“Makers: The New Industrial Revolution” by Wired’s magazine Editor in Chief Chris Anderson, is his recently published book about the things we are able to build by ourselves in current time, empowered by desktop digital fabrication tools, and how this technologies might change the world.
Proposing that a technology like 3D printing — which is becoming increasingly cheaper, better, faster and omnipresent — can change the world, and actually calling it a new industrial revolution might raise lot’s of neck hair stand on end.
But the author’s experience as an editor and writer (I also recommend his two other books: the Long Tail about the rise of niche products and services in a mass market global economy, and Free, a book about how pricing schemes of $0 and giving thing away can still be a profitable business model) plays to his favour, crafting a coherent and enthusiastic discourse with enough back up stories to make it sound not only believable, but desirable as well.
In his vision of the near future, or even more, our current present, home-brew manufacturing stands to revolutionise the American economy. Is he right about this?
In 1776 the (first) Industrial Revolution replaced human power with machine power, thus amplifying human potential. Machines could take a simple gesture, or small physical effort from a person first, a water, steam, diesel or electrical machine later, and obtain faster results with less effort. “Things” could be built, but more to that, industries were born, both in the sense of a place with building facilities, and also in the economical terms of marketplace and trade.
He proposes there’s a second Industrial Revolution, the digital revolution of the late seventies and early eighties, with Personal Computers. Interestingly enough, he sets the date to 1985, when Apple released the LaserWriter printer as a Desktop Publishing platform, and not the release of the Personal Computers a few years before that.
In that way, using the word Desktop (desktop computer, desktop publishing, desktop manufacturing) empowers industrial changes just presented democratising the tools of creation. Publishing quickly became the common thing on the web — and the web became the common thing before that, so we “posted, uploaded, and shared” our way into this decade. Desktop technologies gave people tools of digital creation. Once attached to the network, the tools of distribution were democratised. Now we can do the same that big corporations could previously do, at least still in the digital trade.
But does the same paradigm apply to 3D prints? And how?
From that on — he argues – it’s not hard to see that the past ten years have been about finding new social and innovation models on the web, and the following ten are about getting things on the real world; “Atoms are the new bits” he said at a recent conference.
Today, it may seem as a simplified version of reality to just say that with access to digital fabrication tools, wether our own or in a Maker Space or FabLab “everyone with an idea, will have the tools to realise it”, but it’s a provocative thought, in the same line as in one of it chapter’s title “we are all designers now, me might as well get good at it”. But no that provocative actually, rather a real trait made clear last weekend on Maker Fair: a 4 year old draws a flower on an iPad, and nobody tells her how to use that. That same flower, five minutes later, was 3D printed ring on her finger. The former strange, far and spectacular becomes vernacular. That’s the power ok make.
It’s not difficult to agree that many of us ITP’ers are (or came here to become) makers. What does it take to get all those ideas into the “real” world is what makes the difference, and “maker tools” make that process easy, however there is still a big leap to be made, and that is the gene of need finding and creation.
Tools are just tools. It’s how we use them that makes the difference.