Friday, August 29, 2014

(The Big Disrupt) 3d Printing: The dark side of the 3d printing revolution

The press covering the rise of the 3D printer has been universally positive and for all intents and purposes should as the benefits provided by the technology in a number of fields particularly design, prosthetics and medicine. However, the blanket praise for the 3D printer and its many positive implication is washing over the truly terrifying consequences of its advent

Last year we got a glimpse into the bold new world offered by the 3D printer thanks to law student and anarchist Cody Wilson’s Defense Distributed making then using the first 3D printed gun named “the liberator”. The implications of the liberator are complex and varied but the most concerning of which is that not only can the 3D printer make a gun that fires but the means to produce one is widely available.

Needless to say, governments across the globe were less than pleased with the prospect of 3D printed guns ending up in the hands of their citizens as the U.S State Department, not surprisingly, “through its Office of Defense Trade Controls Compliance, forced Wilson to take down the online blueprints for the "Liberator" and all the other 3D-printed weapon parts that he has made available online”[1].

However, Wilson, less than pleased that the liberator blueprints were now offline, realized that the damage had been done. The blueprints to the liberator had already been downloaded in the hundreds of thousands and has gone viral and more importantly, global since. As a result, the Liberator has shown up across the world and in May 27 year old Japanese Yoshitomo Imura made history and became the country’s first arrest for being in possession of five liberators, two of which being able to fire live rounds[2].

Whatever is said about the Liberator no one can deny that it was a ground-breaking and terrifying innovation in the manufacture of weapons and with all innovations since the beginning of time, more are sure to follow and thanks to Texas based Solid Concepts, they did. According to the Guardian the Texas based custom manufacturer “replicated the parts of a classic Browning 1911 pistol - standard issue for the US armed forces until 1985 - using direct metal laser sintering (DMLS), and can now offer 3D printed gun parts to any “qualifying customer” within five days”[3].

Innovations by Defense Distributed and Solid Concepts in the manufacture of weapons has shown the darker side of the 3D printer and all it’s terrifying possibilities but their ambitions for weapons manufacture using the 3D printer pale in comparison with the US Army and large weapon manufacturers bid to exploit the 3D printer for their own ends.

Lockheed Martin, major supplier of the US Army, is looking at where they can make use of the 3D printer to lower the cost attached in making military grade satellites. According to 3Ders “Lockheed executives expect additive manufacturing, or 3D printing could help to reduce cost, cycle time and material waste. 60 percent of its satellites relies on outside suppliers, Lockheed says its engineers are evaluating which satellite components could be 3D printed in-house”[4].The company has already made use of the technology on it other products such as it interplanetary juno aircraft and is planning to use the 3D printer “to build propulsion tanks”[5].

Along with making their satellites cheaper to make, the 3D printer may make Lockheed satellites more efficient as “the light-weighted satellite would allow the government to pack on more sensors, or launch satellites on smaller, less expensive rockets”[6]However, The US army is looking to use the 3D printer for the deadliest weapon of them all, nuclear warheads. Nuclear warheads are notoriously expensive to make and even more costly to maintain but with the advent of the 3D printer, warheads, just like Lockheed Martin’s satellites and tanks, become cheaper and potentially more efficient instruments of death.

According Motherboard’s Jordan Pearson “warheads using 3D-printed components could be designed to be more compact in order to pack in additional payloads, sensors, and safety mechanisms” which makes an already terrifying weapon just that bit more menacing. However the terror the doesn’t end there as Pearson points out “Planning for printed parts in the design process will also allow the army to precisely engineer the blast radiuses of warheads for maximum effect”[7]

What this means is that not only has the US military made the nuclear warhead cheaper to make but potentially a game changer in future wars as they become operationally effective in military missions abandoning their traditional role as a deterrent to other states.  What this all means in the wider perspective is while the 3d printer is one of the better innovations of the last 20 years, it may just be responsible for greater aggression among states as it weakens one of the main disincentives that prevent war, the exorbitant cost of prosecuting one.

