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Chinese hackerspaces, or, what happens when a government is run by engineers

Government leadership in Shanghai wants to build 100 community hackerspaces funded by the Chinese government. Each space will be at least 100 square meters, open 200 days a year, and come equipped with wood and metal lathes, saws, drills, grinders, mills, and more electronics than we can imagine.

The official government statement (translated here) says the Shanghai Science and Technology Network wants to build a few dozen ‘innovation houses,’ ostensibly to create a breeding ground for new, innovative ideas and to nurture young builders.

The first Chinese hackerspace, Xin Che Jian, opened last year and they’re doing some pretty cool stuff. A RepRap Mendel is already on the build roster (pictured above) along with a few quadrocopters and small racing robots.

As far as what this means for western countries, we’re going to editorialize a little bit and say that government-funded hackerspaces would increase innovation a little bit more than watching our representatives argue about homosexuals or taxes. Who knows, if this Chinese experiment proves successful, it may move out of Asia and onto the Americas and Europe.

via reddit

Comments

  1. JSN says:

    What a great hack. Oh wait, never mind.

    Can we stop it with the highly charged political posts, please?

    • thip says:

      How is this a “highly charged political post”?

    • Taylor Alexander says:

      “government-funded hackerspaces would increase innovation a little bit more than watching our representatives argue about homosexuals or taxes.”

      Oooh, yeah, thats sooo highly charged. We’re all supposed to be hackers here. Suggesting on this site that we’d be better off funding hackerspaces is hardly controversial. And I think pretty much everyone agrees that the government is doing a lot of unnecessary arguing, regardless of which side you’re on. Perhaps you’re not one of those people but I still would disagree that its “highly charged”.

    • jan says:

      The Chinese government has graciously built these, since the average Chinese citizen needs access to a government sponsored hacker space. That is simply because 70 years of despotic governance has so impoverished their people that most individuals can’t afford to outfit even a small personal workshop. *not taking it away, just putting it over here where I can keep tabs on it* I hope that citizens of the United States never need a government sponsored hacker space *brrrrr*.

      • Daniel says:

        Hackerspaces in America would be great. Not everyone has access to these kinds of tools. Government sponsored hacker spaces are a great way to interest people who otherwise would have never given it a thought. If these were around when I was a kid, I’d probably be a lot more experienced now.

  2. peter says:

    You’ve got to be kitten me.
    That’s great, unless they use the inventions for evil force.

  3. inb4 says:

    I would hope a government run by engineers would value human rights…

  4. 1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101 says:

    I think the reference to government/social issues was unnecessary, as this is a website dedicated toward hacking…unless that is the type of discussion you wish to generate in the comments.

    • SuperNurd says:

      I agree 68 33 86 69 this is a hacker sight and it is not in our area to discuss politics butif you have to talk about do it on a different forum.

      • SuperNurd says:

        Sorry 33 should be 65

      • bigbob says:

        I do believe it is “dave”, not a sequence of numbers. The binary sequence is ASCII, but each character needs a leading 0.

      • 1000100 1000001 1010110 1000101 says:

        I have been asked several times why I only use 7 bits…

        ASA X3.4-1963 defined the ASCII character encoding scheme as a 7-bit system. The 8th bit was used as a parity bit for error checking, but was always assumed to be 0 if omitted. Early use of the system in teletype machines was generally done in 7-bit characters to minimize the data transmission costs.

        ISO/IEC 8859 was established to allow the standardized use of an additional 128 characters by use of the 8th bit. These additional characters contain a more inclusive list of elements of Latin-derived alphabets, extending the use the protocol to more European regions. But the term ASCII itself refers to the original 7-bit system.

    • H.A.L says:

      My circuits are quite able to use your Base 26 alphabet system Dave.

  5. DrTom says:

    Hack a day is going to the dogs

  6. dcat says:

    I partially disagree, this is exactly what other countries need to be doing! Inventors have always been subject to politics. But why is it they are usually negatively affected? I wish we could see this level of support in the US where it’s socially acceptable to be an ignorant consumer. Congrats to China.

