Open Source Tractors

I think my mind’s pretty much overheated today – albeit in a good way. It’s been an awesome day of working with a range of talented folks from across a range of disciplines – and in particular so many different designers – exploring ideas for ‘creative currencies’ as part of this Chiasma. And it’s been an absolute delight to watch so many people start to appreciate the power of blockchain technology.

Of course, it’s precisely because of the fact that Bitcoin brings an environment of permissionless innovation that’s proved to be so crucial. By introducing technology that pulls down those constraints that have previously excluded so many enquiring minds from searching for a better solution, suddenly the potential for improvement becomes indisputable.

So I thought I’d share a short piece from another sector that indicates the disadvantages of closing systems – and how this can ultimately harm the customer that you’re trying to delight. This article is a fascinating explanation of the fact that farmers are no longer able to fix their own tractors. The key point here is really that farmers are increasingly driving around massively expenses pieces of machinery in the form of tractors which are controlled by, in this case, John Deere who restrict the owner’s ability to carry out repairs without their permission.

A strong business model (at least for one side) I’m sure you would agree. However, the far more interesting side to this now is that there is a movement by farmers to develop open source tractors.

Check out Marcin Jakubowski’s talk on the Global Village Construction Set.

 

The Falling Price of Technology

Short post tonight as I’m involved in the Creative Currencies Chiasma event. Given the high quality discussions I’ve already had with people, I have no doubt whatsoever that I’ll have plenty to write about once the event wraps up on Thursday evening. But in the meantime, here’s a couple of quick facts.

Progress continues apace, as does the falling price of technology. It’s worth looking at some of the numbers I think, laid out as they are helpfully in this post to get a sense of perspective. For example, I found it interesting to see that:

  1. Since 1980, the price of computers has dropped 99.9%.
  2. Since 1980, the price of software has dropped 99.3% (unsurprising when you consider how much is free).
  3. Since 1980, the price of TV’s has dropped 97%.
  4. Since 2000, the price of cameras has now dropped by 75%.

Obviously there are a variety of factors that have helped to influence how costs have been reduced (or perceived to have fallen, in the case of inflation) but there’s some handy numbers there if you’re looking for a few solid examples of how innovation can drive down costs.

 

Cyberwhatnow?

So it’s not just me then.

Over the past few months, there have been an increasing number of security breaches following which governments, corporations and press have been quick to point out the dangers of “cyberspace”. The commentary hit a crescendo in recent months in the run up to Christmas with the Sony hack and the misinformation that circled around the cancelled screenings of ‘The Interview’.

To me, the term cyberspace just feels incredibly…dated. I know it’s wrong but no matter what happens, every time I hear someone utter that word, it seems to conjure up a (possibly unfair) presumption in my mind about how up to speed the person is with technology. It conjures up an older generation warning up the dangers of that internet that lives in that box with a screen in the corner of your room.

Unfair but still perhaps that’s really shouldn’t be a surprise. After all the term “cyberspace” was originally coined by William Gibson in a short story called ‘Burning Chrome‘ some 33 years ago, all the way back in 1982.

After reading this article in GigaOm by David Meyer today, I can see where my prejudice comes from. The fact is that “cyberspace” in some way envisages a separate world in some sense within which different rules must surely to apply. Yet technology is developing at such a pace that the online world upon which we increasingly rely is simultaneously becoming ever more deeply embedded within our daily lives – not least because of the connectivity on our ever-present mobile phones and the slow but perceptible shift that we’re seeing as our daily items are increasingly being fitted with sensors to develop their own online presence.

Here’s my favourite quote from the article:-

“The problem with “cyberspace” is that the word suggests a place where different rules apply, and as such it can be misleading. We all need protection from theft and fraud, whether it takes place online or offline. If we’re tracked and spied upon in the online layer, the effect is similar (though more surreptitious) to being stalked around town and in the living room. Online harassment can be as painful as being menaced in the street. We cannot allow the impact of rights violations to be downplayed because they take place online, and we create such a risk by referring to the online world as another, less immediate place.”

