designing reality

designing reality.png

by Neil Gershenfeld and his brothers: Alan and Joel Cutcher

intro’d to it via their talk w reinventors [] (notes also on Neil‘s page)





making copies of copies of copies of copies.. info lost.. not the case w digital techs.. its essence: enable bn’s of digital messages to be manipulated ad share w no loss of clarity.. (ie: messages converted into symbols ..ones and zeros)


missed opps.. over last half cent two digital revolutions have come to pass, more spectacularly than moore himself predicted.. 1\ in communication.. from analog phones to internet.. 2\ in computation.. bringing us personal computers and smartphones.. together they have fundamentally changed the world

as early as 65.. sings of coming digital revolutions were there for anyone to see.. yet most of world missed them..

the deeper these techs penetrate society, the greater the struggle for society to keep pace… best time to shape destiny of transformative accelerating techs is early.. before changes become widespread and entrenched.. still negotiable..  the revolutions in communication/computation have enable unprecedented productivity, enormous wealth, remarkable changes in everyday life. bu t a great many people have also been left behind..

today.. more than half the planet still has not internet access altogether.. bns more have limited or unreliable access… in much of world, a combo of growing income and wealth ineq, … are ripping at the very fabric of society.. many feel a deep seated longing fo ra simpler, more meaningful and less turbulent future..

neg aspects of first two revs are not simply accidents..  nor driven by some unseen hand.. decisions/priorities made/set and not made/set.. were being developed/intro’d to the market.. have had lasting effects.. ie: communication capabilities.. but no cultural norms.. algos.. that could reinforce civil discourse; new models of commerce.. but intro’d new threats to privacy and security..

security and privacy ness


imagine if there had been as much social innovation .. as here was innovation in the science and tech itself..  .. to co evolve..

we largely missed this opp w the first two digital revolutions.. but we now have another chance.. it comes w the third digital revolution.. 3\ fabrication..

let’s not miss it.. by not letting go enough.. gershenfeld sel et al..

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way

it completes the first two revs by bringing the programmability of the virtual world of bits into the physical world of atoms..

since physical world is out here where we live, the implications.. maybe be even greater than those of its predecessors

let’s hope so..

rev of everyday life ness

third offers the promise of personal fabrication.. enabling individuals anc communities to produce and share products on demand, wherever and whenever something is needed..

personal fab

have/need ness


first fab lab in 2003..

designing reality (this book) is about taking care to follow the exponential trajectory of digit fab..


in the first two revs.. bits changed atoms indirectly (by creating new capabilities and behaviors); in the third. the bits will enable people to directly change the atoms..  to modify the physical world.. sourced globally but fabricated locally..

it taps into a deeply held human desire to make things..

thru out book will meet people.. like blair evans (personal/community level).. from incite focus fab lab in detroit..



tomas diez – barcelona fab lab (city/country level).. leading a global fab city movement.. other places that have signed on.. santiago.. shenzhen.. boston.. bhutan.. tomas: we need to reinvent our cities and their relationships to people and nature by re localizing production so that cities are generative rather than extractive, restorative rather than destructive and empowering rather than alienating..


also fab pioneers in indigenous communities from alaska to amazon..

holmgren indigenous law – a mech to facil that.. tech as it could be


these aspirational visions will only be urged into existence if we engage and inpsire individuals, create the needed organization, and transform the inherited institutions..

rather.. set free individuals.. let them create daily/stigmergic/tribings (via 2 convos).. and render inherited institutions irrelevant

no urging.. engaging.. needed.. all we have is already there.. no prep.. no train

let go.

it (this book) will show you how we know the third digi rev is happening, why it’s happening, and crucially, how you can prep for and help shape it as it happens..

let’s go deeper/simpler/more-open so that 7 bn people already resonate with it…. same thinking.. just go deep enough so that no prep is needed.. thinking we have to prep people.. is killing us.. we need a mech where 7 bn can start today.. that will detox them as they go if needed (then it also won’t take decades)


designing reality is written around two broad themes.. tech and society. . and how they can co evolve..


tech – guide is neil

lass law.. an analogue to moore’s law.. sherry lassiter.. found that number of fab labs was doubling roughly every year and a half.. this means cap;ability of a million fab labs over the next ten years or so.. a billion over the following ten..

again.. huge.. but i think we are at a point in time we can facil a global do-over.. now

in ch 5 – neil outlines four distinct stages: community fab (powered by computers controlling machines), personal fab (based on machines that can make machines) , universal fab (marking a transition to digital materials), and ubiquitous fab (w programmable materials)..  each stage reps an exponential improvement in digi fab performance..

all core elements are visible in research labs today. the question is, 1\ how long it will take for them to emerge from the lab and impact society: and 2\ will we be ready?

1\ over night if we let go enough  2\ if we let go enough (dive/design deep enough) we are already ready..

this is huge.. wish you could hear me.. (why we need tech as it could be)


society – guides are alan and joel

joel: large scale systems change .. in auto /aerospace/health care/ biomed/ non profit sector.. now pioneering new models for multi stakeholder alignment w/in and across levels: workplace, enterprise, community, industry national and international levels..

alan: president and do founder of e line media.. committed to both positive financial returns and meaningful social impact. harnessing power of digital media and games to help people understand and shape their world..  worked w gates, macarthur, darpa, nsf, ..

dang.. social guys are currently steeped in money based work


despite promise of personal fab.. individual’s ability to make what they consume.. still a long way from being a reality for most people. there are significant challenges around fab access, literacy, and cultivation of an ecosystem that ensure truly democratized techs..

let go.


this is a unique historical moment: we can foresee the likely trajectories and it is still early enough that we can shape the tech before it shapes us in ways we will regret. the stakes are high..


let go.

for (blank)’s sake

1 – how to make (almost) anything – neil


on lass law – to change not just what the tech can do, but who can do it..

has to be all of us – and if we can go faster than two decades.. we can’t not..


pic of fab lab in vestmannaeyjar iceland



in 2205, i wrote the book lab after the first few doubling of fab lab.s that year. i was approached to be the first interview in a new magazine called make, which was founded by dale dougherty. he coined the term maker to describe the emerging community of hobbyists connecting computation w fabrication using the kinds of tools found in a fab lab.



comparing fab labs to libraries..


