The Maker Movement
Being a maker is an attitude. Makers know that anyone can create and change the world. Makers realize that you don’t have to be an expert or a professional to create improvements. We can all contribute something new, we can all tinker and experiment, and make the things around us be more like how we would like them to be.
There were always tinkerers and hobbyists working in the shed or in their garage on some personal passion – or just trying to fix the home, the car or the bicycle.
But with micro-electronics, complex software and advanced materials, most people completely lost touch with their products: all the devices that we use became like black boxes: closed off for ordinary people, and so complicated that we were reduced to consumers of ready-made solutions, unable to modify or repair our devices.
The maker movement is taking back the control of technology, in part by turning to a new wave of technologies that are cheaper and much easier and open for everyone to use. 3D printers, laser cutters, online forums for exchanging ideas, instructions and experience… even biotechnology is becoming accessible for amateurs and students to work with.
In maker-spaces, workshops and in online forums around the world, thousands of people are discovering the joy of creating, and they are experiencing that it’s possible to make an idea into a real and useful product – even if you are not an engineer. Hundreds of thousands of people go to maker fairs, to show their projects and see and learn from other makers. Some make robots, drones or cars, others design clothes, build musical instruments, toys or works of art.
Creation is democratized
The maker movement has introduced a vast new source of ingenuity. In the coming years we will no doubt see many very useful inventions and products created by hobbyists and enthusiasts who are able to imagine solutions that experts and commercial companies missed.
In the industrial age, you needed money, factories and laboratories to make useful products. Now, if you have the right idea, you just need a laptop and an Internet connection to start a global business.
Suppose that you have a great idea for a new product, but you’re not an engineer or used to running a business. Previously, for most people, that would have been the end of their career as an entrepreneur. It was just too hard to get started.
But now there are fewer barriers and much more help to be found. Online, you can find others who can contribute to your idea or help solve technical issues. On your computer, you have cheap and easy software for drawing and constructing, and you can go to a local maker space to build a prototype and ”print out” your construction on a laser cutter or a 3D printer.
To raise money to develop your product into a real business, you can try to raise funding from the “crowd”. You write a good description, film a video demonstration and post it on a “crowd-funding” website, where anyone who likes an idea can commit to buying the product when it is finished or make a small investment to support the development.
If your invention is successful and you need to produce at high volume, you don’t need to build a factory. On the web you can find factories that will do the manufacturing for you, and of course, you can use the web to advertise globally for your product. And not only can you sell your products online directly to customers, but you can also tie up with large retailers who now sell products designed by makers.
A future-facing mindset
The idea is not that everybody should make everything themselves, or that we should all become global entrepreneurs. Creating great new products and solutions still of course, takes lots of work and ingenuity! What’s important is that many more of us now have access to affordable tools and helpful communities to create almost anything, if we really want to.
But the maker attitude is relevant for everyone. In a future where smart machines can do more of our work, and where services and information can be produced and distributed globally, change will be fast and it will be hard to make a living from simply reproducing and following routines. Instead, our jobs will be to think creatively, to find new ways of solving problems and overcoming challenges. We all need to see ourselves as makers and as capable of participating in and co-creating the world around us.