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Capitalism's death is on the horizon.

My friend kengr made a post on her LJ about the social effects of certain kinds of tech (in this case, audio and video recording tech) being cheap, being everywhere, and how that is changing society. So I made this comment:

There's a story by Cory Doctorow, I forget the title, that deals with what will happen when 3D printing technology (which already exists) gets good enough to print anything, and cheap enough to be everywhere. In that story, the government - in as last-ditch effort to save capitalism - tries to outlaw these cheap 3D printers, and does, but fails to enforce it well enough.

If I knew an appropriate to do it, I'd be sorely tempted to protest or counter-protest with a sign that says "CAPITALISM IS ALREADY DEAD, LIKE COMMUNISM. 3D PRINTING WILL SOON BE OLD ENOUGH TO DIG THE GRAVE."


~ ~ ~

My Mindeodean story universe features a society with an economy that was basically built on the fabber, AKA "fabrication machine," AKA a really sophisticated 3D printer. Mindeodean's economy wasn't always post-scarcity; when the colony was first set up, they had an economy that combined capitalism and communism (I *am* fond of that model). But then the fabbers came, and got cheap. A new economic model was needed. They finally settled on one where the businesses wouldn't worry so much about products as they did about raw materials and ideas. The economics of their system focus on getting the raw materials for fabbers, whether by digging for ores or via recycling services. (Though recycling services don't do as well in poor areas, where people do their own recycling through an addition to fabbers called reclaimators.) Mindeodean economy focuses on raw materials, designing product templates, and on services. The richest people either mine for rare materials, are especially good at designing new product templates, or offer services. Hospitals do pretty well, as certain safety standards are needed for medical fabbers, since medifabbers don't work the same way as regular fabbers (they grow what they need inside the machine instead of putting it together from element tubes). And there are still many health-related things that medifabbers simply cannot do.

Also, when fabbers and reclaimators became so common that the poorest of the poor had them, the rich were already starting to consider fabbed goods to be cheap crap for poor people. Some worked on smaller, more compact, and higher-class fabbers, while others started to demand hand-made goods. A whole industry erupted over the boom for hand-made goods, especially in the art of determining whether something was truly hand-made or if someone cheated by fabbing it in whole or in part. It takes a lot of work to make everything by hand without using fabbed materials, so the rich pay high prices for the genuine article. Which again, is similar to the economic system of another of my storyverses, the planet Traipah. Traipah doesn't have anything like the fabbers, but they *do* prize the arts and the crafts.

Crossposted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
kengr
Nov. 27th, 2010 01:34 am (UTC)
With faber tech, since you can *assemble* things on a molecular/atomic level (ie move individual molecules and atoms around) any faber can recycle things, albeit more slowly than a dedicated unit.

And if you are willing to process a lot of "stuff", even trace amounts of various elements are obtainable.

Side effect of such processing is that the *really* common elements are going to be waste materials. And given that most rocks (and the non-organic parts of dirt are just finely divided rock) are a bunch of oxides, the waste materials will likely be extruded as blocks of those oxides.

Likely ones:

silica(aka crystal quartz) - silicon dioxide
alumina (aka sapphire) - aluminum oxide
titania (aka rutile) - titanium oxide

Cheap building panels (like wallboard now) are apt to be thin sheet aluminum "boxes" with foamed silica as "fill" (very good insulation, and more fireproof than wood).

But sapphire and quartz are going to be *literally* "dirt cheap". Iron, titanium, aluminum and a few others are going to be really cheap too.

There will have to be efforts made to avoid recycling too much "really" organic material (plants, dirt, etc) into stuff like plastics. That's to avoid messing up the biosphere.

On the other hand recycling food waste (and human waste) into food is a good idea if done right.
fayanora
Nov. 27th, 2010 01:57 am (UTC)
Lot of great ideas! Thanks!
underlankers
Nov. 27th, 2010 02:00 am (UTC)
Well, at one point aluminum was more valuable than gold, but now we use it in cheap soda cans. One thing that never comes up in post-scarcity societies is what people are supposed to do all day.
fayanora
Nov. 27th, 2010 02:17 am (UTC)
So far, from what I have, the Mindeodean empire is... interesting. Some planets only use fabbers for non-food stuff, either so they can keep growing food and let the farmers have jobs, or because they become snobs who think fabbed food tastes worse than real food (which is utter bullshit). Other planets, like Mindeodean Prime, use fabbers for everything, and the rich spend money on genuine hand-made stuff. Those who aren't making genuine hand-made stuff, or trying to pass off fabbed things as hand-made, are generally doing whatever the hell they want to, within the law. Lots of people join the military, for something to do. With hundreds of planets in their empire, military service is bound to get interesting.

