3D Printed Drones & Guns: Post Scarcity & The World of Tomorrow
Hidden battle lines in the war for global hegemony.
by Tony Cartalucci
3D printers are both accessible and affordable in Australia. Effectively, this means that an individual or group has the ability – with minimal investment – to avoid the cumbersome task of purchasing expensive overseas technology and instead print their weapon. A 3D printed drone is legal and possible; weaponising it would be a matter of accessing ammunition, something that is currently safeguarded by laws which regulate the sale, possession and use of firearms and munitions in Australia. But what happens when the first 3D printed bullets become available?
Although owning a 3D printer and a domestic drone is not illegal, the combination represents a privacy issue and a security threat both in the domestic domain and in international conflict. I am not advocating for the prohibition of civilian drone use or 3D printing. What I am encouraging is security frameworks that can recognise and respond to the threat resulting from the merging of these two technologies.
These concerns were prompted by the author’s discovery of a drone produced by a 3D printer – a printer that prints out actual objects instead of images as traditional printers do. The author was also alarmed by the fact that 3D printers have also been used to print out a “working gun.”
Video: A 3D printed drone has the global elite clamoring over the dangers of allowing the masses to possess technical capabilities that have long been monopolized by large multinationals.
Image: Parts of this working gun have been “printed” in 3D. What was once the exclusive realm of the military-industrial complex, tilting the balance of power in their favor, may soon become a distributed balance of power that eliminates them all together. Other 3D printed gun stories have been making it into the news recently as well.
The fact is that 3D printing has played an increasing role in prototyping and precision manufacturing over the years, and coupled with other forms of computer-controlled manufacturing, form the foundation of modern weapons manufacturing, the aerospace industry, shipbuilding, as well as medical and information technology. As these systems improve and are more widely used, their size, cost, complexity, as well as barriers to accessing them are reduced. Tools that were once exclusively found only in the realm of large multinational corporations can now be found in use amongst increasingly smaller operations, and now, in the hands of individual hobbyists and garage tinkerers.
In reality, Lowy and its impressionable readers’ concerns are absurd. In a world where everyone has access to 3D printers, online designs to create virtually anything, including drones, Kalashnikovs, and cruise missiles, and increasingly versatile and abundant materials to manufacture items out of, everyone will also have the means to present to their neighbors a reasonable deterrence against abusing such technology.
It would be a world where everyone was just as capable of defending themselves as they would be at menacing one another – essentially an unprecedented, distributed balance of power that would form the foundation of a lasting, and realistic peace by pragmatic design, not by laws and ideals. And in this world, where the means of manufacturing virtually anything was in the hands of the masses, the sort of disparity that exists today that inevitably leads to conflicts, exploitation, and abuse of imbalances of power would be reduced if not eliminated.
The real fear that Lowy and the global elite that drive its agenda harbor, is that “the powers that be” today, will be “the powers that were” in a world where an East African was just as capable of building a cruise missile as Raytheon was, and the disparity that grants the global elite of today absolute impunity to roll over the world’s population will have been stripped permanently from them.
Post-Scarcity and The World of Tomorrow
But if one can print a gun, one can also print other forms of technology previously only possible for large, precision manufacturing operations. This includes medical instrumentation and devices, systems for power production, transportation, and laboratory equipment of every shape and variety to put the means of research and development into the hands of local communities and individuals.
In a world like this, where the only limitation to solving your problems is your imagination and your will to solve them, where the means to actually produce, tangible, technical solutions are at your very fingertips, would people spend their time producing vast amounts of weapons to menace their neighbors with?
This question is answered by examining just why people menace each other with weapons in the first place. Armed conflict is driven by disparity – either armed resistance by those exploited at the losing end of socioeconomic disparity, or armed oppression carried out by those benefiting from disparity, seeking to perpetuate or expand their disproportionate advantages. In a world where this disparity is reduced by emerging manufacturing technology and material sciences, so too will be the desire and ability for people to engage in conflict.
The cost of this technology is decreasing in both terms of money and resources, as well as accessibility for average people. The costs will continue to decrease as more people become involved and as the capabilities of these 3D printers and other forms of computer-controlled manufacturing improve.
Likewise, the cost and accessibility of material used to manufacture goods with these systems is also dropping. As more people gain access to this technology, more people will begin developing with them better means of recycling spent material and processing new material from a variety of alternative, and more abundant sources.
