Skip to main content

What is it that fundamentally separates ancient manufacturing techniques from modern ones?  What practical aspect has allowed the latter to evolve continuously while the former stagnated for millennia?  Setting aside the social and political factors, it boils down to this: Rather than leaving the grunt work up to the individual art and skill of a tradesman, the manufacturing process was broken down into discrete, standardized tasks that could be automated, scaled, and accomplished rapidly, regularly, and efficiently.  This is common knowledge found in any historical explanation of the Industrial Revolution, but here's something that is not common knowledge: The transition is still ongoing to this day, and we are fast approaching a quantum leap in the process that will open up a new world of possibilities to mankind - a world where every person will some day control an entire economy in microcosm.

The electronics industry has been on the bleeding edge of change for over a generation, and in particular the production of microprocessors illustrates the principles involved in how manufacturing is evolving: It's an area that has become so thoroughly rationalized that computer chips are constructed through automated deposition of one near-perfect atom-thick layer at a time.  And because the process is discrete (i.e., digital rather than analog), rational, and standard, the manufacturing process for chips made the long march of Moore's Law possible - and it can't be overstated how radical a thing that was and still is: Planned technological development based on predictable geometric improvements to production methods.  

This was a far cry from the whacky inventor / mad scientist model of tech development prior to the Computer Age, and also very different from the crash program model of WW2 and the Space Race: The process of change itself had achieved a level of rationality and automation, accelerating and regularizing progress (at least in one aspect of one industry) to a level never before seen.  It didn't require the blue-sky insights of some genius oddball or the mobilized emergency efforts of nations, but simply the routine, experimental tweaking of parameters to double the number of transitors on a chip every 18 months to 2 years.  Granted, this is much easier with information technology because its performance is abstract, but that's merely the reason why it leads the way - it's still very much applicable to the rest of the economy.

As chip manufacturers approach the physical limits of their current materials, any number of doomsayers over the past few years have prophesied the end of Moore's Law and the beginning of an era of stability and stagnation in the industry.  But rather than staying confined to the limits of existing chip architecture, the process is simply being extended into a higher dimension: 3D chips are now actively in development that leverage everything the industry knows about producing chips in 2D in order to "stack" them into something with radically greater potential.  In the same way that linear (i.e., 1D) electrical pathways are organized in 2D to create traditional circuits, those circuits can then be organized in 3D to greatly extend their power.  

Once this transition occurs, whenever it does, there is no telling what will happen to Moore's Law: It may initially be slower due to working out the kinks and characterizing the possibilities of 3D circuit architecture, but ultimately it could be much greater and go on for far longer than it did with traditional chips.  Now, computer chip evolution isn't even the main subject of this discussion, and not the most interesting in my opinion: I am not, for instance, a believer in technological singularity - every moment carries its own event horizon beyond which some information is lost as new patterns emerge, but there will never come a point when the overall patterns of technology become impenetrable to the human intelligence whose thoughts and motives are at their root.  However, the shape of how processors have evolved and are evolving speaks directly to what I'm trying to show: Predictable, geometric progress becomes possible when physical tasks have been thoroughly rationalized and automated.

Now, you probably think that everything has already gone through this transition generations ago, but look around you at all the industries that never got the memo: We still by and large construct buildings, cities, and utility and transportation infrastructure in the ancient way, with large numbers of human tradesmen doing skilled tasks based on slow intuitive judgment rather than having integrated machines perform rapid precision tasks in high volume.  Just imagine if instead of having an automated factory build cars, each and every component of a car was personally hand-crafted by one person in some trade shop, then delivered to an assembly point where a crew assembles it by hand.  Those would be some damned expensive, inefficient cars: And yet that's how we still make buildings, pave/repair roads and sidewalks, and lay pipes, wires, and cables.  It's also to a lesser extent how we make jet aircraft, which is why it takes so damn long to make any kind of progress in large-scale commercial aviation.

These are the technological reasons why poor people in the third-world are forced to live in squalid shantytowns built out of random junk with mud for streets, and why basic infrastructure is such a major barrier for developing countries to rise into prosperity.  Even when you have supportive governments making a solid effort to move forward, the sheer expense and complexity of development is a major obstacle - all the time, resources, specialist trades and contractors that have to be organized, and so on.  With all those hands in the pot, it's unsurprising that corruption and inefficiency play such a massive role in construction worldwide.  These costs are a major reason why even in wealthy countries, new construction and maintaining the quality of existing developments are often considered mutually exclusive - the phenomenon that led to suburbanization in the US after WW2.

But let's take a break from the large-scale, and start with something seemingly limited and mundane: The printer on your desktop.  That humble little gadget is actually a massive triumph of cumulative technological gestalt going all the way back to Gutenberg: The original printers were human tradesmen who arranged hand-carved block letters on a tray in order to imprint them in ink on paper, one page at a time, and the closest thing to images or graphics that could be printed in the later ages of the trade involved painstakingly carving out a stencil.  Today, with a high-end printer, you could faithfully capture the entire Book of Kells in a matter of hours that took generations of Dark Age monks to produce:  

Book of Kells P

And how was this achieved?  By reducing letters and images to dots - simple, standard, discrete task-elements - and automating the process of placing them.  At first it was very crude, with dot matrix printers spelling out words with a few visibly-large dots in a single color.  But because the elements of the text - and thus, of any given image - had been made discrete, all that remained to achieve an arbitrary level of detail and resolution was to make the dots smaller, use three-color inks to make any other possible color, and place them with greater precision, faster: All of which are well-defined, quantifiable, single-parameter tasks amenable to predictable progress.  So now photorealism is completely mundane.

Now suppose that instead of using paper as the medium for an image, it's used as the raw material of the image itself.  Imagine a printer that instead of squirting ink, uses a needle or laser to poke little holes, lines, and indentations in the paper, cutting and shaping the paper itself into a desired form.  The same principles by which ink printing evolved to photorealism could also apply in this case, could they not?  Each hole and indentation is a quantifiable, discrete element out of which an arbitrary shape can be derived, and the size and resolution of those elements can be regularly improved upon until some optimum performance is achieved.  At that point the paper itself could be formed into things as intricate, delicate, and natural-looking as any snowflake or leaf.  