Then there are planets that reject fabber tech altogether. Most of those reject other tech, too. And most of THOSE aren't in the empire; they're either fiercely independent, or part of The Brotherhood of Homo Sapiens, a racist collection of planets dominated by "terran type" humans, mostly Homo Sapiens, connected only by their shared hatred of other species of humans and by a mutual defense pact.

And there's the Joquari, who will sometimes use fabbers for some things, but grow most of their own food and wander the galaxy in convoys of old colony ships. Joquari are adapted to a zero-g environment and can no longer live on planets. They also have a second pair of arms where they used to have legs.

And then there's a similar group made of mixed bipedal human species, a "country" that is a convoy of spacecrafts. They live mostly in systems owned by the Mindeodean empire or by The United Front, but will make occasional raids into Osstrotian or Sharavian territory. Or, if they're feeling bold, into Brotherhood territory.

But I like the point about "what to do" in a post-scarcity civilization. Sure, I've already addressed that somewhat in that their economy is largely service-oriented now. But I could always think more on it.
underlankers
Nov. 27th, 2010 02:39 am (UTC)
In the Omniverse Tales the invention of standard sci-fi all stars are equally fast to travel to FTL drives after more Hard Sci Fi-type drives (said invention itself as accidental as the discovery of Penicilin) leads to growth of the Imperial market economy and ultimately into a widespread type of conquest. Hard sci-fi keeps them from trying xenoforming (too expensive) or xenocide (more expensive than xenoforming).

So the Empire turns into more of a Roman Empire-style civilization (loads of slaves, indirect rule, armed to the teeth, prone to endless civil wars) but the long and unshakeable rule due to averting http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheMilkyWayIsTheOnlyWay turns it steadily into a more Soviet Union analogue.
underlankers
Nov. 27th, 2010 02:43 am (UTC)
Essentially in my stories I present a standard trope of sci-fi that develops after lengthier "hard" sci-fi and the resulting economic changes help trigger a lot of the inherent social clashes in the Empire. A post-scarcity situation would be as momentous as discovery of a Star Wars-style hyperdrive, perhaps as significant as Britain's adoption of steam and cheaply-produced steel.

Societies that reject Fabber technology in some ways might prove more resilient than those that adopt the new technology. What would be interesting is what happens to Marxist-Leninist style ideologies in this case as to make a full society work with fabber technology would require something like a Gosplan.
fayanora
Nov. 27th, 2010 02:55 am (UTC)
I haven't figured out just how many galaxies are known and visited in my Traipah storyverse, but at least three are mentioned by name, and hyperspace travel makes it a matter of hours to travel from here to Traipah, Traipah being in the M33 galaxy. Also there are hints in the stories that Andromeda and M33 are considered the galactic equivalents to Canada and Mexico (only in terms of closeness) to Milky Way's USA.

Actually, there's a huge flaw in the first book (the only published book) in that it says the entire universe was known and explored, this book having been written before I knew just how insanely huge the universe is. In the other books, I downplay that as an exaggeration. But even so, there may be as many as 20 or 30 galaxies in known space for them. Mainly because of meeting the Na'Voom Da and the Vorsht, two alien races that have been capable of space flight for millions of years.
underlankers
Nov. 27th, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
Well, in the case of the Empire the contact with other Galaxies leads to a lot of wars due to the Outside Context Problem in the first contacts but by the later point the Empire's not so much the Conquistadors as it is the Culture whose power so drastically overshadows the others that there's no real contest for it.

The evolution of the military required to *hold down* those galaxies produces the War of the Interregnum, the WWI/Mexican-American War analogue which leads 2,000 years later to the Restoration War, which is the World War II/Napoleonic Wars/US Civil War/Taiping Rebellion hybrid (in terms of significance, not the tactics or causes of the war).
kengr
Nov. 27th, 2010 03:13 am (UTC)
Frankly making the *cultural* shift will be the hardest part of attaining a post scarcity economy. Especially if you are starting with current "western civilization".

We are culturally biased towards the idea that hard work is *good*, and that failure to attain a decent living is due to laziness or the like.

Our culture is going to need to adjust to the *fact* that there aren't enough jobs to go around. And find some other way to let folks attain basic living standard.

After that, the problems become getting folks motivated to do the schooling and training required for the jobs that still exist.

Hmm. Jobs like McDonald's staff becoming high pay because they are so mind-numbing? Except, of course, that'd require raising the prices.

Then again, given faber tech, McDonalds wouldn't need more than a couple people per shift, mostly for cleaning and answering stupid customer questions.

I expect a lot of folks vegetating, and others doing a lot on the web. Some of it time wasting, some of it as useful as these sorts of discussions.
underlankers
Nov. 27th, 2010 03:19 am (UTC)
Are we? In the South there was a term for manual labor used until quite recently that's a racial slur that shows how much "respect" it had. The Civil War didn't alter those attitudes as much as it should have, unfortunately. It took the combination of the Boll Weevil and World War II (and of course more Yankees moving down here) to really do that.