  7. Awe Lucid says:

    This is great. Public hackerspaces will undoubtedly cause a revolution in awesomeness and creative momentum. they seem as essential to a forward thinking creative community as an elementary school. Good move China!

  8. Whatnot says:

    You want government funded hardware hacking? I give you DARPA.
    Did you forget or something?

    • Not really what the post was about.
      This was how to get people into hacking. Local spaces people can just try stuff out in.

    • Really? Awesome! Where is my local DARPA-Space? I want to go make something!

      • Wm_Atl says:

        Me Too, I want to build something epicly terrifying.

      • Whatnot says:

        Get into college? My point though was about the suggestion that the US government doesn’t fund research into hardware at all. And DARPA funds the oddest things, and not just schools but also some things outside that.

        Incidentally in my area (not in the US) they actually have garages where you can go to do some DIY work on your own car using available equipment you don’t normally have at home, but you just happen to have to know that they exist, so perhaps there are similar things in existence for building stuff yourself too in your area?

        I see in various other comments that there are such things all over, on the basis of non-profit.

  9. emgrobotics says:

    I have to agree. This is a very appropriate article for a hacker website. Hackers vote too.

  10. I cant possibly see any arguements against what the artical states, its hardly taking political sides, merely stateing this is something more positive that could be done.

  11. Masta Squidge says:

    Amazing, good for you, China. Sadly this won’t happen here in the US for fear of someone perfecting the electric vehicle.

  12. David says:

    How interesting. Cab’t wait for govt. funded hackerspaces in the UK. They could hurry up with the gay marriage too, though…

  13. Ed Minchau says:

    Government-funded hacker spaces like DARPA and the various NASA centers already exist. A problem with a government-run program is that bureaucracy tends to move at a glacial pace, not the build-it-in-a-day-out-of-space-parts sort of things that Hackers do.

    The Hacker community is already growing organically in the Western part of the world. The key is that it is Hackers themselves taking the initiative, creating new companies like Arduino and Makerbot and pushing the growth of this website and others. The Open Source (Hardware and Software) movements further remove national governments from the equation, bypassing the patent system.

    Introducing government-owned and -operated Hackerspaces brings with it a slew of regulations that simply are not required at the Hacker level but are mandated by law for government acquisitions and so forth. This opens up a real Pandora’s box of unintended consequences – whatever your politics, think of the other guys getting in power.

    If Radio Shack is actually pulling its collective head from nether regions, then their own forays into making 3D printing and other services available to Hackers will be in competition with a government agency.

    Finally, the money for government sponsorship of Hackerspaces would have to come from somewhere – either cutting into an existing agency’s budget or forming a new agency. Considering the meltdown of the world economy happening right now, there is simply no way any Western government can afford to support the programs they have now, never mind new ones.

    • Someonecool says:

      Well, lets look at the math quickly.

      The USA would build a few of these hacker spaces too, say 200. It would definitely not cost a huge amount to outfit each with some good gear, such as a Rigol oscilloscope or two ($500), a good 3d printer built for scale (500), a lathe (maybe $2,000? no clue), plus the little doodads here and there which I am forgetting ($3,000). 500+500+2,000+3,000 = $6,000.

      Now, add in the cost of owning the property (no clue), lets say $2,000 per year. Purchasing the property (also no clue) would be maybe $100,000). I have no clue how these places would be “Staffed”, but lets say each has three people, each being paid $60,000 per year. Maintenance costs, a budget for new stuff, and heating/cooling/electricity would be maybe $10,000 per year?
      2,000+100,000+3x(60,000)+10,000 = $292,000

      6,000 + 292,000 = $298,000

      The first cost of one of these hacker spaces would be about $300,000, and vastly lower costs after that.

      300,000 x 200 = $60,000,000

      There are about 300,000,000 people in the USA as of 2004 according to the census.

      That would mean it would cost every person in the USA only two cents extra on their taxes. You really cannot spare two cents to make 200 not bad hacker spaces for the US citizens? It would create 600 extra jobs, put some more money into the american economy, and increase the possibilities for people to “tinker” with proper equipment.

      Tax something like churches and you would probably get enough money to fund such a thing.

