3D printed cars are driving us into the future, and they present us with a challenge to reshape our economy accordingly. We have a long way to go, from a debt-driven market which focuses on consumation to a pragmatic joint effort which focuses on sustainability, but the first steps have been taken. The market is changing, and there is no stopping it – Big Business and Big Government are being challenged perhaps more seriously than ever before by a generation that values freedom and that cares less about ownership of products as long as they have access to them.
Credits and loans used to be commonplace, their risks overlooked in the euphoria of explosive economic growth and under the pressure of an increasing materialistic society. But after more than a decade of economic crises, resulting in poor carreer perspectives and unaffordable housing the younger generations are becoming understandably prudent when it comes to borrowing money. Technological progress is running to our aid and offering living standards similar to those of the older generations; all we need to do is reconsider our priorities in life. Unsurprisingly, that is precisely what is happening.
Sharing, pay-what-you-want, second hand selling and even personal means of production are the future. The internet has made all of these much easier than before and broadened our reach to a global scale. In the coming decades 3D printing will take the means of production from Big Business and hand it over to the individual. Many smaller items will be printed at home instead of storebought; the printing plans will be shared (or sold) online by designers who could be anyone from a tech-savvy teenager to a bored engineer. To top it off, crowdfunding is turning all of us into potential investors, leaving the success of new initiatives up to the market as a whole or specific smaller communities rather than small groups of investors that generally care more about their return on investment than the quality of the product in question.
If you are wondering what the struggle between the corporate establishment, government and the end user may look like, simply turn to today’s music industry. Music has become a virtual product which is easily copied and shared, as opposed to the physical items which have to be individually produced and purchased (and which form the basis of our current economic system). Making, recording and releasing music is cheaper than ever which means the supply of new products is endless, and yet the days of the record label may soon be over. Much of the establishment (artists and record labels) is focused on the financial losses caused by illegal downloading, foregoing some basic economic principles which still apply: if it’s worth the price, people will buy it. If people aren’t buying it, it’s either not good enough or it’s overpriced.
Legislation and law enforcement are having trouble keeping up with technological progress and attempts to legislate the internet are consistently met with massive public resistance. The internet is turning into the new bastion of freedom where the people are refusing to give up their rights and liberties in order to stop the misconduct of others. The internet is the most level playing field in our economy, offering startups (even Google and Facebook started as small projects) and talented individuals (like PewDiePie who runs YouTube’s leading channel) a worldwide platform like no other – little investment capital is needed, just a good idea and entrepreneurship. And it must be cherished for that reason.
The music industry, which is desperately fighting a losing battle against innovation, will become the archetype of the new economy. The market is inevitably changing as people are demanding the ease of use the internet and mobile devices are offering them without government interference. Big Business and Big Government are lashing out (Airbnb, Uber, Tesla), but the landscape of our economy is inevitably changing. Online communities will decide success through the peer-to-peer exchange of ideas and suggestions; there will be more sellers who will each sell smaller amounts, but cater to more specific target demographics. Audiences will still flirt with great ideas and products, but become less loyal and will more quickly move on to the next.
Consumers will be demanding more transparency and tailored service from corporations, and a hands-off approach from government. They will be taking back the lion’s share of economic control, deciding for themselves or in small groups what to buy and where to buy it – regulating the market through demand and open channels of information instead of lobbyists and major interest groups. In spreading the means of production and with open access to a global sales platform, we may even be closing the divide between rich and poor in the process.