Rising in tandem with the 3D printing revolution is the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) Biology movement, or simply DIYbio. Again, the means of genetically modifying organisms was once in the sole realm of large multinational corporations – corporations like Monsanto, Cargill, and Bayer.
There lies a real risk that the monopoly these large corporations hold over the ability to genetically manipulate life on a global scale can be (and is) abused. While shifting this technology into the hands of the people means that anyone could create and release a deadly biological attack – it also means that anyone (and most) would work together to defend against such abuses. It also strips large multinational corporations of the impunity and intellectual monopoly they now possess over genetic engineering.
It is the dropping costs of lab equipment and increased access to educational resources online that have made the DIYbio revolution possible. Personal manufacturing has also played a role in developing equipment like the OpenPCR and the 3D printed “Dremelfuge,” giving us a glimpse into just how profound the impact will be of the personal manufacturing revolution. In turn, DIYbio may yield genetically engineered organisms that turn out materials used for fabrication or fuel sources for powering home generators – illustrating the interchangeable synergies that will increasingly accelerate the pace of this shifting paradigm.
Image: The fruits of post scarcity. From “Caging Humanity: “No more land? Make some more. Commissioned by NASA in the 1970′s, conceptual artist Don Davis illustrated a torus-shaped space station that maintains artificial gravity through centripetal force – it was designed by a NASA Ames/Standford University study. While people may be taken by the same Pavlovian giggles that accompanied the scorn of concepts such as a heliocentric planetary system or the idea of manned flight, such space habitats are not only possible, they are inevitable. In space, there’s plenty of room to spread out. Human innovation may make compromises necessary in the short-term, but entirely unnecessary in the long-term.”
The final goal is “post scarcity,” an economic paradigm where the ease of producing a physical object matches that of copying a digital file. Achieving such a paradigm requires the sort of technologically competent citizenry, but in greater numbers, involved in the current 3D printing and DIYbio revolution.
And while this all sounds great, these implications have not escaped the notice of those very few who will lose in a world of distributed, balanced power – where their main point of leverage, scarcity, is eliminated. These few are of course the corporate-financier elite who have wallowed in the disparity they have exploited and indeed, purposefully perpetuated for so long. They are already taking measures to head off a revolution most people have no idea is about to unfold.
Hidden Battle Lines in the True War for Global Hegemony
So how does the global elite go about heading off such a revolution that will not just threaten the source of their seemingly infinite power, but drain it permanently?
The opposite of economic independence is economic interdependence. The opposite of a technically competent, pragmatic citizenry is a politically divided, technically ignorant population. The opposite of a world of decentralized open source collaboration is one of centralized monopolistic proprietary corporations. And it is this very world of “opposites” that is being incrementally built up around us, day by day, hour by hour, permeating every aspect of modern life, with the global elite rushing toward deadlines and supranational infrastructure to cement this paradigm of disparity in place.
The European Union, NAFTA, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) are all interwoven examples of attempts to lock humanity into a system of global economic interdependence, where centralized regulatory bodies can legislate and enforce economic policy benefiting the corporate-financier elite who are building and promoting these very networks.
One concept that permeates these “economic unions” is that of shifting over to “service economies” while industry is monopolized, heavily regulated, and isolated in nations where workers can be closely monitored and work only for monolithic multinational corporations. Western nations, like the United States which possesses both the infrastructure and the human resources to build a society fit for science fiction, is instead suffering under crumbling, outdated infrastructure – its population falling vastly short of its true potential with the average American incapable of understanding, let alone participating in the frontiers of modern science and technology. Despite this, there are still Americans that break this mold, but this is an exception the system is working to extinguish, not expand upon.
It would be difficult to dispute the decline of America as an industrial power, or defend the current state of America’s public education. Other Western nation’s are equally falling short of their true potential, with increasingly fewer exceptions to spotlight. A system designed for achieving global hegemony would include measures to condition the population to fit within the framework for control. This is being done through a combination of social engineering (and here) and sabotaging what used to be a premier education model.
Another concept that permeates all documentation associated with these “economic unions” is that of “intellectual property,” or the ownership of ideas, concepts, processes, and information. With a global economic system dominated by fully functioning enforcement of “intellectual property rights,” it would be possible to criminally persecute any and all who attempt to create on their own, business models that “infringed” on existing, dominate business models.
