors at the local universities and historians, and it’s not easy. So that’s I think an important hidden driver really is how complex the world is nowadays and how specialized you have to be to understand how to do anything, right? Like, I could grow food, and that’s a speciality, but I wouldn’t know how to take that hemp fiber and turn it into a microphone.

Rob Dietz  

So you’re saying that the level of complexity involved in making stuff in the world today is a hidden driver that’s led us into Crazy Town.

Jason Bradford  

Yes. Because what ends up happening it sort of, you get locked into this complexity. Once you’re part of this, once this thing gets this rolling, there’s an evolution that happens where complexity begets complexity.

Rob Dietz  

It’s like a biblical character.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah. And, what ends up happening is you end up having to manage all the complexity. So, for this toaster to happen, obviously, there are mines in one part of the world, and a smelter and another for one set of products. And then there’s probably like, the plastics are happening over here, you know, based upon some natural gas production that gets piped to plants and gets turned into pellets, which then gets reformulated into  something else which gets put in some injection molding, which then gets shipped and assembled, and then it gets sold.

Rob Dietz  

And you lost me at smelter. I don’t even know what that is.

Asher Miller  

All right. So before we get into that, I think you’re right, I think this is an important topic. And something that maybe we don’t tend to think that much about. We just assume that this is a normal state of affairs. Maybe it’s useful to just step back and think about where all this complexity and specialization came from in the first place. Right? Because it’s not like, yes, we have a modern form of this. But I think that societies, you know, there is this idea, this concept of complex societies that we’ve talked about before. 

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, I mean, look at the original toaster and the Flintstones. It was not the same as the ones we have to today.

Asher Miller  

No, but it was pretty complex.

Rob Dietz  

The Flintstone toys, so is that just a rock? 

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, they heat a rock up and they  – 

Rob Dietz  

A pterodactyl farts in a slot or something. 

Asher Miller  

So yeah, so like, Where did this come from? I mean, wouldn’t you say that it all comes back to when we decided to domesticate plants and animals? And we became agrarian societies and sedentary and started living in cities and shit.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, I think that’s what allows that to set that evolutionary, you know, treadmill, we get on. That allows it to get started, I believe.

Rob Dietz  

Yeah, that’s like, I think going back in economic history, that’s the whole idea. And agricultural surplus frees up all this labor to do all the – 

Asher Miller  

Right. It’s a surplus thing. So again, it comes back to energy. We had more energy at our disposal, right? In terms of caloric energy than we expend, we didn’t have to have quite as many people involved in growing food. We weren’t just hunting and gathering stuff, which pretty much everyone was involved in and was part of. And so that created cities and that created sort of complex elements of society where you had specialization of priests, and every once in a while, you know, a very small number of people got to be kings and queens and what have you. Different layers and hierarchies within  – 

Rob Dietz  

Managers of microphone builders. 

Asher Miller  

Yeah, microphones weren’t quite well . . . 

Jason Bradford  

Well, I think about so like in sports, we recognize our music, we recognize easily the expertise of some, okay? We can see somebody can play a guitar, or we can see someone like do a pole vault, or an incredible serve. And we go, Wow, the incredible years of training that they’ve had – like the ability they had not to grow potatoes. They’ve had time to do this other stuff.

Asher Miller  

It’s Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours,” right? Yeah. So you have those 10,000 hours –

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, to have those 10,000 hours, somehow you’ve gotten your other needs met.

Asher Miller  

Right. Someone else is meeting them.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah. But I think it’s true. It’s not just in these sports and these things that are visible to us. It is the people that are involved in the sciences and the industrial arts who are making the metallurgists or whatever, or the food scientists. 

Asher Miller  

Yeah, I mean, it’s hard to put in the time to get a PhD in chemical engineering if you have to be mounding up your potatoes. I guess my point is, even before we had the level of complexity and specialization we have now, there was complexity in society. Yeah, so we’ve been doing this for for a while and got probably more and more complex over time. 

Rob Dietz  

Well, yeah. According to Jason that complexity begat more complexity. I got to say begat. I’ve been wanting to say that for a while.

Jason Bradford  

Yes. Like you could think of the rise of the mercantile class and trade and spices and well then what do you need? You need all the ships, and navigation expertise, and language expertise. 

Rob Dietz  

You need the pirates to raid those ships. That’s a whole nother job class complexity. The “Argh” class.

Jason Bradford  

You need parrot tenders, eye patch makers.

Rob Dietz  

Skull and crossbone weavers.

Asher Miller  

But, you know, fossil fuels obviously did put this all in hyperdrive, right? I mean, what we have now with the level of complexity and specialization that we see in the modern world now – all that stuff we were just talking about on hyperdrive.

Rob Dietz  

Yeah. When you talked about the caloric surplus from, say growing wheat or corn or something like that, but the caloric surplus from digging up fossil fuels, that was exponential growth. I mean, it freed us up to do . . . I mean, even talking about the farm situation, labor on the farm has been steadily dropping until now. It’s what, less than 3% of the economy?

Asher Miller  

And I think it was probably like this sort of reinforcing dynamic where you had more people, not everybody, obviously, but you have more people with available time. That provides more opportunity for education for some, right? You have people who are then able to spend their free time and their education, to think about new inventions, ways of innovating things, understanding the natural world, which leads to new products, new technology, new ways of  harnessing not only free human time, but also the capacity of these resources. Right? Which creates more complexity.

Rob Dietz  

While in thinking about another way that complexity begat more complexity, if you have fossil fuels that enable the levels of transportation that we have, that lets you create these hubs, cities, hubs, universities, hub, like Silicon Valley, where you can just locate all of these specialists, who are then combining to make, you know, whatever all the wonders of the world. While they don’t have to worry about the food situation because that’s just all being trucked into them.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, no, that’s really true. And, and I had this hypothesis, when I was thinking about this situation, I said, well, let’s back up for a second. You guys ever had to fill out like this form for the US Bureau of Labor Statistics that codifies the job you’re in or the job code for someone who’s working for you?

Rob Dietz  

That sounds like something a responsible person . . .

Asher Miller  

No. . . 

Rob Dietz  

I haven’t done much of that. 

Asher Miller  

I don’t think that Bureau of Labor Statistics cared what I was doing.

Rob Dietz  

You’re worthless. They actually shunned you. They didn’t want your answer. 

Asher Miller  

What are you talking about here?

Rob Dietz  

Well, you know, you think of like, economists say, well, there’s so many jobs in this sector, that sector. There’s job growth in this sector, but there’s job loss in that sector, this part of the country has more jobs in this sector. Where do they come up with that? Well, they’re keeping track of everybody’s job and everyone who’s employed is coded. Okay? And it’s standardized. Okay, so the US has their own standard – 

Rob Dietz  

Talk about specialization. So there’s somebody who made that shit up in the first place? 

Jason Bradford  

Yes, and that person is classified as well.

Asher Miller  

They’re at the top.

Jason Bradford  

Right. They put themselves – 

Rob Dietz  

The ruler of all.

