Ever since man landed on the moon Science Fiction has become more like science prediction. Rocket ships were once simply a cartoon found in comic books and a lot of our cell phone designs came from the designs of devices in the television show Star Trek. The creativity of storytelling is not simply for entertainment it also can dictate how scientists invent and create the latest gadgets.
In Cory Doctorow’s three page story Printcrime, we see a father imprisoned for replicating various house hold appliances with the use of a 3-D printer. The 3-D printer in Doctorow’s story can create anything out of ‘goop.’ While these objects can be made cheaply, they disintegrate rapidly and it is illegal to make them.
The 3-D printer of Doctorow’s story leapt off the page and into the scientific community as we see in this article in The New York Times. Just like in Printcrime there is now a machine that can take a computer generated 3-D image and ‘print’ it. The 3-D printer translates the image into a corporeal copy using plastic, rubber or metal. The printer creates thin layers of material and slowly builds the object from the ground up.
This technology has been around for a few years, but until now it has been so expensive that only big corporations had access to it. Now 3-D printing is becoming slightly cheaper and therefore slightly more accessible. Bespoke, a California based company, is now using a 3-D printer to manufacture state of the art prosthetic limbs. Mr. Summit the co-founder of Bespoke said; “I wanted to create a leg that had a level of humanity,” and now, with the use of his 3-D printer, he can.
While Doctorow’s idea of a 3-D printer started out as science fiction, in the span of a few years, it has become a reality. Not only a reality but it is being used for the benefit of those who need it. So, as technology advances so should the moral obligation to use that technology for good. Otherwise, we may follow the plots of other works of science fiction, such as George Orwell’s 1984. While we may not know what great new technological advances will spring from the pages of science fiction we can always imagine…and that’s where it all begins.