There were a lot of buzz about 3D printing the whole month of September.
What is 3D printing?
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a process of creating solid 3D objects from a digital model usually through the use of a materials printer. 3D printers form the object by joining several layers of the materials. Traditional machining techniques, in contrast, use subtractive processes (e.g. filing, grinding, drilling, cutting the materials) to create the product.
With 3D printers, virtual models are transformed into thin horizontal cross-sections then laid down layer by layer until the object is complete. The layers are then fused together. With 3D printing, any shape can be created and the virtual and physical models are almost identical. Production of small quantities of products is faster and cheaper with 3D printers than with traditional manufacturing techniques. Very complex designs can also be created easier.
In this video, Lisa Harouni explains the basics of 3D printing.
Nowadays, 3D printing is not anymore limited to industrial applications. Small businesses, professionals, and hobbyists can also get their hands on less expensive models.
With the success of cyberpunk, several subgenres of speculative fiction derived from it have likewise gained prominence. Some are futuristic, some retro-futuristic. Many of these have the suffix -punk as a continuance of the creation of portmanteau words like that of cyberpunk.
Postcyberpunk: Ubiquitous computing and cybernetic body modifications are present, but life is pleasure-driven and comfortable, rather than bleak and grim. People are generally free and happy and there is a sense of connectedness, in contrast to the alienation and apathy typical in cyberpunk. Things are not perfect but the protagonists seek to strengthen the existing social order rather than destroy it.
Biopunk: Biotechnology + punk. Involves the struggle against a controlling government/megacorporation that misuses biotechnologies. Body modifications involve genetic manipulation rather than cyberware.
Nanopunk: Similar to biopunk but here, biotechnology is limited or prohibited and only nanotechnologies are widely used, whereas in biopunk, nanotechnologies and biotechnologies often coexist.
Steampunk: Features anachronistic technology and an alternative history using Victorian and Edwardian fashion, art, architectural style, and culture. The Industrial Revolution has already begun, but electricity is not yet widely used. The setting can also be a fantasy world where spring- or steam-powered technology is prevalent.
Dieselpunk / Decopunk: Features modern technology and the aesthetics and influences of the period between World War I and World War II, such as film noir, pulp magazines, and art deco.
In 1990, Intercon Production released the documentary film Cyberpunk. The film was directed by Marianne Trench and features interviews with William Gibson and Timothy Leary. Artists, musicians, and scientists also provide context to the movement. It looks dated now and the cheesy graphics and psychedelic colors can be headache-inducing. Nevertheless, it gives a good insight on what the cyberpunk movement in the 80s was like and how the cyberpunks of the time envisioned the future.
So far, this blog has discussed high technology, cyberculture, biomedical engineering, and cyberpunk-related stuff like information privacy and control, but has not given an overview of what cyberpunk is. The term was coined by Bruce Bethke in 1980 as the title of his short story which was published in 1983. It is a combination of the words cybernetics and punk — the cybernetics for the science and technology part and the punk for the rebellion part. High tech, low life.
Cyberpunk began as a science fiction subgenre but has now transcended into a subculture and a movement. There is no exact definition as different people oftentimes have different criteria for judging if something or someone is cyberpunk. Nevertheless, there are themes that are usually present.
Cyberpunk plots are usually set in the near-future Earth, in contrast to other science fiction genres that are set in the far future or in distant planets. The future is depicted as dystopian — dark and gritty — instead of utopian. Society is crumbling, the environment is decaying, and crime and drug use are rampant. The main characters are typically alienated antiheroes at the fringe of society, fighting against a powerful and oppressive government or corporation controlled by the elite. Protagonists include computer hackers, criminals, misfits, rebels, and outcasts. Information access is ubiquitous and high technology is pervasive in the society such that the majority of the people has become oblivious to how the system is abusing them. Sometimes, a big part of the action happens in cyberspace, blurring the line between what’s real and what’s virtual. Likewise, the distinction between man and machine is also not clear, with the presence of cyborgs, brain-computer interfaces, artificial intelligence, and sentient robots challenging the definition of humanity. The perspective shown is typically that of the antiheroes — the punks — who are rebelling against the system.