Money, a means for exchange and abstraction of value, has been issued by leaders, kings & queens, and images of their heads were put on the coins; it was the belief into the leaders which was the core, the reliability and trust derived from. The tallest buildings were churches and temples, and you could buy yourself into heaven even as it was promised.
Then came nations and unions of nations and issued more common currencies reaching beyond small regions, helping to bring politically fragmented conglomerates closer to each other, through commerce and trading. The tallest buildings were used by banks and insurances, the belief to a supreme deity shifted to more physical and materialistic aspect of life, not a believed deity took care of you, the insurance policy you bought, not to get into heaven, but be taken care of while being alive.
Now we stand at the edge were crypto-currencies test the waters, to complement state and nation issued money and perhaps replace it later altogether, and we begin to believe into mathematics and algorithms, not leaders, not banks, but sole numbers and their relations to each other, like public and private key encryption and hashing. The tall buildings are still hosting banks and insurances, yet, new massive buildings are raised to host data centers, less appealing, less impressive, and mostly neglected by the public eye, but there are the machines for the required calculations we eventually gonna believe in.
Even though it looks as if we become more and more rational, we still believe, e.g. in an abstraction as money or a currency to handle resources and distribute the responsibilities and fine tune efficiency by putting a price-tag on things - and thereby optimize the supply and demand.
Belief can move mountains it is said, well it certainly can make each one of us do things due the shared belief in something. Belief isn't something foolish, it is the glue to do something we cannot see and use immediately - ground bases to reach out for transcendence: churches, temples, banks, insurances, and now data centers.
Some more lightweight habitat approaches, some are looking nice but seem not practical, others might be good as inspiration and starting point to develop something actual working:
The cocoon is 3m in diameter, and 120kg heavy, fixated by 12 points and ropes. It is rather conceptual work than real world application (e.g. missing rain gear). Pricing starts at USD 8,000. See more at Cocoontree.com.
Domes have a beautiful shape to live in, especially when one was conditioned in square buildings; yet, the domes have one major disadvantage: all surface is a roof and therefore most of the times requires to provide 100% water seal and be still breathable. In this sense, circular habitats like a yurt provides some of the feature, yet, have minimal roof like square-based buildings.
Forgive me calling it "next (technical) revolution", terms too often too hasty used, but sometimes a revolution comes and isn't so fast and only in retrospect the revolution is realized.
Gutenberg in 1439 used "moveable type printing" - where each letter was composed on a grid and so the text was composed, page by page, and so was page for page printed and then the book was composed. It made information in printed form much easier to reproduce.
Gutenberg Metal Moveable Type
Printing in 1880's
The invention of computer adapted Gutenberg's method, and this is why we read text on a screen, the letters are very moveable, even virtual. Printers on the other hand bridge the virtual world with the real world again, but it was like reversing an evolution - more paper was printed due to computers, no paperless office - also the question of authenticity hasn't been yet resolved: printed paper is hard to alter, whereas to alter a computer file is easy.
3D Printed Form
Anyway, the term "3D Printing" kind of is an understatement - it permits to manifest what is done virtual. 3D printers exist since decades, but they have been very costly and complicate to manufacture and use too. The last few years 3D printers have been developed which are able to print parts for themselves, replicate themselves partially - from there comes the term "Reprap" (replication rapid prototyper). Late 2011 and beginning of 2012 brought 3D printers as open hardware and open software at very low cost - plans and programs open and freely available, and the price range reached USD 300 with a printing volume of apprx. 20cm x 20cm x 20cm or 8" x 8" x 8", such as the Printrbot (a Kickstarter.com project which raised 830K USD):
3D Printing Material: ABS (3mm Euro 25 / 1kg, different colors)
What can you print depends on the material you can extrude and print out - for now: ABS (plastic, recycable), PLA (biodegredable), clay, plaster etc. essentially material which can be liquified and solidifies quickly at room temperature.
Plastics such as ABS or PLA etc)
With several extruders one is able to mixed colors or materials - yet not so much research in mixed material has been made yet (status 2012).
Parts for another Reprap
You can print some parts of a Reprap yourself, replicating the machine itself. Motors and electronics and some metal rods cannot be replicated with a Reprap yet, motors and rods could in the near future also replicated - perhaps even the microprocessors; the challenge are the mixed materials at tiny scale.
HDPE: (Milk Jugs, bottles, bottle caps, water pipes)
LDPE: (Trays, plastic wraps, slides)
ABS: (Luggage, water pipes, Lego's)
PLA: (Packaging, organic-waste, bio-degradables)
Building Larger Objects
My personal interest are objects larger than the 20cm x 20cm x 20cm, which means, I focus on extendable designs - means, printing parts which can be assemblied into larger objects, ideally universially.