Would you leave Earth to help colonize another planet? This might sound like an absurd question, but, according to many leaders of thought, its one we might have to confront sooner than later. Chris Campbell explores our journey from air to space, and ponders where we’re off to next. Read on…
If you’ve ever wanted to expose some heinous crime against humanity, here’s your chance. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell shows you how to make sure the world accesses to your leaks, even if something happens to you. Chris also shares why this is probably a terrible idea. Read on…
Over a century ago, a hidden energy war began. The bad guys won. For 100 years, man has been a slave to the energy monopolies. But now, miraculously, the good guys are throwing a punch -- and they’re inviting you to fight the good fight. Even promising riches if you do. Chris Campbell fills you in on the full story. Read on…
An ancient guide has been in hiding… until now. As it dusts itself off, some early adopters are calling it “the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization and strength.” And, according to Chris Campbell, it could be the only thing you need to thrive in our day-to-day life of modern chaos. Embrace it, and become the hero of your own story. Ignore it, and risk living a whimper of a life on someone else’s terms. Read on…
“What… is… that?!”That’s what one colleague asked when she saw this on my desk…My face, according to 3-D printing“My face,” I said. “What does it look like?”“Uh…”OK, sure. It’s a rough depiction. Eh. It’s pretty choppy…And, as you can see, the glasses didn’t really take well… making for an eerie sunken eye look.Didn’t really turn […]
Where do great investors come from?I’m not sure what the hurdle rate for greatness is, but Guy Spier has put up impressive results. His Aquamarine Fund has returned 463% since inception in 1997, versus just 167% for the S&P 500 (a broad proxy for the market). Put another way, $1 million invested at inception is […]
Bitcoin has been pretty quiet lately. But that doesn’t mean big things aren’t taking place behind-the-scenes for the digital currency. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell pulls back the curtain and shows you how Bitcoin is quietly slipping into the mainstream. He also shows you why now could be the time to buy now, or forever hold your peace. Read on…
In an odd mix of fate, protesters and corporations are holding hands. They both have one common goal: save the Internet from the evil cable companies. We all have a common hate for them. But what if the cable companies aren’t as evil as once thought? What if there’s an even bigger evil lurking behind them? There is. Read on…
Want to get rich? Don’t listen to financial “gurus,” says Chris Campbell. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris shares a Zen proverb and shows how understanding it is the only real way to get rich (and live a rich life). Read on…
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, you’ll learn about one FREE website that has the potential to not only keep your family safe – but also open your eyes to what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…
Next year is the 65th anniversary of the Peanuts comic strip. And Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and the rest of the gang will appear in their first full-length feature film in 35 years.One small company has the license to the Peanuts brand. The cash flow due to this company could be enormous. In late October, […]
All over the world, power is dying. The dictators and tyrants of the world are no longer able to wield it like they once used to. And they’re losing it to the “little guy.” Chris Campbell shows you how to be the king of your castle by taking advantage of this fact. Today, you’ll learn how to grab “power gaps” in the market and channel them into your product idea or project. Read on…
Chris Campbell got more than he bargained for during Sunday brunch. In a packed restaurant, he learned about a hidden sex boom that’s taking the world by storm. You won’t believe how much money ordinary Americans are making in this boom. It’s so much…you may even consider cashing in yourself.
Hundreds of pictures of nude celebrities were leaked onto the Internet last week. The mainstream is blaming twenty-something hackers, but according to Chris Campbell, everyone must’ve already forgotten what we learned about the NSA only a year ago. Read on…
The fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia show "feats of synchrony that occur spontaneously, almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order." Chris Campbell tells you where else this might occur in the world. Also, new technology may revolutionize the agriculture industry and what we think of as a farm.
Who can forget Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island? That map, marked with an “x,” is the stuff of high adventure.There is a modern-day equivalent of a treasure map, and it is just as coveted by those who seek reservoirs of oil and gas. It’s called seismic data.What are seismic data? In essence, they’re collected from […]
Jeff Davis is running for Governor in Hawaii and has an interesting campaign strategy. Also, what motivates hackers is revealed and the findings might surprise you. Finally, Ferguson is discussed in a new light. Chris Campbell has more...
