The caption from the February issue of Wired reads as follows:
In an age of open source, custom-fabricated, DIY product design, all you need to conquer the world is a brilliant idea.
From the video:
The way you would shop on Amazon is not so different from the way you are now shopping for custom manufacturing in China. Now I have access to the exact same factories, tools, manufacturing technologies that the biggest companies of the world have access to and I can order at a scale that makes sense for me.
What happens when you democratize the tools of production is that more people produce. And when more people produce they make different things. They make things the big companies might not have made, which gives you the long tail of stuff.
This Wired story is one of the most exciting things I’ve read in a long time because it explains the expansion of opportunity for success in manufacturing, especially for niche products, to the level of individuals. It also demonstrates the success of individuals to duplicate the resources available to large companies through crowdsourcing and open source designs — while being far more nimble in seizing opportunities and reacting to market conditions than large companies with ponderous bureaucracies. THIS is what Hayek was talking about in unleashing the power of individual creativity and ambition as the true drivers of thriving economies and scientific and technological innovation:
The door of a dry-cleaner-size storefront in an industrial park in Wareham, Massachusetts, an hour south of Boston, might not look like a portal to the future of American manufacturing, but it is. This is the headquarters of Local Motors, the first open source car company to reach production. Step inside and the office reveals itself as a mind-blowing example of the power of micro-factories.
In June, Local Motors will officially release the Rally Fighter, a $50,000 off-road (but street-legal) racer. The design was crowdsourced, as was the selection of mostly off-the-shelf components, and the final assembly will be done by the customers themselves in local assembly centers as part of a “build experience.” Several more designs are in the pipeline, and the company says it can take a new vehicle from sketch to market in 18 months, about the time it takes Detroit to change the specs on some door trim. Each design is released under a share-friendly Creative Commons license, and customers are encouraged to enhance the designs and produce their own components that they can sell to their peers.
From the February Wired story, “In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits,” by Chris Anderson.
I’m currently reading Neil Gershenfeld’s new book, Fab: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop: From Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication, and I’m finding it very interesting. It seems that the future may be arriving sooner than I had expected.
Gershenfeld writes that it’s possible to do a surprising amount of general-purpose personal design and manufacturing work by combining existing off-the-shelf components in new ways, and he spends a lot of time talking about the results of his experiments in that direction. His discussions are very interesting, but to me the most interesting thing was his discovery that lots of people want this kind of capability — not because they hope to make money out of it, necessarily, but because they want to be able to make things for themselves that they can’t buy elsewhere.
This is likely to have several interesting consequences. On the one hand, it’s likely to address some of the problems with product design that I’ve mentioned. On another, it’s likely to give a big push to the trend toward cottage industry that I’ve noted before. And, in a larger sense, it’s likely to produce a substantial economic shift in general.
Instapundit also noted in an update from reader Ry Jones that in Seattle “you can rent makerbots and lasers by the minute.”
Yo, Obama! THIS is what creates jobs!