Morality of 3D printing’s future

Superstar Will.i.am Asks a Few Questions About the Morality of 3D Printing’s Future

http://www.dezeen.com/2015/03/06/will-i-am-interview-future-3d-printing-people/

Will.i.am

Will.i.am has called for “new morals, new laws and new codes” for 3D printing, a technology he says is evolving so rapidly that we will soon be able to print humans (+ interview).

Speaking to Dezeen at the launch of his Ekocycle range of sustainable lifestyle products yesterday, the music producer and Black Eyed Peas frontman said that we will be 3D-printing entire people in “our lifetime”.

“Eventually 3D printing will print people,” said Will.i.am. “I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m just saying what’s fact based on plausible growth in technology.”

“Unfortunately that is the reality, but at the same time it pushes humanity to have to adhere to new responsibilities,” he said. “So new morals, new laws and new codes are going to have to be implemented. Humans – as great as we are – are pretty irresponsible. Ask the planet. Ask the environment.”

Will.i.am is chief creative officer of 3D-printing company 3D Systems and has just launched his Ekocycle collection with Coca-Cola at London department store Harrods. Items in the range – which encompasses clothing, bicycles and luggage – are all made from waste materials, including 3D-printer filament produced from recycled plastic bottles.

Will-i-am-Ekocycle-3D-printer_dezeen

Researchers have already used 3D-printing technology to produce prototype organs using living cells. Experts predict that the ability to print complete human tissues is less than 10 years away.

“If you can print a liver or a kidney, god dang it, you’re going to be able to print a whole freaking person,” said Will.i.am. “Now we’re getting into a whole new territory. Moses comes down with the 10 commandments and says ‘Thou shalt not…’. He didn’t say shit about 3D printing.”

“When you have god-like tools, who’s governing me? I don’t know. I could create life. So new codes and morals – beyond laws – something has to be instilled into us. Before, when it was time to reproduce you had to mate. But now…”

He also believes that 3D printing will one day evolve into Star Trek-esque teleportation.

“You’re starting with beef, and leathers, and body parts, eventually it will get more complex,” he said. “It’s basically ‘Beam me up, Scotty’, a 3D printer that disintegrates the source.”

Will.i.am has launched a series of design- and tech-focussed initiatives in the past year, including a smartwatch designed with architect Zaha Hadid and an eyewear range with fashion designer George Garrow.

He is one of a number of well-known musicians that are making the leap into the design and technology industries, including Kanye Westand Pharrell Williams who both recently released clothing and footwear collections with sports brand Adidas.

“Musicians will be taken seriously when their business sells seriously,” said Will.i.am. “When you have serious partners and the products make serious money. Or when your products have serious design features that render it sustainable and they don’t break.”

“You can’t demand that because your famous, everyone’s supposed to like what you’re passionate about,” he continued. “No bro, you have to earn it. Just like the designers earned their respect. Just like you earned your respect as a musician, you have to earn it, it doesn’t just come.”

Will.i.am’s Ekocycle range is now available from a dedicated shop-in-shop on the third floor of Harrods.

Here’s the transcript of our interview with Will.i.am:

Dan Howarth: How is 3D printing going to change?

Will.i.am: I’m going to say something controversial. Eventually 3D-printing will print people. That’s scary. I’m not saying I agree with it, I’m just saying what’s fact based on plausible growth in technology and Moore’s law.

So right now we can print in post-consumer plastics, which is awesome. We can print in aluminium, which is bigger machines and awesome. We can print in titanium, which is pretty freaking crazy and amazing. We can print in steel, which is freaking hardcore. You can print in chocolate, and that’s sweet. You can print in freaking protein, you can make freaking meat. You can print leather. You can print a liver.

So if you can print a liver or a kidney. God dang it, you’re going to be able to print a whole freaking person. And that’s scary. That’s when it’s like, whah! And I’m not saying I agree, but plausible growth would say that with multiple machines that print in different materials, you could print in protein an aluminium combo.

Dan Howarth: How far away from that are we?

