To the (Sustainable) Industrial Future, and Beyond!

I normally limit my posts to current California planning trends, but thought this was a relevant entry in sustainable communities—in this case community industry. Although this occurs on an international scale, progressive cities such as the Bay Area’s tech hub and Los Angeles’ fashion scene are hotbeds for this concept.

It is becoming arguably clearer—one-person enterprises are not only here to stay, but are growing by the thousands. As Chris Anderson declares in his article In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms are the New Bits, the days of General Motors-type corporations are over. The influxes of affordable high-tech prototyping and web-based tools, internet distribution, and efficient outsourcing to China factories have opened the doors for individuals to become “virtual micro-factories”, often without infrastructure or inventory.

Companies such as TechShop rent out workshop spaces with high-tech prototyping tools. This allows individuals affordable access to work on their prototypes, something that might have been inconceivable and too costly a decade before. This advancement in technology and its ease of access promotes the rise of the one-man industry.

Technology, coupled with a progressive social outlook, has formed a new entrepreneur and a new industrial era—one that is sustainable and promotes a strong global community. Crowdsourcing is the practice of community input towards the goal of a final product. Businesses like Local Motors, the first open source car company, is completely reliant on crowdsourcing. Their volunteer contributors outnumber their paid employees by 500-to-1. Encouraging consumers to be part of this experiment, or “build experience”, not only contributes to community vitality, but can give participants the confidence they need to see their ideas through prototyping, production, and ultimately, distribution.

Crowdfunding, perhaps most recognizable in sites such as Kickstarter, allows these innovators to pitch their ideas to the world and raise funding through supporters from all income levels. Even a young teen can pitch in a dollar to support a cause that they deem worthy.

The result of this new industrial age?

A plethora of innovative products more imaginative and affordable—both for consumers and ambitious entrepreneurs—than ever before. The once-impossible dream for thousands (if not millions) of creators can finally become a reality. A “global community” that allows minds from all over the world to input their own ideas into projects that might have otherwise been limited to the network of the project managers. Everyone pitches in: from the planning, designing, to the funding, manufacturing, and distribution.

Walt Disney, one of the greatest innovators of the 20th century, said it best: “It’s a small world after all”.

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