Thursday, February 18, 2021

g-f(2)126 THE BIG PICTURE OF THE DIGITAL AGE, MIT SMR, The Promise of Self-Sufficient Production. Digital fabrication represents a third digital revolution.

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  • This MIT SMR content is golden knowledge of an exceptional quality.
  • g-f Exponential Transformative Knowledge
    • A third digital revolution
      • This emerging movement around digital fabrication represents a third digital revolution that is likely to be at least as significant as the first two digital revolutions, which were in communication and computation.
      • Now is the time to learn from the first two digital revolutions — both what to do and what not to do — as the COVID-19 response highlights and accelerates both the promise and the risks of the third digital revolution.
    • We define self-sufficient production as producing locally while connecting globally. 
      • We’ve seen how advances in digital fabrication have enabled globally connected local production ecosystems to design and deliver lifesaving products.
      • Global connectivity enabled the open sharing of product designs, the identification of medical-grade raw materials, and innovative approaches for aligning designs with safety standards. 
    • Where Do We Go From Here?
      • Realizing the full potential of self-sufficient production will require public-private partnerships, building upon initiatives that had been launched before the pandemic. 
      • Progress toward widespread self-sufficient production will not be easy. 

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  • The Research
    • This article builds on the research we conducted for our book, Designing Reality (Basic Books, 2017), for which we conducted a stakeholder survey and dozens of interviews with experts.
    • We conducted additional interviews with individuals at the frontiers of innovation during the pandemic.
    • We are also participant observers, directly involved on a personal basis in various pandemic responses. This adds a potential bias to our perspective while also providing for deeper contextual understanding.
  • In the United States, the National Fab Lab Network Act for universal access to digital fabrication was introduced to Congress in 2019. This act now takes on new meaning following the pandemic, providing a framework for digital fabrication and legitimizing it as a middle-tier capability between DIY (which can respond quickly but not scale) and mass production (which can scale but not respond quickly). 
    • Internationally, the growing Fab City movement, which began in Barcelona in 2014, involves mayors, city planners, and others who have signed on to a 40-year plan to use digital fabrication technologies to break their dependence on global supply chains.
  • Progress toward widespread self-sufficient production will not be easy. 
    • In addition to the challenges inherent in nonhierarchical distributed production, there are three threshold barriers to ubiquitous digital fabrication, each of which mirrors the ongoing challenges of the first two digital revolutions: access, literacy, and risk. 
      • The first of these, access, begins with the current digital divide. 
        • Approximately one-quarter of the U.S. population and nearly one-half of the global population has limited or no access to the internet. 
        • Of those with internet access, only a tiny percentage have access to digital fabrication equipment. 
        • Even doubling the number of fab labs every 18 months will still leave the vast majority of people without access to these powerful technologies for a long time.
    • Access will have both technological and social dimensions, since the means of production will be in the hands of individuals, families, neighborhoods, and other communities, not just business organizations. 
      • This will require new norms and operating practices.

Category 2: The Big Picture of the Digital Age

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Authors of the genioux fact

Fernando Machuca



Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld is a professor at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University. Alan Gershenfeld is cofounder and president of E-Line Media. Neil Gershenfeld is the director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms.


The Heller School for Social Policy and Management

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Ph.D.
Cornell University, B.S.

Joel has field expertise in social impact enterprises, large-scale systems change, high performance work systems, negotiation and dispute resolution, cyberinfrastructure, labor-management relations, new technology, and related matters. He has led change initiatives at team, enterprise, industry, national, and international levels. As a scholar, Joel has advanced theory and method in industrial relations, negotiations, institutional analysis, organizational behavior, information systems, employment law, cross-cultural studies, and other areas of social science.

Alan Gershenfeld has spent the last twenty years at the intersection of entertainment, technology, and social entrepreneurship. He is currently President and Cofounder of E-Line Media, a publisher of digital entertainment that engages, educates and empowers— with a core focus on computer and video games. Alan has worked on impact game projects with the Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the National Science Foundation, USAID, DARPA, the White House OSTP, the California Endowment, the Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Games for Change, Google, Sesame Workshop, the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms, and the ASU Center for Games and Impact. Prior to E-Line, he was CEO and Cofounder of neomat, a leader in mobile and web community solutions. 

Prof. Neil Gershenfeld is the Director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, where his unique laboratory is breaking down boundaries between the digital and physical worlds, from pioneering quantum computing to digital fabrication to the Internet of Things. Technology from his lab has been seen and used in settings including New York's Museum of Modern Art and rural Indian villages, the White House and the World Economic Forum, inner-city community centers and automobile safety systems, Las Vegas shows and Sami herds. 
  • He is the author of numerous technical publications, patents, and books including Designing Reality, Fab, When Things Start To Think, The Nature of Mathematical Modeling, and The Physics of Information Technology, and has been featured in media such as The New York Times, The Economist, NPR, CNN, and PBS. 
  • He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Physical Society, has been named one of Scientific American's 50 leaders in science and technology, as one of 40 Modern-Day Leonardos by the Museum of Science and Industry, one of Popular Mechanic's 25 Makers, has been selected as a CNN/Time/Fortune Principal Voice, and by Prospect/Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 public intellectuals. 
  • He's been called the intellectual father of the maker movement, founding a growing global network of over one thousand fab labs that provide widespread access to prototype tools for personal fabrication, directing the Fab Academy for distributed research and education in the principles and practices of digital fabrication, and chairing the Fab Foundation. 
  • Dr. Gershenfeld has a BA in Physics with High Honors from Swarthmore College, a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell University, honorary doctorates from Swarthmore College, Strathclyde University and the University of Antwerp, was a Junior Fellow of the Harvard University Society of Fellows, and a member of the research staff at Bell Labs.

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