The Motley Fool has discovered 3D printing. Hat tip for the pointer to L. S. McGill at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, who has already been talking about this, and has important extension commentary.

You can actually read L. S. McGill’s article and get the idea about Motley Fool’s commentary, tho’ I’d recommend listening to the analysis – at least, the first chunk, before you get into the extended David Gardener sales pitch. You’ll know when you get there.

One point the Motley Fool analysis makes is that the future of manufacturing is the same model as music and film. He calls it the destruction of the economies of scale, ending the advantages of factories, and moving manufacturing per se to the end user. He even talks about Star Trek‘s replicators.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt on “23rd century”: I presume food replicators

He further gets that there’ll be “legitimate” download sites for designs, ala iTunes, and alternate sites, such as Pirate Bay.

It kind of astounds me that the same analyst who can get that right, and make that parallel, is not actually able to take a look at what’s actually happening in those comparison businesses.

In particular, how we’re all scrambling to find viable business models that have nothing to do with recordings, and how to build a new recording model that actually pays something to artists, because there’s an entire generation that sees no value in paying for music. (To wit, parts one, two, three, four, five, and six. Parts one and two both talk about the disregard for purchasing music, the rest start to talk about new approaches.)

Regardless, though, it’s about trying to find a way to make a post-scarcity model work. But that seems invisible to this guy. Don’t get me wrong: I’m for this future. A post-scarcity model in manufacturing? Sign me the fuck up. But there are huge ramifications, and this guy doesn’t understand – or at least doesn’t talk about – the fallout.

It won’t be going for coffee.

The good news for us in creative industries is that music, art, maybe movies, certainly performance – all these have alternate paths, many of which we’ve talked about in parts three through six. Bryan Kim at Hipset also recently posted an article on crowd patronage, expanding on one particular method I discussed in part three.

But I think manufacturing will have an even harder time with this than musicians and artists. Product designers may not, but that’s going to be a much smaller chunk of economic input and activity, compared to the mass-manufacturing stage; we’ve seen that in the rust belt. Replication of physical product was never the high cost point of music – but he doesn’t seem to understand how problematic that makes his comparison.

What happens to all those people when factory jobs are mostly just gone? What happens with all the money they don’t make anymore?

The post-scarcity environment won’t look anything like our current economy. Just ask some of those musicians you’re referencing – and that’s the upside, for producers. Ask the American “rust belt” for the down.

Maybe it really will look like Star Trek, eventually. I sure hope so. I even kinda think so – or, at least, that it could – and that’ll be awesome. But you’ll see your financial world torn apart, on the way there. Be ready for that – or, at least, as ready as you can be. It’s a great destination, but one hell of a bumpy road.

This is Part Seven of Music in the Post-Scarcity Environment, a series of articles about, well, what it says on the tin. There are no barriers to availability now, and copying is free. What’s a musician to do now?