Okay, I'm sure that 3D printing will play a bigger role 17 years from now than it does today. And the trend away from stable employment towards short-term gigs will probably continue.
But this game of taking current trends, projecting them to absurd extremes, and calling it futurism, should be taken for what it is: a game.
Where's my flying car? Why can't I book an inexpensive vacation to the moon? How come I don't have a mini-nuclear power plant in my basement? Futurists predicted all of these things.
By the way, is the statistic about typical Americans holding 11 jobs by age 30 correct? I entered the labor force when I was 15, and was on my 8th job when I turned 30. (That was in 2009, so we're not talking about the "good old days," either). It always seemed like that was more jobs than most people.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans born between 1957 and 1964 held an average of 11.3 jobs between the ages of 18 and 46, with about half of those jobs being held between the ages of 18 and 24. That would mean about 7 jobs by age 30, which fits with my experience.
At any rate, I don't think I'll hold my breath for a 3D-printed apple or a 3D-printed can of soup. I'll give Mr. Frey extra points for creativity, though.
I see your point though, with people only at jobs for 2.4 years before moving on, how is there any long term progress. But I would like to point out that the cell/smartphone exploded in development surpassing advancement of most everything else. The 3D printer is truly stirring everyone's mind in a similar way. It may just be the next big thing.
Wow, Cabe, that 3D burrito printer is something else. But I think I prefer my burritos handmade, preferably in one of the taquerias I used to frequent when I lived in San Francisco. It will be awhile before I trust a robot to make me something delicious! (I do trust my blender to make me a delicious margarita, though, as long as I can put in the ingredients first. :))
It's easy to make fun of futurists. They often get things wrong. But I agree with Cabe: there are many technologies that have taken markets and industries by surprise. Not only the cell phone itself, but the technologies developed for it, or adapted to that platform, that have then influenced lots of other industries. The cell phone camera is a good example: the huge volumes have influence faster development of CMOS image sensors and driven performance up and prices down. This has, in turn, affected the entire machine vision industry.
Dave, I see your point. I marvel at the innovation of 3D printing and the possibilities, but I balk at the idea of a 3D printed house. Will that be structurally sound? Really? Perhaps somewhere down the line in the far-off future, yes, but for now I'm much happier with good old cement or wood surrounding me. Maybe I'm just a brick and mortar kind of gal.
Dave, you are correct, the futurist is just projecting trends. They really aren't that important. No one is going to do something based on what a futurist says. Mostly they publish books and give talks. That's alright. People like to read and listen. It's just harmless fun. I guarntee you that professional investors do not listen to them.
The things that happen (faster computers, cell phones, etc.) depend on people (engineers and scientists) developing new technologies and ways to apply and produce those technologies. Take the cell phone. It really needed a good low power CPU to power it. That is the ARM processor. That processor architecture was developed in the UK for an early personal computer called the Acorn (ARM originally stood for Acorn Risk Machine) in the early 1980s. After a long period of time, it came to the fore in the cell phone. I had an early smart phone which used an Intel processor. It was not bad, but battery life was limited and it was more of a hand held PC than a phone. But I digress,
As for the 3D printing, it will be significant for customized or mass customization products. In marketing they talk about three classes of product. Mass market (high volume, lower value) prodcuts, custom products (individual, very expensive) and mass customized. This last is kind of a goal. The main prodcuts we have in this category now are automobiles. Auto manufacurers have the ability to vary the options and features at a customer's request. Interestingly in the US we don't often take advantage of this. In Europe they do all the time. 3D printing brings this ability to lower value products where some variation might be useful. The big question is, why would I want to. How many things do you buy that you want to customize in design? Like cars in the US, do you really want to wait days, weeks or months for it?
Professional investors, in the form of venture capitalists, do indeed listen to futurists. At least, they do here in Silicon Valley. That doesn't mean they follow them to the letter. But they do pay attention and take what they say into account, because some futurists have a handle on some trends. If you've ever listened to some venture capitalists talk about their investments, you'd think some of them were futurists.
I just had a product idea of mine 3D printed. It works great, and only cost me a hand full of dollars. To have the same part machined would have cost me upward of $500+ dollars. I think the trend is here to stay, and it will only get better.
Hey, Cabe, just curious. Did you find the quality of the product the same as if it had been machined? I guess it's hard to really tell since you have nothing to compare it to, but I imagine you would have a good idea.
I do in fact have the same part machined and 3D printed. No, the 3D printed quality is poorer than machined. The printing process leaves a lot of surface texturizing, even though I had the part polished a bit. Higher resolution printing will soon make printed parts indistinguishable.
Anyway, despite the quality of the print, the part is adequate and performing the job. Repeatability of this level of printing will keep my parts out of the retail space. But, it has been great to prove the concept.
