The future of 3D printing: scary, exciting, both?

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The guys from Vice regularly find interesting topics to cover in their documentary films (my favorite is the Vodka Wars – see here). They discuss themes that take a slightly different angle on pop-culture relevant topics. Their most recent example that was one of the highest viewed films on Youtube last week is called 3D Printed Guns. The title explains exactly what the film is about.

3D Printing has been around for a while now but remains a new technology that is still somewhat “underground”. Meanwhile, it is absolutely revolutionary and can reshape the paradigms of many industries. This is exactly what Vice accomplishes with this film. To provoke the debate they tackle an application of 3D Printing that is disturbing – guns. Given the current rise in gun-related violence in the US, the fact that this new technology could completely disrupt the gun-control debate by putting the manufacturing into the hands of the citizen would open-up a whole new reality. From a rights & freedom perspective this is good, from a social harmony perspective this is frightening and eye-opening to the fact that the societal regulation system is just not ready to confront our new reality.

The film underscores the importance of embracing, understanding, and attempting to lead innovation with new technologies among established business and government bodies. Granted true innovation will always start outside of larger organizations because there is greater flexibility, less rules, and thus more creativity. The problem is that bigger organizations whose responsibility it is to help structure and lead society are light years removed from the fast-paced world of technology innovation. Consequently, they cannot be part of the community and thus cannot contribute to the debate.

When it comes to 3D printing, the main cohort that is experimenting with the technology are teenagers. The fact that products like guns are focusing on this technology to further their industries/ communities is all that more frightening. Yet you can tackle this fear by embracing it rather than fighting it, because it will get out somehow. By embracing the innovation, even if it is potentially very harmful, you can understand what is happening and innovate on-top of it so that you create protection through progress not restriction. Of course there should be some restriction because it partially slows the innovation, but you cannot rely on it alone because a committed person with capability will find a way around the restriction. A very tough new reality. Let me know what you think?

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