Atoms to Bits, and back to Atoms

In his classic 1995 text – Being Digital – that laid so much of the groundwork for subsequent thinking on the digital revolution, Nicholas Negroponte wrote:

The change from atoms to bits is irrevocable and unstoppable.

How right he was, and how right he still is. But with the advent of 3D printing, I wonder to what extent we are seeing the worlds of atoms and bits finally coalescing? In the world of bits, the capacity to create infinite numbers of perfect copies of digital artifacts so easily is what is wreaking revolution in so many domains: music, publishing, and even education in time.

What effect will the capacity to reproduce atoms from digital models just as easily as we currently reproduce music or texts or learning content have on so many of the ‘atom-creating’ industries? I can already see the debates and firestorms we are witnessing in the ‘bits-creating’ industries shift across to the manufacture of physical artifacts too. The process of disintermediation is about to cross the chasm from the bit to the atom!

Could be interesting!