Jason Bradford  

So I looked into – First, my hypothesis with this: It was that you can divide, kind of like ecosystems, right? We talked about, there’s the primary kind of level of the ecosystem which would be like plant life, right? And then there’s stuff that eats plants. So you can think of this to the economy. There’s sort of the primary productive sectors of the economy, like growing food, having wood products, let’s say, forestry, or having energy products, and mining for oil and gas, or mining minerals. Those are getting the raw material inputs, and delivering them then to what we call the secondary level of the economy. Those are the folks that take those raw inputs, and get them into forms that we start to recognize and be able to then use so manufacturing and value added processing. Everything else above that’s tertiary, so sales and managerial classes and professional classes. So my hypothesis was that our society is so advanced through this you know, complexity kind of complexity on complexity, that we would have this bloated tertiary class. And we would have this sort of tiny, little primary sector class. So I decided first, I’d look for the US, okay? I’d say what’s the US like? The problem was, there was somewhere between 800 and 900 job classifications. And I can only pay attention for about half an hour. I only wanted to do this for half an hour. 

Asher Miller  

Right, right. 

Jason Bradford  

And I’m like, I’m not going to run through these in a half an hour. So I went to this international standard and found 137. 

Rob Dietz  

Sounds better. 

Asher Miller  

More manageable. 

Jason Bradford  

More manageable. And I did that. I broke them up. And they’re awesome. 

Rob Dietz  

Can I just jump in here and say that your hypothesis needs a name. I think it’s the Lloyd Dobler hypothesis. You know who that is? 

Jason Bradford  

No. 

Jason Bradford  

Lloyd Dobler was the main character of course a late 80s movie – 

Asher Miller  

Shocker.

Rob Dietz  

Yeah. It’s called “Say Anything,” right? Yeah. And it was a good movie. It was really formative for me, but I remember this quote from it that I’ve got to read to you. 

Jason Bradford  

Okay. 

Rob Dietz  

Okay. Lloyd, was I’ll set it up. He’s at a dinner at his girlfriend’s house. The girl that he’s hoping will be his girlfriend. And her dad is there with a bunch of his business associates and they’re kind of like, “So Lloyd, what are you gonna do after you graduate high school?” And he’s like, “Ah,” and so he launches into this answer. He says, “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything as a career. I don’t want to sell anything bought or processed or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought or processed, or repair anything sold, bought or processed.”

Jason Bradford  

Hey, come to the farm buddy. That’s the guy that wants to be in the primary sector.

Rob Dietz  

Yeah, I think if he were, that’s why it’s the Lloyd Dobler hypothesis. He’s anti-secondary and tertiary level.

Jason Bradford  

Right, right. Excellent. Thank you. Lloyd Dobler. 

Asher Miller  

Okay, so you had this named after Lloyd.

Jason Bradford  

So I find the international standard classification of occupations on Wikipedia. And it has 137 jobs that are in 10 major groups, and they’re divided into these groups: managers, professionals, technicians, clerical support workers, service and sales, skilled agricultural forestry/fishery, craft related trades, plant and machine operators and assemblers, elementary occupations, and armed forces.

Rob Dietz  

So where do the pirates go? Are they in the armed forces? 

Rob Dietz  

Where are podcasters? Where am I on this?

Jason Bradford  

You go through and find it.

Asher Miller  

That’s a major group of its own, isn’t it? 

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, exactly.

Rob Dietz  

I’m afraid we’ll never find ourselves in this classification. We’re just banned from it.

Jason Bradford  

But what’s it what’s amazing is that if you scroll through this and you count. . . You say, okay, how many jobs go into each one, right? Each of these. Essentially, what we’ve come to, is that there are 89 of the 131 jobs. Is it 131?

Asher Miller  

137 you said.

Jason Bradford  

Shit, I could be wrong. 131 jobs. 89 are in tertiary, 31 are in secondary. There’s only 11 frickin jobs in the world left that are primary.

Asher Miller  

You mean all this stuff that we actually really rely on? 

Rob Dietz  

There’s actually only 11 people doing those jobs.

Jason Bradford  

And that’s because we’ve been able to take all this energy in these machines and say, yeah, let’s let’s just put a person on a tractor. And, so yes, basically, now we’ve inverted this pyramid. Usually the pyramid is like, the base is the biggest. Our base is now this little point. 

Rob Dietz  

Yeah. 

Jason Bradford  

And it’s teetering now, because we’ve got this heavy weight of all these tertiaries. And this poor little base of primary is trying to support it all.

Rob Dietz  

Yeah, a few years back, Kurt Cobb, you guys know him, right? 

Jason Bradford  

Oh, yes. 

Rob Dietz  

Energy analyst, writer. He often publishes stuff on our resilience.org website. He actually put this figure together. We’ll put it in the notes. But he’s got exactly what you’re talking about where he’s got, basically industries and agriculture and forestry is at the bottom/ This tiny little wedge. And as you go up, he’s putting stuff like construction and retail trade, and they’re bigger and bigger chunks of the economy. And on the top is fire, which stands for finance, insurance, real estate and, and it’s the biggest. It’s like over 20% of the economy.

Asher Miller  

That’s the amount of money going  – 

Asher Miller  

Yeah, I think we need to distinguish between the number of people and the proportion of the economy. Right? And so it feels like there are a few different things here. There’s only 11 types of jobs in the primary, right? But that’s not necessarily a reflection of how many people, in the case of the US I would imagine is actually not that many people. In the global context, there’s probably still a significant number of people that are involved in primary, depending upon where you are in the world, right? 

Jason Bradford  

It’s less every year now. But yes. 

Asher Miller  

Right. But the key thing in the United States in particular, is that there are not very many people, for example, involved in in growing food. But it’s also you think about it from the standpoint, who gets paid. Right? 

Jason Bradford  

Yes.

Asher Miller  

It’s not only are there so  many more different roles and jobs in the tertiary. They get paid the big bucks, right?

Rob Dietz  

Cuz they’re mostly just paying each other, right? Like, “Yo, you’re like me, you must be worth a lot of money.” 

Asher Miller  

Well, they’re decision makers. They get to decide where capital flows probably.

Jason Bradford  

I think that’s true. And I also think that this is part of the insight that comes from looking at what happens when societies get too complex. Okay? Is that, you guys familiar with Joseph Tainter? Okay, he wrote this famous book in 1980, “The Collapse of Complex Societies.” And so this becomes the problem. You’re pointing out the problem in that it’s not just that the tertiary gets paid a lot more. It’s not just that there’s more jobs there. It’s that when you have a society that has moved so far that direction, it actually has a cost. So this complexity has a cost to it in that managing all this complexity becomes a chore in and of itself. And it gets more and more difficult to manage it. It’s like, taking that toaster apart, there’s 400 parts of it, right? That’s just one little piece of this. One little consumer product. And so these tertiary sector folks are doing absolutely key things, many of them. They’re doing actually key things that hold the entire civilization together. You know, like, like the electric grid for God’s sakes. Like, there’s some damn important specialists out there. And I would have no ability to step in and take over any of those person’s jobs.

