Imagine, you are living in the mid 1800's. The telegraph and electric motor are still quite novel. The full understanding of their effects and impact on human culture are still decades into the future. However, those with eyes to see, such as Jules Verne and Mary Shelley could see into a future where electricity pervades human culture and helps define how we think, act and believe.
So it is today, albeit at a much faster pace. For many years three dimensional printing has been used for prototyping and as a hobbyist toy, mostly to make small objects. However, latent in this new tech are the seeds of a new paradigm with massive implications about how we live and relate with the world we are in. This posting is one example of many. Many here are much brighter than I and the possibilities for exploration are almost limitelss.
In framing this as a spiritual issue we have to look at the entire scope of the change, especially in terms of unforeseen effects. Most of you will think “printing in 3d, oh how nice, but why do you think this is a spiritual issue?" I’m not so naive as to not anticipate the question. Anything that changes how we perceive and relate to our environment brings a change in our consciousness. It has to. The internet has brought about many of these changes. It causes us to, positively, form connections with others, previously next to impossible, and to new ideas. Negatively, some people engage in behaviors that are not acceptable in face-to-face relationships, and there is something of a dehumanizing element. So with that as an example to chew on, let’s dive in.
The key idea is that anything that changes how we think, act or believe changes our relationship with everything else.
The paper, freely available here, delves into the effects that 3 dimensional printing will have on the supply chain, that is the global links that gets things from one place to another. The primary theme is disruption, and disruption on a massive scale, much like the introduction of electricity will take place. Let’s look at a few of these, and I’ll add a couple of my own, then we can open up to some discussion.
The scope of the paper is admittedly narrow, that is the effect of 3d printing on the logistics industry. That is a good place to start. A trip to Wal*Mart, Target or The Dollar Store reveals to us a massive quantity of relatively cheap goods. Everything comes from somewhere. In many cases the somewhere is China, Singapore or other countries where labor is cheap. When we have the ability to print our silverware, plates, pots, pans, and other common items, this chain is disrupted. People are out of work and there is a resulting social instability. Later, as the cost of 3d printing drops to that of a toaster or other small appliance then everyone will have access and other sets of disruption ensue, much like what we see in global energy markets today as much of the world industrializes, as the US and Western Europe did in the 19th Century.
Everyone Has Access
When 3d printing becomes common, within 5 - 10 years we will see a massive reduction in the amount of manufactured goods moving around the world. The value essentially shifts to two commodities: a) Information, that is the software used in the design of 3d objects: and, b) raw and processed materials, whose properties determine what can and cannot be printed, and their characteristics. Where it comes to ease of use, etc. we’ll skip by those topics as they are more or less tangential to the scope of this work.
The major effect is that manufacturing moves from mass facilities to more localized venues. A couple of examples would be that of ordering a part for your car or motorbike. Typically a specialty shop, such as an auto parts store or a mechanic has to keep a limited supply on hand. Otherwise their inventory would be full of parts that won’t sell for a very long time. In addition, many nations, states and localities impose inventory taxes. How do you tax something that doesn’t exist until the time of sale? An entire class of taxation may be rendered obsolete. In addition, these items are also manufactured where labor is cheap and they must arrive here by some means. The practical effect (and the chief concern of the document) is what happens to that supply chain? Long answer short, a lot of it goes bye bye. The more localized fabrication becomes the less need for large fleets of ships and trains to deliver finished goods. Offsetting that, however may be the larger need for raw and processed materials to supply printers with proper stock to create objects.
In addition, this also means that the home becomes a major manufacturing center. Instead of going out to the store and buying a new set of dinnerware or clothing, etc. you browse an online catalog that not only can give you a design for a pair of jeans or a dress, but also determine if you have the proper materials in your stock. Major expenditures move to making sure that the proper materials are handy for making things.
