Will.i.am calls for ethical stance
on 3D-printing human bodies

| 53 comments

Will.i.am

News: Will.i.am has called for "new morals, new laws and new codes" for 3D printing, a technology he says is evolving so rapidly that we will soon be able to print humans (+ interview).

Speaking to Dezeen at the launch of his Ekocycle range of sustainable lifestyle products yesterday, the music producer and Black Eyed Peas frontman said that we will be 3D-printing entire people in "our lifetime".



"Eventually 3D printing will print people," said Will.i.am. "I'm not saying I agree with it, I'm just saying what's fact based on plausible growth in technology."

"Unfortunately that is the reality, but at the same time it pushes humanity to have to adhere to new responsibilities," he said. "So new morals, new laws and new codes are going to have to be implemented. Humans – as great as we are – are pretty irresponsible. Ask the planet. Ask the environment."

Will.i.am is chief creative officer of 3D-printing company 3D Systems and has just launched his Ekocycle collection with Coca-Cola at London department store Harrods. Items in the range – which encompasses clothing, bicycles and luggage – are all made from waste materials, including 3D-printer filament produced from recycled plastic bottles.

Will-i-am-Ekocycle-3D-printer_dezeen

Researchers have already used 3D-printing technology to produce prototype organs using living cells. Experts predict that the ability to print complete human tissues is less than 10 years away.

"If you can print a liver or a kidney, god dang it, you're going to be able to print a whole freaking person," said Will.i.am. "Now we're getting into a whole new territory. Moses comes down with the 10 commandments and says 'Thou shalt not...'. He didn't say shit about 3D printing."

"When you have god-like tools, who's governing me? I don't know. I could create life. So new codes and morals – beyond laws – something has to be instilled into us. Before, when it was time to reproduce you had to mate. But now..."

He also believes that 3D printing will one day evolve into Star Trek-esque teleportation.

"You're starting with beef, and leathers, and body parts, eventually it will get more complex," he said. "It's basically 'Beam me up, Scotty', a 3D printer that disintegrates the source."

Will.i.am has launched a series of design- and tech-focussed initiatives in the past year, including a smartwatch designed with architect Zaha Hadid and an eyewear range with fashion designer George Garrow.

He is one of a number of well-known musicians that are making the leap into the design and technology industries, including Kanye West and Pharrell Williams who both recently released clothing and footwear collections with sports brand Adidas.

"Musicians will be taken seriously when their business sells seriously," said Will.i.am. "When you have serious partners and the products make serious money. Or when your products have serious design features that render it sustainable and they don't break."

"You can't demand that because your famous, everyone's supposed to like what you're passionate about," he continued. "No bro, you have to earn it. Just like the designers earned their respect. Just like you earned your respect as a musician, you have to earn it, it doesn't just come."

Will.i.am's Ekocycle range is now available from a dedicated shop-in-shop on the third floor of Harrods.

Here's the transcript of our interview with Will.i.am:


Dan Howarth: How is 3D printing going to change?

Will.i.am: I'm going to say something controversial. Eventually 3D-printing will print people. That's scary. I'm not saying I agree with it, I'm just saying what's fact based on plausible growth in technology and Moore's law.

So right now we can print in post-consumer plastics, which is awesome. We can print in aluminium, which is bigger machines and awesome. We can print in titanium, which is pretty freaking crazy and amazing. We can print in steel, which is freaking hardcore. You can print in chocolate, and that's sweet. You can print in freaking protein, you can make freaking meat. You can print leather. You can print a liver.

So if you can print a liver or a kidney. God dang it, you're going to be able to print a whole freaking person. And that's scary. That's when it's like, whah! And I'm not saying I agree, but plausible growth would say that with multiple machines that print in different materials, you could print in protein an aluminium combo.

Dan Howarth: How far away from that are we?

Will.i.am: Our lifetime. That's scary. So unfortunately that is the reality, but at the same time it pushes humanity to have to adhere to new responsibilities, new morals. New lessons are going to have to be implemented. For real. Now we're getting into a whole new territory. I don't know what year it was, Moses comes down with the 10 commandments and says "Thou shalt not..." He didn't say shit about 3D printing.

So new morals, new laws and new codes are going to have to be implemented. Humans – as great as we are – are pretty irresponsible. Ask the planet. Ask the environment.

Dan Howarth: So you think we're going to need a whole set of laws to regulate what we 3D print?

