A Machine That Makes Anything You Want

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The following clip is from National Geographic, so that should answer the question of whether or not this is a joke. It ain't.

 

I don't think "3D Printer" is the best name for this machine, because to me that conjures the thought that it shoots ink over three dimensional items, rather than just on two dimensions (paper). This thing does more than that. It creates an object. To your specifications. Top to bottom. Using what's referred to in the video as a composite material, to which a binder is then added. And then colours it as you please.

 

              

 

As astounding a technological leap forward as this seems, I can't help but think that this is the Atari of its kind. If this catches on, what will 3D printers be pumping out in a year's time? In five? Twenty? Clean-burning internal combustion engines? Gold? Oranges? Kittens? Kidneys? Jimi Hendrix?

 

Actually, this other company's 3D printer supposedly has already "printed" chocolate.

 

Welcome to the future.

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29 comments

  • Comment Link Matt Lewis Monday, 22 August 2011 16:48 posted by Matt Lewis

    The Economist had a cover story on 3-d printing earlier in the year. Worth a read. I'll try to cover their major points here.

    3-d printing probably will not fully displace traditional manufacturing methods, but it has some very distinct advantages.

    It can create very specific items, so whole production lines or factories do not have to be tooled up to produce a million widgets. Items that were expensive or not profitable to create because there was not a mass market for them could now be manufactured to order.

    Estimates on material used in production are 1/10 of regular manufacturing techniques. Very little waste.

    You'll be able to 'download' an item and create it. Objects as information. How cool is that!

    Probably manufacturing becomes more dispersed and less consolidated. No need to build a factory when a shop with a bunch of printers can pump out items, and then switch over to whatever item is needed next. This is an incredible change and it will no doubt restructure industry as we know it. Potentially huge gains in efficiency.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Monday, 22 August 2011 18:35 posted by TJ Dawe

    I'd be very interested in reading that Economist article, if it's online.

    I can imagine this kind of machine will be excellent for creating replacement parts for machines, especially in the Third World, where there's more of an incentive to fix what machines there are rather than buy new ones.

    Maybe that mentality will spread to the First World too. Although maybe this kind of machine will make our culture of disposability even worse, given that it'll be so easy to make new things.

  • Comment Link Danny Thorpe Monday, 22 August 2011 20:48 posted by Danny Thorpe

    3D printing has been around commercially for about 15 years. MIT filed patents on the powder process in the early 1990's.

    3D printing is also known as "additive manufacturing". Traditional milling and cutting is subtractive manufacturing.

    There are basically 2 kinds of 3D printing processes: powder or extrusion.

    Extrusion uses a nozzle on an x/y/z axis gantry to squirt a viscus fluid or paste in patterns to form a shape, layer by layer. Extrusion has trouble with shapes that have overhangs, since there is nothing to support the paste while it's hardening. Printing a pyramid right side up is easy; printing it upside down is nearly impossible for extrusion printers.

    3D powder printing lays down a thin layer of powder, then applies a binder to the powder to form patterns and build up a shape. The unbound powder supports the next layer, so it is possible to print shapes with overhangs, and indeed just about any geometry including interlocking movable pieces. After all the layers are printed, the unbound powder is brushed away to reveal the hardened shape.

    The object is typically very fragile when it is removed from the machine because the dry powder + binder makes for a rather porous, low density material. Printed parts typically must be strengthened by infiltrating the parts with resins before they can survive casual handling.

    The ZCorp printers are powder based and use an ink jet printhead to apply liquid binder to the powder. Other companies machines may use metal powder and bind it using a scanning electron beam or laser, or nylon powder bound by a scanning laser beam (SNS - Selective Nylon Sintering). There are many types of materials that can be used in 3D printing, and more are being developed all the time.

