Despite the fact that I consider the prevailing majority of Facebook posts to be the single largest culprit of wasted broadband, I do hold a certain amount of awe for the internet. Shortly after Al Gore invented the technology, the instantaneous exchange of information became a global phenomenon. (Although, those early dial ups can hardly be considered “instantaneous.”) The internet might be, in most cases, the last beacon of relative freedom. Ideas can be spread, information disseminated, and cute kitten pictures shared. While there is an amazing amount of debauchery and misinformation on the world-wide-interwebs, it still stands as a relatively unrestricted, lightly regulated and highly accessible wealth of opportunity.
Apparently, a 25 year old in Texas feels like I do when it comes to the phenomenon of the world-wide-web. Feeling that the free exchange of ideas might be used as a contagion of freedom for other aspects of civilized society, he set about to create a firearm that one could “print” using any internet connection and a 3D printer. Setting up a non-profit (so that his information could be legally shared world-wide) Cody Wilson – a law student at Austin University – created a digital file that is capable of “printing” a fully operational plastic firearm.
Needless to say, governments around the world immediately entered panic mode. Ignoring the fact that a PVC pipe, some rubber cement and a handful of other items typically found at any local hardware store could create a gun of equal quality, authorities set about laws and restrictions to ban the files. Politicians sprang to action over concerns that terrorists would print the guns to take on planes (I wonder what kind of ammo you could sneak past the TSA metal detectors), or street thugs printing out their own history-free weapon (with their $20,000 3D printer). Even the US State Department got involved, by ordering that the information be taken off the internet. But, alas, too many files had already been downloaded. The information is now out there. . . Floating somewhere in the vast web of Facebook posts, YouTube videos, and Drudge Report links.
Ironically, however, the free market may have a solution that no government entity has yet been capable of conceiving. A new Danish company claims to have built software that would prohibit the printing of such weapons. The technology identifies “patterns” used in the printing of a gun, and shuts down the process before it is complete. While the software is far from perfected, it is a step closer than any ban, rule, or Mayor-Bloomberg-sponsored-legislation could ever hope to get.