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Today's Big Idea: Hacking the Physical

The Big Idea for Wednesday, April 04, 2012

In their important new book, Abundance: Why the Future Will Be Much Better Than You Think, Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler trace the DIY revolution back to Ralph Waldo Emerson's 1841 essay "Self-Reliance" which they say "resurfaced in the Arts and Crafts renaissance of the early twentieth century" and led to the "largest communal uprising in American history" in the 1960s. 

With the advent of the computer, a small group of coders was empowered to hack software and gain access to and "control of the technology in their lives." Today, argues Dale Dougherty, the founder and publisher of Make magazine, the pendulum has swung in the other direction. "We're back to hacking the physical," he says.

This phenomenon can be found in Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson's burgeoning online DIY Drone movement, which is producing homebrew unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) for as little as $300. One of the models, in fact, has 90 percent of the functionality as military grade drones. 

This shift in interest from software to hardware is driven by hobbyists. Once hacking code was more fun than hacking objects, Diamandis and Kotler write. Today, however, DIY innovators have access to open-source designs and the means to cobble together a few hundred dollars worth of spare parts and take on the aerospace industry. 

We can see a pattern emerge here where dramatic cost reductions have enabled small groups of people to hack the physical in ways that were previously unimaginable. 


  1. 1 A Nuclear-Powered Drone? Fantasy. DIY Drones? Reality.
    Daniel Honan Think Tank
  2. 2 A Day in the Life of a Drone Operator
    Big Think Editors Think Tank
  3. 3 The Future of Robotic Warfare
    P.W. Singer
  4. 4 Is 3D Printing Technology a Supervillain's Best Friend? Or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Drone
    Chris Cunnyngham Esoterica

Today's Big Idea: Hacking t...

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