We get asked this question all the time. Implicit is usually a hint of “I don’t get it. What’s the big deal?” The superficial answer seems absurd. “Making is the act of creating something.” It’s been around forever. It’s not new. And yet I’m excited about it. There’s a movement about it. There’s talk of it changing the world. Why is this so?
At the lowest level “making” is something primal. We need to make and in making there’s a great sense of satisfaction. Moving up the making hierarchy has historically required the grand pre-requisite of acquiring skills. We start off with amateurish work. With time and lots of practice we gradually improve. Eventually, with the guidance of skilled mentors we achieve a measure of expertise and become true craftsmen. People are creative. People want to make. However skills acquisition has been a huge barrier. That’s changing.
Computers and the internet have been slowly reducing the barriers to making. For decades tools have become smarter, design software has become more powerful, and they’ve conspired to make it easier to go from concept to prototype. While computers have done their part the internet, too, has contributed in a big way. With the twin communication activities of sharing and collaborating it’s now easier than ever to mature an idea into a product. Now you can start building using designs shared by others, you can find people with complimentary skills with whom to collaborate, and you can create prototypes, iterate, and improve quickly. We’re living in a new reality. That is what’s different. That is what’s changed. We’re at a tipping point. What we have today isn’t your father’s “making” anymore.
One consequence is that modern makers are doing amazing things. Ideas don’t end at conception, but can be taken to the next level and be realized. At the high end of the spectrum, professional makers are delivering this on a larger scale by getting product out to more people and making a bigger impact in commerce, wealth creation, and the economy. Their success is important on a bigger scale and is one way that society benefits from our movement.
“What is making?”
In time, I look forward to that question going away as more people start making.