(on fab labs insight from his class on making anything) the point was not to make what you could buy in stores; it was to make what you couldn’t.. products for a market as small as one person..

fab academy: grew out of a video link that i initially had set up so that fab labs could remotely sit in on the how to make almost anything classes at mit..


think of mit as a mainframe – where you go for processing.. works well for very limited pop.. think of moocs as users at isolated terminal connected to central mainframes.. the fab academy model is more like the internet.. linking nodes in a learning network that grows at its edges rather than at its center

so imagine another iteration of that: cure ios city via 2 convos – also takes care of your stated problems ie: where to fit back in school.. what to do about accreditation.. what to do about employment.. et al

seeing fab academy as : hlb (via 2 convos) that io dance.. as the day.

w the core tools in a fab lab, it’s then possible to make whatever else is needed, effectively brining the campus to the student..

hopefully by student.. that means all of us.. and too.. bringing tribe to person.. via the tech to facil 2 convos..


on seymour coming to mit to access to early real time digital computers.. to expand the scope of experimentation available to a child.. worked w alan kay and .. mitch resnick..

seymour, alan, mitch


a natural progression from going to mit to play w a central computer, to going to a store to purchase and play w a toy containing a computer, to going to a fab lab to play w creating a computer.. (seymour said it had been a thorn in his side that kids could program the motion of the turtle but could not make the turtle itself.. this had been his goal all along..)


ie’s of fab labs all around the world

reading thru these made me think of micro-financing.. and that convo jason had about it.. (ie: borrowing money doesn’t deal w root cause.. so too.. making things doesn’t deal w root cause) ..great to have all these ie’s of how creative people are.. but we can do better.. ie: not doing things to make money or to do better in school or to make things.. that we really wouldn’t want if we were free..

imagine 7 bn people truly free.. what would we be/become/create.. et al..

like affluence w/o abundance meets personal fab ness (tech as it could be) .. eagle and condor style..


obvious way to assume your running costs is to sell things made in the lab.. labs failed at that.. it defeated the goal of brining back the economic activity.. the most interesting fab lab business models don’t sell thing that are made; they sell the benefits of making them.. ie:.. blair evan’s lab in detroit works w at risk youth.. important part of his funding comes from showing that the investment to engage these kids in the fab lab delivers better life outcomes than does the spending on existing social services.. what he’s producing is the transformation of individuals


better than now.. but.. imagine if those individuals didn’t have to feel measured.. imagine if ie: blair didn’t have to keep measuring them.. and keep asking for money… there’s a nother way man

spaces of permission w nothing to prove


funding for fab labs could be separated int for profit vs non profit .. but at its heart is an even bigger idea that could be called post profit.. what if you could skip *all that and just make it yourself..

*this is key.. from what i’m seeing.. you’re not skipping all that.. even though you seem to be on the very edge.. of what we desperately need.. (so bravo and thank you.. but) that bit of part\ial is – and will keep on – killing us

how about deeper/bigger.. post/sans money/measure..

what if we’re not approaching peak money, when the ability of a country to meet the needs of its population is no longer measured by the output of its businesses..

nice.. but/and too.. no longer measured..

this vision of consumers becoming creators resulted in the appointment of vicente guallart, founder of barcelona’s first fab lab.. 2011.. residents not wanting fab lab.. wanting food bank instead.. until learned they could grow own food in lab.. make toys for children.. start *businesses instead of searching for work..

*how about just.. make art.. instead of searching for work..


difference this time around.. they’re not doing it (producing what they consume.. finding own solutions) in isolation but rather as part of a global network

in 2013 – rep bill foster.. first submitted legislation to do something similar to barcelona in us.. his national fab lab network act..  didn’t come about that session.. but legislation is being resubmitted..  w funding to set up fab labs in communities where chevron works..



bhutan – measuring happiness rather than what they buy.. need local rice cooker..

rwanda – worried about trade.. imports


china is embracing fab labs and the maker movement and these movements are embracing shenzhen


the huaqiangbei district in shenzhen is one of my fav places on earth..  what looks like intellectual property theft to rest of world (ie: apple watch cost 25 rather than 250.. and has slot for sim that apple forgot to include).. is locally viewed as a flourishing open source engineering community.. like classical composers, the producers shamelessly borrow themes and variation from one another

if in future barcelona or bhutan are going to produce what it consumes, their populations will no longer need shenzhen


fab labs don’t replace mass manufacturing; they extend it.. mass manufacturing will continue to make products whenever people’s needs are identical, and between mass production and do it yourself lies a whole hierarchy of new scales of manufacturing that are opening up and that were previously not commercially viable..

later ie: sites can share recipes.. but commercial activity of cooking is centered around selling groceries and appliances..

? sounds like he’s saying fab labs will bring back money making ness..?

in the first two digital revs there was a hope that a long tail of smaller content creators would power and be empowered by a new economy. exactly the opposite has happened..  bulk of money has been made by a small number.. of giant companies.. ie: google, fb, apple, amazon..  several groups have attempted to carve out a similar share in the their digital rev..


tech from fab labs.. rapid automation that can change to reflect needs rather than represent a large fixed capital investment..


the most important kind of scaling for economic impact is not producing capacity, but ideas..

how about we get back to bhutan.. and it’s more about well-being.. ie: eduaimoniative surplus et al

a 2015 report adding up the output of businesses spun off from mit found that it was 1.9 trillion in annual revenue, which feel somewhere between the output of russia  and india.. world’s 9th and 10th largest economies.. how can a few thousand people at a time match the productivity of a bn? there are two secrets to this

ugh… productivity is not what our souls want/need/crave

1\ mit isn’t an isolated tech park trying to make money..   2\ mit as safe place for strange people.. the opp for fab cities, towns, and villages is to do the same on a global scale.. they’re functioning as nodes in an ecosystem, defined not geographically but intellectually, where inventive people who don’t fit in rigid school or business hierarchies belong..

