Robots in the streets of Addis Ababa during a visit to Ethiopian AI company iCogLabs (Photo by Author)

When we think about the future of manufacturing technology, we automatically assume that the majority of the transformation will take place in the West, in China — clearly in the highly industrialized world. But I am challenging this assumption after my travel to TEDGlobal in Tanzania last summer, where I held workshops on 3D printing for developing countries. I believe, that there is a chance for Africa and other emerging regions to leapfrog into a new production paradigm, because their current disadvantage in infrastructure may be a blessing in disguise.

Manufacturing is undergoing a fundamental transformation, driven by additive production…

The Louvre in Abu Dhabi is a celebration of human creativity — but it required a lot of manual work to realize the design. (Author’s photo)

Ray Kurzweil famously coined the term “Singularity” in his 2005 book.

Everywhere we look, his predictions are coming true at an amazing pace.

There is one area, though, where progress is blocked by the rigid workflows that we humans built over the course of the last centuries: In the design and construction of complex machinery.

If you took a civil engineer from ancient Rome and brought him to a modern architectural studio, he would be overwhelmed by how far we have come. But I would guess he would relatively quickly understand how the plans he used to draw on parchment…

Pavillion of a Chinese construction company at the 2015 World Expo in Milan / Photo by author

To understand the sea change currently happening in the world of manufacturing, it is important to look at the historical perspective. We can split history into the pre-industrial epoch, the time after the Industrial Revolution, and a new era, that we are currently entering.

Until the 19th century, the production of goods was a manual process. Even though craftsmen sometimes had simple machines at their disposal, each item was built by hand and became one individual, often unique, object.

This changed during the Industrial Revolution, which caused a dramatic shift to the manufacturing of large quantities of identical items. Many…

For me, boarding an intercontinental flight is like entering a meditative space. My daily life as a technology entrepreneur tends to be hectic, so having a few hours of uninterrupted time for thinking is wonderful.

Or somewhat painful; because I start to reflect critically on what I am doing and why. Such was my state of mind in November 2013 when I boarded my flight to New York to participate in Jim Clark’s World Technology Network Summit.

La Ruta del Agua

Two years earlier, after the sale of my software company to Adobe, I had started an NGO in the sustainability space.

La Ruta del Agua Expedition

The foundation…

Lin S. Kayser

Serial Entrepreneur - Speaker - Environmentalist. Working on the future of manufacturing.

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