Confronting a New ‘Era of Duplication’? 3D Printing, Replicating Technology and the Search for Authenticity in George O. Smith's Venus Equilateral Series
14 Pages Posted: 1 Oct 2013
Date Written: May 2013
The focus of this paper is on the potential challenges and opportunities that might emerge as a result of the continuing development and proliferation of so-called 3D printing technology. In particular, it is interested in looking at how society would cope if 3D printing (or some other form of comparable replicating technology) advanced to such a stage that it became possible to accurately and cheaply replicate any commodity or currency-form many times over. As many readers will no doubt be aware, these are issues that have gained increased traction in recent times, with countless articles and opinion-pieces having been printed on the so-called ‘3D printing revolution’ in the last couple of years. However, whilst the technology underpinning the latest cluster of 3D printers may be ground-breaking, the idea itself is far from new. Indeed, the concept of replicating technology actually has a fairly long intellectual history, with a number of past writers and thinkers having devoted a great deal of time to considering the effects that might result from the (potential) emergence of mass 3D printing capabilities. In this paper, the focus will be on one such text; namely, George O. Smith’s Venus Equilateral series (1942-1945). Looking both at the fictionalised replicating technologies outlined by Smith and the uses they were put to by his protagonists, this paper will offer a critical reading of Smith’s work, with a particular emphasis on his treatment of the 3D printing phenomenon. Likewise, it will also look at how Smith tried to incorporate the idea of mass replicating technology into a wider socio-economic framework, along with his attempts to produce working economic models based on this postulated mode of production. Ultimately, what it shows is that, whilst Smith’s fictionalised technologies may today seem farcically outdated, his reflections and insights on the potential social ruptures and cultural transformations that might unfold as a result of the emergence of mass replicating technology remain as pertinent and as relevant as ever.
Keywords: 3D printing, additive manufacturing, innovation, disruptive technology, futurology
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