by Brendan Smith
Weirs Times Editor
People younger than myself are fortunate in many ways, especially when it comes to technology,
Having grown up in the era of tinfoil on the antenna rabbit ears to get a better picture from the television and 8-track cassette tapes that eventually would get caught and ripped to shreds in the player, I could never completely feel confident that the latest technological invention would ever truly work as promised and I still don’t.
As technology has advanced and components have become smaller and smaller, the thought, to anyone younger than thirty, that something can go wrong with the latest and greatest creation is almost non-existent.
But us older folks will never completely trust them. Some my age will deny that this is true. That’s okay. I’ll take the heat for all of us. But it is okay, It was the time we grew up in and those experiences will always be embedded in our psyches and affect the way we look at technology today.
We will always be waiting for something to go wrong.
One of the latest and greatest of technological inventions is the 3-D printer.
For someone growing up in the 1960s, these make no sense at all. How is it possible, not even two decades since I was using a rotary phone, that these could even exist?
At first, people were somehow making perfect 3D reproductions of things like pencils on a printer. Reading about it, it seemed like harmless fun. How much further could it possibly go?
I’ve never seen one of these3D printers, but in my mind I am picturing the nearly ancient printer we have at work (ancient, in technological terms means more than two years old).
Watching a news show the other day, I saw how rapidly these once unimaginable things had progressed. It seems that today they are almost ready to reproduce whole human organs…on a 3D printer!!!
Suddenly I was a bit more interested, and excited, about this technological advance. You see, I have a condition called CKD. It stands for Chronic Kidney Disease but I like to call it Can’t Keep me Down. (Is it A HIPPA violation if I talk about it?) Millions of people in the country have it and it can go on for years and years, or maybe just a few months, before it might be a big problem.
The ultimate progression is that one day you might need a new, compatible kidney. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough to go around for many people who need one.
The fact that these 3D printers are on the verge of making it possible that if I one day need a kidney, maybe I can just print one, intrigues me. But I also have my concerns.
Basing my most likely misguided assumptions on my growing up with copiers and printers that caused their share of problems, usually at the most inopportune moments, I can only imagine the issues that might develop if the time ever comes that I am getting a new kidney made on a printer.
How do they get the DNA into the kidney? Is there a toner type cartridge that they use? Has someone checked to see if there is enough DNA in the cartridge before the make the kidney and, if not, if they need to take the cartridge out, shake it up a little bit and then put it back in, will that disrupt the whole process?
I have often been frustrated when I forget to choose the right paper tray when I am printing something. Can that happen with the 3D printer? Did the technician pick the liver tray by mistake when he (or she) was printing my new kidney? Did they choose the black and white button instead of the color one? Did they have a rough night and forget to pick even the correct printer sending my new kidney to the front office instead where it prints in one dimension on a plain piece of 8 x 10 paper? If the printer breaks, will the technician tell them it will be ten days until they can get the kidney part since its on back order?
I’m sure that my concerns are unfounded and this is not even close to the way a 3D printer works. But in the back of my mind I will always have concerns that the technology just might not work that day like it is supposed to. That’s just the age I am at and there isn’t much I can do about that.
Of course, I am very happy to be living in such a time where all of these new and exciting advances are occurring at such a rapid pace. I realize that I’ll never understand it all. I just know I am happy and grateful when it works.
Brendan’s new book “Best Of A F.O.O.L. In New Hampshire” will be available in early spring 2015. He welcomes your comments at Brendan@weirs.com.