Dec 18, 2015 | By Alec

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it’s becoming easier to see what 3D printing has achieved over 2015, and it is also becoming increasingly tempting to speculate about what the future will bring. Fortunately, most predictions on the growth of the 3D printing market and the development of the technology have been fairly positive. Respected futurist Ray Kurzweil has just predicted that 3D printing will begin touch just about every aspect of our lives during the 2020s.

Now of course a news website shouldn’t report on the predictions of every crackpot on the internet, but Ray Kurzweil typically knows what he’s talking about. He is often considered the world’s foremost futurist, and has authored a number of respected bestsellers, including “The Age of Spiritual Machines” and “How to Create a Mind.” What’s more, Google even hired the man for their artificial intelligence program. However Kurzweil’s biggest claim to fame is undoubtedly that his predictions are right about 86 percent of the time. Back in 2013, it was calculated that of the 147 predictions he made since the 1990s, 115 have turned out to be completely correct and a further 12 were deemed essentially correct (being off by a few years).

So how do you achieve such a stunning accuracy rate? Well, the main reason behind his success is that he doesn’t simply speculate, but he calculates. As he revealed in “How to Create a Mind”, Kurzweil’s predictions all focus on information technology and all follow what he calls the Law of Accelerating Returns. In essence, it means that information technology follows predictable exponential growth trajectories. Calculating how much computing information you need for a certain purpose and how fast that information is expanding essentially enables him to create a timeline of sorts. It’s what helped him predict that artificial technology would be able to beat a chess grandmaster by 1998, or win at Jeopardy.

Kurzweil at Singularity University

As such, most of his predictions focus on what information technology and AI can achieve within society. He is for instance expecting that our brains will be hooked onto the cloud by the 2030s, simply because the computational power will exist around that time. And as 3D printing is reliant on information technology, this has also come up on his radar. “Most things are becoming information technology, including clothing, which will be printed on 3D printers. We’ll be able to grow food in vertical agriculture and print it on 3D printers, which are pennies for pounds. In the 2020s, 3D printing designs will be open source and free so you can live extremely well and print out everything you need, including printing out houses,” he predicts during a discussion at Singularity University.

But this isn’t just good for 3D printing startups, he adds, but also for the rest of society. Just because things will be 3D printed at home and locally, doesn’t mean jobs and industries (from fashion to construction) will be lost. “Look at industries that have already gone from physical products to digital products, like music, movies and books. There’s an open source market with millions of free products but people still spend money to read Harry Potter, see the latest blockbuster and buy music from their favorite artist. Fueled by the ease of distribution and promotion, you have a coexistence of a free open-source market and a proprietary market. That's the direction we’re moving in,” he says.

Now Kurzweil is still slightly careful about his prediction, saying that he doesn’t know exactly how 3D printing will function in society or how this will influence the job market. He does however know that the expansion of an open-source 3D printing technology will greatly revolutionize the world around us. It could even, he says, change our standards of living completely. “We’ve created a society where you need a job to have a livelihood. But that’s going to be redefined. We’re going to have the means of providing an extremely high standard of living to everyone easily within 15 to 20 years,” he speculates.

That certainly looks like a fantastic future, though we can obviously only patiently wait to find out to what extent it is true. But to add at least some more power to the argument, this isn’t just the worldview of a single futurist. Just a few weeks ago, Gartner predicted that 3D printing will be prominently present in both the healthcare and consumer manufacturing industries by as soon as 2019. In fact, they expect that 10 percent of people in the developed world will be wearing 3D printed objects in or on their bodies in just three to four years from now. Some exciting times are thus just ahead of us.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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