So last week (or was it the week before that?) i heard rumor of a bill, H.R. 6003, which has been submitted and scheduled for committee. This bill, ahh yes this bill represents a first glimmer at what will be the USA economy of the 21st century. Indeed i must say that within the very framework hidden within the bill is the global economy of the new world.
Let us start by saying that what this bill represents is nothing which citizens cannot do them selves. I would advise you to read over the bill before continuing. They seek to establish a non profit, and thus, as a non-profit they will assign their employees and attempt to secure their mission. Ten years is what we find stated in the proposition. However, we should take note that a federal endeavor is granted with a type of "freedom" in that the funds are given not in accordance with a profit to be made directly but for a type of "goodness" that might come, so failure is more of an option then if it were a private endeavor.
What the bill calls for is the creation of several hundred "Fab Labs" over the next ten years, let us look at what they are defining:
"(c) Definitions- In this section, the term ‘Fabrication Laboratory’ also referred to as a ‘Fab Lab’ means a facility containing a variety of manufacturing and other fabrication tools operable by means of digital input as well as the software and computers required to design for and operate those tools. These labs serve a broad range of purposes, but each allow for clear guidelines for how members of the local community, local businesses, and academic or educational purposes can be pursued with the labs’ resources consistent with a charter to be established by the NFLN."
Obviously almost any industrial process can fall under this definition. And of particular interest to us is the notion that these labs may be biased in terms of which members of the community can access them. For example, what if the limited resources of the labs are contracted to some business in particular, whereby that business gains some type of competitive advantage on another member in the community. Soon, if that other member is driven to loose profits they will, in some sense, see this as them being attacked by the federal government. They will see that they do not have access to a fab-lab like the other company, and they might not have the financial resources necessary to invest in personnel and technology to compete. These types of considerations always arise when there are limited resources to go around, be they raw or technological.
We might look more deeply at the meaning behind this bill. Maybe there will be restrictions in that any community entity is limited in terms of total time they can use the equipment at the fab lab. My only concern here is that these labs will be too popular, too powerful and in demand. I mean they are mixing technology, learning, creation and welfare together... obviously they are going to need to offer access to the community at some type of cost that is lower then say, Intel's "fab labs", otherwise the endeavor would be kind of meaningless.
The charter they mention is the vague point, it is the point that has yet to come for us to see, the part whos form we can only intuit at this point. I have requested from Bill Foster, the bill's author, to speak with him for more information about the bill. Hopefully i can learn more about whats driving him and what larger plans he has behind this.