Doctor of Philosophy Programs

OSE is teaming up with Gaia University to offer Ph.D. programs related to post-scarcity, resilient communities. As you may have read in a previous post, Gaia University is beginning its Ph.D. program offerings this year.

The OSE-Gaia program is geared at developing the rigorous theory and practice necessary to support the development of post-scarcity economics. The goal of the Ph.D. offerings is to set new ground in interdisiciplinary studies, by offering projects that combine academic rigor and hands-on experience. Factor e Farm is a working lab that can be used for this purpose.

Gaia University is not the only route for you to get involved if you are interested in charting new territory in applied studies. If you are considering post-graduate studies, and if you are savvy, you can arrange to define your own program even if you are at a traditional university. You would have to find a professor at that university willing to be your academic liaison, and you would have to convince your institution that your proposed undertaking merits an advanced degree. Details of these arrangements depend on the university – and if you are enterprising, you can definitely arrange a workable scenario. I don’t think schools typically advertise this option too much, but it certainly exists. I would have done that myself, if I were aware of the possibility.

Here are 5 Ph.D. program statements as immediate offerings – for those brave pioneers who want a real, interdisciplinary challenge. The topic areas are allied closely with the work of OSE, and Gaia University will be providing the organizational infrastructure and promotion of these programs to its prospective students.

1. Business Model for an Open Source, Resilient Community

This thesis aims to define a replicable economic model for a post-scarcity, resilient community. The context for this work is the creation of 40 acre, autonomous human settlements, as a ready alternative to unsustainble growth of ‘cookie-cutter’ developments. The basic community design should include autonomy in agriculture, energy, housing, fuel, and livelihood options. The foundation for this work is assessing ancient wisdom and modern technology – in order to arrive at a set of infrastructure tools and techniques sufficient for producing a high quality of life free of geopolitical compromise. The assumption is that this is feasible if one is able to use local resources  by means of advanced, small-scale production technology – as a foundation for the next phase in advanced civilization. This economic model involves clear specification of participants’ roles and accompanying economic analysis. The social contract must be consistent with participants’ desire for freedom and happiness – while addressing the needs of post-scarcity levels of on-site production via division of labor. This thesis should provide a rigorous analysis and development of the ongoing experiments with the Global Village Construction Set.  This work is interdisciplinary, and is based on applications of management, engineering, organizational theory, agroecology, industrial design, and psychology. If successful, the economic potential of this work is viral replication of such communities, and accompanying economic transformation of the human landscape.

2. Creating Advanced Civilization from Scrap Metal

This investigation builds upon the work of RepLab. Its goal is to define a business model for an integrated eco-industrial enterprise capable of producing all the tools of an open source Fab Lab. To achieve this, the program begins with induction furnace metal melting, followed by a vast array of hot metal processing, machining, and CNC operations. This machinery can then used to make just about anything – starting with the capacity to replicate the tool set as the initial proof-of-concept – included as part of this investigation. This thesis aims to define a business model and technical process whereby the entire set of flexible fabrication machinery can be produced starting with scrap metal, by bootstrapping itself to the production of increasingly complex tools. The student will design and build an integrated tool set, and determine the minimum possible size (square footage, capitalization cost) for such an operation. The chicken-and-egg dilemma inherent to such a project will be resolved by making choices based on practical considerations, while the eventual machine tool set will be capable of technological recursion to all necessary parts and components. As such, the promise of this work is promoting the closure of the industrial divide between the first and third worlds. This work will have access to the construction capacity, financing capacity, and existing RepLab experiments of Factor e Farm. The outcome of this thesis is a demonstrated, open source business model, including analysis of technical feasibility and economic viability. This thesis involves topics in business management, industrial design, automation, and engineering, and requires individuals with significant worshop experience or ability to learn hands-on skills rapidly.

