Young makers, including Dillon, pictured above, demonstrated their projects at the 3rd Annual World Maker Faire in NYC This weekend. The maker movement is changing the way the world will operate in the coming years.
As I’m sure many readers already know, this past weekend was the 3rd annual World Maker Faire in New York City, as well as the 3rd Open Hardware Summit just a few days earlier. Though I’ve attended both before, this year really struck me as a harbinger of the things to come with respect to the “new industrial revolution” as Wired Editor-in-Chief Chris Anderson calls it in his new book, “Makers.” As I’m exposed to more and more companies and individuals doing amazing things with power of the maker community, it is becoming clearer that these people – the kinds of people who participate in the element14 community – are the ones who have the will power, knowledge, and resources to change the way the world operates.
I’ve been accused of being overly optimistic before, but bear with me as we consider the evidence for why I believe we are at a turning point in the way the world does business and progresses technologically.
This topic came up over and over again at the Open Hardware Summit, and I experienced it first-hand at both the Open Hardware Summit and Makerfaire. Several of the open hardware presenters came up on stage, explained a mind-blowing project (like a concrete lathe or an international word clock), then proceeded to announce that they had met their team collaborators in person for the first time just minutes before giving their talk. This trend continued across the board at Makerfaire; I personally met at least a dozen people face-to-face for the first time this weekend with whom I have been collaborating for years online. We live in an age where the world has become flat, and accomplishing projects no longer has to fit within geographic boundaries. This will inherently change the way teams form, and how international perspectives are incorporated into product development and problem solving.
This is an obvious one, but an important point nonetheless. One speaker at the Open Hardware Summit quoted Alec Ross: “The principle political conflict of the 20th century was left versus right. In the 21st century it is open versus closed.” Indeed, the concept of opening up is a scary one to many companies, but one that is being integrated more and more even into large company cultures like google and facebook. If the work being shown at Makerfaire and the Open Hardware Summit is any indication, opening up more parts of your product or business encourages people to build on your platform and spread the word. Importantly, the line must be drawn somewhere, a topic that Sparkfun CEO, Nathan Seidle, brought up at the 2011 Open Hardware Summit. He explained that it’s great to share what is important and useful to consumer, while sharing things like financials isn’t necessarily beneficial. A quick stroll around Makerfaire revealed an Arduino at nearly every booth, no doubt because the product’s openness has resulted in a vibrant community that makes it easier for people to build on the platform.
This is perhaps my favorite part of the maker movement. Being at Makerfaire is reminiscent of a family reunion – friends, both virtual and not, descend to one event to share with each other, to catch up, and to plot their next projects. Even just considering the element14 microcosm, I must have met up with several dozen element14 community members, including fellow content developers like Drew Fustini and Jeri Ellsworth (who won the Makey Award for “Maker Hero” of the year, by the way). What’s more, Drew even accepted a Makey award on behalf of element14 for encouraging community development in the maker community. Every year, countless business cards (frequently made out of printed circuit boards or laser cut from acrylic) are exchanged at Makerfaire as Makers from around the word initiate another year of global maker development that will undoubtedly fuel a new industrial revolution, as Chris Anderson hinted during his Open Hardware Summit keynote speech.
This topic is very dear to me, as my many youtube and written tutorials should convey. At least half of the Makerfaire audience was under the age of 15, with young makers running around learning to solder, experiencing 3D printing for the first time, and discovering that engineering can be fun. This past summer, along with Dave Young (another e14 blogger), I taught students at the BlueStamp Engineering summer program in New York City. Many of my students attended the faire and presented their projects at our booth, garnering excitement and interest from hundreds of faire attendees, both young and old. This gives me hope that this movement will continue to evolve and grow as today’s young makers grow up into the innovators of tomorrow.
I, for one, am optimistic about the things the maker community will be able to contribute to our changing global dynamic, and I’m looking forward to hearing your opinions too. In what ways do you believe the maker movement will transform the way the world operates in the coming years and decades?