23 October 2012

3D Printing, Technology and State Repression

Rhizome | Giampaolo Bianconi | 3D Printed Weaponry

Meet Defense Distributed, home of the Wiki Weapon — "A collaborative project to create freely available plans for 3D printable guns." They've just been granted $20,000 in funding from an angel investor. As outlined in an explanatory Youtube video, Defense Dist.'s goal is not to arm the populace, but to liberate information. As explained in their video, if the instructions for 3D printed gun are seeded online, then "any bullet becomes a weapon."

It's good that open-source information is Defense Distributed's major goal, because Stratsys, the company that makes the 3D printer used by Defense Dist., seized the printer from Cody Wilson.
In the wake of this I've seen all sorts of speculation about how DRM and assorted regulations will inevitably be introduced to control the digital files home users could use to "print" guns. While I have no doubt the State will try this, I think (1) the cat is out of the bag and (2) everyone is thinking too narrowly here. Even if the State could tell which files lead to firearms and which don't, firearms are just the tip of the iceberg.

I had a friend in high school who produced a working, multi-stage Gauss gun using a couple of 9V batteries and the capacitors from some disposable cameras. I'd much rather have a coilgun pointed at me than a Beretta, but anything that could put a nail through plywood at 15 feet is not something I want to be on the business end of. Imagine what he (or anyone following his instructions) could do with a 3d printer and a Arduino board.

Put weapons aside for a minute.
Reason: Hit & Run | JD Tucille | Annoying Traffic Cameras Are No Match for Subversive Technology

I admit to a weakness for anything that, intentionally or otherwise, sticks it to the man. And I really don't like automated traffic cameras that issue tickets to alleged speeders and red-light runners who are often driving at perfectly safe speeds and cornering on too-closely timed yellow lights. The damned things aren't just annoying, they're often optimized less for traffic safety than for generating revenue. So I'm tickled by a newly developed license plate frame that renders traffic cameras impotent.

From Wired:
Jonathan Dandrow has developed noPhoto, which renders the pix snapped by those revenue-generating robo-cams useless. The technology behind noPhoto is fairly simple. At the top of the gadget, which doubles as a license plate frame, there’s an optical flash trigger that detects the flash of the traffic-light camera. That trigger sets off one or both xenon flashes in the sides of the noPhoto, so when the traffic-light camera opens its shutter, there’s too much light and the picture of your license plate is overexposed. Big Brother can’t read your plate.
I'm sure this will be illegal soon enough, but how are you going to keep the lid on this when anyone could put one together with a 3d printer and a Raspberry Pi?


Police are increasingly using drones for domestic operations. What happens when citizens start using them to keep an eye on the State? Perhaps to provide their own recon during protests, or keep their own aerial records of potential police misconduct? Local authorities or even the FAA could pass all the rules against them they want, but if you can order the motors off of eBay, download the software off of The Pirate Bay and print up a quadrotor airframe in a garage, how are they going to be enforced?

The State will always be playing catch-up with technology. That might not have mattered a thousand or  a hundred or even fifty years ago, when technology was moving at an inter-generational pace. Now it matters. A lot.

If I had to advise the State on keeping this from being a big problem, I would give them one simple tip: don't make smart people angry.

PS Fun science/engineering project for an rebellious child: build a quadrotor that can be remotely controlled and is capable of using a can of spray paint.

Ostensible use: painting over graffiti in hard-to-reach places.
Anarchic use: painting over the lenses of speed cameras.

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