3-D Printing: A Taste of Things to Come

We talk with author and media theorist Douglas Rushkoff, who has published 10 books on media, culture, and technology. He joins us to discuss his most recent work, "Present Shock", about living in today's immediate, always-on world.

What lies ahead for 3-D printing? In this video segment Rushkoff lays out two possible paths as we begin to adopt and adapt to these precursors of decentralized manufacturing. Our guest advises creating new, hybrid investment models that focus on real-time, local strategies -- an approach that is well within reach for the individual investor.

A full transcript follows the video.

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Brendan Byrnes: I wanted to ask you about 3-D printing, because when I was reading through your book it struck me that, in a lot of ways, 3-D printing is kind of the tangible way of living in the present.

How do you view 3-D printing, going forward? Do you think this is going to take off? A lot of people are saying this could be bigger than the Internet. What do you think about 3-D printing?

Douglas Rushkoff: 3-D printing is a taste of things to come. It may be a baby, baby taste. It may be to local decentralized manufacturing what the typewriter is to the Internet because right now we're talking mostly about plastic and metal, and where do you get the plastic, and how does it work? But it helps people envision decentralized manufacturing and production.

It will end up going one of two ways. Either people are going to get a free 3D printer from Jeff Bezos -- he's going to stick it in your garage and you're going to be able to use it as long as you're buying your plans and printouts from Amazon -- or it's going to be some kind of MakerBot, open source thing that will really flip stuff open.

The real question, though, is what ends up going in the printer? It's the cartridges. What are we using? If it's some high-cost, bizarre polymer that requires Africans to dig it out of a slave cave and then ship it over here, then you don't really change anything.

Byrnes: Yeah. It's definitely going to be interesting to watch. You see Stratasys and 3D Systems stock just going straight up.

Rushkoff: It is. It's interesting, but there are people that are buying 3D because it's the only stock they can buy.

Byrnes: Exactly.

Rushkoff: Nothing against NASDAQ, of course, but once something's on the public exchange it's kind of over. It's kind of already happened. They're already done their exit. They've already left.

If you really want to invest, and this is what's interesting -- I talk about this in the book too -- is how to begin to think about local investing, about real-time local investing. How to see what's going on in your community, how to set up... you don't need alternative currencies to do that.

The people I want to talk to, if they're listening, I want to talk to banks about looking at how do you do two-tiered loans, where you lend half the money to a business, and you help the business raise the other half of the money from their community in real time? How do you mitigate your risk, mitigate that sense that the community has, that you're just extracting value from their town, and at the same time make money, being in the money business?

I think it's these hybrid strategies that are going to be successful in the future.

Byrnes: Do you think individual investors can do that?

Rushkoff: I do. I really do think individual investors can do that. It's no different form of educating yourself about a local business or the likelihood of your friend to do well with his restaurant, as it is to see what some mining company is doing 5000 miles away.


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