Will.i.am: Our lifetime. That’s scary. So unfortunately that is the reality, but at the same time it pushes humanity to have to adhere to new responsibilities, new morals. New lessons are going to have to be implemented. For real. Now we’re getting into a whole new territory. I don’t know what year it was, Moses comes down with the 10 commandments and says “Thou shalt not…” He didn’t say shit about 3D printing.

So new morals, new laws and new codes are going to have to be implemented. Humans – as great as we are – are pretty irresponsible. Ask the planet. Ask the environment.

Dan Howarth: So you think we’re going to need a whole set of laws to regulate what we 3D print?

Will.i.am: Morals, ethics, codes. Laws means someone governs. When you have god-like tools, who’s governing me? I don’t know. I could create life. So new codes and morals – beyond laws. Something has to be instilled into us. We’re going to a place we’ve never been before. We made a Will, we made a car, we made a house, we made a boat, we made flying machines. Before, when it was time to reproduce you had to mate. But now…

You’re starting with beef, and leathers, and body parts. Eventually it will get more complex. It’s basically “Beam me up, Scotty”, a 3D printer that disintegrates the source. Star Trek is pretty cool, because they had things like iPhones, and the internet. They also had 3D printers, that was “beam me up, Scotty”. Teleportation.

Dan Howarth: A number of musicians have transitioned into product and fashion design over the past few years. Do you think they’re taken seriously enough in the design industry?

Will.i.am: Musicians will be taken seriously when their business sells seriously. When you have serious partners and the products make serious money. Or when your products have serious design features that render it sustainable and they don’t break. More importantly, it’s successful in business.

Just like anybody jumping different careers. Say for example Bill Gates was the most amazing guitarist in the world, and he came up there and ripped it, with the facial expressions and everything. It would take you a long time to take Bill Gates seriously as a musician. The more he focuses and believes in it – the test of time will make you see him as a genius if he truly was an amazing guitarist.

Unfortunately those are the laws, and if he truly believes he will understand that. You can’t demand that because your famous, everyone’s supposed to like what you’re passionate about. No bro, you have to earn it. Just like the designers earned their respect. Just like you earned your respect as a musician, you have to earn it, it doesn’t just come.

References:

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3D printing and medicine – ethical debate

An Interesting Ethical Debate About 3D Prinnting and Medicine.

http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2015/…/11/4161675.htm

3D printed titanium heel

3D printing can offer great benefits in medicine, but it also raises a number of ethical questions as the technology develops, says Susan Dodds.

Three-dimensional printing technologies have the genuine potential to improve medical treatments for conditions ranging from bone cancer and arthritis to glaucoma and hearing loss.

Already 3D bioprinting allows orthopaedic surgeons to print artificial bone from a scan of the patient, printing existing surgical materials to precisely the right shape to replace missing or damaged bone. For example, the technique has been recently used to create skull implants for people with head trauma and a titanium heel (pictured right) to replace heel bone that had been eaten away by cancer.

In the future, 3D printing technologies may be used together with advances in stem cell research to print living bone cells from patients’ own cells or functioning organs for transplant (such as kidneys or hearts).

3D bioprinting is one of the latest developments in ‘personalised medicine’.

The technology could enable doctors to tailor treatments to individual patients, rather than developing a treatment that works well for most patients with that condition.

But 3D bioprinting also raises a number of ethical questions that will need to be considered as these technologies develop.

Three ethical issues that are raised are: justice in access to health care, testing for safety and efficacy, and whether these technologies should be used to enhance the capacity of individuals beyond what is ‘normal’ for humans.

Justice and access

One major concern about the development of personalised medicine is the cost of treatments. Until recently it has been thought that advances in personalised medicine go hand-in-hand with increasing disparities in health between rich and poor. Should these treatments only be available to those who can pay the additional cost? If so, then those patients who lack financial resources may not receive effective treatments that others can access for a range of serious conditions.

Personalised medicine is most closely associated with research in genomics and stem cell therapies.