The problem is that the shift was temporally and geographically limited and these days US culture as you've noted is going to have to undergo another one.
fayanora
Nov. 27th, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)
With fabber tech, McDonalds wouldn't need employees. It would become like Redbox, changing from buildings to kiosks. The only people working for McDonalds after that would be management, programmers, advertising people, machine repair techs, etc. No more hiring high schoolers on minimum wage! No more need for cooks, cleaners, cashiers, or the like. You give the McDonald box your order, your money, and it gives you your fabbed food. (Or maybe even pre-fabbed food! LOL)

I think after a few years of so many people doing nothing but veging out on the Net, most would get bored and find *something* to do. Organizations for hobbies would pop up, organizations for bettering the world or doing other things would arise. Having nothing else to do, many would go out and help clean up the ailing environment. Role playing in meatspace, complete with real running around and mock battles, would become more popular. More entertainment will be in realtime with real people, like plays and so on.

Sure, crime might go up too, mostly vandalism and boredom-motivated crimes, but other stuff - positive stuff - would come up too. Fact is, humans generally don't like boredom. Most people will be dissatisfied with boredom.
underlankers
Nov. 27th, 2010 01:48 pm (UTC)
I should note that when you've a lot of young men with nothing to do you essentially create the kind of Malthusian Bulge that some of the more cynical say is why wars exist. A true cynic might look at the Star Trek replicator and think "Hello Imperium of Man."
fayanora
Nov. 27th, 2010 03:28 am (UTC)
Oh, and there would likely be an invention boom, as bored people think of new inventions and actually have the time, resources, and ability to make the inventions real. If all it takes to make a new invention real is programming a template and telling your fabber to make it, the number of new inventions will skyrocket, and the Patents Office will be flooded with new submissions.
underlankers
Nov. 27th, 2010 01:49 pm (UTC)
By the same token as I mentioned in my LJ the invention of the cotton gin truly revolutionized American agriculture. It just revolutionized and actually revived slavery and turned the Civil War into an inevitable and irrepressible conflict. Not all technological progress is good.
fayanora
Nov. 27th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
Huh? I thought the cotton gin eliminated the need for slavery?
underlankers
Nov. 28th, 2010 01:41 am (UTC)
The opposite. Slavery had originally been used for tobacco plantations but when tobacco became more profitable with free labor the institution was sliding into oblivion. The invention of a cotton gin that made growing American cotton simple enough ensured the survival of slavery

The kicker was that in the USA and Britain the first stages of industrialization required textiles, hence cotton. With the expansion of slavery due to ethnically cleansing Indians and the Louisiana Purchase slavery became an economic juggernaut that to some extent fueled British industrialization and to a vastly greater fueled industrialization in the North. That was one of the biggest reasons the business community in 1860 didn't want a war in the first place.
wizwom
Nov. 27th, 2010 01:40 am (UTC)
saw an extremely well done titanium honeycomb piece Boeing turned out with a laser sintering system. Essentially, it's metal 3D printing. 3D cell printers are being used to make artificial organs.

But, consider the software industry. Software, although it costs a lot to design and create, once created is basically free to copy. Even so, there are people willing to create for free, and those who can make money off software created for free but requiring some help to set up or keep going.

Many things, even without any fabrication effort, still require effort to distribute, effort to design, and effort to maintain.
fayanora
Nov. 27th, 2010 02:04 am (UTC)
3D cell printers are being used to make artificial organs.

Yup, that's where the idea for Medifabbers came from. They're essentially sophisticated cell printers. They store a collection of human stem cells. Patient puts in a genetic sample and tells it what they need (like, say, a new right arm). The Medifabber changes the DNA of the appropriate number of stem cells, prints a new arm, and then has the patient stick their stump in to attach the new arm. But in cases of certain internal organs, a Medifabber alone cannot replace the organ, so human staff and surgical bots are required, because in the case of, say, a patient needing a new heart, the Medifabber can make a new heart but does not have the capability of replacing that heart... at least, not without killing the patient in the process.

But, consider the software industry. Software, although it costs a lot to design and create, once created is basically free to copy. Even so, there are people willing to create for free, and those who can make money off software created for free but requiring some help to set up or keep going.

Yeah, product template design in the Mindeodean storyverse is a nasty business to get into. Fiercely competitive, and some of the organizations involved make the RIAA look like pussies.

Many things, even without any fabrication effort, still require effort to distribute, effort to design, and effort to maintain.

