In 2013, 3D printing was deemed the 6th fastest growing industry worldwide. Its implications are global and it promises to leave no industry untouched. From fully-3D printed cars, to fabric clothing, to food, nearly everything is flagged for impact even in the technology’s infancy. Yet, much of society ignores this new kid on the block which is silently becoming the greatest technological revolution since the dawn of internet.
Concurrently, technological automation is not just steadily replacing human labor company by company; it is exponentially obsolescing entire industries of work. Conservative estimates predict that unemployment by automation will impact 65% of American jobs by 2035.
3D Printers Will Be in the Average School by 2020, in Average Household by 2025
As schools and universities struggle to keep up with preparing students for an unpredictable job market, many are rapidly adopting 3D printing classes. One 3D printing company by the name of MakerBot is pushing to get 3D printing in every school in America. Their website reads,
MakerBot Academy is an education initiative to improve STEM literacy by putting a MakerBot Desktop 3D Printer in every school in America, and offer the tools and resources teachers need to create engaging STEM education content.
A study conducted at Michigan Technological University found that 20 common objects that people buy regularly, which would cost them an average of $1,284 at the store, could be downloaded for free and printed at home using $18 of raw materials. Of course, this does not include the cost of the printer itself, which at this point runs $350 for a cheap model.
CNBC reports that the 3D printing industry will grow over 500% in 5 years.
The size of the global market, including 3-D printer sales, materials and associated services, is predicted to reach $16.2 billion by 2018, according to independent research company Canalys. Its estimates show the sector stood at $2.5 billion globally in 2013 and will rise to $3.8 billion in 2014. And in five years the company believes the market will grow by over 500 percent with a year-over-year growth rate of 45.7 percent.
Automation Will Displace 2 Billion Jobs (50% of the World) by 2030
Automation is chastised for its impact on employment rates, but it is never given the grace it deserves for alleviating humans of dangerous, difficult, toxic, monotonous, or unnecessary labor. Indeed, automation is more efficient, less wasteful, more productive, and more economically viable for companies.
Companies do not have to deal with the drawbacks of human workers such as hiring, firing, pay raises, schedules, paid vacation time, sick days, misbehavior, slacking and procrastination, bad attitudes, sexual misconduct, daydreaming, mistakes, accidents, etc.
Futurist Thomas Frey gave a popular TEDx talk where he forecasted that 2 billion jobs, or half of the world’s labor force, will be automated by 2030. Even if he is off by 10%, that still means that 1.8 billion people will permanently lose their jobs in 15 years.
What Will Happen When Less People Are Working & Less People Are Buying?
Economies are driven by cyclical consumption. Employees submit to labor for money, consumers spend that money on goods, business owners pay some of the profit from the goods back to the employee, and the cycle continues. But what happens if one of the cogs in this cycle is removed, say, from automation? Now there are no more employees, or dramatically less. Certainly, we cannot say the economy is ‘growing.’ Can we assume that without employees making money, there will be no consumers to spend money?
Take this exercise one step further. What happens if two cogs are removed from the cycle? Now, there are no more employees (and hence no consumers) and no more goods to purchase because everyone is producing things from home using 3D printers. As the dependency on money deteriorates, so does the dependency on governments and banks to produce money.
Power Implications & the Extinction of ‘Property’
This coupling of innovations is the perfect storm that will bring the current monetary-market paradigm to collapse like a house of cards. In other words, there will come a day when we need to reinvent our economy. Will the next phase it its evolution be a Natural Law/Resource Based Economy as advocated by the Zeitgeist Movement, or will it be more of a local Time Bank/Barter System?
When we discuss the ‘extinction of property,’ folks tend to get unnerved by making Marxist associations and they typically resort to fear-mongering. The extinction of property does not mean you cannot keep material things that belong to you, it simply means that there will be no need for ‘ownership’ if you can easily scan/download something and print your own. When Napster ushered in the music piracy movement which brought the industry to its knees, there was absolutely no need (other than legality) to purchase a CD when you could download it and burn it for yourself.
Nowadays, you can stream music, literally obsolescing the idea of music ‘ownership’ altogether. Following the same train of thought, there is no need to steal anything in an economy where everything is replicable or free. Additionally, why would anyone spend extra money to copyright something which can easily be scanned and printed instead of being purchased?
Decentralization & Independence
Through this decentralized, open-source access to whatever you need right from the comfort of your own home, individuals will be able to inexpensively empower themselves. This will dissolve dependency on governments, central banks, corporations, patent offices, and potentially court systems and police. Power to the people.
Ready or not, this is what is coming.