The Battle to Control the 3D Printing Revolution: DIY or CIA?

March 23, 2015 (Eric Draitser - TruthOut) - Scientific and technological innovations have the power to fundamentally transform human civilization as new possibilities previously deemed impossible are made realities. However, it is not the technologies themselves that dictate the nature of the political, economic or social evolution. Rather, it is control over, and access to, technology that has the truly profound impact. While advanced medicines, new methods of energy production and biotechnology breakthroughs are in themselves important, when monopolized by a select few, the implications for the majority of people can be dire.

So it is with the emerging revolution in 3D printing, a technology that manufactures (or "prints"), layer by layer, physical objects from computer models using a variety of materials. While 3D printing has existed in concept since the early 1980s, only in recent years has the technology been brought to the desktop level, allowing individuals and small groups of hobbyists to print a wide variety of objects, from plastic coasters to medical equipment. Having started in the traditional industrial and fabrication setting, it was the application of 3D printing by independent, technologically inclined "hackers" (individuals who manipulate and/or customize computer and electronic equipment to fit their needs) that helped mainstream this technology.

Today, there is a consensus among those in the know - from the most ruthless capitalist profit-seekers to anarcho-communist hackers - that the 3D printing revolution is coming, and the world will not be the same once it arrives. So the struggle is not whether there will be 3D printers, but rather how that technology will be used, how it will be dispersed in society, who will have access to it, and who will control and/or steer its development.

The central question will not be whether a working-class person can 3D print some household object in his garage; this is a foregone conclusion. Instead, it will be whether or not the ability to 3D print the elemental parts of modern and future society (computer processors, nanobots, telecommunications equipment etc.) will be open to all, or controlled by the few.

And it is here, on the front lines of the battle for control and access to this breakthrough technology, that the struggle between the political and economic establishment and the rest of us is taking place. On the one hand, there are those tirelessly working to democratize and decentralize 3D printing, and on the other hand are the powerful forces that seek to monopolize this innovation in order to maintain their grip on power.

3D Printing, Decentralization and the DIY Revolution

As 3D printing gradually moved out of the realm of science fiction to become a technology that could be financially and technically accessible to individuals, the transformative potential of the innovation became readily apparent. Obscure startups such as New York City-based MakerBot brought 3D printing to the desktop via theNYC Resistor hackerspace - a "hacker collective" based in Brooklyn where communally owned tools and computers bring together a wide array of innovative technology enthusiasts who share knowledge and expertise in a variety of fields. Such a combination of technical know-how and ideological commitment to collaboration has fueled the creative energies of many such hackerspaces and makerspaces, and the many politically conscious, often radical activists and non-activists alike, to generate wildly fascinating and innovative breakthroughs.

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If You Can't Stop 3D Printed Guns - Print One

People will inevitably 3D print guns and there is nothing you can do to stop them except prepare society to be mature and responsible enough to handle this new power. 

March 4, 2015 (Tony Cartalucci - LocalOrg) - Guns don't kill people, people kill people. And the sort of people that kill range from the mentally unstable and/or the medicated, to political extremists, to criminals, and of course the biggest killer in human history, the government. Unfortunately, a shortage of weapons or the legal inaccessibility of weaponry never seems to be enough to stop such people from harming or killing others - and levels of violence appear more linked to social and economic issues rather than access to weaponry.

Take the United Kingdom and Japan for example, two nations with populations that are for all intents and purposes "disarmed." Despite the UK having a population almost twice as small as Japan's it still has more total murders per year then their Japanese counterparts. The problem is socioeconomic, and so too is the solution. Here, we can see that access to weapons has little correlation to violence.

In fact, one could easily overlay a map of global poverty on top a map of global homicides and see the obvious correlation. And despite America's love-affair with firearms, it is by far not the most violent nation on Earth - not even close.

Gun Control Made Irrelevant 

Compounding the futility of a government trying to pad every sharp corner in society to "protect us" from harm, is the advent of personal manufacturing. Personal manufacturing allows us to make as many and as varied sharp corners as our minds can conjure. For every law put into place to outlaw each of these proverbial sharp corners, 10 more will take their place.

One of these sharp corners includes 3D printed and CNC milled guns.