good. great. but we can do better. because you just described everybody.. beyond geeking out at shenzhen.. and inventing things.. and consuming things.. we have the means to facil 7 bn curiosities.. everyday.. no judgement no questions asked.. just connecting/faciling.. that’s the energy/alive ness we need.. or.. we’ll do/be just like mit.. and help a lot of people.. but not enough


the problem was a classic commons issue.. it wasn’t hard to find funding for the parts of a fab lab that you could see. what was hard to fund was the infra that made these parts possible.. the infra that you couldn’t see… this included the development of the tech that went into a fab lab.. the management of the global supply chain to source everything, maintain the teams to deploy a lab… and the computing that supported them.. all these infra needs initially came out of m research funding which was not a scalable model.. (trying to keep up w the ever increasing request for access to a fab lab and people’s offers to devote themselves to the movement)

we need a mech to facil 7 bn.. ongoingly.. or the motor will keep running out..


as org capacity of fab lab network has grown,.. being tapped by partner programs.. ie: fab labs in communities where the companies are .. so id’ing and training promising tech talent..  and also w aid agencies..


on running labs at sdg goal development.. and wef in davos.. – result at davos..  david ott.. launched global humanitarian lab.. for refugees

refugees ness


in those kinds of gatherings of global leaders, i find that they politicians are generally rather glum. they’re all struggling w intractable problems of unemployment, ineq, and immigration, along w the knock on consequences of polarization and conflict. and the levers they’re historically used to deal w these issues – adjusting things like monetary policy – aren’t working

the current tech in a fab lab is intended to make itself obsolete.. for the first 1000 fab labs it was interesting just to count their numbers, like following the appearance fo the first websites. what matters now is not that they exist, but why. if anyone can make anything anywhere, how will we live, learn, work, and play..

like this man.. via insight from you..

2 – how to (almost) make anything – alan & joel


we need to have a clear eyed view of challenges.. to address them.. it will not be easy.. in 2016 – darpa announced new initiative tackling ‘next gen social science’ adam russell.. program officer.. highlighted how the social sciences have been ‘inherently challenged because of its subject matter: human beings, w all their complex variability and seeming unpredictability..

perfect.. it means we’re human/alive. . so let’s design for that


the bad news is that this dreaming, creating and shaping will not always tap into our better selves..

we don’t know that.. we’ve never tried

attention to the social dimensions of the third digital revolution requires examining underlying assumptions about human nature

yeah.. we’ve missed the mark on that.. we have no idea

and the ability for individuals, organizations and institutions to adapt to accelerating change

antifragile ness.. is in us.. we have to get back to the.. rapid prototyping to slow

it may be easier to shape bits and atoms than people and society, but they are inextricably intertwined

why shape people..? that’s are main problem.. thinking we have to shape anybody..

let go.

when projects failed, students joked that the class felt more like to almost make anything.. this sentiment often ripples thru the broader fab community and speaks to the very real challenging that come w attempting to democratize manufacturing

maybe that’s the wrong focus – 1\ democratizing (whatever that means) 2\ manufacturing

maybe there’s something deeper.. so .. more serious.. we could focus on..

we explore some of these threshold challenges, including issues around fab *access, fab **literacy, the ***cultivation of an enabling fab ecosystem.. and the mitigation of risk as the tech propagates

*access to fab lab is diff than access to freedom.. and connection to people

**literacy implies we need prep/training.. which we don’t if we go deep enough.. and trust people (this is how we got to where we are today.. thinking people need to be trained et al)

***cultivation of an ecosystem will emerge if truly free people are in it

****risk is irrelevant if everyone is free to do whatever they want

by 2017 there were about a thousand fab labs around the world.. reaching a total of a few hundred thousand people.. approx 7 bn people on planet.. fab access is the first threshold challenge


every breakthrough in tech has created gaps in society..


the internet’s underlying tech has long been capable of serving 100% of the world’s population

the joan ganz cooney center at sesame workshop.. which does pioneering research on issues of digital inclusion..


the challenges of fab access are even greater than the challenges of the first two digital revs


when obama publicly declared high speed internet is a necessity not a luxury in 2015.. it was a full half century after the publication of moore’s paper.. if we wait another half century for a us president.. to realize that fav access is necessity.. then there will almost certainly be creating a crippling fab divide

1\ not to mention .. half century and still not everyone w access  2\ not sure the fab lab is what’s a necessity for 7 bn.. ie: access to internet is.. a & a is..  let’s focus on that first.. then the free people and opened up resources.. will figure equity out..

while fab access is critical for everyone in society, it is particularly important for those who have been left behind in first two digital revs

ok.. if fab access is ..gershenfeld sel..  rat park ness.. then yeah.. critical for everyone.. but if it’s a makerspace that has a list of tools.. ie: 3d printer.. not yet critical..  reminds me of people saying Ed revolution is 1-1 ipads or whatever.. everyone needs a connection.. but not everyone needs/wants an ipad (or whatever)

huge distinction.. because (as can be seen from Ed revolution waste).. waiting till we have that excess amount.. and making those w/o that excess amount feel like they are deficient.. is not helping us get back to us..


youth and yonng adults are spending an avg of 8 hrs/day immersed in digital media.. but they are not necessarily becoming digitally literate

according to whose defn..?

consider the massive youth and young adult unemployment throughout the world; even in regions where there is deep mobile penetration , many tech jobs are going unfilled..

that doesn’t mean there’s illiteracy.. perhaps it means the jobs are bullshit.. and youth know it.. we can’t keep defining things for other people..

digi fab is hard. it intro’s a set of new competencies, including the navigation of continually evolving cad and cam software.. we cannot build toward a more self sufficient, interconnected, and sustainable society w/o widespread fab literacy

huge red flag.. that that isn’t our deepest problem .. fab lit not a critical thing for  7 bn people.. ie: just like our thinking everyone needed algebra.. myth

are we pushing for equity (everyone getting a go everyday).. or are we pushing that everyone becomes a tech/manufacture/fab-lab geek..

if you want to look at the past in order to learn.. do better.. be more equitable.. even just the recent past (the two preceding revs you list).. we’ve got to let go of supposed to’s.. and trust people.. we’ve got to do this first.. which is doable.. w gershenfeld sel .. but there can be no strings attached.. ie: learn fab lit first

nadya peek: ‘the number of fab labs may be growing exponentially, but number of people empowered by the machines is not growing exponentially’ .. she attributes this gap to the significant complexity involved in nearly all aspects of digit fab.. ‘access requires literacy

huge red flag..  go deeper.. make the thing.. something 7 bn people already know/resonate with.. facil and trust that.. that’s the only way we’ll get to equity

let go.

digi fab is essentially a new language.