    Prices for the 3D printing machines are still quite high - a low end ZCorp model may run $15,000. DIY kits like Makerbot or RepRap can be built at home for under $1000, but the build quality of the parts they produce is still quite poor.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Tuesday, 23 August 2011 00:21 posted by TJ Dawe

    Danny - thanks for your comments - and if anyone's reading this and would like to know more, check out the article hyperlinked with Danny's name.

    Do you have any guesses as to what the future holds for this technology? Do you see it becoming affordable to the average consumer and common in every household, following the same path that computers took?

  • Comment Link Matt Lewis Tuesday, 23 August 2011 03:02 posted by Matt Lewis

    http://tinyurl.com/3c52olq

  • Comment Link Paul Rivers Tuesday, 23 August 2011 16:30 posted by Paul Rivers

    If you're blown away by this stuff, consider 3D food printing, as per the Star Trek replicators.

    Great article on that with video from earlier this year:
    http://money.cnn.com/2011/01/24/technology/3D_food_printer/index.htm

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Wednesday, 24 August 2011 20:42 posted by TJ Dawe

    This looks a lot more like a printer to me - basically taking the function of a computer printer, which allows a person with messy handwriting to choose whatever font they like and their writing comes out with perfect precision lettering, even calligraphy, done by the electronic hand of the printer. This 3D food printer squirts out any foodstuff you can fit in a syringe into any design you want, so no need to slowly hand decorate a cake, this thing'll do it to the specifications you input. What I'm really looking forward to seeing is a 3D printer that only requires the input basic ingredients and creates a cake. And I suppose it's nanotechnology I'm thinking of, but how long will it be before such a machine would be adapted to not even need food ingredients, but can make a cake out of sand, copper wires, or discarded plastic - and have it actually be nutritious and yummy?

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Wednesday, 24 August 2011 20:49 posted by TJ Dawe

    Another thing - the Cornell student in the video clip Paul provided the link to says his 3D food printer is open source. So anyone can use this technology and add to it, subtract from it, develop it for their own needs, and their innovations then become available to anyone interested. This is all stuff discussed in another post: http://www.beamsandstruts.com/articles/item/520-ubuntu-interview

    but I find it encouraging to think of the hungry minds of youth combining with the ideals of youth to develop things like this and make them available to anyone with a hungry enough mind to take it further.

  • Comment Link gg Thursday, 25 August 2011 13:41 posted by gg

    ....but can make a cake out of sand, copper wires, or discarded plastic - and have it actually be nutritious and yummy?....

    Y don't u start eating sand, plastic or other stuff from today. world would thank you.

  • Comment Link Phil Thursday, 25 August 2011 15:00 posted by Phil

    I'm just getting back into sculpture. I enjoy the idea of making little figures that can be identified as, say, friends of mine. I enjoy the challenge and I have started.

    It would be a heck of a lot easier to just scan and print them!

    I imagine 3D scanning and printing has pretty much the same implications on sculpture as the camera and 2D printing had on painting.

    But what were those implications? I don't have much knowledge on this. Can anyone enlighten me?

    People are obviously still painting portraits for many good reasons other than producing an exact 2D likeness. And they already were before the invention of the camera.

    But I would guess that many potential portrait painting artists today are using the camera and 2D printing as their brushes and paints? That opens up new challenges and I don't think its less of an Art. But it's a very different practice.

    What did that advancement do to painting? And what will this 3D stuff do to sculpture?

    I mean this means that we can easily print/sculpt any form that already exists right?

    I'm off back to my primitive files and other caveman tools;-)

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Thursday, 25 August 2011 16:31 posted by TJ Dawe

    I don't know my art history well enough to say this with any sort of authority, but my impression is that the advent of photography spurred painters on to masterworks of non-realism. They did with the brush what the camera couldn't.