3D Printing Industry author Michael Molitch-Hou in his article, "The 3D Printed Gun: Individual Freedom, Collective Violence," argues that:
Steve Israel is concerned with lone wolves. The media, in response to the shootings in Connecticut and Colorado, are concerned with mentally ill loners. Cody Wilson is concerned with personal freedom. The human species, however, is a collective entity, based simply on the fact that we all have to live and work alongside one another. So, perhaps it is our collective that should take some responsibility for these horrible acts of gun violence. What in society could be causing people to commit acts of violence on the scale of Newton and Aurora? Is 3D printing legislation going to prevent violence or might public access to better mental health facilities prevent violence instead? How did our collective not notice the burgeoning instability in Adam Lanza and attempt to do something about it? How does our society, on a regular basis, ignore the systemic inequality that leads to gun violence amongst the impoverished, for instance? In other words, is it possible that, by acknowledging the human species as a collective, we might begin to improve the standard of living of the entire community?
And although Molitch-Hou, throughout the article appears to make Cody Wilson look as if he is laboring under strained logic, his concluding thoughts quoted above are in fact precisely the solution to violence in American society (and everywhere else for that matter). We must identify the factors that cause violence in the first place and address them, not the implements one may or may not use while being violent.

Op-Ed: Big Pharma & Gene Therapy

March 2, 2015 (Tony Cartalucci - LocalOrg) I just recently watched a TED Talk - this was the CEO of Bluebird Bio - a pharmaceutical and biotech company - talking about their work on gene therapies.

These are cures that work on the first shot - correcting your condition or augmenting your body to repair itself on the genetic level. One shot and you are cured for life - more or less - because the corrected cells then multiple, carrying the corrections on in each additional cell.

The work for now can be a bit primitive, but the technology is already drastically changing lives for the better.

It is nothing short of revolutionary - it stands to change humanity forever - and if Bluebird Bio doesn't do it, someone else eventually will. The problem is obvious though, these cures may cost a lot to develop but once they are perfected, they cost relatively very little to produce and give to patients compared to traditional and less effective therapies. And when they are given to patients, it is a one time deal.

Realizing this prompted the CEO of Bluebird Bio to say something very questionable - claiming that by fixing a patient on the genetic level, they will from then on be producing his corporation's drug (though not really since it is not a drug, it is corrected DNA) and while he doesn't come right out and say it, anyone familiar with big-pharma and big-biotech's method of operation knows that they expect you to pay for it ... for life.

And so that is how big-pharma plans to continue rolling in piles of money even when technology makes it possible to permanently cure people with a single shot, by extorting people literally like a cartoon villain - demanding "1 million dollars" per life-saving shot - the subject of a previously published report titled, "Big Pharma Dangles Life and Death Over Patients' Heads."

There is indeed the valid argument that these treatments cost money to research and develop, and the people involved in doing so deserve to profit from them. And I agree, but guess what? The government gives these corporations millions of dollars through all sorts of grants every year so they can do just that.

Here is just one announcement of Bluebird Bio getting just such a grant from the Government of California, "Bluebird Bio Awarded $9.3 Million From the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine to Further Gene Therapy Clinical Development," an announcement made in 2012, the same year Bluebird's CEO was on stage giving his Ted Talk.

Surely society would be all for giving even more money toward this sort of research - something the government should  be doing instead of spending literally a trillion dollars on a single weapons system - like the F-35. But then there is the reality that greed prevails, and special interests rule.

People have got to get informed on gene therapy - it will change humanity forever and whoever controls it controls humanity's future. That being the case, the people should be the one's wielding it, not a handful of corporations dangling life over the heads of sick kids so they can please their investors and stay in business.

I admittedly don't know the whole story about Bluebird - I'd hate to say they were corrupt and greedy if they were really doing everything they could within a system that is itself backwards ... but it was difficult to listen to their TED Talk and not walk away feeling I've just been extorted. If you hold the keys to saving lives, you must unlock the door, handsomely rewarded or not. And part of being a "good guy," is taking it upon yourself to create a better system within which life-saving research can move forward without parasitical investors demanding immense profits in return at the expense of both ethics and progress.