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Future of Work: Custom Printed Bodies and the End of the 9-to-5 Job

Editor’s Note: Today we have  provocative piece from friend and blogger Valkyrie Ice who wants to take things a step further. Valkyrie thinks her 9-to-5 gig as a waitress is doomed, and she wants you to help her start a new business using 3d printing technology; printing out custom designer bodies and body parts for her and her friends.  

Need blue skin, four arms, or a tail? Want to augment and extend what you already have? Valkyrie Ice is here to help you become your own avatar.

Does this idea sound too weird or far fetched? The basic technology already exists to print out custom organs, augment the body with its own cells, and much more.

This may be be the year in which 3D printing enters the mainstream.  In the news we recently had an exciting announcement in the world of 3D printing from MakerBot who have opened a retail store in New York City and launched their Replicator 2 desktop printing device. This affordable desktop printing device promises to enable a variety of small and local design based businesses and could revolutionize markets for products such as toys and simple household items Soon we’ll be able to print out complex electromechanical devices like cybernetic arms and integrate custom printed electronics into our bodies.

But 3D printing technology goes beyond plastics and electronics. Earlier in the year there was a bit of coverage in the mainstream media about breast re-construction and augmentation with stem cells when popular TV actress Suzanne Somers underwent the procedure.  Using 3D printing and related bio-constructive techniques it is already possible to design and build custom organs and other body parts. For example Anthony Atala’s talk at TED describes various methods for constructing, and printing out, human tissues, organs and other replacement parts. Many of these methods are using a persons’ own cells as a starting point so they do not carry some of the risks of prior surgical and transplant methods. Custom designed bodies and replacement parts for aesthetic appearances are entirely possible using these same exact technologies and tools.

Wanted: A business advisor who knows how to set up a Kickstarter campaign, an electronics engineer comfortable with robotics and BCI interfaces, and a software guy able to program said robots. 

Why? Because I want to get ahead of the curve and move on to the next stage of “job” that I will eventually have to move to anyway. I want to stop working for a dying corporate business model and become a competitor instead of just a consumer. I want to move past this day to day drudgery of being a waitress and instead become what all of us will eventually have little choice but to become, a “designer”

You see, it’s always been my dream to move beyond drawing pinups to becoming one, and then to enable others to become one as well. I want “Body by Val” to rank up there with DVF and Klein. I want to be famous for making people look as sexy as can be, even when they chose to look anything but human. That’s right, I want to design custom bodies for people, be they human, furry, anime, alien, whatever. It sounds simple enough, no? But I also know that most of you are looking at the screen going WTF????

Really, my being a succubus didn’t clue you in to the fact that I’m anything but normal?

You see, the world that we’ve known all this time is rapidly approaching a crisis. I’ve spent a lot of time discussing this crisis, why it’s a crisis, and some of the possible hazards of this crisis, but at the same time, I’ve pointed out that there are ways to navigate this crisis in a manner in which most everyone benefits to a sufficient degree to survive that crisis and move into a much better future than most people expect.

That crisis is the fact that our current economy of scarcity is about to run headlong into the future economy of abundance. I’ve written about this extensively and talked about how 3d printers will basically make material goods into digital files, Watson class “artificial experts” will give almost any one instant access to highly specialized technical knowledge, and how ever increasing integration between the virtual and real will create a world in which every dream and nightmare in the entire history of the human race will be able to assume a solid tangible “reality” as trolls and vampires stroll down the street next to Stormtroopers, Wookies and Klingons. As we move into this stage, “jobs” as we know them will become fewer and fewer, because software, robots, and other forms of automation will replace human labor in every industry, from manufacturing to service.

You see, I already know my job as a waitress is doomed. Before long, probably less than a decade, a sexy, perfect robot will be able to do everything I do, only better, because she will never have “bad nights”, never get tired, never skip a single health code process, never ask for a raise, and turn all her “tips” into the restaurant owner.

