Guns, 3D Printers, and the Future

Take a second and watch this documentary on a group of people dedicated to making it possible to print automatic rifles at home. (Well, 30 minutes, not a second–but still, check some of it out.)

This is real. It’s not made up. It’s not science fiction. You can download the gun files and print them out on a 3D printer in your living room. No, they’re not great yet. Not as usable as actual guns made out of metal, for example, but you’ve got people across the world working on this, and if there’s one thing the internet should have taught us so far, is that there is real strength in numbers. The internet’s a hive mind, and when people use it to team up and accomplish something, they’re usually successful.

Part of me can’t help but be excited by this. I mean, they’re printing real things at home. Cheaply. People are estimating that within a decade, 3D printers are going to be all over the place. It’s like the replicator in Star Trek. This is real science fictiony stuff, and it’s actually happening.

But a big part of me is terrified of this. Giving free access to anyone with an internet connection and a soon-to-be-readily-available 3D printer, and suddenly they can print weapons at home? It’s one thing to have responsible gun owners take care of their weapons. It’s another to have it possible for an enterprising 8 year old to print out a gun one evening and then show it off at school the next day. Yes, you’d need bullets. But bullets aren’t as closely regulated.

I see documentaries like this, and I’m just amazed at how fast the world is changing. How that rate of change just seems to be accelerating. We have these new inventions that come out, and we take them for granted. Fast internet. Facebook. Netflix. iPads. Smartphones.

Folks, back in 1995 (less than 20 years ago) the internet looked like this:

Where are we going to be 18 years from now? These are fundamental changes that aren’t just going to affect the music industry or the book industry or corporations. They’re going to affect the way society operates. I have no idea how the legal system will keep up. We can’t even get Congress to pass a balanced budget.

I’m excited and scared at the same time, and I have no idea where it’s all going to end up.

And that’s my doom and gloom for you this fine Thursday.

Leave a comment