Technology lessons from the Cuban Special Period

Today at the O'Reilly Emerging Technology conference, I attended Jane Swarm and John Storm's talk, "Of Necessity and Humanity: What Cuba Can Teach Us About Ourselves and Our Own Technology," a fascinating talk about the technology lessons to be learned from the largely technology-free Special Period in Cuban history, about the hacker culture that inspired, and about what's likely to come of it in the future as technology floods into Cuba.
Tech emerges from Grey Market

* Resolver: excuse to be illegal to make ends meet

* Buying PC parts out of the back door of a gov't facility, assemble PC, sell back to gov't

* In Cuba all goods constantly circulate

* Inventar: improvise from limited resources

* Everything is misc and modular

* New means new config of existing parts

* A cinderblock house can be built ina week -- what's what's "new"

* Barter:

* Man wants wood for a raft for Miami, traded laptop -- political freedom for national freedom

* Piracy:

* Castro says it's a legit response to embargo

* Political act

Link to my notes, Link to precis


  1. “Link to my notes” link isn’t working.

    Can’t wait for future such talks. Maybe “Darfur DIY”?

  2. Thanks for fixing the link. Notes make it sound like it was a fascinating talk. Yet another reason to end the embargo as it would only enable this “grey market” further.

    This is simply amazing: “Took 11 years for video of Berlin wall to reach Cubans”

  3. ‘Sat TV is illegal, but is principal alternative media’…Maybe so, but in typically pragmatic Cuban fashion TV in all the tourist Havana hotels comes from from one monster dish, which steals its feed from who knows where. Or so I was told…

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