the universal language we need to offer is idio-jargon.. we’ve tried new languages as means to change before.. doesn’t work.. let’s facil 7 bn idios

james paul gee: literacy is only possible if there is a grammar. grammar enables communication and simultaneously, limits your choices..

love james.. but.. it may enable communication.. but it isn’t the deepest form of communication.. (grammar lit)

lanier beyond words law

gee notes that grammar is to language as rules are to sports..

and we’ve done to communication same thing we’ve done to organized sport.. killed it..with our assumed rules..

we don’t need organized sport.. we need play (gray play law).. we don’t need to mandate another language/grammar.. we need to let go.. (/idio-jargon/)..


to put the importance of traditional reading lit in perspective, according to a 2013 study by the us dept of ed, 32 million adults in the us can’t read, and close to a quarter of the population (21 %) reads below a 5th grade level

that seems more like evidence we’ve missed the mark.. on assuming a literacy for all.. and on top of that.. that it would be learned in a compulsory setting

let’s not play game again


like other forms of literacy, fab lit requires enough time for individuals to progress from a limited working knowledge to proficiency to mastery to the ability to teach others..

foundational/beyond all this.. curiosity.. a desire to learn it.. we let go of that.. and we’re spinning the same wheels..


fab pioneers. folks who have set up fab labs and trained local leadership, are much in demand. and yet, it’s hard for them to balance their own research and passion projects w the growing number of requests for advice and mentorship.. in fact, this was a common struggle among many of the fab pioneers we spoke with

why a true revolution begs everyone as mentor.. 1\ 7 bn would give diversity we need  2\ mentors should be doing their passion.. and those wanting to learn it just watch/follow/hang-with..  ie: in the city .. as the day..

we have to trust we’ll be enough for each other.. to learn the things we want/need..

we have to let go of thinking everyone needs to be.. fab lab ready.. maker material.. whatever..

everyone already has in them.. the means to be curious enough to create/be their art.. let’s go with that.. otherwise.. we miss an incredible opp in life.. toward betterness..


(on funding needing to go beyond private) – mariana mazzucato tackles the question of public funding head on..


avg price for launching a community fab lab and running it for two years is approx 250 000 .. for network to continue.. overall costs will need to come down..

here again.. i see remnants of the 1 to 1 laptop/ipad reform ..

there’s a nother way.. sans money.. we made up money


this level of financial engagement will happen only if the products and services coming thru the fab ecosystem become must haves instead of just nice to haves

i’d say.. beyond must have.. can’t not do/be/have.. aka: art..

what you’re describing has already been done.. over and over.. wrong and wrong.. ie: next.. we need to survey to find out what consumers/customers need/want..? so ads.. ?

for most of the fab community, however, the must haves are more about the process of digi fab and being part of a community of makers and innovators..

i’d say .. for 7 bn people.. it’s about being part of a community..  period.

that simplifies a lot.. no..?

maurice conti.. addresses both the enthusiasm for participating in fabrication and the limits on what can now be produced: in terms of people able to do one of a kind person fab – that is super interesting, but is it practical? i have seen the way fab labs change culture – it is an infectious thing. even here, w a world class facility and expert staff, people are more excited about the process w the output being rarely on par w commercial grade goods..



in the early stages of community fab labs, the killer apps are likely to be about services that enable individuals to have deeply empowering experiences making things, rather than any specific thing being made

yeah.. let’s try this guys.. 2 convos .. as the day

neil answers the mus have question  in part, by pointing to the person al part of fab. he argues that the killer app for digi fab is not what you can buy in stores but the ability to make what you can’t buy in stores – products for a market as small as one.. to realize this vision, however, we will need to make great progress on enabling ecosystem and these, in turn , needed to be effectively governed..

2 convos .. as the day


these shared values across the current ecosystem do seem to be serving the sam function as a charter.. indeed, these shared values go beyond what is stated in the current charter..

so go one more.. and replace digi fab (fab lab) .. with curiosity.. listening to daily curiosities and using that data to facil people locally.. to do/make/be whatever they want.. with their tribe..

standard (who is fab lab for – everyone) is not always possible for fab labs in k-12 schools, colleges, unis, museums and other institution for which there may be constraints on open access..

we can’t do any of this if we assume.. k-12 et al.. is still going on..


excessive waste currently generated in the digi fab process..

exactly.. we need people to just be doing the thing they can’t not do.. more resourceful to focus our energy on helping people find their (daily) people.. and shortening the time between (personal/daily-curiosity-driven) intention and action


also the more sinister risk that ill intentioned people will make bad things. it is already starting to happen

yes.. because you’re not following gershenfeld sel (have you read it..?) ..  people aren’t yet free.. that has to come first..

no failsafe way to solve this problem, but there are multiple ways to help mitigate the risks.. one element is thru a combo of mentorship and oversight..


fab lab outside pune india.. for at risk youth.. when asked about the risk that these same youths would use the lab to make weapons, he said that close oversight is key

let go.

gershenfeld sel

(that’s what i’ve been learning/researching.. we have to trust people if we want equity.. but the people.. have to be truly free)


riot games.. w close to 70 mn players.. found that toxic behavior was frustrating… they experimented w ways to integrate mechs into the flow of the game to reduce the toxic and increase the positive behaviors.. ie: peer reviews; incentives; penalties; tracking..

sounds like school (supposed to’s)..our judicial system (incarceration).. job (reputation) al.. where we’ve proven over and over it doesn’t work..  ie: if need incentives red flag that people aren’t really free

let go.

do this first..


a key aspect of the science underlying digi techs involves the concepts of error correction.. error correction is more difficult with people and societies..

maybe not.. let’s try this.. daily self-talk .. a story about people grokking what matters

an essential part of a risk mitigation strategy involves having a broad array of forums and mechs dedicated to tracking and addressing issues when they arise..

hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day

barrett notes two risks: first, digi fab is not ready to face what could be violent ideological headwinds that find its very existence offensive.. second, some parts of the world will not face such strong resistance and will race ahead – deepening the fab divide

this is why we have to focus so something deep enough that 7 bn people resonate with today… ie: maté basic needs.. for (blank)’s sake..


the threshold challenge begins w cultivating an informed and engaged population around the future of the *third digital revolution. the tech needs to be presented in a way that is **inviting, highlights ***clear and understandable capabilitiess w/in reach and addresses genuine ****fears..

