I have a love-hate thing going on with technology. Technology can be democratizing. Technology can be disruptive. Technology can make millionaires out of mooches. Technology can create a perpetual cycle of flux and learning wherein you can never know enough. I just want technology to get to the point where it ideally makes my life better and then that’s good enough. Can I post a status update to long forgotten friends? Swell. Will Facebook infer what I’m doing and synthesize a report of what I’m doing for all to see? It’s not impossible-- it’s just a matter of time and that’s an example of technology going too far.

Getting in early on a technology is sometimes the key to dominating it. Elvis wasn’t the first musician or even the first rock’n’roll singer-- he was just early enough to enter an uncrowded space and make the most it. Bill Gates saw the Altair and knew it needed to an operating system. Steve Jobs saw all of the technology and talent that was ready to pop and capitalized on it. If you get in a little too early, you’re building it all. If you get too late, you’re in a crowded community pool. For several years, I have been watching 3D printing. Call it rapid prototyping. Call it additive manufacturing. It’s about making real things with a contraption tied to a computer. It’s about one-off manufacturing. It’s about making something so elaborate and unique that the process of production would be prohibitive through regular means.

We get our information digitally. I get most of my income digitally having never met some of my clients in person. Our games come digital. Our movies are digital. We shop local to a practical extent. We have some of our backyard converted into garden space and a DIY greenhouse in our front yard. Water falls from the sky, but we’re not organized enough to collect a great deal of it (yet). We could rig up wind and solar to zero out some of our electricity and heating costs. Manufactured goods remain as something we still have to buy from a merchant. If we can crack the nut of how to make our own gadgets, tools and creature comforts, we would be able to have an abundant life for very little money. I think 3D printing is a way to accomplish that.

When I say that 3D printing can replace a lot of manufacturing, people get out their pitchforks, especially people big on 3D printing. They all believe this will be a hobby and a curiosity. If 3D printing remained in the realm of the hobbyist, I would consider it a failure. In the 1970s and 1980s, people seriously misjudged the impact of computing. Before the PC, many thought that the common folk had no use for computers. Before the Internet caught on, many people thought it was a way to communicate from university to university (largely to answer the question of “Who’s better: Kirk or Picard.”). Few thought that a camera would be a fixture on a phone. Few thought people would be hyper-connected. I think 3D printing could take a generation to catch on, but I think its impact is going to take some time and it’s going to be massive.

More on my forays into 3D printing

The Refugee Trading Post

I am part of a constituency group in Victoria. I was contacted to streamline the system used to connect people with items to donate with those people who are helping refugee families come to Victoria.

I built a database driven system to connect users so that all of this outpouring of charity does the most good.