    I've seen a similar relationship between theatre and the movies (and TV). Movies and TV present "realism" very well. Theatre used to specialize in this: fourth wall drama, the actors portraying characters who seemingly weren't aware of the audience's existence. Plays like this still exist, of course. But many of the most successful theatre shows of the last couple of decades have openly acknowledged the audience from the start, and not attempted in the slightest to present them with realism. Stomp. The Blue Man Group. Riverdance. De La Guarda. Fuerzabruta. The Vagina Monologues. Spalding Gray's work. Mike Daisey's work. The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. The Lion King, in which the actors are fully visible, inhabiting large puppet/costumes.

    so how will this impact sculpture? Hard to say. The impact probably won't be felt until 3D printers are widely owned and used. And there'll certainly be an overlap period. And then a growing number of sculptors will begin to explore what the human hand can create with materials that the perfectly steady hand of a machine can't. Which aspects of the human soul can the sculptor's hands bring forth with physical materials?

  • Comment Link Paul P Friday, 26 August 2011 04:02 posted by Paul P

    Yes it is a cool technology!

    I don't think your going to see meat, fruit, vegetables or anything like that printed or otherwise "replicated" anytime soon.

    It's one thing to make a wrench out of powder and super glue, or to squirt sugar and water through a computer controlled syringe, its another to create organic material that is the result of a growth process. The molecular structure, indeed the nutritional value, is not really "printable". I would hazzard a guess that it will remain much more cost effective to grow your carrots for quite some time.

    As to a replicating a cake, that's not likely either because it is also the result of a process: baking the batter.

    Of course, automatic breadmakers have been around for a long time where you just pour in the water, flour, salt, sugar and yeast, press a button and come back in 4 hours and voila you have a nice fresh loaf of bread.

    Prior to that were those nasty coffee machines that you press a button and out pops a cup that is subsequently filled with a vile brew.

    So it is nice to see some progress is being made!

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Friday, 26 August 2011 19:07 posted by TJ Dawe

    Paul, that makes plenty of sense. And I'm curious to see if this technology will catch on and keep improving at the rate of say, home computers. Virtual reality seemed like it was poised to be the next big thing back in the early 90s, and that doesn't seem to have gone anywhere. But if there was big money to made developing it, we'd probably have cheap, portable, effective VR units today at the same rate that we have laptops and iPhones. The novel I'm reading right now is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet, by David Mitchell, which takes place in Nagasaki in 1799. One of the main characters is a midwife, another is a doctor. And medical practices of the day feature in the narrative, along with the political and personal views of the main characters (Japanese and Dutch - the Dutch were the first Europeans to have a commercial relationship with Japan, or so it seems from this novel). And you see antiquated medicine - bleedings, smoke enemas - as well as early intimations of the world to come. Which makes the reader consider the fact that two hundred years is both a very long time, and hardly any time at all. Will we have machines that "print" organic carrots in two hundred years? Imagine trying to explain the internet to someone two hundred years ago. What will be commonplace two hundred years from now that's equally incomprehensible to us now? Printed carrots might seem quaint to folks in two hundred year's time, the equivalent of someone today marvelling at the miracle of the syringe...

  • Comment Link Paul P Saturday, 27 August 2011 00:23 posted by Paul P

    Yes, the "wonder of it all argument".
    Maybe in 200 hundred years we'll discover leprechauns are real. Who knows?

  • Comment Link Matt Lewis Saturday, 27 August 2011 03:18 posted by Matt Lewis

    Forget 200 years, what about 20 years? It took only 20 years for horses to be replaced by automobiles.

  • Comment Link Paul P Saturday, 27 August 2011 06:43 posted by Paul P

    Depends when you start counting. According to the trusty Wikipedia, horses have been ridden since about 4500 BC, so it took about 6400 years (give or take) for them to be replaced by cars by my reckoning.

    I think it's interesting to ask the question:

    Do you think that because it would be difficult to explain modern technology to someone from 200 years ago, that *anything* is possible technologically 200 years from now?

    To me, the answer is no, not anything. Perhaps we cannot imagine what is possible but that does not mean anything is possible. To me, that is magical, pre-rational thinking.

