Director of MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms
In his groundbreaking book, FAB, Gershenfeld takes us into a world he's helped cultivate—the world of Personal Fabrication. Put simply, Personal Fabrication will give citizens the unprecedented ability to design and then produce their own customized products. This will be done in their homes using a machine that combines consumer electronics with industrial tools. Gershenfeld contends that Personal Fabricators (PF's) are about to revolutionize the world just as personal computers did a generation ago. PF's will bring the programmability of the digital world to the rest of the world, by being able to make almost anything -- including new Personal Fabricators.
His presentation "Bits, Atoms and Disruptive Technology" takes you on a journey to the technologies which are already being used and embraced around the world and are changing the very nature of our lives and the economy. With MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms, Gershenfeld has gathered an intellectual community whose research resources cut across traditional divisions of inquiry by disciplines and length. Their goal is to bring together the best features of the bits of new digital worlds with the atoms of the physical world. Gershenfeld has led the Media Lab's "Things That Think" industrial research consortium, which brought computation out of conventional computers and into the rest of the world. He has also worked with Media Lab Asia on appropriate advanced technology for global development.
Gershenfeld's work was featured by the White House as well as The Smithsonian Institution in their Millennium celebrations. He has been profiled in The New York Times and The Economist, and on CNN and PBS. Beyond his many papers and patents, Gershenfeld is the also author of the popular book When Things Start To Think, as well as more technical texts like The Nature of Mathematical Modeling and The Physics of Information Technology. Dr. Gershenfeld has a B.A. in Physics with High Honors from Swarthmore College, was a member of the research staff at Bell Labs where he studied laser interactions with atomic and nuclear systems, and received a Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell University.
What if you could someday put the manufacturing power of an automobile plant on your desktop? It may sound far-fetched-but then, thirty years ago, the notion of "personal computers" in every home sounded like science fiction. According to Neil Gershenfeld, the renowned MIT scientist and inventor, the next big thing is personal fabrication-the ability to design and produce your own products, in your own home, with a machine that combines consumer electronics with industrial tools. Personal fabricators (PF's) are about to revolutionize the world just as personal computers did a generation ago. PF's will bring the programmability of the digital world to the rest of the world, by being able to make almost anything-including new personal fabricators. In FAB, Gershenfeld describes how personal fabrication is possible today, and how it is meeting local needs with locally developed solutions. He and his colleagues have created "fab labs" around the world, which, in his words, can be interpreted to mean "a lab for fabrication, or simply a fabulous laboratory." Using the machines in one of these labs, children in inner-city Boston have made saleable jewelry from scrap material. Villagers in India used their lab to develop devices for monitoring food safety and agricultural engine efficiency. Herders in the Lyngen Alps of northern Norway are developing wireless networks and animal tags so that their data can be as nomadic as their animals. And students at MIT have made everything from a defensive dress that protects its wearer's personal space to an alarm clock that must be wrestled into silence. These experiments are the vanguard of a new science and a new era-an era of "post-digital literacy" in which we will be as familiar with digital fabrication as we are with the of information processing. In this groundbreaking book, the scientist pioneering the revolution in personal fabrication reveals exactly what is being done, and how. The technology of FAB will allow people to create the objects they desire, and the kind of world they want to live in.
When Things Start to Think
This is a book for people who want to know what the future is going to look like and for people who want to know how to create the future. Gershenfeld offers a glimpse at the brave new post-computerized world, where microchips work for us instead of against us. He argues that we waste the potential of the microchip when we confine it to a box on our desk: the real electronic revolution will come when computers have all but disappeared into the walls around us. Imagine a digital book that looks like a traditional book printed on paper and is pleasant to read in bed but has all the mutability of a screen display. How about a personal fabricator that can organize digitized atoms into anything you want, or a musical keyboard that can be woven into a denim jacket? Gershenfeld tells the story of his Things that Think group at MIT's Media Lab, the group of innovative scientists and researchers dedicated to integrating digital technology into the fabric of our lives.