Mon. Nov 28th, 2022

Lee Hutchinson

Today we present the second episode of my extended interview with Chris Anderson. He was wired magazine editor in chief for 12 years and then started one of the most influential companies in the short history of consumer drones. Part one ran yesterday. If you missed it, click here. Otherwise, on the embedded audio player, you can press play or open the transcription, both of which are below.

Starting today, we’ll discuss how the consumer drone market has grown from DIY kits to fully fabricated projects. Anderson provided hobbyists with some kits early on, and boy, did they sell. Then they started an eternal afterlife as customer service nightmares (half of his customers didn’t seem to know how to solder – and it went downhill from there).

Anderson met a brilliant fellow creator named Jordi Muñoz through the online community of drone tinkerers. They got to know each other well through the discussion forums and finally he invited Jordi to start a business with him. The startup was (and remains) 3D Robotics. Anderson had no idea his co-founder was a teenager from Tijuana — and it wouldn’t have bothered him in the least if he’d known.

Although 3DR eventually raised major funding, it ran and grew for years from an initial investment of just $500 in parts that Anderson threw in. Everything went great for a while. 3DR’s revenue eventually hit an annual run rate of $100 million — and then China stepped in. Aiming at $1,500 for a product that cost about $850 to make, 3DR was pitted against a similar drone made by China’s DJI, which retailed for $600.

Anderson nearly invented both the term and the concept of open source hardware-and we have a fascinating discussion about it in today’s episode. He initially developed the concept in his book: Freethat was the sequel to his bestseller The long tail (a concept Chris completely invented). It’s intriguing to hear him describe all this. Spoiler alert: It didn’t work (at least not in drones).

If you like this episode and just can’t wait for part three (which comes out on Ars tomorrow), you can find it on my podcast feed, where it first appeared on October 3rd last year. The full archive of my episodes can be found on my site, or directly in your favorite podcast app by searching for the words “After On” (the title of the podcast). There you’ll find in-depth interviews with other world-class thinkers, founders and scientists on topics such as robotics, cryptocurrency, astrophysics, genomics, synthetic biology, neuroscience, consciousness, privacy and government hacking, and much more.

Finally, I’d like to briefly mention a series of four articles that I’m posting on Medium this month on the uplifting topic of existential risk. That is, the stark yet perversely fascinating possibility that our technological creations could just destroy us. I believe I present some arguments and analytical lenses new to this important topic, and the first piece in the series is here.

If you want to jump right into my take on the always controversial topic of super AI risk (it’s okay to read the pieces out of order), that article is here. And if you’re looking for some really sunny thoughts, don’t miss my maximalist take on what lone-wolf rampage killers could achieve if our technology gets just a little bit more awesome.

I should note that Medium runs this in their editorially curated, paid, members-only section. The good news is that Medium gives everyone access to a few articles per month, without friction.

This special edition of the Ars Technicast podcast can be accessed at the following locations:

iTunes: (May take several hours after publication to appear.)




By akfire1

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