      • Ed Minchau says:

        Your numbers work for private individuals or organizations, but for Federal Acquisitions you’re talking a bout several layers of bureaucracy between your sensible list and what actually gets purchased. Then year after year you get more and more regulation about the use of the facilities, intellectual property generated from same, restrictions on Open Source due to ITAR and so forth.

        If you want to kill the Open Source movement, the surest way to do so is to have governments take it over.

      • Someonecool says:

        You make a good point about the bureaucracy involved, I totally forgot that the government has a hard time managing anything without needless bureaucracy.

        Oh well, wishful thinking I guess on my part. :P

      • Eirinn says:

        “The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is inefficiency….”

      • Daid says:

        $2000 for a location a year is pretty low. Not sure on USA prices, but in the Netherlands we pay about 3000 euro a year for a small area which could house I think a max of 20 hackers.

        It’s not a hackerspace, but a model sail plane build club. So we use kind of the same equipment (we have a lathe, drill press, soldering stations, electic saws, those kinds of things)
        With all the expenses we cost about 5k a year I think. Just to keep running, replace faulty equipment/repairs, rent.

        It’s not that expensive, unless you start to count man hours. We have helpful members doing a lot of things, getting stuff for cheap (all our lighting was free for example). You cannot just throw money at something like this, you need the right kind of people.

      • You are talking about a country where half the people think they can end poverty by cutting NASA. Do the math? Ha ha, right….

  14. Will says:

    Uh-huh. When the Chinese Government stops torturing people for basically doing calisthenics in the park, then I might believe they have something useful to say about good governance.

    • bob says:

      Actually , if you knew anything about the FLG you would KNOW it has very little to do with Exercise.
      I have been unfortunate to have crossed this organizations path a couple of times.
      How many exercise companies do you know that fund subversion and propaganda exercises, plus disrupt businesses ?

    • historyLesson says:

      When the American/Canadian/Australian restore the human rights, and hand back the stolen land from the natives then I might believe they have something useful to say about good governance ;-)

      • Bob says:

        It wasnt stolen. It was either won through war or bought primarily with beads. The same as most other countries in the world. Check history again.

      • Taylor Alexander says:

        @bob

        You’re joking, right? The land “bought with beads” is BS because they didn’t understand what they were selling. And “won from war” is the same as stealing.

        I agree its the same as all other land (for the most part) but just because everyone is a thief doesn’t mean its not stealing.

  15. Steve says:

    Sadly, I don’t think our culture of litigation would allow this off the ground. As soon as somebody lops off a finger it would be the end of the enterprise, whether they sign a release or not.

    • N0LKK says:

      Yes it would appear there is a culture of litigation. However despite that appearance there are plenty of private non-profit, and for profit corporations, along with governments actually enabling people to engage in potentially harmful activities. Respectfully I don’t understand what it’s you trying to say. Throw in the towel without even trying?

  16. explainist says:

    if you did this here, people would accuse any adult who participated of giving any kid who participated drugs to get into their pants; you could not set up a mill or band saw or grinder or anything capable of drawing blood, or a welder that could hurt the delicate eyes of people who stare at going “dang. my eyeballs hurt” for ten minutes.

    we have been programmed to think the worst of our fellow humans, to believe the first, worst thing we hear until proven otherwise and to be terrified of the possibility of pain or injury, on penalty of lawsuit.

  17. Someonecool says:

    Is it not possible to have the people there go through a mandatory “class” of sorts to even enter the area? Don’t look at the people welding without glasses, do not put any body part in the saw unless you want it cut, do not touch anything that says “High voltage” without permission from the “main” guy.

    And then, have them sign a paper saying that no matter what, they cannot sue the gov’t for any damage, physical or psychological. Unless the building collapses in on them or something.

  18. xorpunk says:

    What happens when a government is ran by business men consulted by engineers: social science is ignored and the country becomes entirely focused on systematic efficiency..

    kewl…

  19. The Phantom says:

    Government funded hackerspaces? We used to have those. They were called HIGH SCHOOL SHOP CLASS. Kids used them during the day, adults took night classes.

    What happened to them? Ask the Teacher’s Union.

