The acceleration of technology is the central driving force of our world. My goal is to explain what it means for you.

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Friday, April 15, 2005

Review of Neil Gershenfeld: How Personal Fabricators Will Revolutionize Our World

Neil Gershenfeld, director of MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, who runs a one-semester smash-hit class called "How to Make Almost Anything", is determined to produce affordable, replicating personal fabricators by 2025.

(This is part of a developing story about the rise of personal desktop fabrication and replicators).

Today we fabricate by melting plastic and whacking metal with a little digital help at each end of the manufacturing process. Soon, the materials we build with will be digital, forming themselves into the shapes we now force atoms into. That's the big change knocking at our door.

Speaking at the Emerging Technology Conference, he illustrated how, within 10 to 20 years:

  • Affordable desktop personal fabricators as powerful as an automobile plant will produce most any manufactured product you can imagine.

  • The products emerging from these desktop "FabLabs" will be saturated with accelerating computational intelligence.

  • They will be self-replicating.


Their ability to self-replicate will ensure they meet the exponentially rising demand. As they rapidly spread to thousands and then millions of people, they will mutate and evolve; enlisted to propagate their own next generation.

The Edge of a Revolution in Digital Personal Fabrication

Neil believes the only thing standing in the way of making this happen is getting the word out. These FabLabs are now only about $20,000. When they begin self replicating the cost will drop like a stone.

One business model involves setting up fab labs within communities. People would create for no charge and useful items would become marketable products.

Download the MP3 here. The discussion on desktop rapid prototyping is excellent too when Dr. Gershenfeld is joined by Dale Dougherty from O'Reilly Media, Bran Ferren from Applied Minds and Saul Griffith from Squid:Labs.

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