But now take it one step further: Having shaped and fashioned a single piece of paper into a detailed form, could you not shape another piece of paper somewhat differently, and then another, and another, such that when they're stacked together they form a three-dimensional sculpture out of paper, with the various internal holes and extended spaces forming continuous pipes and tunnels throughout the volume?  Welcome to the concept of 3D printing: Pretty much the future of everything, and an entire world of untapped economic potential.  Today's 3D printers work mostly with plastic materials and operate by adding rather than subtracting material, but their output is small-scale and not very detailed:  

3D Printer at the Fab Lab

But if it can work with plastic, why not concrete?  Why not metal?  Do we absolutely have to make large metal things in huge, expensive, high-temperature molds that can only operate in factories with all sorts of safety precautions needed?  Do we actually need professional construction tradesmen manually pouring concrete into molds that were themselves manually set by steelworkers?  Look back to the hypothetical case of the 3D paper printer with its intricate system of holes and tunnels, and ask yourself whether that would be cheaper and more efficient than building a specialized mold reflecting the holes and then forming the paper sheets around the mold.  

Obviously it would be vastly cheaper, far quicker, more versatile, and far more reliable to print than to mold, in the same way that actual computer printers are superior to printing from stencils.  The main benefit comes from the fact that with a 3D printer, all you have to do to change what's being created is just change some inputs in the computer program that's operating it, same as with a 2D printer, but when you work with molds you have to create an entirely new mold to change anything about the desired output.  The latter is not very amenable to experimentation, and makes progress move slower than it could otherwise.

So imagine that instead of creating a mold and then pouring metal into it, which requires some level of skill, you have a machine that deposits tiny droplets of metal on to some substrate and then builds progressively from there into whatever 3D shape is desired?  Or suppose that instead of teams of human workers manually pouring concrete into molds, you just have a large-scale concrete printer on site laying down one layer of a building's structure at a time?  Levels of detail, intricacy, and artistry that are not practical with current construction techniques become as simple as uploading a new design into the computer running the printer: Wavy surfaces undulating irregularly in three dimensions, awkward angles that would be difficult or impossible with poured molds, and really anything that your imagination can conjure that obeys the laws of physics and the structural limits of your materials.  Imagine a building like this one in Manhattan - which was built at costs only sustainable in Manhattan - being ubiquitous and cost-effective on a smaller scale:

Beekman Tower

Such a manufacturing process for buildings would radically change the shape of architecture, making rounded surfaces not only more practical, but actually cheaper and more structurally sound than angular designs (due to the amount of material used, the speed of completion, the angles of force, and the thermal efficiency advantages).  When - and I do say when, not if - 3D printing of concrete structures becomes standard practice, it will significantly alter the look of cities, as curves become more commonplace, and would also lead to an explosion of new construction both within and beyond existing developed areas.  Due to the large reduction in cost, projects would be designed a lot bigger and taller than they are today, not to mention more creatively due to the simplicity of experimenting with new forms.  Shantytowns in poor areas of the world could be replaced with real cities without pricing the people out, and trailer parks in this country could likewise be replaced with something more visually appealing, less stigmatizing, and less vulnerable to natural disasters.

At the moment, 3D concrete printing is an area of active R&D, most prominently through a method called contour crafting (CC) being developed by professor Behrokh Khoshnevis at USC.  Basically, to construct a building using CC, a big gantry crane moves back and forth over an area on two parallel tracks while a "printer head" deposits concrete where desired, gradually building up layers until the structure is complete.  Each layer contains holes that in aggregate form the spaces for plumbing and wiring, which are themselves progressively added into the structure as the layers build up.  The technique is also of interest to researchers studying potential construction methods for lunar and Mars colonies.  A TED talk given by Professor Khoshnevis on the process he's developing:

For the moment, 3D printing is more a creative art utilized by DIYers to make handicrafts and elaborate tchotchkes, but its promise goes far beyond that and covers a much broader swath of possibilities than just building construction: Prosthetics, replacement organs, cosmetic surgery, and artificially-constructed foods built into arbitrary shapes, textures, and tastes from raw organic molecules are all major areas of possible benefit.  If you can print with ink, concrete, or semiconductors (an area known as printed electronics) you can certainly print with cells to create organic tissues.    

In fact, one of the co-founders of Paypal, Peter Thiel, has invested in a venture to create 3D printed animal products from cell cultures - leather to start with, then actual meat constructed to taste and feel real without the moral problems of needlessly slaughtering animals.  If this proves practical, the long-term potential is enormous: If you can figure out how to print complex animal tissues, printing grains, fruits, and vegetables is a pretty simple matter, and then you can start experimenting with how to print complete meals.  They would also be a lot safer, since your food wouldn't be coming directly from any actual plant or animal, and would be far more isolated from pathogens than anything coming from a factory farm or nature.  

BTW, what does this sound like - any food you want constructed on a cellular level by a general manufacturing device?  It sounds like a Star Trek replicator, doesn't it?  And for good reason - that's pretty much what it is, and the natural evolution of where such technology would be headed.  Not only would it be more ethical than the ways we currently get our food, but far more ecologically sound - farmlands could be restored to their natural wilderness state, and existing wilderness in developing countries would no longer be threatened by farmers.  Moreover, the total energy expended in creating a given quantity of food would likely be far lower than with present agriculture.  

At first, obviously, the technology would be used on industrial scales by food companies and you would buy their products like normal at a grocery store or restaurant - as you would once have gone to a professional printer to get something printed.  But we're not just talking about how businesses operate: The change is more profound than that.  As the price and size of the machinery goes down and the capability goes up, eventually normal people could possess the technology.  

