Take a look at the video below. It’s from a projected called 3Doodler. It’s a fantastic bit of technology that has tremendous consequences for the status quo of our everyday lives. Not directly because of the technology, but because of the inelastic nature of our lives.
This is amazing. I literally mean to affect with great wonder; astonish. There exists a device that you can hold in your hand that will create a 3D object. The creative minds of Star Trek didn’t even have a hand held one of these! The 3D printing consumer market has gone from DIY hacked desktop kits to a hold in your hand pen in fewer than 10 years. As I’m writing this, more than 20,000 people have put up nearly 2 million dollars to help fund the project. This is a technology that people are excited about!
Unfortunately incorporating technology this advanced will destroy the economy as we know it. We know trade as the exchange of money for goods. The digital world turns that notion upside down because we are now trading knowledge. Sure, you can still charge for knowledge, but I can copy and infinite amount of knowledge with a click of a button. I can’t do that with physical goods. Until now. Not only are people sharing music, movies, TV shows, books and games over the internet, but now they are sharing objects too. Industries are trying to walk both ways on digital rights, trying to crack down on it even as the data shows providing digital content is what the consumer wants. This iron grip methodology is bound to fail with this as it did with .MP3s. This time the stakes are much higher. People won’t only be downloading music for their iPhone, they will be downloading the iPhone as well.
That’s not even the amazing part! That is what’s possible today; what’s really interesting is what will be possible tomorrow. I’m talking real science fiction type stuff. Researchers are already printing body parts and using stem cells as ink with 3D printers. How much longer until Johnson & Johnson come out with a bio-pen? Cuts and scrapes gone in seconds. Use the professional version to get a football player back in the game after breaking an ankle in the first quarter. A military grade device could be growing back limbs on the battle field.
The real amazing part of all of this is how unprepared our social, political and economic systems are for this new technology. The very fabric of our civilization depends on people becoming consumers of goods at a young age, and becoming dead when they can’t work anymore. Are we going to raise the retirement age to 150 when people are living to 200? What do we do when families stop consuming because they can recycle their old stuff into new stuff by using their household 3DPrinter? How do we measure GDP when information is our currency and it’s traded in a barter system?
These are questions that aren’t even on the radar, but the technology is at our doorstep.