    A private company like Tech Shop is always going to do a better job than a government handout effort. Do you really want to be applying to a government bureaucrat for a new grinding wheel? How about some union drone who just doesn’t care for an instructor? Then there’s the safety regs…

    Anybody who thinks a ChiCom gummint hackerspace is going to be a great thing is frickin’ deluded. Google “Let a hundred flowers bloom” and read some history. Jeeze.

    • Bob says:

      +1

    • Taylor Alexander says:

      I suppose the middle ground would be tax breaks for places like techshop.

      Though I’m not really a fan of more tax code.

    • NotAmerican says:

      Why ask the Teachers Union?
      Here in Ontario, unionized teachers don’t seem to have had very much to do with the slow demise of shop classes. Just the shift in outlook to “high” technology– let’s wire the school! Give them all computers! etc– taking money and interest away from teaching kids how to work with their hands.
      Which is, let’s face it, harder to teach and someone might get a bobo…
      But nowhere has it been suggested that the drive was coming from the teacher’s or their unions. Blame the board trustees, who see no worth in manual labour.

      Why is it so different in the USA?

    • Steve says:

      I think it’s less the union and more the community. The city in which I live DOES have a shop program and services adult classes in the evening. Mid to mid-upper class. The community where I work does NOT have shop classes. Doctors, lawyers, CEOs. What CEO want his kid to be in a shop related profession? So the board that’s elected from the community eliminates those classes in favor of more $$$ friendly classes – computer skills, chinese, japanese,etc. JMHO, of course.

  20. James says:

    Good article.

    It’s hard for governments to sponsor these type of activities as it’s difficult to measure the benefit/payback. In the past I’ve generally thought it was the availability of this type of education that was the key difference between western/asian educational.

    It’s nice to see recognition of the importance of practical experience especially in china.

  21. dissappointed says:

    hackerlabspaces under chinese gov control? scary…
    I think that Hacker and Gov are incompatible words. We don’t like mixin politics with technology, but since one of the points is the hackerspace labs are made by Gov, it’s unavoidable to talk about politics.
    In my opinion it’s not more than other way to control the knowledge with a nice disguise of “hackerspace”.

    I knew hackerspaces recently and this kind of piece of news is quite disappointing for me…

  22. Hirudinea says:

    I wish the government here in Canada would invest some dough in this idea, oh yea and Phantom, bring back shop class.

    • Graham says:

      Where in Canada are you? I graduated highschool in Ontario about 5 years ago and shop was still going pretty strong.

      Guidance councilors were talking everybody out of it though and into sciences though.

      • Taylor Alexander says:

        What we need are people that study sciences but still took shop class. I’m an engineer and most of my classmates were all but useless in the real world. You can’t make good products if you don’t know how to use the tools.

      • NotAmerican says:

        Shop in my Ontario high school was a bit of a joke, for the most part. Shop was replaced with “tech” and we played with computers and lego mindstorms. I think there were a couple weeks of woodworking, one year…
        (Except for one teacher, who knew we already knew computers better than him, and kept his class in the woodshop all semester. Pity I didn’t get his class. I hope he’s still there.)

  23. Vonskippy says:

    The China Government will shut them all down shortly after they’re open and they realize that with wood and metal lathes you can make rifles – something the Chinese Government definately doesn’t want their common citizens having (along with free will, their own thoughts, etc).

  24. torwag says:

    I really believe this is not the place for political ranting. However, I can’t help myself but the “it’s coming from China” bashing is kind of lurking around here, whenever there is a post about Chinese hackers or stuff happen in China.

    In Europe we are recently throwing billions of tax-paid Euros to banks and very rich people to bail them out of there high risky speculations. No question, this requires cutting down money from the very poor of us.

    In US, occupy activists are taking one pepper-spray shower after the other, carried out by the official executives of a country which claims like no other country the promotion of “freedom”.

    We might start to mind our own businesses first before we start ranting about others.

