Technology View mid-2018

In 2018 you can build your own website in 5 minutes, with no technical skills. You can edit video in your phone. You can do rudimentary graphic design with Powerpoint. You can run your own advertising campaigns.

A slew of professions are kicked to the curb, along with their middle-class incomes and expertise.

I use a professional video editing software on my computer, but I would never claim to be a video “editor”. Because I know there are a lot of subtle skills, such as rhythm, and visual storytelling, in which I am ignorant. This doesn’t matter to the next generation of “businesspeople” who have no regard for craft, expertise, experience, or even data.

Video editing was a profession. Photography was a profession. Advertising was a profession. Now, the fact that you have a >12megapixel “camera” in your telephone makes you a photographer. The fact that you can add icons to video in your phone, makes you a video producer. The fact that Instagram allows you to upload video to the interweb makes you an advertising agent.

Those DIY websites, graphics and videos may not meet the aesthetic standards established by the professional education of their former purveyors, but now these services are affordable, easing some aspects of entrepreneurship (it will never be easy!).

Other new industries are Software as a Service, like website-builders. Generic design, such as pre-designed themes and templates, create new opportunities for skilled professionals, while new service industries materialize to serve those who don’t want to DIY. Here, workers without formal design education and skills can offer (low-touch) advertising and design services at a fraction of the price, supported by mechanized tools.

This “democratization” of professional services is double-edged. It destroys certain categories of jobs, while creating others. It also lowers the quality of the advertisements in which we are engulfed.

Only the biggest brands will continue to worry about the quality and effectiveness provided by professional production and unique design.

Global manufacturing brands and retailers face an immanent and profound challenge from another tech vector: 3d printing.

At the moment 3d printing is a silly plaything, high tech “educational play” for wealthy families or nerds.

But the technological challenges to decentralized production are falling fast. Size is at 1m, materials include metal and ceramic, complex objects with overhangs can be supported by secondary soluble materials, and multi-material printers are already consumer electronics.

Your local photo shop will soon have a 3d annex, where you can replicate your favorite sneakers when they wear out, replace the broken plate to the set no longer offered by the retailer, and print the broken cabinet handle so you don’t have to go all the way to Ikea.

And the significance is much greater. We can already shop 3d models online at thingiverse and In fact you can take the same tiara design you downloaded to wear in 2nd life to the printer now and get one to wear in this life.

If we can have exactly what we want, in the size and color we want, with a small modification, a lot of our retail expenditures will fall away, as will surely some of the ability to manipulate buying preferences. Surely men do not really want to be wearing those skinny-legged pants, they just have no option.

This means yet another new industry for high-skill professional designers, which is to make those 3d models, and customize them. It means that the many many educated product design graduates who currently have very few job opportunities, and fewer opportunities to manufacture their own designs independently will be able to offer their designs to a global market.

Hopefully they are also good photographers.