Rob Dietz  

Yeah, most of them worked at Enron. But isn’t Tainter’s thesis then that if you have all this complexity, and you start running into these problems, like you’re talking about, your society tends to go more complex to try to solve them. So you gotta like, have a toaster consultancy industry that builds up to take care of your toaster problem.

Jason Bradford  

Or like, there’s a pollution that comes as a result of the smelting. You’re smelting more ore. I used that word for you again. 

Rob Dietz  

Okay. 

Jason Bradford  

Okay.

Rob Dietz  

I thought a smelt was a kind of fish?

Jason Bradford  

Yes, it is.

Rob Dietz  

Are they involved in the process? Are we outsourcing our metallurgy to a school of fish?

Jason Bradford  

You over fish smelt, and then you have manage the fishery? So you have fisheries managers? Anyway, so what I’m saying is that, yes, it’s what we do that causes problems. As we grow, especially, this is a problem of growth. And we use complexity to solve problems of kind of growth and complexity itself. And so it ends up then just becoming overburdened some managerially. 

Asher Miller  

Well, so I feel like you’re pointing out the snake chasing its own tail dynamic in the sense of complexity. The more complex we get, the more we need specialists, right? And the system can’t become so complex that like, no single person can manage it or figure it out or anything. 

Jason Bradford  

You don’t even understand your taxes. 

Asher Miller  

And there’s a lot of vulnerability within that system. Especially when we’ve created a situation where you have these like global supply chains and other things that are so complex, where there’s this specialization of different elements within a supply chain. And if any single one of them breaks down, the whole system does not operate anymore. But can we just name some of the other challenges here? We’re running, and we’ve talked about this on this podcast, we’re running up against limits to our ability to continue to grow and consume, and, you know, harvest nature without massive implications. Whether it’s depleting these non-renewable resources, or its climate change and other forms of pollution, that there’s a reckoning with those, right? And I think that when we’re trying to deal with those issues, we’re extremely fucked. We’re not just fucked guys. We are extremely fucked.

Rob Dietz  

Trying not to picture what that entails, but . . 

Asher Miller  

No, I’m serious. Think about this. We can’t keep doing what we’re doing.  For many, many reasons. And we don’t know how to how to sort of, like, simplify it or pull it back because we’re all specialists are so many of us are specialists. And the people that are responsible – one, we don’t have generalists. We don’t have people who are like, “Hey, have you thought about this thing, and this thing, and this thing, holy shit, if you think about them together, we might have a problem here,” right? So, we don’t have people that are in a situation where they’re sort of pulled out far enough to be able to see the overall picture to say, “We might have a problem here.” But also the people that are, all these tertiary people or whatever you want to call them, who are highly rewarded for being specialists right – I got a master’s degree in business or whatever the fuck it is . . .

Jason Bradford  

There’s nothing to that anymore, though.

Asher Miller  

But I’m just saying that . . 

Jason Bradford  

I know what you mean.

Asher Miller  

The mentality is to double down. Partly because it’s a justification for their role. So how do we do untangle that?

Jason Bradford  

I think you’re right. 

Rob Dietz  

First, we got to make that into an insult, “You tertiary son of a bitch.” But no, I think that’s a good point. You are rewarded for becoming more and more specialized in our society. You know, imagine, whatever, if you become a rocket scientist, or a brain surgeon or whatever stereotypical version of a highly specialized job, you’re held in so much higher esteem than somebody who’s whatever Jason running a farm? Some simpleton who . . .

Asher Miller  

Well, the other thing that we’ve done is – you’re right, not only you’re more highly rewarded, I think for many people getting an education feels like you must specialize in order to justify the cost of that education. So you’re just completely locked in. It’s actually not rational to become a generalist, or to focus working at that primary level or maybe even secondary level because it’s not even being rewarded or having status or being able go to some far off place . . .

Jason Bradford  

It’s like trying to sell yourself in the professional sports market, you say, you know, I’m pretty good at ping pong and I’m a really decent tight end, and I can swim a pretty fast 400 meter freestyle.

Rob Dietz  

It’s like Jim Thorpe back in the old days. He can do all those things.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, yeah. And, I like high jumping. I’m not great. I like it, though. It’s fun. I’m working on this. Okay. So I mean, you’re right. and so I think you have this holding mentality, right? And also you feel like if you’re highly specialized, you have actually a sense of competency in what you’re doing and you were like, “Well, I know what I’m doing. I got this. So I’m going to expect that all the other specialists out there, I’ve got everything else handled.” But really the problem becomes more at these things that you don’t see. You’ve got blinders on. It’s the weight of the entire system and the fact that the energetic and material basis for propping it all up and – 

Asher Miller  

And we all just assume somebody else has got that figured out. It’s not our specialty must be someone else to be someone else’s. 

Jason Bradford  

Right. So, okay –

Rob Dietz  

If we’re painting ourselves into this corner . . .  you’re saying complexity, one, has this problem of begetting more complexity, and eventually, the inverted pyramid will fall over? 

Jason Bradford  

Yeah. 

Rob Dietz  

And we’re also saying that you’re rewarded for specializing within the kind of economy we’ve developed. So is there any time that anybody’s gotten out of that corner?

Jason Bradford  

Once.

Asher Miller  

Do you mean historically, or . . ?

Rob Dietz  

Yeah, historically, or just some example.

Jason Bradford  

Okay. I’m trying to express some happy thoughts out there. And so Joseph Tainter, again, the guy that, you know, brought up the collapse of complex societies 1988 . . . I found another paper by him in 2000, in which I’ve got this quote from:

“the Byzantine Empire responded with one of history’s only examples of a complex society simplifying. Much of the structure of ranks and honors based on urban life disappeared. Civil administration simplified and merged in the countryside with the military. Governmental transaction costs are reduced. The economy contracted, and there were fewer artisans and merchants. Elite, social life focused on the capital and the Emperor, rather than on the cities that no longer existed.”

So, yeah. 

Asher Miller  

So that’s example of a society that that simplified in order not to collapse.

Jason Bradford  

Well, I think Tainter would call this a sort of a managed collapse. Like, there’s a collapse of a big sea, and there’s a collapse with a little sea. So . . .

Asher Miller  

I guess it’s a question of control. 

Jason Bradford  

It’s control. 

Rob Dietz  

 I think progressive European economists would call it degrowth.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, I don’t know how many – that’s a great question – how many people who are promoting that realize how much simplification needs to happen to the social structure and this pyramid we’re talking about. The tertiary has to shrivel, the primary has to expand. Do they understand that is what I wonder?

Rob Dietz  

Yeah, I would expect that some do. And some probably are too specialized and focused on some aspect of it.

Asher Miller  

So I guess the next question is for us to try to figure out well, what do we actually do with this information? Where do we go with it?

Jason Bradford  

Because even if we want to pull out of the complexity and civilization specialization cycle, it’s hard to do so. You know, a lot of the things we would want to do are not rewarded. It’s like, apply more labor instead of mechanization for work. Become a generalist. And then you can’t live yourself. So, enroll others in this grand task of becoming a more labor intensive generalist society. Tough ask.