So, imagine this: You walk into your 5-story 3D printed house that cost what a 1-story house constructed today with present methods would cost, with its interior domes and arches that cost you practically nothing extra, and walk into your kitchen to get some food.  Do you open a refrigerator or a cupboard?  No.  You call up a display on your food printer, select one of the thousands of recipes preloaded on it, and wait while it builds your food from rapid deposition of small amounts of a multitude of organic substances.  We can assume simpler preparation steps like baking or boiling would be left to you, but the subtle flavor touches that today only a master chef can elicit would be built in from the beginning.  This aspect of the promise won't happen any time soon, but it's exciting to see the shape of this technology in current trends.

Even that only scratches the surface though: Imagine a new tooth printed directly into your socket when you get a tooth pulled; apps for designing your own home, furniture, automobile, glasses frames, musical instruments, tools, kitchen utensils, games, sculptures, actual living houseplants, really anything at all.  And I'm not talking about mixing and matching standard options like at a car dealership - I mean exercising as much control as you care to, and the cost never being substantially greater than buying from templates.  Think of ordering a car that looks like something out of your wildest dreams (and someone else's worst nightmares), and it costs you virtually nothing extra because there's no fundamental difference in the printing process between one body design and another.  Maybe you want it to be an exact outward replica of a 1968 Mustang despite having whatever under the hood, or the Batmobile, or something totally deranged - if the printer could do it at all, there would be little difference in cost.  

If you're like me, you've been bored by this "future" we live in right now where pretty much everything looks like it did 30 years ago but with a few extra gadgets tacked on.  Things are supposed to look a lot different - cities are supposed to be soaring and exotic, with all sorts of strangeness afoot, but despite a few glitzy areas everything is pretty much as it was or worse.  But I think this has just been an interregnum, not an indicator of anything fundamentally stagnating: Cities are going to become very weird, exotic, beautiful places with soaring and pleasantly bizarre structures, not just in the downtown business districts of megalopolises, but anywhere.  Culture is going to attain an entirely unprecedented level of kaleidoscopic complexity.  Here are some examples of CC output - bear in mind this is concrete deposited by a printer in (as I understand it) a matter of minutes to hours:

Web

Today, 3D printing is already making headway in a number of industries: Although you can't cost-effectively order a custom body job for a car just yet, car manufacturers have adopted 3D printing as a means of rapid prototyping - in some cases building full-scale auto bodies for display at shows as concept cars.  There are also numerous DIY or "Maker" websites where you can upload design specs and get back various small items as artistic pieces.  Some examples found on Google - as you can see, while patterns can be quite intricate, there is plenty of room for improvement in resolution:

3d_printed_object1

3d printed object 4

ODD's Atom 3D printed guitar

3d printed object 3

3d printed object 5      

Now, admittedly there is a cost to these changes: Construction workers, building contractors, and associated tradesmen make a decent living when they're able to unionize, and their livelihoods would essentially disappear if something like CC became the standard method of building construction.  Ditto for people who specialize in working with metals, like welders and such, if 3D printing in metal became practical.  But the way to deal with the loss would be to see that we have strong social safety nets, job retraining programs, and other adult education, not to resist technology that would benefit everyone from all walks of life.  

Humanity has been losing skilled trades since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, but no one alive today wishes we could go back to a time when you had to hire a skilled professional to do the things we take for granted as trivial aspects of everyday life.  Does anyone yearn to have their call directed by a human switchboard operator, or interpreted through Morse code by a telegraph operator?  Is it really a shame that professions specializing in the care and training of horses are now a tiny hobbyist niche?  I don't think so, and I'll tell you why: Because I can talk to someone in Zimbabwe right now if I feel like it, or hop in a car and be in another climate before supper time.  Real, fundamental technological progress is always good for the world, even if it causes problems for some of the people some of the time.

The ultimate promise of 3D printing is not merely that people can be more creative - it goes way beyond that, out into the distant future.  When people can pour basic organic molecules into a machine and get out a three-course meal that tastes like it was made by any chef in a database; when they can buy a parcel of land, upload any  design they please that comports with zoning regulations into a computer, and some truck-based printer apparatus shows up and builds the whole damn thing in a matter of days; when every last thing in a person's possession was chosen from a near-infinite selection of possibilities, and cost them less than anything available today; when people have unlimited direct personal access to high-tech means of production, and need only pay the cost of materials to use it; that is more of an economic liberation than any political program could ever hope to achieve, proving once again that technology is the most progressive of all possible human endeavors.

Some day we'll wonder at images of human beings crawling around on steel I-beams as they build skyscrapers, in the same way that today we wonder at the crazy risks workers of previous eras had to take to make a living.  Their successors, though perhaps with less leverage, will not envy the risks today's tradesmen take and the constant accidents that befall them.  And the jobs that replace those lost won't have the same stature, but the people who work them will have more options in life than we can even imagine because of what technology makes possible for all of humankind.

Originally posted to Troubadour on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 01:48 PM PDT.

Also republished by SciTech.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  Saw this in action at UW Tech Center in Madison... (4+ / 0-)

    ... truly stunning... Will Smith said it best:

    Dudehisattva...

    "Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Effort, Concentration, and Wisdom"

    by Dood Abides on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 01:59:42 PM PDT

  •  What jobs will these people go to? (5+ / 0-)

    You need to do some research on some of the very real suffering that happened during the Industrial Revolution (and that still happens today because businesses are out to make money, not employ people).

    Before this kind of technology (which is very cool, I'll admit) becomes commonplace, we need to be sure that everyone HAS a job (of some kind) so they can actually take advantage of said technology because they'll be able to earn the money to pay for it.

    It doesn't matter how cheap something is, if you have no money.  

    So what kind of jobs would be available?

    •  Thinking, art, community... no worries re jobs. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour
      •  that's what they told us the last time. (0+ / 0-)

        And the time before that.  

        The "service sector."  

        The "knowledge economy."