Advantages of personalising medicine are most obvious in cases where the condition affects patients in very different ways and standardised treatments offer imperfect benefits. For example, conditions affecting the growing bones of children are among those where personalising treatments, if these can be adapted to the rapidly changing bodies of children, can make a very big difference in the child’s comfort and capacity to participate in ordinary childhood activities and play.

Until recently, the cost and time required to provide a series of customised prostheses of different sizes for a child who has lost a leg to cancer, for example, has been prohibitive for many patients. 3D printing will bring down the time and cost of customising and producing prosthetic legs. In cases like that of Ben Chandler, printers can also be used for implants, which might avoid the need to amputate the original limb, even where significant bone loss has occurred.

The capacity to use 3D printing technology to substantially reduce the cost of prosthetics, or orthopaedic surgery to restore lost bone structures, means that this area of personalised medicine can avoid the criticism that personalised medicine inevitably increases the cost of health care and puts effective personalised treatments out of the reach of many patients.

Will 3D printing treatments be safe?

A second ethical concern about any new treatment, including the use of 3D printing, is how we can test that the treatment is safe and effective before it is offered as a clinical treatment.

In the case of 3D printing to replace bone, the materials used — for example titanium — are those already used for orthopaedic surgery, and have been tested for safety over a long period and with many patients, so it is unlikely that there are new risks from the materials.

In the future, 3D printing may be used in combination with stem cell derived cell lines.

This could lead to the development of printed functioning organs that can replace a patient’s damaged organ, but without the risk or rejection associated with donor organs, because it uses that patient’s own cells.

How can we know in advance that these treatments are safe? Unlike the case of developing a new drug, a stem cell therapy can’t be tested on a sizable number of healthy people prior to being tested on patients and then, finally, being made available as a standard treatment. The point of using a patient’s own stem cells is to tailor the treatment quite specifically to that patient, and not to develop a treatment that can be tested on anybody else.

Researchers combining 3D printing with personalised stem cell therapies beyond the experimental stage will need to develop new models for testing their treatments for safety and effectiveness.

Regulatory bodies that give approval for new treatments, such as Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), will also need to establish new standards of testing for regulatory approval before these treatments can become readily available.

This means that even if researchers were ready to print a functioning prosthetic organ, it will be quite some time before patients with kidney disease should expect to be offered a 3D printed prosthetic kidney that uses their stem cells as a routine treatment.

Human enhancement

The third issue is whether or not we should use 3D printing for human enhancement.

If the technology can be used to develop replacement organs and bones, couldn’t it also be used to develop human capacities beyond what is normal for human beings?

For example, should we consider replacing our existing bones with artificial ones that are stronger and more flexible, less likely to break; or improving muscle tissue so that it is more resilient and less likely to become fatigued, or implanting new lungs that oxygenate blood more efficiently, even in a more polluted environment?

The debate about human enhancement is familiar to the context of elite sport where athletes have sought to use medical technology to extend their speed, strength or endurance beyond what is ‘natural’, or what they are able to achieve without drugs or supplements. In that context use of performance enhancing drugs is considered to cheat other athletes, unbalancing the level playing field.

In the case of 3D bioprinting enhancement of human capacities could be associated with the military use of the technology and the idea that it would be an advantage if our soldiers were less susceptible to being wounded, fatigued or harmed in battle.

While it is clear that it would be preferable for military personnel to be less vulnerable to physical harm, the history of military technology suggests that 3D printing could lead to a new kind of arms race. Increasing the defences that soldiers have in the face of battle would lead to increasing the destructive power of weapons to overcome those defences. And in so doing, increasing the harm to which civilians are exposed.

In this way 3D printing may open up a new gap in the vulnerabilities of “enhanced” combatants and civilians, at a time when the traditional moral rules concerning warfare and legitimate targets is muddied by terrorism and insurgency.

These three points might just be scratching the surface of new, deeper ethical and social issues that will emerge as the technology progresses.

The future of 3D bioprinting applications holds the promise of better treatment while challenging communities to address emerging ethical questions.

ABC.NET.AU
by Professor Susan Dodds | 11 February 2015