This recent post by Brock Hinzmann on the rp-ml list really struck a cord with me:
"I've always found it interesting that artists often call their works 'experiments' (as in 'Experiment in White on White No. 9'), while scientists often discuss their experiments in terms of the 'state of the art.' Some artists are very purposeful and tell me it's art if the person that makes it says it is and anyone who calls themselves an artist is one. And some artists probably don't even think of themselves as artists so much as a person following a muse in their head to bring forth a mind-body experience of one sort or another. The art can grate on the senses, it can lack craft or skill and it can be highly offensive to some beholders, but it is done for a reason that is art. Making an exact duplicate probably is not. The great thing about RP is the ability to experiment. I try not to be too judgmental these days about artists or art critics. However, I prefer critics (of paintings, of sculpture, of movies, of music concerts) who can clearly state their own biases and assumptions, which I can compare against my own biases and assumptions about art. I like what I like."
It resonated for a couple of reasons, first, because I agree with it. I no longer like to be told what is good or what is bad — art is a good example — I would rather decide for myself, but understanding other people's perspective is, IMO, a good thing. It doesn't have to be the same as mine though.
Second, it took me back to another conversation I had not that long ago about the additive manufacturing (AM) industry. The slow growth reality, compared with the hyped predictions of 15 years ago was a central theme and what could be done to push the technology harder, wider and faster. Typical stuff really. But one of the comments that has stuck with me is that — "it won't happen like that, people do what they do" [with additive technology]. In other words, the general population of existing AM technology users — whether the application is prototyping with 3D printers or manufacturing or something inbetween — have grasped the technology and only use it to fulfil their application — nothing more.
I kind of got a sinking feeling as this hit home. I don't agree with it in full because it does not take into account the individuals that I have met who passionately believe in this technology and spread the word at every opportunity. Also, things are still moving forward, and I believe they will continue to do so. The article on 3D printing in the New York Times (one of the US' largest circulation daily newspapers) yesterday proves this point nicely. Growth is slow and the minority of AM evangelists is still small and while I have been struck by the truth of the statement that — often of necessity — 'people do what they do', it is not such a bad thing. I actually like doing what I do — I hope you do too.