MIT professor Neil Gershenfeld talks about the future of digital fabrication technologies via global Fab Labs.
At the recent Emerge conference at Arizona State University, Neil’s brother Alan Gershenfeld coordinated a design workshop exploring the future of Conscious Makerism, a sustainability-infused version of the Fab Lab movement. Alan and 20 artists, designers, programmers, students, and faculty — including one Nobel Laureate — designed a walk-through ‘prototype’ of a gaming console that could function as a technical manual for future Fab Lab units. Basically, a user inputs some basic design parameters into the digital fabrication machine of the future, perhaps through a verbal conversation with the software, activating a gaming architecture that the user can explore as a deliberative design tool. Instead of buying your fiancee a pair of shoes, you spend a few hours, or days, making dozens or hundreds or thousands of design decisions. Instead of printing the shoes, you send the specs and a digital demo to your fiancee, who critiques your judgments or accepts. The process allows sustainability considerations to enter the design process. It also could turn consumers into makers.