May 02, 2018
We are on the verge of transforming one of society’s most fundamental building blocks: manufacturing.
As new technologies enable manufacturers to customize everything, these same agents are quickly turning consumers into inventors.
Following the agricultural revolution some 5,000 years ago, humanity made a huge breakthrough that allowed complex societies to flourish: we specialized.
It made no sense for each of us to make all our everyday products and bear the cost of necessary building equipment. So soon enough, we had our neighborhood shoemaker, carpenter, silversmith, and tailor.
Fast forward several thousand years and large corporations have created vast new product lines and amplified output. We can now fabricate the same product over and over again millions of times using assembly lines, labor-driven megafactories, human-operated machinery, and more.
But today, technological convergence is closing the historical loop. While we used to specialize based on manufacturing ability and availability of tools, these constraints are about to disappear.
As 3D printing farms, smart factories, and autonomous co-bots turn concepts into commodities overnight, we are about to witness three major paradigm shifts:
1. Mass Customization: As fixed costs begin to reach variable costs in the production sphere, companies will no longer fabricate millions of the same product or part. Design driven by customer data will allow for tailor-made commodities, and one-off production will be just as cheap.
2. Democratized Invention: Incubator studios and fabrication equipment labs are jumping onto the scene. Flaunting AI-aided robots and swarm 3D printers that work overnight, these urban workshops basically serve as your new testing ground—the physical hands for your digital designs.
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