This week’s selection is Makers, by Cory Doctorow.
Doctorow is well known for producing works of fiction focusing on the near future, extrapolating current trends into whatever they may become, for good or evil. But often it’s evil.
His book Makers, published in 2010, capitalizes on the then-current trend towards consumer and personal 3D printing. At that point in history there was a real belief that the then-emerging desktop making devices would spread widely and enable everyone to produce literally whatever they wished with them.
That vision did not come true, at least yet, due to the complexities of machine use and 3D content design, but Doctorow has built a fictional story on that concept, and it’s very interesting.
The story follows the travails of two inventors leveraging the new personal manufacturing capabilities envisioned. From Amazon:
Perry and Lester invent things: seashell robots that make toast, Boogie Woogie Elmo dolls that drive cars. They also invent entirely new economic systems. When Kodak and Duracell are broken up for parts by sharp venture capitalists, Perry and Lester help to invent the "New Work," a New Deal for the technological era. Barefoot bankers cross the nation, microinvesting in high-tech communal mini-startups. Together, they transform the nation and blogger Andrea Fleeks is there to document it.
Then it slides into collapse. The New Work bust puts the dot-bomb to shame. Perry and Lester build a network of interactive rides in abandoned Walmarts across the land. As their rides gain in popularity, a rogue Disney executive engineers a savage attack on the rides by convincing the police that their 3D printers are being used to make AK-47s.
Lawsuits multiply as venture capitalists take on a new investment strategy: backing litigation against companies like Disney. Lester and Perry's friendship falls to pieces when Lester gets the fatkins treatment, which turns him into a sybaritic gigolo.
I said it was interesting, didn’t I?
This vision has not come true, and perhaps one might think it may not due to the collapse of consumer 3D printing and its retreat into professional niches. However, I still believe there is a future where machines, software and services of the future may enable a personal network of on-demand making - just not in the immediate future.
But when that day comes, the Doctorow’s vision may indeed come to pass.
You can pick up a physical version of the book at Amazon, or if you like Doctorow has made available an entirely DRM free electronic version in various formats for download at his site, Craphound.