  • Comment Link Phil Sunday, 28 August 2011 17:08 posted by Phil

    Thanks TJ, I think that because of the overall development of Art since painters "began to explore with the brush what the camera couldn't", sculpture has, to some extent, already followed suit with the “non-realism” in other areas. Sculptors being artists. But I'm sure there is much more to explore in „what the human hand can create with materials that the perfectly steady hand of a machine can't. Which aspects of the human soul can the sculptor's hands bring forth with physical materials?“ Great inquiry question for me:-)

    Those who tend toward being technicians will probably lose more sleep over the advent of 3D printing than those with any number of other artistic motives. But without getting into that big, potentially touchy subject in a generalising way, I'll just say that part of my motivation to sculpt lies in the absorption experience and meditative moulding of my own self, that the difficult and physical challenge of capturing beauty in a 3D likeness brings with it. Another part is to put some form of beauty into the world and in some small way touch others with that (at its best).

    The first part can't be replaced by scanning (and perhaps spending hours at a screen clicking at cubic pixels). But the second part might be just as potent, or more so, using a printer. Or is it the viewers knowledge of the ordeal of the first part that inspires the marvel of the second part?

    Lots to think about for me!

    I hadn't thought of the parallel to theatre either. It seems technological innovations challenge art to explore and evolve, even more than they can make crafts redundant. Is there a parallel in music too?

  • Comment Link Phil Sunday, 28 August 2011 19:03 posted by Phil

    Apart from feeling threatened in my craft by a machine, I'd like to add another reflection.

    What has struck me about this piece is how quickly 3D printing has already become part of human affairs for me. From gaping in amazement at a guy pulling a printed wrench out of a tray of powder (great moment of film) on Thursday, to knowing it exists and explaining it to my friends on Saturday, to contemplating how I might utilise it on Sunday!

    Has technological innovation and refinement become something so frequent and quickly integrated into our daily lives that we have come to take it almost as a constant, for granted or even expect it?

    For me the answer is yes... ...on a bad day.

    As a child I thought a walky-talky was about the coolest thing anyone could have. Now my mobile phone - which can do more than any walky-talky I ever dreamed of – mostly just gets on my nerves. Some days it almost seems to be part of my body and maybe tomorrow, or the day after, it will be. It all went so quickly I hardly noticed how cool it really could have been. Or how to use it wisely (but that's a different story.)

    So, regardless of how far 3D printing evolves I'm gonna try not to take it for granted and remember to appreciate how amazing it is.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Tuesday, 30 August 2011 16:11 posted by TJ Dawe

    I agree with Matt - the transition period from the introduction of the automobile to its dominance over horses as a form of transportation happened in a very short period of time. And ensuing technological shifts can happen just as quickly.

    And I agree that it's magical thinking to say that anything will be possible with technology 200 years from now. Although I do enjoy speculating on what the changes will be that are simply beyond our imagination now. The laws of physics will always be the laws of physics. But there will certain be changes that would boggle the mind of anyone alive now, and that will utterly normalized by people in the future. providing we don't collapse as a civilization, of course. I recently listened to a podcast (thanks to C4Chaos for the link) about the possibility that within a few decades, people will have superpowers like they do in comic books. This said by a distinguished scientist. http://j.mp/nfgKFp

    Another consideration is the change in moral perspectives - which can come about through technological change. Wilber pointed out that the abolition of slavery only came in industrialized nations. Slavery seems nefarious to us now, and we marvel that intelligent, educated and seemingly moral people could have not only stood by and allowed it, but considered it normal. Maybe some upcoming technological development will render our current use of non-renewable resources similarly baffling to those in the future. Or maybe, as I describe in a more recent piece, the development of lab grown meat will make our current raising and slaughtering of animals seem barbaric.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Tuesday, 30 August 2011 16:25 posted by TJ Dawe

    Phil - the question of how 3D printing will affect sculpting reminds me of a passage from a New Avegers #33, written by the great comic scribe Brian Michael Bendis, in which Captain America, in a flashback, yells at various Avengers drill sargeant style:

    "Your powers mean nothing! In a fight for your life - on the battlefield - powers are only as useful as the soldier who wields them. They are a tool in a fight. They are a tool to defend yourself with."