        "The future will be so based on knowledge and information, that even the guy flipping burgers at McDonalds will have a Ph.D.!"

        Sounded like utopia, didn't it?

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 11:53:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Everything other than construction. (2+ / 0-)

      That's what happens when a disruptive technology explosively expands the productive potential of an economy - every area of the economy except the one being made obsolete expands because of it.  I always support unlimited social safety nets and job retraining, but the inadequacy of such is not a reason to forgo technological development - quite the opposite.  

      Saying we should wait on technology while we enhance programs for the displaced would be like saying we should hold our breaths until we can be sure that every part of our body would get the oxygen it needs.  Fundamental technological advancement is always a good thing - no matter who benefits or suffers from it at first, the ultimate beneficiaries are everyone.  

      I'm well aware of the suffering that attended the Industrial Revolution, but that was due to society being unprepared for the social changes it brought - i.e., moving from farms to cities, causing cities to become packed and squalid with no services available.  The social implications of 3D printing would not be disruptive at all, but rather make more places livable and affordable - for everyone, including those who need section 8 housing.  Housing would be much more commoditized with CC.

      Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

      by Troubadour on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 02:37:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  who needs those pesky union tradesworkers anyway? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Neuroptimalian

      Much less the whacko inventors?  

      Really!  They're all disposable, just like union factory workers were disposed of over the past three decades.  

      They only make trouble for the Ownership.  They're unpredictable.  Despite the Ownership's best efforts to surveil, predict, and control the behavior of underlings and proles, the damn underlings and proles refuse to be controlled.   So just do away with them!  Replace them with machines!  

      Think of the shining future that awaits us!  Everyone will be a TED celebrity or a programmer of some kind!  And those who refuse to get with the program can just be, well, you know, denied health coverage so they die early and don't cost the Ownership any money for retirement, much less expensive medical care.  

      And if you don't want to live in a loopy curvaceous highrise and get your food from a machine?  That's OK, we have ways of making you comply.  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 02:43:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wow, this is a very disappointing comment. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        diffrntdrummr

        And surprising coming from you.

        Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

        by Troubadour on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 03:04:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  frankly this was a disappointing diary. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Neuroptimalian

          Though, please let's not use that particular D-word, seeing as it's a Republican meme from their convention.

          In any case, to be terribly blunt about it, you got yourself dazzled by the tech celebs and drank their kool-aid.

          Sure, 3D printing has some nifty advantages, fine, whatever.  Though, it won't work for buildings (keyphrase "concrete curing" see also below).  

          But puh-fucking-leeze, don't get all cozy with the Ownership on its anti-worker control freak agenda.  

          --

          Re. "printing concrete."  Won't work for serious structural applications.  

          Concrete has to be consolidated in the structure in order to obtain full strength.  There are two ways to do this.  One is with conventional low-slump (stiff) mixes that have to be vibrated in the forms or in a slip-forming machine.  The other is with modified high-slump (mushy) mixes that do not need vibration but will run like lentil soup if not confined to forms.  

          Slip-forming machines are conventionally used for paving and for producing low center of gravity non-structural items such as curbing and Jersey barriers on highways.  There is not an accepted application of slip-forming to rapid structural erection.

          Beyond that, the mix water in the concrete has to be prevented from evaporating during curing (hardening, which is NOT the same thing as "drying;" you do not want concrete to "dry" before it has cured or it will come out weak).  Normally the forms prevent evaporation of mix water, and the exposed surfaces at the top of forms is treated with curing compounds that seal the surfaces.  Curing compounds are also used on flatwork such as road slabs and other slabs.  However there is some question as to whether curing compounds will work uniformly on vertical surfaces, and civil engineering societies are right to be skeptical of new materials and techniques for structural use.

          Think of this: all the R&D being performed to "improve" something that already works well (building concrete structures), all for the sake of getting rid of all those pesky union workers!  Wonders never cease!

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 04:01:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  There is no cause whatsoever (2+ / 0-)

            to accuse me of getting "cozy" with "the Ownership" on anti-worker agendas.  You've flown off the handle for no apparent reason that I can discern.  I posted this diary because the promise of 3D printing for humankind is awesome, and I discussed the potential downside to some workers.  

            And unless you're volunteering to surrender all the modern technologies you use so that obsolete professions can once again be practiced by skilled tradesmen who make a good living, it's nonsensical to act like it's some crime against humanity to make technological progress if anyone's livelihoods are threatened.  How can you adopt such an attitude given your interest in technology?

            I'm not qualified to argue with you on the properties of concrete, but I'm guessing a tenured Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at USC knows a little something about it.    

            Your contention that concrete construction already "works well" despite the amount of time and cost involved, and the pre-modern manufacturing methods involved in it, doesn't truck with reality.  Nor does your bizarre claim that a technology that would drastically reduce the cost of housing is motivated by a desire to crush unions.  Most of the world's construction workers are not unionized, and this would still drastically reduce costs and improve life for people in general.  

            Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

            by Troubadour on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 04:13:17 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  selectivity + skepticism. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Neuroptimalian

              I'm a selective adopter, and when it comes to memes with a known bad track record, a skeptic.    

              50 - 60 years ago, the public were promised that automation and computers would improve productivity and give everyone a life of middle class leisure with a 4-day work week and universal prosperity.  

              What we actually got was automation & computers beyond anyone's wildest dreams of the mid 20th century, all the productivity improvements, and the 10-day work week as it now takes two full-time incomes to make ends meet.  What we got was the shrinkage of the middle class from 60% of America to the present level of 23%.   What we got was the elimination of leisure, replaced by the 24/7 schedule of workers being "on call" at all hours.

              Ask any of today's younger generation about "family dinners."  One more casualty, along with pensions and affordable college educations.    

              So much for that version of "progress."

              Oh, but it made plenty of millionaires and billionaires, right.

              As for the cost of housing.

              The last version of that was "manufactured housing," AKA "mobile homes."  Didn't work out too well, did it?   Instead they're sequestered on the far side of the tracks and referred to derisively as "double-wides."  Houses "printed" by machines that poop out concrete will be referred to as "shit-a-bricks" and similarly sequestered.    

