In preparation for 2014, Gartner released a report outlining its top predictions for the next six years or so titled “Gartner Top Predictions 2014: Plan for a Disruptive, but Constructive Future”. The report makes some rather startling predictions about the future of our world, often veiled in elliptical phrases reminiscent of the Oracle at Delphi. As the title suggests, from now until 2020, we’ve got a bumpy road ahead of us thanks to such technologies as 3D printing.
While Gartner also focuses on The Internet of Things, digital business and smart machines in the report, it is 3D printing that makes it relevant to us at 3DPI. According to the report, 3D printing will have a huge impact on intellectual property, saying, “At least one major Western manufacturer will claim to have had intellectual property stolen for a mainstream product by thieves using 3D printers who will likely reside in those same Western markets, rather than in Asia, by 2015,” and, “The global automotive aftermarket parts, toy, IT and consumer product industries will report intellectual property theft worth at least $15 billion in 2016 due to 3D printing.” How to solve such a problem? The report’s author suggests that CEOs take a look at how to prevent forgeries via 3D printing and methods for consumers to ensure the validity of their goods.
The report also determines, with pristine clairvoyance, that bioprinting will become a reality for countries in the Asia/Pacific and an ethical question for Western countries: “And, by 2015, at least one high-profile case of the use of bioprinted organs will become a global headline news story due to its success or failure. That case will most likely be centered on the Asia/Pacific region, with Western countries asking ethical questions related to the case based more on curiosity than fear.” Gartner makes it clear that, by 2016, we will fully understand the implications of 3D bioprinting and that some people will likely have human-animal hybrid organs implanted in them, raising a debate about superhuman organs and the potential for an Island of Dr. Moreau to emerge filled with horrible mistakes of creation (though I may be exaggerating a bit with that last part).
Also tied to the rise in digital manufacturing is the reduction in the number of jobs. Everyone is a robot away from unskilled labour and the Gartner report uses a digital pharmacy to illustrate the point:
Now, imagine a (at this moment, fictional) supply chain in which the patient submits his or her DNA (digitally, based on a blood sample analyzed by a local USB device on a laptop or tablet), and, based on that DNA sample, the pharmaceutical company calculates the appropriate drug — likely leveraging third-party cloud compute capacity and not the local IT department, as this requires massive capacity. Next, the drug is printed (using an organic or biological 3D printer) — initially at a third party print-shop for biomaterials, but later maybe at the pharmacist or even directly at the patient’s home. Most of today’s unique and critical pharmaceutical processes (requiring
massive process rigor and labor), such as batch control, secure label printing and multiyear drug approval processes, become largely irrelevant when pharmaceuticals become one-off digitally designed, produced and administered substances. Similar scenarios can be drawn for media (for example, with virtual or even deceased actors playing CGI roles in virtual plots).
The result of all this is not just a reduction in jobs and a redistribution of wealth from labor to capital or intellectual property, but also a massive reduction in cost and price, leading to many of the “free”
offers we now see on the Internet.
The report makes some bold predictions that, due to the scarcity of jobs and a further redistribution of wealth to the capital class, there will be “A larger-scale version of an Occupy Wall Street-type movement will begin by the end of 2014, indicating that social unrest will start to foster political debate. By 2015, traditional paid jobs will begin to be replaced by bartering-based systems and voluntary roles in areas such as patient care,” and that “by 2020, the labor reduction effect of digitalization will cause social unrest and a quest for new economic models in several mature economies.” Gartner isn’t the only one to suggest this. If you look at Bill Moyer’s Movement Action Plan model, we may be pretty close to experiencing a social revolution. And take a look at this map that shows a gradual increase in the number of protests across the globe since 1979.
In addition to the strange paradigm shifts caused by 3DP, the Gartner report covers other major technological trends currently at work and where their trajectories lay. Among their visions is the bartering of personal data to companies like Amazon by consumers, the relative opening up of previously classified data to the public by government agencies, computers that operate more through learning than processing, smart machines that will disrupt pretty much every aspect of our lives, and a population of consumers wearing machines that feed all of our personal data to corporations. Strangely, even though there will be a huge social movement in 2014, bartering in 2015, and a quest for new economic models by 2020, there will still be companies like Amazon around to collect all of the data from our urine on a daily basis.
Pretty exciting stuff coming from what I thought was going to be a pretty boring market trend report. The certainty with which their predictions are made is, at times, hilarious, but it’s hard not to agree with them. The best part of the whole thing is that there’s absolutely no mention of 3D-printed guns anywhere!