The ballooning cost of war has been one of the major factors of why wars since the World War Two have gotten smaller and less deadly. It’s also why wars aren't as protracted as was before as long term wars cost money as the US Army, to its detriment, has found out the hardest way possible in both Iraq and Afghanistan. But the with advent of the 3D printer, war may become more protracted, cheaper, and deadlier than they've ever been which may produce wry smiles in the pentagon but trepidation just about everywhere else.

In sum, with the advent of the 3D printer, anything is possible and this fact is probably the most sobering and terrifying thought of them all.

[5] Ibid
[6] Ibid

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

(The Big Disrupt) Driverless Cars: Google, The Driverless Car and Car Ownership

 “Cars are not just boxes to take us from A to B, they are – for the time being – so much more than that. Driverless cars will rob us of the great rite-of-passage that is learning to drive. Who wants to live in a society where fathers and their sullen teenage offspring can’t find some brief moment of connection, grinding a Punto round in circles in an industrial estate car park?”[1]
In lieu of search giant Google testing their driverless car prototype, much has been said about the advent of the driverless car from its benefits to its wide ranging implications for the automotive industry but what interesting thing about the driverless car is, as Forbes Tim Worstall pointed out “is not the technology itself: it’s the industries that that new technology is going to push into obsolescence”[2].

The advent of the driverless car would not only make a number of industries obsolete but also will serve as an affront to the key ideal that underpins the purchase and maintenance of cars, independence which is, and will continue to be the biggest barrier to widespread adoption.

Independence is at the heart of why despite statistics on global scale showing that human beings are horrible drivers that injure, maim and kill each other in the millions every year, It will be hard for Google to persuade people to at once surrender their independence then put their faith and lives in the hands of a handful of sensors and robustly written code.

Despite this glaring roadblock, Google and growing number of companies looking to get ahead of the driverless trend are still underestimating the powerful drives of independence and nostalgia when people buy and drive cars. Ask someone what their first car was and a sentimental smile crawls across their face as a flood of memories flood their consciousness. People still like the smell of a new car they bought with their own money, revving the engine and driving around playing the latest tunes till heart’s content. With the driverless car, all these experiences disappear and moving around town will become pretty much like the truly alienating experience of tube or metro travel only that much worse.

The driverless car may end prove to be a safer ride from point A to B but will be a better one? You can argue that the large number of injuries and deaths with humans at the wheel makes the driverless car a moral imperative but arguments like these are used to support the use of drones in the field of battle. Human beings maybe horrible drivers but if driving was about aptitude rather than independence roads across the world would be eerily empty.
For all the passionate and powerful arguments made in favour of the driverless car by its proponents, the day they and google dread is the day when someone dies in one of them. Should this happen, Google will open themselves up to a litany of expensive lawsuits that will send its legal costs through the roof.  The already low level of trust in the technology will shrink into non-existence and the powerful interests that would like driverless cars to disappear might just get their wish.

However, for all the bluster about the driverless car, the UK public certainly aren’t waiting with baited breath to be relegated from captains of the open road to alienated passengers as according to a survey conducted by Ipsos-Mori, “only 18% of the British public think that it is important for car manufacturers to focus on driverless technologies. 41% say it is unimportant”[3].

However the most interesting findings of the survey wasn’t about who was against the driverless car but who was for it as the biggest constituencies in favour of the driverless cars was either people who don’t own cars, wish to own one in the three years, or people “who are not driving enthusiasts” while those who were “were less likely to embrace it”[4].

The survey also revealed a desire among motorists for car manufacturers to focus on developing new and existing technologies that helps make driving safer as 84% of the respondents wanted see more developments in “forward-collision avoidance systems”, “lane departure warning systems” and “car to car communications”[5].

Across the pond, US motorists don’t seem so keen on the advent of the driverless car either as an overwhelming majority of Americans shudder at the thought of surrendering control of the wheel as an incredible “9 out of 10 American adults fear these advances, citing hardware and software failures, as well as security issues stemming from mischievous malware and hackers hell bent on causing chaos as primary concerns”[6].

