Thursday, August 6, 2009

Welcome to the 3D economy

From Futurismic:
Jamais Cascio appears over at Fast Company once again, this time talking about the desktop manufacturing revolution, which seemingly becomes a less science fictional prospect by the week. The shift in plausibility is noticeable in the concerns raised: consider a still-distant technology like nanoassemblers or sentient AI, and you’ll get the species-killer existential risks – grey goo, say, or a hard unfriendly singularity. Ubiquitous fabbing is inevitable enough to be raising more realistic and (by comparison) small-scale concerns… like what the hell it’s going to do the economy.

Technologies that shift production from being atom-dominated to being bit-dominated tend to follow similar trajectories. With both laser printers and, later, CD/DVD burners, the first wave of “creative destruction” came when the prices dropped to the level where the devices were affordable by small businesses; the second, bigger wave came when the prices dropped to a level affordable by general households. Now, laser printers and CD/DVD burners are just about free in a box of cereal–and, for many of us, the production and consumption of text documents and music has moved to entirely digital formats.

If 3D printing follows a similar trajectory, we may not be likely to see a massive shift to entirely digital “products” any time soon, but we could well see a shift to more local–even desktop–production....MORE