3D Printed Guns: Cody Wilson as Bane, the villain from Batman: The Dark Knight Rises
At first, I thought Wilson was just a gun enthusiast that wanted to stimulate a public discussion about the legality of 3D printing weapons, which in the future might be accessible when 3D printers become affordable. This seemed, to me, like a good idea, because, as designers, we have a responsibility to think about the ethical implications of the products and services we design, and before Wilson started his project, these questions hadn’t really been asked about 3D printers, as people only thought about the good things that could be made (as highlighted by Nick Bilton). However, the more I’ve seen and read about him, the more apparent it is that he is an anarchist who wants to disrupt the Globalised Neoliberal political spectrum which currently exists in many developed countries.
Raising questions about what happens when 3D printers get in the wrong hands is one thing, but distributing CAD files for anyone to download and print themselves is, perhaps, a step too far. Arguably, the discussion wouldn’t have got as much attention if Wilson hadn’t created defcad.org to share the CAD files, but this is no longer about provoking a discussion. This is about Wilson giving everyone the ability to enforce the US Constitution’s Second Amendment (the right to keep and bear arms), in a shockingly literal sense. He talks of fighting (possibly literally) for liberty:
We see liberty under threat, we see sovereignty under threat. We must respond.
– Cody Wilson
Having read Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts of Liberty”, I like to think that the function of laws and the state is so that we can exercise our liberty within defined boundaries. Berlin states that “the liberty of some must depend on the restraint of others”, which I agree with. The kind of liberty that Wilson calls for is what Berlin calls negative liberty, where individuals are absolutely free to do what they want “without interference by other persons”. It is true that we are not absolutely free to do as we please, as we are being watched by CCTV, and we face consequences as severe as death, in the US, for what Wilson might call acts of freedom, or what I call killing. However, if that is what true freedom is, I’m not sure we need/want true freedom.
Wilson liberating people by arming them reminds me of Bane, the vengeful baddie from Batman: The Dark Knight Rises, whose distinctive voice is distorted by his mask which subdues his levels of pain. Bane, played by Tom Hardy, seeks to liberate the people of Gotham City from authoritarianism by presenting a randomly-chosen individual with the choice to detonate a nuclear bomb, which would destroy the whole city, serving as an stimulus to the rest of the world for political change, entailing a power shift from the rule of a select few, to individuals. If you haven’t seen it, or need a recap, these two clips should bring you up to speed: [here] and [here].
Take control of your city. This... this is the instrument of your liberation!
Bane believes the only way to truly rid Gotham city of corruption is to use the threat of violence/mass death. Bane’s threat of violence is, of course, fictional, but Wilson’s project could give rise to real, uncontrolled, violence. While he doesn’t go as far as saying whether he wants a violent uprising, it is clear the threat of violence provided by 3D printed guns is key to his plan for liberation:
I believe in real politics. That’s a political act, giving you a magazine, telling you that that will never be taken away. That wasn’t true maybe two weeks ago. Now it’s a fact of life. It’s a fact of history. That’s real politics. That’s radical equality. That’s what I believe in.
– Cody Wilson
This is a symbol of irreversibility that can never eradicate the gun from the earth.
– Cody Wilson
I have a horrible feeling that Wilson will like this comparison.
Wilson, on camera, plays the role of the provocateur, and, at times, plays the innocent, “I don’t know” card, concealing his true motives:
Glenn Beck: “Is this guy a hero or a villain?”
Cody: “That’s a good question.”
Glenn Beck: “What do you think you are?”
Cody: “I don’t like the dichotomy. In whose conception, under what paradigm? You know? I’m just resisting. What am I resisting? I don’t know?
– Excerpt from an Interview.
The fact that he is playing innocent, and not revealing what his hopes for the project are, makes him even more villainous, in my opinion. It is also what has stopped him from being grouped in with all the other terrorists, as he seems fairly calm and sane, compared to the muscly, part-machine, part-man that is Bane.
So what awaits the future of 3D printing, and even mankind? The child in me is hoping for the Batman.