Synopses & Reviews
What if you could someday put the manufacturing power of an automobile plant on your desktop? It may sound far-fetched-but then, thirty years ago, the notion of personal computers” in every home sounded like science fiction. According to Neil Gershenfeld, the renowned MIT scientist and inventor, the next big thing is personal fabrication-the ability to design and produce your own products, in your own home, with a machine that combines consumer electronics with industrial tools. Personal fabricators (PFs) are about to revolutionize the world just as personal computers did a generation ago. PFs will bring the programmability of the digital world to the rest of the world, by being able to make almost anything-including new personal fabricators. In FAB, Gershenfeld describes how personal fabrication is possible today, and how it is meeting local needs with locally developed solutions. He and his colleagues have created fab labs” around the world, which, in his words, can be interpreted to mean a lab for fabrication, or simply a fabulous laboratory.” Using the machines in one of these labs, children in inner-city Boston have made saleable jewelry from scrap material. Villagers in India used their lab to develop devices for monitoring food safety and agricultural engine efficiency. Herders in the Lyngen Alps of northern Norway are developing wireless networks and animal tags so that their data can be as nomadic as their animals. And students at MIT have made everything from a defensive dress that protects its wearers personal space to an alarm clock that must be wrestled into silence. These experiments are the vanguard of a new science and a new era-an era of post-digital literacy” in which we will be as familiar with digital fabrication as we are with the of information processing. In this groundbreaking book, the scientist pioneering the revolution in personal fabrication reveals exactly what is being done, and how. The technology of FAB will allow people to create the objects they desire, and the kind of world they want to live in.
"Gershenfeld, who runs MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, foresees a time when computers will upgrade from PCs to PFs, or personal fabricators. This eye-opening survey of 'fab labs' completes the progression in Gershenfeld's earlier studies of the overlapping of computer science and physical science, such as When Things Start to Think (1999). A programmable PF, predicts Gershenfeld, will make it possible for users to design and create their own objects, instead of shopping for existing products. Interest in such cybercrafting became evident in 1998, Gershenfeld says, when an overwhelming number of students took MIT's How to Make (Almost) Anything course, aimed at 'fulfilling individual desires rather than merely meeting mass-market needs.' After inspecting those students' unique creations, Gershenfeld offers a history of how things are designed and made, from the Renaissance to industrialized automation, and then offers an overview of the technology and social implications this science involves. The 150 illustrations aid in clarifying some abstract concepts. Gershenfeld's extrapolation of these futuristic wonders is a visionary tour of technology, tools and pioneering PFers, making this an important update to Stewart Brand's 1987 The Media Lab. However, a 'self-reproducing' PF that can make anything, including itself, is a chilling reminder of Philip K. Dick's 1955 Autofac, with its frightening prospect of an automated factory system beyond human control. Agent, John Brockman." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
What if we could someday put the manufacturing power of a Ford factory in our own garage? According to MIT's acclaimed technoprognosticator Neil Gershenfeld, the next big thing is personal fabrication; the ability, literally, to make your own products, in your own home, with a miniaturized machine that combines consumer electronics with industrial tools. This sounds like science fiction, but in fact it is exactly where the digital revolution was at the dawn of the age of personal computers. It used to take a mainframe computer the size of the MIT campus to tackle problems that a desktop computer can now easily solve. Personal fabricators (PFs) are tomorrow's personal computers. PFs will bring the programmability of the digital world to the rest of the world, by being able to make anything (including themselves). Students have already made everything from a defensive dress that protects its wearer's personal space to a chestpack for storing screams and then releasing them at a more convenient moment. But whimsy is only a beginning: Such experiments are at the vanguard of a new science and a new era (an era of post-digital literacy) that will let people create objects they desire and thus make the kind of world they want to live in.
About the Author
Neil Gershenfeld is the Director of MITs Center for Bits and Atoms, and the former director of its famed Media Lab. The author of numerous technical publications, patents, and books, including When Things Start to Think, he has been featured in media such as the New York Times, The Economist, CNN, and PBS. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.