Why Technology Disruption Is Not Better For Entrepreneurs

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Despite the headline, this article is actually not about 3D-printed guns. It’s not about their legality, the threat they represent, the legal wrangling over them or even the societal wisdom of bearing arms.

This article isn’t about 3D-printed guns because even the issue of 3D-printed guns itself is not truly about 3D-printed guns.

Rather, it’s about the fascinating dynamic of people, technology and government that has been playing out since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, one that continues to unfold at an ever-accelerating pace today.

So, let’s take a quick look before we examine the deeper implications.

A 3D-Printed Guns Primer

 A 3D-printed gun ultimately shoots a bullet like any other gun.

 The key difference is that whereas manufactured firearms are mass produced in traditional factories, a 3D-printed gun can be created at home, an office or possibly even a public library -- though, it "must be mated to bolts, barrels, trigger groups, stocks, and other necessary parts before it ever fires a bullet," according to a Popular Mechanics article.  

3D-printed guns start with a digital file, which can be created with CAD software or, as we recently found out, downloaded from the internet. Using this file, a 3D printer can create all the components of a gun one layer at a time. 3D-printed guns can be printed from metal and, once assembled, made to look and feel like factory-manufactured guns. More often, however, they are printed from plastic materials. This generally renders them shorter-lived weapons, but it also makes them undetectable by metal detectors, which is worrisome for obvious reasons.

The thing is, 3D-printed guns are nothing new.

 Five years ago, you could find a design for a plastic gun online, print it and fire it. And you could print metal guns, too, with direct metal laser sintering systems. You did need a reliable and accurate printer since a gun has a lot of parts that need to be assembled. And the printers and materials were far more expensive than today -- especially the metal printers. Moreover, you did (and still do) need some level of craftsmanship to accomplish the complex assembly. 

Today’s 3D printers are far more advanced and much more accessible on a mass scale. Now, the scenario of low-budget 3D-printed guns produced by anyone with a 3D printer is not unrealistic. Similarly realistic is the modification of traditionally manufactured weapons using 3D-printed components. This is what >Defense Distributed did with its home-printed AR-15 conversion kit, which turned legal semi-automatic weapons into combat-ready full automatics. What’s more, today there are better materials that are more widely available -- like nylon filled with carbon fiber or graphene-filled materials. These materials can take the mechanical performance of plastic-printed guns to new heights, extending durability and life.

But It’s Really Not About Guns

For the record, I’m going to dodge right around the Second Amendment, because the issue at hand is not one of rights but rather the digitization and democratization of craftsmanship and ubiquitous access to it. Moreover, the simple fact is that if you really want a gun, there are plenty of easier and cheaper >ways to obtain one -- even an untraceable one -- without 3D printing.

Over 250 years of industrialization has taught us that all exponential technologies can have incredibly positive outcomes in the hands of good players and incredibly alarming consequences in the hands of bad players. What happened with fire, gunpowder and automobiles is still happening with 3D printing, gene editing, and blockchain technology, but at an exponentially faster rate. There is a huge difference between what technology enables and what the human condition manifests. The manifestation of bad behavior by elements of society is not something that technology invented, and it's not something that technology can stall.

So, the relevant question is not whether Defense Distributed should be allowed to disseminate plans for a 3D-printed gun. Rather, it’s when and how our governments, legislators, law enforcement agencies and regulators are going to get up to speed on exponential technologies and learn to effectively guide, harness, harvest and control their usage.

Let’s be real: There are so many ways to disseminate information in our always-connected cloud-computing universe, including through the dark web and distributed or decentralized file sharing. With all due respect to the judicial system, a judge's order is not going to shut down these kinds of activities. Applying linear law enforcement thinking to govern exponential tech-enabled behaviors is like applying a Band-Aid to a gushing wound.

The Bottom Line

3D-printed guns make for good headlines. But a change in dealing with exponential technologies will only come when entrepreneurs, politicians and regulators stop dwelling on what are, essentially, symptoms.

Technology is not going away, and it's certainly not slowing down. Even our ability to comprehend the power of technology is diminishing as it becomes more and more sophisticated and deeply embedded in every aspect of our lives.

The government needs to strive every day to achieve a greater balance between technology, human behavior and trust. Our governing institutions need to see past technological symptoms like 3D-printed guns and tap into the deeper implications of the tidal wave of disruption that is happening in the wake of the convergence of exponential technologies. They need to embrace technology in-house and leverage industry tech experts. Specifically, how about appointing CTOs at the cabinet or executive level? A Secretary of Technology or Technology Minister should be a fully empowered member of every government, worldwide.

Overall, the government needs to accept that only the right combination of enforcement, education, incentive and technology will create a viable balance of safety, entrepreneurialism and trust in society.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives.