3. Modern Steam Engines for Renewable Energy Applications

Steam power brought about the industrial revolution, and is currently responsible for 80% of global electricity production (steam turbines). For reasons of technological fate, diesel and gasoline internal combustion engines (ICEs) have displaced the piston steam engine about 100 years ago, and a modern (piston) steam engine has never been developed. While steam engines are about twice as inefficient as their ICE counterparts from the thermodynamic perspective, they are about twice as efficient as ICEs from the integrated systems perspective. This is due to their ability to burn any fuel, without need for distillation. In particular, a pelletized biomass-fueled steam engine is a potentially robust and economically significant route of choice towards a modern steam engine, with applications in the first and third worlds alike. This work aims to produce such a design, with careful selection of best design practices adjusted for ease of fabrication, modularity, scalability, and utilization of modern technology. Ample resources, including centuries of combined talent in the Steam Automobile Club of America, are available on the topic, and success of this task is the work of technological integration via a dedicated effort. This thesis aims to define not only the technology, but also a flexible production facility required to produce such engines – including flash steam generators, closed-loop water cycles, and pellet burners.  The end goal of this work is a replicable, open source business model for an enterprise that produces the above steam engines – with applications to stationary combined heat and power, motive power, and concentrator solar energy applications. In short, the goal is to introduce the modern steam engine. This work includes topics in engineering, business management, automation, and industrial design.

4. LifeTrac: Design and Fabrication of a Universal Utility Machine

This investigation builds upon the LifeTrac, open source, multipurpose tractor prototype. Initial results have shown promise of building a practical, low-cost, multipurpose tractor based on modular, flexible, and adaptable design. In particular, rapid interchangeability of power units, motors, and attachments, and other bolt-together parts has been shown. This indicates the practicality of building a life-size ‘Lego Set’ or ‘Erector Set’ for heavy equipment.  This thesis aims to explore this topic in further detail, culminating in the design, fabrication, and open business model for producing such tractors. The scope includes defining the necessary fabrication facility, and it includes production of various implements and add-ons. The economic significance of this undertaking is clear. This project links to the Modern Steam Engine work in that a modular steam power unit will be one of the LifeTrac power options. LifeTrac is also one of the key foundations for building resilient communities, especially when the transparent, open source design and design-for-disassembly (DfD) combine to an effective lifetime design, with minimal depreciation, operation, and maintenance costs. This thesis will involve opensourcing a comprehensive set of implements, ranging from construction, utility, and agriculture. Included in this set are the sawmill, CEB press (completed), well-drilling rig, stackability into a bulldozer function, haying equipment, and agricultural combine – just to name a few. Provisions for power generation using the LifeTrac infrastructure, as well as automated controls for repetitive tasks – will be addressed. Adaptability of the basic design to off-road vehicles and road vehicles will be covered, as will be the scalability of size based on stacking structural, power, and functional unit components. This investigation covers mechanical engineering, industrial design, and management topics.

5. Scalable, Open Source Product Development (OSPD) Pipeline

This investigation aims to define a rigorous procedure and organizational framework for open source product development, which was begun in a former blog post. The scope is not only the technical development of a marketable product, but also the open source business model for its production. On top of this, the open business model should address capitalization assistance for reducing entry barriers to startups. This is consistent with the open-sourcing of the entire essential economy – or  the ‘open everything’ movement. For purposes of OSE, this would be a fundamental tool for developing open source products and for funding such an effort. This process has been begun and has already been applied to the Compressed Earth Block (CEB) press, but scalability of the process is still lacking. To this end, a more formal procedure is required, and it needs to be managed by a dedicated developer. Once the technique is developed and demonstrated, it should be able to bootstrap itself financially, either by generating resources as part of the process, or by proceeds from product sales by collaborators. A particularly attractive result of a successful OSPD project would be the availability of product designs and open business models from a repository – available for the use of anybody – along the lines of fostering Jeffersonian democracy or post-scarcity economics. These developments have implications of closing the gap between the developing and developed worlds. The outcome of this investigation should be a concrete definition of a replicable, self-funding procedure for engaging open source economic development, including the testing of this method for developing 3 significant, open source products, in a period of 3 months, by the dedicated effort of one person. Students interested in this topic need a background in management, organizational development, or other generalist training.


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