In times past, shamans and priests ruled people through fear and a healthy knowledge of science. Higher knowledge of medicine, chemistry and astronomy helped them gain control over less knowledgeable people. One of the greatest advantages of the Renaissance was the opening up of knowledge and learning to all. The Gutenberg Press, in fact, may be titled one of the most important inventions of the previous Millenium. It allowed us to spread information quickly while allowing easy duplication.
In this Millenium, that role might be taken over by the 3D Printer. Although many science fiction authors and movies have shown different depictions of the 3D Printer, in the last decade, we have seen vast improvements which now allow people to actually create working 3D models with complex interlinked parts. With great advancements in printing technology and material science, its also cut down on the actual size and cost of the printers themselves.
Like all great technological advances, there is scope for misuse of the technology. There is debate over permission to use 3D printers to manufacture weapons and the ATF(Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms ) bureau of the US has been keeping watch over gunmakers in the US. However, I see much greater scope in 3 D printing ensuring that people in remote locations can manufacture what they need instead of having to ship it or depend on regular repairs. That should cut down heavily on shipping costs and usage of natural resources as well.
The best advantage of the 3D printing press is that much like the modern smartphone, it might change our standard of life. With the smartphone’s development, applications and ecosystems have been built which now feel so part and parcel of our lifestyle that it seems shocking that a decade earlier, we had no Google Maps to navigate with or apps to tell us which restaurant to go to or when our flights are leaving. Similarly, 3D printers might make our lives better and easier. Its time for governments and research institutions to invest into building the knowledge and expertise of 3D printing. Maybe, it might just help us finally colonize outer space.