In the final chapter of Hurd and Hurd’s The Carbon Efficient City, the authors inform us that to deal with climate change we have to induce a “massive shift in behavior” through the force of delight. They give us the Cluny-La Sorbonne station of the Paris metro and the “piano keyboard” stairs at the Odenplan metro station in Stockholm as examples of changes that “delight” their users and induce a change in behavior, in this case an increase in public transportation ridership. But what about new technologies? Are there any that might delight an entire population and produce change at a much larger scale, e.g., the cellular phone or the internet? I think that 3-D printing is a probable case. The technology allows users to produce objects on-site that would normally require centralized manufacturing. Anyone who has used these printers understands the “delight” of watching a fully formed object appear before their eyes.
However, this technology can definitely be problematic. For instance, it creates regulatory concerns regarding the production of dangerous objects, e.g., guns (). And the opportunity to decentralize production can be seen as a clear threat to those manufacturing jobs that do still exist. But, like any disruptive technology, it also provides us with tremendous opportunities that I believe will outweigh the costs. In fact, Scientific American lists it as one of its 10 emerging technologies in 2015. In their article published this month, the organization makes the argument that digital plans transmitted to computerized cutting tools could allow us to replace centralized factory production (http://bit.ly/1EPVLfi). And the ease with which new “producers” can customize these products allows for a sort of crowdsourced creativity. This, to me, is what makes 3-D printing a “delightful” technology. The ability to indulge in one’s own creative impulse in the production of an object like a chair or sofa that can then be proudly displayed in a person’s home, and to do so at a competitive price point will appeal to a wide range of society.
But what does this have to do with climate change? Well, the deconstruction of complex supply chains would mean that natural resources do not have to be rooted out and shipped off to a centralized location for production. Also, that production can be expected to be more “efficient” since it will respond directly to local need rather than projecting demand at a large scale. Both the reduction in shipping and the increase in production efficiencies would reduce carbon emissions involved in production. That sounds delightful to me.