I have been deeply involved in fab labs and maker spaces for about three years now. It has become clear that to really achieve the most interesting of the dreams we have come up with - flexibly manufacturing a wide range of truly useful things, a high degree of collaboration, and the serious engineering type innovation - things need to change.
Increased thought, exploration, networking and collaborative action is of course central, and I found this place just now as part of a large effort to find others like myself that are really serious about doing things that add up over time, and have a solid impact. I have spent four months at Open Source Ecology, which is a project focussed on, in part, a fab lab like flexible fabrication facility that a roughly 200 person eco village will use to manufacture most of what they need.
To rearrange atoms, basically. To make real what right now we can only draw in cad. Also chemical engineering, though. Ambitious, yes. But I offer this: if we look into our crystal ball, this sort of thing should definitely appear at some point in history. The capacity to make at least mechanical objects, housing etc should really be much more advanced than it is. Great advances have been made in technological approaches elsewhere, where we remain profoundly incapable down here at the grass roots. Making something as simple as a shovel is hardly even aided by a fab lab as we know them.
In a way it’s a lot of change, but in a way it’s right around the corner, imo. Compared with the amount of sheer work that goes into starting all these fab labs, for instance. But we, and most of the world, tend strongly to do things that imo are incredibly marginal.
Part of the problem is that there is a lack of foundation to stand upon in this society, which is much more of a war zone than people seem to want to admit. Battling the ruling class just to get access to indoor space is a big deal right there, for instance, and that is a tiny part of the puzzle.
But the manufacturing capability of a fab lab is ultimately very limited. I think this is a major part of the problem. Milling is a rare sight. Many valuable materials are not even allowed to be cut on the laser cutter when they actually cut fine. If the gases produced are a problem, the ventilation system should be designed to deal with them. The printers are usually ultimately very crude although they see have important uses.
Sorry, I am more thinking aloud here, I guess I feel like mostly it’s important that someone say things, instead of us all just plodding on like this. In my experience even the people who staff these places describe them as garbage factories.
Retreating to their at least educational value is… What exactly are the kids learning? Making garbage? Or at least the more fundamental science and engineering that they will later apply, of they are lucky, in a conventional context as engineers. And if they don’t go into engineering, it will be nothing but knowledge they can never actually act upon to actually do anything. Someone with engineer training can end up homeless on the streets just like anyone else, unable to afford medical care, housing, anything, unable to get back on their feet.
What are we going to do…