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posted by LaminatorX on Sunday March 23 2014, @11:32PM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the Where's-my-20-hour-work-week? dept.

Papas Fritas writes:

"Jeremy Rifkin writes in the NYT that the inherent dynamism of competitive markets is bringing down costs so far that many goods and services are becoming nearly free, abundant, and no longer subject to market forces and while economists have always welcomed a reduction in marginal cost, they never anticipated the possibility of a technological revolution that might bring those costs to near zero. The first inkling of this paradox at the heart of capitalism came in 1999 when Napster enabled millions of people to share music without paying the producers and artists, wreaking havoc on the music industry. Similar phenomena went on to severely disrupt the newspaper and book publishing industries. The huge reduction in marginal cost is now beginning to reshape energy, manufacturing and education. "Although the fixed costs of solar and wind technology are somewhat pricey, the cost of capturing each unit of [renewable] energy beyond that is low (PDF)," says Rifkin. As for manufacturing "thousands of hobbyists are already making their own products using 3-D printers, open-source software and recycled plastic as feedstock, at near zero marginal cost" and more than six million students are enrolled in "free massive open online courses, the content of which is distributed at near zero marginal cost."

But nowhere is the zero marginal cost phenomenon having more impact than the labor market, where workerless factories and offices, virtual retailing and automated logistics and transport networks are becoming more prevalent. What this means according to Rifkin is that new employment opportunities will lie in the collaborative commons in fields that tend to be nonprofit and strengthen social infrastructure like health care, aiding the poor, environmental restoration, child care, care for the elderly, and the promotion of the arts and recreation. "As for the capitalist system, it is likely to remain with us far into the future, albeit in a more streamlined role, primarily as an aggregator of network services and solutions, allowing it to thrive as a powerful niche player in the coming era. We are, however, entering a world partly beyond markets, where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent, collaborative, global commons.""

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  • (Score: 2) by Kell on Sunday March 23 2014, @11:36PM

    by Kell (292) on Sunday March 23 2014, @11:36PM (#20010)

    It makes you wonder if, for some commodities, the eventual cost of even physical things will be zero. For example, with fully autonomous robot mining, transport, production and maintenance, the marginal cost of any good will decrease dramatically. When you have a factory that churns out ipods faster than you can sell them, who would pay anything for them? Much like how drinkable tap water is effectively free in the developed world. Ironically, the undercutting nature of capitalism seems to make this inevitable.
     
    I'd love to hear reasons why this might not be the case.

    --
    Scientists ask questions. Engineers solve problems.
    • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @12:44AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @12:44AM (#20015)

      Much like how drinkable tap water is effectively free in the developed world

      Glad to hear that building and maintaining reservoirs and installing water mains is "effectively free". Also, I presume we will soon all live in a magical utopia where flying pigs (drones) sweep down over a horizon of money trees (windfarms) to deliver breakfast every morning? And it'll all be free, no human capital required at all right?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @01:36AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @01:36AM (#20034)

        GP said "effectively" - if you walk up to anyone's front door and ask for a glass of water, I think they'll give it to you gratis.

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by edIII on Monday March 24 2014, @02:06AM

          by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @02:06AM (#20046)

          It's even cheaper just to walk around the side of their house till you find a hose. I don't know what it is, but man, super cold water that has that fresh hose taste. Brings back childhood memories.

          While it costs nothing in terms of money, there are some risks. More if you are in your 30's and it's 3:30am.

          --
          Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
          • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday March 24 2014, @03:12AM

            by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @03:12AM (#20063) Journal

            It's even cheaper just to walk around the side of their house till you find a hose.

            Do it to my house and... surprise... you'll find a hose coming out of a pupple tap clearly marked: Recycled water... DO NOT DRINK
            Which does raise the interesting point of water is far from free when it's scarce... and, as the drought spells started to become more severe [wikipedia.org], I expect to pay for more it [wikipedia.org] (thus I'm prepared to find solutions to use it more efficiently)

            I wouldn't refuse someone in need a glass of water, but I would think twice if anybody would come to ask for half a cubic meter of it and I'd certainly refuse, for example, a neighbour asking to fill his swimming pool from my water connection, even if he'd pay twice the price I'd be charged for the water (on the ground that water is no longer a luxury someone can afford while depriving others of it)

            --
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
            • (Score: 2) by edIII on Monday March 24 2014, @04:49AM

              by edIII (791) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @04:49AM (#20080)

              Well part of my childhood just died: Recycled water DO NOT DRINK

              I guess it is one of those things my generation will remember. Running around the neighborhood being kids and drinking water from whatever garden hose we could find.

              Maybe good water is a bit more scarce than we realize.

              --
              Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
              • (Score: 2) by c0lo on Monday March 24 2014, @05:56AM

                by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @05:56AM (#20099) Journal

                Maybe good water is a bit more scarce than we realize.

                Welcome to our [wordpress.com] world [wikipedia.org]

                --
                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
            • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 24 2014, @12:28PM

              by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @12:28PM (#20174)

              Speaking of recycled water, I pay a combined water sewer bill and the cost breakdown is roughly $1 for water and $4 for sewer. So its much cheaper to for me to give away glasses of water, than to let you flush my toilet once its time to recycle those glasses of water. In uncivilized areas where humans are not meant to live and water is expensive rather than cheap, I guess people don't flush toilets unless its really gross. For me in a civilized area its like five cents to avoid the stink so its not an issue, but having what amounts to a "occasionally self cleaning porta potty" in the house sounds awful.

