The Wiki Weapon project is an initiative undertaken by Defense Distributed, a non-profit headed by University of Texas law student Cody Wilson aimed at generating a freely-distributed, open source design for a 3-D printed firearm--an idea that has come under serious fire from proponents of increased gun control in the U.S., particularly in light of last week’s tragic shooting of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The idea behind the project--embraced by some, absolutely detested by others--is that technology will soon make regulating firearms virtually impossible. That is a very polarizing idea. But to say the very least Wiki Weapons is also a technologically intriguing project, one that forces us to examine some very relevant--some might say ominous--questions about new technological capabilities and where they are taking us, as well as what happens when technology gets way out in front of the law. We spoke with Wilson briefly this week hoping to address some of these questions. Below is an edited transcript of that conversation.
Popular Science: It would be pointless for us to ignore the context in which we’re speaking today, given the tragedy that unfolded in Connecticut last week. Defense Distributed has committed to creating a shareable, freely-distributed design for a working 3-D printed firearm--a way for anyone with a 3-D printer to quickly produce a working gun. Does an incident like this one in any way alter your conviction that this is the right thing to do?
Cody Wilson: No, not at all. If it did change what we thought you’d be right to recognize that we’re not serious. I don’t want to be confrontational about it, but I will say it this way: understanding that rights and civil liberties are something that we protect is also understanding that they have consequences that are also protected, or tolerated. The exercise of civil liberties is antithetical to the idea of an completely totalizing state. That’s just the way it is.