It started with some discussions on the wearable computing list, wear-hard.
A more organic approach to machine design. Perhaps the oldest of machines, superceded only by the spinning wheel, the loom goes back thousands of years. Where broken tools and pottery shards lie in dust, cloth wraps the bodies of the dead.
In order to blend in with society, a robot needs to simply be part of the environment. In order to be a part of the environment, a robot needs to be designed with sustainability in mind.
While a solar cell generates electricity directly, a Stirling engine is orders of magnitude more flexible and easier to repair with the most basic of tools. Unlike the vaporized water required by a steam engine or the burning fuel used in an internal combustion engine, all a Stirling engine requires to function is a temperature difference. Naturally some designs will be optimized for specific environments in order to operate more efficiently, but the underlying principle remains the same; apply heat to one end and/or cool off the other.
A household Clothbot, powered by Stirling engine, would be equally at home absorbing heat from the sun or hearth, and cooling in the shade or earth.
As the Long Emergency comes to pass, will this communal web of information and knowledge free itself from the industrial ties? Or will it vanish once more through repeated history?
[At the rate I'm going - started writing on June 10th - I'll never get this up. Putting it up now.]