Rob Dietz  

Well, we’re all about the tough ask here in Crazy Town. I mean, why wouldn’t we be? If we’re, like what you said earlier, Asher, about this complexification – if that’s a word –  that’s a complex word. But this complexification is leading to these problems that – What did you say we’re not just fucked, we’re what?

Asher Miller  

We’re really fucked.

Rob Dietz  

I think you actually stepped it up further. You said “Extremely fucked” which might be a new sport. But like if we’re if getting to that, then yeah, why can’t we ask people some some tough questions or propose something difficult?

Asher Miller  

Yeah, I think and talk about being in Crazy Town. Because as our complex systems are shuttering, or are manifesting their fragility, we need the people. You’re talking about electricity, right? The grid, for example. If we’re starting to have issues with the grid, which we’ve recently seen, we do need those specialized people to be able to fix that, or else people freeze, right?. So it’s understandable while we’re in this system that is complex, that we need specialized people to help figure out the problems. But then we’re just doubling down. It’s like we have to simultaneously operate-

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, “the simpler, simpler way,” as Ted Trainer said.

Asher Miller  

And maybe it’s a matter of, I don’t know the history well enough to say, but I like the idea of if you want to think of as the Byzantine model. If we said okay, we can’t get from A to B overnight. Getting from A to B overnight is basically a shit show because it’s a it’s a Seneca Cliff collapse.

Jason Bradford  

Yes, the Roman model. 

Asher Miller  

So, if we want to get from A to B in a gradual way, which is now we have a system that’s hugely complex with way too many people in this tertiary level, and we need to get to a place that’s much more simplified and people are much more engaged in primary activities. How do we get from here to there? That means X percent of our focus in money and time needs to be continued to be on managing the complexity we have while we’re investing. And maybe it’s childhood investment. Childhood education investment in generalized thinking, various skills building, that kind of thing.

Rob Dietz  

Well, we’ll get to some ideas here in a minute and our “Do the Opposite Segment.” But I think you can at least start by deciding you’re not going to process anything, buy anything sold, bought or processed, or repair any bought or sold processed stuff.

Asher Miller  

And as we just pointed out if that were the case, we would be starving.

Asher Miller  

Stay tuned for our George Costanza Memorial, “Do the Opposite Segment” where we discuss things we can do to get the hell out of Crazy Town.

Jason Bradford  

You don’t have to just listen to the three of us blather on anymore.

Rob Dietz  

We’ve actually invited someone intelligent on the program to provide inspiration. Hey, guys, here’s a five star review on iTunes that we got recently. I’m assuming that’s graded on a 10 point scale, or something like that. Maybe a 30 point. This is from 9blue1. Great names from our reviewers. 9blue1 says,

“This is just a fantastic well produced podcast that allows you to laugh off the darkest, most difficult subjects imaginable. It turns out that at least three of the horsemen are also stand up comics. Just subscribe, put this in your weekly mix. You’ll end up smarter, better prepared, and surprisingly more sane. You’ll see.”

So I like that word, the horsemen.

Asher Miller  

Embarrassingly nice.

Jason Bradford  

I know. I’m kind of,  I’m blushing.

Asher Miller  

Yeah. My immediate thought was he must be listening to a different podcast.

Rob Dietz  

Well, except that as a horseman, you spread death. That’s embedded in this really nice positive review.

Asher Miller  

That doesn’t make me feel better. 

Jason Bradford  

I have cowboy boots.

Rob Dietz  

What does that have to do with anything? 

Jason Bradford  

Horse riding? 

Rob Dietz  

Oh, okay. Yeah.

Asher Miller  

So hey, if you like the podcast, you should leave us a review as well. You need to be at least as gushing as that review was. Or else don’t bother.

Rob Dietz  

Yes.

George  Costanza  

Every decision I’ve ever made in my entire life has been wrong. My life is the complete opposite of everything I want it to be.

Jerry Seinfeld

If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.

Jason Bradford  

Okay, so you guys know I’m a farmer. And that would be classified as the primary sector, obviously.

Asher Miller  

You think you’re special but the rest of the world thinks you’re a peon

Rob Dietz  

How ’bout writer, podcaster, nonprofiteer? 

Rob Dietz  

Okay. 

Rob Dietz  

Puts me in the quintenary area sector or something. 

Asher Miller  

Isn’t a farmer and nonprofiteer the same thing? 

Jason Bradford  

Well, what’s interesting though, is when you when you kind of delve into the details of what somebody has to do, it actually gets really interesting, I think. And there’s some there’s some stuff to tease out here because I’ve actually gone from working for a mid-size business that had 80 employees or so, and I was a manager there – it was a farming company, but we had all these specialists that did like – 

Rob Dietz  

You tertiary son of a bitch.

Jason Bradford  

Aha, right. So here we are producing food. It’s primary. But my role in it was very tertiary. Like I wasn’t driving tractors, or whatever. And now I’ve moved though to my own small business, you know, where I kind of have to do almost everything. I have to run the equipment, plant the seeds. I do the accounting, right? I do sales. So it’s very interesting, though, to think about how much more of a generalist I am doing the same kind of job in the same sector?

Rob Dietz  

Yeah, you would say, at least I think you would say that that prepares you better for the world that’s coming than where you were before.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, it also is an interesting example of how management complexity is a real thing. Because I remember a lot of what we had to do in the company was set up meetings all the time. Like I call the office in California, and I got to travel there, and hey, you know, you’re used to scheduling and you’re calling on the phone and you’re meeting in the office. And now it’s like, the meetings are in my head, okay? Okay, the sales department, the accounting department and the operations logistics is all in my head. 

Asher Miller  

It’s interesting, because we were talking about complexity and specialization, and we’re talking about simplifying, right? But actually what you’re doing here by going from a tertiary specialist, you know, elite foo-foo guy, to a farmer, it’s quite complex what you’re doing. I mean, you’re juggling a lot of things. You’re, you’re playing a lot of roles.

Asher Miller  

Yeah. So at the individual level, in some ways, it’s actually more complex. There’s more diversity of roles I have. But I think if there are more people farming and less people at the tertiary level, the society in general, right would be more simple.

Asher Miller  

It’s an interesting paradox.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, it’s a paradox. 

Asher Miller  

You could say societies more simplified, but people’s jobs are actually more complex on some level. Well, I don’t know if it’s more challenging. I’d like to think it’s probably more rewarding, or at least even intellectually . . .

Jason Bradford  

I love it. Because I get to shift tasks all the time. I feel like doing this, and now I don’t so well, there’s always something else I should be doing. And I just stepped into a different role. I’m on a spreadsheet now, or I’m walking a field. I mean, very different.

Rob Dietz  

I was racking my brain for an 80’s movie to name this paradox. You know, like . . .  And I came up with the Regarding Henry paradox. That was a Harrison Ford movie where he’s like some kind of financier lawyer, and he’s a real jerk. But then he gets shot and he becomes an awesome person.

