Building Things:  

  • The value of standards, for building, engineering, and general interoperability of our human systems.

  • Bloomberg Businessweek profiles Local Motors, a company that has been using large format 3D printing and milling (along with some crowdsourced design practices) for short-run production of big, complex goods like vehicles and appliances. At this stage it's hard to say whether the unusual practices of Local Motors detailed in the article are bold prototypes for future business models, or, as former employees say, are creating massive risks for users and unsustainable inefficiencies. Given that the article has some basic errors of manufacturing-related reporting, like misidentifying a milling gantry as a 3D printer, we're willing to bet that there is more to the story than the tidy futurist narrative presented here. 

  • Using traditional manufacturing processes to create products with differences, even surface level ones like color, is more complicated than it might seem.


Mapping Markets:  

  • An interesting post covering the recent past of digitized black markets, with an eye towards their recent evolutions into small, selected groups of illicit buyers organized by illicit sellers, rather than hosted by larger digital black markets like Silk Road. The writing is thin on real-world examples—perhaps understandably given the nature of the content—but it means that everything should be taken with an extra grain or two of salt. Still, it's interesting territory that echoes larger technological trends of decentralization and invite-only groups over mass social networks. 


  • Whether it's the scrap from a manufacturing process, cleaning out your condo, or tossing your plastic bottle in a recycling bin, there's really no such thing as away. The effluence of our human activities stays in the world, drifting about for days, months, or years, inevitably coming back on us in one way or another. Some cases of disposed goods returning to haunt us are more literal than others: a strange story of forgotten radioactive waste at a Grand Canyon museum


More next week.