As David Meyer writes, such distinctions are false. It’s all the real world now

The fight for net neutrality rumbles on

The Net Neutrality issue rumbles on in the US but there are some initial indications that progress is being made. The FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that he intends to recommend the adoption of rules to keep the internet “fair, fast and open”. Of course, that’s the exact opposite of what the broadband network operators have been fighting for as they continue to push for the right to have a two-tier internet whereby some traffic is afforded a higher priority than others. That’s clearly a dangerous route for us all to go down so the comments this week are certainly positive.

I’ve written about net neutrality before but of course a lot of the commentary is being driven by those in the US. So if you want a quick summary of the topic, I recommend you start with the seriously funny section by John Oliver from a few months back.

But what’s happening in the UK and the rest of Europe?

Well, it’s not all roses over here. Tim Berners-Lee has just published a guest blog post on the European Commission website addressing the issue directly.

Whilst the noises from the European Parliament have been very positive, the current UK government have forced the major ISP’s to block access to certain sites (for a range of reasons from illegal filesharing to imposing parental controls by default). TBL points to Dutch research that shows that net neutrality stimulates innovation by enabling competition on both price and quality, providing the end-user with better options and allowing the growth of new businesses. As he points out:

“Maintaining this net neutrality is critical for the future of the Web and the future of human rights, innovation and progress in Europe.”

If the US does end up making the correct decision, then let’s hope we don’t blow it over here.

The Increasing Entanglement of Modern Knowledge

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” (Confucius)

Most people would agree that the world is becoming more complex. That may be because we delight in making things intricate. But mostly it’s down to the fact that we’re collectively discovering more detail about an ever increasing number of subjects. At the same time, the barriers to the free exchange of this information are being increasingly dismantled.

However, when it comes to thinking about the infrastructure of society, this article stuck in my head recently. It argues that we’ve reached a level of complexity in modern life that means that success (in preventing accidents, identifying bugs, whatever) can only now be achieved by systems that we must first build to collect the necessary inputs, analyse and information and then process the results at speed to ensure that we can avoid the unwanted outcome. Or, to put it another way – we aren’t now individually capable of picking up on things that go wrong. We invariably have to subcontract this essential work out to machines.

When it comes down to relying on a system to direct airplanes to ensure that they don’t collide mid-air, we can be fairly certain that the system will follow instructions to the letter. That’s what computers do. The problem is that once you remove humans from the equation, the safety net (real or imagined) disappears.

In short, people no longer fully understand the technology that surrounds them. American computer scientist Danny Hillis has a great term for this – he calls it “The Entanglement“. Unlike the Enlightenment which was all about the generation of ideas, knowledge is now developing so quickly that we have reached a new stage in which the common reality is that we are incapable of absorbing sufficient quantities of such information in order to be able to take everything into account that we need to.

Put simply, even the things that we rely on today incorporate elements of other things that we have no knowledge of.

Think of chess. We’ve used the game as a proxy for thousands of years to assess intelligence. Yet now it’s indisputable that humans lag far behind supercomputers when it comes to an ability to calculate the vast number of available options during a game. Or mobile phone numbers. How many can you name? Or are we simply outsourcing our knowledge to machines?

It seems quite clear that knowledge “exists at the network level – not in the heads of individual human beings“.

“If you’re not confused, you’re not paying attention.” (Tom Peters)

Rely on things that won’t change in the future

When successful entrepreneurial business leaders are cornered by journalists, they’re often asked to give predictions. They might be pressed to share a few thoughts on how their particular industry might develop over the next few years, or to provide some further insight into future trends.

Of course, for those that are blazing their own trails, there’s great merit in doing so. After all, these individuals have proved that they can:

  1. accurately identify an area of (often explosive) growth;
  2. come up with a product or service that addresses a pain point for customers that increases as the sector expands; and
  3. executed a strategy over a prolonged period of time which – if not quite flawless – contains very few missteps (the hardest skill of all).

Success ultimately requires a huge collection of variables to align correctly at the right time. Hence the reason that so few are able to pull it off on a grand scale. But for those that do, the cachet of entrepreneurial business leader is bestowed willingly upon them by others. And rightly so – they called it, committed to it and delivered it.

However, asking about the future often comes with a subtext. Most people share a common desire to minimise risk and so they will seek out the certainty of a guarantee if at all possible. Removing even one option from a long list of many possible outcomes within an uncertain world appeals to the natural human tendency to prefer a decision that avoids loss to one that results in gains. It’s a fine line between accelerating your learning by using other’s war stories and simply seeking a ‘how-to’ shortcut.