And then I, just like the overwhelming majority of the human race, will have to face the reality that I will never ever be able to “get a job” ever again. And while I foresee many things happening that will ensure that the majority of the human race really won’t need to work just to survive, I’m really not one of those content to just sit around and do nothing all day, every day, from now until the end of time.

Which means that I will turn to the only “job” left. Creating IP. I’m going to have to begin designing things that I can trade or sell to others to get access to things that they have designed that I want.

Don’t believe me? Don’t see this as “realistic?” Think that somehow, the world will be completely unchanged by this technology, and that jobs will always exist? Then don’t take my word for it. Recently the Motley Fool restated a point that I had made almost a year previously about how 3d printing effectively made material goods act like digital files:

“If a physical object is a software code, then… there are no longer economies of scale in manufacturing.” (Say Goodbye to ‘Made-In-China’)

In other words, it won’t make sense any more to pay Chinese factory workers to make 100 million duplicates of the same product. Better to pay American designers to make 10,000 different products specially tailored to individual customers — in the exact size and style they want to buy. Products they can receive in the mail, or print out at Home Depot, FedEx Office, Wal-Mart, or whichever retailers are smart enough to embrace this technology first.

If a physical object is a software code, then… everyone from an aerospace engineer to an ice sculptor is really a computer programmer creating digital designs.

And the market for those designs will be just like today’s market for music, movies, and books. You’ll have the iTunes store, Amazon.com, and other legitimate download vendors on one side of the law, and a thousand fugitive “pirate bays” on the other. ”

Or listen to Business Week:

“Riley and his friends have accepted as a mundane fact that computer designs can be passed among friends, altered at will, and then brought to life by microwave oven-size machines. The RapMan is a crude approximation of far more expensive and sophisticated prototyping machines used by corporations, much in the same way that hobbyist PCs were humble mimics of mainframe computers. Riley and his dad, David, spent 32 hours putting together a 3D printer from a $1,500 hobbyist kit.”

How about Forbes?:

“It turns bits to atoms: forming digital designs into physical objects. Varied techniques (from laser sintering to depositing tiny droplets of heated plastic) accomplish the same thing: creating an object layer-by-layer.

But what’s special about 3D printing is what it enables. Because objects are built additively, complexity is essentially free, allowing for intricate designs and geometries that were never before possible. When manufacturing an object is as simple as pressing “print,” there’s no cost for customization – every object can be unique. 3D printing holds the potential to revolutionize how, where and when goods are manufactured”

The future isn’t in mass manufacture. It’s not in wood and stone and gold and steel. It’s in complex metamaterials that can be assembled on a microscopic scale and used to create objects that have shape, and form, but very little actual substance. It’s in computers a few atoms thick, printed directly into objects of any shape or function to enable them to have currently impossible abilities. It’s in the “Long Tail” of billions of individuals all with their own personal desires and seeking to have those desires filled.

And, just like those people, I too have desires, desires I am not really willing to trust to just anybody to grant me, so I want to start my own future job early, entirely to ensure that those desires get met. I’ve already laid out the product I want to design in a past article, a body suit that can enable me to look exactly like the succubus I want to be, and which could be used as the basis for thousands of other “costumes” as well. Those people I listed in the opening paragraph are what I need to begin making that desire a reality right now, but as time passes, each of those specialists could become obsolete as their “jobs” are automated away as well. Their specialized knowledge will become incorporated in future software tools, CAD programs, and other “high level interfaces” which will enable even a tribesman in the Amazon to create a product a hundred times more sophisticated than anything on the market today.

Because there is no “future” in “jobs”. You will either have to become a “creator”, or passively exist as a consumer. Either way, you will have to face the reality that the good old days of 9 to 5 are history.

14 Comments

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  2. “Products they can receive in the mail, or print out at Home Depot, FedEx Office, Wal-Mart, or whichever retailers are smart enough to embrace this technology first.”

    Now that’s a smart idea. I don’t see WalMart embracing it until they absolutely have to. Their business model is so tied to Asian manufacturing, it would spell doom for those markets. I’d guess the office suppliers will tackle it first. They’re niche suppliers as it is.

