I have to blog about this one.
In fact, this particular story set an all-time new record, because since it's appearance, so many of you sent me various versions of it - and again a big thank you to all of you who did - that it constituted almost 25% of all emails and articles about all subjects that you sent me these past two weeks.
And it is a stunning story, with some rather obvious, and profound implications, for this is a story you can file both in your Transhumanism scrapbook and your 3d-printing scrapbook. But first, a little background here for those unaware of our approach to this subject, and a bit of review for those who are.
Our approach to these two subjects has been that transhumanism, insofar as it can be qualified as an ethical and philosophical system or cosmology, is a peculiar blend of the basic western ideas of (1) linear progress, (2) a basic materialistic cosmology, and (3) esoteric themes borrowed chiefly from alchemy, as transhumanists seek to "reverse engineer" the descent of man from the androgynous realm, down through mineral, vegetable, and animal man. By seeking to reverse this process, they extoll the virtues of technological fusions of man and animal via genetic engineering, man and vegetable by the same, and man and mineral via the the employment of nano-, robotic-, and information-processing technologies.
In this context, we have also argued that three-dimensional-printing, as a manufacturing technology, is taylor made for the type of social and cultural transformations that the transhumanists are promoting and championing(Kurzweil) or dreading (Garreau). We have maintained on this site that the technology may have come from(and in our opinion very likely did come from) the black projects world. Most importantly, we have argued that it represents the first faltering steps in the technology tree towards a Star Trek-like "replicator" and "transporter-teleporter" technology. Indeed, we have blogged about the possibilities that 3D scanning and printing technologies are taylor made to space-exploration, as robotic probes can scan an object and even its basic chemical composition (and eventually, presumably scan its interior), and this information, beamed back to Earth, can allow a "replica" to be printed for examination. It's not quite the real thing, but in the absence of "going there" or "bringing rocks back", it's the next best thing, and there are indications that NASA and other space agencies have already used the technology in this fashion.
The problem is, it is not quite a Star Trek replicator or transporter, in that one has to have physical material at the receiving end of the process, which is put into the 3D printer, which then replicates the object. As yet, the object on the scan end is not being molecularly or atomically disassembled and magically reassembled at the other end (the mathematics of such a process alone boggle the mind). The next step in the technology tree would thus inevitably be the ability to create matter from light, then, after that, the ability to scan ever more complex objects and then to create them at the printing end of the process, from light itself. We're a long way from being able to do all our shopping on line, and "printing" our orders at home. But...the moment we introduce light and matter into the equation, we are raising the theoretical possibility that such achievements might eventually become possible....
No sooner said than done, folks, as physicists in the UK have proposed a method of doing so (and testing certain theories in the process):
We could literally talk for days on this, but I think, in the context of other developments, the implications are clear: we are both a long way from "replicator" and "transporter," but, if these scientists are able to do what they are proposing to do, then we will have taken another step that is both small and yet hugely significant at the same time.