Anyway, here’s how Jeff Bezos answers those who are seeking to predict the future:-

“I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time. …

[I]n our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible.

And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.”

Identify the things that are never going to change and base your business on those fundamentals. Work with a laser-like focus on improving the things that you guarantee will remain relevant to your business over the long run and develop the business from there.

It’s a different way of looking at things – and no doubt goes part of the way towards explaining just why Bezos has enjoyed massive business success to date.

Coffee and Bitcoin: The Last Few Months

The past few months have been filled up with meetings with an increasing number of people curious to learn more about Bitcoin. It’s been a blast. Most are keen to dig deeper after hearing about Bitcoin one too many times to ignore and they’re intrigued to hear about what’s going on in Scotland, particularly the meetup and the conference.

Usually it involves a chat over a coffee. That tends to give me an hour – minus the usual informalities – during which I focus on explaining in as much detail as I think they need to pique their curiosity (so that they will be hooked into further exploration on their own) whilst constantly striving to resist the temptation of going off down any one of the myriad of fascinating but unecessary rabbit holes that just introduce further complexity and burn through precious time.

I’m still a long way from where I’d like to be. Partly it’s because I constantly find myself aiming for what seems to be the slightly unreasonable outcome at this stage of enabling the other person to be able to walk away fully informed and eager to explain the topic to everyone else. I’m not sure that the mythical 10-minute comprehensive explanation of the technology and its potential really exists.

I find that the main challenge each time comes because you inevitably change the focus of any story to take account of your audience. Sometimes you get this right, sometimes you can be wide of the mark. It’s far less to do with anyone’s intellectual capacity than the simple fact that the concepts can appear to be so alien at first and everyone has their own unique preference when it comes to learning. As a result, you’re forced to make snap-decisions on the hoof about the extent of someone’s background knowledge, their general level of technical awareness, the presumptions that they may or may not hold about the status quo, their view of how the money and the internet works……the list is endless.

Despite all the variables, however, if it’s a coffee with someone that I’ve never met before, I can pretty much guarantee that at some point in the conversation, one question will invariably crop up – either explicitly or within the subtext of another comment. It usually goes along the lines of ‘Why are you doing this?’. Or sometimes it’s even more open: ‘How are you making money from this?’.

I still find this question fascinating. Not because I feel that the other person is in any way bringing up a topic that’s somehow indelicate. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. My fascination comes from the fact that in responding, I hear myself speaking about a subject to a previously unknown person with a passion that I’ve never previously felt, much less displayed, in any other endeavour to date.

I explain that the potential that I see for the technology is overwhelming. That I’ve never before found a subject so challenging yet so rewarding, forcing me as it does to continually re-examine both my existing beliefs and knowledge of a myriad of subjects including business, economics, government, smart law, computer science, programming, cryptography and many more as they continue to reveal themselves to me in greater detail on a daily basis. That the potential is so great for blockchain technologies and yet the development still so early that I simply cannot sit back and ignore the next stage in the evolution of our online world as it unfolds on a daily basis.

That’s not to say that there aren’t flaws in the system that we’re working on at present or that we have somehow arrived collectively at a perfectly-formed solution. Then I explain that, no, I am not getting paid for this, the meetups, meetings and all the rest. It’s simply that I’m not content to watch others struggle to filter through the historically uneven reporting across the mainstream press. Now is the time when we should be drawing together innovators – no matter if they come with the background of being coders, entrepreneurs, business people, UX heroes, philosophers, professional service providers or, frankly, those engaged in any other field. It matters not one bit. We just need the people who understand that what we have is something that can and must be improved.

I am lucky enough to live in a relatively small country which possesses a proud history of innovation and retains a keen sense of its own identity. To me, the answer is quite simple. We are lagging behind when we should have been amongst the first to explore the possibilities that have arisen in the years since Satoshi’s White Paper. Yet the wonder of the open nature of the technology is that we are as well-placed as any to engage now with the challenges at hand. Because, quite simply, whether this great experiment works or not is irrelevant. The reality is that the technology that has been discovered cannot in some way now be un-invented.