rather.. around the *quiet revolution.. tech needs to be **as it could be.. (ie: what 7 bn souls crave.. to be heard.. to do the thing they can’t not do).. ***already in each heart.. ****no fear in love


for the third digi rev to truly become a rev, it will need to do more than demo exponential gains in tech performance. the tech must clearly address enduring societal needs w models that can be replicated and locally adapted for broad based impact..

ie: maté basic needs..via  2 convos .. for (blank)’s sake..

tom kalil: the ability of the maker or fab communities to help solve particular societal problem is a key yardstick to measure progress.. it is not just about self expression.. he goes on to cite ie’s such as makers and people w disabilities working to design assistive techs and makers and educators working together to *reduce dropout rates in schools

dang.. really..? that’s no rev guys.. you did need a sister

3 – the science – neil


doubling can continue only if it’s couple w error correction (unlike copy of copy of copy.. degrading each time) circuits keep restoring the logical states of the bits.. this ongoing error correction can keep up w the exponential increase in transistors, so that the output of the billionth transistor is as reliable as the first..


moores law.. and exponential growth eventually reach resource limits..  tech term sigmoid function.. s shaped curve.. a period of what appears to be flat growth (bottom of the s) the period of accelerating growth (middle of s) and the a return to slow growth as constraints are encountered (top of s).. moores law is running out of physics.. ie: can’t shrink transistor any smaller.. also running out of people..  and why reaching last bn is taking so much longer


saturating demands runs into what has been called moores second law: the cost of chip fab..  has been growing… facilities now cost billions and chip generation can cost a hundred million.. once money is spent.. transistors cost fractions of a cent. but huge capital outlay has become prohibitive for all but biggest manufacturers/markets..

computers are digital but manufacturing processes are analog.. cost of chip fab has gone up because it’s ‘based on analog process

fab labs now around a thousand.. result of ten doubling cycles.. lass law


so.. a million fab labs after next decade and a bn following next

when internet reached a bn computers, the chips in those computers were reaching a bn transistors; when there are the equiv of a bn fab labs.. they’ll likely be making things that contain a bn parts


the conclusion of the third digi rev is that the long sought killer app for the future of computation is fabrication

moores law can be viewed as being like wha tan economist would call macroeconomic, or what a physicist would cal thermodynamics, an aggregate system property


what matters is not the specific values of 0 and 1; it’s the use of discrete values that allow errors to be detected.. you’re currently receiving a set of 26 symbols that can be used to detect errors..

john tukey – bell labs.. coined the term bit as a contraction of ‘binary digit’ to refer to the smallest unit of info


landauer and bennett were my mentors in the study of the physics of computation, intro ing me to the concept that info is physical. the inevitable consequence of that observation (for me) was the connection between computation and fabrication..

the link from digitization to fab was first made a bit earlier.. about 4 bn yrs.. that’s the evolutionary age of my most favorite manufacturing machine, the ribosome. this is a molecule that makes molecules.. it read a code, the genetic code, that arrives in a messenger rna molecule

rna ness

what’s remarkable about these amino acids (a bit like molecular lego bricks) is how unremarkable they are. they have a range of properties, such as attracting or repelling water, or being more acidic or less so. none of these are extreme properties; the chemical behavior is ordinary. yet thru the combo of these standard 10 amino acids, it’s possible to make you

the ribosome makes an error once in 10^4 steps when it makes a protein, because it’s constructing w a code. dna replication, which adds an extra error correction step, has an error rate of one in 10^8. that’s the exponential scaling of threshold theorems, and it’s what makes possible the complexity of you. the secret of life is that it’s digital

dna ness..


the genetic code carries a message that performs a computation to program fabrication.. the third digi rev has been w us from the dawn of life, but it has been restricted to what can be made w the materials of molecular bio.. what has been 4 bn years in the making is the extension of that insight to the presently inanimate part of the world..

if the secret of life is that it’s digital, then how is it programmed..

i don’t know.. makes me think of ai.. and thinking we’re learning about the brain thru machines.. and the foundation of that thinking is off.. ie: brain is not a machine like a machine is a machine


the obvious answer to how life is programmed is the genetic code..

yeah.. i don’t see that

it turns out that this question is at the heart of the historical alignment of all 3 digi revs

making anything w a computer today is like a bad version os the party game where a message gets passed until it is hopelessly corrupted..  all these steps usually go in only one direction.. this state of affairs came about because.. each of these steps was done by a diff person..  ie: when liberal arts emerged as a mastery of the means of expression.. when making things was relegated to an illiberal art … ie: told at bell labs.. to tell workers what i wanted them to make.. rather than making in workshop myself.. this no longer makes sense if one person can do all these steps at same place and time.. personal rather than mass production demands a new notion of literacy that embraces making as a skill that’s every bit as fundamental as reading and writing..

perhaps reading/writing/making aren’t the fundamentals.. let’s go deeper..

and this thinking we can create bio with machine.. we can create augmentation.. but not the real living thing..


a self-reproducing machine is the destination of the research roadmap for the 3rd digi rev

well – machines can reproduce machines.. but not people.. not living organisms.. and if that’s the destination.. 3rd rev is not going to be our deep/simple/open enough experiment/rev/whatever

both turing and von neumann were approaching what author douglas adams called the ‘life, the universe and everything’ question.. the most interesting thing that we humans have evolved is arguably interest itself – our self awareness.. the working of this evolutionary process resides in a surprising connection between natural and artificial intelligence (minsky.. helped plan cba around that relationship)

minsky.. cba

ok.. i see that as augmentation.. not creation (so i’m guessing this is a version of the phone game .. to you)

and i see a need for it.. (connections between natural and artificial) because we’ve intoxicated ourselves over the years.. we’ve become the degraded message of ourselves.. ie: science of people ness

and i see that.. getting 7 bn people back to themselves.. truly free to be themselves.. as the fundamental thing .. the serious.. deep.. thing.. we should be doing.. (now that we can).. tech as it could be.. to augment/facil.. the too-many-people-to-facil-or-label’ (ginorm small ness)


what’s behind the recent rapid advances in ai is not a breakthrough in understanding intelligence; it’s progress in coping w the curse of dimensionality (if lose keys in room.. search room.. if not sure which room/building/city.. searching becomes hopeless)

sounds like too big to know too small to label ness (ginorm small)

the way life solves this problem is w hox genes, one of the most conserved parts of the genome in all living creatures; these genes haven’t changed in hundreds of millions of years.. hox genes regulate the expression of other genes.. they choreograph what are called development programs which are the steps in going form a single cell to a complete creature..


