Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wealth Without Money

A self replicating Rapid Prototyping machine has just been developed.

A universal constructor is a machine that can replicate itself and - in addition - make other industrial products. Such a machine would have a number of interesting characteristics, such as being subject to Darwinian evolution, increasing in number exponentially, and being extremely low-cost.

A rapid prototyper is a machine that can manufacture objects directly (usually, though not necessarily, in plastic) under the control of a computer.

The RepRap project is working towards creating a universal constructor by using rapid prototyping, and then giving the results away free under the GNU General Public Licence to allow other investigators to work on the same idea. We are trying to prove the hypothesis: Rapid prototyping and direct writing technologies are sufficiently versatile to allow them to be used to make a von Neumann Universal Constructor.

All good projects have a slogan, and the best have a slogan that reeks of hubris. RepRap is no exception. Our slogan is:

"Wealth without money..."
A. Jacksonian and I have discussed in months past what such devices would mean in various e-mails. Basically it would mean the end of scarcity. Sociologically we thought it would mean that the poor would be the mass consumers and the rich would flaunt how little they consume. At least obviously. The poor would get lots of meat and potatoes. The rich would eat half a peach on a lettuce leaf.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


Christophe said...

... unless ... they were to use source materials that aren't free.


The machine is far from complete. It requires plastic, metal rods, stepper engines (expensive !), heating coil (not too cheap either), and ... most expensive of all ... a computer.

It is only capable of creating a series of objects that have to satisfy a number of limits. They have to be vertically convex, they need to have one flat edge, they can't be hollow ...

M. Simon said...

Early days yet.

This is just a start.

linearthinker said...

You'd enjoy Neal Stephenson:
The Diamond Age: or A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer (1995), which deals with a future with extensive nanotechnology and dynabooks.
[from wiki]

ZenDraken said...

"Wealth without money..."

If they actually create a practical Universal Replicator, and it looks like they have a long ways to go yet, then Universal Replicators will obviously spread far and wide. Everyone will have one. Or five. Or (N), limited only by feedstock and power. Then the ultimate source of wealth will become raw materials and energy. And since E=mc2, the ultimate source of wealth will really be just energy.

Which is not too different from today when you think about it.

Personally, I believe the entire world economy is ultimately based on energy. More energy = bigger economy.

Aaaaanyway.... How's that Polywell thing comin' along?

M. Simon said...

Dr. Nebel commented on something I said yesterday at Talk Polywell. It was not about progress.

linearthinker said...

Applications will happen incrementally with little mass awareness, until voila, we're there, and today's news will seem quaint.

Neil said...

Re christophe:

I agree the machine is far from complete, and is not really self-replicating.


It is reasonable to say that the remaining parts are stock items, with all the application-specific parts reproducible by the first machine, quite cheaply.

Also, I haven't perused the software constraints, but as I understand it, the hardware is in fact capable of constructing vertically concave objects, because it has two applicator devices, one of which could be loaded with a temporary support material. The workpiece could also be hemispherically hollow, as long as the internal support structure can be removed after completion.

I have worked with a commercial machine that cost several tens of thousands of dollars and has similar specs for resolution and materials. IF the machine does what the authors claim, then it is orders of magnitude improved over what is currently available.

Definitely not something to sneeze at.