Here’s a TED talk by Paul Gilding, an Australian who writes about sustainability. He warns us that “the Earth is full,” and challenges us to respond: what are we going to do about it?
I find a lot of parallels with early inkjet printers in the consumer market. My first was an HP Deskjet 500: black, white and grey, built like a tank. The colour variant, the Deskjet 500C, was about $1,000 (oh, how badly I wanted colour! but it was far too expensive). I’m thinking this was about 20 years ago.
Who might have imagined that today, I can get a colour inkjet printer/copier/scanner, with vastly better print quality than the old 500C, for well under $50? Yet so it is; and I think it will go the same with 3D printers. As the technology spreads and production economies of scale kick in, printers and raw feedstocks will fall in price, becoming more accessible, even as the technology, surely, becomes more sophisticated and powerful.
If you think about it, a 3D printer is a teleportation device. Virtual objects are distributed planet-wide as mere information. If you’re not already familiar, go have a poke around Thingiverse, just to get an idea of all the virtual objects accumulating in cyberspace, waiting to be manifested in the real world. I don’t have any clear sense of how this technology will change things—that’s difficult to foresee—but I do think it will be disruptive.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that we have two groups of believers in the world:
- The first: those who accept global warming as a scientifically demonstrable phenomenon of our time (it’s happening, folks), and who (mostly, more or less) support legal/economic/institutional intervention to fix it. Carbon taxes, or better public transit, or green energy, solar and wind.
- Those who reject the science of global warming, who make opposing scientific claims, saying no, this is not happening, or it’s a hoax, but even if it were true, would strongly oppose certain policy responses. Cap-and-trade legislation, for example.
Naturally there are other postures, and other constellations of value and belief. However (particularly in America), the routine public discourse about this issue is quite polarized, and the media routinely divide public opinion into these two ideological tribes, implacably opposed, pro and contra.
Much of the political will to address climate change seems devoted to the contest for ascendancy between these two poles of belief, or if you like, these two tribes. It seems to me there’s an implicit assumption: that as public opinion shifts one way or the other, so goes the political power to put the tribe’s policies in place, and to defeat and block the policies of the other tribe. Much political energy and activism goes to the propaganda that emanates from both sides.