An article in the New York Times that was sent through to me a few days ago from one of our friends is causing a bit of a storm on the tech mega-news site Slashdot. The NYT article itself is a review on 3D scanning technology. It focuses a lot on the scanning of objects and then printing them. My personal opinion is that it’s much more interesting to talk about designing objects and then using the fabricator to create; after all, scanning someone else’s creation and just printing it is pretty boring really – where’s the creativity in that?
The comments on Slashdot are pretty interesting though and it’s great to see the huge interest in the technology. Some of the comments include:
When you think about it, modern society is moving more and more to the production of “intellectual property” (i.e. an idea as something you can own) rather than the production of physical goods. A modern individual has the capability of mastering their own music and movies, post-processing and distributing their own photographs in both digital and physical form, creating their own PCB-based electronics, designing their own Microprocessors, building their own vehicles (airplanes are a big one!), and many other tasks that used to require massive resources and tens-to-hundreds of employees.
– Intelligent Blogger
Now I know about the “never say never” line in technology, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that while the productive capacity of the home user will scale up, you will never get to the point where manufacturers of physical items will be squeezed out the way manufacturers of virtual goods (music, movies etc) have been. There’s a fundamental difference between copying Britney Spears’ latest warblings and copying a Ferrari.
Really, replicator technology instantly solves a vast amount of global issues. You no longer have hunger. You no longer have theft since there is no value in stolen objects. You no longer have a “drug problem” since everyone who wants drugs can replicate themselves into a stupor without harming anyone else, and darwinian processes will quickly weed people with those addictive tenancies into oblivion. Likewise, there will be little need for war since there are no resources to argue over, and even if there were you would be assured of mutual destruction since anyone can replicate any weapons they can imagine.
“In most cases, from the examples I’ve seen, the rapid prototyping tools can’t currently create a durable item” – From my purchasing experiences in the past decade, it seems most items are not durable anyway.
You want to really stretch your brain…
Ask yourself, what would Nintendo do if they could build a game machine incorporating a 3d printer?
Custom trophies from virtual games.
3d avatars like the “Mii” that you can actually hold….
That’s just a few of the neat comments that the story has inspired. The idea of 3D replicators is one that really captures the imagination. I’ll admit there are a lot of negative comments too. There are issues with intellectual property protection, environmental issues and also fear over the economic implications. That’s natural with any groundbreaking technology, but ultimately I believe the benefits will outweigh the negatives. It’s going to be a fun ride to see how it plays out.