We already see how this system works in regards to media giants sending people to jail for merely sharing digital copies. Called “thieves,” these “criminals” are sent to prison, fined, or otherwise penalized not for depriving another of their physical property, but for depriving another of “potential profits.” It doesn’t take much imagination to see how far this abuse can go. And the concept of intellectual property has been applied beyond music, movies, and software,- it has also been applied to monopolizing life-saving medication and even genomes, the substance of life itself. As 3D printing comes of age, corporations will undoubtedly seek a pretext to curtail, contain, and control the technology, under the guise of protecting national security, intellectual property, and public safety.
An existing analog of this can bee seen arrayed against local agricultural industry. Organic farming, local farmers’ markets, and other forms of localized economics have already seen creeping legislation attempt to regulate out of existence the ability for individuals to grow their own food and/or sell it to their neighbors – perpetuating wider public dependence on big-agri monopolies and processed food giants. Similarly, there will be attempts to outlaw the possession of personal manufacturing equipment if the public is unable to quickly shift the paradigm.
And it is here that we find the true battle lines for global hegemony.
We are bombarded daily with false narratives, false struggles, and false political paradigms. The recent US Presidential “debate” is a perfect example of vast numbers of people being misdirected toward debates that don’t matter, involving political processes that in reality will change nothing. The US President has long since become nothing more than a PR front for the corporate-financier interests of Wall Street and London. Who occupies the White House is of little consequence beyond which lies will be told to sell a singular, continuous corporate-financier driven agenda.
Image: Elaborate diversions constructed to prevent us from even reaching the real battle lines. Professional spokesmen, representative not of the American people but of Fortune 500 multinational corporations and banks. Since the time of JP Morgan 100 years ago, the corporate-financier elite saw themselves as being above government, and national sovereignty as merely a regulatory obstacle they could lobby, bribe, and manipulate out of existence. In the past 100 years, the monied elite have gone from manipulating the presidency to now reducing the office to a public relations functionary of their collective interests.
Likewise, even geopolitical conflicts, wars, and strategic tensions, while life threatening and in certain aspects a matter of survival, take second place to the real battle that is being waged. The real battle being waged is one of a corporate-financier elite attempting to establish and maintain absolute domination over humanity through economic interdependency, social engineering, and other tools of modern empire. Everything else is either a means to achieve this, or a distraction to divert people’s time, energy, and resources away from the true battle lines.
As Sun Tzu stated in “The Art of War,” “supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.” What better way of achieving this than preventing the enemy from ever finding the true battle lines to begin with?
If people are not active locally, developing independent local institutions, self-sufficient infrastructure and independent economic activity, while exposing, boycotting, and replacing the corporate-financier monopolies that dominate the current global order, they are wasting their time. There is no political football that if “kicked” the right way will save us, no candidate that can offer us salvation of any kind, and no solution at all that will ever come out of a ballot box. And while government programs and features of the current system are still necessary for the functioning of civilization, it must be understood that these are but temporary stop-gaps, and that permanent pragmatic solutions must be pursued.
It must be understood that “activism” means “activity,” not merely waving placards around and making demands of a system that has no intention to meet them. It must be understood that by “activity,” it is meant that technical, “wrench-turning” solutions must be implemented. Organic farming and local farmers’ markets are examples of such solutions already being fought for.
Getting involved in personal manufacturing, DIYbio -and in general by being producers rather than needy consumers – is another example. All technology is a double edged sword which can cut both ways. To ensure it cuts the way which benefits humanity the most, it must be humanity that wields it, not a minute, self-serving elite. This reality is especially urgent in terms of biotechnology. So where can one go to get involved?
Enter the Trenches
The trenches can be found all across the United States, and indeed, the world. While the corporate-financiers squatting over America may be purposefully sabotaging the American people, the people themselves still possess a unique drive to innovate and improve the world around them. And because of this, places where 3D printing, DIYbio, and all other forms of localized production, collaboration, and tinkering have sprung up across the nation. The Internet is full of not only resources to find existing “makerspaces” or “hackerspaces,” but enough information for individuals, their friends, family, and neighbors to create one of their own.
Hackerspaces.org hosts a map and a list to help people zero in on locations near them. By visiting the websites of existing spaces, one can get a feel of how easy it is to start one of their own. A “makerspace” or “hackerspace” can simply be a room with a table for people to meet, bring their own tools, and collaborate on projects of all kinds. Over time, a collection of tools and equipment can be kept on location and more advanced projects can be pursued.
