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Technological Agorism Part III: AI & the Agora

There are two types of artificial intelligence: the rules-based, & the neural network-based approach. To illustrate the differences, I'll borrow an example from AI blogger Janelle Shane's book, You Look Like A Thing & I Love You, & pretend we're training an AI to recognize dogs.



Using a rules-based approach, we’d create parameters which the AI would then use to determine whether or not the thing it’s looking at, is in fact a dog. Our rules would include things like “must have four legs” & “must have tail,” etc. When all of our conditions have been satisfied, the AI will recognize a dog.

With a neural network-based approach, we show the AI images of dogs & it learns to recognize patterns. The more pictures of dogs we show it, the more accurate the AI becomes. Nowadays, this is usually the preferred approach & will be the subject of this article.

The interesting thing about the neural-network approach to AI - as we’ve already noted, is its reliance …

3D Printing for Libertarians: A Beginner's Guide

Although this article is meant specifically for members of the liberty movement, it should be helpful to anyone interested in learning the basics of 3D printing.

3D printing is an excellent example of a vertical counter-economic strategy (outlined here, by Per Bylund). By decentralizing the manufacturing process, 3D printers hold the promise of turning every basement into a Walmart - or better yet, a gun shop. The fact is, empowering individual and community control over the manufacturing process, necessarily means the state has less control, and that is the goal of counter-economics and the liberty movement in general. Karl Hess wrote in the agorist classic, Community Technology, “The most powerful point to be made for community technology efforts is that when people take any part of their lives back into their own hands, for their own purposes, the cause of local liberty is advanced…”




Getting started with 3D printing can be intimidating and may even seem overwhelming at times. I’ve been printing for a couple years now & when I look back on my experience as a newbie, there’s a lot of information I wish I had when learning the ropes. Still though, I'm a hobbyist and not yet an expert. In fact, if not for having friends in the professional maker community, I’d doubtless have been lost a long time ago.  So, in the hopes of making the process easier on you, here’s what you need to know in order to get started.

You’re going to need 3 things from the jump.                         

  1. 3D Printer
  2. Filament
  3. Software

Choosing the Right Printer

Selecting the right 3-D printer has become an increasingly difficult task as the range of options for consumers has increased. Although there are many options to choose from, most non-commercial printers use either FDM or SLA, with the former being more common.

FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling)
These are the printers you’ve likely seen on Youtube and you may even have a friend who has one. They are much more common and will be the focus of this article. A filament, usually plastic (although composites of wood, carbon-fiber, metals & other materials can also be used), get fed through an extruder. It’s then melted and deposited onto a bed, layer after layer. Eventually, this process creates a 3-D rendering.

SLA (Stereolithography)

SLA printers use photons to harden a two-dimensional pattern in liquid resin. The object is then moved up or down, depending on the printer, and a new layer is added. This process is repeated until the print is finished. Although costs are beginning to come down, SLA printers are still more expensive than their FDM counterparts and thus, are less prevalent.



For my own part, I run a Flash Forge Creator Pro (FDM), and I’ve never had any major issues with it. Some of the features I like are the dual extruder, & the large, heated bed. This means the CreatorPro is capable of handling a large range of prints. The dual extruder allows two materials to print at once, which is useful for example, when printing with different colors or using different materials for supports. The heated bed comes in handy when using ABS because it improves the quality of the print by preventing warping. This is done by ensuring the bottom and top of the print don’t cool at wildly different rates. Warping will ruin many projects and is terribly frustrating, trust me! Finally, the large bed size provides the freedom to scale up a model if a particular project calls for it.

Understanding Filaments             

The most common filaments used in FDM printing are ABS and PLA plastics. ABS has a higher melting point (230⁰ Celsius) and requires a heated bed of around 110⁰ C. Some people complain about the smell but I honestly can’t tell a difference. ABS is a more hardy material and less brittle than PLA. Also, if your print calls for a smooth finish, ABS can subjected to a vapor bath, whereas the same can’t be said for PLA.



The print on the left has been smoothed out using an acetone vapor bath. The image on the right is untreated.


However, in the end PLA is still an easier material to work with. It has a glossier finish and because of it’s lower melting temperature, doesn’t require a heated bed. This also means it’s less likely to warp and can you give you a finer edge. I’ve found it adheres nicely to regular masking tape. For larger prints, I sometimes apply a glue stick for extra adherence.

Exotic filaments are a bit more tricky. Different materials and even different prints will require different settings. I’ve printed neat little drones using Carbon Fiber Filament, but I’ve also ruined several nozzles with it. A host of flexible materials like TPU & Ninjaflex are available for applications like sandals, wallets, and watchbands. Hatchbox Wood is personally, one of my favorite filaments and was used to create the African tribal masks seen below. It can even be stained, as is the mask on the left. Marble, brass, copper and even graphene filaments are available as well.
   


Software

Lastly, you’re going to need software that will translate your 3D models into instructions your printer will be able to understand. Makerbot Print is an excellent, free option for beginners. However, like everything else, you get what you pay for. A better option, in my opinion, is Simplify3D. It costs $149 and is worth every penny. It has a higher slicing speed than Makerbot Print, which means you won’t have to wait as long for the file to be processed. Simplify3D also has more features, which gives you more control, and ultimately produces a higher-quality print.

Once you’ve got a basic understanding of the printer, filament, and software that you’re using, it really isn’t that difficult. 3D printing can be a powerful, counter-economic tool. Or it can simply be a creative outlet and useful skill to have. 



If you have any remaining questions, as always feel free to contact me directly at salmayweather@protonmail.com




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