Do I qualify? " contentScore="6011">

Getty

Despite the headline, this article is actually not about 3D-printed guns. It’s not about their legality, the threat they represent, the legal wrangling over them or even the societal wisdom of bearing arms.

This article isn’t about 3D-printed guns because even the issue of 3D-printed guns itself is not truly about 3D-printed guns.

Rather, it’s about the fascinating dynamic of people, technology and government that has been playing out since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, one that continues to unfold at an ever-accelerating pace today.

So, let’s take a quick look before we examine the deeper implications.

A 3D-Printed Guns Primer

 A 3D-printed gun ultimately shoots a bullet like any other gun.

 The key difference is that whereas manufactured firearms are mass produced in traditional factories, a 3D-printed gun can be created at home, an office or possibly even a public library -- though, it "must be mated to bolts, barrels, trigger groups, stocks, and other necessary parts before it ever fires a bullet," according to a Popular Mechanics article.  

3D-printed guns start with a digital file, which can be created with CAD software or, as we recently found out, downloaded from the internet. Using this file, a 3D printer can create all the components of a gun one layer at a time. 3D-printed guns can be printed from metal and, once assembled, made to look and feel like factory-manufactured guns. More often, however, they are printed from plastic materials. This generally renders them shorter-lived weapons, but it also makes them undetectable by metal detectors, which is worrisome for obvious reasons.

The thing is, 3D-printed guns are nothing new.

 Five years ago, you could find a design for a plastic gun online, print it and fire it. And you could print metal guns, too, with direct metal laser

 sintering systems. You did need a reliable and accurate printer since a gun has a lot of parts that need to be assembled. And the printers and materials were far more expensive than today -- especially the metal printers. Moreover, you did (and still do) need some level of craftsmanship to accomplish the complex assembly. 

Today’s 3D printers are far more advanced and much more accessible on a mass scale. Now, the scenario of low-budget 3D-printed guns produced by anyone with a 3D printer is not unrealistic. Similarly realistic is the modification of traditionally manufactured weapons using 3D-printed components. This is what >Defense Distributed did with its home-printed AR-15 conversion kit, which turned legal semi-automatic weapons into combat-ready full automatics. What’s more, today there are better materials that are more widely available -- like nylon filled with carbon fiber or graphene-filled materials. These materials can take the mechanical performance of plastic-printed guns to new heights, extending durability and life.

But It’s Really Not About Guns

For the record, I’m going to dodge right around the Second Amendment, because the issue at hand is not one of rights but rather the digitization and democratization of craftsmanship and ubiquitous access to it. Moreover, the simple fact is that if you really want a gun, there are plenty of easier and cheaper >ways to obtain one -- even an untraceable one -- without 3D printing.

Over 250 years of industrialization has taught us that all exponential technologies can have incredibly positive outcomes in the hands of good players and incredibly alarming consequences in the hands of bad players. What happened with fire, gunpowder and automobiles is still happening with 3D printing, gene editing, and blockchain technology, but at an exponentially faster rate. There is a huge difference between what technology enables and what the human condition manifests. The manifestation of bad behavior by elements of society is not something that technology invented, and it's not something that technology can stall.

So, the relevant question is not whether Defense Distributed should be allowed to disseminate plans for a 3D-printed gun. Rather, it’s when and how our governments, legislators, law enforcement agencies and regulators are going to get up to speed on exponential technologies and learn to effectively guide, harness, harvest and control their usage.

Let’s be real: There are so many ways to disseminate information in our always-connected cloud-computing universe, including through the dark web and distributed or decentralized file sharing. With all due respect to the judicial system, a judge's order is not going to shut down these kinds of activities. Applying linear law enforcement thinking to govern exponential tech-enabled behaviors is like applying a Band-Aid to a gushing wound.

The Bottom Line

3D-printed guns make for good headlines. But a change in dealing with exponential technologies will only come when entrepreneurs, politicians and regulators stop dwelling on what are, essentially, symptoms.

Technology is not going away, and it's certainly not slowing down. Even our ability to comprehend the power of technology is diminishing as it becomes more and more sophisticated and deeply embedded in every aspect of our lives.

The government needs to strive every day to achieve a greater balance between technology, human behavior and trust. Our governing institutions need to see past technological symptoms like 3D-printed guns and tap into the deeper implications of the tidal wave of disruption that is happening in the wake of the convergence of exponential technologies. They need to embrace technology in-house and leverage industry tech experts. Specifically, how about appointing CTOs at the cabinet or executive level? A Secretary of Technology or Technology Minister should be a fully empowered member of every government, worldwide.

Overall, the government needs to accept that only the right combination of enforcement, education, incentive and technology will create a viable balance of safety, entrepreneurialism and trust in society.

Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives.

Do I qualify?

Source : https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/09/18/why-the-debate-around-3d-printed-guns-needs-to-change/

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