I was trained as a graphic designer and have watched as technology has transformed the graphic design industry. In school, our instructors insisted students do everything by hand. In contrast, during my practicum almost nothing was done by hand. The computer reigned supreme. Even the old PMT (Photo-Mechanical Transfer) machine we used for our school projects wasn’t used in the print shops anymore. I saw the trends and after graduation enrolled in computer courses. Since that time, many graphic design jobs have faded away. No more typesetters or pre-press production workers. Businesses closed. Now anyone with a computer can do graphic design. I see the potential for similar things to happen in construction.
Right now, a 3D Model can be designed on computer and then turned into a physical sculpture using so-called “3D Printers”. [Update Dec. 7, 2007: 3-D printing currently involves taking plaster or sand and using computer guided manufacturing tools to fuse these materials into a specific shape, as was the case with the picture above.] This technology is in its infancy and it is far too expensive for large-scale applications. With improvements however, I foresee that a plan drawn on computer could be “printed” without the use of construction workers. More jobs lost. I am usually very positive about technology but this prospect of job-loss is hard to reconcile with progress.