The futureIn Rachel Park’s first guest post, she noted that she’s been spending a lot of time challenging misguided reporting from mainstream media. Likewise, Al Dean, Develop3D editor, recently took a curmudgeonly stance. In one-on-one conversations, many others perform the same service, protecting us from grandiose claims that may never come true. But in the media, or even in social media forums, few are willing to take the same stance.

When the world is listening, few are willing to be the small child who is brave enough to state that the emperor has no clothes. In this fairy tale, those that cannot see the “truth” (the finest suit of clothes ever made) are proclaimed to be unfit for their positions, stupid or incompetent. Being a pragmatist/realist on predictions of the next industrial revolution and an explosion of home-based 3D printers enabling all to become manufactures invites similar condemnation from the idealists/optimists.

Honestly, it is no fun being the pragmatist, but someone has to do it. Someone has to offer a counterpoint to keep discourse alive so that futuristic claims don’t become fact merely because so many say it is so. Someone has to accept the burden of presenting an alternative reality so that you, and others like you, can reach your own conclusion and plan your destiny accordingly.

It is much more fun, and more rewarding, to be one that rides the wave of futuristic views that inspire awe and amazement. It is easier to go with the flow rather than swim against the tide of enthusiasm. And there is little danger in doing so if my father was correct in his belief that people tend to forget when you are wrong but remember when you are right. With this logic, who will remember the names of those that predicted a future that doesn’t come true 10 years from now? If they are remembered, will they be held accountable? Should the prediction come true, those same people will be remembered as visionaries.

In the present, they also get more notoriety.

Adrian Bowyer’s initial fame came on his vision of self-replicating 3D printers. The media loved this fascinating story and ran with it, happy to overlook the pesky details. More recently, Bre Pettis has become the  media’s darling with his visions of homeowners making anything they need at the press of a button and the economy, as we now it, crumbling because everything they want to build will be available as free downloads. Bold claims get media attention.

For the pragmatist, it is also frustrating when debating what the future looks like. The idealists have no use for history, old logic and outdated facts. In light of a new revolution, they may argue that the constraints of the past no longer apply, which allows them to make proclamations without any supporting evidence. They also use this position to undermine any logic presented by the pragmatist.

Playing the role of the pragmatist is tough and unrewarding but necessary. Without pragmatic views, hype is unchecked and science fiction becomes science fact before the results are in. Yet, we need the idealists, too. The pragmatists are the yin to the idealists’ yang. From these opposing views, the truth will emerge.

3D printing’s future is bright. Amazing things will develop from this simple concept of making stuff additively. But when we get there, we will find that that future is a blend of pragmatic and idealistic views.

 

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