“Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
The words famously uttered by Robert Oppenheimer after the test of the first nuclear weapon. Albert Einstein expressed grave misgivings also, but has been quoted as saying,
“The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem. It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an “existing one.”
The political and cultural impacts of the development of nuclear power & weapons were profound and far-reaching and continue to this day. 3D printing is embarking on a similar journey and will be the next ground for the war on copyright, ethics, morality and censorship as amateurs forge new ground, utilizing technology to do things that were once impossible.
Industry, business, manufacturing & medicine will all be transformed to a certain extent and we may indeed see a revolution in the long term as 3D printers make the transition into personal fabrication units, capable of reproducing any object with atomic level precision within minutes.
We are seeing news stories of applications of 3D printing with increasing sophistication daily, like the man who has had 75% of his skull replaced with a 3D printed implant. With success stories also comes stories of fear and applications that make people uneasy, like the documentary below about how guns are being printed and the .stl files being made available via places like DEFCAD.
Censorship of the right to freely express oneself in unique and creative ways is not the answer. I’m not sure what is. It is human nature to find a way to inhabit the broad spectrum of societal values. Maybe Einstein’s Dystopian views of the future of humanity were accurate when he said,
“It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.”
Maybe Kurzweil’s Utopian view of the coming Singularity is the future we will face.
Only time will tell.