Saturday, March 04, 2006

3 technologies: Replication

It took just 80 hours for the first Wu-Drexler Replicator to replicate 60 tonnes of food.
Though slow by today’s standards, it was in 80-hour shifts stretched over 5 years that famine in Africa was eradicated. Not just controlled, but extinguished.

Poverty soon followed as replicators generated clothing, housing, water, medicines - all the basic necessities needed to repair broken countries. India, the world’s sixth richest nation and third largest producer of replicator machines, solved the social problems that have been until now, a plague with no cure. China and Eastern Europe have all but banished hard-core poverty.

Construction and manufacturing became largely unmanned operations. Workers in all sorts of industries – automotive, textile, electronics, anything with humans on the assembly line – were retrenched en masse. Many joked bitterly how the only thing replicators couldn’t create were new jobs. Money markets were turned inside out since no country, no economy could charge premiums for resources that could be replicated on demand. After the shakeout, the only resource with any sustainable value was information.
As consumer versions of replicators hit the market, customers became their own manufacturers. Starbucks, Lego, K-Mart all became information brokers and customers paid a monthly subscription to download new blueprints/designs/recipes for everything from your soy latte to lingerie. Larger items like cars had to be picked up but waiting periods became a thing of the past. There wasn’t a waiting list, just a line. Postal Services expanded their businesses to include replication of goods with large warehouses to replicate orders. Just show your receipt, and your post office would replicate you your new SUV.
Farming became more a matter of how well your crops were designed. Since there was no growing involved, farmers' core business became licensing their crop designs to supermarkets and local grocery stores.

What no one predicted was that infinite supply created its own infinite demand. Since luxury accessories (diamonds, fashion) had no more value, travel became the ultimate prestige symbol. Travel corporations and even some tourism boards replicated their own ‘copies’ of Paris, Toyko and other tourist destinations. In many cases, the replication projects caused changes in geography which in turn created weather anomalies (floods, snow, hurricanes). Many governments now closely regulate real-estate replication with updated zoning laws. Still, satellite surveys show global land mass has grown 11% over the past three decades proving that enforcement has been lax.
Though good housing is no longer an issue, land is. In 2163, the United Nations launched the Earth 2 initiative, a feasibility study to replicate a smaller version of our planet to anticipate the problems of accelerated urban sprawl.

Despite its growing pains, the planet for the most part considered replicator technology to be a good thing. Manufacturing costs fell and everyone had a car and a house. Economies became self-sufficient and though exports dwindled, the social benefits far outweighed the loss in GDP.

Some resources remain scarce. By coincidence, replicator physics also proved the scientific existence of the soul, which is why livestock and fishing remain the only industries to survive ‘replicator economics.’ Early attempts at using replication to resurrect dead life forms, including people, quickly met with failure (much to the relief of the funeral industry). To this day, cats – having no souls – remain the only exception.

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