ING, a self-described global financial institution, recently conducted an analysis of the emerging technology of 3D printing in manufacturing. The title of the study says it all – 3D Printing: A Threat to Global Trade. You can read their full report here.
Right on the first page, the study reveals its crucial finding – that 3D Printing will cut global trade by 40%. To be precise, they refer to 3D printing as “local printed goods,” a phrase that I am inclined to embrace with enthusiasm.
The study acknowledges that, in its present form, 3D printing is not affecting global trade to any significant degree. However, as the technology continues to advance – as 3D printing becomes faster, cheaper – as 3D printing becomes more capable of printing complex structures, structures with moving parts, structures with electronics components built right into the build, that impact will start to be felt at the global level.
According to this study, one scenario suggests that 50% of manufactured goods will be 3D printed by the year 2060. One scenario suggests that 40% of manufactured goods will be 3D printed by the year 2040.
What this study is describing, really, is something called microfacturing, though they never use the word in the study. I have long been a proponent of microfacturing and have been following the development of 3D printing and microfacturing since around 2003 when I used to run an online weekly magazine called “Freedom through Autonomous Living.”
Microfacturing has always been a key part, in my opinion, of creating the power required to live more autonomously, at the individual, as well as the community level.
The study itself, however, is written more from a perspective of concern for the loss of global market forces over more localized market forces. The very title of the study itself reveals the perspective, 3D Printing: A Threat to Global Trade.
Of course, I welcome the replacement of large-scale global market actors with small-scale, more directly accountable, local market actors.
The study identifies three industries that might lead the way in the development of microfacturing, the automotive parts, industrial machinery parts, and consumer products industries. I am inclined to also include in this list, home microfacturing to replace broken parts, to create simple tools, to create simple toys for kids, and even to create special collectibles for adults (like 3D printing a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter).
As I have written about and talked about before, I am a self-described VisPrivusian, which literally means Self-Power. I created the word from the latin words Vis, meaning power, and Privus, meaning individual. By my definition a VisPrivusian is one who always favors individual and free association power over coercive enterprise power.
Power, as I define it, is really the ability to influence action, your own as well as the action of others. There are four major spheres of influence, social influence (using personal or group pressure to exert negative or positive reinforcement on potential or executed action), demonstrable influence (using tangible examples to persuade the action of others; market action falls within this sphere of influence), ideational influence (using the dissemination of ideas through language and symbols to persuade action), and finally the most undesired spheres of influence from my perspective, force influence (the use of force to persuade action).
Within the sphere of force influence there is defensive deployment of force and coercive deployment of force. The nation-state, as we know it today, utilizes coercive deployment of force; that is, they use the execution of threat of force to influence action that is not/was not violating the basic sovereignty of other individuals. Because of this, I refer to the nation-state as being a coercive enterprise.
Now, why, you might be asking, Why am I taking the time to outline my basic philosophy on power in an article about 3D printing, or microfacturing? The answer is simple, the ability to manufacture your own goods, be they essentials or ‘luxury’ items, is one of the most effective displays of demonstrable influence available to those of us today who favor individual and free association power over coercive enterprise power.
I wanted to make sure you understood my terms when I use such phrases as influence, power, and coercive enterprise, because they are essential phrases in describing my perspective on the emergence of microfacturing.
If you regularly read the articles I post on istate.tv, you should notice that news about 3D printing is regularly featured. This is no accident.
The reason for this is in how I view 3D printing. It is one of the key emerging technologies that, in my opinion, create a tangible source of power for individuals and free associations, a source of power that will disentangle them from systems that utilize, in one way, shape or form, the tools of the coercive enterprise to continue to grow their market empires and protect their market empires from the emergence of competition.
I should note here that the phrase I am using, market empire, does not simply refer to large-scale enterprises, but rather to large-scale enterprises that rely on the regulations, the laws of the coercive enterprise to protect themselves from other potential enterprises.
Microfacturing, in general, will favor individual and local expression and empowerment. Microfacturing will also be much more difficult for nation-states to regulate and control. The potential for black market emergence in places where nation-states attempt to artificially tamp down the emergence of a free, unfettered microfacturing market is tremendous.
To be sure, as microfacturing emerges, you will see attempts made by nation-states to artificially retard its growth, through regulations and even outright bans. This will be done in the name of security, in the name of preserving jobs, and the regulations, the laws attempting to curtail it will be written by the same people that run the market empires now protected by the coercive enterprise to such a degree that the line between where a market empire ends and a coercive enterprise begins is often not so easy to discern.
The other great threat to the emergence of microfacturing is one of the most destructive, anti-human, anti-progressive forms of control out there today, one that many so-called free marketers embrace and count as one of the bedrock principles of the so-called free market they champion. That form of control is called IP, or intellectual property.
If you want to know why IP is antithetical to true free markets, all you have to do is consider this fact – IP is won in courts, and is won with the power of highly trained, highly skilled lawyers and their highly skilled, highly trained team of researchers. To get that kind of power behind you, it requires a great deal of money, money that only a select few of the largest market empires have access to. In short, IP protects market empires and it destroys small ventures, ventures that are often driven out of business by IP trolls on the payroll of these market empires.
I won’t continue to go down the trail of IP, but, suffice to say, IP is almost as much of a threat to the development of microfacturing as the direct regulation and even banning by coercive enterprises is. That coercive enterprise is often doing the bidding of their powerful political allies, the market empires. To be sure, the coercive enterprise will enthusiastically use IP to attempt to deliberately retard the growth of free and open microfacturing.
It will be black market microfacturing that will eventually become the vanguard of the 3D printing revolution, not the grey, or even white market emergence of microfacturing that you see today.
My prediction is this, that 3D printing will be to the nation-state, the coercive enterprise, as well as the market empire, what the printing press was to the monopoly on Holy Scripture by the Catholic-State collective commonly referred to as Christendom. Once the Guttenberg Press hit the market, the Kings and Queens of Europe, in league with the Catholic Church, set about attempting to regulate the press, even creating printing licenses.
The emergence of the black market of the pamphleteers and the renegade printers, people like John Wycliff and William Tyndale (both of whom dared print the bible in English), could not be prevented and, in the end, the monopoly on the Holy Scripture, on information in general, was ultimately surrendered.
I predict the same types of actions will happen as microfacturing emerges. There will be great efforts made to hinder this growth, to prevent the breaking of the monopoly on markets by market empires in league with coercive enterprises.
But not even the great coercive enterprises, the great market empires, will be able to control the natural human tendency to want to be self-reliant, self-sustaining, self-empowering.
Microfacturing will demonstrate the advantage of individual and free association small-scale enterprises over the top-heavy, coercive-enterprise-dependent market empires. Sometimes, large-scale enterprise is more effective, but often, the effectiveness of large-scale enterprises over small-scale enterprises is largely in its ability to call upon the guns of the coercive enterprise to protect itself from small-scale enterprises.
The age of the market empire is coming to an end. The age of the individual, of the free association, is soon to take its place.
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Contributed by Paul Gordon of iState TV.