Our Fab City partners at Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab (SZOIL), published this piece about shanzhai culture. They compare it to the remix culture of hiphop, which borrows liberally from existing material to create wildly new things.
Shenzhen manufactures 91% of the world’s consumer electronics. This has happened over the course of just 30 years or so. There is a tremendously productive and tightly woven ecosystem of small and larger businesses who have evolved symbiotically over three short decades. That economy is powerful, and hard to compete against. But it shows clearly how in a relatively short time, this sort of modular industry can emerge and change how our world works. See this piece by David Li for more on this history.
We sometimes forget that the world we live in has been changing so quickly. When we think about this in the context of a 40-year Fab City movement, it gives us confidence that it will change again, and that we can shape that change by applying the right effort in the right place, at the right time.
We need to consider the role of intellectual property, and its protection, in our systems of innovation. Are we better off when inventors can maintain more control, or when they can riff immediately on each others’ creations? What role does open source play? How does capital change this answer?
Judge for yourself…you can start right here: