A friend and I got to talking about the deeper implications of Cody Wilson’s “alarming” achievement (which, naturally, has already been trumped and will soon be trump-trump-trump-trumped ad infinitum).
My friend said that the real achievements will be in 3D-printed firing mechanisms and make-at-home-and-throw-away magazines. (Perhaps he’ll come here and give a more thorough explanation than I just did.)
As far as firearms go, that may be correct. But he got me thinking about the broader, long-term implications of 3D printing. Cory Doctorow speculated about that clear back in 2006 in his short story “Printcrime.” (Amazing foresight there, CD.)
So the question for today is: Will 3D printing do for physical objects what the Internet has done for communications? To wit: What will happen to patents and trademarks? Will this lead to a vast decentralization (right down to home-workshop level) of manufacturing of everything from toasters to automobiles? How will governments and mega-corps fight against the technology (as you know they will)? Will there be a huge burst of creativity as high-tech “tinkerers” get their hands on ever-more-affordable printers and open-source plans? Will innovators get screwed over by opportunists? Will there be greater prosperity as the price of thousands of objects drops? Or higher prices and political repression? What products will be most changed? Where will we be with this five years from now? Ten? Twenty-five?