    Similarly, any technological advance is only useful to an artist inasmuch as that artist is able to use to express herself. A great musician can break your heart with a few basic chords on a rickety old piano. In the last ten years, filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese have been making films full of technological virtuosity that have no emotional impact at all.

    The parallel to these developments in music - one that leaps to mind is the synthesizer. In the 80s all kinds of bands leapt on that train, and created music that's largely forgettable now, even though it made waves back then for having the latest sound. But now I'm seeing certain artists use that specifically 80s keyboard sound integrated into a larger sound. It's part of the palette available to the artist - Metric's song Twilight Galaxy is a good example of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1rZ5FR5QAI

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Tuesday, 30 August 2011 16:31 posted by TJ Dawe

    And technology is advancing on an exponential curve. Your Thursday through Sunday example is a good microcosm of our whole society's relationship with technology. I remember listening an audiobook by Charles Flowers on the history of science in the 20th century where he describes the first forays in heart surgery. Up till a certain point, the heart was never touched by a surgeon. You stop the heart, the patient's dead, no exceptions. Now heart surgery is performed at every hospital. We incorporate the new developments, and see what else we can do.

    By the way, that Metric song also sounds great acoustic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7U8wz78fIM

  • Comment Link Dave E Tuesday, 30 August 2011 18:07 posted by Dave E

    In regards to sculpting and art, another perspective is that new technologies like 3D printing can provide a whole new kind of canvas for artists and engineers.

    Check out this guy using a 3D printer to create sculptures and even buildings out of stone:
    http://www.fastcompany.com/1579263/3-d-printing-whole-buildings-in-stonein-space-this-printer-rocks

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Tuesday, 30 August 2011 20:17 posted by Philip Corkill

    He wants to make sculptures on the moon... ...Jesus! That's going "...higher than high..."

    Great music TJ. I think Metric use the technology well as an instrument.

    Yes, the "(your) powers are a tool" sentiment seems very relevant here. Incidentally, I was thinking along those lines after reading your Fugue Fugue.

    When it comes to technology a fundamental question is who is using who? Or what is using what? I think the most gripping technology at our disposal is the human mind itself. From it stem all the other tools we've designed.

    No matter how complex (or stupid) our minds and the corresponding human-made media and technologies become, it seems very relevant to ask: Are we using them or are they using us?

    I often come to the view that our inventions (and our minds), our brain children, use us up. Like the “debt trap”. That we can't keep up (at least I can't) with serving things that should be serving us.

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Thursday, 01 September 2011 21:46 posted by Philip Corkill

    TJ and all,

    If technology is advancing on an exponential curve then we don't have to wait 200 years for the mind boggle effect (provided we keep our minds boggleable, so to speak.)

    Depending on where we are on that curve "mind boggle" that once took 200 years may only take 100, 10, or 1 year now, right?

    Also, even though the laws of physics may remain the same, our understanding of them could be radically different in the future. It has changed a great deal so far.

    Since the rate of advancement in knowledge is also on an exponential curve (?don't quote me), that understanding of the laws of physics may also look very different, very soon, right?

    So where does that go? Superpowers? We already have a lot of superpowers. We have all those inner siddhis that wake up inside, in growing awareness and even if all that were bullshit, I consider most of our outer technology as superpowers too.

    We can do a hell of a lot more than we ever could before. Besides blowing things up, we can also spend our time engaging about the beams and struts of the future on this website with people we've never met on continents we may never go to!

