In the wake of the hype surrounding Defense Distributed’s reckless release of CAD files for the 3D-printed gun, Michigan Tech has decided to counter the group’s negative impact on the technology and the world with a life-affirming contest entitled 3D Printers for Peace.
The requirements for winning the contest couldn’t be simpler: bring about world peace with 3D printing. Ok, so you don’t actually have to cause world peace to happen. You just have to design a printable model that will point humanity in the right direction and inch it closer to a more harmonious existence. Then, you share your source designs on Thingiverse, write a description of how your design will contribute to peace, and tag the object “Peace Contest”. They give the following examples of projects one might pursue:
- low-cost medical devices
- tools to help pull people out of poverty
- designs that can reduce racial conflict
- objects to improve energy efficiency or renewable energy sources to reduce wars over oil
- tools that would reduce military conflict and spending while making us all safer and more secure
- things that boost sustainable economic development (e.g. designs for appropriate technology in the developing world to reduce scarcity)
The first place prize is a Type A Machines Series 1 Printer, deemed Best in Show by Make Magazine. Second place is a Mendel Prusa of Michigan Tech’s latest design.
Michigan Tech has been using 3D printers in their labs for sometime, relying on printed science and engineering equipment. In fact, the team at the Materials Science and Engineering program at Michigan Tech is responsible for the open optics library I wrote about not long ago. Dr. Joshua Pearce, contact person for the contest and my new personal hero, has also written other journal articles on open source lab equipment, using recycled plastics with RepRaps, and the positive environmental impacts of 3D printing – distributed manufacturing would reduce carbon emissions by reducing the transport of goods and the ability to use less material in the printing process would reduce waste. It seems then that Pearce and his team are doing their best to promote the cause of peace in the world through their efforts to make science accessible, ecologically sustainable and beneficial, and, with this most recent contribution to the cause, encouraging and incentivizing the peaceful application of science and engineering.
This contest couldn’t make me happier! I’ve never understood why the powerful need to get so rich, with such a gap between them and everyone else, doing things that hurt so many people. Couldn’t they just be a little richer, a little more powerful, a little more comfortable than the rest of us by relying on life-promoting, instead of life-hindering businesses and institutions? Instead of getting more wealthy by profiting off of oil, which destroys the livelihood of the planet and livelihoods of those living in oil rich countries, I find myself imagining the powers-that-be simply profiting off of clean energy. I imagine that, instead of weaponry, the powerful controlling the means of production of ‘livingry’.
Buckminster Fuller noted that we, as a species, had somehow managed to make social and evolutionary progress by accident, without any real conscious intent (as a group) to do so. Though there were individuals who strived for a more harmonious society, the leaders of most countries and most notably the United States were spending the nations’ wealth on weaponry to wage war. So, despite such great energy spent on disharmonious activities, humanity had still become more egalitarian and advanced. He reasoned, then, that, if we actually consciously focused the energy of our institutions and individuals towards livingry and providing the greatest good to the greatest number, we would make progress with leaps and bounds. Perhaps, with more contests like this one, we can prove ol’ Bucky right.