              Its interesting to go to google maps satellite view and zoom way out and see what color your state is. I live in a nearly fluorescent green glowing state, and personally I'm not too far from a freshwater lake and river system. Go 1000 miles west and the predominate color of Nevada is gray brown dirt. The interesting part is the previous century was an era of moving from watery areas to dry areas and this century is likely the opposite (Seriously? How many people live in a desert in Vegas or Phoenix? They just don't belong there...)

              Also water/sewer is not free. I use somewhat less water than normal because I have a dishwasher, don't water my lawn, and don't have a pool, but I still shell out about two bucks per day. Somewhat less than two hundred bucks per quarterly bill, a hundred something at least. I think this is the likely outcome in many markets. This time of year reminds me to sign up for the CSA again, and usually they produce so much produce that we leave stuff behind which they donate to food pantry, I mean seriously, what is a 4 person family supposed to do with 30 pounds of asparagus? So "sorta fixed cost per month" products like the CSA, or the water bill, or those monthly subscription products are likely the market of the future. This has already happened in music where almost all the "record" stores have gone out of business and the hotness is online subscriptions to music streaming services. One interesting way to look at leasing a car, is if you get a lease contract with all the features, you pretty much pay a subscription for car service as opposed to ever owning a car again.

              • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday March 24 2014, @01:10PM

                by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:10PM (#20193)

                How on earth does your water company meter your sewer connection? I would imagine in most places the sewer charge is either flat-rate, or part of your water bill (with the assumption that all the water you consume goes into the sewer).

                • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 24 2014, @01:44PM

                  by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @01:44PM (#20213)

                  "the assumption that all the water you consume goes into the sewer"

                  For a modest fee I can purchase a second water meter for irrigation purposes, if I was the type who irrigated, and then not have to pay sewer charges on that irrigation water. I live in an eastern-ish state where the natural state of untouched land (state parks, etc) is brilliant green so I don't really need to irrigate unless I insist on raising out of area tropical plants or growing plants from seed.

                  Also I can temporarily rent a meter to fill a swimming pool or garden pond but the hassle is greater than just hiring a commercial service with a tanker truck and some hoses so no one does that that I know of, although its possible in theory.

                  Industries all have two water meters around here, don't have to pay sewer charges if you can prove the water never went down the drain (like if you brew and ship tens of thousands of gallons of beer, or bottle soft drinks or cleaning chemicals or something) There's a lot of legal wrangling over that argument, where if you think about it, every drop of beer eventually enters the sewer system so if they were not politically connected they would be paying sewer charges like everyone else, etc.

                  It seems logically reasonable to charge different rates, we have great water wells so other than long term capital costs and chlorination, water doesn't require much processing. The sewers however are a gigantic complicated industrial plants full of huge tanks and pumps and stuff, its obviously very complicated and labor intensive to process so no shocker that it costs a lot more.

                  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday March 24 2014, @02:49PM

                    by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday March 24 2014, @02:49PM (#20257)

                    Your response, while interesting, still doesn't answer my question.

                    I pay a combined water sewer bill and the cost breakdown is roughly $1 for water and $4 for sewer. So its much cheaper to for me to give away glasses of water, than to let you flush my toilet once its time to recycle those glasses of water.

                    You claim here that your water is separately metered from your sewer. So your response seems to indicate that's not really the case, only that you could get a second meter for a fee, and perhaps give someone a glass of water out of your irrigation feed that's on a separate meter. That's interesting and all, but obviously (as indicated in your post) not normal practice for residential homeowners at all, only for large industrial users. So unless you're operating a bottling factory and give someone a glass of water out of the water supply that supplies your bottling operation (and isn't charged sewer rates), what you said isn't really correct except for a few homeowners who bothered to get a second meter.

                • (Score: 1) by scruffybeard on Monday March 24 2014, @07:07PM

                  by scruffybeard (533) on Monday March 24 2014, @07:07PM (#20444)

                  In my area, your sewer rate is tied to the number of gallons you consumed in a given quarter, but the rate is capped at the number of gallons used during the winter months. Let's say that you consumed 12k gal. during Dec, Jan, Feb, then in Jun, Jul, Aug, you consumed 15k gal. You pay for 15k gallons of water, but you only pay to dispose of 12k, as it is assumed that the other 3k was used to water a lawn, or fill a swimming pool.

                  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Tuesday March 25 2014, @06:14PM

                    by Grishnakh (2831) on Tuesday March 25 2014, @06:14PM (#21100)

                    Hey, that's pretty smart. Not something I'd expect from a government-run utility.

                • (Score: 1) by DECbot on Monday March 24 2014, @08:49PM

                  by DECbot (832) on Monday March 24 2014, @08:49PM (#20539) Journal

                  In the places I lived where sewer was metered, the charge was determined by your water consumption (it is assumed that it is all getting sent to the sewer), and by the rainfall of the past month (storm sewage).

                  --
                  cats~$ sudo chown -R us /home/base
              • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday March 24 2014, @01:13PM

                by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:13PM (#20195)

                (Seriously? How many people live in a desert in Vegas or Phoenix? They just don't belong there...)

