Stewart Brand’s Summary of Chris Anderson’s Talk on “The Makers’ Revolution”

We’re now entering the third industrial revolution, Anderson said.  The first one, which began with the spinning jenny in 1776, doubled the human life span and set population soaring.  From the demographic perspective, “it’s as if nothing happened before the Industrial Revolution.”

   The next revolution was digital.  Formerly industrial processes like printing were democratized with desktop publishing.  The “cognitive surplus” of formely passive consumers was released into an endless variety of personal creativity.  Then distribution was democratized by the Web, which is “scale agnostic and credentials agnostic.”  Anyone can potentially reach 7 billion people.

   The third revolution is digital manufacturing, which combines the gains of the first two revolutions.  Factory robots, which anyone can hire, have become general purpose and extremely fast.  They allow “lights-out manufacturing,” that goes all night and all weekend.

 “This will reverse the arrow of globalization,” Anderson said.  “The centuries of quest for cheaper labor is over.  Labor arbitrage no longer drives trade.”  The advantages of speed and flexibility give the advantage to “locavore” manufacturing because “Closer is faster.”  Innovation is released from the dead weight of large-batch commitments. Designers now can sit next to the robots building their designs and make adjustments in real time.

   Thus the Makers Movement.  Since 2006, Maker Faires, Hackerspaces, and TechShops (equipped with laser cutters, 3D printers, and CAD design software) have proliferated in the US and around the world.  Anderson said he got chills when, with the free CAD program Autodesk 123D, he finished designing an object and moused up to click the button that used to say “Print.”  This one said “Make.”  A 3D printer commenced building his design.

   Playing with Minecraft, “kids are becoming fluent in polygons.” With programs like 123D Catch you can take a series of photos with your iPhone of any object, and the software will create a computer model of it.  “There is no copyright on physical stuff,” Anderson pointed out.  The slogan that liberated music was “Rip. Mix. Burn.”  The new slogan is “Rip. Mod. Make.”

   I asked Anderson, “But isn’t this Makers thing kind of trivial, just trailing-edge innovation?”  “That’s why it’s so powerful,” Anderson said.  “Remember how trivial the first personal computers seemed?“

  –Stewart Brand

See also NYTimes article “A Factory on Your Kitchen Counter,” 2/20/13, by Dean Kurutz:

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

2 Responses to Stewart Brand’s Summary of Chris Anderson’s Talk on “The Makers’ Revolution”

  1. only 34% of the world's population has internet access
    only 34% of the world's population has internet access only 34% of the world's population has internet access
    in less then 2 generations
    one third of this planet can communicate with each other
    and u say only….

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