Several years ago I read a book by Nicholas Negroponte entitled "Being Digital". It was a really great introduction to the digital revolution and provided with a glimpse to some of the changes that are still ongoing in our society. I find fascinating the ability that some technologies have to change so much our ways of living, opening up with a simple stroke so many new possibilities. The digital revolution was one of these events. An apparently simple concept of having information coded in a digital format that can be transported anywhere at near instantaneous speeds. Now we have the internet that as provided with so many wonderful advantages. I can learn anything I want, provided I have time. I can collaborate with people I have never even met before to build new things. It is difficult even for me to imagine living in an unwired world (but that might be a bit geeky thing to say :).
I read today this profile on Neil Gershenfeld and his work on home manufacturing at MIT and I though that this would also be a very empowering technology. He is pushing the concept of personal fabrication, enabling anyone to easily create any physical thing. He wants to bring the same speed to making atoms that we have today for bits. You could grab a funny chair design that you made in your computer, send it to your friends by email and they would open it .. very literally by "printing" it and sitting on it to try it out.
I guess there are lots of details to think about, but generally the idea sounds fun.
I was thinking that some companies should have a go at this already. I am not really into design but I guess that several companies today focus on constantly renewing their stock with new designs and trend setting ideas. Why not have an Ikea section of "do your own" furniture. Something like social web manufacturing of clothes, accessories, furniture, etc.
Also, why not have collection of the most used objects in Second Life, built every quarter or half a year. Second Life authors would have to agree and probably negotiate a cut of the profit.
Here is someone building a guitar :)
Where is the print button to get one of those right now?
I am really behind on this meme. I few more clicks and I found this blog post in MIT Advertising lab. From there I found this company that specializes in bringing virtual objects to life.
A blog post by Ian Hughes on home fabrication.
A wiki page fab@home with instructions to make "fabbers", machines that can make almost anything, right on your desktop.