The real security fear among the American public surrounding the driverless car shows up strongly in a poll by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers as “About 75% of respondents said they were concerned that companies would use the software that controls a self-driving car to collect personal data, and 70% were worried that data would be shared with the government”[7]

With the current revelations of the US government collecting wholesale information on US citizens and the collusion of tech companies, including Google, in helping them do it, the American public security fears regarding their privacy is completely understandable. Google’s entire business model is based on exploiting search data gleaned from their search engine and their services for profit so Google expanding their business model to their driverless cars is not exactly beyond reason as The Next Web’s Roberto Baldwin pointed out:
“The search giant has a history of products that learn about you. As soon as Google launched Gmail, it began gleaning data about its users. Then came Google Maps, Android, Google+, Google Now. With each new feature tied to your account, the Google brain got smarter about your life. Google Now knows when you’re at work and how long it’ll take to get home based on current traffic. It knows what you buy based on your search history and Google Express purchases. It knows which party you’ll attend on Friday thanks to Calendar. All that knowledge could be driving you around town”[8]
But, in truth, it’s difficult to see Google, a search engine company, taking the driverless car to the end zone as we’re more likely to see Google partner up with one of the big car manufacturers or sell the technology outright. Google have a long history of producing software then partnering up with manufacturers that can make use of it as they did with android in partnering up with established smartphone manufacturers[9]

Another factor why Google won’t push to get driverless cars on streets across the globe is they clearly don’t want to deal with the fierce push back they will experience as the advent of the driverless car will guarantee the death of taxi drivers, cabbies, lorry drivers and countless others making the current climate for innovation in the auto industry, to put it mildly, poisonous.

Tesla Motors is running into roadblocks at every turn in simply trying to sell their cars directly to consumers thanks to the pull auto dealers have at state level and Uber is unifying a usually fractious taxicab community fighting tooth and nail to keep their daily bread so Google entering the automobile market and ushering a driverless revolution that renders them useless is not exactly get to be met with open arms.

Taxi cab drivers are even less receptive to Google’s tentative step into the automotive market given their large investment into Uber, the taxi industry main nemeses, to the tune of $258 million via its investment arm Google Ventures[10]. Bill Maris, the current managing partner of Google Ventures, has been talking up the future market value of the app based car rental service and his confidence in its management means, besides Maris doing the job of all VC’s of upselling the future value of their investments, Google aren’t about to cut and run from Uber anytime soon[11].

Ultimately, Uber serves as a useful proxy for Google’s endgame of creating an on demand driverless taxi and/or delivery service quite perfectly as Uber is already looking to develop a fleet of driverless cars which would lower the cost of travel for its growing number of urbanite users[12].

Uber is also engaging in an intense political dogfight with regulators and taxi drivers in the US and beyond but so far the entrenched interests of the taxi cab industry has had the upper hand. Realising this, Uber have made the smart move of hiring David Plouffe, President Obama’s campaign manager in 2008, as their senior VP of policy and strategy as Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick has learned the hard way that innovation is political as it gets.

Plouffe’s appointment already looks to reap dividends as the company is already taking on it political opponents with zeal as Kalanick took advantage of the delicious irony of a Calfornia senator who voted against Uber getting arrested for DUI, a fate he would have avoided entirely if he made use of the company’s service[13]. The company used the Senator’s folly to promote itself as what it really should be, a solution to the very real problem of drunk driving and ultimately an alternative to driving altogether.

Uber promoting itself as a safer alternative is eerily similar to the position held by Google’s x team arguing the benefits of the driverless car. Sebastian Thrun, Google’s driverless car project leader, was using the same talking points during a powerful speech at TED in Brussels citing not the only safety of the driverless car compared to the human driven models but the time and space wasted in driving and maintaining vehicles[14]. In an interview with Foreign Affairs, Thrun cited pretty much stuck to the same position he expressed in his TED speech with only one new talking point: the death of private car ownership as he noted “You can also envision a futuristic society in which we share cars much better. Cars could come to you when you need them; you wouldn’t have to have private car ownership, which means no need for a garage, no need for a driveway, no need for your workplace to have as many parking spots”[15].

