Reading “The Third Industrial Revolution” in The Economist really got the ole mental gears whirring. The article talks about 3D printers’ staggering potential to upend so many current supply processes. These supply disruptions, in turn, would unleash wider econ and social changes.
Of course, my sci-fi writer’s brain began speculating, a score of story seeds springing into existence. This gush of ideas then made me wonder:
The cusp of the computer age saw the emergence of cyberpunk, stories exploring how a digitally-enmeshed society might develop. So might a new sub-genre be about to bud, one that deals with the incredible disruptions that 3D printing could unleash? 3D punk.
In the same way that older stories’ conceptions of the future look strange to modern readers because characters don’t use mobile phones, will not using 3d printing soon date stories being written now? Is 3D printing the new big world-building blind spot?
For example, the implications for space travel: no worries about spare parts, just make sure the ship has a 3D printer–or two, so that if one breaks, the other can be used to fix it. No need for supply chains other than initial raw materials, a need further reduced if the printer reuses material from a broken part to make a replacement.
So all those trade wars in space stories…obsolete? Future trade focusing on raw materials, luxury items and…designers. Many cyberpunk visions of the future saw people as obsolete in a mechanised future, but 3D printers make people, their ideas, innovation, central once more.
Okay, that’s like, three more new stories, even without speculating on the implication of cities no longer providing economies of scale and… Fine, fine, I’ll stop there.
So, any SF readers/writers out there: What other implications from 3D printers do you foresee? What other world-building game changers do you think are brewing?