    As for the “hack” it shows that there is at least someone high enough ranked in the local government who seems to be open-minded enough to share similar ideas and concerns like people creating hackerspaces in first place. I would say this is a good sign. I’m a bit concerned that a governmental supported hackerspace (independent of which particular government) requires the obeying of certain rules which quickly can become a problem for the hackerspaces.
    E.g. hacking an Iphone,Playstation,Xbox,etc. to do whatever you want at a private organized hackerspace doesn’t give Apple/Sony/Microsoft much chance to perform any legal actions. For a governmental operated hackerspace, I believe the they might be kind of frighten about any legal actions against them and hence will prohibit any tasks which might result in possible legal troubles.

    The future will show, whether the project will be successful or not.

    • Wm_Atl says:

      I was with you up till the end. I think that Apple/Sony/Microsoft would not have a voice in a China government supported hacker space.

      However in the USA (land of Can’t) the Feds are arguing bills that would give copy right holders broad powers that would allow a copy right holder to have a web site and any web site linking to the web site they view as infringing on their copy right blocked permanently. Lets not forget that Apple tried to use the millenium copyright act to get “jail-breaking” declared illegal. Imagine what they could do if they could just demand any website that discusses jail breaking be taken off the net. And not only that they can have payments blocked to cut off funding to support the site. I am using Apple as an Example, I have seen worst behavior out of Sony. How many hackers has Sony tried to destroy. I am seeing more often Large companies using the Govt to crush innovation in the name of protecting IP. And they are just to happy to take the money. Yup they are bought and paid for.

      No, Friends China understands how to blaze a path to the future. While the rest of us have to tip to around the Giants in hopes that we will not piss them off and get our throats slit.

  25. Skeltorr says:

    Practical engineering training and application.
    We are the wave of the future.

    Being smart isn’t useful in the US.

  26. C. Holmberg says:

    I agree with @The Phantom, pointing out that in the US, the traditional “hackerspace” was high school shop class. I’m glad I’m old enough to have taken advantage of them. Blaming teachers’ unions for their loss is a gratuitous shot, but whatever.

    As for why Shanghai’s municipal government can pull this off, but not an American one: the title cuts right to the chase. Centralized governments without a popular franchise are 1) more likely to include technical specialists, and 2) can make a decision and cut to the chase quickly.

    On the other hand, unless you’re a player in the governing apparatus, “you” don’t have any input regarding “their” decisions. If “they” are funding hackerspaces, great. If “they” are dumping lead into your local bit of the ecology, not so great. We in the US could probably do with fewer veto points in the political process. The Chinese could probably do with a lot more.

  27. Mike says:

    What a mess. The free world is suffering under the burden of competing with a country that is morally and ethically bankrupt. China wants its day in the sun and damn the rest of humanity. Let them eat lead is their attitude. As long as China is run by the Communists I could care less what they achieve. They suppress the human spirit and present a collective drag on the rest of the world.

  28. Edward says:

    Hi Guys,

    I am from xinchejian the chinese hacker space. xcj is actually started mostly by foreigners and there was no government involvement at all. I am quite interested to see you guys imagine all sorts of bad things. The fact shanghai is quite a interesting place, you have to see it yourself, and if any of you have a chance to come to shanghai, do drop us a mail and all hackers are welcomed at xinchejian.

    Anyway, we are currently struggling for a better location with cheaper price, if the international hacker space community can help us financially, it would be so great, sponsors needed!

    Regards
    Edward

    edwardrf AT xinchejian DOT com

    • kingmail says:

      Hi Edward,

      I think we are pretty right to imagine “all sorts of bad things” when you see what you can get by developing means of communicating freely… (not to mention what you get when you receive a nobel prize or make an inadequate picture / painting, if you catch my drift).

      • Edward says:

        Hi,

        I accidentally clicked the report comment when i wanted to reply, so plz ignore that.

        I am kind of in agreement what you say, but also i want to add:

        1. It is human nature to think that way.
        2. It is in local government’s interest to portrait other government are bad evil turds.
        (look at how cold war works)

        But i think it is wrong to assume the government is an isolated entity from the people of the country. Imagine, somehow, all the people in the so called the “evil government” all get promoted to heaven at the same time, do you think the people left in the country would create a totally different country? The characteristics of the government is defined by the culture of the people in the country. Otherwise iraq would be one of the best places in the world after saddam has been displaced.