              And what drives up the cost of housing isn't the physical structure itself, but the land it sits on.  Ask any real estate broker about the phrase "location, location, and location."

              All the talk of cheap houses obscures the reality that the real cure is land reform.

              As for flying off the handle

              You flew right over the handlebars by buying into the "disposable workers" meme, right down to your present use of the phrase "obsolete professions."  

              The downside for "some" workers, repeated throughout the economy, is the downside for all workers, as we have seen with manufacturing.  

              And before you go down the road about cheaper consumer goods, consider the non-renewable resources impact and other ecological impacts, of all the throw-away consumer junk that can't be repaired by human hands and as a practical matter isn't repaired by robots.  Instead there might be 12-year-olds in India and South Asia melting down circuit boards for raw materials and inhaling toxic fumes as they do.  But more likely the stuff ends up in landfills, the great entropy sink of our times.

              Other:

              If your tenured professors come up with a fix for consolidating structural concrete that doesn't require forms, and another fix for curing exposed vertical concrete surfaces that may be subjected to rain before they set, fine, whatever.  I've seen videos of their machine that poops concrete; it all looks impressive enough, but so did LeTourneau/Westinghouse's machine for pooping out entire concrete houses, and that got exactly nowhere.  

              The claim that cost-reducing technology crushes unions is not only "mine" but that of most progressives today, based squarely on the track record of the past three or four decades.  

              So really: don't be dazzled.  Be skeptical.  When you hear something being hyped as the Next Big Thing, ask yourself: who benefits, who gets screwed, how does that translate to votes, and how does it translate to the shape of society overall.  

              "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

              by G2geek on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 04:50:17 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I don't know what is going on with you (0+ / 0-)

                but you're not talking about anything I even hinted at, let alone actually wrote.  This entire tirade is a non sequitur that seems to have come out of nowhere.  

                You actually seem to be implying that technology caused the politically-created erosion of the middle-class lifestyle.  Did computers and the internet cause the World Trade Organization?  Did they cause the government to subsidize outsourcing to other countries?  Hardly.  If anything, most of the opposition to conservative right-wing policies has remained relevant largely because we dominate new technological mediums.  If you think we would be better off today if these technologies had not been developed, then you don't know what you're talking about.

                Secondly, you seem to not actually be thinking before you type - like you're just spasmodically reacting instead of dealing with what's in front of you.  For instance, you characterize CC like it would be some hideous, low-rent means of churning out featureless Soviet bloc apartment buildings, and I've been pretty clear that it opens up the architecture possibilities enough, and reduces the cost and time involved to such an extent that low-income housing would likely be more spacious and better-designed than what the middle-class expects today.

                Now, that doesn't mean expectations wouldn't move because of that, with "poor" being redefined to mean something different than it does now, but we're talking about people's material needs, not their social status.  If you want to continue this irrational, pointless, petulant tiff you're on, feel free, but I assure you you're adding nothing and eroding my respect for you.

                Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

                by Troubadour on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 05:25:32 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  let me count the ways (eleven!): (0+ / 0-)

                  1)  "This was a far cry from the whacky inventor / mad scientist model of tech development prior to the Computer Age...."  

                  2)  "It didn't require the blue-sky insights of some genius oddball..."

                  Who needs genius oddballs anyway?  Throw them to the lions.

                  3)  "We still by and large construct buildings, cities, and utility and transportation infrastructure in the ancient way, with large numbers of human tradesmen doing skilled tasks based on slow intuitive judgment rather than having integrated machines perform rapid precision tasks in high volume." (emphasis added)

                  Throw all those skilled tradesmen to the lions too!

                  4)  "Even when you have supportive governments making a solid effort to move forward, the sheer expense and complexity of development is a major obstacle - all the time, resources, specialist trades and contractors that have to be organized, and so on.  With all those hands in the pot, it's unsurprising that corruption and inefficiency play such a massive role in construction worldwide."  (emphasis added)

                  After all, we all know that unions cause corruption!

                  5)  "Do we actually need professional construction tradesmen manually pouring concrete into molds that were themselves manually set by steelworkers?"

                  Again for emphasis, get rid of those union tradesmen!

                  6)  "So imagine that instead of creating a mold and then pouring metal into it, which requires some level of skill, you have a machine..."

                  Get rid of more skilled jobs.

                  7)  "Or suppose that instead of teams of human workers manually pouring concrete into molds, you just have a large-scale concrete printer on site..."

                  Get rid of the laborers while we're at it.

                  8)  "...the subtle flavor touches that today only a master chef can elicit would be built in from the beginning."

                  And get rid of master chefs.

                  9)  "... your own home, furniture, automobile, glasses frames, musical instruments, tools, kitchen utensils, games, sculptures, actual living houseplants, really anything at all."

                  Next, get rid of all the people who produce furniture, automobiles, glasses frames, musical instruments, etc. etc.

                  10)  "Now, admittedly there is a cost to these changes: Construction workers, building contractors, and associated tradesmen make a decent living when they're able to unionize, and their livelihoods would essentially disappear if something like CC became the standard method of building construction.  Ditto for people who specialize in working with metals, like welders and such, if 3D printing in metal became practical.  But the way to deal with the loss would be to see that we have strong social safety nets, job retraining programs, and other adult education, not to resist technology that would benefit everyone from all walks of life. " (emphasis added)

                  Yes, all of their livelihoods would "essentially disappear."

                  As for retraining: to do what, exactly?  Sell each other mortgages and derivatives?  

                  11)  "Real, fundamental technological progress is always good for the world, even if it causes problems for some of the people some of the time."

                  Fast-forward on pure faith, consequences be damned.  

                  ---

                  Your ad-homina ("not thinking before you type... spasmodically reacting... irrational, pointless, petulant tiff...") don't add anything to your arguement.  

