Maybe he should have chosen to just print black and white.

So this is based on an article I recently read about a 3D printing company that got into hot water for making guns!  You heard that right!  They’re printing guns!  Now, this may seem a little “Star Treky”, but the technology is here and it’s getting better every day.  First it was with simple plastics, but as time progresses, more durable materials like harder plastics or even metals will be used to make whatever you want.

The idea behind this project is actually quite amazing.  They wanted something sort of a “wiki” or “database” to just upload designs to and allow members to download an item to print at home.  Fully functioning.  Just imagine the implications of this.  Well, beyond the obvious “every idiot can now just make a gun” one.  Because it means we’ll have absolute freedom to create anything and everything we desired, as long as we have a design code, a printer, and raw materials.  Think about it, you’d be able to print anything from computers to games to toys to well, guns and ammo…  And the concept doesn’t stop there.  I’ve seen work being done with “chemistry printers”, that mix a few basic elements to create complex chemicals.  This was more for the pharmaceuticals so you could just print up some Advil when you have a headache.  Beyond that, when the tech improves, we may even construct organisms like cells or bacteria and I can’t imagine we’d stop there.

Then there’s the other side to that…  See, we as a species are totally stupid.  For all the imaginative and amazing creations we come up with, we find ways of using those creations to kill eachother off.  So, these printers will see immediate abuse in making weaponry, piracy, and illegal drugs.  I mean, how the heck would you stop this?  All you’d need to do is download the blueprints.  The printers do the rest of the work.  And who will regulate what gets downloaded or printed?  The government?  Right, because they do such a great job with all those movies and games on Pirate Bay already…  Point is, this is a wild new territory that we’ve entered; there is absolutely zero legislation to regulate the “printing” of items.  Which brings us around to the point of this article, which is… well… who and how do we approach this type of thing?  The company in the article got nipped in the bud from the printer manufacture’s end by revoking their lease agreement, but that’s not going to work when these things go mainstream.  Which, of course, will happen.

So you can see the problem here.  While there are regulations against just smithing a gun outright, what regulates the print of it?  And if it falls under that ATF jurisdiction, how will they monitor and control, say, millions of printing machines?  And who’s going to stop pirates from just printing up a few Skylanders or a nice new iPhone?  Or drugs?  Answer… they’re not going to be able to control it.  This will rapidly get out of control and probably result in some MAJOR reworkings of how consumers purchase items or what consumers will have access to.

See, all of this is what they were talking about when they said most “type 1″ civilizations don’t make it for very long.  Meaning, trying to transition to a “Star Trek” esque civilization will be the greatest challenge our species will ever face.  Seems a bit grandiose, but it’s true.  The problem is that people will have access to technology so powerful that it could easily destroy us all.  That’s the problem.  It’s not like just printing up a few MLP action figures will cause the world to end, rather having the power to print up a nuke or deadly disease or destroy the consumerist driven economy… You can see things escalated a bit quick, but there are issues here that we’ve never had to deal with before and will be at our doorstep sooner than we think.  Personally, I think it’ll just even itself out and people will complain about it until the end of time… just like with every other bit of technology we have.  But a cool outcome would be something like a Star Trek system where you get paid in some sort of credit that you purchase things in the replicators with.  So the prices become fixed and have a massively stable economy.  It also mean it will be heavily regulated and watched, kind of like those postage printers.  There may even be limits built into the machines as to what is printable and what is not.

In any case… this is all very exciting!  Sure there’s going to be abuse of the system, but just imagine all the great things that can come of this type of technology!  Though I’m sure the folks at Steam will find a way to integrate it into their DRM…  >)

(Ps… for those of you that don’t have printers… or at least the old ones, some make you buy a new color cartridge if you run out of just one color!  And they’re expensive!  And it’s always cyan it seems… the color that you’d think is used the least… freakin’ cyan!)

Source: Escapist

Here’s this week’s question:
How do you think 3D printing should be regulated?