Professor Neil Gershenfeld and Designing Reality

Over the past fifty years, two digital revolutions—in computing and communication—have transformed our world. They have led to unprecedented productivity, generated enormous wealth, and fundamentally altered everyday life. But these revolutions left a great many people behind: today, half of the planet is not connected to the Internet, inequality is on the rise, and issues around privacy, security and civility emerge daily. With more foresight, we could have avoided many of these pitfalls.

We now have another chance. Neil Gershenfeld, Alan Gershenfeld, and Joel Cutcher-Gershenfeld foresee a third and even greater digital revolution in fabrication. The third digital revolution is about much more than 3D printers and hobbyist makers; it’s about the convergence of the digital and physical worlds. Drawing on the history of digitization and exploring the frontiers of research, Designing Reality outlines a vision for a future radically transformed by digital fabrication that takes us from community fab labs to personal fabrication to replicators right out of Star Trek that will allow anyone to make (almost) anything.

Professor Neil Gershenfeld speaks at AI World Society – G7 Summit Conference at Loeb House, Harvard University, April 25, 2019.

Accelerating digital fabrication capabilities could enable self-sufficient local communities and global sustainability. But it could also reinforce existing inequality and create new, destabilizing ‘fab’ divides. We can—and must—proactively shape our societies so digital fabrication will benefit everyone, rather than just the fortunate few. The first two digital revolutions caught us flatfooted. We can do better this time.

Designing Reality is your guide to not just surviving but thriving in the third digital revolution.

Prof. Neil Gershenfeld is the Director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, where his unique laboratory is breaking down boundaries between the digital and physical worlds, from pioneering quantum computing to digital fabrication to the Internet of Things. Technology from his lab has been seen and used in settings including New York’s Museum of Modern Art and rural Indian villages, the White House and the World Economic Forum, inner-city community centers and automobile safety systems, Las Vegas shows and Sami herds. He is the author of numerous technical publications, patents, and books including Designing RealityFabWhen Things Start To ThinkThe Nature of Mathematical Modeling, and The Physics of Information Technology, and has been featured in media such as The New York Times, The EconomistNPRCNN, and PBS. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, has been named one of Scientific American’s 50 leaders in science and technology, as one of 40 Modern-Day Leonardos by the Museum of Science and Industry, one of Popular Mechanic’s 25 Makers, has been selected as a CNN/Time/Fortune Principal Voice, and by Prospect/Foreign Policy as one of the top 100 public intellectuals. He’s been called the intellectual father of the maker movement, founding a growing global network of over one thousand fab labs that provide widespread access to prototype tools for personal fabrication, directing the Fab Academy for distributed research and education in the principles and practices of digital fabrication, and chairing the Fab Foundation.

Professor Neil Gershenfeld is a keynote speaker at AI World Society Summit 2019. The full video of his talk can be found here.