                I use somewhat less water than normal because I have a dishwasher, don't water my lawn, and don't have a pool, but I still shell out about two bucks per day. Somewhat less than two hundred bucks per quarterly bill, a hundred something at least.

                Interestingly, if you lived in Phoenix, you'd probably have a lower bill. I watered my lawns when I lived in Phoenix and probably spent about $40-50/month. Where is it that you live where there's plenty of abundant water, yet you are charged so much for it?

                • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 24 2014, @01:59PM

                  by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @01:59PM (#20220)

                  80% of the money goes to the sewer. In the desert I suppose you can just pump it out into sand and let it blow away, but gross as it sounds a lot of people downstream drink out of our river, so they put a lot of work into processing it. Also the DNR and outdoor recreation is a major force here, and you can't get tourists to fish in a cesspool, so they may be going a little overboard, its an idyllic little river around here and they'll make us pay anything to keep it that way. I've boated on the river but I wouldn't drink out of it, not even on a dare, even if people downstream get their tapwater from it.

                  I'm not entirely sure why we pump out of wells instead of drinking from the river, but I'm glad we do it!

                  I would imagine there's no small amount of charging whatever the market will take, which is probably very constant, and the usual corruption of course.

                  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday March 24 2014, @02:52PM

                    by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday March 24 2014, @02:52PM (#20261)

                    I would imagine there's no small amount of charging whatever the market will take, which is probably very constant, and the usual corruption of course.

                    You never answered where you live. I live in NJ now, and from what I can tell, a large part of why everything costs a lot more here (particularly taxes) is because of sheer corruption, which appears to be much, much worse than in AZ where I used to live. Even my water bill is much higher, and I don't have a lawn to water here like I did in Phoenix.

                    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 24 2014, @03:19PM

                      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @03:19PM (#20278)

                      Closest big city would be Chicago a couple hours away.

                      I'm beginning to think its "from each according to their ability to pay" at least for residential. I would imagine commercial/industrial cost of water more accurately reflects the true cost. Also I suspect there might be some price fixing going on.

          • (Score: 2) by evilviper on Monday March 24 2014, @12:20PM

            by evilviper (1760) on Monday March 24 2014, @12:20PM (#20172) Homepage Journal

            super cold water that has that fresh hose taste. Brings back childhood memories.

            In my childhood, tap water wasn't chlorinated... It was a great time. Now, a carbon filter is an absolute must-have item for drinking tap-water, and I don't put one on my garden hose...

            --
            Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
        • (Score: 3, Informative) by Grishnakh on Monday March 24 2014, @01:08PM

          by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:08PM (#20192)

          If you do that in Arizona and they refuse, call the police and report them for a crime. It's illegal to refuse to give someone a glass of water in Arizona if they ask for it.

          Anyway, aside from that special case, the reason people don't care about the cost is not because it's free, but because it's basically flat-rate. Water is not free in the USA by any means. Most people with houses or apartments probably spend $30-60 per month just for water. (That figure usually includes sewer costs.) A glass of water isn't going to affect a person's bill more than a penny or two, at most. A large part of many water bills is a flat charge just for having a connection, and while there's usually a per-gallon component, people use a LOT more water for toilets and showers and laundry and dishwashing than they do for drinking, so a few glasses really doesn't make a significant difference.

          Besides, tap water in most places tastes nasty (esp. in Arizona), and isn't worth drinking. It may be technically safe, but I'll take RO water instead.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by Tork on Monday March 24 2014, @01:06AM

      by Tork (3914) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:06AM (#20020)

      It makes you wonder if, for some commodities, the eventual cost of even physical things will be zero. .. I'd love to hear reasons why this might not be the case.

      The big reason would be supply and demand. You mention a factory creating iPods faster than they are purchased. That factory would only create a certain amount of them, then shut down or reconfigure for another product. The price of that iPod would (and does today) have no relation to the cost of producing it. If enough of them get out there, there would be fewer people who would want to buy it at that price. Would it ever hit zero? I doubt it, seems like at a certain point they'd throw their hands up in the air and move on.

      But that's me being a little nitpicky. One of the things you are right about is that automation would likely have a large impact on prices in the sense that lots of jobs will no longer need to be filled by humans. Taken to an extreme, it could end up being very difficult for the masses to do work that would earn them a wage. What happens then? Will we land in Roddenberry's eutopia, or will we have to move away from a Capitalist society? That I couldn't even begin to speculate on. But what I can say is that when people have less spending money, prices will have to come down. Supply and demand aren't negotiable.

      But will they reach zero? When I first started replying to your post I was going to say "Nope, people want money". But... then I realized you said "some commodities" and I re-thought it and... well yeah I do agree with you. Look at what's happening in digitial-land. We've got free videos, free games, free services... that's happening. We could get into a little debate about what 'free' is since a fair chunk of what I'm talking about is advertising supported, but otherwise I think if we suddenly had something like replicators, there would be no new iPods for sale. Who'd pay for it when they can 'print' it at a minimal cost?

      So, yeah my post is probably a little muddy since I changed my opinion in mid-writing. But there is one thing I'm curious about: What happens when we do reach this point? Does everybody find work doing more creative-type stuff that machines cannot do, or do we move to a more socialist society where things like housing and food are provided?

