Rapid Prototyping Multiple Futures, given Global Uncertainty


With the exorbitant hike in UK visa fees and Brexit, globalization got its first blow.  With the transition in US government, a very big question mark has been put on the future of globalized world as it evolved so far.  For all the apologists of uniform world economic order, and WTO, the movement of capital and movement of labour were considered two separate departments.  With the new restrictions, both may get linked to some extent.  What are the bold alternatives that India can conceive for its own future, realignment of priorities and preferences? General  attitude to refugees from neighboring countries  is not very different among various countries exception being Germany; and India which has absorbed at least 10 million refugees or immigrant from the neighboring region.

The first goal should be to disrupt large scale manufacturing as powerloom did for the textile industry.  So far, the automation has been used for making manufacturing growth almostjobless.  If the distributed use of small scale robotic manufacturing can be given a push in line with the modern Gandhian concept of decentralized development, then disruption is possible.  The design of a desktop furnace which can melt materials at 2000 degree centigrade with five amp current by Dipankar Chatterjee, Treelabs, IITB  shows one such promise.  For a variety of alloys required in small quantities, a furnace of this kind will be a revolutionary tool for manufacturing high precision equipment, machineries and parts at extremely small scale and at very low cost.  Even new kinds of smelting furnaces with high energy efficiency and low upfront investment can be developed.  Cell phone- based charging of ten dollars spectrophotometer can measure micrograms quantities of minerals and impurities in the field for various diagnostics and water purification purposes.

Second challenge is that the advanced technologies will also require new kinds of skilled manpower.  The recent budget announcement of opening a Skill Centre in 600 districts is a welcome step but should not be based upon yesterday’s industrial requirement.  There is a need for high quality fab manufacturing design labs in every district and train the work force to set up and use new biotechnological, electronic and mechanics for adding value to contemporary frugal innovations and validated traditional knowledge.

Third, Bio-refineries need to be set up in a cluster of tribal communities in forest regions so that export of tons of biomass, they will only trade/export grams and micro grams of bio chemicals.  Then true Gandhian manufacturing will take place. Unless we translate the concept of in situ value addition in agriculture, forests and livestock sector, major disruption of jobless growth will not take place.

Fourth, we need to map the untapped/under-tapped biological, mineral and other resources in each of the 650,000 villages and develop time-bound plan for value addition, and building supply chains for them. All institutions of higher learning, even ITIs and Polytechnics must be drafted for accomplishing this mission.

A general wish in this regard may not create enough pressure of performance unless it is taken up in a social educational and developmental mission mode. Recent loss of jobs and decline in employment opportunities due to currency disruption, there is a need for stimulus.

Fifth, a major program on farm water conservation through employment program and other measures targeted at dry regions before rains will hopefully give a stimulus to local economy. These sites of watershed development should become the sites of on-farm trial and demonstration of new technological innovations and practices.

Sixth the increase of organic farming will also make it attractive for pests and wildlife in regions where such conflicts exist. New measures will have to be taken for productive-agro-ecological co-existence. In Karnataka, certain betel palm regions, villagers grow special farm beds for feeding wildlife so that it does not conflict with cultivated fields.

There is a need for fresh thinking in dealing with jobless manufacturing, job-filled economic growth using innovations and advanced affordable and small or tiny scale robotics so that quality of outcome is comparable with the best of the large sector. I have not mentioned anything about 3-d printing because it has not met the scale and speed of small scale manufacturing at low costs. It is alright for small scale prototyping.

We need to rapid porotype the versions of future through decentralized institutional porotypes. Time for a new way of making amiable, future possible.


Visiting Faculty, IIM Ahmedabad & IIT Bombay and an independent thinker, activist for the cause of creative communities and individuals at grassroots, tech institutions and any other walk of life committed to make this world a more creative, compassionate and collaborative place