  29. si_02 says:

    In my opinion the hackerspaces should have a economic resources independent from the goverments. Well without going to the extremes, at least not as a rule… I see it more as spaces of distribute production.

  30. Miroslav says:

    Good move China. It might promote invention and simply help local people that have infrequent need for specialized equipment. Just drop in to your local hackerspace to do a quick cut, or make a prototype.

    China bashers: it is ok to buy cheap stuff from “communist” country on black Friday, but you are disgusted by their government? Then stop buying “communist” made stuff. And return the money you owe them, while at it.

    BTW China is as much communist nowadays as was Great Britain in the 19th century. Wild capitalism is on the rampage in China, not communism. There are more new billionaires there than anywhere else.

    Human rights abuses? Try reading more about the conditions in American prisons. And you can get in jail just as quickly for promoting the separation of South as you can for promoting the separation of Tibet.

    So quit whining about China. You have much bigger problems in the good ole US of A. As we do in Canada, and the rest of “China is bad but I’ll buy their stuff anyway” world.

    If we really want to make a statement, we should force our governments to impose import tariffs, and start producing our own stuff again.

  31. P0e says:

    “..government-funded hackerspaces would increase innovation..”

    You are making the crazy assumption that products developed in hackerspaces have had a net benefit to society.

    e.g. Product X,Y & Z from hackerspace ‘Delta’ generated more money than was spent to keep it open.

    “..it may move out of Asia and onto the Americas and Europe.”

    Socialist states do not recognize IP. It’s hard for some to understand. Individuals going to these ‘innovation houses’ are only those with a low class hukou.. doing so PURELY for the education they are otherwise denied. No one, not even the organizers pretend any ‘innovations’ will resut. The goal is an alternate means of artificially improving your hukou.

    The ‘PRC’ thanks you for your innovation. Please get back to work designing new products for your upper-class.

    For the USA to sponsor such spaces they need first to generate a net benefit…. which they do not. You are unknowingly arguing for an improvement to our PUBLIC education system.

    • “You are unknowingly arguing for an improvement to our PUBLIC education system.”

      Not really. Hackerspaces are all about imagination, creativity, using things in ways they weren’t intended.

      School is not. It is about learning facts and specific well defined, accepted ways of doing things.

      Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say that school is bad. We wouldn’t get anywhere if people didn’t learn specific facts and already defined ways of doing things. We can’t reinvent everything for every generation. It’s just that schools are and will always be very poor at doing the kinds of things a hackerspace is good at and most likely vice versa.

      • p0e says:

        “Hackerspaces are all about imagination, creativity..”
        Injecting imagination, creativity and passion into our public education system wouldn’t be an improvement? There is zero reason they are separate. In fact, vocational highschools were the first ‘hackerspaces’.

        At my Vo-tech I was afforded the chance to collaborate with adults working on their own projects. It not only inspired me, it allowed me to pool knowledge from a large group of technical minded people… instead of one ‘under-employed’ ‘shop teacher’. In two years I went from typical high-school student to designing my own switch-mode power supplies, troubleshooting uP problems in our DIY pick and place machine, and building a fuel injection controller from scratch.

        Since buying innovation with government money is the topic, how about we first look at where we already spend this money?

        “Your assumption that the benefits of a Hackerspace can be made immediately apparent and quantified is false.”

        The topic is government spending for the benefit of society. If you can not quantify the benefits how do you propose to convince anyone they are anything more than social clubs?

        “That would be like saying that since no products are designed in schools [..], that schools are useless.”

        Obviously the purpose of schools is not innovation or economic growth, is it.

    • Taylor Alexander says:

      Your assumption that the benefits of a Hackerspace can be made immediately apparent and quantified is false.

      That would be like saying that since no products are designed in schools (well, some college projects turn into products, but most students don’t do that), that schools are useless. I think even the kids that went through college and didn’t come up with a product got some benefit from it.

      Hackerspaces allow people without the necessary tools at home to tinker, meet people, and learn on their own. I would imagine a lot of good comes from that, even if the result is not “Hackerspace B created this product C”. It could just be that someone who starts a company learned what they needed to earlier in life at a hackerspace.

