In answering this question (Below) about elitism in technology Ray Kurzweil  makes an interesting

In answering this question (Below) about elitism in technology @Ray_Kurzweil2 makes an interesting observation about 3D printing which I thought would interest members of this forum.

Basically Ray Kurzweil alluded to a possible future where 3D printing would make products so cheap as to be practically free.

This comment of Ray Kurzweil’s puzzled me at first because my first hand experience with 3D printing would have me say there’s a long way to go.

Then I realised my experience is very specialised very “Narrow” FFF (Fused Filament Fabrication) which basically means objects are produced from an extruded plastic filament about half millimetre in diameter. in other words the general approach at the moment is top down in other words big machines making small components.

The alternative is “bottom up” where the smallest things make bigger objects. (Nano Tech) my guess is the two will move together and both technologies will enhance each other; after all both technologies are based on information, both are doing practically the same thing but from different ends of the spectrum.

Ray’s predictions sound a bit mad to some people but don’t forget Ray has made a living, a fortune from realising the potential of “exponential development” in science and technology. It is this exponential aspect which has made me re evaluate my first feelings of what appeared to be a rash statement by Ray, me who has read Ray’s book “The Singularity is Near” me who should know better than to doubt him.
http://www.kurzweilai.net/ask-ray-potential-for-elitization-of-the-singularity

I think what he fails to answer is the choices that will affect us all in a personal way, not like the accessibility of the cell phone. Food, health and Genetics. These are the areas in which individuals seem to be give the priviledge of making the choice for the many even though said individual does not make that choice for themselves.

The part I was referring to was Ray’s prediction that many things will be 3D printed at practically no cost.

However the ethical part question is very interesting and topical as well. Obviously I cannot speak for Ray Kurzweil, however I can make an inference from what he has written here and what I have read in his books.

My guess would be that he is steering clear of the politics of the question and using his knowledge and intuition about science and technology to give a science and logic based answer.

What people forget is that the poorest man in America and my country the United Kingdom is in fact one of the elite on the world scale. Bear in mind that 80 percent of the world’s population lives on less than 10 dollars a day and 50 percent of the world population live on 2.5 dollars per day.

Now I understand world population is a round about 6 to 6.5 billion, from Ray’s figures in his answer there are 6 billion cell phones in the world 1 billion being smart phones, and this situation has come about within 15 years. I cannot think of any altruistic system that could be implemented to produce a similar effect, and don’t forget this includes installing the infrastructure to make these phones work.

It seems very likely to me that most people in the world will have access to a smartphone within 5 Years, in other words Internet access, in other words a means of education, in other words a means of making money which is no longer dictated by their local circumstances.

It appears possible that the dissemination of smartphones across the world is having a similar effect on on the GDP of the countries that take them up as the introduction of canals and rail-roads had in our first world countries. See Iqbal Quadir speaking at TED in Oxford. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ixjxvzb2-Fw