This is just some of the practical scenarios as to how 3d printing can affect our daily lives, but what about the social aspect? The first thing that strikes me is that it is a distinct pullpack from interrelated economies. The main purpose of the supply chain becomes the delivery of raw materials, so those countries who have the best supplies and processing capabilities are the winners. However, what happens when you can download a design for an iPad or a remote control for your TV? What happens when you no longer have to go to the market or store to pick up something? The minor social interactions we have during the day, cumulatively have great effects. This is one area where the possibility of unforeseen consequences loom large.
It seems therefore that the effect of this change, combined with many others coming down the road is to alter our perception of the world, make it much more isolated, an odd effect, considering that the trend over the last 500 years has been to shrink the size of the world and bring us together. On the upside, we may see much stronger local communities because currency transactions become much more localized, based on the local manufacture of specialty parts for automobiles, appliances, etc.
The Environment & Illusion
Oddly enough, one of the major casualties may be the environment. With the ability to make just about anything at our fingertips, in most people the desire to acquire runs wild. One thing easily foreseeable is the open-source movement in people designing and creating free designs of goods for all. It's much like this site where, due to the efforts of a number of people a great number of documents are available for free to anyone who wants them, without restriction. There is no incentive, other than time and resources to stop anyone from grabbing everything. Now expand this free-lunch mentality to several billion people and millions of designs freely available, then keep in mind that since everyone can make what they want, when they want, it's kind of hard to sell it off at a yard sale.
This buffet mentality, of course has the side effect of enhancing a throw-away economy. We don't like what we have and we see something else that we want, just print it. The old stuff gets thrown away and now you have all of this waste someone has to deal with. Perhaps this will spur a major business in recycling printed items, reclamation on steroids. What is certain is that there will be a lot more stuff circulating through the ecosystem than in the past at a much faster pace.
The other part of this is that wants and desires move much closer to a state of instant gratification. The brakes come completely off when it comes to the ability to satisfy a desire. We want, we have, just that quick. As to the ultimate effect, will people just get tired of having stuff or will it be consumption goes wild? One of the hallmarks of our efforts is to find some way to become more aware of the effects of our outer and inner worlds, the worlds of cause and effect.
More than anything this example of environmental impact demonstrates how a change of this nature can have effect on all of us.
As has been noted by Krishnamurti and other philosophers, everything exists only in relationship. Disrupt the relationship and you redefine our perception. Just as we do not think in many of the same ways as our medieval ancestors, that is we have a much more fact-driven view of the world and we are less prone to view ourselves as victims of a vengeful god or inscrutable universe, further changes will change our views even more drastically. The key idea here, again is that anything that changes how we think, act or believe changes our relationship with everything else.
What I ask of you is to transform yourself into a science-fiction writer for a short time and use your imagination to look at the possibilities, both good and bad and to see how our perceptions may change. Of course, you can do this with the past, too, as is the usual course of thought in dealing with occult/mystical matters. In using our creative imagination perhaps we can visualize and actualize a world where the effects of this and other seemingly magical technologies are brought in line with our better lights. After all, consciousness is primary. Imagination and will shapes the world. Who does the shaping?
With all that being said, what do you think?
Dear Joe ,
You have more or less as usual comprehensively and lucidly projected the idea - I am also more interested in the human angle like you and not in the product - but how we may or may not use it.Again in the light of recent developments in the world like the internet, e commerce,out sourcing (from manufacture of underwear to bedroom secrets) for me it comes down to a very straight forward equation - Discrimination and Self control (Moderation ) by human beings has to be there for a happy conclusion to the good use of the technology . However much I look at it again it comes down to to each particular individual (to make this technology a success)- not to be swayed by the herd mentality of "giving into '' a wild abandon of dissolute behaviour on the introduction of the product , but to be sane and understand that - comfort has been achieved to a higher level by human ingenuity - but more does not mean more happiness and basically look back to how their forefathers lived - to use only what is required , to have the strength to withstand the proclivity to produce a million things in million colours just for the tittilation of the senses - but rather to have in mind the Utility and - ask oneself What old thing does it replace ? Is it of more utility or less (the process is immaterial ) . May the supply chain be damned but - Since we cannot create a utility unless a need is there . I am using utility in the sense of an attribute (it is more mental relationship) . The pot has a utility of containing water . By all containers a container is known and by a container all containers are known - A fool who does not understand the word container and its utility to humans would sit and argue for ages as to whether a space ship , submarine, missile etc are containers . Here what we are concerned are the ''relation'' or "attribute'' or ''utility''.