                  Your core premises are weak, their consequences are pernicious, and your defensive resort to ad-homina demonstrates that you haven't really thought the subject through in your usual degree of thoroughness.  

                  If you want to come out in favor of socialism to ensure that the entire working class isn't consigned to the Thermal De-Polymerization vats (TDP) or turned into feedstock for magical food printers ("Soylent Green!  Now with more students and old people!"), please do.  Otherwise, send that version of the future to Disney's EPCOT Center and it might find a home next to the Monsanto exhibit.  

                  "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                  by G2geek on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 05:59:22 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Also elided over ... (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    G2geek

                    was the lack of a considered plan for the creation of a magical "safety net" to provide income to the tens of millions (if not more) of displaced workers.  This will be paid for by whom?  A tax-paying society now short the same number of tax contributors?  By taxing the "rich" up to 99% of their income and assets?  The latter might provide enough to pay for the first year, but then what?

                    The concept of 3D printing is fun to contemplate, but it isn't practical on a large scale without those pesky geniuses being involved.

                    Thanks, G2geek, for taking the time to provide, on the fly, such thorough analyses of the other side of this coin.

                    "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity, and I am not sure about the universe." -- Albert Einstein

                    by Neuroptimalian on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 06:42:29 PM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  thanks... and... (0+ / 0-)

                      I'm a technologist myself: a telephone switching systems eng with nearly 30 years in the field.  Have studied the history of a number of areas of technology in detail.  

                      Technology doesn't exist in a vacuum: it exists in a social ecosystem, and it has effects on the social ecosystem as well as the physical ecosystems on which we depend.  

                      Every time some Shiny New Thing comes along, humans, like chimpanzees, are tempted to reach out and grasp for it.  And sure, I'd like to have a nice 3-D printer that could poop out whatever artifacts I could sketch in CAD.  But let's be careful about the magic genii in the bottle: because the price of getting three wishes might be our souls.  

                      And every time you hear some tech-celebrity gush about eliminating skilled jobs by the millions, make no mistake about this: what you're hearing is the voice of Capital at war against Labor.  How someone as smart as Troubadour managed to fall for that stuff is beyond me.  

                      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

                      by G2geek on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 11:49:35 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                  •  Would you rather flip burgers in the 21st century? (0+ / 0-)

                    Or be a sharecropper in the 20th?

      •  I'm not much for wild speculation. (0+ / 0-)

        And there's plenty of it here, but for the sake of argument let's say that all this fantastic technology comes to pass:

        What would you need coverage or a union manufacturing job for?  You just need the printers for your drugs, food, your home, any number of things, and raw material to feed the system.  Admittedly disruptive technology, but technology that--if works as Troubadour promises--dramatically reduces the cost of living.

        That said, there is some serious flaws with Troubadour's futurism here.  For one, we're playing fast and loose with the term printing--which usually refers to additive processes.  Contour crafting combines--on paper, for now--a scaled up version of one of these processes peculiar to concrete with any number of digging, fitting, cutting, and machining techniques into one large. vaguely defined automated system (think excavation, pipe cutting and fitting, toilet installation, wiring, etc.).  Not necessarily impossible, but there's certainly limits to practicality.  

        And while Troubadour says nothing of the sort, I'd like to disabuse people early as possible of the notion that deposition based technologies will ever drive large structure construction.  The process is slow compared to reductive techniques (it's a hell of a lot faster to pour a metal mold than grow a steel spar), if for no other reason than achieving micrometer precision through deposition is orders of magnitude more difficult than when breaking molds or cutting material.  Two, claims of general energy efficiency are highly suspect at any scale.

        In any case, however disruptive technology is, let's consider that in the past century more people are enjoying a higher standard of living than ever before.  And that's what counts.

    •  Energy production and processing of raw materials (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Troubadour, G2geek, out of left field

      needed for the process. Could you build a 5 or 10 story building without excavation? I doubt it. What about the design, maintenance, setup, transport and servicing of the equipment? No doubt there would be jobs, but not necessarily not the kind some people want to do.

      The problem with any major technological advancement is that it usually exceeds our social capacity to handle it. So long as capitalism remains the driving force behind innovation, it will be a long time before we arrive at the brilliant future described by this diarist. As old and as cynical as I am, I remain cautiously optimistic for the future.

      •  Ah, but CC is much cheaper than current methods. (0+ / 0-)

        So the forces of capitalism would actually tend to accelerate its acceptance by developers.  I don't see much social dislocation resulting - quite the opposite.  How negative to most people's lives would it be to suddenly have the cost of housing go through the floor while the safety, size, number, and diversity of the options increases drastically?  That's one of those "good problems."

        Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

        by Troubadour on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 03:09:49 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  terrific geek-speak diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, ericlewis0

    really well done -- i agree w/your assessment that this is some truly revolutionary technology that's coming into play right now, and which is developing at a really rapid clip.

    keep your eyes on the sky. put a dollar in the kitty. don't the moon look pretty. --becker&fagen

    by homo neurotic on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 02:20:47 PM PDT

  •  3D printing of organs (6+ / 0-)

    Here is a video on printing a human kidney at TED
    Print a kidney

  •  Good diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, ericlewis0, diffrntdrummr

    Thanks for the edumakation.

    What a fascinating, Modern World we live in! Capt. Jack Aubrey

  •  very good diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, ericlewis0

    you can build your own 3D printer right now.

    at some point we will be able to assemble atoms.  using this technology with other futuristic ideas is what may give us star trek.

    i can't wait.  

    -You want to change the system, run for office.

    by Deep Texan on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 02:36:05 PM PDT

  •  There actually already are metal printers (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, G2geek

    I know of at least one site that does printing in a huge number of materials.  Steel, silver, ceramic, glass, stone, and different types of plastic.  

    The main problem with the future of printed architecture is that these materials just don't have the strength to be used in buildings.  That and the fact that it's likely always going to be cheaper to make large metal thing en masse than one at a time.  There are plenty of other things that will be revolutionized, but I highly doubt building is going to be one of them.

