Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kissing Babies

The other day we had Gareth Hughes from the Green Party visit Tangleball.

There were a couple of things that went oh so very wrong. For starters, we let them dictate the terms. Here we are being told that Gareth Hughes wants to visit on X day. It should have been a "Tough luck. We have procedures to follow such as we must discuss this in person". Instead, someone from the mailing list, who doesn't do much in the space himself, volunteered to be an ambassador for Tangleball. This is a problem for me as it's a physical space to do physical things. It seems someone on the mailing list who doesn't spend time in the space has more of a say than someone in the space who doesn't participate with the mailing list.

So a systematic error with Tangleball. It turns out the ambassador had his own agenda and didn't really do a great job of representing Tangleball. But more than this, we let them dictate the terms. We're showing them around our space... We're doing them a favour. While I like Gareth Hughes personally, there was an issue here.

The next bit that went wrong for me was the fact that Tangleball was little more than a baby to kiss. Rather than come down to the space during an open day or during the regular meetings, Gareth Hughes dictated a day that he wanted to come down with his entourage and have photos taken. It wasn't about learning about the space. It was about a photo opportunity. His eyes lit up when he saw the grand-daddy of replicable 3D printers - the first 3D printer made with parts that were 3D printed (or something along those lines). The ethos of a maker space (there's another entity that should be referred to as a "faker space" i.e. those that work on a commercial model but use maker space branding to further themselves rather than being about its members) didn't mean squat.

What is all of this about? It turns out that 3D printers are a great big political issue. In the early days of the Internet, the music industry was talking about how to kill the Internet. It's a great bit giant threat to their economic model (not that far away from being a threat to the national economy - does this wording sound familiar?). The Internet, is in essence, a great big copying machine. Think about things like retweets and the like. So information can be copied.

But I've jumped ahead... Someone went through the effort of printing off a gun with a 3D printer. If you ask me, there are much easier ways of getting guns. There was even a politician suggesting that a 3D printer could be used to print off "drugs" (why you wouldn't just use the source materials to get high is completely beyond me). So we've got fear. We're afraid people will produce weapons and the like. But this isn't the great big giant threat. What is the threat you ask?

I'm glad you asked. The threat is really around IP (Intellectual Property).

Do you own a drill? I don't mean a battery drill but rather a great big plug it in, it's kind of scary because it goes at amazing speeds, and if you're not careful of your usage could lead to holes EVERYWHERE, sort of a drill. It has a chuck right? It turns out there isn't a real standard for chucks because it was patented by one company and as a result every other company had to produce a different chuck OR pay a royalty (which would in effect be passed on to the consumer).

What if you could just print out the right chuck? Or those grills on the bathroom floor that say something like "Patent Pending 519626"? Who protects all of that precious IP?

Yep, that's right. 3D printers could be a threat to our nations economic health. This is cause for the GCSB to spy on you right? Yep.

The politics behind 3D printers is pure FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). If the music industry (and I would guess the movie industry) wanted to kill off the Internet, think about the number of industries afraid of the 3D printer - particularly consumer grade machines that could make a whole lot of things a hell of a lot cheaper.

In which case, politicians are out there looking to make waves. Either they're going to take the opposing view to the FUD - "3D printers are a natural progression from the Internet into physical space" or the FUD end of things which is "3D printers will allow people to kill other people man!". You read it here first (if this is your first time hearing this). Where does the consumer fit into this argument?

3D printers change the entire economic model from being based on sparsity to one based on something different... what that different is, I don't know. But it's inevitable. Things, they are a changing.

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