The main cause of violent street criminality is poverty. Having many of the same societal problems today — poverty, despair, isolation — exist at similar levels world where 3D-printed weapons are widely accessible is a recipe for more disasters.
While advances in additive manufacturing offer potential breakthroughs in prosthetic arms or jet engine parts, 3D printing, as it is known, may also accelerate weapons proliferation.
A new RAND Corporation paper suggests additive manufacturing could benefit military adversaries, violent extremists and even street criminals, who could produce their own weapons for use and sale.
3D printing technology is also susceptible to hacking, which could allow sabotage by hackers who maliciously instruct 3D printers to introduce flawed instructions or algorithms into mission-critical parts of airplanes, according to the paper.
Additive manufacturing may also indirectly support the survival and rise of pariah states like North Korea, which could avoid the costs of withdrawing from the international community by producing complex items domestically, skirting international sanctions.
From an economic perspective, by decentralizing manufacturing individuals and firms may choose to produce locally rather than importing goods. 3D printing could therefore weaken international connections currently sustained by complex, multi-country supply chains, the authors conclude. That in turn may create upheaval in labor markets — and subsequent social conflict.
“Unemployment, isolation and alienation of middle and low-skilled laborers may be exacerbated by additive manufacturing, potentially leading to societal unrest in both developed and developing countries,” said Troy Smith, an author on the paper and an associate economist at RAND. “The potential security implications of large masses of unemployed, disconnected people are substantial.”
The paper, “Additive Manufacturing: Awesome Potential, Disruptive Threat,” is part of a broader effort to envision critical security challenges in the world of 2040, considering the effects of political, technological, social and demographic trends that will shape those security challenges in the coming decades.