“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them, One Ring to bring them all and in the brightness bind them” J.R.Tolkien, Lord of the Rings. (adapted)
Imagine being able to get rid of the trip to most of the shops, except for very big items. Imagine anything that you see in your computer being able to be purchased and produced in real time, in your own home, with just a click. Imagine ideas transformed in a digital way, and released to the needing public for them to reinvent, or just use over and over again. Imagine the corporation and its economies of scale no longer needed, as anybody can produce as cheap as they can in their homes. Imagine a world where software is the paramount king of all relationships, where everything is traded, advertised, found and delivered in a digital form. Imagine a world full of all the items that you have now, but with no transportation costs, no factories, and no employees like we refer to them now. Imagine a single machine that can produce anything you need in a lifetime. Imagine… well you almost no need to anymore. Behold the 3D printer.
Let’s start with the non-believers.
One thing is true the potential of this technology to change everything around us is so huge, that it might take a lot of time to see it happening. We really are used to the model of going to the shops, let advertising “help” us find an item we “need” and then consume it, until we need it again. The worker goes to the factory, earns wages, and uses those wages to buy the items that the factory produces… simple eh! In fact, the whole world has been changing and adapting to this model for the last 250 years. Countries have risen, others have fallen, and political systems became obsolete just because they didn’t cope well with something called “economies of scale”. Corporations have become even stronger than countries, just because they embody an era where having the lowest costs of producing an item, and the money to buy influence and advertising to get it sold is the best we know. So, not going to debunk everything now just because a few people can produce a few items from their home, they will always be the ones looking to see and touch what other people can do better than them, and happy to pay money just for the experience of shopping. Is like going to a play, you are not really going just to get items you need, is actually for the entertainment. The marketing, the salesman, the showroom, the shiny items, the $0 interest not any payments until 2018, most people beyond from just buying an item, they are acquiring a story about how it will make them happier, better, stronger. You can take away the entertainment from the price of an item, and it’s suddenly way cheaper, but much more boring as well. Besides, for a huge demographic born before 1955, even the Internet with all its wonders, is still somewhat under-utilised and unappreciated.
But yet for many change is coming faster than others think.
For the ones wanting to join the hype, a 3D print is just simply liberating. Hardware essentials produced at home, and if you have a creative flair and want to redesign a piece that many people find useful, all of a sudden you can sell your idea as a recipe of software and hardware ingredients, a recipe for anybody to produce anywhere in the world. In a way, you can say globalisation was doing that already, but not all of us were any happy to burn so much oil to get it transported home from China. Besides, that same people would like to see more individuals empowered end to end, from production to delivery, by a more equal commerce model. One where there still will be a few winners, but the opportunities for many to join the profits are higher. If the means of production are available to everybody, ideas become king, software is their expression, and hardware is just a picture in time. Forget about the little corner not fitting the bedroom, or the colour only available to premium subscribers, everything could be tailored and will be tailored by you because, before the industrial complex set in, that was the way our brains evolved to exercise our humanity, and we recognise quite easily anything that allows us to express our uniqueness. The business model in this future is all about limiting access to your ideas (IP), or not. Complemented somehow by an army of “new” employees versed on how to translate the physical world and your inventions into a digital form that the machine can print. As once upon a time, a TV became necessary in every household, mainly for entertainment, a 3D printer will also be delivering that plus a few more things: supplies, creative playground, communication and sharing. A machine that can produce its parts and be redesigned completely by its user it’s the closest to any ideal machine ever available. One machine for a lifetime of manufacturing, where the home becomes the factory of everything, and the individual the new boss.
Knowledge is power but without the means to express it physically it was really only reserved to whoever was able to achieve scale of operations, either by controlling physical means of production, or its intellectual equivalents. With every home producing their needs, and getting a la carte maps for product manufacturing from all over the world available to them in a snap, the paradigms guiding our current form of government and trade, are up for disruption again. A disruption not seen since the enlightenment and the subsequent industrial revolution that followed. Ideas and commerce needed a form of government that sustained the most efficient model of operation: factory-workers-consumers. Only the countries that saw the future being aligned to these parameters were able to get ahead on the race, and still to this day, control most of the power balance of the world, and the decision-making. But as every innovator knows, the incumbent is usually the most blind to a new situation in development; and again in only the places that can foreseen a new system of government and trade, aligning to a different set of parameters: network-designers-home manufacturers, will be able to get ahead on the race and lead the world to a renewed era of discovery, where the humble hobbyist instead of the big corporation returns to be the main innovator, powered by networking advantages never available to any human civilisation before.
Between the believers and non-believers of whether a revolution is due to come, the only aspect that they really defer is in the timing, as in regards to the role technology plays in the renewal they are all in agreement. Whether you believe is sooner or later, the question is can you afford not to lead on this race? The reward is so immense that even with a small probability is better to believe and do something than lag on the race, as a country, as a state, as a community or even as an individual. Like in a Pascal’s wager argument, to believe ends up being the only solution, which will create a movement towards rethinking government, trade, taxes and politics, and just maybe, get them to be more human by virtue of a better technology, and better boss too, Your Home Inc.