Neil Gershenfeld on the need for a new digital maker literacy
-- Neil Gershenfeld:
"From this combination of passion and inventiveness I began to get a sense that what these students are really doing is reinventing literacy. Literacy in the modern sense emerged in the Renaissance as mastery of the liberal arts. This is liberal in the sense of liberation, not politically liberal. The trivium and the quadrivium represented the available means of expression. Since then we've boiled that down to just reading and writing, but the means have changed quite a bit since the Renaissance. In a very real sense post-digital literacy now includes 3D machining and microcontroller programming.
I've even been taking my twins, now 6, in to use MIT's workshops; they talk about going to MIT to make things they think of rather than going to a toy store to buy what someone else has designed. The World Bank is trying to close the digital divide by bringing IT to the masses.
The message coming back for the fab labs is that rather than IT for the masses the real story is IT development for the masses. Rather than the digital divide, the real story is that there's a fabrication and an instrumentation divide. Computing for the rest of the world only secondarily means browsing the Web; it demands rich means of input and output to interface computing to their worlds. There was an amazing moment as I was talking to these Army generals about how the most profound implication of emerging technology for them might not lie in designing a better weapon to win a war, but rather in giving more people something else to do. So we're now at a cusp where personal fabrication is poised to reinvent literacy in the developed world, and to engage the intellectual capacity of the rest of the world."