      --
      Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Kell on Monday March 24 2014, @02:12AM

        by Kell (292) on Monday March 24 2014, @02:12AM (#20047)

        Never mind the mud! It was an interesting and thoughtful reply. Thank you! :)

        --
        Scientists ask questions. Engineers solve problems.
      • (Score: 3, Informative) by Joe Desertrat on Monday March 24 2014, @02:13AM

        by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Monday March 24 2014, @02:13AM (#20048)

        What happens when we do reach this point? Does everybody find work doing more creative-type stuff that machines cannot do, or do we move to a more socialist society where things like housing and food are provided?

        If you search for "marshallbrain manna" (I'm too lazy to dig up the exact link) and read the story you'll see two possible extremes of what could occur. To summarize, the basis of both is that most jobs for humans have been eliminated and that robots are the producers. In the first scenario, the robots work solely for the benefit of the few that control capital, who in turn support a very basic welfare lifestyle for those who have no capital, letting them live in what are essentially prisons. In the second scenario, the robots work for everyone, creating a sort of Star Trek utopia where people are free to use their shares of the production to pursue whatever sort of creative visions they have.
        I fear that the first scenario, or something similar, is a far more probable outcome.

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @02:50PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @02:50PM (#20260)

          Here you go: http://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm [marshallbrain.com]

        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @03:12PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @03:12PM (#20274)

          someone linked to that 'manna' story on /. recently and i read 75% of it. it's quite long. i read the beginning and the ending, skipping about 25% of it in the middle. there were two 'civilizations' that resulted. really, the whole world evolved into a feudalistic type society where most people lived in the welfare 'prisons'. the only exception was a 'free and open-source' colony created in Australia by some guy with a lot of foresight and wealth. honestly, both scenarios scared the hell out of me. it should be obvious why the 'welfare prison' society is scary. the 'google society' scared me because (1) the chances of it ever being created are so small. in the story, it was created by pure poetic license. it was an improbable 'plot device'. (2) such a society would be easily conquered. it wouldn't last very long. (3) when people are free to do whatever they want without obligations or responsibility, they degenerate into the abyss of indulgence and other vices. the atheist side of me looks at history and thinks this is the major reason that ancient leaders 'invented' religion. the god-fearing side of me thinks this is when He will smite us all. both sides of me see the same conclusion but with different interpretative spins.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @12:21AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @12:21AM (#20012)

    "...while economists have always welcomed a reduction in marginal cost, they never anticipated the possibility of a technological revolution that might bring those costs to near zero.

    They should read more science fiction, then.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by evilviper on Monday March 24 2014, @12:25AM

    by evilviper (1760) on Monday March 24 2014, @12:25AM (#20013) Homepage Journal

    Since the start of the industrial revolution, we've gone through times when products have gotten vastly cheaper, over and over again.

    When items become too cheap to make at a profit, manufacturers simply go 'up' one level, and don't sell that individual item, but only sell it as part of some larger item... It wasn't long ago that everybody got their radios, fans, etc., fixed when they broke. Now, you *can't* even buy parts for them, and everybody replaces the whole thing without a second thought. The same thing happens with car parts... You used-to be able to buy brushes for all the electric motors in there, now the motors are just replaced wholesale. I look forward to a future where people won't hesitate to replace their cheap automobiles, wholesale, at the first sign of a problem.

    Things that were separate will just keep being integrated into bigger and more expensive products. Hard to find speakers these days, since every surround-sound receiver comes with them. In just a few years, those receivers will go away, and every single TV will just have the functionality built-in, and will come with the speakers, too.

    He has a point about "music", which really applies to any "data" products, as it's nearly free to distribute to everyone once it's made, but that doesn't extend to "real world" products by any stretch of the imagination.

    Increasing automation has ALWAYS been eliminating huge swaths of jobs... Entire industries have been obsoleted, wholesale, by computers. A few more will be no great upset to the economy (long-term). And we stand to BENEFIT from the progress, as jobs that had been off-shored will come back home, where robots are even cheaper than 3rd-world sweatshops. You want a new career? Learn how to operate, maintain, and repair industrial robots, because their numbers are going to explode.

    3D printing is quite interesting, but anything it can do, can be done far faster and cheaper by the simplest manufacturing processes. It'll cut into lots of markets where companies were banking on proprietary lock-in for repair/replacement parts and similar, but it's always going to be more expensive than an assembly line, run by robots, which is just a giant 3D printer, itself.

    And the renewable movements in the energy sector are great, and will eventually drive prices down, but the cost of providing reliable grid power won't ever fall flat, and they'll have a big market for centuries to come.

    All the crazy talk about people switching to non-profit jobs "in an increasingly interdependent, collaborative, global commons" is pie-in-the-sky baseless bull... If things go right, we'll keep getting more, with less work, but keep cutting your work hours in-half, over and over, and it never gets to zero. It'll be great that you can survive on very little work, but you'll sure want to buy one of those expensive, new-fanged food replicators, and you'll be making payments on it for years... And don't get me started on the price tag of them holodecks. And let's not forget that, when you can make a lot of money, quickly, so can everyone else... Anywhere there's more demand than supply, prices will be astronomical. Real-estate comes to mind. You'll still need to work 30 years to afford that tiny square of land in the city, no matter what.

    I don't see a post-scarcity economy coming along in the next century at least. The "haves" don't give all the money they get, to the "have nots" for food and shelter. Instead, they find more incredibly expensive things they want to buy, and the "have nots" still have to struggle to get by.