Will.i.am: Morals, ethics, codes. Laws means someone governs. When you have god-like tools, who's governing me? I don't know. I could create life. So new codes and morals – beyond laws. Something has to be instilled into us. We're going to a place we've never been before. We made a Will, we made a car, we made a house, we made a boat, we made flying machines. Before, when it was time to reproduce you had to mate. But now...

You're starting with beef, and leathers, and body parts. Eventually it will get more complex. It's basically "Beam me up, Scotty", a 3D printer that disintegrates the source. Star Trek is pretty cool, because they had things like iPhones, and the internet. They also had 3D printers, that was "beam me up, Scotty". Teleportation.

Dan Howarth: A number of musicians have transitioned into product and fashion design over the past few years. Do you think they're taken seriously enough in the design industry?

Will.i.am: Musicians will be taken seriously when their business sells seriously. When you have serious partners and the products make serious money. Or when your products have serious design features that render it sustainable and they don't break. More importantly, it's successful in business.

Just like anybody jumping different careers. Say for example Bill Gates was the most amazing guitarist in the world, and he came up there and ripped it, with the facial expressions and everything. It would take you a long time to take Bill Gates seriously as a musician. The more he focuses and believes in it – the test of time will make you see him as a genius if he truly was an amazing guitarist.

Unfortunately those are the laws, and if he truly believes he will understand that. You can't demand that because your famous, everyone's supposed to like what you're passionate about. No bro, you have to earn it. Just like the designers earned their respect. Just like you earned your respect as a musician, you have to earn it, it doesn't just come.

  • Young Money

    Kanye next please.

    • “Yo Will.i.am, I’m really happy for you. Imma let you finish but Makerbot had one of the best 3D printers of all time… One of the best…”

  • RichRap

    I do hope this was just a total failure to brief and prepare Will.i.am before this interview. Or way too much caffeine. Sensational #hype. When all else fails, be provocative.

    • MacMomster

      Well, they keep editing out the crazy statements in the article.

      • RichRap

        Wow, what did they remove! It’s still a shocking statement of lunacy and techno-babble ranting.

  • I am Will

    Well.i.never.

  • Rexatasch

    I need Will.i.am’s predictions about technology just as much as I need Justin Bieber’s advice about quantum physics.

    And by the way, give me one study that predicts that printing a whole human being is at all a possible in any way. Like ever.

    • generalpopulation

      There isn’t. The process of development the body goes through from conception to maturity can’t be replicated through 3D printing.

      This is just plain arrogance on behalf of humanity, thinking it can do in a couple of decades what it took over 3 billion years of evolution to do.

      • Oh it’s not arrogant – we’ll will get there soon, but not the way Will.i.am predicts.

        • Your Face

          If by soon you mean nowhere near our lifetime, then you are correct.

          • Growing a clone and transferring your consciousness will be possible in our lifetime.

          • Your Face

            You cannot say that with 100% certainty considering the developments that have been accomplished so far.

            No one has even printed a live, fully functional organ yet, let a lone a dead, non-functioning one. We as humans don’t even fully understand how our brains work, and we are nowhere close to being able to say that we do, we still have SO MUCH more to discover.

            So with that being said, how can we say we will be able transfer someone’s conscious in our lifetime? I mean you can’t even make that claim with 50% certainty at this point.

            The predictions you are making remind me of people in the 1950s and 1960s who were predicting back then that by the year 2000 humanity will have been able to set up colonies in space just because we were able to send satellites and people into space at the time.

            So far we only have a space station that fits no more than 20 people. Growing replacement organs that we can will most likely happen in our lifetime. Growing fully functioning bodies and more? Maybe, but the odds are slim to none.

          • I can predict whatever I like, but of course you are right. The thing is Will.i.am is even more wrong.

          • Charles

            You would still need a human womb to give birth to that clone.

  • Derek_V

    I’d like to smoke what he is smoking.

  • stutelf

    “…next up Jah Rule shares his fear that recent advances in artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race”.

    • If only real intelligence finally worked as intended and didn’t produce people like Bieber.

    • WaxWing

      Where is Jah!?

  • I am reminded of the puking frog prince from the Harry Potter episode. ‘Every moment I live is agony.’ Rest easy Will, I think replicating the central nervous system with a 3D printer may prove to be a challenge.

  • “You can’t demand that because your famous, everyone’s supposed to like what you’re passionate about.”

    Well I can demand for anyone to know what the they are talking about before I take them serious. Will.i.am definitely doesn’t, so I don’t have to take him serious.

