I have been following 3D printing for a while now just out of curiosity. But there is a synergy with the open-source movement that I find disturbing. Perhaps there are things we should not be creating.
Pundits claim that 3D printing will "democratize production" by allowing individuals and small companies to create objects that used to require elaborate machinery and skilled craftsmen to fabricate. Even creating something as simple as a bowl used to require either a potter's wheel or a lathe, and some measure of training in their use.
Not so with the 3D printer. Simply input a description of the object from a CAD file, and the printer will build it up. Creating complex undercuts and interior structures is no more difficult than fabricating a cube. The machine handles all the complexity.
With the 3D printer now priced within reach of ordinary individuals (and getting cheaper), there is a trend within the open-source community to make the CAD files of their designs as well as those resulting from 3D scans of various objects freely available to the world at large. On the whole, that is a good thing. It opens many possibilities for hobbyists and professionals alike to create unique and interesting objects.
But it seems to me this trend is going too far with the activity around the 3D-printed gun, one of which was test-fired the other day.
OK, the entire gun is not able to be made out of the plastics that many 3D printers use. So, you cannot yet fabricate an entire working weapon in your basement. But that is likely to be a temporary situation as new materials and methods become available.
And, no, the 3D printer will not be able to make ammunition, either. Or at least not the gunpowder (or equivalent).
But that is not really the point. Once the plans for a working weapon are out there they cannot be retrieved. And it cannot be controlled. That gun design falls into the hands of anyone who wants it.
Some may say that this is a good thing, that oppressed peoples will be able to create weapons that allow them to rise up against tyranny and secure their freedom. I say that the most-likely folks to create such weapons are those who are interested only in personal power and wealth.
This specific debate, though, is only one instance of a greater question. Are there things we should not be creating? If so, how will you know? Or is creation inevitable once the idea has arisen? And if you believe that someone will create it if you don't, does that make it alright to proceed?
Where do you draw the line and say that this is something that you will not create?