As Georges Pompidou put it: There are three roads to ruin – women, gambling and technicians. The most pleasant is with women, the quickest is with gambling, but the surest is with technicians. Technological innovations evoke polarising views – some spuriously question them, but nobody fails to embrace them.
Chris Anderson in his new book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution provides a glimpse of technological explosion, which the past two decades have witnessed. In fact, he attempts to go one step further – providing a flash of future as well.
Think of ‘future of science’ and you visualise Hollywood Sci- Fi movies –Matrix, Iron man, Transformers – after all, that is what a commoner presumes future to be. But Chris fails to produce that fancy in his book. Perhaps, because it’s not fiction or because what he strives to explain about digitalisation of world is all known.
Chris describes DIY [do it yourself] is what drives young generation. With 3D printing, CAD, 3D scanner and Internet, the gap between inventor and entrepreneur has been cut short. The book starts with the tale of his maternal grandfather – Fred Hauser who dreamed of machines and exuberantly converted his garage into a workshop. Tinkering with things at night, he invented a wizard sprinkler for his lawn, which didn’t require manual intervention. After this, Chris incandescently brings out’ the limits of the ‘20th Century industrial model’, to quote, unquote him. Patent licensing, which requires an inventor to lose control of his/ her invention emanates as an evil. But his grandfather got lucky and found a sponsor.
This account forms the basis of the rest of the book. How in the last two decades, with access to Web, things have changed unpredictably. He points how anyone with a laptop and an idea can think of changing this world – Mark Zuckerberg to cite one famous example. He puts forth the issue of declining manufacturing in the world, specifically ‘America’, very coherently and insinuates the proliferation of cottage industries as an answer to diminution of employment.
A few pages are devoted to describing about the first industrial revolution and the subsequent second industrial revolution and, possibly, what could be called as the third revolution – The Age of Web.
There was a moment in the book, which transcended me to the world when you can imagine ‘machines churning anything one can want’ – detailed description of 3D printers and the revelation that it can also synthesise human organs truly bewildered me.
Anderson, in the second half of the book –The Future Ahead – very cleverly outlines the imperfections of 3D printers while calling it revolutionary at the same time, ‘a transformative technology’, which aims to revert the economies of manufacturing from large-scale to artisan model of small design shops, and thus an antithesis of economies of scale, a concept which ‘Fordism’ harnessed in the early 20th Century, which later on was defined as Americanism.
One fascinating example that Anderson talks about is open design advantage, a substitute to patent licensing. Patent, he points out, undesirably raises the price of a product. According to him, ‘the only motive of a patent should be to ensure that society as a whole benefits from it.’ His alternative, the open source communities in which we have ‘R&D model that is faster, better, tad cheaper than those of some of the biggest companies in the world.’
The book also brings forth Anderson’s latent resentment of China transforming as a manufacturing hub of the globe. His juxtaposition between China and America gives an inkling of the growing unease among the Americans. The book is in a way an attempt by an American to rekindle a state of manufacturing in the West that looks beyond the mass and explore customisations.
Anderson’s book gives ample instances of developing entrepreneurship: while reading even you can brew up your DIY moment.
The book is good read, but suffers from repetitions.