GEK: The new Altair 8800?

ALL Power Labs recently had a visitor from Germany who got the point of why a “Personal Energy Device” might helpfully be made to look like a robot rocketship. His name is Joerg Pfeiffer, and was travelling across the US for Spiegel Online doing stories about energy and the economy. As he is German, and in the US, he of course rented a giant RV and spent most of his time in the desert doing stories about Americans doing weird things. At the end of his journey, he did a story about us.

Joerg’s video does the best job to date of explaining the larger context of the GEK. He was less interested in the tech and more interested in the social experiment as a parallel to the early desktop PC kits, the hacker culture that arose around them, and the importance of Bay Area culture to the whole thing. This is of course the larger context and agenda of the GEK and its creators at ALL Power Labs.

Not to ruin the suspense, but the point of the GEK is to make an Altair 8800 of energy. A personal scale power device that opens the door to a previously unaccessible tech, while recasting it as an opportunity for creative play. The promise that motivates the play is a future of energy as a distributed network of producers and improvers, not simply passive consumers more efficiently receiving the central broadcast. The method towards this an open tool that empowers others to create and play — not a sealed consumer appliance that encourages passive consumption.

Many individuals with good tools in their hands is always more powerful than one center with one big product or service. Such also tends to bring many unexpected rewards ancillary to the original “problem”. Energy may in fact not be a zero sum problem. Computing turned out to be about things other than raw computation. Food also turned out to be about things quite other than raw energy and nutrients. Might energy also have similar non-zero sum creative ancillaries?

The gasifier has the best potential in alt energy to be this tool and creative opportunity.

It was nice to see someone from the media world understand the larger point. But why did it require someone all the way from Germany to get it?

Jim

GEK with Spiegel Online
GEK with Spiegel Online

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