My reasoning on relation is very simple - A man is a Father to his children, Son to his Parents (and in Laws) , Brother to his siblings.Doctor to his colleagues in the profession, Husband to the wife , Nephew to the Aunts and Uncles .........
But these relationships are superimposed by the mind vis a vis each person he interacts with - the person is still the same whatever you call him and to which any person will readily agree that he is only one and the same person .
Now if he understands this - he will also understand that the "others '' who make him act in such different roles are to be blamed and are crazy . Also he will understand that he himself though a conscious individual with knowledge of this fact (the madness of the delusion in the others!!! ) has to '' assume'' these disguises vis a vis the others - or else he will be ostraszied - imagine the tremendous pressure on a man of truth !!! Where will he run to the world or to the society ? . A man uses a knife to cut vegetables another uses it to carve a fellow being !!! What is the control ? The IDEA in everything is to learn from the past (we are born after the thing is made,found,created,discovered ) much as everyone has blood pressure or diabetes or cholestrole - it is a relation with science and yourself - it was not there a few years ago and science may find a new parameter and we are free to choose to subscribe to the theory or not . In this context I would like to state one other spiritual or metaphysical truth - a man of Intelligence should be absolutely fearless (again as common sense dictates ) - one who is seriously ill must consult a doctor and ask him to treat himself for the ailment and not churn up new things like Pressure, bike, and other things . So what is the benchmark of honesty to oneself that one has to use ? it is the plain recognition just as some things like Guns and Missiles are unambiguous in their representation of utility - whether the thing satisfies what it replaces or not - if not where can I get the other (older Item or its closest approximation that is available today ).So we now come to a sane conclusion that - the technology should be used to or rstricted to those items of daily use and need of the people and not for things that disrupt life in general . Disruption in manufacturing chain and delivery chain we need not concern ourselves there are people who will be affected and society will take care of it - in fact we have to be quite selfish and see if it is good for me and in general for people like me . Pity at this stage is folly . The governemnt is there to take care of them or society in the form of the institution of begging or poor homes or coupons etc will evolve to accomodate this problem . It is not our individual problem that a man is in a particularly distressed industry when we are concerned with the introduction of new technology . Things will even out according to the intellect of the nations. But society (again ''Society '' is only an idea but not a reality since the word means so many different things to so many different people we hardy use the word in the sense of the word ) or Government ( Idea as same as society) has to forsee and forestall the technology to only useful ones and science has a responsibility to deny knowledge of the same on matters that are harmful and not shout Eureka in the beginning itself where the rabble will soon ''Demand'' full knowledge much as the robber was favoured over Jesus to 'have full ''Accountability'' and ''knowledge''. Corporates should exercise their time aged principle of ''Social Responsibility of Business to society " which every small child in commerce learns ..........The people should not be swayed by inducements etc.
I think Joe we have a good script for a movie .... we can make our moolah by selling the idea and live happily ever after - of course with a lawyer in tow and royalties to come . I for one will not sue you if years later a movie does come up with this theme - you are the prime mover - you should if you are even moderately ambitious see if you can get hollywood to make a movie out of this scenario . Moderation and Peace be with all . The general public (a truth not idea ) in every age when the get together have always chosen the more evil of options - so we should not expect much by way of intellect !!!!.
Sutra 99 of the Planktons progress : Planktons of the world Unite you have nothing to lose but the ability to stay divided, diffident and despondent when mankind most requires it .
This just popped up in the Science Group's news feed:
3D printers enter the battlefield
New Scientist: Because the US Army has seen a shift in deployments from large concentrations of soldiers to smaller, more isolated outposts, it has had difficulty resupplying parts for broken equipment. To address this concern, the army has created three … Continue reading →