As the unemployment crisis continues month after month, I’m tempted to climb to the roof of my house and yell at the top of my lungs, “The maker movement creates jobs.”
This so obvious a fact seems lost on national decision-makers. The entire personal computer industry was born when a small group of hobbyists, The Homebrew Computer Club, met at Stanford University in 1975. Other industries are on the verge of being born if only our nation did more to support hobbyists. What more could be done? Provide makers–hobbyists–spaces to gather and tinker.
The hobbyists shouldn’t have to put up the full cost of renting such a space. The work that is happening at these hacker spaces is often of a public nature. The scope of public work should not be constrained by the limits of private, personal funding.
Here is what happens at hackerspaces: realizations and discoveries. A single realization or discovery can be worth a billion dollars or more. It stands to reason that our nation needs to be doing much, much more to promote the maker movement.
Not far from Washington, D.C., where I live, 13 Catholic high schools in Baltimore, Maryland, are vacant. These schools were sadly closed last year and are now for sale. Wouldn’t 13 large hackerspaces serve our country very well? Think of how much learning, exploration, and discovery could happen in those buildings if the buildings were open seven days a week.
Who could pay for those 13 high schools to be used as hackerspaces? Bill Gates, for all the philanthropic work he has done, still has $59 billion to his name. Putting some of the Gates Foundation money to work for this purpose is a no-brainer. The annual interest on $59 billion (at 5% interest rate) is about $3 billion. That works out to $1 billion every four months, which is $250 million every month. To reach the $25 million cost for purchasing all these schools would require 3 days of interest from Gates’ $59 billion.