September 2020
Digitalisation and Health
Interview with Mario Carpo
Editors Jade Bailey, Adriana Boeck, Emma Sanson & Patricia Tibu
You've been regarding the current situation as a wake up call for the necessity of transitioning towards a truly digital world. How do you think this transition will materialize in domains such as healthcare or even construction, what will the area of expertise be for the future professionals of such domains?
It is evident that the corona crisis has proven what has been said for 20-30 years, that the standardised, mass produced modes of production of modernity are wasteful. The mass customised approach of the digital world is more respectful of human resources, of material resources, and of energy. The entire mentality of modernity predicated on the assumption that resources are unlimited. That transportation cost nothing. And that energy is available at zero cost and forever. These premises are not true anymore. We now know that resources are limited.
The typical modernist approach to the problem of making a teapot is to standardise the teapot, conceive a universal teapot, and then build a colossal, humongous factory in any place where clay is cheap and labor is cheap. To build this universal factory for the global teapot, and the factory makes gazillion teapots a day and then from there teapots get distributed around the world.

But during the lockdown factories around the world shut down. And the network of global transportation, on which the entirety of our life depends, froze. In the space of one weekend in March, all the airports shut down. Which means that in Europe we thought "Well we don't need to produce facemasks because we can import them from China" - from the moment when the flights from China were stopped we ran out of face masks because import was no longer possible. So this idea of the global transportation chain during the lockdown airports shut down globally, factories shut down globally, but small robotic factories or the local fablabs kept functioning.

Because they were local, because robots did not infect one another. If you need to put only 3 people in a robotic shop it's possible because they have enough distance. And so when we realised that we could no longer import stuff from far away, many of or our friends and colleagues, converted our fablabs into production facilities for personal protection equipment - all in the space of a weekend.

'This is exactly what robotics can do; it is versatile, it is flexible, a robot can make a spoon today and a protective mask tomorrow, and it is local.'

This is the alternative - instead of a global factory which we have learned we can no longer depend upon. The local FabLab where everything is made where you need it, when you need it, as you need it, on-time, on-spec, on-demand, and locally.

To be continued...