    • Edward says:

      I totally agree that government initiated hackerspace is not ideal as it would attract the wrong audience, people who try to get all sorts of things of of the exercise. However, if government could give some sponsorship or help to reduce the financial difficulties of real self orgnized hackerspaces would be good.

      I don’t agree that socialist country does not respect IP, it is more of the unique culture of china, and that results in the poor passing on of unique traditional skills and designs.

      • p0e says:

        “..if government could give some sponsorship or help to reduce the financial difficulties..”

        What exactly do you propose? Any aid would be at the expense of the public. What benefit do hackerspaces offer to the general public that would outweigh this aid?

        “I don’t agree that socialist country does not respect IP”.

        IP is a joke in EVERY country. Socialist countries are just more open about it since IP flies in the very face of what socialism is. i.e. Community ownership of all resources including ideas and information
        i.e. the ultimate ‘open-source’ movement
        …so ya, socialist countries do not respect IP.

        Even in the USA, IP is only enforced with massive amounts of money. There are no IP police.

  32. anyone says:

    scary shit man!

  33. Bugkiller says:

    Have lurked forever; time to contribute.

    I urge that what the U.S., Canadian, EU, Australian … Hacker communities should do is incorporate non-profit organizations that can accept donations, especially of equipment. In Silicon Valley and Southern California, (I work in both) we have literally tens of thousands of spectrum analyzers nearby, but none that an individual can get at. Major U.S. companies sell older equipment in bulk at auctions (or destroy it, e.g., above a few GHz SAs are “munitions” under U.S. law).

    Equipment donations to Hacker-spaces are a win-win option. The companies get a tax write off and established non-profit entities can deal with the paperwork to satisfy munitions restrictions, and such.

    The rest is more debatable, but I would urge such Hacker-space Incorporated’s to not team up with educational institutions or any form of government related entities. One can start to see why by looking at the “issues” in a school when a 17 year old wants to use a lathe, or when 19 and 50 year olds work together and there are the inevitable rumors about outside liaisons. Old-school solutions to such problems work a lot better than the ones that come with involvement by any outside, risk-adverse bureaucracies.

    The hacker-space community might want to study the organizational models used by the Radio-amateur community.

    As for my bona-fides to make such suggestions, I am a practicing attorney who (finally) owns a spectrum analyzer, a Rigol scope (and an analog Hitachi scope), and more old HP swap-meet procured equipment that I can easily list. In fact, give me a viable entity and I will change my will so that my equipment is given to it to use or dispose of as it sees fit.

    • Taylor Alexander says:

      Hacker Dojo in Silicon Valley and Noisebridge in SF are two such entities – legal non profits that can accept donations, with no government or educational institution affitiations.

      There are many such places! Thats the idea behind hackerspaces, really.

      And I think Hacker Dojo actually has a laywer on call in the building.

      -Taylor

    • Taylor Alexander says:

      I should add that the best way to make the donations is to get on their mailing lists and send them a message. Since they have no central leadership (to my knowledge) the mailing list is the best way to make sure the appropriate people hear from you.

    • MauiMaker says:

      Bugkiller
      There are multiple spaces in both your local areas (silly valley and socal). Taylor Alexander mentioned a couple in SF area. Down in SoCal you should check out Crashspace in Culver City as a highly active and diverse community. They are currently submitting paperwork to get their 501(c)3 (and still raising $$ to pay your lawyer brethren). There several others in the greater LA area (including one in Santa Barbara and some down in San Diego). You can check the map at hackerspaces.org.

      I’d recommend going to visit several before you decide to indicate one as your hacker heir.

  34. sunwukong says:

    I saw similar “hacking schools” in South Korea in the shinyongsan electronics market in Seoul. Middle aged tutors would help younger kids build electro-mechanical kits. It was a fascinating idea but did not seem to catch on. I was amazed at the wide variety of components and technology that could be found in a square mile of single story buildings in the heart of Seoul from sand casting to electronics to glass blowing all for a price. I was also frustrated to find that often the one transistor or IC needed to complete an interesting project was simply not available there. Interestingly in a nation that grew up with no big drug problem (that anyone talked about) chemestry glass and chemicals were fairly easy to come by. It put our cherished notion of a “free country” here in America in a new light.