Asher Miller  

Is that what happened to Jason? Somebody shot Jason?

Rob Dietz  

Something happened where he was a cog in the machine and now he’s got a primary job. 

Asher Miller  

Is this your do the opposite?

Jason Bradford  

Timeout!

Asher Miller  

For the disclaimer: “Crazy Town does not . . . “

Rob Dietz  

No, I actually have a real do the opposite. Have you guys ever read this book that came out recently called, “Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World”?

Jason Bradford  

Sounds like the kind of thing I should read.

Rob Dietz  

Yeah, it’s by an author, David Epstein. And really, what he’s saying is that there are people out there who are doing better because they didn’t specialize. And he kind of goes through some examples. His lead in, he’s talking about – you and appreciate this Jason and your tennis background  – talking about Roger Federer and how he wasn’t holding a racket in his hand from age one. He was doing all these other different sports, and kind of just becoming a really good athlete before he specialized in tennis.

Jason Bradford  

Nice. That’s good to know. I didn’t know that. 

Asher Miller  

But that’s in contrast to like, Tiger Woods, right? He was golfing in the womb.

Rob Dietz  

Yeah. His forearm was actually a putter. It was a weird mutation. 

Asher Miller  

His mom must’ve really appreciated all that.

Jason Bradford  

Okay, let’s move along from that.

Rob Dietz  

Moving right along.

Jason Bradford  

Well, I think that you know, what we have then, is this paradox, right? And it does behoove us to, I think, figure out ways to think through it. And I do think that while it’s hard to be a generalist, it’s also in many ways rewarding. Because you’ve got this diversity of skills. There’s also, you know, so right now you can think about that this society is globalized. Civilization is trying to suck resources and inject commerce everywhere. But there may be pockets left of people who are living in ways that are more, you know, simple. And they may survive the crash of industrial civilization if we leave them alone for a while longer and they don’t get sucked into this – 

Rob Dietz  

Protect them from those commerce injections that are coming their way.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, so. . .  Gosh, yeah. I think that’s really important. You know, there’s probably remote Amazonian regions or high mountain regions, there are people living hunter gatherer or small scale agraian peasant lives. Leave them. Let them do it.

Asher Miller  

And still the majority of farmers, people who are doing the most primary of primary roles in the world are still smaller scale. Right? In the world, even though we have huge industrial agriculture and consolidation of power within the agricultural system, particularly in places like the United States.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, there’s in betweens still we want to preserve. There’s people that are maybe tied into commerce, and maybe they use some industrial equipment, but at least they’re small and they have a great deal of skills, and they may be able to more easily step back into the more localized, more autonomous role.

Rob Dietz  

On this idea that you’re talking about protecting indigenous cultures and places where people have been able to resist the colonization and commercialization aspects of our culture, I feel somewhat hopeful that there’s more awareness in the general public. And the reason I think that is some of the books that have kind of hit bestseller lists. You see the book, “Sand Talk” by Tyson Yunkaporta. That’s about,  I think the subtitle is “How Indigenous Thinking can Save the World. And Robin Wall MKmmerer had “Braiding Sweetgrass,” which is about indigenous culture and different ways to see the world. And those are catching on amongst the general populace. Because I think they’re one way or another, sensing this over complexification.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, I think you’re right. So there is that. And then there’s also a what do you do if you’re one of the people that has been trapped in this? How do you – Is there a way to pull out? 

Rob Dietz  

Besides getting shot?

Jason Bradford  

Well, I think that if you can figure out a way, it’s not going to be easy, everyone’s got their own personal story. But try to simplify your life a little bit. Try to simplify in your community. Be less reliant on complex global civilization. And that may be simple things like being good at some craft. You learn how to make stuff, you will learn how to reskill. Learn how to grow food, and then teach others. And be involved in groups that are doing these kinds of things.

Asher Miller  

I just want to split those for a second. Cuz I think that they’re both really important and deserve their own attention. So one of them is participating less in the globalized complex society that we have, which by the way, that is the single biggest driver of the communities in the places in the world that we just talked about protecting. That’s putting those under threat. So if we want to actually try to assist in the preservation of a more traditional community’s knowledge and participate less in this extractive globalized economy. So think about your purchasing. Think about what you’re consuming and – 

Jason Bradford  

Build your own microphone. 

Asher Miller  

Right. But then, kind of related but separate to that is, build more skills yourself. Right? So maybe you can line those things up so that the skills that you’re building are ones that you’re building in order to replace your participation in this globalized economic system. But just even the task of learning a new skill. . . It could even be learning how to play an instrument. Just pushing ourselves to, to try new things, to adapt new behaviors, use different parts of our brains, what have you. . . 

Jason Bradford  

And if you want to really go down that track of sort of understanding these sort of really key processes that lead to more advanced civilization, there is an interesting book. And there’s a whole group of people who are interested in doing this because they’re worried about existential threats. They’re worried about civilization falling, and that’s going to a new Dark Age. And so there’s a book called, “The Knowledge: How to Rebuild our World from Scratch,” by Lewis Dartnell. And so one of the things you could do is sort of follow on that track where you say, I’m going to like curate something really important. Like, I know how to make glass. There are actually people working on this stuff – 

Asher Miller  

To capture this knowledge?

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, capture this knowledge, practice it and hold it locally even.

Rob Dietz  

I just wait on the beach for a lightning storm to come over and when lightning hits the sand, glass. 

Asher Miller  

Alright, well. . .  

Asher Miller  

Spoken like a true tertiary jerk. You’re gonna wrap that up in some kind of marketing product and sell it.

Rob Dietz  

You just came up with the insult. It’s ter-jerk. I’m ter-jerk.

Jason Bradford  

Alright, I’d like to introduce a guest for our show. This is Marcin Jackubowski. He is the founder and executive director of Open Source Ecology, a collaborative of engineers, producers, and builders. And they’re developing the Global Village Construction Set which is a set of 50 most important machines that it takes for modern life to exist. Everything from a tractor, to an oven, to a circuit maker. And Marcin and his team are producing open source blueprints so that anyone can build and maintain machines at a fraction of what it costs a day. And I find his life story kind of interesting. He graduated with honors from Princeton University, and earned his doctorate in fusion physics from the University of Wisconsin. But after receiving his formal education, he found himself useless in solving the wicked problems of the world, and started a farm in rural Missouri, which is now called the Factory e farm, where this Global Village Construction Set is being developed and tested.

Hi, Marcin really happy to meet you.  In this Crazy Town episode what we talked about is about complexity and it’s cause in specialization, like job specialization. And we kind of discuss how societies have evolved to become more complex over time. And there’s a lot more knowledge in the world, a lot more people that do things that you can’t imagine doing yourself, because they’re just, they’re specialists.  And this leads to the situation, I think I find myself where I don’t understand how the world works. And this is sort of this big organism, right? That’s moving along. So anyway, I find it fascinating to watch what you’re doing because you’re trying to sort of break industrial civilization down into these component machines, you know, the 50 things you need. Whereas I look at industrial civilization and I see that it’s just part of maybe this, what’s happened at all these societies where they become fragile, as they become more complex. And end up, you know, historically, not persisting. So, I wanted to talk to you in this sort of “Do the Opposite Segment” of the show, because we want to get into what individuals and societies might do to be the opposite of what it’s done in the past, which is evermore complex trade networks, evermore complex and sort of incomprehensible technologies, and urbanization. And I know you live on a farm like I do. So can you talk to us about your life’s path, and your work, and how that sort of fits into this, “Do the Opposite” in the context of social complexity and specialization.

