Technologies perpetrating monoculture will also provide a break from it.
When Ford decided to use the assembly line for production of standardised vehicles, he had heralded a new era of innovation. This homogenisation ensured that products were available for masses, while the assembly line process guaranteed that maker of the product could ultimately become a consumer. And, the cycle would go on. Gramsci and others were quick to take Fordism and write extensively about it. Instead, the monoculture that Ford’s ideas were to propagate was ignored.
The next few decades were marked by standardisation of not only products but dreams. The American dream is a classic example. And, how it went beyond America shows the homogenisation of cultures that was taking place. So much so that different became novel.
This homogenisation is being challenged now. The problem is it has also led to the vilification of technology. Charles Adler, the co-founder of Kickstarter, is one of the warriors challenging this culture. While Kickstarter was aimed to promote ideas that could shape the world, his current focus seems to be arts. Although he did not reveal when he plans to launch his new start-up at the 3DEXPERIENCE World 2020 conference in Nashville, organised by Dassault Systemes, he did highlight the fight against monoculture, perpetrated by the industrial revolutions. He did so by pointing to the movies and systems that have come to represent this monoculture.
Ironically, the reminiscing comes at a conference that presents a break from this monoculture. While technology, no doubt, has led to the proliferation of a monoculture, in its new form it is also providing a break from it. 3D printing is allowing companies to innovate on products. While it does mean that a company can create more of the same in no time, it also means that it can structure products as per the consumer’s preference. The change in the process does not require any significant shift in the manufacturing process, but just a new design innovation.
Additive manufacturing only solves a part of the puzzle though. If companies are to provide a heterogeneous range of products, consumers need to be ready with the adoption of such a culture. Even if websites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter have shown that there is a market for heterogeneity, an analysis of listings indicates that ultimately most ideas generating capital look the same.
This is where marketing and social media come into the picture. These seem to be promoting both a need for difference and culture of similarity.
There is no doubt that in its initial years, 3D printing or AM will further strengthen the roots of monoculture. Still, once the technology becomes more pervasive, ultimately there will be a break from this monoculture.
Surprisingly, the two initiatives that Dassault showcased Magic Wheelchair and BioDapt did represent a move away from this. Not that preferences would get all heterogenised, many will still follow the herd mentality, and adhere to the norms, but technology shall also provide a way for those to be different, to be different.