    --
    Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
    • (Score: 1) by Ethanol-fueled on Monday March 24 2014, @01:01AM

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:01AM (#20018) Homepage

      There's no such thing as "post-scarcity" when it comes to finite resources, but change will come -- and when it does, something's gonna give, and the only way it isn't is if all of humanity magically puts down all their guns and creates a worldwide mega-redundant and apolitically interconnected solar power and wind grid. I'm glad that the article was posted, and it is totally appropriate for this site and stimulating discussion, but the notion of "post-scarcity" is nothing but a masturbatory utopian fantasy with zero grounding in the real world.

      The closest to that masturbatory fantasy that any self-determined nation can do to reach in the short-term is be as self-sustaining as possible, exporting more than it imports at least, and keeping its wealth inside its borders and foreigners out.

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @01:04AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @01:04AM (#20019)

      3D printing is quite interesting, but anything it can do, can be done far faster and cheaper by the simplest manufacturing processes.

      Today that's true, but the technology is evolving rapidly. We are now seeing 3D printers/mills that can make objects out of plastic, vinyl, glass, metal, ceramic... It's certainly plausible that within 20 years, anything you can buy (smaller than a dishwasher) at Target or Wal-Mart will be easier and cheaper to make at home.

      Better still, digital plans will eventually be out there for almost any product ever made, or a modern equivalent. Want that old collectible Barbie or GI Joe? Just download the files and build it!

      Eventually we will discover that with recycled raw materials and local renewable energy, there's no point in burning megatons of fossil fuels to ship goods around the globe - just make it at home (or at the corner shop)!

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25 2014, @06:31AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 25 2014, @06:31AM (#20836)

        Better still, digital plans will eventually be out there for almost any product ever made, or a modern equivalent. Want that old collectible Barbie or GI Joe? Just download the files and build it!

        Not so fast! Do you have a copyright or patent authorization to print that Barbie?

        We're moving into a zero-marginal-cost goods, infinite-licensing-cost intellectual property future.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by carguy on Monday March 24 2014, @01:49AM

      by carguy (568) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:49AM (#20039)

      If things go right, we'll keep getting more, with less work, but keep cutting your work hours in-half, over and over, and it never gets to zero.

      That's not what I see -- anyone that has a job in the current economy seems to be doing the work that was formerly done by two (or three) people. Can creative work really be accomplished when working much less than full time? I think my productivity would fall off very quickly if I only worked one or two days a week.

      Is there some way to organize things to avoid all the work being done by a small fraction of the population?

      • (Score: 2) by evilviper on Monday March 24 2014, @11:44AM

        by evilviper (1760) on Monday March 24 2014, @11:44AM (#20162) Homepage Journal

        Can creative work really be accomplished when working much less than full time?

        "Full time work" used-to be 6 days per week, 10-12 hours per day... We've managed the transition to 5 & 8 just fine...

        --
        Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
        • (Score: 2) by carguy on Wednesday March 26 2014, @02:00AM

          by carguy (568) on Wednesday March 26 2014, @02:00AM (#21279)

          "Full time work" used-to be 6 days per week, 10-12 hours per day... We've managed the transition to 5 & 8 just fine...

          Um, where do people work only the "standard" 40 hrs/week? Maybe in govt or union jobs? What I see more often is a lot of unpaid overtime (for salaried workers) in USA.
          My understanding is that in Europe they work less hours per week. Does anyone know how productivity compares between USA and Europe? A quick google shows articles on both sides.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Monday March 24 2014, @02:23AM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday March 24 2014, @02:23AM (#20049)

      I've got a problem with the idea that solar and wind have low marginal costs. Sure, they're not "consuming" a fuel, but solar panels need to stay clean and get replaced every so often, and windmills are hardly zero maintenance / infinite lifetime - these costs are why they are still more expensive than coal per kwh generated.

      --
      John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
      • (Score: 2) by evilviper on Monday March 24 2014, @11:58AM

        by evilviper (1760) on Monday March 24 2014, @11:58AM (#20164) Homepage Journal

        solar panels need to stay clean and get replaced every so often,

        I've never seen anyone going around to clean off the solar panels installed on emergency "call boxes" along the freeways. In big solar installations, they seems to have ONE robot that takes care of the job at low cost and with minimal human intervention.

        Monocrystaline PV solar panels are usually guaranteed to "retain over 80% of efficiency even after 25 years of continuous use", which is a good, long, time, and should continue to output power at just slightly reduced levels thereafter.

        The "panels" in solar-thermal power plants are just mirrors, so their lifetimes are long, and the cost of replacement is quite nominal. You only really have to consider the minor maintenance of the central turbines, as you would in any power plant.

        these costs are why they are still more expensive than coal per kwh generated.

        No, actually the large up-front costs are why they are more expensive than coal. With coal, the plant is cheaper, and the coal is purchased in small increments over time, rather than up-front. The opportunity costs of having that money tied-up in your solar panels or wind turbines for many years until they break-even, means losing out on the interest or capital gains that money could be otherwise making.

        --
        Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
        • (Score: 1) by JoeMerchant on Sunday March 30 2014, @12:20AM

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday March 30 2014, @12:20AM (#22982)

          I'd say that a "large upfront" cost combined with a 25 year effective lifespan equates to an ongoing maintenance cost.