Marcin Jakubowski  

So I got up to far flung degrees up to a PhD in physics, and the notion there was solutions for simple pressing world issues. I come from Poland. My grandparents were in Polish underground World War II concentration camps, coming to America in 1982. But I saw the stark difference between – here’s one country that is deprived, and here’s another country that’s prosperous – and what’s the difference? It’s a difference in operating system. It’s a difference in the governance structures and everything else. Because everyone has the same resources. We all have rocks, sunlight, plants, soil, water. That’s where all the wealth comes from. So let’s talk about education to get us as capable humans trying to make a better world for everybody. I got very disappointed the farther I went into my education because I was feeling more and more useless. And that’s why I started this project to actually try to make a difference. And I want to go right directly to the current connection of that to open source and open collaboration, which is, what we’re about. Our mission is collaborative design for a transparent and inclusive economy of abundance. So we live in a world that’s pretty complex, but a lot of that has to deal with that kind of transparency and open sources of the world, where, in many ways we confuse things, obfuscate things, by design. I’s part of the hidden structural evils we have here.

Jason Bradford  

Things like patenting, and then making things like maybe even: they’re going to break after a while so you buy another, or yeah, it’s really hard to repair.

Marcin Jakubowski  

Yes, those are manifestations of this phenomenon on the product level. And products are economies. So, we live in a completely proprietary economy and then when you think about the state of art and human learning, there’s no such thing. Because everything is proprietary you always get to learn the next to best stuff. Nobody shares the best information. Someone’s got the best thing, they patented. It’s a really profound issue in society that we don’t really see. And we think we’re innovating, Google Amazon and all this stuff. We are in the Stone Age of innovation, and we’re causing more problems right now than we’re solving.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, no, that’s very interesting.

Marcin Jakubowski  

Yeah. So that’s, I mean, I think that’s the status of things. We have to be honest to recognize it. But most people don’t recognize that cooperation – collaboration does not exist. And you can get into collaboration – what is it and . . . 

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, so that’s the complete opposite of the idea that private self interest in greed will motivate people and teams of people to innovate and solve problems. And you’re saying, well, we kind of but also, it’s also part of the system that then says we have to keep it to myself. I can’t share it openly. And, you know, what makes me think of the pandemic, right? Why wasn’t there a complete open source on the vaccines? 

Marcin Jakubowski  

And did you hear the one from Sweden or some Nordic country, they had it months ago. They had an open version and then the government went with the proprietary version because that’s the way funding works. So basically the interests went towards the big industrial interests of pharmaceutical companies, as opposed to healing that essentially for free, like, less profit. And this is one of those things that are just like right now. And in the current world, it’s abominable how that happens. But that’s just one of the manifestations that I think a lot of people can connect to it. Because right now people are dying because of this feature of how the vaccine has been rolled out. Nobody has access in the third world right now, for example.

Jason Bradford  

And yeah, and then US, it’s interesting, as you talk about the access to land, and plants, and water. And right now in the US, not only are most people like don’t really understand their technology that they’re using every day. I couldn’t fix a toaster or make one. We also, most people live in cities and don’t even know how to grow a potato. So it’s interesting because you live on a farm, and you’re sort of setting this up so that you call it the Global Village Construction Set. So I’m kind of curious, what’s your vision? Do you see these sort of smaller scale communities having the technology to be, you know, more self sufficient in the context of that community?

Marcin Jakubowski  

I envision a world of distributed, basically distributed economies. So that any city or village, like in history, at the Dunbar scale, or 200, people and up and units of that . . . You can have a full complete economy from that. But the missing link is where do you get the information? Where do you get smart people and train people to do the actual modern day civilization stuff. That needs to be open? And now it’s not. So we’re working on open sourcing all of that, to make the world better. And basically, leapfrog through all the issues of poverty, wars , and other structural evils that exist. And resource artificial scarcity that is pervasive in our societies. So yes, absolutely take any technology, and any technology can be done on a smaller scale, or it can be done cleanly. It’s what your motives are.

Jason Bradford  

So I’d like to ask you real quick – you promote these 50 machines for this Global Village Construction Set. And the idea is that with these 50, you can sort of make all the other things you need. How did you come up with those? I’m just curious.

Marcin Jakubowski  

That’s about right. So you look at – so the product selection metric, you can read more about it on our wiki. I can send you the link. But the idea is take all the current things that a human uses today. Like, okay, you got to grow some food, you might need a tractor. You might need need to move around to work, you might need a car. You might need to produce the goods that you use, you need some fabrication capacity. So you just go through a list of, okay, this is what we do every day, trillion dollar enterprises and say, “Okay, let’s open source each one of them one by one.” If we have a kernel, then you can use that to rebuild any community enterprise, such as a farmer, anything from scratch. Now, let me just talk to you how that thinking has evolved. We evolved way into the Construction Set approach. So yes, as you said, you can build anything with the tools because a lot of the tools are productive tools. Such as, here’s how you get steel from scrap metal, virgin steel. Or other productive tools like precision machining to get engines out of that steel. Okay, so you can go from junkyard to tractor on a small scale. And what’s the scale that it takes? Oh, it’s just a few 1000 square foot workshop, plus information. This is talking about information age, digital age, technology, automation, CNC, 3D printers, modern technology that allows you to very easily in fact, a solution for you talked about, one might say, “Oh, you’ll never get agriculture off the grid, because you need a lot of lot of fuel to do that.” Well, what about autonomous solar tractors that do the same work autonomously, but with net present renewable energy from the sun? That’s completely feasible. That’s one of the things we’re working on. So, you add now automation to the old equations and because we have so much solar power, there is no shortage. If you now start thinking a little differently and say, “Okay, we can do it in a different way”. So for example, if we got a plow for the whole field, if you want to do that, if you’re not into permaculture yet, do it with an autonomous tractor. That’s solar. Just unfolds its wings of solar arrays like a satellite in space and goes at half a mile per hour. 10 miles per hour, right? So you go 50 times slower. But if you’re autonomous, that doesn’t even hurt you. Right? It might take you a few days, but it will still work. You’ve got a whole year to plow that field once.

Jason Bradford

I’m kind of curious about this because some of the stuff you mentioned, like solar panels, I think about, you know, the factories that make those components, right? The  photovoltaic cells, semiconductor type components. And, I sort of wondered myself, could we be making these things that will last hundreds of years, right? Because one of the things I worry about is a lot of renewable systems end up degrading, and I’m sorta curious about that. And, you know, like wind turbines – can you make wind turbines that you, with your equipment could build, but also easily repair/refurbish? As opposed to the kind of the giant ones now that require helicopters and huge cranes and are made of 20 different, you know, materials? So yeah, what’s your thought about that?

