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View Diary: Open thread for night owls: 3-D printed guns 'a politically important project' (312 comments)

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  •  Aspects of a 3DP fighting force (0+ / 0-)

    1. Emphasis on portability and provision in the field, to the extent possible. Printers will be man-portable and geared to use locally available materials.
    2. Making that happen will require a means to refine and sort said raw materials directly from the environment. Nanotech to disassemble and concentrate needful feedstocks for a given purpose. That's a bottleneck
    3. Dependency on long supply lines for 3D printer resin and uniform-grained powdered plastic is probably not a viable basis for an insurgency OR sustained orthodox operations enabled with 3D print tech
    4. Oh - and this gag will take high energy densities - think really, really good batteries or fuel cells - that aren't quite mass producible at this time. Or very long extension cables.
    5. More likely, a standard weapon skeleton will be manufactured, with modules supportable by field printing.
    6. The field printers will be used to replace magazines, personal armor modules and most importantly, ammo.
    7. Not sure if anyone's cracked the nut yet of how to use a 3D printer to refine gunpowder, smokeless or otherwise. Contact with heated elements, which abound in printers, could lead to a catastrophic oops event, but let's assume that gets sorted eventually
    8. Printed metamaterials - substances who physical configurations at the molecular level lead to unusual physical properties like, say, negative refractive indexes (like bends 'backward', thus the moniker 'invisibility cloak') may in time lead to breakthroughs such as new combustibles or superconductive resins that support magnetic-accelerated rounds. Thinking out of the box there but it is the future of which we speak.
    9. So now we have battalions in the field that can print replacement parts, invisibility cloaks, personal armor and even new boots and toilet paper on the fly - very important items, those last. Oh - and ammo. They just need pauses in the combat conversation long enough to resupply.
    10. Heck, with bioprinters they'll even be able to print up food so long as sufficient moisture can be gleaned from the soil, water and air.
    11. And if biologicals can be safely and reliably printed, that means medical supplies, including replacement body parts, could be handled by special field surgery printers.

    Which brings me full circle to the question of what type of political regime would such a technology, worked out to its mature level, support?

    Many of the pieces required to make all of the above work adequately would not require much more than the first complete kit. Start with that, go found your own small industrialized prepper-country. Libertaria. Woo.

    That is, it would adequately, until some key component in the short, durable field printer supply chain broke. If I were to think of the weakest link, it would be the fuel cells or batteries, or special parts in the 3D printers themselves that the printers cannot manufacture themselves.

    That problem could be solved by substitute materials or accepting a loss of precision so that, like a lathe, the printer could build all the parts to make a copy of itself. and that might well be done in practice someday.

    However, a loss of functionality would result. The printers might be secured from the need to go to town and buy special parts but they'd make less of a range of things, less well, and more slowly. That would limit the 'sovereignty' side of such devices.

    And then there would be the vulnerability of such devices to hacking or infecting with bad operating systems. Think: centrifuges. Sure, one could go off-grid, but that particular printer or set of them would be stuck using what would fast become a limited set of vintage templates. More limitations on functionality, more limits on that independence thing.

    Ultimately, as delightful as this tech strikes the aspiring anarchist, 3D printing ultimately favors larger and more closely integrated societies'  defense objectives than those of small groups with limited esteem for things like laws.

    Though the tactical aspects of a 3DP combat scenario superficially lean toward assymetric warfare - and rest assured, it will do that - in the long run 1000 coordinated teams using top-of-shelf kit can defeat 100 disconnected ones using yesterday's sci-fi.

    And I think this is roughly how all the to-do about 3D's game changing implications will play out.

    •  Check out the longer... (0+ / 0-)

      Article (and accompanying 24 minute documentary) on Vice.com. A better overview.

      The kid does come across as a lot more sane than a tinfoil hatter though his appearances on Alex Jones' Infowars do a lot to discredit that.

      What we're seeing here, and I think he'd agree with, is just a microscopic taste of what a technological singularity is. What's being constructed now is very crude but the path forward is already set.

      Laws and social mores begin to break down in the face of ever expanding technology. New problems that were never seriously considered arise quickly. For example, Sam Harris, Hitchens, et al., have long rued the day when a religious extremist could manufacture a nuclear device with household ingredients. The day is coming.

      I do agree with your main points but 20, 30, 40 years from now the power that an individual has will make our current fears/hopes seem quaint. "Remember when we could only construct part of a gun at home?"

      And it isn't just guns... this is going to change every aspect of life, violent and beneficial.

      •  Bear in mind... (0+ / 0-)
        And it isn't just guns... this is going to change every aspect of life, violent and beneficial.
        Only for the wealthy. As is always the case.

        The poor will continue as usual, either lacking computers at all or lacking the knowhow to even use the computers, let alone a 3d printer. The middle class will get a little benefit out of it but will be kept too busy with 60 to 80 hour work weeks to do much exploitation of the technology, even should it become economical to do so. And in any case, as food and housing prices (and, of course, medical costs) rise over the next 20 to 40 years to be more or less 100% of a poor or middle class person's budget, the things that can be manufactured at home will become less and less of an issue anyway.

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