          When you build a solar plant, you have to put in the connectivity to the grid, clear the land, etc. But, ongoing, the weeds can't be allowed to take over (trees will grow if you let them...), transformers need occasional replacement, etc. In the rosy view of the future, 25 years from now, we'll have magic solar panels that are twice as efficient and half as expensive to make, and we'll be able to recycle the old ones into the new ones. In the more practical business plans, those panels are just a fixed replacement cost every 25 years - taxes on the land, whatever the equivalent of "spinning fees" for wind farms will have to be paid, and if, god forbid, you actually make a big profit, be prepared to give it over to every government with authority over you because you're an obvious fixed asset on "their" turf, just ripe for the taxing.

          --
          John Galt is a selfish crybaby [huffpost.com].
    • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 24 2014, @12:43PM

      by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @12:43PM (#20181)

      "You used-to be able to buy brushes for all the electric motors in there, now the motors are just replaced wholesale."

      Now they use $100 brushless motors instead of old fashioned $25 motors that weigh grams instead of pounds for fuel efficiency. Can't wear out the brushes if there are no brushes. My wife's car's radiator fan is brushless.

      Similar arguments that re-babbiting machine tool spindles is getting to be a chore, what with cast babbit sleeves having been replaced industrially with ball bearings like 75 years ago. I'm not sure you can even buy lead babbit commercially anymore. All RoHS and lead free or at least reduced lead.

      Also your product oriented discussion does correctly account for the labor cost of something like a car dropping from 10K hours more than a century ago pre-model-T to about 50 hours now. So that's great for products. However, the labor cost of an hour of pr0n used to be one hour, and aside from the most advanced CGI, at least the "real amateur stuff" is going to remain a labor cost of one hour in perpetuity. So the most interesting effect is the cost delta between something like an hour of manual laborer and an hour of lawyer is likely to continue its dramatic increase. And not just uneducated fields but stuff like mechanical engineer being less necessary vs a plumber service call. In the future it may be true that the only people able to afford "services" will be fellow "service" workers, like plumbers hiring roofers and vice versa.

      • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday March 24 2014, @01:19PM

        by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:19PM (#20197)

        "You used-to be able to buy brushes for all the electric motors in there, now the motors are just replaced wholesale."

        Now they use $100 brushless motors instead of old fashioned $25 motors that weigh grams instead of pounds for fuel efficiency. Can't wear out the brushes if there are no brushes. My wife's car's radiator fan is brushless.

        I'm sure her starter motor isn't. That's the main place in modern cars that brushes are still used, and it's still quite possible to repair starter motors by replacing the brushes. That's exactly what starter rebuilders do after all. However, what's happening now is probably the labor and transport costs of gathering worn-out starters and shipping them to places to be rebuilt is getting to be higher than the cost of simply manufacturing brand-new clones in China where labor costs are absurdly low, so the remanufactured market is drying up.

        • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 24 2014, @01:33PM

          by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @01:33PM (#20205)

          You are correct, although I wouldn't be surprised to even see starter motor brushes go away eventually.

          Tangentially another interesting ratio to watch over the next few decades will be the ratio of shipping cost to labor cost. When most Americans are still employed and paid $25/hr and Chinese are political prisoners who work for free or work only to avoid beatings and diesel is $1/gallon that's one situation of world trade we decades of experience with. However, extrapolating into the future only a little bit, when all the good jobs are gone so the few remaining working Americans are only paid $8/hr on average and Chinese are paid $2/hr and diesel is $8/gallon that will result in a whole nother scenario of world trade.

          • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday March 24 2014, @02:43PM

            by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday March 24 2014, @02:43PM (#20251)

            You are correct, although I wouldn't be surprised to even see starter motor brushes go away eventually.

            No, starter motor brushes will never go away. The complexity of a brushless motor isn't worth it for something run as infrequently as a starter motor, especially considering how much power a starter motor requires (far more than a radiator fan motor; starter motors have extremely high power density). Starter motors will always have brushes.

            What's going to happen is that starter motors will simply become obsolete before too long. They'll be replaced by starter/alternator/drivemotor units, as they already have on most hybrid vehicles, or they'll be rendered totally unnecessary with the move to all-electric vehicles like the Tesla.

            As for your predictions about labor rates and transport, don't forget just how incredibly cheap ocean-based transport is per ton. Even with higher diesel costs, that isn't going to add much to a product's price, so having Chinese labor rise up to 1/4 the cost of American labor will still make it worth it to ship most things from China. It'll affect things, sure, but it's not going to be the world-changing event you're thinking of. IIRC, it's actually far cheaper to ship things by ship across the Pacific than it is to ship them by train across the US (and truck is even worse).

      • (Score: 1) by Aiwendil on Monday March 24 2014, @05:12PM

        by Aiwendil (531) on Monday March 24 2014, @05:12PM (#20338) Journal

        However, the labor cost of an hour of pr0n used to be one hour, and aside from the most advanced CGI, at least the "real amateur stuff" is going to remain a labor cost of one hour in perpetuity.

        Well, unless they decide to shoot a POV-gangbang/orgy porno, in which case they probably could get that hour down to less than 15minutes.. ;)

        I really hope this isn't what google glass ends up being used for.

  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by Hartree on Monday March 24 2014, @01:18AM

    by Hartree (195) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:18AM (#20029)

    As in, the Jeremy Rifkin who in 1977 was doing everything he could to get genetic technology stopped?

    I sure hadn't heard that name in quite a while.

