Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hey control freaks, meet the DIY revolution!

From Fast Company:

Take a design for a simple product--an engine part, for example, or a piece of silverware, and feed it into a computer. Press "print." Out pops (for a sufficiently wide definition of "pops") a physical duplicate, made out of materials plastic, ceramic, metal -- even sugar. Press "print" again, and out comes another copy--or feed in a new design, for the next necessary object.

It may sound like a scene from a low-rent version of Star Trek, but it's real, and it's happening with increasing frequency.
I guess it says something about me that the first thing that occurred to me upon reading this piece was, "wow, gun control is really, and permanently, a completely dead issue, isn't it?" And, the second thing that occurred to me is, "actually, banning anything will become an impossible dream for frustrated control freaks as this technology evolves."

We'll all get desk-top "printers" that can knock off as many AK-47s, radar jammers and pounds of heroin as we want, so long as we feed in raw materials.

And yes, the government will try to come up with a software kludge that prevents knocking out verboten items. But those kludges will be hacked in about five minutes.

Oh, and since you're wondering, basic models of these 3D printers now cost less than $10,000.

Isn't that neat?

Hat tip to Hit and Run.

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Blogger MichaelK said...


July 21, 2009 1:39 PM  
Blogger Gary McGath said...

Nice fantasy. Too bad it has nothing to do with reality. Assuming there were a "printer" that could do chemical conversions, create assemblies with moving parts on the fly, and produce anything just by saying "Tea Earl Grey Hot," all with a $10,000 machine, have you thought about the thermodynamics implied by this miracle generator? Analyzing heroin and making it by rearranging water and fertilizer requires a huge amount of energy. How big will the power supply and heat dissipation be on this magic machine? I'm wondering, do you think this thing can also do atomic transformations, like turning lead into gold? Please read Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions for notes on the implications of that.

July 22, 2009 4:36 AM  
Blogger MichaelK said...

Easy, Gary. It's still going to take a while.

Charlie Stross's Singularity Sky is probably more on topic for the ideas in this blog post, though. (Yes, it has the super-advanced version he calls a cornucopia machine.)

July 22, 2009 10:22 AM  
Blogger Johnny said...

If only! Sadly, as with the overwhelming majority of the nanotech / singularity hype, it's not in prospect for generations since there are rather more in the way of engineering gotchas than the enthusiasts like to notice (and some current theoretical paradigms are just plain wrong, having wandered down a blind alley - genetics anyone?). But, in any case, it would allow the collectivists to deploy ubiquitous surveillance and control and we would be living in Bentham's Panopticon - well, even more so than we are now...

July 28, 2009 2:12 AM  
Blogger J.D. Tuccille said...

I know that desktop factories aren't there yet, but they're certainly on the way (remember when CNC machining was still science fiction?) But they're on the way. I'm sure that the tech will somewhat help the state, but do they really need any more assistance? After all, states have tax agencies and factories; cheaper manufacturing provides the most benefit to individuals.

July 28, 2009 6:35 AM  

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