Rapidly prototyping money in Davos

February 16th, 2012

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Last month I ended up in snowy Davos, not on the slopes but setting up a fab lab at the World Economic Forum. Asha Jadeja, civil engineer, angel investor, philantropist, and widow of Rajeev Motwani (one of the PageRank inventors), donated funds to demo a fab lab at the World Economic Forum, and then send it on to Gujarat where it could be used by migrant salt plain workers.

This is me, Arianna Huffington, Asha Jadeja, and Neil Gershenfeld, my advisor.

Davos is full of fancy famous people, but like the Streets song goes:

When you’re a famous boy, it gets really easy to get girls,
it’s all so easy you get a bit spoilt.
But, when you try to pull a girl, who is also famous too,
it feels just like when you wasn’t famous.

The truth is, the only people I met who I recognised off the bat were Tim Berners-Lee and Adele Santos, who are both at MIT, so I should know what they look like.

Juliana Rotich with Tshepiso Monaheng from the Fablab South Africa in Soshanguve and the Ushahidi Earrings we fabricated. Left picture by Noneck, who is now a former world traveller and WEF tech magistrate!

Beyond the sea of middle-aged-white-men-in-suits, there are some cool people that WEF invites as ‘YGLs’, or Young Global Leaders. This year, this included Juliana Rotich from Ushahidi (who is extremely thoughtful, articulate, and on the ball), and Eben Bayer, from Ecovative. Ushahidi develops open-source software for crisis mapping, and Ecovative develops materials where they use mycelium as replacement packaging material (Eben is who you should really be contacting with your packaging needs instead of MFG). Last year I was testing a block of Ecovative mycelium as a possibility for milling foam (as a mould for vacuum forming), and now maybe I will continue those tests. Oddly, Mick Jagger showed up at a YGL event too, but I suppose he is young at heart.

I originally tried to engage the WEF-goers with conversation about the implications of personal fabrication- manufacturing without an economy of scale, on demand design, cutting and pasting in 3d spaceā€¦ but when we really started getting traffic it was because we started fabricating coins, credit cards, paper bills, and um, fake WEF badges. No irony after all.

I as the federal reserve set the value of 100 Aleh to approximately 700k EUR. Unfortunately, no one wants to exchange my funds.

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