    If his position had held up when congress voted on it, it wasn't just GM food that couldn't have been worked on, but vast areas of current biochemistry and medical research, as we'd never have been able to develop the tools needed to do it. I doubt the Human Genome Project could even have been undertaken.

    He was at the forefront in decrying humanity "playing god".

    His book "Algeny" was not only against genetic technology, but also a criticism of Darwinism and evolutionary theory in itself. He even gets quoted by the creationists (though he's not one himself).

    As Stephen J Gould said of that book: I regard Algeny as a cleverly constructed tract of anti-intellectual propaganda masquerading as scholarship.

    If you want an anti-intellectual, he was it. He seems to have re-invented himself. His current wikipedia entry reads as though it was written by a publicist.

    • (Score: 1) by chloride on Tuesday March 25 2014, @12:24PM

      by chloride (3341) on Tuesday March 25 2014, @12:24PM (#20919)

      Same reaction. My first thought was "is there another Jeremy Rifkin?" I had to do some searching to verify that it's the same person. I view him to be a Luddite. Interestingly, his reaction against genetic research (not just "engineering") is not clearly discussed in places like his Wikipedia article. He seems to have distanced himself from his (very energetic) stands in the '70s.

  • (Score: 1) by Drew617 on Monday March 24 2014, @01:46AM

    by Drew617 (1876) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:46AM (#20038)

    But I wonder about a couple points that have been made.

    First, it seems like a mistake to apply the usual supply/demand logic to the Napster problem, because the economic demand curve assumes that goods will not simply be stolen. Don't mean to make an IP/copyright argument here, I just think that what happened was, objectively, more than just the usual market forces at work. An established paradigm failed entirely when a certain percentage of the market stopped participating. People weren't driven to a competing good, they simply TOOK the original good without paying anything. Again, not a moral/legal argument, just how my mind frames it in economic terms.

    Secondly, can consumer goods reasonably compared to commodities like water? If automation allows us to produce highly demanded widgets at low MC, the widget market probably won't be competitive - expect high sunk costs with the widget automation and some degree of natural monopoly. What incentive exists to produce to meet or exceed all demand (where m. revenue eventually = 0) when some resources could be allocated to something more profitable?

    • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Tork on Monday March 24 2014, @02:41AM

      by Tork (3914) on Monday March 24 2014, @02:41AM (#20052)

      First, it seems like a mistake to apply the usual supply/demand logic to the Napster problem, because the economic demand curve assumes that goods will not simply be stolen... People weren't driven to a competing good, they simply TOOK the original good without paying anything.

      "Theft" is not part of this equation, it still lands firmly within the realm of S&D. Demand was being expressed for digital music, people wanted it and went to great lengths to acquire it. When the labels wouldn't provide, Napster came along... as competition. When they 'let the cat out of the bag', so to speak, the labels finally gave in and now we have iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, etc. If iTunes had failed instead of growing leaps and bounds, I think your assessment would have been correct.

      What incentive exists to produce to meet or exceed all demand (where m. revenue eventually = 0) when some resources could be allocated to something more profitable?

      If taken to the extreme the scenario becomes: "What if the vast majority if the things we want cost practically nothing to make?" That 'something more profitable' idea could become scarce. (Although I agree that it's difficult to picture that one.)

      --
      Slashdolt Logic: "24 year old jokes about sharks and lasers are +5, Funny." 💩
      • (Score: 1) by Drew617 on Monday March 24 2014, @03:27AM

        by Drew617 (1876) on Monday March 24 2014, @03:27AM (#20067)

        Appreciate the insight.

        Re: Music publishers and iTunes, I was looking at the short-term result rather than long-term, where what you say makes a lot of sense.

        It's easy to forget that my experience as a young geek is probably not typical of the entire market.

        Really digging here, but I remember becoming aware and having access to mp3s in High School, probably around 1998. For me and my friends at the time, the point wasn't to have digital music so much as it was to share it easily at little cost. Anything I really cared about was burnt to CD anyway.

        I can picture iTunes for OS9 on my indigo iMac in my sophomore year college apartment, so 2000/2001? But it was little more than an MP3 player then, no store. Would guess that didn't gain traction for another year or two.

        There were a few years where the existing market really was subverted entirely by some of us, but the extent is probably hard to quantify. It hasn't stopped entirely, either - iTunes was an appropriate response but isn't there a subset of the original market that just isn't participating anymore?

        Hell, I've got disposable income now and choose, semi-arbitrarily, to "take" music now and then.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by bucc5062 on Monday March 24 2014, @01:49AM

    by bucc5062 (699) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:49AM (#20040)

    "when Napster enabled millions of people to share music without paying the producers and artists, wreaking havoc on the music industry"

    Hold on a second, I was around when Napster hit the internet and one thing it did not do is wreak havoc on the music industry. Yes, people could share music files, and yes, some tended to enjoy the "freedom" napster provided, but there were many that also used it to try before you buy. Had Napster been allowed to continue, and had the music industry not revealed publicly just how much a greedy fuck they are, then the industry may have transformed more naturally into a digital environment where artists tested the waters, people tried, bought and a new balance in economy would have been found. RIAA put the cookie jar up on the shelf without thinking that it only make us more wanting of what we cannot have.

    As to the rest, it is doubtful that this planet can switch over to a more balanced economics that is a benefit for all. If you replace people with robots without figuring out how to have people still feel valued then the only path is ugliness. If you do not figure out a way to have people be able to do more then survive, then we will return to a new dark age (albeit slowly).

