As if Hollywood biothrillers were not enough, in recent years we've witnessed our government's uneven management of natural and unnatural disasters, from 9/11 to Katrina to a publicly botched roll-out of a government website. On the global stage we watch helplessly as the international community struggles with the basic needs of hurricane victims in the Philippines or refugees of an endless civil war in Syria. As we peer into the future, we have every reason to feel queasy about the profound impact of the second technological revolution bearing down upon us.
The Revolutionary Impact of 3D PrintingThe Economist has hailed 3D printing (3DP) as the foundation of the Third Industrial Revolution. 3D printing is a process of layering to make things rather than carving them out of pieces of material. Although the basic 3D printing technology was invented three decades ago, it has reached a take-off point as computer-aided design, big data, cloud computing, and new materials have combined to enhance the capability and reduce the cost of 3D printing. As President Barack Obama noted in his 2013 State of the Union address, 3D printing “has the potential to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.”
As a result, people are discovering or rediscovering the many virtues of city life, helping to spark awareness that when cities function well, they drive economic growth and technological innovation, foster culture and learning, nurture citizenship and participatory democracy, and help solve environmental problems. Recently, scholars have taken the urban case a step further, advancing the argument that because cities have virtues that the nation-state does not, cities might become primary actors within the global governance system. Benjamin Barber argues that cities induce pragmatism, citizenship, and common-sense governance, all in one fell swoop. Mayors want to cooperate with one another across national boundaries because they view transnational exchange as gains to be realized rather than conflict to be managed or avoided. It is an overstatement to claim that the nation-state is fading away as a fundamental global actor. Parag Khanna believes that the center of global politics is already shifting from nation-states to cities. Our age, he writes, “is not the first time cities, rather than nations, have been the pivotal foundations of world order.” Khanna argues that “inter-city relations” constitute the world’s most progressive form of diplomacy, in contrast to international relations.