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Ethical 3D Printing: The Bomber Will Always Get Through

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Supply chain resilience via additive manufacturing (AM) is a wonderful thing, especially if you’re an outside nation, like North Korea. Supply chain resilience has become buzz word, but is also increasingly a government policy. More and more companies are looking at how to use additive to engender manufacturing resilience as well.

Success during COVID has meant that firms understand that, in some cases, 3D printing can make bridge manufacturing parts, small production runs, and new products quickly. The technology can also be used to iterate quickly and as a duck tape for unforeseen problems. Increasingly outlandish scenario planning and tea leaf panic attacks are leading to more businesspeople and government officials wondering how they can make up for things not being where they should be. End-use and indirect parts are also actually being discussed now in many more areas than they were just a few years ago.

So, of course, additive is a wonderful technology for supply chain resilience, but what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. If some nations and companies explore the digital warehouse and supply chain options afforded to them, they must realize that others will do so as well.

Smuggling Will Be More Prevalent

A nation that is an outsider in the international economy may have much more incentive than those within that economy do to adopt additive for supply chain resilience. In its war with Ukraine, Russia is being excluded from foreign markets in everything from chips to base materials. We know from history that a lot of money will be made in getting banned parts to the Russian and other governments. Iraq was much maligned and had far less money and influence under Saddam, but it still managed to access a great deal of nuclear, weapons and chemical weapons components. It also managed to sell billions in embargoed oil.

The AM industry must be realistic and assume that Iran and Russia are doing the same. Indeed, it seems that through the sale of oil products to India and other countries, Russian oil still continues to be sold internationally. The insider nations are either deluding themselves into thinking that, this time, sanctions will be watertight. Alternatively, boycotting Russia may be something countries and companies wish to do so publicly, without caring too much about it in private. Either way, smuggling will probably take care of the needs of Russia, North Korea, and Iran for advanced weaponry and other goods.

The Bomber Will Always Get Through

In 1932, five years before the Nazis tested out mass killing civilians in Guernica, Spain, U.K. politician Stanley Baldwin stated that, ¨the bomber will always get through.¨ This turn of phrase was a chilling prediction towards the future of strategic bombing, but also to the age of nuclear and mass destruction beyond the Second World War. Rarely has someone been so prescient about such an immense tragedy shared by humankind. Baldwin stated:

¨I think it is well also for the man in the street to realize that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through. The only defense is in offense, which means that you have to kill more women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves.¨

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

The cold logic brought into daylight was wrapped in a compassionate look at a future that would be drenched with blood. Mass civilian deaths became prevalent in the Second World War. What’s more, they became intentional. Allied mass bombing in Dresden and the Tokyo raid killed over 22,000 and 100,000 civilians respectively. In the Tokyo raid, lack of success in precision bombing of military facilities lead to the U.S. Air Force firebombing urban population centers in an attempt at the wholesale destruction of cities, their populace, infrastructure, and factories. The legitimization of the civilian as a target and the acceptance of collateral damage was a step away from our own humanity that we have been sleepwalking in for the 31,342 days since Guernica. Intentional mass civilian casualties on the part of governments is a nightmare not set in aspic for one Basque town but a living one that we are all a part of lasting beyond most of our lives.

Not Just Planes

Currently Baldwin´s phrase is also used to indicate that a suicide bomber will always get through, as well. We can additionally see an uptake in civilian casualties and nongovernment groups. The Red Army Faction (RAF) and other terror groups from the 60´s and 70´s targeted isolated standard bearers of capitalism. Other terror groups later kidnapped passengers, but did not intend on killing all of them. We´ve seen a remarkable expansion in the definition of legitimate targets by these groups and even nations themselves. All citizens of a certain country or of most of the wealthy nations are now targets, as are coreligionists whether they be men, women, or children. Indiscriminate purposeful killing of civilians is far removed from the more circumspect terrorism of yore. Indeed it seems as if every successive generation of terrorists has to resort to more outlandish, brutal, and large-scale murder of civilians in order to gain attention. So a small band of terrorists and the barbarous nations alike wish to kill civilians at scale in order to further their objectives.

The Ethical Now

If we look at how companies present themselves today, we could see them as they present themselves as caring, kind, save-the-world types of organizations. However, the reality is very different. Very few businesses care beyond the next bonus round.

If you lead a terrorist group, what technology would you like to deploy to make that dirty bomb or the tools needed for your newest terrorist plot? If you were in charge of maintenance of a homicidal missile command for warring government, what machine tools would you be looking to buy? If you wanted to further a nation’s nuclear weapons program, what tech would you like to get your hands on? You guessed it: 3D printing.

Additive is the ideal technology for terrorists and pariah governments alike. It is also inevitable at this point that this beloved technology will be used to kill civilians. The bomber will always get through, but will your 3D printer help them?

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