An unusual post by Rod Roddenberry in Huffington Post ponders whether society is sufficiently "evolved" to handle 3D printers. The proposition is that if 3D printing tech becomes widespread, then your shopping will be done online - the selected 3D models will be printed at home. The implication, according to Roddenberry, is that the changes to our "supply and supply marketplace" may be challenging. Roddenberry says:
While the main purpose of the Star Trek replicator was to provide food, the concept of it meant that anyone could have anything at any time. If there is no material scarcity, then what possessions does one value? In fact, material possessions would lose their value. It would not matter what kind of clothes you wear, car you drive or how much you get paid. No one lacks the latest fashions or ever goes hungry. As long as they can afford a replicator and the supplies to operate it.In short, needs are met without money exchanging hands.How would society react if material possessions lost their value? In a world with replicators, real value would have to be found in who you are as a person and not in the status you derive from your wealth or possessions.
Perhaps this may be the case many years from now with incredibly advanced 3D printing gear, but for the future we foresee this will definitely not be the case. As much as we'd like to see such amazing technology, you'll still buy the 3D printer, the materials for building and probably the 3D models that you need to print.
When the technology is so widespread that printers/replicators are everywhere and you need only cheap electricity to run them, then we should worry about societal changes. And they'll be huge, certainly.