Next Great Idea
Chris Anderson on Why He's Leaving Digital for DIY
Wired's long-time editor in chief, Chris Anderson, announced on Friday that he was leaving the magazine to become CEO of his DIY-drone company, 3D Robotics. This move comes a month after the release of his latest book, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution. In an interview last week (and a brief follow-up after Friday's announcement), Anderson talked with me about today's biggest revolution in how and where we actually make things. If the last few decades have been about big digital forces — the Internet, social media — he notes that the future will be about applying all of that in the real world. "Wondrous as the Web is," he writes, "it doesn’t compare to the real world. Not in economic size (online commerce is less than 10 percent of all sales) and not in its place in our lives. The digital revolution has been largely limited to screens." But, he adds, the salient fact remains that "we live in homes, drive in cars, and work in offices." And it is that physical part of the economy that is undergoing the biggest and most fundamental change.HT: Simoleon Sense
RF: So you're leaving Wired to concentrate on your company, 3D Robotics, which makes DIY drones. This seems very closely related to the things you write about in Makers. It seems like you're shifting your own life from a thinker and writer to a maker. Did your writing of this book influence this life-changing decision. If so, how?
CA: It's more the reverse: the process of becoming a Maker (and then a Maker entrepreneur) inspired the book. I started down the road of Making five years ago, beginning with projects with my kids and then going down the rabbit hole of open source electronics, robotics, and eventually drones (with the community site I set up, DIYDrones.com). That led to the creation of a company, 3D Robotics, with Jordi Munoz, who I had met online at DIY Drones, to make some of the technologies that the community was creating.Neither Jordi and I knew anything more about drones than what we found online, yet in three years he and the team he assembled at 3D Robotics, who are mostly Mexican and Mexican/American engineers in their early 20s, built something amazing: two state-of-the art drone factories (one in San Diego and one in Tijuana). It's been thrilling to watch and be part of, and now it's big enough to need my attention full time. This is not just a passion, but it's become a real business. So my route from Maker hobbyist to entrepreneur, which I describe in the book, is now complete.Some people hear the word "maker" and imagine we are going back to the past, a world of artisans using traditional tools to make craft products. From reading your book, that’s not exactly what you mean. You're talking about a blurring of what might be called the analog and digital worlds. Tell us more about how you see this playing out.
The "Maker Movement" is simply what happened when the web revolution hit the real world. The term, in its current sense, was first coined in 2005 by Dale Dougherty of the tech book publisher O’Reilly, to describe what he saw as a resurgence of tinkering, that great American tradition. But rather than isolated hobbyists in their garages the way it used to be, this was coming out of Web communities and increasingly using digital tools, from 3D printers, which were just then starting to be available for regular consumers, and to a new generation of free and easy CAD software programs. ...The world’s factories are now increasingly open to anyone via the web, creating what amounts to "cloud manufacturing." And huge Maker communities have grown around sites such as Kickstarter and Etsy. In Silicon Valley, the phrase is that "hardware is the new software." The web's powerful innovation model can now be applied to making real stuff. As a result, we’re going from the "tinkerer" phase of this movement to entrepreneurship, too. What began as a social revolution is starting to look like an industrial revolution.
What are the key technological innovations and shifts that are enabling and powering the revolution in making things?
There are really two: the first on the desktop and the second in the cloud....MORE