  • bubble

    Publicity stunt by Dezeen; tricks of yellow press.

  • barto

    Mais sérieusement Dezeen… Prônez un peu l’intelligence à la célébrité ! Will.i.am, Kayne et bientôt Kim Kardashian?

  • trickticklejtickler

    Who cares what this talentless clown thinks.

  • chris parrott

    Why does this nothing master get so much press on Dezeen? Does he own shares?

  • Dylan Milne

    Kanye 2.0.

  • Dorian Maine

    Ugh, go away. Not only is he a bit delusional, I also don’t want the morals I fear that he speaks of to touch these new technologies.

  • RichRap

    Dezeen reader comment: “That’s the biggest load of tosh about 3D printing I have ever read”.

  • Nick

    This is an annoying read for designers that took the education route.

  • redbeardsf

    Let me know when someone figures out how to 3D print a soul. Then we can talk.

  • The Mogget

    People are balking about the technological claims he makes, but it is the morals I would contend with. We really are already 3D printing real working organs. Look it up.

    The issue I have is the unusual fear. This same fear rears its head with 3D-printed guns. OMIGOSH YOU CAN PRINT A THING THAT KILLS PEOPLE! Well, yes – but you can also buy one at the corner store. You can also home make one with other methods. Guns are only slightly easier to come by when 3D printed than current methods. People still need to follow proper morals with guns, and shooting people is still bad either way.

    OMIGOSH YOU CAN PRINT A BODY PART! Well yes, but things like kidney transplants have been around for years. 3D printing just makes some of this easier. It still is a good thing to make something that can save lives, no matter what the technology is.

    What is there to be scared of? It’s this sort of irrational outlawing that holds back genetic cures, enhanced crops, advanced nuclear power, stem cell research, etc.

  • north

    Dezeen, journalism at its best.

  • Omikey

    Brilliance and ridiculousness present themselves in ridiculous and brilliant ways…. hmmm.

  • archimago

    I call for an ethical treatment of the music genre.

  • BEATRICE

    Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha hah!

  • BEATRICE

    “Musicians will be taken seriously when their business sells seriously.”

    And that’s why this man should be avoided like the plague.

  • BEATRICE

    What a way to trick millions of stupid people into buying your rubbish products.

  • BEATRICE

    “I met a girl down at the disco. She said hey, hey, hey yea let’s go.
    I could be your baby, you can be my honey,
    Let’s spend time not money.
    I mix your milk wit my cocoa puff,
    Milky, milky cocoa,
    Mix your milk with my cocoa puff, milky, milky riiiiiiight.”

  • Tanuki

    I’ll get the popcorn, Dezeen, you go ask him his thoughts on time travel.

  • Nice trolling.

  • Your Face

    After reading this interview I have come to the conclusion that Kanye West must be a genius.

  • Lincoln

    And this is why musicians should stick to music. Jeez, did he even think this through?

  • Environmentalist.

  • KD

    What he is saying it is a bit out there but 3D printing is already being used in the medical and creative industry, helping to solve problems in a new way they haven’t been able to do before.

    3D printing wasn’t created for most of the junk that’s out there, and printing a 3D version of yourself is adding waste, plus it’s an expensive waste as well.

  • bigshape

    Hey Will.i.am, if you don’t want people to waste stuff, perhaps stop designing stuff like the i.am+ iPhone camera?

  • Concerned Citizen

    Dezeen is rapidly spiralling down into the mire of grocery store tabloids, with just as much quality. So much so that this article is not worthy of comment.

  • Arjay Cee

    You know, back in the day, it was a bit amusing when rappers and hip hop artists called themselves things like “Professor” and “Genius” while going on at the top of their lungs about bitches, ho’s, guns, and malt liquor.

    Problem is, they took it seriously.

  • These folks and the Kanye Wests of this world can jump from making noise, I meant “music” to acting in an acceptable manner but they shouldn’t try becoming design scientists. We went to school for that… Can’t improvise this.

  • Anisterian

    Actually, today we can print stuff that has the combined intelligence of Will and whoever had the idea of this interview. Scary, right?

  • JD Carling

    Read “I am a strange loop”.

  • Mark

    Rules and ethics, by will.i.am? What the fuck?

  • terre

    Not only that, Coca Cola fails to mention that the extruded stuff is now at the end of the line. Once it’s all melted together it’s hard to get it back to a recyclable state.