3D Printing and the Age of Abundance
I am currently living in Toronto and every day I pass by at least a dozen homeless young people. They have no jobs and no obligations, having all their needs provided for by the streets. They are not hungry, they are not lonely, they have their guitars and their trusty four-legged companions. As far as I can tell, they are living the philosopher’s dream, while some poor schmuck passing by may be slaving away doing work he doesn’t believe in, just so he can buy more goddamn iPhone accessories.
Isn’t it absurd that the homeless are living in an age of abundance, while we are waiting in vain? It absolutely is, and like all things absurd, it rests upon a certain fallacy, one that is shared by what seems like the majority of the Western world. I believe that we are all already living in an age of abundance, and have been for quite a while. Why haven’t we realized? Because of a $467 billion dollar industry whose only job is to convince you otherwise.
The Value Of Time
I think the core of this fallacy is a warped idea about the true value of one’s time. In reality, this value has absolutely no relation to the person’s salary. To quantify the value of a person’s time by his salary is to look at him as a money-shuffling automaton. When I say time, I mean it in the most literal sense, your time on this planet as an intelligent, conscious being, making choices and shaping your destiny. Needless to say, this time is immensely, inquantifiably valuable. Once we start factoring in the true value of time, the world starts to change.
For example, the closest supermarket to my house is an enormous Loblaws, big enough to trigger a mild existential crisis. Its prices are reasonable, but if I factor in the true value of the time that I spend finding stuff and picking between dozens of varieties, it is a very, very expensive store. In fact, I simply cannot afford to shop there.
Considering this perspective, most consumer activity is a tremendous waste of time. I realize that this may sound like a holier-than-thou attitude, "what you’re doing is a waste of time but what I’m doing is not". This is not my intention. I am advocating being conscious of the value of your time, not selling yourself short, and not believing the billboards that tell you otherwise.
Why I Am Excited About 3D Printing
Pretty soon 3D printers will become affordable to consumers. The consumer value of a 3D printer is tremendous. It is the ultimate consumer product. In fact, it may be the consumer product to end all consumer products.
The reason I am excited about 3D printers is my belief that they will unveil the true value of material possessions. The ease with which stuff can be created and its limitless variety will take all the noisy variables out of an otherwise simple equation.
- The cost of raw materials? Insignificant.
- The cost of the design? Insignificant.
- The brand? Worthless.
- Status symbol value? Obsolete.
So, what’s left? What’s left is time, your precious human time, ticking away as you dive into a bottomless pit of iPhone cases, finding that perfect design in a sea of lifeless novelty. 3D printers will allow us as a species to reclaim the enormous value we unwittingly sacrificed at the shrine of consumerism. It may be seen as paradoxical that this technology is being fueled by none other than consumerist pressures, but I don’t see it that way. I see it as an example of true human progress.
The internet has democratized information and 3D printing will democratize material possessions. Rich or poor, we all live in the same thingiverse and our clocks all move at the same speed.
If you are familiar with Star Trek technology, you surely know about the replicator, a 3D printer of sorts that routinely delivers the most exquisite food at the whim of its user. You would expect the crew to spend hours thinking up things to replicate, and yet they don’t. You know why? Because they are on a fucking spaceship exploring the unknown universe. You know what else? So are you.