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Chris Anderson's Next Big Idea: "Atoms Are the New Bits"

His book "The Long Tail" established the editor-in-chief at Wired as a guy with a pretty good understanding of how the web is changing business; Chris Anderson's more recent book "Free" was a more controversial attempt to develop Stewart Brand's argument that "information wants to be free."

Never one to stay in one place for long, Anderson is hard at work on his next book, which he says will not focus on the web but on the real world, you know, the one of physical objects. "The physical world is adapting and applying the new models (from the web) to the real world of stuff," Anderson told a session of the Supernova conference late yesterday afternoon.

He noted that what were formerly industrial-scale tools of production have become cheap enough that entrepreneurs can now produce almost anything they want along the long tail of physical goods.

"Using the web, you can find Chinese robots that will work with you to create customized tailored goods," Anderson said. "Now you can do what Sony does."

He pointed the audience to Local Motors, a Massachusetts-based outfit that helps you design and build your own automobile, and Brick Arms, a Seattle-based that creates Lego-compatible weapons like AK-47s that the family-oriented block company eshews -- although Anderson reports that Lego, Inc., is happy to tolerate an ecosystem of small developers building products compatible with its basic product lines.

But Anderson was not satisfied to simply chronicle this emerging sector of micro-businesses; he decided to start his own venture -- manufacturing DIY civilian drone aircraft.

Yes, you heard that right.

As I sat in the audience listening to this, I realized that I was not clear on what a person would do with a drone aircraft, exactly, but then again, that's probably for the crowd to decide.

For more details on Anderson's talk, please visit Larry Dignan's post at ZDNet, and for additional analysis, see Bnet's Erik Sherman's post.

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