Open collaborative design/Intro

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Open collaborative design involves applying principles from the remarkable free and open-source software movement that give us a powerful new way to design artefacts, machines and physical systems. The basis of this development model is a principle called Copyleft.png 'copyleft' which applies terms of use to creative works enabling anyone to freely use or customise these items. Derivative works will often inherit the same terms too, making anything based on it also freely available, although this depends on the particular license chosen. With so-called 'weak' copyleft this does not apply and means that derivatives can be made proprietary.

This principle ensures that 'copylefted' works (whether they are designs, text, artwork or computer code) become gifted to humanity, adding to an ever increasing universal 'commons'. And because this principle is to the benefit of everyone, it completely changes the way that people think about contributing their time, creativity and efforts to projects licensed in this way.

For the nascent field of open collaborative design, new generations of open-source CAD software will allow anyone, not just designers and engineers, to easily create new or variant designs, choosing from a vast array of 'copylefted' components, assemblies and whole artefacts from the universal commons. This should make the design process much more efficient and help avoid the huge duplication of effort that occurs in design and engineering today.

These principles can apply to designing the simplest things that can be made by individuals; solutions for communities in the developing world; all the way up to complex large-scale systems of national or global infrastructure involving hundreds or thousands of people. Because the designs are not closed or proprietary, people are encouraged to contribute knowing their involvement not only benefits themselves but anyone else might use the results of their efforts. It also means that designs will evolve far faster because of the huge amount of parallel development that is likely to occur.

Giving these designs physical form will be fast and easy due to emerging high-speed, flexible manufacturing techniques. As a result the open design ecosystem will effectively become an internet for physical items — and the impact on society is likely to be as great as the web has been in terms of information.

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