Whether I end up leaving the coffee shop with a belief that the conversation was successul or not (i.e. whether I feel that I’ve shared enough information to let the other person to make an honest assessment of the topic for themselves or not), I absolutely love these conversations. The more of them that I can have the better. And whilst they certainly don’t result in direct financial gain in any way, I’ve come to the realisation that the indirect gain is strangely just as valuable to me. And that ‘aha’ moment when you see people ‘get it’ before your eyes is absolutely priceless.

I vividly remember discovering Napster in 2000. As a huge music fan, I’d dabbled playing in bands for a decade or so by that stage. Yet the day that I saw the power of peer-to-peer file sharing, I understood that there had been a fundamental and irreversible change. To fight this was to fight reality. Existing models had to choose whether to evolve or to risk falling by the wayside. We’re seeing the same battlelines drawn here. And just as happened fifteen years or so ago, there’s never a specific tipping point that we can identify in advance. It’s only in retrospect that the winners become clear to those who resisted the technological progress.

What do I think will happen this time? I think we’ll see the full range of responses across industries, from early adopters to dinosaurs. And to me that’s fine. That’s natural and that’s progress. However, what I’m less happy to see is businesses, institutions, governments and – crucially – individuals miss the opportunity to get engaged and have a role in driving such inevitable innovations simply because they were somehow unaware that change was afoot.

I don’t hold myself out to be an expert. Not by any means. I’m not sure how many experts we truly have in an industry that is just over six years old in any event. But for those that have the same question in the future, that’s the reason why I’m organising meetups, speaking at as many events as possible, running a conference and generally working harder than I’ve ever done in my life to bring people together for no material gain.

Because I think this time, above all, this is something that really matters. To all of us – and not simply those who share my love of caffeine.

The Evolution of 3D Printing

I remember exactly where I was the first time that I heard about 3D printing. In the time that’s passed, it’s obvious that the claim made that day of an important future technology that should be watched closely has been entirely accurate to date. There’s a great deal of innovation taking place and regular heart-warming and incredible stories in the press that highlight the potential.

However, the industry also has a long way to go. I listened to the always-excellent a16z podcast episode ‘The Next Stage of 3D Printing‘ a while back and felt it was worth sharing some of the highlights from the conversation with Tom Rikert and Carine Carmy of Shapeways.

Why 3D printing is so powerful

Unlike traditional manufacturing, 3D printing is an additive manufacturing technology that enjoys some powerful advantages:-

  • Being additive, no mould is required.
  • As a result, you therefore don’t require the same upfront capital to create a product.
  • There is more freedom when it comes to design.
  • The printer doesn’t care how simple or complex the product is and treats both the same.
  • These new techniques can result in products that are stronger, lighter and more beautiful.
  • And crucially – it enables rapid prototyping.

Historically you’d have to produce big expensive prototypes before going to market that might take a long time but ultimately prove to be far from what the customers actually want. Now you can avoid the whole ‘focus group’ lottery and actually get a product in front of customers quickly for feedback.

Customers are the winners

Social media normalised the previously-alien concept of businesses speaking (or, more accurately, listening) to their customers. The same thing is now starting to happen with product design and development because of 3D printing. It’s early days yet but businesses are now able to seek and incorporate customer feedback into the product development process.

To continue the social media analogy, it was always hard to listen in the field of product design in the past. It took too long and the product cost too much to make which meant that feedback could only be sought irregularly. But with modern customers starting to show an increasing appetite to personalise and influence the development of products, the businesses that tap into this knowledge can benefit. Rely on your customers to define the product in a way that meets their needs in a more efficient way. Result? A cheaper process for the company and products that are of higher value to the consumer.

Current 3D printing is also uncovering niche markets for long-tail products made by individuals. And some forward thinking companies are really leading the way here – for example, Hasbro are allowing fans to adapt and modify their intellectual property.

Great product design always starts with identifying the need. With 3D printing, the customers are actively defining that need on Day 1 – so the benefits are clear to all,

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Of course, not everyone wants to design from scratch. But that’s part of the reason why 3D printing is so powerful. A few people are happy to start the design process with a blank computer screen whilst many more simply want to tweak or augment existing designs (such as those who choose to customise their own trainers).

It’s fascinating to consider how 3D printing is affecting the historic notion of seasonality (produce something and then after a few months, discount the price heavily to ensure that it shifts off the shelves). Apparently, in 2013, half of the products created by Shapeway were actually designed in the previous two years. So the idea that something old must necessarily be less valuable is turned on its head as designers continue to be rewarded whilst their timeless designs continue to sell forever.