Yup.
underlankers
Nov. 27th, 2010 01:59 am (UTC)
My sole word of caution on that is that it's arguable the Roman Empire from the era of the First Triumvirate to the 2nd Century was a capitalist state and certainly arguable that Imperial China was more free market than the contemporary European states it co-existed with. What we term "capitalism" existed once before in the entirely different social milieu of the Ancient Roman imperialist system with its living god, crucifixion, and passe slavery.

For that matter, the invention of the cotton gin stands as the finest example of what "evil" technological progress looks like.
acelightning
Nov. 27th, 2010 05:01 am (UTC)
sounds an awful lot like the Star Trek universe's transporter/replicator technology. they are essentially the same thing. the replicator uses a kind of generic gunk as raw material, and transforms it into the required atoms, formed into molecules, to make whatever was ordered - clothing, machine parts, food and drink ("tea, Earl Grey, hot"). the transporter scans the person or object being transported and generates a pattern, then disassembles it into subatomic particles and transmits them to another location, along with the encoding for the pattern. it then reassembles the particles according to the pattern.

because anyone can get anything they want from a replicator, the United Federation of Planets does not use money or equivalents. the closest they get is "latinum", a material that cannot be replicated, which is used for interstellar commerce. people generally seem to keep themselves busy, though. there are creative types who invent things, make original artworks, or develop programs for the replicators and such. people may spend their days doing what would now be considered hobbies, games, and sports, or in learning and studying. there also seem to be a lot of bureaucrats and administrators in the Star Trek universe.

(why, yes, i am a Trekkie...)


fayanora
Nov. 27th, 2010 05:13 am (UTC)
Yeah, 3D printers (a real thing) were inspired by replicators, and my fabbers are basically sophisticated 3D printers. But not as sophisticated as replicators. They use element canisters, for one, instead of energy conversion or whatever the replicators use. Though Medifabbers are different, and explained in another comment.

I basically liked the idea of exploring post-scarcity in a human context. Traipah already explores post-scarcity somewhat (despite not having fabbers, AFAIK) in a non-human context.
acelightning
Nov. 27th, 2010 10:44 am (UTC)
i'd love to have a 3D printer! but they usually only work with a limited range of materials - either easily melted plastics, or powders that can be sintered at relatively low temperatures. i can't imagine how a 3D printer - with today's technology, anyway - could produce a set of coveralls, an adjustable wrench, or a hot fudge sundae, never mind a working netbook computer ;-)

post-scarcity is going to take some getting used to. there probably will be problems with boredom at first. i expect there'll be an increase in minor crimes, the kinds of things that bored young males always seem to turn to - theft and pointless violence. but why steal things, when you can simply create anything you want? maybe the impulses toward violence can be directed into organized "sports" of some sort, such as gladiatorial contests. fandoms will spring up around this, offering relief from boredom for those who don't compete directly. i'm sure there will be everything else you suggested, from arts and crafts to LARPing to poetry contests, and things we can't even imagine yet. (and, of course, new and more adventurous forms of sexual behavior...)


fayanora
Nov. 27th, 2010 11:10 am (UTC)
but why steal things, when you can simply create anything you want?

I think the logic in that case would be "to deprive another of their possessions," the same way bullies used to take my books from me; they didn't want the books, didn't give a shit about the books, they did it to upset me. There's also apparently a thrill aspect to it. But I only understand these things intellectually.

Also, thieves are usually stupid and often lack the imagination to think of things they want unless they happen to actually see something they want. Then the impulse is "ooh, I want that" and is often easier for them to steal what they see than it would be to remember what they wanted long enough and in enough detail to tell a fabber to make it for them. (Can you tell I have a low opinion of these kinds of people?)
acelightning
Nov. 27th, 2010 01:03 pm (UTC)
a person who is stupid and lacking in impulse control might steal something on the spur of the moment. but it wouldn't have as much emotional impact on the victim, who could just replicate more of whatever was taken (schoolbooks, lunch, etc.). bullies crave the feeling of power they get when they can make someone else feel bad. as a former victim myself, i understand it intellectually too. but i will never be able to grok why anyone would want that kind of feeling of power; the few times i've found myself in a situation where i had emotional power over another person (or other sentient being), it made me want to throw up.

fayanora
Nov. 27th, 2010 08:25 pm (UTC)
People will still probably get attached to certain inanimate objects, but you have a point that with a lot of it, the attachment just will not be there. "Ah, got my iPod stolen again. Ah well, I'll just fab another one."
acelightning
Nov. 28th, 2010 11:00 am (UTC)
the handmade, non-replicated items will be the things people prize and care about. and anybody with the brains the Goddess promised a doorknob will keep those in a safe place.

fayanora
Nov. 28th, 2010 11:48 am (UTC)
anybody with the brains the Goddess promised a doorknob

*Giggles*
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