DIYbio.org likewise lists community labs where basic skills in genetics are taught and projects can be pursued in a safe and well-equipped environment.
There is also a network of “Fabrication Laboratories,” or FabLab for short. These are similar to hackerspaces, open to the public, are generally associated with Dr. Neil Gershenfeld’s MIT Fab Lab project and are well equipped with somewhat more expensive and capable pieces of manufacturing equipment.
And while it may seem like an insignificant act to gather together and work on small projects, a well developed local “maker” infrastructure can yield big results. More established spaces, like NYC Resistor, have turned out small businesses, or have helped augment existing local businesses.
Regardless, it is essential that we start walking in the right direction, no matter how small the steps may be, regardless of how far in the wrong direction we’ve gone. Collectively it will make a difference when people begin putting their time, energy, and resources into developing local solutions and becoming independent, technically competent producers rather than needy, hopelessly dependent consumers running forever on the corporate-financiers’ “political treadmills.”
When we start turning off the “debate” and turning on our soldering irons, our tractor, our power tools, our lathes, mills, 3D printers, and welding torches, we can stop hoping for a better world to be delivered to us tomorrow, and start building one ourselves today.
Dangers – the DARPA Vacuum.
A conscious pragmatic movement, as well informed as it is technically competent, pursuing post-scarcity and the reduction of disparity, elitism, insidiously imposed social engineering, and economic interdependency has little to fear as it moves forward. However, as the paradigm stands now – there lacks any clear vision for the future, or situational awareness of the present.
Makerspaces, hackerspaces, community labs, and open source collaborations of all varieties run the risk of being subtly manipulated, compartmentalized, and tasked for diabolical endeavors the individual participants could hardly fathom. Such a scheme was in fact announced by DARPA in a Wired article titled, “Pentagon’s New Factory: Your DNA” which stated:
A recent call for research by the Pentagon’s mad science agency proposes a new program called “Living Foundries.” The idea is to use biology as a manufacturing platform to “enable on-demand production of new and high-value materials, devices and capabilities.”
In other words, let’s engineer life to make stuff we want.
To jumpstart the process, Darpa wants to open the playing field to people from outside the biological sciences, recruiting designers, engineers, manufacturers, computer scientists, academics and anyone else who has an idea. By democratizing the biological design and manufacturing process, they hope to speed up the development of a reliable factory for all sorts of kind-of-living things.
Wired, which has increasingly become a clearinghouse for Pentagon propaganda aimed at “geek” culture – and even hosts corporate-financier funded Brookings Institution “fellows” as contributors, attempts to make DARPA’s plans sound exciting and fun. In reality, DARPA is assembling an arsenal of biotechnology constructed of various individual parts contributed by participants who have no idea what they are involved in or the bigger picture they are helping to shape. These will be biotechnological implements only DARPA understands the true configuration and characteristics of, and implements DARPA and its affiliates alone can wield at will.
This DARPA vacuum has been assimilating the best and brightest the world has to offer in a similar manner across many disciplines, assembling a vast wealth of knowledge and technology to be mixed and matched behind the veil of secrecy. It is a good bet that all these technologies are being used for a handful of specific, unknown objectives, and that cover stories provided by publications like Wired are solely for public consumption. The atomic bomb was assembled in a similar compartmentalized fashion, but at a closed-off facility run top-to-bottom by the US Government. In this new model, entire segments of the population are compartmentalized to fulfill certain objectives, with the final product assembled behind closed doors by DARPA scientists.
A documentary covering the Manhattan Project, including the compartmentalized nature of the work. In a similar manner, the collective efforts of compartmentalized participants, unaware of the true nature of the project they are involved in, is being used by DARPA across a wide range of disciplines and is a danger pragmatic movements must be aware of.
Being aware of this potential danger is essential. And the sorts of implements DARPA may already either possess or be working on should give the masses added incentive to become actively involved in stripping the technological-intellectual monopolies being cultivated by the global elite. It is important to get involved locally, but be aware of things unfolding globally. We must remember that by getting organized, having an acute situational awareness, and working pragmatically has given the global elite the immense power they now possess. It will take the masses getting organized, having a collective, acute situational awareness, and working pragmatically to take that power back.