The Web revolutionised publishing - and is now doing the same for manufacturing. That is the view of Chris Anderson, an author and the editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, who says the advent of online design, 3D printers and shared factories means everyone can be a manufacturer. Mr Anderson spoke to The National prior to his address in Dubai at the CEO Forum, which was organised by the telecommunications operator du.
What can entrepreneurs and businesses learn from the approach outlined in your upcoming book Makers: The New Industrial Revolution?
Desktop publishing took the means of production of publishing and handed it everybody, with tremendous disruptive and creative effect. It basically ripped away the monopoly of 20th century media companies, and replaced it with an explosion of new voices. We're right at that point with manufacturing. Rather than desktop publishing we have desktop manufacturing. Instead of the laser printer, we have the 3D printer. Rather than blogs we have these services that will do manufacturing for you. You can make one of something or you can make a million. And anybody can do it.
New business models mean new risks. And in the Arab world, a commonly voiced concern is that there's is a big fear of failure. How does that compare with entrepreneurs' attitudes in America?
We like to say that there's a great American cult of failure, that there's a sense that failure is noble, and educational, and it's not stigmatised. The truth is, failure hurts. So I think we can exaggerate how benign failure is in the United States. The one thing I would say is that we have an appetite for blue-sky experimentation. It's still upsetting when things don't work, but it doesn't stop us from trying scary stuff.
You wrote an article for Wired called "The Web is Dead", which attracted a lot of flack. Do you stand by that?
Everything that I said has become more true. The point was the rise of the closed ecosystems: the shift to mobile apps and tablets [and the growth of] Facebook. We're seeing a continued shift towards closed silos. I think this is not a good thing - I certainly don't celebrate the closing of the Web. You live in Apple's world now - this is not the world [the Web creator] Tim Berners-Lee imagined. It's a beautiful world, but it's closed.
The Arab Spring highlighted the issue of internet censorship in this part of the world. What is your view on that?
Governments should do their best to try to enforce the laws of the land. Technology is not their friend, by and large. We assumed that technology would be used by governments against us, but it turned out to be just the opposite: technology has been used by us against the government. Governments probably have an obligation to do some monitoring of the internet. But they shouldn't expect to be 100 per cent successful.
This is your first visit to the Gulf. What is your first impression of Dubai?
I can't help but see the Las Vegas reference. Both of them are kind of extraordinary cathedrals of commerce, built out of the desert.
* Ben Flanagan
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