I've been hearing too many claims of "3D printing is the future", "ebooks are the future", "bitcoin is the future" blah blah... so I'm going to have a rant ;-)
That to me is missing the bigger picture. Businesses which enable ordinary people to build, create, share and perform economic transactions without being giant mega-corps are the future.#shapeways
is not a 3D printing company, its an efficient web based manufacturing service business. It provides very small runs to a massive customer base. What makes Shapeways isn't 3D printing it's the rest of the process. It happens to ofter 3D printing - it could equally offer etching, CNC, PCB making, printing, woodturning, resin casting whatever. providing it can do it to the same model.
A lot of other big success stories fit the same mould (although not always with the same degree of popularity with the customers 8-) ) - Paypal, eBay, Amazon marketplace. etc are all about the same thing - a huge, low volume per user, service.
A lot of open government is also about the same thing, even the pirate party is sort of an early prototype of trying to scale policy making out this way.
As is often said "In a gold rush the people who make money are the people who sell shovels."