Sunday, January 27, 2008

Videos and links, RepRap and Fab@Home

Since I've been writing a lot about fabbers lately, I've decided to start a fabber blog and start migrating my fabber postings over to it, starting with this one. Fabbers are only peripherally related to advanced nanotechnology (the economics look similar) and I'd like the fabber blog to go into a level of detail that's not appropriate here.

As far as economic similarities, a fabber looks a lot like a crude nanofactory, and raises many of the same societal concerns but in a smaller, safer way. One of the popular speculations about mature nanotechnology goes like this: (1) sufficiently advanced nanofactories will be able to make almost any desired product from materials found in nature, so (2) the price of physical goods drops to nearly zero, and then (3) money ceases to exist and we all live in a post-scarcity society free of poverty, disease, and war.

It's an appealing simple notion, probably too simple. Even when the necessities of life are available essentially for free, humans always envy other humans and there will still be a premium to pay for things beyond the survival level. Economic demand will exist as long as we're still human, and money will too. Besides, physical goods aren't the only things we spend money on. I can imagine a robot bus driver at some future time, but a robot doctor seems a long way off, and it's hard to imagine the board of directors that will appoint the first robot CEO.

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