Neil Gershenfeld: The beckoning promise of personal fabrication | Summary and Q&A

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Neil Gershenfeld: The beckoning promise of personal fabrication


Digital fabrication, such as 3D printing and advanced manufacturing techniques, has the potential to revolutionize personalization and local problem-solving.

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Key Insights

  • 💻 The Internet Zero project is commercializing a web server that can be embedded in everyday objects, enabling devices to interconnect and communicate using a low-cost, Morse code-like system.
  • 🔌 Fungible computers, which aim to create smaller, interchangeable computing resources, have been developed, resulting in raw material-like computing capabilities.
  • 🔬 Integrating chemistry into computation at a molecular level allows bits to interact and rearrange material, opening up new possibilities for computing.
  • 🌐 The digital revolution has not yet fully extended to the physical world, with computation and fabrication still largely separate processes.
  • 🛠️ The Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT focuses on integrating computer science and physical science, pushing the boundaries of computation and fabrication.
  • 🏢 Personal fabrication, enabled by tools like Fab Labs, allows individuals to create unique products and promotes local problem-solving and entrepreneurship.
  • 🌍 The Fab Lab movement has spread worldwide, empowering individuals and communities to access digital fabrication tools and create innovative solutions to local challenges.
  • 🔄 Digital fabrication represents a shift from top-down mega-projects to bottom-up, grassroots approaches that harness the inventive power of the world to locally design and produce solutions.


This meeting has really been about a digital revolution, but I'd like to argue that it's done; we won. We've had a digital revolution but we don't need to keep having it. And I'd like to look after that, to look what comes after the digital revolution. So, let me start projecting forward. These are some projects I'm involved in today at MIT, lookin... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: How do Internet Zero and the Internet of Things enable devices to inter-network and communicate in new ways?

Internet Zero is a low-cost web server that can be embedded in everyday objects and uses a unique method of encoding Internet communication. This enables devices to communicate optically, acoustically, and through power lines, expanding the possibilities of the Internet of Things.

Q: What are fungible computers and how do they differ from traditional computers?

Fungible computers are smaller chips that can be combined in a viscous medium to create computing power. Unlike traditional computers, they do not require complex components like frame buffers, IO processors, etc. This makes them more scalable and flexible for specific computing needs.

Q: How does the integration of chemistry and computation open up new possibilities for digital fabrication?

By using bubbles as bits, computing can be done on both an information and material level. This means that digital fabrication can be used to not only create physical objects but also manipulate their structure and properties through chemical interactions.

Q: How do Fab Labs promote local problem-solving and invention?

Fab Labs provide people with the tools and resources to fabricate and create products for their unique needs. Through hands-on education, problem-solving projects, and invention, individuals in Fab Labs can design and produce solutions to local problems, fostering innovation and entrepreneurship.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker discusses projects at MIT that explore what comes after the digital revolution, including the Internet of Things and fungible computers.

  • He presents examples of integrating chemistry and computation, as well as storing bits quantum-mechanically in the nuclei of atoms.

  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of personal fabrication and the potential for global problem-solving through digital fabrication, using Fab Labs as examples.

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