the human genome has bns of bases, and you have trillions of cells. there isn’t enough time in the age of the universe to try varying them one at a time, and even if there were, most of those variations would either be inconsequential or fatal.. the hox genes provide a constraint to a much smaller space to search for alt body plans among one that are likely to be viable..

this then is the other secret of life: the complexity is a consequence of detecting and correcting errors in the assembly of a small set of discrete building blocks (the amino acids) and the diversity is a consequence of designs being represented as development programs rather than construction plans (the hox genes). ‘i think therefor i am’ is correct, as long as you recognize that the thinking is done by your molecules as well as your brain

seeing hox as maté basic needs

that’s what we’re now learning how to do in nonbiological systems..

i started this section by describing design as it is done today, which is called imperative design: yo must specify exactly how to make something. i’ve ended section by showing that design in evolution is done by searching in a carefully constrained spaced of developmental programs. the goals of evolution is survival, but digital design principles aren’t restrict to survival..

declarative design or generative design is the name for a design process that lets you describe what you want something to do, but not how it should do it.

early attempts at declarative design were as limited as were early attempts at ai, but progress i now being made in both for same reason: we are mastering the curse of dimensionality..

yeah.. but perhaps for wrong thing.. wrong hox.. wrong fundamental basic

the search part of declarative design is currently done offline in simulation in a computer before anything is fabricated, but as computation and fab converge, design and fab will be able to occur online continuously – the airplane itself could evolve in response to changing loads and aerodynamic regimes. at that point the distinction between animate and automata will become increasingly semantic


4 – the social science – alan and joel


the continued acceleration of info tech performance happened because people made it a must have.. first in industry and then in society. what would it take for that to happen w digi fab performance..

hope not the same thing.. i mean the must have ness came more from an ill society .. otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are now.. (ie: if people had been awake/alive).. so .. that could happen for digi fab.. but who wants that .. (ie: zombies making things)


(on reactive vs proactive social science) – path observation – the reactive approach.. involves observing or complying with the established rules and norms..reinforcing the path observation approach.. this approach is strongly enforce in the social sciences thru peer review and other mechs..  path observation is of course necessary but not sufficient..

is it necessary..?


proactively helping to shape the third digi rev will require nothing less than a culture change in the social sciences..


stewart brand..legendary party scene..  along w inventor douglas engelbart.. brand co delivered ‘t he mother o fall demos’ .. exemplar path creators



(on differing rates of change w institutions, organizations and individuals) – k12 – alan’s company e line media.. intro’d two innovative game based learning projects for k12.. funded my macarthur developed in partnership institute of play.. motivation for stem learning.. second project – minecraftedu..


(on rich thinking internet access is a privilege and not wanting to pay for it for poor..calling that tragedy of commons).. elinor ostrom – how new institution forms such as public private partnerships are needed to overcome narrow self interest – which will continue to be a challenge in 3rd digi rev

elinor.. tragedy of commons


for individuals the implications of accelerating change w the third digi rev go beyond jus t new mindset. some very tangible adjustments also have their own rates of change. ie: the time it takes to achieve basic lit in digi fab is approx 6-18 months.. a relatively fast learning curve.. however, deeper mastery of the underlying principles of material science, design thinking , electronic circuit design and other relevant domains is measure in years, sometimes decades. . not every grad has time/desire to mentor growing number of people who need mentorship..

let’s disengage from that assumptions.. you’re sharing great stuff.. it’s just not the fundamental stuff.. ie: it’s not for everyone


for all its potential benes indeed the third digi rev will not be a welcome process for many individuals..

so .. let’s make the rev something every soul craves.. and do that first..


embedding the power and promise of digi fab into deeply human narratives, evocatively told, can fire the imagination and serve as a gateway to inspire deeper engagement

we have the means.. so why not rather.. listen to the deeply human narratives already in each heart..  let’s go for a deeper energy..  a deeper imagination


remake learning – pbl, maker and fabs, game based… in schools, libraries, museums…

nice.. but we have the means to let go enough.. to where this is about 7 bn people.. in the city.. as the day


to help accelerate this process it is helpful to look at how digi techs have enabled a single individual or a small group of people to create truly transformative ecosystems w global impact..

? truly transformative..? global impact.. ? where..?

we need global systemic change.. for sure.. but it begs we leap.. (1\ change is drastic  2\ need to be in sync) begs we go.. beyond Ed, health, politics.. a real do-over

these digi ecosystems leverage passionate networks  of contributors, rest on powerful *platforms and tools enabling distribute agency, and encourage **practices that are capable of propagation at expo rates, not just increases of a linear scale – offering ***unprecedented rates of change

hlb via 2 convos

**2 convos



scaling in this traditional way is often very capital intensive and takes experienced, sophisticated management. this is more of a linear process w periodic accelerations

as is any other.. until we let go of ie: money; school; ..

emergent ecosystem, in the way we are using the terms, don’t scale; the y propagate..


wikipedia (nonprofit), linux (decentralized tech) and minecraft (for profit) .. have each had considerable impact on world.. each has grown thru propagation rather than the more traditional forms of scaling..

their common attributes:

1\ founded by charismatic leader/small-group who defined community ethos/culture/rules; provided enabling platforms/tools/practices..  we’ll call these leaders top-down visionaries.. in the fab ecosystem.. neil certainly fits in to this category..

2\ grown in large part thru passion of an empowered/empowering middle tier or individuals/orgs.. all of *who deeply id w the vision and emerging community..  devote considerate time and energy.. to adapting/extending.. their dedication.. raising stature in community..  not by top down decree..

so.. let’s find something that 7 bn would feel *this way about..

3\ numerous participants who engage to varying degrees.. – stakeholders as bottom up participants..

middle tier as secret sauce for how these systems propagate

ie’s: mitch resnick’s scratch; dean kamen’s frist robotics..

mitch.. dean


a key question is whether the fab ecosystem, w its mix of digital and physical elements, can propagate into a globally transformative ecosystem. a second question is whether such an emergent ecosystem can truly lay the foundation for a *more self sufficient, interconnected and sustainable world.

