I haven’t really been paying attention these last few weeks but a lot of interest is being generated on the sites I read (CRN, WorldChanging, Cyborg Democracy) about something called a Fab Lab.
As near as I can understand, a Fab Lab is an inexpensive (Well–around 20,000 dollars–so it’s actually very expensive for places like Ghana’s Takoradi Technical Institute.) set of prototyping and fabrication tools–an advanced machine shop of sorts. The idea behind this is radical. Essentially what is being done here is to create a complete factory in a large room. Eventually these fab labs would need only raw materials, creative labor and electric power and could, in theory, make almost anything, including more fab labs.
Industrialization usually starts in endeavors are that are easy to mechanize, like textile manufacturing. Fab labs could, in theory, generalize this, at least in the design sense. In the future it might be possible for a bright engineer or technician in Ghana to design an item, perhaps some running shoes, that is easily transferable to other fab labs, patent it, make a lot of money off it or, more likely, have it pirated. Fab labs, minifacs, desktop factories, general assemblers, whatever you want to call them, they appear to be an emerging disruptive technology.