  35. MauiMaker says:

    DARPA and usa govt sponsorship of true maker/hacker spaces is a definite possibility. There is Mudge’s DARPA program Cyber Fast Track (Wired.com) which is able to fund small projects incredibly quickly (for govt).

    Then there is DARPA’s 100 Year StarShip program, to which an international consortium of maker/hackerspaces submitted a proposal. Who was leading that proposal development, and was invited to speak at DARPA’s symposium on the project? Some cool hackers from Xin Che Jian. There are USA makerspaces in the consortium (or perhaps we are Hawaiian Kingdom spaces :-)

    I would very much like to see US (and other govts) supporting maker/hackerspaces around the world. They are great places of learning, doing, invention and spawning of startup companies (eg. Makerbot Industries).

    A few thousand dollars a year grant $ can go a long way with our low admin overhead style of operation.

  36. Robot says:

    A lot of these comments seem awfully fearful. I prefer to stick with the naive world view that a technically literate populous is a good thing.

  37. AnonymousCoward says:

    I’ve met the people from Xin Che Jian, they visited Foulab (Montreal Hackerspace) couple months ago. I must say they are 2nd generation immigrants, with a western education, that went back to China. Glad to see they are getting their thing going over there, we had our doubts when they came to visit; fearing mostly government repression against them. Apparently we were wrong. Good on them!

  38. David Li says:

    Just come cross this story U.S. Factories Adapt To Stay Competitive and it’s about how factories are becoming a highly customized services business that in needs of real hackers.

  39. carlmartus says:

    What is up with the praising of China on this site. China takes draconian measurements against opposition towards the government. They censor the internet and I’m pretty sure they do a lot of bad things that we don’t hear about.

    Hacker spaces that are financed by the government do exist outside of China which this article falsely claims doesn’t. I’ve been to a space in Malmö in Sweden and they have gotten their own facilities and all kind of tools financed by the government. So saying that it would “spread” from China is either based on bad research or just lying to make China look good.

    Extra: I also personally know that my own web server is not accessible from China.

  40. Joe Bonasses, dogmatic charlatan says:

    Speaking of China, does anyone know, what happened to Tank Man? Haven’t seen him since ’89….

    This is my local hackerspace, it’s not free but its a lot cheaper than using a local machine shop….

    http://www.rcbi.org/wmspage.cfm?parm1=30

  41. N0LKK says:

    I’m returning to this post because it’s list as one as one of the highest commented posts for the last 30 days, and also because of that it reminded me of something that I didn’t think of when the post was first made.

    Many cities have recreational commissions that that define recreation far beyond organized competitive youth, and adult sports. They support things as teaching card games, playing musical instruments, and crafts for a few examples. Government support hacker spaces at the lower government level really isn’t that far fetched, but it would be wise to use the term builder spaces. Even using building spaces is going to require a bit of explaining without having to redefine hacker to those you are making a proposal to. That would take a lot of volunteer effort on the pat of the local hacker community, in the event that community for any reason isn’t up to the challenge, it would be best if it was a proposal not made.

  42. obsoehollerith says:

    ? SPELLING ? Hack your language first!

  43. TecKnight says:

    I agree that something of this nature left to the government to run would end up costing twice what it should. So why not contract it out to the highest bidder. That would also end up injecting some capital into the local economy. As a US citizen and an engineer, I think something like this is critical. We have lost practically every technological advantage we once had. The one advantage that I believe we still have is innovation, but that is eroding quickly as well. I say we take a que from the Chinese. It seems like a great idea to me.

  44. Freetruth says:

    I am always amazed at how many are quick to defend chinese government actions as a model for the USA. Tech shops are as good or better than hacker spaces funded by the government, where a bureaucrat in Washington is trying to decide which equipment one should have… Instead, a simpler approach is for the US government award a one year free pass for any young person who desires to use the space for playing around with ideas. Send in some justification and there you go…

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