Wednesday, June 12, 2013


At the end of May, I published a little piece called "Singular?" which examined the rather long lineage  of  transhumanism and the singularity as concepts. These ideas weren't invented by Eclipse Phase or Nova Praxis, but have a much longer history in philosophy, science, mathematics, and literature.

This week I stumbled upon an equally interesting discovery: the concept of 3D printing in a science fiction work published in 1970: Philip K. Dick's A Maze of Death. I am about halfway through the book now, so I am sure there are still some surprises ahead in this bleak little book. But I was really surprised to see a world with little machines (not microscopic - at least not so far - but small machines ranging in size from insect-mimics to a matchbox sized "building" that seems to be a scaled down version of a larger building on the planet Delmak-O.

Some of these machines are able to copy things - for example, manufacturing pens. Dick uses the word "printing" for the work of these machines. I still find the word "printing" a somewhat strange choice for these template-based manufacturing processes, but apparently Dick saw this as "printing" even way back then.

Dick anticipated these technologies, and I am sure others did too. And some 40 years after the novel, it is becoming a reality.

All of which makes me wonder why more people don't talk about this Dick novel?


  1. Interesting. I wouldn't be surprise as something similar (a replicator of some sort) had showed way back in the golden age of sci-fi, but to use the term "printing" specifically...

  2. Yes, a bit curious. If I didn't know better, I would suspe ct Dick had access to some kind of transtemporal viewer, a chronognosticon as it were...

  3. The idea of a such a machine goes back to at least 1940 (I think John Von Neumann). Also Arthur C. Clarke wrote about it in 1964 in Profiles of the Future.