When the government pumps trillions of dollars into the economy, they’re not actually printing the money. It enters as digital entries in banks across the country. It’s made the system fast, responsive, and, unfortunately, vulnerable. Now our money is no longer something we hold in our hands, but something that exists on a very susceptible network.
When’s the best time to invest in something? When everyone else is trying to get their money out of it. It might go against conventional thinking, but following the crowd usually makes you miss the real opportunities. At one monetary metal conference recently, the smartest guys in the industry sat down to discuss where these real hidden gems lay.
Say goodbye to your boring morning commute. New technologies are changing the way people drive their cars. It’s making them safer, more fuel efficient, and could reshape the way America builds its roads and cities. The only thing that could stand in the way...
I bet you use different kinds of money all the time, sometimes without even realizing it.In various online accounts, I currently have: some dollars, some pounds, and some euros. I have some air miles from two different credit card companies. I have some supermarket rewards points from three different companies. And I also have some […]
In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]
When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”There was […]
Remember that correction we’ve been quietly talking about over the past couple of months?Well, it might be right around the corner. Stocks waited until the last day of the month to nose-dive. The S&P 500 posted its first 2% down day since April — and the Dow wasn’t far behind. Early this morning, futures continue […]
I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]
I’m sure you’ve seen the news. As if recent, past U.S. policy fiascos in Libya, Egypt and Syria were not enough, the wheels are now coming off the proverbial bus in Iraq, site of so much blood and treasure spent in the last decade.Radical Islamist armies are marching toward Baghdad, slicing through Iraqi government troops […]
Health care costs in the U.S. have been rising so steadily for so long that containment barely seems possible. Even optimists don’t dream of cutting the price tag. As its official name — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — suggests, Obamacare aims for affordability, not radical reduction.But at a time when we’re all […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
In 1995, American agriculture underwent a profound, dangerous change.In that year, Monsanto and other companies pushed through approval for a handful of genetically modified (GM) organisms. These included canola oil tweaked to improve its flavor, potatoes modified to resist pesticide dousing, and tomatoes gene-spliced to delay ripening.“About half of all the crops planted on American […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
I want to share some insight and give you a front-row seat to America’s next big shale play.Let’s get to it…Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has turned the ship around, quite literally.We’ve gone from a country that was expecting to import massive amounts of oil and gas — to a country that’s sitting […]
“Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.”
When Capt. Jean-Luc Picard wants a steaming beverage in his ready room aboard the starship Enterprise, he just utters those words. The ship’s “replicator” then assembles the necessary atoms — including those for the cup — and produces it, ready for the drinking. Picard thinks nothing of it — it’s hardly more remarkable to him than a microwave oven is to us today. Just as we now use radio waves to excite atoms and generate heat in our own kitchens (which would have been mind-blowing in the 1950s), his replicator uses some fancy energy technology that is never quite specified in Star Trek: The Next Generation to get atoms to self-assemble into food and drink.
That’s science fiction, but it’s actually not impossible. When you see an industrial 3-D printer working today, with a little poetic license you can glimpse the beginnings of something similar. A bath of liquid resin lies inert, a primordial soup. A laser begins tracing patterns in it, like lightning. Shapes form and emerge from the nutrient bath, conjured as if by magic from nothing.
OK, poetic license revoked — we’re still a long way from molecular self-assembly, or at least in any useful way. A 3-D printer can only work with one material at a time, and if you want to combine materials, you need to have multiple print heads or switch from one to another, like the different color cartridges in your desktop inkjet printer. We can only work at a resolution of about 50 micrometers (the thickness of a fine hair), while nature works at a thousand times finer detail, of a few tens of nanometers. And there’s nothing self-assembling about the way a 3-D printer works: It does all the assembling itself, with the brute force of a laser solidifying a powder or liquid resin, or melting plastic and spreading it down in a fine line.
But you get the point. We can imagine something, draw it on a computer, and a machine can make it real. We can push a button and an object will appear (eventually). As Arthur C. Clarke put it, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” This is getting close.
You may think of 3-D printing as bleeding-edge technology today, the stuff of high-end design workshops and geeks. But you may have encountered a 3-D printer already, in ways so prosaic you didn’t even notice.
Take custom dental fittings, such as those that change the alignment of the teeth over months with a series of slightly different mouth guards, each of which shifts the teeth imperceptibly into a new position. In that case, a dental technician scans the current position of your teeth, and then software mathematically models all the intermediate positions to the desired endpoint. Finally, those positions are 3-D printed in plastic as a series of mouth guards that you wear, each for two or three weeks, until your teeth are in the new position.