*more.. yes.. but not what we’re currently capable of

5 – the roadmap – neil


phase 1: currently in.. coming to an end.. as # of fab labs becomes comparable to # of cities on planet.. a few 1000.. so 1/city

phase 2: million labs.. comparable to local govts on planet.. available to individuals as well as orgs

phase 3: billion labs.. order of mag to # of people on planet.. not just personal but universal

phase 4: trillion labs.. # of computers connected to internet.. things people might interact w or things computers are connected to… digi fab makes not just almost anything, but also almost everything..

what’s changing is the inputs rather than the outputs:  a fab lab today rests on a global supply chain to source things like integrated circuits, precision tooling and polymer resins.. over time, the outputs will be produced w/in the descendants of today’s fab labs…. assembling ever more fundamental building blocks..


two ways to project how long this transition will take.. 1\ more conservative.. assume lass’s law.. 40 yrs.. 2\ more ambitious.. all four states seen in lab today.. just a question of how quickly they can get out the door..

1\ community fab: 1 to 1 000 – tools found in lab today: cutting; milling (3 d cutting); printing; scanning (inverse of 3d printing); molding; computing


2\ personal fab: 1 000 to 1 000 000 – ability to make another fab lab.. 2 problems: money and space .. what i had initially missed was how this idea solve the 2nd problem – by transforming the concept of what a machine is .. the popfab is like the laptop of fab


each of the types of rapid prototyping machines specifies a language to tell it what to do.. a computer in the machine then converts these commands into instructions for each of its components.. all of this configuration specification makes it hard to change anything..  ie: have to change langauge sent to machine and interpreter of that language in the machine.. before the motor can move.. an endless series of committees has tried ro remedy this problem by coming up w a new universal language for manufacturing.. it has been a hopeless task.. given the range of what people want to make and how they want to do it..

ginorm small

same time – working on internet of things.. the protocols used by servers connected to the internet could be implemented in a chip costing less tha n a dollar and occupying  a few millimeters of silicon, meaning that everyday objects could be connected to the internet.. that thought extends to the parts of a rapid prototyping machine..  so that application programs could *talk to the devices directly rather than thru an interpreter..

like idio-jargon..?


now machines *lost their fixed id.. this becomes the rapid prototyping to rapid prototyping machines..

*no more labels.. rather.. label of curiosity.. changing daily.. 24/7.. approaching limit of  ginorm small

the path to mn fab labs.. isn’t ordering a mn copies each of multiple types of machine that each do one thing. it’s manufacturing mns of modular components that can be combined to make many diff machines..

the construction of such a machine becomes dynamic rather than static, changing w whether you’re making a circuit, a cake, or a couch, varying the rate of travel, the degrees of freedom that can move, and the end effectors that perform fab operations..

similar to what happened when computing became personal..  80s minicomputers.. was no notion of interoperability..//that’s like a fab lab today, where the only integration between the machines is a person carrying work between them.. enthusiast still choose each separately and assemble themselves.. but the whole industry grew up around de facto standards for chose from a kit of reconfigurable modules for phone..


3\ universal fab: 1 000 000 to 1 000 000 000 – when materials as well as designs move from analog to digital.. from community to personal – multiple kinds of machines merged into one; personal to universal – multiple kinds of processes merged into universal: mirrors.. more smart phones than people.. recycling ness


(on making plane wing flexible.. like bird.. et al).. once we shrink to around a millionth of a meter, they can no longer be perceived by our unaided senses

so this is small scale scienceness.. which we need.. it’s perhaps.. just not the thing to make the change we need..


we’re up to three part types so far to replace millions of components..  taken together this catalog of parts adds up to tens of types to reproduce the functionality of much of modern tech. that happens to be comparable to he number of amino acids in biology, but these human made parts have properties that aren’t available in biology..

this radical inventory reduction has a number of profound implications..

much as gupta roadblock law.. (so again.. a means for the revolution to happen for 7 bn people – which fab labs would be dependent upon..)..

ie: say we just have two things to focus on.. anybody.. anywhere..  and we trust if those two things are taken care of.. (via 2 convos) people will be exactly what we need them to be.. (our one ness)

1\ assembler places parts  2\ assembler requires feedstock of tens of part types.. rather than all  3\ reversibility…  the existence of trash reflects a lack of info about what it contains..  discrete disassembly is symmetrical w discrete assembly.. anything discarded becomes supply .. rather than landfill.. rather than binary decision to keep or dispose.. continuously mod throughout life to reflect changing interests/needs..

up cycling ness thru have/need ness.. to get to eudaimoniative surplus


4\ ubiquitous fabrication: 1 000 000 000 to 1 000 000 000 000 – from digital fab for everyone to digital fab in everything..  corresponds to how the internet spread from computers to people to things.. done by digitizing construction of machines as well as materials.. the distinction between machine and what it makes then disappears.. the material themselves become programmable..

imagine the energy.. if 7 bn people are doing whatever they want every day..  imagine the non waste.. this is our foundation/fundamental/basic.. fab labs definitely needed.. but not the foundation (which means we don’t have to digi lit the whole world.. we don’t have to wait till we have 1 trillion labs.. et al.. we can do it globally.. now)


the point is that what scales isn’t now fast an assembler can operate or how many parts it can place at once; it’s the exponential growth in capacity that comes from assemblers’ ability to make assemblers from the parts that they’re assembling.. this recursion is essential for the ability to build up from the smallest part size to the largest system size in a sane amount of time..

a nother way is 7 bn parts/people operating at once.. and not only that.. operating/being the thing they can’t not be.. so we get back to gershenfeld sel and no need for security, id, protection.. because if 100% of people are truly free.. we can just assume good

imagine the waste saved from that mindset

programmable matter – materials that can be instructed to change shape….

self assembly – materials that can autonomously organize..

both only in research today .. not yet in reality..

the craving/desire/need for a&a .. are already in each heart today..

