Go backward or go forward

In a huge step forward for 3D printing, Airbus unveiled the world’s first 3D printed aircraft earlier this month. The aircraft was tiny and windowless – yet, it was the star of the show.

In a survey of folks in the aviation sector in Germany, 70% of the respondents believed that airline parts would be 3D printed in airports by 2030.

Can you imagine the number of jobs that will be lost when that happens?

When faced with a proposition as scary as this, we have a choice – we can either focus on moving backward or focus on moving forward.

Focusing on moving backward would mean lobbying government to put all sorts of restrictions and tariffs to stifle innovation in 3D printing. It would mean doing everything in our power to keep the status quo or even reverse it if at all possible. This is the corporate version of fundamentalism and is one most incumbent companies practice. If this is your approach of choice, good luck.

Moving forward, however, would require us to embrace the scary idea that 3D printing will not just take away jobs in airline manufacturing but in many other industries. There will be millions of people displaced. The solution to this problem will not be obvious now. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one. One thing is clear, however – we will only get there if we accept that change will occur whether we like it or not. It has its way of forcing its way through.

We can choose to either ride the wave or be drowned in it.

2 thoughts on “Go backward or go forward”

  1. Great post!

    Another idea about the losing jobs worry…

    Kroger can pay a cashier $8/hour because she creates at least that much value for Kroger. When that cashier is replaced with a robot that costs $0.08/hour for electricity and maintenance, the same original value is still created and delivered to kroger. Technology doesn’t make value disappear, it just shifts it around.

    But now the cashier has nothing to do between 7 AM and 3 PM everyday.

    You can call that a bad thing because she has no money to feed her family and move forward. But remember that the value is still there in the world, it’s just not going to her.

    The second option is that you call it a good thing that someone is free to do the important work. Her job has been automatized and that’s good because all those things she didn’t have energy for before she does now.

    The problem is we aren’t comfortable with paying someone on faith that they will do good work. Some people would rather invent useless busywork (e.g. pumping gas) for others than give them a wage and letting them keep their time.

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