Marcin Jakubowski  

The answer is absolutely. But you have to design that. Now, who’s going to design that? Not the industry today. Because of short term profits. This is you talking about designing it so it’s free. Design, it’s so it’s 100 year lifetime. So for example, on the tractor. On the tractor, we use modular power units as an example, just to give you an example. So the engine goes out. Oh, that’s how I got into this, my engine transmission went out, pay 2000 bucks to get it repaired, it broke again, a week after. And I said, “No, I cannot do this if I want to talk about a sustainable farm and settlement.” So, we redesigned. We just said, okay, what’s a tractor? It’s a box with wheels, some hydraulic power. It’s a very flexible source. Make the power units modular. So I’ve I’ve gone through a couple of replacements where the power unit goes out, pick it up with the hoist, put a new one in. Bam. Zero downtime. You go in again. How long is this tractor going to last? It’s going to last 100 years. It’s going to last as long as I decide. It’s got modular wheel units, modular engine units. So it’s a design principle of design for disassembly, modularity. Now, you can do the same kind of thinking for your wind turbine. How do you do that? Make it maybe out of modular stackable sections that you can easily take up, or something. Or go to maybe slightly smaller ones, but not the huge, huge ones, but slightly smaller. And then you’re going to say, oh, what about this high tech like a PV panel? Well, I’d say 25 to 40 years. That’s pretty good for now. But when you design it, make sure you’re designing the recyclability infrastructures into that. Otherwise, you’re talking about sand. You’re talking about sand that’s turned into silicon that’s doped with minute amounts of stuff. And that’s your raw material. You’ve got plastic around and you’ve got aluminum around that. Aluminum is highly recyclable. What is that the sheet covers? A PVA or something? Yeah, it’s a thermal plastic that’s also recyclable. The panels, if they degrade, crush them up and re-smelt them again into the crystals. So think that way you’re very deliberate about where is it going to go after its useful life? And yes, absolutely. It’s just a different way of thinking. And if you ever want to liberate society from having to work too much, it’s just a prerequisite. Technologically circular economies, plus the ability to make things live as long as you like, the products that we use. And that’s a huge value proposition and a clear case for the next economy that we’re working on. This is inevitable. It’s like, at some point, people are gonna say, this is just too much. Why are we trashing everything after one hour lifetime of an object? Ridiculous. It makes no sense. And people just haven’t caught up to that yet. We’re not there yet. But it’s inevitable.

Jason Bradford  

No, I think a lot of people are questioning the sense of the whole thing. And you know, what am I spending my life force doing? And does my job actually have any meaning at all? And I think, you know, so many people will be really excited about what you’re doing. I come from biological background. So I threw myself when I started thinking about this, I threw myself into becoming a farmer. And my mind went to like, geez, without fossil fuels, you know . . . Okay, maybe there’s some biofuels, but then I started thinking about the industrial design and manufacturing process and how globalized that is. And you can’t you can’t fix your tractor nowadays, legally, even if you buy it new. And I just said, well, maybe I should be doing horse farming or something. But I think for you, it’s Interesting. You come from this physics background. And you decided to tackle these tool sets, these industrial tools. And I find that amazing because I myself am the kind of person, I blame industrialization for the mess we find ourselves in. And you seem to be in this sort of like, no, it’s it’s not necessarily industrialization per se, it’s the scale it went to. It’s sort of the ownership structure. The fact that people don’t have control the technology. And so you seem to be trying to embrace the benefits of these modern technologies for manufacturing, in the context of the right scale and ownership of it. Is that a fair description of sort of where you’ve ended up? 

Marcin Jakubowski  

Tools are tools. You can use them for good or evil. Tools are powerful. Right now, we have more power than any time in history to turn the tools around. And that’s what we’re doing. You talk about 50 machines that have productivity machines and production machines as the core of the set. Talk about a demystifying that needs to happen. It’s a prerequisite for a democratic society. Newsflash, newsflash, we need to master our technology before we become free as humans or independent as humans. We cannot have democracy when small numbers of people and unjust governance structures control the way technology rolls out today. No, people have to do it. So the thing is, the massive breakthrough on my side is it’s like, holy cow. I can understand all this actually. Like, okay, so I started building stuff and getting intense into that. But then you start finding patterns. It’s like, holy cow. So now, so there’s 50 machines, okay. They can get you a lot of 80% of industrial economy. Wait, but what are these tools made of? So now we have on the wiki, we’ve got the 50 tools on 500 modules. So what are the other modules that you need? Basic building blocks of everything. There’ll be things like, here’s a hydraulic valve, here’s a shaft, a ball bearing, a circuit. So you can go down to about 500 or so primitives that if you – to give you an example, anything you get on Amazon, like most of the consumer goods, from your appliances, to cordless drills to  humidifiers, what are they? When you start looking at it, we got plastic, we got an electric motor, we’ve got a microcontroller, we’ve got some wires, maybe a little metal case. It’s like, okay, reconfigure those in different configurations. Wires through which current runs creates forces. There’s only a limited amount of components that say this 1000 or 10,000 products are made of. Now the good news today is, you can take a 3D printer and print that plastic structure. You can take CNC circuit mill and create the little microcontroller that’s in there. 

Jason Bradford  

That’s fascinating. 

Marcin Jakubowski  

You can take metal processing infrastructure, milling, or cutting to get whatever the metal parts are for wires. That’s, that’s called wire drawing. That’s a metal processing technology. So there’s only so many things you need. that’s the cool thing. There’s like 500 things if you master those, you know all of technology and you can start talking about going to Mars. 

Jason Bradford  

Interesting. That’s fascinating because we start off this show talking about this guy in Great Britain who, I don’t know, like 10 years ago, tried to build a toaster from scratch. Are you familiar with that story?

Marcin Jakubowski  

Yes.

Jason Bradford  

I was wondering like if you took the toaster challenge, do you think you could have done it?

Marcin Jakubowski  

Of course. So I was just talking, just to give you an example, how this works. Let’s go back to what I said before. Rocks, sunlight plants or water. Rocks. What are rocks? Well, it happens that my buddy in South Africa has got some ferrochrome. Hey, what is that? Hey, that’s the stuff that stainless steel is made of. You put some of that into your iron pile and you got stainless steel. So there’s an example. I’ll roll it with a metal roller and create a thin sheet out of it, and I got my case for that toaster, I take nickel, a common element. I take chromium, ferrochrome that, hey, that already comes out of that ferrochrome I just mentioned. You can make a nickel nichrome wire. That’s your heater element, and so forth. You can extract copper out of the ground. Hey, they’ve been doing that for 1000s of years, copper tools. There’s a copper, whenever copper happened, what was that 5 -10,000 years ago. Steel came in what like a couple of 1000 years ago? They first started making steel things. It’s all in the dirt.

Jason Bradford  

Or now you have landfills or whatever now. 

