Advancements in technology are an undoubtedly great thing. To us, the most appealing aspect is the accessibility. The thing that makes technology advancements so powerful is that it takes the unusual and fascinating and makes it available to everyday “normal people” like you or me.
In the days of the printing press, mass communication became much easier than ever before. But you still had to have a printing press, or at least access to one. Today all you need is access to a computer. And if cash is tight, you can buy a Chromebook for $200 or use a buddy’s. Manufacturing a product required a heavy amount of capital in the funding of said product and getting it to to an assembly line. Now, with access to a 3D printer, prototypes and products can be printed on demand.
This leveling of tech is a great time to live in. As an example, 3D printing has actually been around for several decades, but because of patents in place by the companies that innovated the tech, it was unavailable for use by anyone else. Technology that should theoretically be affordable (in the $500 range, the price of a cheap computer) was being built for five figure price tags and being sold to a very niche market. This was the reason that Elon Musk of Tesla Motors patented their innovative electric car technology but gave full reign to others in using the same discoveries. He was concerned that less ethical companies would swoop in and patent things for the purpose of sitting on them, thus inhibiting the entire industry. (This happens in just about every industry all the time. Hollywood studios will often buy risky scripts with no intention of making them because they’re scared someone else will do it if they don’t).
Tech done right gives everyone, regardless of their place in a societal caste, the ability to make themselves heard as well as the power to create. Tech this powerful is hated by influential people who aren’t willing to adapt. Oppressive governments hate the Internet because it lets a downtrodden population see the world through an unfiltered lens. Big oil companies and established car companies hate electric car makers like Tesla because it threatens their comfort zones.
The internet has shown us the advantage of open source software. By putting code into the public domain, a fantastic and fully-polished product emerges, always evolving at the hands of the world. Blender is a powerful 3D modeling software that is considered among the best in the world. Mozilla is a non-profit organization that backs open source projects such as Firefox, one of the most widely used web browsers in the world. WordPress, which we are obviously big fans of, is open source as well. Physical tech is headed this direction as well. 3D printing is going to not only open up a whole new world by allowing manufacturing to become more personal but it will also force large companies to change as they face new challenges in battling piracy. “You wouldn’t download a car” isn’t all that hyperbolic anymore.
This is a good thing. Competition is good for business. But when your competition is just a couple of other multimillion dollar corporations who are also playing it safe, then entire industries stagnate. A guy selling cars running off solar-powered batteries is a problem for all the other car manufacturers of the world because staying in business will require them to, you know, work hard and take a risk. Musk putting Tesla’s patents up for grabs while still keeping them safe in a legal sense is a first step towards a world where knowledge is something to be shared and used to make life better for everyone.