Much is predicted for the technology known as 3D printing. It will reverse the mass production legacy of Henry Ford and bring back the era of bespoke production; it will turn herd-like consumers into DIY designers; and most crucially from an economic point of view, it will bring home manufacturing from China. Making things will be a local, not a global enterprise. Faced with such grand claims, some scepticism may be in order, as shown by our cover art, where Tom Gauld seems to question whether we have the imagination to take advantage of the looming possibilities.
Roger Highfield, author of our cover story, was writing back in the 1990s that the internet would destroy media businesses. Only with the arrival some years later of two magic ingredients – broadband and high-speed mobile – did the disruptive promise of the internet come good. Dr Highfield believes we are at the same stage with new manufacturing technologies, with only the timescale in doubt.
Diplomacy, having dawdled since the start of the Syrian crisis, is now moving at warp speed. James Goldgeier in Washington picks through the confusion of the Obama administration to highlight a long-term strategy that will have a big impact on Europe. As the US focuses on the Asia-Pacific region, the European Union will have to take responsibility for its own security and that of its troubled southern flank. In response, two European experts search for signs that the EU has the political will to adapt. The EU’s half-hearted attempts to woo the former Soviet states from Moscow’s embrace do not give much hope that Europe is ready for a new era of grand strategy.