Marcin Jakubowski  

Landfills, yeah. It’s in streams. You can put on an electric current through a stream and take out little micro elements out of that, like all kinds of . . .Man, it’s all there. But here’s the deal. We are completely illiterate, innumerate, and scientists are scientifically illiterate. And I can say that myself, because I left my Ph. D. program, and I was completely clueless.

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, we’re very special. We’re hyper specialized and we need generalists? 

Marcin Jakubowski  

Yeah. And here’s good deal. My message for the world is that this is completely doable. Because as I said, once you learn one thing, you’ll see that the next thing you learn is going to take you half the time, the next thing you learn is going to take you a quarter of the time. And before you know it, you’re Michelangelo, Renaissance Man. But everything in society takes us away from that, and I think this is like one of the greatest evils in society. Like John Taylor Gatto, has a book called “Dumbing us Down” about the elementary school system. Hey, this is what society does, unfortunately. You know, we still have hope in high school that, you know, we can do some good things. By college time, it’s all getting into the proprietary world where now it’s like all the proprietary guys start funding your education, stuff like that, and you don’t learn the state of art stuff, because you don’t get that, sorry, in today’s civilization. So there’s a systematic way where we’re just depressed as a civilization on a big scale. So we need to open up education and recreate education where people are learning more generalist skills and hands on and that’s exactly what we’re actually trying to do. So we’re, we’re actively teaching that you can come for a three month immersion program starting this September. Or you can take a one year, we’re starting actually, our one year on site immersion program. Learn to build a state of art center. The way we operate here is it’s a it’s an R&D Center. But create that. It’s like a campus. Like a campus with a farm, with a microfactory, with all about various elements of a village. 

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, so you’ve got this site in Missouri at the farm, with with the shops and and buildings, and you run your own courses, and so tell us a little bit – how would people find out more about this? Where would they go?

Marcin Jakubowski  

We’ve been shut down from COVID. But we’re starting back up and on September 1, or December 1 is going to be our three month immersion. So for this thing, we’ve been developing this thing called the seed eco-home. It’s in order to make affordable, ecological housing widely accessible. That builds on the tools that we develop, and just open source techniques, all kinds of things. But we’re actually starting to teach people how to build homes. That’s a definite good market. And we’re including the renewable energy, like the photovoltaics. In fact, seven kilowatts of that is a standard feature on all our homes. Yeah, anyway, but but you can get trained to actually – it’s like tech school, but more like visionary tech school, with a definite growth track. You can start with the three months to learn how to build, learn how to wield tools, and then get into, okay, let’s start learning how to design and then how to do enterprise around that. So that’s  a very explicit program where we’re training builders. Now, we call this event of the September event, it’s called a, Summer of Extreme Design Builds. So it’s got several tracks. One is the building, the house builders, but the other tracks are okay, let’s build tractors, CNC torch tables, renewable energy systems, and aquaponic greenhouses and more. You name it. Learn how to build anything. So if anyone wants to become unstoppable, and immortal in their productivity, join us for a year. Or start with a three months. Also, in that same time, we’re including short courses, which are 14 days for if you want to go through the whole process of how you build a house, and all the modules in this house I live in is actually, it’s modular. The panels are typically four by eight panels. So once again, like we talked about, how do you make that windmill last a lifetime? Build it modularly. Every part can be replaced. And that’s how this house is designed. And that’s how the house that we’re teaching about will be designed, is designed. But that’s what you can learn.

Jason Bradford  

Okay, so if anyone wants to find this, just search: Open Source Ecology, and you’ll get their website and they’ll be announcements on that.

Marcin Jakubowski  

Yes, right now you can sign up for our email lists. But as far as the actual announcements, we’re getting close here. In about a week we’re publishing that. So very early April we’re going to publish the formal announcement for the three month, the short courses. And also for people who just have a weekend and they want to get a taste of what this is like, how would you feel about building a house over a weekend? We do that. This house was built in five days with 50 people. We use swarm build techniques. So it’s a highly collaborative, group based build method based on open techniques and modular design. What does modular mean? It means that many parts can be made in parallel, and then assembled rapidly into place. And that’s how we can build our tractors in a single day. It’s crazy, this stuff works, technology works. Learn more about it.

Jason Bradford  

Well, thank you so much for your time. It’s fascinating to speak to someone who’s got that kind of optimism and skill set you do related to technology. So really interesting. And gives people with that kind of interest and desire an amazing outlet. So, thank you so much for all your work and I really appreciate having you here on Crazy Town.

Marcin Jakubowski  

Thank you, Jason.

Jason Bradford  

Thanks for listening to this episode of Crazy Town.

Asher Miller  

Yeah, if by some miracle, you actually got something out of it, please take a minute and give us a positive rating or leave a review on your prefered podcast app.

Rob Dietz  

And thanks to all our listeners, supporters and volunteers, and special thanks to our producer, Melody Travers.

Asher Miller  

Hey guys, I wanted to introduce a new sponsor today. It’s a company that we have just started working with. Their name is Tourplexity. 

Jason Bradford  

I’ve heard of them, they’re fantastic. 

Asher Miller  

What they do is they help create sort of custom tourism experiences. And so they reached out to us and we thought, you know, we’re coming out of COVID  here. People have been waiting, you know, to see the world again. You know, to travel around. Of course, our listeners, they feel guilty about traveling, burning those hydrocarbons. So they want to put it to good use if they’re gonna – 

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, it’s gotta be meaningful, right?

Rob Diezt  

They want a they want a primary experience, right?

Asher Miller  

So what we decided to do was to, you know, create a real experience that provides people with all the generalized knowledge that they need for the modern world around us. So, here’s the package:

Jason Bradford  

Okay.

Asher Miller  

Ready? 

Jason Bradford  

Yeah. 

Asher Miller  

400 trips around the world, okay. It’s only going to take you well, depends on how fast you want to do this. 6-18 years. 

Jason Bradford  

Okay.

Jason Bradford  

And you yourself, through this experience that they’ve created for you will get to build your own toaster,

Rob Dietz  

Toaster Quest: Worldwide Travel. 

Asher Miller  

Exactly, so all those 400 individual parts of the toaster that you talked about earlier, Jason, our listeners get to go in and find each of those individual elements. The raw materials. So they traveled to the source right? They have to smelt manufacture them somehow. 

Jason Bradford  

Yeah, mine –

Asher Miller  

Bring them back. Go to the next place. It’s like I said, it takes a little while.

Rob Dietz  

It’s like an Indiana Jones adventure. 

Jason Bradford  

This is brilliant. It’s frickin’ – 

Asher Miller  

It’s gonna cost about $120,000. 

Jason Bradford  

Can I use my miles? 

Asher Miller  

If you have enough miles, yeah. 

Jason Bradford  

Okay, that’s not that’s not a bad deal at all for what you’re going to get out of it because you’re gonna basically –  

Rob Dietz  

You’re gonna get a toaster. 

Jason Bradford  

Yes!

Asher Miller  

Thanks Tourplexity.