Programming Atoms Not Bits: Personal Fabrication

March 30, 2007


Illusive Mind posted in the Meatspace Forums Tech News of the Day thread a cool Youtube video of MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld who is interested breaking down the “false” barrier between physical science and computer science. We’ve been using computing for harnessing information when Gershenfeld argues that we need to move “from progamming bits to programming atoms.” The projection of digital fabrication is in the here and now. Digital fabrication involves where the output of computations affects the physical world – meaning it arranges material (atoms), not information (bits). In this sense the materials themselves actually contain the information. This is wholly different from current computer aided manufacturing where we have a mind (computer) working with dumb machines and raw material to create things. In this new approach, the computer IS the tool, and the output of the computation programs the physical world.

Gershenfeld claims that the message coming from his ever growing “fab labs” is that it allows people to locally design and produce solutions to local problems. In a sense, this gives us the ability to easily create products for a market of one person. Similar to the burst in social computing, Gershenfeld sees the use of computing for personal fabrication to be just as powerful. Personal Star Trek Replicators are in our future, ladies and gents. If there was ever an idea that could take power away from the multi-national corps, this is it!

This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by SFAM.

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