What Does A Self Regulated Person Look Like?

Another one of those why I listen to CBC radio moments this morning.  Day Six interviewed Cody Wilson about his 3d printed gun – a weapon that you can manufacture out of plastic on a 3d printer.  Here is another example of the internet bypassing governments and regulations while radically empowering individuals with information.  If you have a few minutes listen to the conversation, Bambury really tries to get around the subject and Wilson is more than willing to address it head on.

It doesn’t matter what information wants,
in a digital world it is free, this is a simple fact

In a world where information is free whether we want it to be or not, and where the former owners of information (governments, corporations) find that they can’t regulate, control or censor it, where are we left when the means of manufacturing is removed from the moneyed classes as well?

3d printing is tumbling in price.  Wilson posted his gun design online last week only to have to withdraw it this week under a request from the U.S. State Department.  Wilson did withdraw the download, but it doesn’t matter, it’s out there now.  Copies of copies of copies spread across the internet.  No government can stop it, no corporation can prevent it, the information now has a life of its own online.  As Wilson mentions in the interview, this is just information, what people choose to do with it is their choice… and there are many easier ways to get your hands on better guns, especially in America, so if someone is going to use this to commit violence, they are doing it for a very specific political reason.

As a philosophical action, posting these plans online asks questions about a not too distant future where

The dawn of wiki-weapons

you will be able to build anything you like at your desk in much the same way you can print anything you want now.  Printing presses, once the domain of industrial giants, became democratized; small item manufacture is about to go the same way.  What does the world look like when anyone can design (and freely share) a lethal weapon, and anyone could build it without serial numbers or identifying marks of any kind?

They use a term radical libertarianism in the interview.  The digital space is the new frontier, and on that frontier stand the usual early adopters, the same kind of people that colonized North America, with the same mindset; staunch individualists who have moved into the power vacuum of the internet and pushed technology into areas that make traditional powers very nervous.

Is this madness?  Is radically empowered individualism nerve wracking?  I’d say yes, because the vast majority of people, if given that kind of power, wouldn’t do anything good with it.  While most of us are waiting to be told what to do with our new found freedom of information, radicals like Cody Wilson are taking what is already at hand and acting on it.

To paraphrase a famous evolutionary biologist, the future is not only stranger than we imagine, it’s stranger than we can imagine.  I don’t know what a world where anyone can build whatever they want looks like, but as Wilson said, short of turning off the internet, you can’t stop the spread of information, and the internet has quickly made itself essential in this new age.  Turning it off isn’t really an option any more, and should we want to?

IIHTM: The Digital Workshop

If I had the money, what would the dream workshop look like?

I’m a computer tech teacher by day, and the 3d printer revolution is astonishing to behold.  The dream workshop would have the usual suspects (awesome tools etc), but it would also have some truly alien looking tech.

Ever seen a resin based 3d printer?  It’s like something out of Terminator:

3d printing is about to get even wilder, with larger scale prints becoming an option.  Imagine a 3d printer that could handle motorcycle fairings… except you could do anything you want.  Want a fairing made out of dragon scales?  No problem!  Want customized etching across the entire fairing?  No problem!  Want to design a radical fairing using the stock mounting points?

Some time in Blender and you’ll be ready to print radically customized fairings and other parts.

The BigRep1 goes for almost $40,000, but imagine what you could print in over a cubic meter of build space – motorcycle fairings would be not problem.  I think I’d rent one first to see what I could get away with before buying.

Using resin based printing instead of additive 3d printing means you can produce parts that have the same structural nature as cast pieces (they aren’t made of bonded parts).  These pieces would be incredibly strong – they could also be made much more quickly.  Instead of hours long build times, we’d be looking at minutes…

If you’re looking for futuristic workshop inspiration the Big Hero 6 garage would be a good place to start – in there he’s 3d printing carbon fibre!  The holographic display is pretty dope too…

Iron Man is another film that gives you a good idea of what a 21st Century garage might look like.  Tony Stark’s workshop is a holographic wonderland with built-in fabrication capabilities.

It was once thought that with fuel injection, onboard computers and digitization we would be losing the ability to modify and customize our motorbikes.  It turns out that digitization is actually handing the ability to manufacture back to individuals from the factories that took it from them.  Industrialization meant standardization and centralization in the 19th and 20th Centuries.  In the 21st Century manufacturing will return to the craftsmen it started with; localized micro-manufacturing is going to be the way of things to come.

If you’re making shop space for yourself, having a computer in it gives you access to a world of information (I frequently use my to watch how-to videos and view schematics), but that workshop based computer is soon going to be providing a lot more than just information.  Do yourself a favour, get a handle on 3d modelling, it’ll come in handy in the near future.

Ways to get started:

  • Get handy with Blender – it’s free, and it’s powerful!  There are also a lot of tutorials available for it online
  • Structure Sensor: a 3d scanner that snaps onto your ipad.  It makes making 3d copies a breeze!
  • Basic 3d printers start at about $1000.
  • If you want to give printing a try, many people in the maker movement offer 3d print services. It’s a nice way to see what a 3d printer can do for you without the overhead… 3D Hubs is one such option, and they’ll introduce you to makerspaces in your area.
  • Sketchfab is handy for sharing and doing light editing on 3d models.