  3. Start small. Design artistic fingernails consumers can print and clip on.

  4. humm just noticed that the link actually leads back here, so:
    http://hplusmagazine.com/2011/02/14/adding-our-way-to-abundance/

  5. If you follow the link to the article “Adding Our Way to Abundance” you will see that I have already predicted both the attempt to install “DRM” into printers, and that those efforts will amount to absolutely nothing except to drain billions of dollars out of the corporations attempting it.

    Sony spent 6 billion on a “copy proof” cd that it turns out could be defeated with a 2 dollar sharpie. Apple has spent billions trying to keep iOS “locked in” only to have every single version “jailbroken”. Simply put, DRM DOES NOT WORK. It’s an attempt to force customers to be “slaves” to one particular company, and human nature rebels against it. The same applies to “controls to prevent printing item x” – it simply WILL NOT WORK. A printer that doesn’t have those controls will out-compete one that does. its that simple. That’s why Android is beating the shit out of Apple, the operating system with fewer restrictions on what you can run and do will always be more appealing. And that is one of the biggest factors that dooms the “gatekeeper” model of business, which is the primary model of the industrial era. People just are no longer willing to accept “You can have it in any color you like, so long as it’s black” as Henry Ford put it, but instead want to “Have it your way” to quote Burger King.

    And this inability to regulate or control by a centralized authoritative system will mean that societies will have little choice but to finally address long standing issues with copyright, patent, and various other legal codes, like the idiotic “War on Drugs” that is one of the primary drivers of violent crime. That is not to say that massive efforts to attempt to enforce such restrictions will not be tried, merely that they will ultimately prove futile.

  6. Great post! =) I’d love to be involved with something like this. I’m also working on a post, that will be sent to the H+ mailing list in a week or so (hopefully), that will outline a specific proposal along these lines.

  7. @ Kate Miranda

    After the first few high profile incidents with printed guns, some sort of safety feature will become mandatory. Maybe household printers are banned and you have to go the the 3D printshop (big business would obviously support this option). Maybe everything you print is reported to an authority, or maybe printers are designed to only print things from legitment venders who won’t design anything illegal.
    Nothing will be infallible, but there will surely be safeguards in place .

    • So the future of 3D printers should be in hand of Big Brother, eh? Criminals will build their own printers, which the article says has been done for only $1500, which won’t report anything, which won’t be under the watch of a government-approved printshop, and which won’t be restricted to only creating approved designs. Big business and criminal activity would thrive more than ever, and the ordinary citizen would lose.

    • Dangerous items such as guns can already be printed with existing technology. This isn’t a future possibility, but rather a present reality. Therefore, we need to work to prevent negative outcomes such as “Big Brother” regulation etc. now, not at some unknown time in the future. Freedom to produce useful items and DIY technology is one of the central beliefs of transhumanism in my view.

      3D printed gun
      Brutus the Bulldog

      See http://boingboing.net/2012/07/28/report-of-working-3d-printed-g.html

  8. On a similar theme today: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/09/worlds-most-wired-joachim-kohn/

    “AFIRM, short for the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, was established by Pentagon brass to do what, just four short years ago, seemed nearly impossible: target the most common, debilitating injuries from this generation’s wars, including burns, lost limbs and invasive wounds, and use cutting-edge medical technology to heal them utterly and completely. Instead of prosthetic arms, create flesh-and-blood replacements. Rather than burned skin partially repaired with a messy patchwork of grafts, replace that skin using sheets of lab-grown epidermis. And in lieu of acquiescing to bones, muscles and nerves that will be permanently missing, spur the soldier’s body to regrow what they’d lost.”

  9. I’m glad to see this being addressed. Our old economy where jobs=income is coming to an end and not enough people are talking about it. No politician is talking about it either.

    I can’t wait.

    • Politicians not talking about this is what scares the hell out of me. We’re already at the beginning of a world wide jobles pandemic and the two leading clowns running for office in the US haven’t even discussed the possibility of an abundance economy.

  10. 3D printing does pose ethical dilemmas as shown in the printing of real guns