    There revolution will not be televised. But it will be blogged, a lot. Probably more so than is necessary.

    by AoT on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 02:56:47 PM PDT

  •  Yup - exciting stuff (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    I ran a Zcorp. Zprinter 650 for Macy's for a few years. We used it to prototype plates, bowls, mugs and other kitchen products.

    I ♥ President Barack Obama.

    by ericlewis0 on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 03:25:02 PM PDT

  •  Steel and Concrete (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, G2geek

    Steel deposited by arc printing would be too brittle. As it is the arc welding process requires the reinforcement of welded structural joints by using thicker materials or added stiffeners to handle impact and vibration.

    An arc deposited steel structure (or any metal for that matter) would never be lighter than a structure made with with standard rolled steel shapes that are already optimized for strength to weight.

    Concrete has its own set of problems, primarily that the cold joint between layers is very weak and concrete structural elements require reinforcing. you'll need two printer heads for concrete and steel and the steel need to be printed well ahead of the concrete to avoid heat damage. You could also have voids for adding post-tensioning strands after printing but you can do that with monolithic concrete structures as well.

    I could see some very nice architectural elements created by these printing methods but the majority of a structure is just that, load carrying elements. More efficient conventional elements are readily available along with automated cutting and welding systems.

    I love that guitar though.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    by Ex Con on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 03:29:01 PM PDT

    •  Thanks, I hadn't know that. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ex Con

      Hopefully these are active areas of development.  What's most important is that it opens up a whole new range of possibilities - different combinations of materials and structural elements that are impractical under current methods.  Perhaps there are printable composites?

      Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

      by Troubadour on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 03:35:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My personal opinion (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    is that, within this decade, 3D printing will be a more significant technology than was the personal computer.  Even the technology in it's current level of development has changed how engineering prototypes are produced and tested until the optimum design is found, with little cost in the project.
    The technology is remarkably cheap ($500 for a starter machine). This will allow thousands of inventors to create their devices not restrained by high development cost or dependance on outside support.
    It  will influence the areas of recreation, toys, science, technology, athletics,  replacement parts ,  appliances, and medicine to name a few.
    Considering the capacity and diversity that has occurred in the technology in a relative short time, the refinement of it will advance the technology beyond what we can imagine today – even a food replicator.
    It may also replicate a boy/girl friend for you like the Roxie sex robot.  Actually it could make a whole harem of Roxies.

    "if you don't make peaceful revolution possible, you make violent revolution inevitable." ….JFK. .......{- 8.25 / -5.64}

    by carver on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 03:42:50 PM PDT

    •  I wouldn't say within this decade, but eventually. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      trumpeter

      Progress on 3D printing won't even slow down until things are being assembled atom-by-atom in people's everyday usage, so it will definitely end up being more significant than the PC ever was.

      Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

      by Troubadour on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 04:00:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  And one day (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    The Star Trek Replicator.

    http://callatimeout.blogspot.com/

    by DAISHI on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 04:07:11 PM PDT

  •  Several issues glossed over (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, G2geek

    3D printing will surely revolutionize many industries, but this post and the TED talk have an unquestioning breathlessness that gives one pause. Several things immediately come to mind:

    Metals: Printing is great for wiring, but for some applications crystal structure may be important. Forged metal is stronger than cast, and while the process is expensive, sometimes you need it. How do you deal with non-amorphous materials that can take amorphous form (not just metals)?

    Concrete: concrete gets its strength from interlocking projections that grow as the mineral hydrates. How do you ensure that between layers? Concrete is also quite strong in compression but quite weak in tension, so these days concrete is prestressed (that is, tension loads are still compressive). How do you print that?

    Food: Nobody has a clue what molecules are actually created in cooking, and many of them only form under certain conditions of heat and other molecules (ingredients). How do you print that?

    I'm sure a little thought can come up with other things. I don't mean to be too critical, and I'm expecting fantastic things out of 3D printing -- just not expecting miracles. After all they promised us flying cars and nuclear energy that was too cheap to meter once.

    •  I'm not expecting any miracles either. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alefnot

      What I do expect is the beginning of a continuing state of steady, geometric progress whose consequences become miraculous only in retrospect.  There were points in the PC and Internet revolution when people were impressed by the available possibilities, but there was never a point where it seemed like the fantasies of cyberpunk science fiction were coming true.  And yet here we are: Our cars tell us where we are, where to drive, what's available nearby, and so does the touchscreen phone/music player/TV/computer we carry in our pocket.

      As to the specific materials, I admit I stepped outside my sphere talking about this - I can't really say anything one way or another about what issues represent real obstacles and which ones are only specific to the way things are done today.  But reading articles on the technology and listening to some of the videos about it, my sense is that it is a profoundly general technology that is unlikely to be greatly impeded by any particular material obstacle.  The cheapness and speed of rapid prototyping that it enables practically guarantees this.

      Now, I will say something about the flying cars and nuclear energy thing, because this has been an irritant of mine too.  Flying cars were never that great an idea in the first place - there's never been any rational reason to combine two such radically different transportation modes, with radically different regulatory requirements and operating principles.  It's the opposite of the simplicity and discrete-task orientation that make technological development rational and geometric.  Still, maybe that will change some day once driving and flying are both fully automated.  WRT nuclear energy, people just didn't know how dangerous it was and the costs of protecting the public from it.  It was also stupid in the grand scheme of things since uranium is a limited resource.  I believe very firmly - and I think rationally - that solar energy does have the potential to become too cheap to meter in this century.

      Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

      by Troubadour on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 05:05:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Fair enough (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Troubadour

        But it's worth noting that changing scales -- from micro to macro, eg. -- is frequently far harder than it seems.

        And I'll disagree with the solar power being too cheap to meter thing. We routinely access unthinkably more energy than we could 100 years ago. And still it's not enough. Mostly because all that energy makes possible things we couldn't imagine back then. 100 years from now there may be 9 billion people or more on this planet, 8+ billion of whom will want the things the remainder take for granted then.

