An interesting book choice this holiday season for the person interested in tech, history or business is The Makers by Chris Anderson, the Editor in Chief of Wired Magazine and founder of 3D Robotics, his company based on the philosophy of his most recent book. Anderson writes about the new industrial revolution, one based on individuals and collaborators using the web and computer resources to make physical things again that will drive economics.
He starts the book by writing about his grandfather, an immigrant, who spent his free time inventing an automatic sprinkler system and eventually sold the license to a manufacturer, claiming some royalties on the sale. Becaue he didn’t have access to the means of production, however, he did not retain ownership of his invention Although his grandfather was happy with his results, Anderson maintains that the inventors of today have a wider net of opportunity through the internet and more possibility of retaining ownership of the finished product.
Anderson writes about “atoms” vs. “bits,” a term first used by the MIT Media Lab and now the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms. It distinguishes between software and hardware, or information technology and Everything Else. Anderson writes that the differences between the two are becoming increasingly blurred. The fact that we now have a new class of rapid prototyping technologies, such as 3-D printers, allows for a democratization of innovation in atoms. As Anderson writes, this is the Maker Movement. Inventors are no longer at the mercy of large companies to manufacture their products. “Physical objects now begin as designs on screens and those designs can be shared online as files.” Anyone can now upload these files to produce them.
Today, there are “makerspaces,” production facilities around the world, and these are growing exponentially. In addition, thousands of Maker projects have raised money on “crowdfunding” sites, such as Kickstarter. Anderson also writes that some of the biggest companies in the world of product design and engineering are moving their focus to the emerging Maker market.
Anderson is a big cheerleader of this movement, having success in his own Maker business. The book gets a little tedious in the latter half, but it is a fascinating read and encourages the entrepreneurial spirit in all of us. It is a great gift idea for the entrepreneur on your holiday list!