So be prepared to hear arguments like this over and over again until your eyes bleed as Thrun, Google and indeed Uber know full well that the demand of for safety and security, especially when it comes to modes of transportation, is never cyclical and is the best political argument for innovation of them all.

In sum, on the face of it, the advent of driverless isn’t revolutionary given the high level of automation used in other modes of transportation but it is intensely political and personal. It’s eventual adoption in the market place will mean a number of established industries will either have to change their business models or die an slowly and ugly death, a fate that interests in the auto and Taxi industry will fight tooth and nail to avoid. However the biggest obstacle isn’t the entrenched interests of the Taxi or auto insurance industry but the sure to be slow rate of adoption among potential consumer who are both enamoured with romance tied to car ownership and concerned about ceding control of their fate on the open road to sensors and elegantly written software.

[1] E. Malcom, 2014,
[2] T. Worstall, 2014, UK Launches £10 million Driverless Car Experiment: This Will Kill The Auto Insurance Business,
[4] Ibid
[5] Ibid
[14] TED, 2010, Sebastian Thrun-Rethinking the Automobile,
[15] Foreign Affairs, 2013, Google’s Original X-Man,

Friday, August 22, 2014

(Movies) White Bird in a Blizzard: Official Trailer #1 (2014) - Shailene Woodley, Eva Green Movie HD

Watch the official trailer for White Bird in a Blizzard Starring Shailene Woodley and Eva Green.

(Movies) Outcast: Official Trailer #1 (2015) - Nicolas Cage, Hayden Christensen Action Epic Movie HD

Watch the Trailer of new action epic Outcast starring Nicolas Cage and Hayden Christensen.

(Sport) Kell Brook v Amir Khan: Brook v Khan showdown inevitable?

After winning the IBF world title in a tight decision victory against Shawn Porter last Saturday, Kell Brook now has the boxing world at his feet and has number of mouth-watering fights but no fight has boxing fans drooling in anticipation than a potential showdown between Brook and Amir Khan.

The fight has box office smash written all over it as both are popular figures in British boxing and just happen to hate each other’s guts. Brook has always wanted to fight Khan convinced he had the measure of the Bolton native but Amir Khan, while having respect for his skills in the ring, saw him as a none entity as at the time he was a two world title belt holder and was being lined up in potential fights with PPV monsters Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.

But since then Khan lost his belts and has been working tirelessly getting his career back on track securing impressive wins against durable but beatable fighters in Carlos Molinia and Luiz Collazo. Khan has also been chasing a pay day showdown with Mayweather but has so far been unsuccessful in his attempts to get in the ring with the sport’s bona fide superstar as Mayweather is set to fight Marcos Maidana , a man Khan and indeed Mayweather have already beaten.

There has been talk that Khan might just get his long held wish to get in the ring with Mayweather next year but nothing is set in stone. Now Khan has a choice between chasing Mayweather or taking a fight with Brook that can be made and makes sense for all parties involved. Should Khan beat against Brook, a fight with Mayweather would be inevitable as he would establish himself once again as one of the sports major stars. A win for Brook would add further weight to the Yorkshireman name across the pond and in the sport. It would also open up a number of enticing fights including with Mayweather and most likely with the dangerous Keith Thurman, one of the few fighters from the states prepared to fight across the pond.

However the biggest winner of fight between Khan and Brook would be fight fans across the board who get to see two great fighters who don’t like each other much get in the ring to see who’s better in an era where the best fighting the best has become a foreign concept thanks to the notoriously nasty politics of the sport.

In sum, Brook and Khan is the only worth making for both fighters and we only hope that Matchroom promotions Eddie Hearn continues to earn his growing reputation as a promoters to gets fights made people want to see in making this great fight happen. 


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