    Exponential mind boggle takes me from "a machine that can make anything you want" to a fun exercise in imagination about tomorrow (magical thinking can still be fun when you transcend and include;-)):

    What if we reach a point were we can do absolutely anything and everything we want.

    What would we do? What would we want?

    This reminds me of a moment some time ago when I was playing around with the future in my mind and getting a bit worried at the scope of possibility. Well, I thought, at least we can can still rely on one thing: death - all peoples of all times could always be sure of that. Then I saw this TED talk:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/aubrey_de_grey_says_we_can_avoid_aging.html

    I had better start learning to live with uncertainty!

  • Comment Link Paul P Friday, 02 September 2011 20:02 posted by Paul P

    If you check the internet for lists of failed technology predictions you will find that most lists are composed of things famous people said that could not be done and they turned out to be wrong. A couple of favourites:

    “I think there may be a world market for maybe 5 computers.” - the president of IBM in 1955

    “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.” — Lord Kelvin, British mathematician and physicist, president of the British Royal Society, 1895.

    So clearly it is dangerous to say something cannot be done or is not needed! Of course, the fact that there are more of these types of predictions recorded on the internet is not really reflective of all the things people said could not be done which haven’t been done – because, well, who cares!

    On the other hand there have been predictions like:

    “Nuclear-powered vacuum cleaners will probably be a reality in 10 years.” – Alex Lewyt, president of vacuum cleaner company Lewyt Corp., in the New York Times in 1955.

    “Your mail will be delivered within hours from New York to Australia by guided missiles.” – US Postmaster General, 1959

    Or more recently, just think of the whole dot com internet bubble of predictions of what was going to be technologically possible.

    And so the future is not predictable. A great book that discusses how we fool ourselves into thinking we can predict the future is “The Black Swan”, by N. Taleb

    He uses a great example (one of many) of a turkey happily living on a farm. Every day food and shelter is provided for the happyp turkey and there are no sign of predators. Then one day, Thanksgiving Day, something different happens and the turkey has its head chopped off. The point is that the past is not always in anyway useful to predict the future for certain types of events – which he calls Black Swan events.

    This is where most of us get stuck (myself included) inside our paradigm of what is going on. Things can happen outside the paradigm. And this makes these events unpredictable. Taleb basically argues that there will always be these Black Swan types of events for any paradigm.

    The great thing about science is that it allows one to make accurate predictions within its current paradigm. Proper science is also open to data that does not fit and hence new scientific models are produced, and paradigm shifts happen. Imagination of what is possible outside the paradigm is absolutely necessary to advance science.

    And yet believing that anything will be possible in 200 years is folly. Despite the great technological advances that have been made over the last 200 years, *anything* is not possible now. And it won’t be 200 years from now.

    The other point I’d like to mention is that exponential process are not sustainable, nor are they healthy. Any real process is limited in some way by resources. Cancer is a good example of such an unhealthy exponential process that destroys its environment. Let’s hope that our technological development is not a cancer on the Earth. In any event, such development will not continue “exponentially” forever… perhaps not even 200 years.

  • Comment Link TJ Dawe Saturday, 03 September 2011 03:47 posted by TJ Dawe

    there's actually an article on this site about Black Swan, by Br Juma: http://www.beamsandstruts.com/bits-a-pieces/item/344-the-sun-series-article-#-4-looking-in-the-rearview-mirror-no-way-to-prepare-for-future-risks

    and plenty of my pieces end with speculation about the future.

    I agree - exponential growth can't continue past a certain point. and that makes me extremely curious to see what'll happen. will we self destruct? will we develop our technology to the point that we poison our environment, or cease to be able to function as humans? I hope not. but we are living in a time of more rapid change than ever before. And it's our knowledge that's growing at these accelerated rates, not our wisdom.

    I hope we make it.

    And I'm sure no matter what the experts predict, there will always be surprises in the way things turn out.

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Saturday, 03 September 2011 21:10 posted by Philip Corkill

    Yes, I agree with both of you.

