[rp-ml] Back from oblivion

From: Marshall Burns (MB-ListMail2@Ennex.com)
Date: Sat Aug 06 2005 - 16:19:37 EEST


Hello to my friends (and others) in RP Land,


            First. let me thank Hannu Kaikonen for finally resolving the
software issue that has been blocking my messages from being posted here
since last December.


            It's been strange, a bit surreal, to have been blocked in this
way. I've been spending the past few years trying to recover from the
disappointment of not getting the Genie Studio Fabber out of development and
into the marketplace. It hasn't been an easy time. I wondered if there was
any ongoing role for me in the "RP" community, or if it was time for me to
move on to other things. And then, one day I found out that my
communications to the industry via this list were blocked. It didn't seem to
be due to anyone not wanting me here, but just a software glitch that I was
powerless to debug. Very frustrating, it seemed like a metaphor for my life
and my career.


            So let me also thank the people who saw my test transmission the
other day and wrote to say that they got it and welcoming me back.


            For anyone who's interested, let me give you a bit of an update.
If it leads to any interesting discussions, on or off list, cool. For those
of you who don't know, I was one of a number of people who got an award (a
certificate and an embroidered RP-ML baseball cap) about five or more years
ago as one of the most frequent posters on this list. I don't know if I'll
be as talkative now, maybe, we'll see.


            I spent most of last year traveling around Northern California
thinking about what to do with my life. I took advantage of the free time to
finally go to the counterculture festival I'd heard about with some
interest, Burning Man. While I was there, I got a phone message from the
University of Southern California asking if I'd like to teach a class in
digital manufactuirng. I took them up on that and moved back to Los Angeles
at the beginnong of this year to do it. I guess I did a good enough job on
it the first time, since they asked me to go back next semester and teach
both an undergrad and a grad-school version of the course. So that will be
starting up in a few weeks. (The Web site for the course is at
<http://www.pooff.com/> www.POOFF.com.)


            A few months ago, Peter Diamandis, founder of the X Prize (
<http://www.xprize.org/> www.XPrize.org), asked if I'd work with them for a
while to think about the possibility of an X Prize in nanotechnology. So
that's been my main thing this summer. It's a really interesting idea. As
some of you know, I see nanotech as the ultimate direction of where digital
manufacturing is taking us. So I have two conflicting thoughts about this:

* On the one hand, it's tempting to leave behind working on
fabricators and jump whole hog into nanotech. The fabber industry (if you
don't mind me calling it that, which some of you do) feels boring today.
Slow market growth, incremental tech advancement, and virtually unknown
outside our circle.
* On the other hand, I believe that fabricators are an important
bridge between industrial manufacturing and futuristic nanotechnology. I
think there's a lot of important work to be done in advancing fabbers from
what they are today to the magical thing-makers they will become in the
future. And it's work that will have a much more immediate impact than nano.


            It's frustrating that for what seem to be entirely political
reasons, nanotechnology has attracted billions of dollars in government and
venture funding, while fabricators, which present a much more immediate and
realistic opportunity for dramatic impact on manufacturing and many, many
other industries, languishes in virtual obsurity.


            So what am I gonna do? Good question. When I took the part-time
teaching position at USC, I thought I'd use it as an impetus to write a new
edition of my book. (For those who don't know it,
<http://www.ennex.com/AutofabBook.asp> www.ennex.com/AutofabBook.asp.) I've
been taking stabs at that, but I'm not sure I have the motivation to carry
it through. I've always loved big, hard projects, but I don't know anymore.
It wasn't my intention to remain a lone-wolf entrepreneur forever and I'm
getting tired of it. I've considered leaving technology entirely and getting
involved in some kind of community activism. But whatever I do, I want it to
to be in some kind of team effort. (It occurs to me that any of you who are
reading this far might ask why I don't get involved in the really
interesting research going on at USC in new fabber technologies. I was
hoping that might happen, but it doesn't seem to have been part of the idea
in bringing me here to teach this course.)


            I hope I haven't gotten too personal in my little update here.
But you know, this always has been personal for me. I got into fabbers in
the first place, back in 1990, because they "turned me on," so to speak. I
suppose that's why the failure of the Genie project hit me so hard, and
perhaps there's a lesson there. Don't be so personally invested in my
projects. But I don't know if I want that lesson. What's the point of living
if you're going to spend your days doing something you don't really, really
care about? I also got deeply hurt the last time I fell in love. Does that
mean I'm going to avoid falling in love again? No, I do want to fall in love
again, and I do want to find another project that I'll be as excited about
as the Genie. In both love and work, I'll look for lessons from my previous
experiences to see if I can win at both this time. But I don't think I'm
going to avoid getting deeply invested in either one.


            When I wrote my book on fabbers in 1993, I said in the preface
that my role in the industry was seeking definition. I didn't expect to be
still seeking that definition twelve years later. Maybe I've made my
contribution and it's time for me to move on to something else. Or maybe
there's an exciting new project around the corner.


            I hope my long rumination about life and technology adventures
hasn't convinced most you that you wished Hannu had left me out in oblivion.
If my being blocked was a metaphor for feeling lost and powerless, maybe
getting back in is a signal of getting back on track? Anyway, its nice to
talk to you again, those of you who are happy to hear from me. Are we ready
yet to make magic?


Best regards,

Marshall Burns

 <http://www.Ennex.com> www.Ennex.com

www.fabbers.com <http://www.mburns.com/>

www.POOFF.com <http://www.pooff.com/>




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