Likewise for the prototypes of practically every gadget you’ve ever bought, and the architectural models for the newer buildings around you. Custom prosthetics are 3-D printed. If you’re lucky enough to have a dentist who can replace a crown in a single sitting, that’s probably 3-D printed (then sprayed with enamel) in the office. Doctors have printed and replaced an entire human jaw from titanium.
Today, you can buy a custom 3-D printed action figure of your World of Warcraft character or your Xbox Live avatar. And if you go to Tokyo, you can have your head scanned and you can buy a photorealistic action figure of yourself (try not to get too creeped out).
Commercial 3-D printing only works with a few dozen types of materials, mostly metals and plastics of various sorts, but more are in the works. Researchers are experimenting with more exotic materials, from wood pulp to carbon nanotubes, that give a sense of the scope of this technology. Some 3-D printers can print electrical circuits, making complex electronics from scratch. Yet others print icing onto cupcakes and extrude other liquid foods, including melted chocolate.
At the huge scale, there are already 3-D printers that can make a multistory building by “printing” concrete. Right now that requires a 3-D printer the size of the building, but it may someday be built into the cement truck itself with a concrete that uses positional awareness to decide where to put down concrete and how much, directly reading and following the architect’s CAD plans.
Meanwhile, researchers are working just as hard at moving in the other direction: 3-D printing at the molecular scale. Today there are “bioprinters” that print a layer of a patient’s own cells onto a 3-D-printed “scaffold” of inert material. Once the cells are in place, they can grow into an organ, with bladders and kidneys already demonstrated in the lab. Print with stem cells, and the tissue will form its own blood vessels and internal structure.
Today’s vision for 3-D printing is grand in ambition. Carl Bass, the CEO of Autodesk, one of the leading companies making 3-D authoring CAD software, sees the rise of computer-controlled fabrication as a transformative change on the order of the original mass production. Not only can it change the way traditional consumer goods are made, but 3-D printing can also work on scales as small as biology and as large as houses and bridges.
In an essay he published in The Washington Post, Bass explained what’s so different about this way of making things:
“The ability to produce a small number of high-quality items and sell them at reasonable prices is causing an enormous economic disruption. In it, you can see the future of American manufacturing.
“In a computerized manufacturing process like 3-D printing, complexity and quality come are free… A traditional paper printer can print a circle or a copy of the Mona Lisa with equal ease. The same rule applies to a 3-D printer.”
From a design perspective, this is revolutionary. It is no longer necessary for the designer to care or know about the manufacturing process, because the computer-controlled machines figure that stuff out for themselves. The same design can be fabricated in metal, plastic, cardboard, or cake icing. (It might not be very useful in all those materials, but it would exist.) “We can separate the design of a product from its manufacture for the first time in history, because all of the information necessary to print that object is built into the design.” Bass explained.
Even better, as 3-D printers proliferate and become used for small-scale bespoke or custom-made manufacturing, they can provide a more sustainable way of making things. There are little or no transportation costs, because the product is made locally. There is little or no waste, because you use no more raw material than you need. And because the product is custom-made just for you, you’re more likely to value it and keep it longer. Personalized products are less disposable; you simply care about them more.
Rich Karlgaard, the publisher of Forbes magazine, thinks that 3-D printing “could be the transformative technology of the 2015-2025 period.” He writes:
“This has the potential to remake the economics of manufacturing from a large-scale industry back to an artisan model of small design shops with access to 3-D printers. In other words, making stuff, real stuff, could move from being a capital-intensive industry into something that looks more like art and software. This should favor the American skill set of creativity.
But also remember what 3-D printing and any other digital production technique cannot do. They offer no economies of scale. It is no cheaper on a per unit basis to make a thousand than one. Instead, they offer exactly the opposite advantage: There is no penalty for changing each individual unit or making just a few of a kind.
It is the reverse of mass production, which favors repetition and standardization. Instead, 3-D printing favors individualization and customization. The big win of the digital manufacturing age is that we can have our choice between the two without having to fall back on expensive handcrafting: Both mass and custom are now viable automated manufacturing methods.
— Chris Anderson
This essay was excerpted from Chris Anderson’s book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.