Society unprepared for 3D printing boom

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Society unprepared for 3D printing boom

Singularity University ambassador talks exponential growth.

Working prototypes of organs created with 3D printers will be available within four years, sequencing your genome will be cheaper than flushing your toilet within a decade, and people will wonder why humans were ever allowed to drive cars by themselves.

These are the predictions of Salim Ismail, the global ambassador for Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity University, which is seeking to harness the acceleration in technology to solve the biggest problems in the world.

Speaking at AMP’s Amplify innovation festival, Ismail said the world needed artificial intelligence to deal with the exponential rate of technology change it is facing.

“We’re seeing front page stories on all of these technologies, but fundamentally we are not set up to deal with this pace of change,” Ismail said.

He cited the massive development in human genome sequencing in recent years.

“It cost a billion dollars for a human genome 12 years ago, the second one cost about $400 million to sequence … the current price is now less than $1000, we expect it to go to $100 within two years and by the end of the decade it will be essentially free.

“I have an 18-month old son and he will be hacking the family dog. How will we deal with that as a society?”

Ismail said researchers were on the verge of fabricating human organs using stem cells and 3D printers, a development that would completely change medicine.

“There’s enormous ethical issues, regulatory issues … how will we absorb that pace of change and that pace of innovation?”

He said analyst predictions, often relied on by policy-makers, were consistently wrong.

Between 2002 and 2008 analysts from Gartner and Forrester predicted growth rates for mobile phones of between 10 and 16 percent, when in reality the sector grew 100 percent every year, according to Ismail.

‘You can’t be too much more wrong than that and you’re the mobile phone industry experts.

“Most of us don’t have our memories in our heads any more because we’ve outsourced that to our smartphones … we’re augmenting ourselves using new technologies.”

Ismail said China’s economy, which was based on sending cheap plastic parts around the world, would feel the effects of 3D printing first, with global flow-on effects likely.

“In China they’ll have the foundation of their economy disrupted within the next 5 to 10 years as people manufacture things at home.

“3D printing will not replace traditional manufacturing as we know it, but it adds a whole new capability that we never saw before.”

But Ismail said he was optimistic about the role of technology as what he called “the only driver of progress” around the world.

“Part of the world is linear and part of the world is growing exponentially. That causes a lot of stress. From the business point of view where we have stress we have opportunity.”

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