Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

Sharing a few favorite highlights from Chris Anderson's Makers: The New Industrial Revolution.  It is simply a must read for educators as we consider future initiatives.  More importantly, points raised by Anderson in Makers presents a road map for the types of programs, skills and dispositions that we need to support.  Come budget time, promoting the "Industrial Arts" has been a challenge when competing against more traditional measures/programs.  However, it's hard to argue against the need for schools to assist in creating a generation of Makers and homegrown entrepreneurs. 

The beauty of the Web is that it democratized the tools both of invention and of production.

But the point is that the path from “inventor” to “entrepreneur” is so foreshortened it hardly exists at all anymore.

In the Web Age, the DIY punk movement’s co-opting of the means of production turned into regular people using desktop publishing, then websites, then blogs, and now social media.

But one of the most profound shifts of the Web Age is that there is a new default of sharing online. If you do something, video it. If you video something, post it. If you post something, promote it to your friends. Projects shared online become inspiration for others and opportunities for collaboration. Individual Makers, globally connected this way, become a movement. Millions of DIYers, once working alone, suddenly start working together.

The idea of a “factory” is, in a word, changing. Just as the Web democratized innovation in bits, a new class of “rapid prototyping” technologies, from 3-D printers to laser cutters, is democratizing innovation in atoms. You think the last two decades were amazing? Just wait.

The great opportunity in the new Maker Movement is the ability to be both small and global. Both artisanal and innovative. Both high-tech and low-cost. Starting small but getting big. And, most of all, creating the sort of products that the world wants but doesn’t know it yet, because those products don’t fit neatly into the mass economics of the old model

And once an industry goes digital, it changes in profound ways, as we’ve seen in everything from retail to publishing. The biggest transformation is not in the way things are done, but in who’s doing it. Once things can be done on regular computers, they can be done by anyone. And that’s exactly what we’re seeing happen now in manufacturing
Thus, the Third Industrial Revolution is best seen as the combination of digital manufacturing and personal manufacturing: the industrialization of the Maker Movement.

“It’s about the ability for individuals to make—and, more importantly, modify—anything. Everyone here has an idea—we’re trying to make it easier for them to realize it. What becomes important is the designs, not the fabrication.”

As desktop fabrication tools go mainstream, it’s time to return “making things” to the high school curriculum, not as the shop class of old, but in the form of teaching design... But think how much better it would be if they could choose a third option: design class. Imagine a course where kids would learn to use free 3-D CAD tools such as Sketchup or Autodesk 123D. Some would design buildings and fantastic structures, much as they sketch in their notebooks already. Others would create elaborate videogame levels with landscapes and vehicles. And yet others would invent machines