Saturday, June 18, 2005

Thinking about Fab

So what's the "plastic" (see 'The Graduate') of the 2010s? Is it nanotech? Proteonomics? AI?

Or is it Fab? I've been thinking again of a post from a few weeks back: Gordon's Notes: Self-replicating device -- another step on the road. The more I think about it, the more it seems that this will be the next enormous disruption. Fab.

I don't know the detailed history. I remember reading about applying ink jet printer technology to create 3 dimensional objects, and to create small circuits -- maybe 5-10 years ago. Around the same time came the 21st century equivalent of the lathe; rapid prototyping machines that could create resin/plastic shapes on demand.

The field has moved on. Fab is now one of these areas, like the personal computer, when one can imagine the capability/cost ratio growing exponentially.

In the world to come one can imagine a home fab unit, loaded with basic modules (resin, copper, gold, platinum) and fed with directions downloaded off the net. Want a variant on a phone? Download the hacked version and use your own software to tweak it. Push "start" and, tomorrow morning, your new phone awaits. The phone has no bolts, nuts or modular components, it's a seamless whole. Slice through it and you will find plastic and circuit intermingled. Somewhere inside is the power supply. When it stops taking a charge, throw the thing out.

Want a bit more cleverness in the phone? Add in the neural network module created from cultured human neuronal tissue (ok, so I'm getting ahead of myself ....)

Need more raw materials? Toss an old PC into the "digester" ... ok, so that takes Nano, so it's still science fiction. Until the nanopalypse the raw materials still must be bought and "mined".

Fab is weird and disruptive. It also seems inevitable -- unlike, say, nuclear fusion or Nano.

Does anyone really think they can predict social security finances in 2040? What a joke.

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