        That said, I hope you're right and I'm wrong.

        •  Toward persuading about solar... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          alefnot

          there are several factors that make it fundamentally different from other energy sources.  

          1.  Its absolute availability is about 1,500 times greater than all total energy consumption today, and that's just on the Earth's surface - never mind if we extend the infrastructure into space.  Tapping that will bring about new problems like getting rid of all the waste heat without turning Earth into Venus, but there's no reason we won't end up using most of it.

          2.  There are zero costs involved in finding, extracting, processing, transporting, etc. the fuel that creates solar energy - it's all in the Sun's core.

          3.  While the exact availability may not be predictable hour to hour in a given location, it is as regular as it gets on a regional scale over the course of a full year: Half the planet is always in sunlight, the schedule of seasons is perfectly understood, the planet's orbital eccentricity is minimal, and the Sun at this stage of its life is very stable and regular.

          4.  The actual harvesting of the energy can be done directly at the point of consumption or nearby, limiting the need for inefficient and costly transmission infrastructure, and also permitting radical decentralization of energy generation - which deeply cuts into the added costs of utility companies.

          5.  Solar thermal technology is as simple as it gets.  Peasant villagers in India, Mongolia, and around the world already use mirror dishes to cook their food and run simple machinery.

          6.  Photovoltaic technology is an offshoot of the semiconductor industry, which as you know has a history of enabling geometric trends (Moore's Law) and scaling to truly absurd degrees.  As it scales, it will turn solar panels into a bulk commodity with no inherent scaling limits, and the main input limitations (e.g., silicon) are always temporary as the industries concerned with them expand to meet the new demand.  Silicon is ubiquitous, so there are no absolute limits.

          7.   Photovoltaics are inherently suited to mass-production, as a flat surface whose value increases linearly with area.

          8.  Desert land is trivially cheap and inexhaustibly abundant.

          9.  Very easy to insure compared to a power plant with significant safety, security, or environmental risks, and will become even easier as time goes on.

          10.  Maintenance costs are small compared to other generating technologies, and will get smaller.

          11.  It's clean, quiet, and can be visually appealing, so it doesn't generate the same level of NIMBYism that attends building other kinds of energy infrastructure.

          12.  Once photovoltaic surface is highly commoditized, it will likely be integrated into general surfaces and products, turning places that would be inefficient for industrial-scale harvesting into energy gathering surface just because it's so easy that there's no point not to.  

          Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

          by Troubadour on Wed Sep 05, 2012 at 05:19:19 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  unquestioning breathlessness.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      alefnot

      .... including all the digs at skilled workers.

      Make no mistake: it's all about profit for the Ownership at the expense of the workers and what's left of the middle class.

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 06:08:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  A lot of truth there (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek

        although I'd say from the technologist's perspective it's more like willful disregard for the worker and what's left of the middle class. But the problem here isn't technological, and technological regulation isn't going to solve it.

        •  i'm not for regulation of (that) technology... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          alefnot

          ... though I'm certainly for regulation of some other technologies, notably antibiotics.  

          Any time you see someone going on and on in gushing tones about how this or that technology is going to make skilled jobs obsolete, you should immediately hit the big red STOP button and start asking hard questions, because whether they know it or not, and whether they like it or not, they're speaking with the voice of Capital at war against Labor.  

          I'm a telephone switching systems engineer, three decades of experience in the field, and have also studied the history of a number of diverse technologies in detail.  Technology doesn't exist in a vacuum: it exists in a social ecosystem, and it has effects on the social ecosystem.   Some of the questions we have to ask ourselves are:  Who benefits?  Who loses?  Is it really better?  And how can we mitigate its risks?  

          "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

          by G2geek on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 11:40:31 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  An awesome application of 3D printing: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour

    Customized medical devices would be extremely costly to make by the traditional molding process, but small changes can be made to existing CAD files to allow customization of existing designs.

    Here is a little girl who wears an external skeleton that has to be refitted relatively often since she grows so quickly.

    http://www.youtube.com/...

    Don't watch the video if you are prone to crying. It's a heartmelter.

    •  Customization in general is the killer app. (0+ / 0-)

      It's very expensive to customize anything with traditional manufacturing methods, but it's almost trivial with 3D printing.

      Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

      by Troubadour on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 05:32:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It should make society richer, but (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, G2geek, out of left field

    our present society cannot take advantage of it.

    3D printing, and many other forms of automation that will appear, should make society more productive, and hence richer.  But our current economy and society will not allow most people to get the benefits.  What is worse, there is no one in the political world who is trying to prepare society for this situation.  The conservatives, in particular, are perfectly happy if automation makes many or most people jobless and destitute.  Their ideology is why most people's income has stagnated despite productivity growth since the 1980s.

    The Democrats may be open someday to trying to tackle this problem.  The Republicans, as long as they are dominated by the current conservative movement, will not be.  That is why we cannot allow them to take power.

    "The trouble with the world is that the stupid are cocksure and the intelligent are full of doubt." Bertrand Russell

    by Thutmose V on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 05:24:21 PM PDT

    •  We can very much benefit from it. (0+ / 0-)

      When the cost of 3D printing goes down to about the cost of any other electronics system and performance improves sufficiently, that's a general means of production in the hands of ordinary people - the dream of Socialism.  Nevermind the potential for printing food out of raw cell cultures, and drastically reducing the cost while drastically improving the number, size, environmental efficiency, and architectural quality of housing.  One and only one group of people would face some negative consequences - construction workers and contractors - and the net effects would still be positive for them on balance.

      Obviously we would all benefit a lot more with rigorous social safety nets, education, and jobs programs, but this is general technology - something that can't be contained and bottled up by oligarchs.  Something that opens up new possibilities for everyone.

      Everything there is to know about the GOP: They're the Bad Guys.

      by Troubadour on Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 05:41:22 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site