Roadmapping the Future: 

  • U.S. courts have made a decision in the legal battle between provocateur Cody Wilson (and his making-machines-that-make-guns startup) and the State Department. The State Department argued that his downloadable design files for weapons components violated ITAR (International Trade in Arms Regulations) by allowing anyone in the world with unrestricted internet access to "acquire" firearms via CAD models. While many are viewing this decision as a sure recipe for a bloody, gun-filled society, the reality is that the U.S. is already at that point, and has been for some time. The country is already teeming with guns that are easier to obtain than DIY options and the economies of scale provided by corporate production means incredibly cheap firearms (often subsidized by the juicy military contracts those same manufacturers receive). The more hopeful subtext of this case is that the verdict sets a legal precedent for removing restrictions on independent, non-corporatized production across borders of things beyond guns: useful tools, research devices, replacement parts, and so on. Just as firearms manufacturers (and their lobbyist counterparts) are behind thwarting sensible regulations that could stymie their own profits, corporate producers of all kinds of goods design parts for limited lifespan, ensuring consistent consumption year over year. Simply put, there are plenty of systemic problems whose solutions cannot be entrusted to those that profit from them, and while this verdict has its risks, it's also a vote for giving individuals and communities more tools to opt out of life as mere consumers. Ultimately it's a question of whether we trust our neighbors more or less than the companies that have helped to create the problems we are all facing now. 
  • Farhad Manjoo on how the ease of sharing tips, tricks, and skill building exercises for various hobbies underscores what is good about the internet: "There’s something else that has been magical about the experience. Although I took up pottery to go offline, it has driven something surprising for me online: It helped restore my faith in the possibilities and the basic humanity of the internet." 




Shaping Cities:


Upgrading Ourselves: 




More next week.