Hacked Matter

Contrary to appearances, I haven’t spent (much) of the weekend on retaliation against Kuznicki. Instead, I was peripherally involved in the Hacked Matter II conference, held in Shanghai’s Knowledge Innovation Community, where the state-of the-art discussion of 3D printing (additive manufacturing), DIY Bio, open-source hardware, and related topics takes place.

Like the personal computing and subsequent Internet revolution, these new copying technologies have massive decentralizing implications, and have already picked up impressive momentum. Key-note speaker Massimo Banzi (of Arduino) has already managed to get packaged chip boards into vending machines. By historical analogy, this range of physical stuff-hacking technologies seem to be somewhere in the late ’70s or early ’80s garage tinkering and pong stage, which suggests that a decade or two could be needed for their creative destruction potential to manifest.

To a far greater extent than was seen in its digital predecessor, the level of technological accomplishment is utterly outstripping high-level conceptual analysis. There’s room for an interesting (and dark) historical theory about this, but that’s probably best left for another occasion. Suffice to say, for now, that this wave of industrial change is probably more inherently ‘out of control’ than any we have seen before, due in part to its deep invisibility (which its tangibility reinforces, rather than contradicts).

The open-source aspect, which is hegemonic in the field, means that there’s a lot of eighth-baked hippy-utopian social theory kicking around, but since this is pitched at an exclusively micro-economic level it isn’t truly toxic. It was the same in Californian 1980s IT, and the bad consequences then were strictly limited, for decades (although the present Silicon Valley culture has clearly inherited some dysfunctional memes, which become malignant once the connection with government gets made). The IP topic isn’t being thought-through very rigorously, perhaps because the “propertarians” have such opportunities to resolve them silently, by default. It’s a law of modernity that incentive problems never get resolved in theory, but only tweaked through selection, in practice.

The “Future Now” panel I participated in was the most  speculative. It included Zach Hoeken Smith (of Makerbot, HAXL8R), whose energy-level was positively terrifying, and Anil Menon (SF writer), whose work I will be definitely following up on. Paul Dourish (UCI) added  the voice of social responsibility, but he had some nice things to say about bacteria. Between the realized hardware on display and the kind of things we were talking about there was an abyss of yet-unformulated technical theory, which I would expect to see crystallizing over the next five years or so. This is where the distributed technologies for self-replicating machines are being put together, and there’s plenty to talk about.

ADDED: More on 3D-manufacturing at UF2.1.

October 20, 2013admin 10 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Commerce , Cosmos

10 Responses to this entry

  • Bryce Laliberte Says:

    >It’s a law of modernity that incentive problems never get resolved in theory, but only tweaked through selection, in practice.

    Is this really a law of modernity, per se? I may be misunderstanding your meaning, but in theory isn’t selection the means by which nearly all incentive problems are resolved just due to the nature of what is being resolved? All problems of price (e.g. a determiner and function of incentive) can only come about through the market process, which is selective. What would you make of the Coase theorem?


    admin Reply:

    The point is simply that micro solutions systematically lack macro articulations (that, in important respects, simply IS capitalism). I’ll try to provide a more adequately elaborated and lucid version, that you can get your teeth into, in the next few days.


    Posted on October 20th, 2013 at 3:51 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    Who do we buy and on what exchange? I for instance own a few AGOL…I think Singapore might keep money safe.



    Since it’s your week to be outraged, I must profane your page with Friedman. He says the Tea Party is like Hezbollah.

    Oh Dear TPs if you read this…yes…yes…yes…take his advice. Remember the Inner Jihad is the important first step.



    Posted on October 20th, 2013 at 5:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • James A. Donald Says:

    The output of a reasonably priced 3D printer using reasonably priced construction material resembles the material output by a glue gun. Unusably frail, and does not retain the intended shape.

    Need a two step or three step process, where it outputs something rigid but brittle, which is then processed to make it somewhat less brittle, and then used as a mold for molten metal.

    Alternatively, outputs hard setting plastic that get cured by UV as it is laid down.

    Or outputs molten sugar in an artificially dry environment, which brittle and water sensitive materiel then gets used as a mold to make the actual part.

    (Sugar is cheap, and sets hard)

    Or outputs aluminium trimethoxide in an oven full of hot steam, to produce an very rigid object.


    Posted on October 20th, 2013 at 9:57 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mark Warburton Says:

    I prefer hearing about these interesting intellectual developments happening over Shaghai-way than skimming through mountains of comments regarding some ignorant cato-type crying racist that’s for sure! In short, Hacked > Zacked. Regardless of your fears that he’d drop you (or at least contribute) on the ‘Derb dusk heap’, I think even his ‘research’ will be overlooked by – well – everyone. I say this even with Spandrell’s ‘logic of fraility’ in mind.


    spandrell Reply:

    It’s fragility of logic actually.


    Mark Warburton Reply:

    Soz. I was tired. ‘Dusk heap’. Haha.


    Posted on October 20th, 2013 at 10:31 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    Guardian [and ZH] notice the Japanese aren’t having sex.

    Of course not, they don’t want babies. What is the point? However this completely eclipses the Guardian.



    Posted on October 21st, 2013 at 10:23 am Reply | Quote
  • Nick B. Steves Says:

    @VXXC The Japanese have apparently invented a really REALLY good (super expensive & apparently worth it, don’t ask how I know) vibrator and well… all the boys still have hands, plus the best stimulating imagery no money need buy, I guess. The Japs sure have come a long way. Who needs Soma?


    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    I suppose Margaret Atwood must think some fundy Christians have taken over Japan… and, in a very strange way, she’d actually be right.


    Posted on October 22nd, 2013 at 4:21 pm Reply | Quote

Leave a comment