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Future of Work: Custom Printed Bodies and the End of the 9-to-5 Job
Valkyrie McGill   Oct 10, 2012   Hplusmagazine  

Need blue skin, four arms, or a tail? Want to augment and extend what you already have? I am here to help you become your own avatar. Does this idea sound too weird or far fetched? The basic technology already exists to print out custom organs, augment the body with its own cells, and much more.

This may be be the year in which 3D printing enters the mainstream.  In the news we recently had an exciting announcement in the world of 3D printing from MakerBot who have opened a retail store in New York City and launched their Replicator 2 desktop printing device. This affordable desktop printing device promises to enable a variety of small and local design based businesses and could revolutionize markets for products such as toys and simple household items Soon we’ll be able to print out complex electromechanical devices like cybernetic arms and integrate custom printed electronics into our bodies.

But 3D printing technology goes beyond plastics and electronics. Earlier in the year there was a bit of coverage in the mainstream media about breast re-construction and augmentation with stem cells when popular TV actress Suzanne Somers underwent the procedure.  Using 3D printing and related bio-constructive techniques it is already possible to design and build custom organs and other body parts. For example Anthony Atala’s talk at TED describes various methods for constructing, and printing out, human tissues, organs and other replacement parts in the video below:

Many of these methods are using a persons’ own cells as a starting point so they do not carry some of the risks of prior surgical and transplant methods. Custom designed bodies and replacement parts for aesthetic appearances are entirely possible using these same exact technologies and tools.

Wanted: A business advisor who knows how to set up a Kickstarter campaign, an electronics engineer comfortable with robotics and BCI interfaces, and a software guy able to program said robots. 

Why? Because I want to get ahead of the curve and move on to the next stage of “job” that I will eventually have to move to anyway. I want to stop working for a dying corporate business model and become a competitor instead of just a consumer. I want to move past this day to day drudgery of being a waitress and instead become what all of us will eventually have little choice but to become, a “designer.”

You see, it’s always been my dream to move beyond drawing pinups to becoming one, and then to enable others to become one as well. I want “Body by Val” to rank up there with DVF and Klein. I want to be famous for making people look as sexy as can be, even when they chose to look anything but human. That’s right, I want to design custom bodies for people, be they human, furry, anime, alien, whatever. It sounds simple enough, no? But I also know that most of you are looking at the screen going WTF????

Really, my being a succubus didn’t clue you in to the fact that I’m anything but normal?
You see, the world that we’ve known all this time is rapidly approaching a crisis. I’ve spent a lot of time discussing this crisis, why it’s a crisis, and some of the possible hazards of this crisis, but at the same time, I’ve pointed out that there are ways to navigate this crisis in a manner in which most everyone benefits to a sufficient degree to survive that crisis and move into a much better future than most people expect.

That crisis is the fact that our current economy of scarcity is about to run headlong into the future economy of abundance. I’ve written about this extensively and talked about how 3d printers will basically make material goods into digital files, Watson class “artificial experts” will give almost any one instant access to highly specialized technical knowledge, and how ever increasing integration between the virtual and real will create a world in which every dream and nightmare in the entire history of the human race will be able to assume a solid tangible “reality” as trolls and vampires stroll down the street next to Stormtroopers, Wookies and Klingons. As we move into this stage, “jobs” as we know them will become fewer and fewer, because software, robots, and other forms of automation will replace human labor in every industry, from manufacturing to service.

You see, I already know my job as a waitress is doomed. Before long, probably less than a decade, a sexy, perfect robot will be able to do everything I do, only better, because she will never have “bad nights”, never get tired, never skip a single health code process, never ask for a raise, and turn all her “tips” into the restaurant owner.

And then I, just like the overwhelming majority of the human race, will have to face the reality that I will never ever be able to “get a job” ever again. And while I foresee many things happening that will ensure that the majority of the human race really won’t need to work just to survive, I’m really not one of those content to just sit around and do nothing all day, every day, from now until the end of time.

Which means that I will turn to the only “job” left. Creating IP. I’m going to have to begin designing things that I can trade or sell to others to get access to things that they have designed that I want.

