While at college, I remember seeing a documentary on stereolithography, which we today know as 3d printing. My first thought? Guns. Of course, I wasn’t writing then, so you only have my word for that prediction. However, I also suggested that 3d printing needed to be regulated, to avoid the problems we’re dealing with in the present. Sadly, that never happened, largely because no-one with the wherewithal or influence to suggest legislation knew what I knew.
Only within the last week or so have the legislators finally realised the problems they’re faced with. It’s too late, because the moment the plans for a 3d printed gun found their way onto the web, the genie was out of the bottle and in the wind.
Do you know what my second thought was? Drugs. Today, 3d printing is quite sophisticated, and there’s no reason to suppose it’s going to become less so. If you’re a pharmaceutical company, you’re looking for more efficient and cost-effective ways of synthesising drugs. If you’re a drug cartel in Mexico, you’re faced with the same challenge. At some point, the accuracy of 3d printing is going to shift to the molecular level, and then the problems really begin.