    I engage that "what if?" exercise not because I think everything will be possible in 1 or 200 years but because thinking things through to an extreme gives an overstated idea of where a tendency might lead. This helps highlight the implications and what it could mean to us.

    As you've both mentioned these exponential curves could lead to more devastating self-destruction. As our inventions and our use of them become increasingly cancerous to the whole earth, we hope that we won't go, or haven't already gone, to far down this path.

    Taken to the extreme of being able to do everything or anything we want, the influence of what we actually want is highlighted as very potent. As well as who we consider ourselves to be the how we use our powers.

    How do we advance our wisdom to match our knowledge and powers? How do we infuse our wanting with wisdom? How can our powers be a resource for the whole and not the other way round? I have no answer that seems anywhere near good or fast enough...

  • Comment Link Paul P Monday, 05 September 2011 01:44 posted by Paul P

    I’ve been trying to locate the hook for me on this article and thread and thanks to Phil’s last comment perhaps I’m coming closer to what is engaging me: perhaps it’s the false god of technological omnipotence.

    I don’t think the technological innovations of the last century or so indicate that we are on the road to superpowers and omnipotence at all. Far from it. So I guess I see the “what if we could do anything” scenario as kind of a red herring to healthy growth. Although I agree that the desire to want to be able to do anything, our desire for omnipotence, is telling. The title of the article “A machine that makes anything you want” is evocative of this. And though not accurate of what 3D printing is at all, it is perhaps why this title is effective at garnering readership. (Nice work TJ!)

    I think the greatest challenge of rapid technology advancement has to do with this idea of having our wisdom catch up to our knowledge, as you both have been suggesting. Here the answer seems obvious, doesn’t it? SLOW DOWN!

    Knowledge comes from collecting facts; Wisdom comes through experience (so it seems to me anyway). We have become quick at collecting up facts, but perhaps we are not engaged so deeply in practicing presence. We have expressions like, “I just need to think it through” as though that will help us make a “correct” choice. But in reality, I doubt “thinking it through” adds to our wisdom. We need our experience in relation to the facts to develop wisdom.

    I also do not think wildly speculating about the future helps either. In some ways I see wild speculations such as imagining what we could do with 3D printing, like printing fruit and vegetables, as fueling the problem. Implicit in that is the assumption that we need more technology to “solve our problems”. Perhaps we don’t.

    Sure it’s fun, it feels good and it’s exciting to imagine what might be possible. But on some level, maybe this is just precisely the type of excitement that takes us away from the depth of presence and stillness that may be required to actually produce the type of wisdom that could address issues like feeding the hungry.

    Of course, it’s not so fun to be the dampener, the conservative, the one who says hold on a minute, can we just slow down here a second. That takes away from the heady, caffeinated buzz and excitement associated with the bandwagon of “progress”.

    And yet the only way I know of to get an exponential process to stop before it exhausts the available resources is to dampen it. This requires an environment that is not conducive to further growth. So maybe we could focus on deepening our relationship with what we already have, rather than trying to create the next thing?

    Just a thought.

  • Comment Link Philip Corkill Monday, 05 September 2011 18:44 posted by Philip Corkill

    Well said Paul,

    That's more than just a thought and I'm grateful for your insight and your suggestions. The god of technological omnipotence may be feeling angry and defensive now but as far as I'm concerned we can leave him here to sulk. He'll get over it if he realises that he needs us and we need to put a lot of our focus and attention elsewhere to sustain (or often recover) health and resources.

    Deepening our relationship with what we already have, stillness and presence are aspects of that I live and practice with all my heart. At the same time I use and find myself surrounded by a lot of advancing technologies that I already consider very powerful.

    Got to go but I just want to say that I find the point about creating and environment by the way we engage in fantasy and speculation and discussion an important one and one where I can actually do something and I'll take your persistent comments as a zen hit.

    Thanks,

    Phil

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