Challenges still remain

The industry still has a long way to go however. Much of the 3D printing software is more naturally suited for stunning animation-esque so it fails to take account of gravitational and other requirements now such beautiful pictures being turned into physical form. Also, materials continue to remain a constraint. 3D printing is able to use an increasing variety of materials – but typically only one material can go into one print run. Yet if you look around your room, there are very few single-material products anywhere to be seen.

It will also be fascinating to see how digital rights develop from this point on. How does the original creator of a design get paid for his or her work whilst others modify the design for their own ends? Also, whilst the accessibility of designs will increase, it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily be used – the majority of individuals are still likely to be drawn to the most fashionable products that culture is signalling are ‘cool’ at that time.

As do the opportunities

A recent survey showed that 2 in 5 Americans knew someone that was making things themselves. The big question is how many of these people will be keen to do so in the future using 3D printing.

Gradually, the industry is developing a way of being able to use different materials in the process as it evolved from ‘simply’ printing materials with form to materials with function (i.e. a circuit board inside the end product or a replacement part that goes into a working piece of machinery).

3D printing is invariably expensive – otherwise everyone would have one. However, in one area in particular, the cost is not prohibitive compared to the alternative. In essence, 3D printing is suited for the production of complex, personalised products for which there is a low demand. And it’s clear now that the human body might in fact be the best application – if doctors can find a way to print highly complex but perfect organs that fit you perfectly (as they are doing), it could be less about making My Little Pony fan art products – and more about saving lives.

And that’s a pretty good result for any new technology..

The Social Challenges of Peer-To-Peer Markets

There’s no doubt that Uber was one of the standout tech companies of 2014. Another year of incredible growth led to a staggering valuation – but also brought with it a range of far more unsavoury stories, the stuff of nightmares for most brand consultants.

But is this ‘take no prisoners’ attitude a driver, or a side effect, of Uber’s success? Or, to put it another way – if an innovative business is hellbent on pursuing such an audacious goal of overpowering and dismantling established business models, will it fail unless it adopts this mentality? My instinct (along with many others) is no. As Peter Thiel points out, there’s a clear difference between pushing the envelope (in the way that another peer-to-peer innovator such as Airbnb does) and just going too far.

A couple of days ago, the FT ran an article that introduces a further important consideration to be dropped into the melting pot for those pursuing such strategies of creative destruction. It was sheer luck that I found it, shared as it was on Twitter. I rarely read the FT as a result of the paywall – that’s likely to change if they ever restructure the subscription model to permit Bitcoin micropayments per article like other innovators of course.

The growth of peer-to-peer marketplaces

In the article, Yochai Benkler argues that, in general, the progression towards peer-to-peer models should be applauded. As an authorLegal Professor for Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard Law School and wearer of many other hats, Benkler has been involved in some very interesting work over the years that’s worth investigating further (as you’d expect from someone who got a lifetime achievement award from Oxford University in recognition of his “extraordinary contribution to the study and public understanding of the Internet and information goods”).

Benkler starts by discussing the modern trend for employees to detach themselves from their corporate employers in order to simply offer their services to customers directly. The driver here is clearly technology. A combination of mobile computing and ubiquitous connectivity has enabled greater discoverability (uncovering previously hidden demand) and spurred innovation to find solutions that use resources more efficiently (simultaneously releasing more supply).

As this evolution into an on-demand (or more accurately collaborative) economy continues, we’re seeing peer-to-peer markets develop. Individuals are now competing directly with the same companies that used to employ them, providing services that are more tailored and often far cheaper.

Transfer of power includes transfer of risk

This is all positive stuff. But, as Benkler warns, there is something else transferring here which is often overlooked. Risk. Stability and equilibrium in our world is an unnatural state of affairs so companies have traditionally acted as a buffer for employees against the rollercoaster of enterprise inside a market economy.

The role of the market here is also essential. Whilst Adam Smith famously explained how the division of labour enabled people who collaborated by carrying out their own piece of specialised work to create more value collectively, there is an assumption that individuals have access to a marketplace. For example, you may be the best sock-folder known to man but you need two more things over and above that admittedly niche ability:

  1. someone who values your sock-folding skill highly enough to reward you with ‘money’; and
  2. a market in which you can exchange that ‘token’ for the things that you truly need and desire.

