This research road map will again take decades to complete, but the historical lesson is that its implications will arrive much sooner, disrupting global supply chains and their associated regulatory structures. Consider a simple example: acquiring a toaster. Today, the would-be customer requires a paying job in order to earn the money to purchase a toaster from a store, which arrives in a truck, driven on a highway, after being picked up from a train on a rail line, which comes in on a ship in a port, after being produced in a factory on the far side of the world. Each one of those steps carries with it policies, regulations, taxes, employment and administration.
What happens, then, if the toaster is made in a fab lab instead? That’s not a hard project. One tool can make a form to cast the body, another can embed the heating elements, and a third can produce the electronics to control it. The toaster design could be developed from scratch, customized to reflect personal preferences, or downloaded from a design repository. The work could be done by the person wanting the toaster, reducing the cost down to that of the raw materials, or the work could be done for them, as a gift, or for payment, or barter. But in all those cases the economic and educational impact remains local. And the construction of the toaster in a fab lab bypasses the need for all of those other logistical steps, from the trains and the ships to the trucks and the assembly lines.