The era of the 3D Printer seems to have arrived for general consumption, and I was thinking about the ramifications of this upon our world. Much has been made of the way in which the technology will shift consumer behaviour as well as reshaping the way in which goods are transported to the public.
Consumers will, in the future, be able to download a set of plans and print anything from a pair of running shoes to a pizza, the pharmaceuticals they need and perhaps even water. Why not?
This is interesting but I got thinking about space travel, an interest of mine since childhood, and how 3D Printing will allow us to conquer new worlds.
The human body is quite fragile and it doesn’t really like space, radiation, or lack of gravity, so we’ve always been a bit stuck as to how we might reach interstellar space. Space travel is also expensive, things are heavy, science is hard, and we seem to have more important things to worry about.
To my mind, the best way to get over this is to send a small rocket into space with a small 3D Printer on board. When it arrives at its destination, the printer can then set about printing a robot which can be used to source raw materials from the planet/object upon which it has landed to print a bigger printer. From one small printer an entire functioning system of habitation, tools, mining craft and larger printers can be built over time.
And then I thought, what if that is our gift to the galaxy. An array of printers, each replicating printed 3 dimensional objects which can function automatically. What if these then become self aware and they attack anyone and anything that threatens their self-determined right to replicate. These are printers, they can print anything.
It sounds surreal but I can imagine in the far future, a humanoid or other sentient being arriving on a new planet which is overrun by printers and their offspring.
Printers that would also be sentient, that would defend their right to print, to source raw material from this planet. Perhaps even to build a tiny rocket, with a tiny printer on board, from which these printers will be able to colonise the universe, one small print at a time.
I was recently invited to participate in a panel discussion on MTV with Ted Chung and a few others.