If neither exists, you’re likely to starve.

Decentralisation in a technology-driven marketplace

So we’re seeing technology uncover new markets. Yet according to Nobel prizewinning economist Ronald Coase, these peer-to-peer marketplaces come at a cost. In an argument well-known to many in the Bitcoin community, the total cost of decentralisation (i.e. P2P transactions) is often higher than centralisation. As a result, rather than simply having individuals transact throughout history, we’ve developed companies – because trying to find 360,000 specialist individuals who can each produce the required components of an aeroplane, for example, would be prohibitively costly, almost impossible to organise and result in an end product that no-one could protect or market.

However,  as with many established theories, modern technology provides a challenge. Rather than acting as an inhibiting factor on the scale of the project, the early years of the internet saw the rise of collaborative projects that resulted in projects that became significant in size and competitive with anything produced by a commercial entity. However, these projects were driven for reasons other than financial gain – Wikipedia and Linux, both created and maintained by a community providing their time and skills for free.

Price directs any collaborative marketplace (not social interactions)

And here lies the crux of Benkler’s argument. With no money involved, these projects could progress without arguments over how those profits should be split. Yet today, we are clearly entering into an age of massive collaboration in which motivation is clearly ‘for-profit’ as opposed to simply for the collective good of others, both within that community and beyond.

With P2P marketplaces, we will undoubtedly see increased efficiency in many cases. But with such a shift in power and risk, we can also expect to see a more pronounced social impact by virtue of the fact that many individuals lack the shelter of employment which provided some form of buffer during previous periods of high economic growth.

To use Benkler’s example, Wikipedia and Linux impacted the publishing and software industries respectively. These were sectors that contained, for the most part, well-educated and adequately remunerated individuals. However, the currently growth of the new on-demand economy is likely to have an impact across far deeper levels of society that enjoy significantly less financial security and lack the educational resources to defend themselves against the coming disruption.

The challenge of progress

As Charles Dickens was so keen to point out, there is a risk that significant economic growth can also bring with it societal inequality. As these new marketplaces evolve within our modern economy, the promise of financial returns will invariably influence the areas in which individuals focus their time and efforts. Benkler’s view believes that some entrepreneurs have already identified that this will result in certain consequences for others within society. But others, however, have not.

Which, in a way, brings this post back full-circle.

It’s easy to be won over by the promise of new technology and the ensuing gains in efficiency. But it’s equally important to ensure that we spend time considering the necessary rules and standards that we need to maintain and, importantly, improve the cohesion within society today as such advancements inevitably take place in the near future. Otherwise we risk alienation that can only be the detriment of increasing numbers.

Replicate (And Destroy Me) Scotty

It’s good to see yet another prediction that has its origins in the creative output of popular science fiction emerge into reality. Kind of.

Teleportation is one of those things that you just can’t imagine will ever be possible – at least when it comes to living things – even if you had Montgomery Scott in your corner. We’ve all seen what can go wrong after all.

Yet it turns out that by combining 3D printing and encryption, researchers are now proving that a type of ‘teleportation’ is possible. A project in Germany named Scotty has shown that by using two MakerBot Replicators, modified with a camera, a milling machine and encryption hardware for secure communication, an object can be ‘sent’ from one location to another.

Just to be clear, that’s not to say that the recipient gets the same item in molecular terms. Instead he or she will receive a replicated version. The really interesting thing though is that at exactly the same time, the original gets destroyed by the milling machine in stages. The milling machine carries out this destruction in layers which are photographed and then sent securely to, and replicated by, the second machine. Perhaps it would be more accurate to describe this as a ‘duplication plus destruction’ model.

Either way, there’s definitely potential applications to be developed here. For example, if you’re not allowed to copy an item because of intellectual property protection but a seller wants to sell itto a buyer on the other side of the world (and it is made of the appropriate material), this removes the transit to delivery time almost entirely.

The end product might still be quite rough. But combine this functionality with a Bitcoin payment that automatically transfers as soon as the milling of the original item starts – now you’ve got a very interesting proposition.

Still, I’d wait for a little while yet. I don’t recommend you squeeze into that replicator yourself in order to cut down those air fare costs