Don’t believe me? Don’t see this as “realistic?” Think that somehow, the world will be completely unchanged by this technology, and that jobs will always exist? Then don’t take my word for it. Recently the Motley Fool restated a point that I had made almost a year previously about how 3d printing effectively made material goods act like digital files:

“If a physical object is a software code, then… there are no longer economies of scale in manufacturing.” (Say Goodbye to ‘Made-In-China’)
In other words, it won’t make sense any more to pay Chinese factory workers to make 100 million duplicates of the same product. Better to pay American designers to make 10,000 different products specially tailored to individual customers — in the exact size and style they want to buy. Products they can receive in the mail, or print out at Home Depot, FedEx Office, Wal-Mart, or whichever retailers are smart enough to embrace this technology first.

If a physical object is a software code, then… everyone from an aerospace engineer to an ice sculptor is really a computer programmer creating digital designs.

And the market for those designs will be just like today’s market for music, movies, and books. You’ll have the iTunes store,, and other legitimate download vendors on one side of the law, and a thousand fugitive “pirate bays” on the other.”

Or listen to Business Week:

“Riley and his friends have accepted as a mundane fact that computer designs can be passed among friends, altered at will, and then brought to life by microwave oven-size machines. The RapMan is a crude approximation of far more expensive and sophisticated prototyping machines used by corporations, much in the same way that hobbyist PCs were humble mimics of mainframe computers. Riley and his dad, David, spent 32 hours putting together a 3D printer from a $1,500 hobbyist kit.”

How about Forbes?:
“It turns bits to atoms: forming digital designs into physical objects. Varied techniques (from laser sintering to depositing tiny droplets of heated plastic) accomplish the same thing: creating an object layer-by-layer.

But what’s special about 3D printing is what it enables. Because objects are built additively, complexity is essentially free, allowing for intricate designs and geometries that were never before possible. When manufacturing an object is as simple as pressing “print,” there’s no cost for customization – every object can be unique. 3D printing holds the potential to revolutionize how, where and when goods are manufactured.”

The future isn’t in mass manufacture. It’s not in wood and stone and gold and steel. It’s in complex metamaterials that can be assembled on a microscopic scale and used to create objects that have shape, and form, but very little actual substance. It’s in computers a few atoms thick, printed directly into objects of any shape or function to enable them to have currently impossible abilities. It’s in the “Long Tail” of billions of individuals all with their own personal desires and seeking to have those desires filled.

And, just like those people, I too have desires, desires I am not really willing to trust to just anybody to grant me, so I want to start my own future job early, entirely to ensure that those desires get met. I’ve already laid out the product I want to design in a past article, a body suit that can enable me to look exactly like the succubus I want to be, and which could be used as the basis for thousands of other “costumes” as well.

Those people I listed in the opening paragraph are what I need to begin making that desire a reality right now, but as time passes, each of those specialists could become obsolete as their “jobs” are automated away as well. Their specialized knowledge will become incorporated in future software tools, CAD programs, and other “high level interfaces” which will enable even a tribesman in the Amazon to create a product a hundred times more sophisticated than anything on the market today.

Because there is no “future” in “jobs”. You will either have to become a “creator”, or passively exist as a consumer. Either way, you will have to face the reality that the good old days of 9 to 5 are history.

Valkyrie Ice is a writer and futurist for and H+ magazine.


Note to anyone reading. The Bold Faced line is the start of my actual article. the preface is by Peter Rothman, my editor at H+. I think he wrote a wonderful opening, and deserves the credit for it.

Just came across a short film that really relates to this and the general idea of Transhumanism (  Titled True Skin, this short is about a cyborg on the lam in Bangkok.  The following is a quote.  “In this neon man-machine metropolis, unenhanced humans are at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, and everyone from street vendors to prostitutes sports (occasionally black market) mechanical upgrades.”

Future jobs won’t be only about maintenance of our physical body parts.  It’ll be more about our recombinant methods and cultural & ecological adaptive rate.

humm, why look, a “scholarly” presentation on 3D printers and the impact they are likely to have, for those of you who want the fifty dollar word version.

Having read the full pdf, I couldn’t find a single issue discussed that I have not already covered about the impact of 3d printing on the economic, social, and political spheres, though I did find several questions asked that I have previously pointed out possible answers to. The major difference is that I write for a general audience, while this reads more like a doctoral thesis.

So for those of you who prefer the doctoral thesis version, enjoy.

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