Let’s find out. This interview elicits a number of quibbles from me.
[... Y]ou never had the technology of perfection that was as available and as cheap and as ubiquitous. You never had Google Glasses before, you never had self-driving cars, you never had doors that recognise who you are and let you in.
We still don’t have two of those things; declaring them “technologies of perfection” seems premature. Wikipedia says we’ve had the third technology for about four millennia. I agree that connecting the system to Klout instead of human-mediated systems of status-determination is annoying, but it seems like an incremental change.
If [Valley royalty with political ambitions] join the Democrats or the Republicans, then it would be very boring. If some of them decide to go and resurrect the democracy movement, then that would be very exciting to write about.
It was initially a bit gobsmacking to see a critic of Silicon Valley’s political naivete declare that an tech-led attempt to create a third party would be “very exciting to write about.” But perhaps he finds this exciting in the same sense that a hunter looks forward to a deer wandering into a meadow.
In America, you need to drive and you need to drive more and more
Vehicle miles traveled is declining, and the global trend is toward urbanization. But his point about the potential effect of self-driving cars on the commuting equilibrium is well-taken.
As drones get cheaper and 3D printers get cheaper, all that can be done in a very different manner. And there will be huge implications for mobility from 3D printers, which again some people don’t expect.
3D printers are mostly good for producing alternatives to injection-molded plastic and, to a lesser extent, ceramic and metal, in applications where price and the strength of the material are not important considerations. Looking around my desk, the items that could plausibly be produced by 3D printer — without an expert to assemble other pieces, at which point the automation rationale falls apart — include a coffee scoop, a pencil case, and a few collectible figurines. And I assure you that my desk is extremely messy.
Products like this are mostly imported and cost basically nothing, and consequently there’s not going to be a ton of capital available to build a huge same-day iPhone case-manufacturing infrastructure. Yes, Staples is going to offer in-store 3D printing, and yes, I am pretty excited about it for hobbyist reasons. But it’s going to be a niche. This technology will continue to have a growing impact on industrial design (where it’s been in use for decades), fabrication of bespoke objects like running shoes and medical implants, and might make some consumer goods slightly more feasibly repairable. But I think people are confusing “how super-cool is this technology?” with “how likely is this technology to change how we live and work?” Seriously, go give Thingiverse a good look. It’s lovely work, and some of it would be quite handy (albeit wildly expensive compared to existing injection-molded or stamped alternatives). But not that much of it.
Most useful objects are made of multiple materials, and 3D printing is not yet very good at that kind of fabrication. Perhaps it will grow to be! In the meantime, I suggest that optimists try pricing a pick-and-place machine, then imagine what it might cost to buy one that works in three dimensions. My next pair of sneakers could be 3D printed; parts of my next bicycle probably will be; my next kneecap certainly ought to be. But this is a tiny fraction of the manufactured world.