It’s said life often happens in pairs. Time and again life’s biggest changes seem to arrive in twos within just a few years of each other. There was the American & French Revolution… later the radio and the car…in our own time, Elvis and the Beatles. All within a few years of one another.
Here in 2013 another tantalizing tandem: this new $30,000 3-D printer in Silicon Valley plus that forthcoming $2 billion National Security Agency ‘cloud’ in Utah. Hang on to your best national dreams and/or worst nightmares, because my friends they’re almost here:
* The 3-D printer jumps right off the screen of TV’s ‘The Jetsons’ where you make what you want when and where you want to use it. Something like today’s ink-jet-printer, this baby generates actual three-dimensional objects in plastic and metal. Jewelry…toys…hearing aids…prosthetic limbs….airplane parts ….even some kinds of guns. Cheaper than Amazon, faster than UPS, customized to individual needs, these products are a new manufacturing wave that makes Alvin Toffler’s 1970 ‘Culture Shock’ look prescient, and Aldous Huxley’s 1932 ‘Brave New World’ look inevitable.
If these 3-D printers become commonplace, there will be more than the bottom-line payoffs. As with all shifts, there will also be fierce operational adjustments like the need for higher skills, the crunch of more lost jobs, the demand that the laws of the land keep up with the lead of an emerging master-class.
The ancient Chinese used the same word for both ‘change’ and ‘opportunity.’ If we can get that equation right, T’he Jetsons’ could be a boon; not getting it right, it could be a bust. Lock-and-load, folks, the choice is largely up to us…!
* As for that $2 billion federal facility in Utah, once it’s on-line it will be able to monitor every phonecall, email, text message, Google search; in effect, any electronic communication encrypted or otherwise. The government’s premise is: information-is-knowledge-and-knowledge-is-security. As a premise, who can argue? As a practice, many will. Another choice we get whether we want it or not.
Ever watch bold circus riders mounted bareback on those two white stallions in the center ring? That ring is our world. Those stallions are our latest pair of wonders.Those riders…? Well, in a democracy, they’resupposed to be us. Reins, anyone…?
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