6 – the opportunity – alan and joel


if lass’s law holds, digi fab performance in the next 50 yrs will be a billion times greater tha it is today. such a scenario offers the very real potential to democratize manufacturing, transforming how we make (unmake and remake) things, and empower billions of people to make what they consume – creating a more self sufficient, interconnected, and sustainble society. this is the opportunity

how about just transformig how we spend our days.. thinking we’ll consume a lot less..

realizing this opportunity is another matter..


final chapter aim 0 to offer tangible guidance for ensuring that th earc of th ethrid digi rev bends toward broadly inclusive individual and ommuity empowerment..

all you say.. write.. yay.. good.. but let’s go deeper .. so that it’s about all of us.. equity.. in the shortest amount of time..

begin chapter w/8 aspirational scenarios in wchih digi fab is a key driver for positively transforming society.. thre may not yet be a single integrated vision of true north for digi fab, but the combo of these scenarios begins to paint the pic


alex mcdowell: we have the power to build the futures we want to inhabit. not by following the trends set by our current constraints, but by leading each step forward thru *imagination and ingenuity..  our future is shared and **storytelling is the common language that ***allows us to share this vision

*how about thru cure ios city.. (same thing.. just more specific as to how)

**idio-jargon as our common language

***allows us to be (together as one) this vision/dance


process starts wi what if and why not questions..

the fab city vision asks ‘what if our cities could be globally connected, yet locally productive by 2054’

why not before..


1\ to get fab labs in remote rural villages.. ie: yogesh kulkarni’s vigyan ashram lab in maharashtra india


2\ enable self determination thru self sufficiency.. ie: blair evans, incite focus lab in detroit.. exploring new models that ‘foster the development of impressive,splendid, admirable human beings’ .. ‘work and spend less, create and connect more’


affluence w/o abundance..

rather than barter/exchange/buying/selling w blockchain.. how about hlb via 2 convos  w bc (or whatever).. listening to daily curiosities.. using that self-talk as data.. to help people find their tribes


3\ turning literacy from a rate limiter to a rate accelerator by.. 10s of 1000s traveling fab mentors circling the globe.. ie: jens dyvik.. oslo fab lab.. 2 yr global tour of fab labs.. funding for travel & hosts


4\ on literacy .. students, software and machines all improv together.. ie: dina el-zanfaly & mohamed hisham.. fab lab egypt.. added to schools for stem


5\ community and collab.. across generations..preserve/extend ancient cultures.. ie: alan’s co & cook inlet tribal council in anchorage.. run by renee fredericks.. never alone game.. in he inupiat language.. been downloaded by 3 mn plus players…

indigenous ness..


6\ community and collab.. across sectors.. disassembling (and reassembling) multinational corps.. ie: heloisa neves.. sao paulo.. we fab.. a maker space that offers consultancy and activities for co’s ..  marcia naves paulo matos and carolina marini – isvor fab lab.. each person has capacity for four personas: explorer; maker; hacker; networker.. rather than traditional jobs.. fab labs are where these personas are forged


7\ material science.. central to first two stages of neil’s roadmap.. going viral.. ie: alysia garmulewicz prof of circular econ in chile.. forests don’t create trash…


8\ material science.. central to last two stages of neil’s roadmap.. transportation infra maintains/updates self.. ie: kenny cheung .. nasa..


as we sought to provide guidance on shaping the third digi rev – we couldn’t find a model that was well matched to the task: optimized for both digital and physical worlds; had a complex mix of distributed stakeholders and interest, and didn’t depend on a single governing person or entity directing its progress… thru the process of writing this book, we developed such a model that we call predictive transformation..

letting go of the old becomes an unending state in a world of exponential techs

bravery to change everyday


all these models have valuable insights for intro ing techs.. none combines the analysis of continuously accelerating tech w mechs to engage and empower diverse, independent stakeholder s around aligned social impact objectives..

2 convos.. as it could be

anticipate: rates of change; align: stakeholders; cultivate: enabling ecosystems; co evolve; tech and society


whiplash: no one can predict future and fool to tory.. they recommend 9 org in principles for navigating exponential change.. though full of great insight.. we disagree w assertion that pace of change is moving so fast that prediction is not advised.. they suggest compass rather than map.. we believe you cannot foster needed agency w/o roadmaps..



joel’s research team define stakeholder alignment as ‘the process by which independent but interdependent individuals, groups, and orgs orient and connect to advance their separate and shared interests..

2 convos.. as it could be


enabling ecosystems.. ie: great opp for a leading philanthropy or an emerging family foundation to become the ‘carnegie’ of community and school fab labs.. more than 1800 billionaires.. w a combined wealth of 7 trillion.. over 130 have taken gates buffet pledge to give most of wealth to bene society..


cba.. stem.. darpa..


co evolve tech and society.. if a ubi also came w training in using digi fab .. there is opp for both econ and psych bene..

well.. psych bene.. but not psych healing.. because you’re insisting people be trained to make things.. rather than just setting them free to be

and not econ healing.. if we’re still measuring.. there’s no eudaimonaitative surplus.. the ideal oikos

also be a needed co evolution w natural environ..  if platforms emerge for use of local envioinr friendly materials in fab labs, then there will be major environ gains. if nto, then the espo growth of fab labs could be a n environ nightmare

it also matters to environ and affluence w/o abundance et al.. that this isn’t about making.. rather about being.. about eudaimonaitative surplus..


the model that blair evans is pursuing for self sufficiency in detroit could easily  transfer to refugee camps..

refugee camps et al


the co evolution is really a regeneration of society that spans generations

has to be.. has to be all of us.. or the dance won’t dance


(on.. but will the techs make us happier) .. sherry turkle: tech offers us substitutes for connetin w each other face to face


the 3rd digi rev could help us leverage bits to spend mroe time int eh world of atoms

rapid prototyping to slow via 2 convos

making things is a deeply human behavior.. the more we make what we can consume, the great our sense of self worth

the more we can practice being/eudaimonia.. the more self worth becomes irrelevant.. because we know/learn.. we are already enough

afraid that your focus on making what we consume.. is still part of the old cycle.. ie: what about ie: there’s nothing going on.. what if non productivity is what i/we need most.. not saying to bag any of your ideas.. just doesn’t seem basic enough to not perpetuate intoxication.. ie: not us ness


these fab pioneers are, indeed, designing reality. soon , everyone will be able to do so as well..

won’t be reality till it’s all of us.. we need each other.. that much..

which begs we leap




fablab et al

gershenfeld sel

ie: hlb via 2 convos that io dance.. as the day..[aka: not part\ial.. for (blank)’s sake…]..  a nother way