Just because some predictions, or even most of them, are wrong doesn't mean they all are. I grew up in Silicon Valley before it was Silicon Valley and now live next door to it. I've seen more predictions come and go about the next best thing since sliced bread most of the commenters on this board. So if anything, I'm much more jaded than most people. There aren't many big ones, but IMO, 3D printing will be one of them.
The word trend is often misused; similar to the titles "Designer" or "Curator". I work in the trend forecasting industry. My definition is pretty strict. It goes beyond a single thing that happens over a short period of time.
Dave, I agree wholeheartedly. Predicting the future is a game. And the end result is often wrong. I have a book in my basement called "The Road to 2015," which was written about 15 years ago. A lot of the predictions in it appear as if they will be wrong, largely because the big trends of the future tend to emerge with astounding force and speed. The Internet is one such example. Few futurists saw it coming. PCs are another. For decades, futurists saw computers as devices using huge monolithic boards populated by discrete components. Almost no one saw the microprocessor coming, which is why Popular Science once predicted, "Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." (Actually they were right about that, in a way.) Still predicting the future is always fun.
One trend in the article I did agree with was the description of more 'jobs or projects' during one's lifetime. After graduating from college, my father worked at 3 different companies before retiring. As stated in the article, workers in my generation can expect to work for many more companies than this. I expect my kid's generation to work for even a higher number of different companies in their lifetime if this trend continues.
From my perspective, at this point it appears that many companies view people as knowledge resources that can be activated or deactivated as needed. Therefore, as time goes on, we can expect more people to look at themselves as 'contractors' rather than 'employees' (more people will be forced to develop their own incorporated identity and will not only have to perform the work, but also have to now brand and market themselves more as they move from job to job).
@Greg: It's true that there is a trend towards shorter-term employment, but I think it has natural limits, which we are rapidly approaching. Where I work, there are a lot of guys who have worked for the company for 30 or even 40 years. There is a huge value in having such a vast repository of product knowlege. On the other hand, since most of these employees have never worked for any other company, they may lack the perspective that someone who has changed jobs every 2.5 years would have.
It's important to have a balance of experienced long-term employees, along with fresh-faced youngsters with new ideas, and folks who have moved around who can provide an outside perspective.
If all of your employees are temporary contractors, you're going to have to re-invent the wheel many times, because there will be no continuity in your organization. This will be enormously ineffecient.
There is a natural equilibrium, somewhere between guaranteed lifetime employment and craigslist's "gigs" section. Hopefully, we'll find it.
@Dave: Yes, I agree with you. There is a huge value in having the vast product knowledge of an experienced worker. Unfortunately, many of the executive decision makers do not have a complete appreciation of this and do not have this perception. As a result, many experienced workers have been sent out the door (along with their unique product knowledge that they carry).
I do think that a natural limit will occur, but am concerned that the pendulum will swing too far before it settles back to the correct balance.
I agree, Greg. The "projects" prediction is pretty safe because, as you point out, it's already happening. I've already worked way more jobs than my father did. And my kids will work far more jobs than I will.
The flaw in Frey's thinking, at least for me, is the divide especially as a manufacturing goal of high volume, low cost products versus offerings that are hyper-individualized and hyper-customizable. There is definitely a need for the latter but that step adds intervening intelligence, time and expense. Not sure that will pave the way for a new era in manufacturing except in low quantity items where the value of the customization is high.
I'll also make a prediction here that the futurist didn't make. In the future, I think the population will move to less populated states (Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada), largely because they'll be able to. Future jobs won't require employees to live in huge population centers (for example, Chicago, New York or LA) mainly because of Internet, telepresence and avatar-type robots, which will enable the employee to live in more spacious, less costly locales.
@Charles: You're assuming people want to live in Wyoming or Idaho. Maybe some do, but speaking for myself, and having tried both, I'd much rather live in an urban area than a rural area.
In fact, I live in the Chicago metro area and commute to a less densely-populated area (southeastern Wisconsin) for work. It would be cheaper to live in Wisconsin, but I'd rather live as close to Chicago as possible. Admittedly, I grew up there, so I may be biased. But don't assume that the only reason people live in urban areas is for work.
Futurists have been predicting that everyone will soon be working from home for the past three decades or so now. I don't think it will ever go too much beyond where it is now. There is just no substitute for actually being there, talking to people in person, and getting your hands dirty. We can't all be drone pilots.
The trend around the world is to move to cities, as it has been for the last 100 years or so, and the percentage has been rising during hat time. Some enormous percentage of world citizens now live in cities. I'm definitely not one of them. I much prefer lots of green, not concrete and steel.
Using wireless chips and accessories, engineers can now extract data from the unlikeliest of places -- pumps, motors, bridges, conveyors, refineries, cooling towers, parking garages, down-hole drills and just about anything else that can benefit from monitoring.
With strong marketplace demand for qualified engineers across the board that currently outstrips the available supply, there may never be a better time for engineers and project managers to advance their careers and salaries. Whether those moves are successful in the short-term and long-term is likely to depend on how the transition from one job to the next is handled.
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