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

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

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.