A study by the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey warns the advance of 3D printing technology could put wrong ideas in the heads of rogue orgs and nations.

3D Printing + AI + Bad Actors = WMDs on the low, for cheap

3D printing tech is already being used in the defense industry. The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration is using industrial-scale 3D printing machines to manufacture test models of nuclear bombs and Northrop Grumman & Raytheon, the industry goliaths, have been co-developing hypersonic cruise missile with an entirely 3D printed engine.

So far, however, as noted above, the players who use the tech to make weapons have been either govts or defense industry conglomerates as it still took expert engineers to come up with complex design inputs to take advantage of the 3D printing machines.

With AI, that would be no longer be the case. Generative design, an AI design method where a user instructs AI to come up with a solution for a design problem on its own, could eliminate the need for expert weapon engineering inputs. NASA recently used generative design to create an interplanetary lander. If the AI technique is good enough for a fucking space lander, it’s not too far fetched to think it could also handle some weapon manufacturing.

3 WMD scenarios

According to Scientific American, the ill-fated marriage of 3D printing & AI presents 3 major risk scenarios:

  1. Acceleration of WMD production in nations with existing missile programs. For, example, Kim Jong-un putting the tech to use to improve NK’s weapons industry.
  2. Stealth WMD infrastructure building. To make WMDs, you need infrastructures, and when you build big infras for WMDs, you tend to leave some trails – not the case anymore with 3D printing, tho, as you can just print out needed structures and components without anyone ever noticing.
  3. The Black Swan event – some apocalyptic shit no one expected.

We don’t yet know how real the threat is, but the Middlebury institute suggests that 3D printing tech could legitimately become a part of WMD supply chain within the next decade and experts such as Giacomo Persi Paoli, a researcher at nonprofit research institute RAND Europe, believe the threat is “something policymakers should be aware of”.

Can we expect the politicians to do the right thing and not let the tech get out of control, tho?

Unfortunately but unsurprisingly, no. Last year, Trump’s DOJ set a horrible precedent by making it legal to sell 3D printing tools that will enable anybody to make unmarked and untraceable guns at home.

R.I.P. Sean Price



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