Random Thought Thursday

It’s random thought Thursday. Time once again to stretch the neurons and snap them like a rubber band. Enjoy…


Today, 3D printing is attainable at home for a few hundred bucks. Limiting constraints include materials, resolution, temperatures, scale, cost, and the relative complexity of creating the actual models. Models can be downloaded from the web for a wide variety of needs and interests.

Someday those constraints may likely relax to enable higher quality materials,  higher resolution, higher temperatures,  and larger scales.  The least flexible aspect, for now at least, is scale.  While it’s feasible to anticipate materials and quality improvements, scale is limited by the environment itself: the room.

But it’s also conceivable that scale could be addressed by some other approach.  Maybe a more intuitive modular approach.  Who knows.

Then there’s 4D printing and the ambitious goal of dynamic, “intelligent” object constructs that can self-assemble and self-configure.  That too will likely continue to evolve and become less expensive.

What happens when it reaches a point where most humans can print most of what they need at home?

Human society has been firmly based on interdependence since recorded history. Buyers and sellers. Trading. Markets. Manufacturing. And then there’s the periphery. The fan clubs. The market analysts. The brokers. The vehicles of transformation such as transportation,  packaging,  marketing, and so on.

The only aspect “off the table” in the near term is printing of food and water. Those are not impossible either. A quick browse of YouTube will prove that anything is possible. It’s just a matter of materials, temperature, cost and scale.

When humans no longer need each other for material support, what will entice them to make the effort to socialize in person? Online is one thing. Real physical interaction is another. Body language. Voice tone. Facial expressions. Hand shakes. Fist bumps.

Humans in the future will probably continue to socialize in a physical manner with family, coworkers, and neighbors. But notion of the total stranger kinds of interaction could become a thing of the past.  Some of you might think, “so what?”, or “most people are boring or asshole anyway”.

Regardless of your perception on this, human interaction is what actually makes a society. If society becomes completely abstract from physical interaction, becoming a purely online activity, then it can also be manipulated.  If it can be manipulated,  it will be manipulated.  Because it poses the strong potential to influence financial activity. Controlling people and how they spend their money means power.

This really isnt about 3D or 4D printing at all.  This is about the ancillary effects technology might have on human society as a result of reduced, or eliminated dependence on other humans for basic material needs.

Where it was once considered a threat for people to grow their own food, as it would lead to the end of farming,  the effort and cost of growing vegetables and fruit, and raising livestock are outmatched by the convenience and affordability of technology. Phones. Tablets. Watches. 3D printers. And let’s not forget the ever-popular solar energy ideals.

Making our own things and producing our own energy mean less reliance on others. Less power for them. Less revenue for them too. Independence. Anarchy?

At some point, researchers believe it will be possible to transform materials by molecular manipulation.  If it can be done and there’s a proven benefit, it will become more popular to emulate. More emulation means competition. Competition means more affordable prices.  It won’t likely happen in a short time span.  First in the labs. Then in the defense industry. Then in high-end manufacturing. Then in commercial shops. And finally at home.

Once upon a time, Americans had to travel to places to have someone place a phone call. Make photographic prints.  Print documents. And record music.  Phones went from a station, to a corner store, to a phone booth, to the kitchen wall, to the desk, and into your pocket.

It’ll be interesting to see how all this stuff unfolds. It will be even more interesting to see when the government (and corporate powers) steps in to apply artificial constraints. No printing your own guns. Your own drugs.  Your own food.  Your own iPhone or nexus tablet parts. Patent and copyright controls will be tough to enforce. If you thought preventing music piracy was tough, just wait.

In the 1950’s and 1960’s, parents complained that the trending youth culture was going to corrupt society.  Unravel the fabric of trust, civility and kindness.  Those would be replaced by greed, gluttony and selfishness.  Who knows.  Maybe they were right.  But wait until tomorrow’s kids can make their own shoes, eyeglasses, car parts, furniture, clothing, food, drugs, and weapons.  In the comfort of their bedrooms and dorms.

Left to their own oversight, are humans inherently good and altruistic?  Or are they inately selfish and hurtful?  Nothing is absolute, but majority rules are what makes our society tick.

Am I hitting the panic button too soon?  What do you think?


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