What happens when everything is available anywhere?


#1

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2017/10/11/what-happens-when-everything-i.html


#2

Is this the first post from a regular new contributor, or a book advertisement?

Either way, the concepts described about the book sound interesting.


#3

https://boingboing.net/author/talmklein


#4

Yes, I saw that. It looks like a regular contributor, but only one post so far, about their own book. Hard to tell, which is why I asked.


#5

When you talk about prices being scaled to your bank balance, wouldn’t that mean everyone essentially has the same “wealth”?

Or does that only apply for certain goods, and there are other things that a millionaire could still buy a million of?

How does paying for services work? It seems like as both the cost of and reward for manufacturing goods has dropped in western nations we’ve started to spend more on things that require a real person to interact with us. If you don’t have to pay for cars and houses, will rich people start having the most elaborate haircuts?

edit: Sorry if we end up nitpicking the concept to death here, I get that you’ve written a narrative tale and thrown in the sci-fi stuff to facilitate that story, but you’re dealing with the kind of people who see a “WET PAINT” sign and have to touch the paint.


#6

I don’t think “quantum foam” works that way, if it exists, and I’m quite sure general relativity doesn’t work that way. It’s kind of a shame, because all the effects you’re talking about are possible with very near-future technologies. Why detonate a Hiroshima bomb to make a hamburger, when you could grow the tissues on a gossamer matrix of corn proteins?


#7

Sure you could then print anything. But they wouldn’t be made with love.


#8

Sure, it could be a bit soft on the real science/economics, but if the framework holds together enough to write a novel and suspend a reader’s disbelief, isn’t that enough for most works of fiction?


#9

I remember Cory put a line in Walkaway about everything a rich guy owns being bespoke and made by artisans he knows personally. Not because he cares about any of that stuff, but because it’s the only way to ensure that he has something nobody else can have.

What happens when billionaires start buying up all the love? How will they enforce a monopoly?

Year 2049: Luv-crim cops rappel through an old lady’s window, smash open the oven and wave a tricorder over a tray of cookies.
“Scanner says she was thinking about her grandkids and fondly anticipating their joy when they eat these, take her away boys!”

Nitpicking irrelevant aspects of a work of fiction is actually how I show affection.


#10

The limit is just 10% more love.

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#11

Instead of trying to enforce something relatively unenforceable why not just stop being greedy pricks? I mean if we had the means to print anything any amount of time, what reason is there to deny anyone any of it beyond just being a prick? I mean that’s utterly spiteful and I’m having a hard time imagining or putting myself in the shoes of someone who bothers with the intellectual exercise of trying to arbitrarily deny something to others just because they feel a pathological need to feel superior?


#12

I guess religion, racism, sadism, infantilism, and likely lots of other isms.


#13

Or does that only apply for certain goods, and there are other things that a millionaire could still buy a million of?
How does paying for services work?

Consider bitcoin. Why is a bitcoin worth anything? One answer is that it’s valuable because it maps to some dollar value on a ledger that says it is. Each dollar proclaims that it is legal tender for all debts, public and private. It’s only valuable because our government says so. But really, the reason a dollar has value is simply that people are willing to accept it as payment. What I mean is, the value of a dollar comes less from governmental fiat as from social convention. It’s a network effect.

In my book, I posit a social construct where no one could lie about their worth, the “chits” blockchain doesn’t care about how much you need something, but rather the amount of your total worth you’re willing to give up to acquire it. Let’s stay on bread, as in the post. If nobody wants or needs bread, then it would essentially be free. But the second someone makes a bid for it, market dynamics take over—now the algorithm creates an auction for bread. You may want it because you’re arbitrarily greedy, but if I want it because I believe I need it to survive, then at some point its price would rise high enough to force you out of the auction. It could bankrupt me, but I’d get it. The coolest part about is that we’re not bidding a sum of money, but rather a percentage of our net worth.


#14

I don’t think “quantum foam” works that way

The main issue with printing anything, anywhere is that one needs an “ink” that can be used to print anything. Right now quantum form is a concept. We don’t actually know how it works. The book is set far enough in the future to afford some plausibility that we might “discover” and harness quantum foam.


#15

If I understand the premise correctly, then all economic production is design work, with no capital inputs. In this world, a producer’s wealth has no baring on their ability to produce something, so why should it be different for the consumer? (And never has the term been more appropriate: printing bread, in order to make sandwiches, would be laughable; the only thing you would do with bread would be to eat it.)

I can think of no reason the design for bread should have any cost, at all. Is it to stop people from making illegal sandwiches?


#16

Tea. Earl Grey. Hot.


#17

If, in this hypothetical reality, nobody wants or needs bread then it wouldn’t be “essentially free” - it would not exist because nobody would make it.


#18

I can think of no reason the design for bread should have any cost, at all. Is it to stop people from making illegal sandwiches?

So, as long we’re clear that we’re playing in theoretical fiction-land, here is an excerpt from the book that addresses that very question with DRM (it’s from a chapter named The Big Mac of Theseus, hence the McD emphasis):


We humans place a lot of stock in originality—our culture has always focused on “the real thing” having true tangible value, and with molecular signatures, it has become nearly impossible to make illegitimate replications of anything patented. Vive l’original! And anyway, each printer has an origin signature, so even if someone hacked a burger into seeming like a Big Mac by engineering something called a “signature collision,” they would also need to somehow spoof the origin of that burger to be from the Golden Arches HQ. So even if you replicated something with the legitimate McDonalds’ key, the receiving printer would still flag the duplicate as fake and you’d get in trouble. Granted, I’m not sure how much trouble someone would get into for breaking the cipher and replicating a Big Mac, but it’s a slippery slope from Big Macs to, say, gold bars—which is actually why certain things can’t be printed.


I landed on this by looking at how people are now dealing with controlling for proprietary blueprints for 3D printers. It’s an interesting rabbit hole if you want to dig deeper.


#19

First I want to say it’s awesome that you are in the forums interacting! The book sounds really interesting, it’s going on the list!

I also place a lot of stock in not paying arbitrarily higher prices for something for which a equal quality but cheaper alternative exists, the perfect example for this is medicine, I always go for the generic version if I can. Besides this, using the big mac example, I would probably not want to eat the version created by Mc Donalds but would like to eat the healthier version that has been hacked together by enthusiasts.

And bread? Really? That far into the future we still eat bread? I already stopped eating it, I would never eat bread any more if I could print any food I wanted!


#20

Neal Stephenson’s Diamond Age had this as a large portion of the background and some plot tied to it. Then again, that was a 24th century version of the Victorian Era, so some of it was also a device to show Dickensian hypocrisy.