    When wealth is condensed to the very top and the very few, the system will fail. How, when does not really matter, just that it will.

    When wealth is smoothed, when there is a velocity to Money then a society can grow whether or not peopled "work". IF we want people to work then it is in the direction robots cannot or are not effective at performing tasks. Art, healthcare, animal care, science, exploration?

    We have (are rapidly) reached(ing) a point in human existence where greed, narcissistic behavior is a drag, not a fuel to growth. the line from the Matrix is sadly starting to become real, We are a virus, uncaring that we grow to the point where we kill off the host (our planet and/or our species). Organismic that learn to coexist, work together, they tend to last.

    --
    The more things change, the more they look the same
    • (Score: 1) by The Archon V2.0 on Monday March 24 2014, @06:17AM

      by The Archon V2.0 (3887) on Monday March 24 2014, @06:17AM (#20107)
      Oh, no, Napster is definitely to the American producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone. Oh, and anything in the public domain becomes soiled and haggard, barren of its previous virtues, so copyright needs to be even longer. Yeah.
      • (Score: 2) by bucc5062 on Monday March 24 2014, @12:12PM

        by bucc5062 (699) on Monday March 24 2014, @12:12PM (#20168)

        Most of that did not make sense.

        I can perhaps understand that music producers (not creators) did not like Napster. It was a system of distribution that scared the hell out of them for their inability to control it. As to the public, it was at best a boon, for the most part a new thing to check out. Even before itunes came sites like allmp3s and others that allowed someone to buy music at a price that was in line with its value. Yeah, it sucked that the artist did not get the loin's share of those pennies, but that was not the fault of early sellers, it was the bullshit contracts and law that gave power to producers and record owners.

        Napster opened pandora's Box and the *IAA have not ever been able to close that lid since.

        --
        The more things change, the more they look the same
    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday March 24 2014, @01:28PM

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday March 24 2014, @01:28PM (#20200)

      The simple answer to this problem is instituting a basic income. Give every citizen in society a monthly paycheck, regardless of whether they work or not, so that they have a minimum income which keeps them out of poverty and supplies their basic needs, and keeps them from being too stressed out over financial problems. Couple that with a decent universal education (which includes lessons on money management so they don't waste what they're given) and universal healthcare, and you'll have a society where people can pursue what interests them without the many problems that poverty cause today. It's sorta like communism, except that if you want to afford more than your basic paycheck gives you, you have to find a way of earning more money, such as by getting a job, preferably a high-paying job (just like today, just without the threat of starvation and homelessness if you fail). But unlike today's welfare programs, you don't have to worry about losing your benefits by working.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Covalent on Monday March 24 2014, @02:46AM

    by Covalent (43) on Monday March 24 2014, @02:46AM (#20056) Journal

    Look at the situation in very poor neighborhoods in America. Many people in these areas cannot afford much of anything - they live at the mercy of charities and welfare. For this population, there is already a "money free economy". Now there is of course commerce. Jobs are had and lost, things are bought and sold. But the number of people who "earn" a living is shrinking as a percentage of the population, in large part because there aren't enough jobs to employ all of the unskilled people.

    What do these people do with their time? Mostly they try to survive, and spend the rest of their time on entertainment (TV, internet, video games - much of which can be gotten very cheaply). So extrapolate this out a bit (I know, it's a dangerous thing to do but let's go for it anyway). Suppose we have 20% of the population not working. They don't cost the state as much as you might think, though, because this is the future and stuff is cheaper. Food is already cheap. Housing is cheap because the population has leveled off at 9 billion or so. Entertainment is free...so most people in this situation just vegetate. They enjoy their amusements and scrape by.

    Then it's 40%. Then 50%. At some point, automation starts to take over the jobs of skilled people, then technical people, then maybe even artistic people and academic people.

    What then? This group might just vegetate and enjoy amusement, too. But is there a group of those people that will "work" just to cure their boredom?

    I think the answer is decidedly Yes. This is Roddenberry's utopia (mentioned earlier). In the Star Trek universe, there are those people who choose to join Starfleet and work...for nothing other than the satisfaction of doing it. They are the future's version of Linux developers and maker faire folks. What we rarely see on the show, though, are the rest of humanity. What glimpses we do get are often people involved in gambling, black market scheming, criminal activities, or just generally amusing themselves. Sound familiar?

    So my two cents is this: The future will involve the elimination of work done by humans for compensation. Some humans will continue to work because they are driven to do things that interest them. There will be little or no cost to this - automation will make nearly everything effectively free. The rest of humanity (probably a large percentage) will plug their brains into the internet v12.0 and watch porn or movies or games or play candy crush.

    Sadly, this sounds a bit like 1984. Damn that Orwell...

    --
    You can't rationally argue somebody out of a position they didn't rationally get into.
    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by mhajicek on Monday March 24 2014, @03:15AM

      by mhajicek (51) on Monday March 24 2014, @03:15AM (#20064)

      What do these people do with there time? Frequently, reproduce.

    • (Score: 2) by evilviper on Monday March 24 2014, @12:15PM

      by evilviper (1760) on Monday March 24 2014, @12:15PM (#20169) Homepage Journal

      Look at the situation in very poor neighborhoods in America. Many people in these areas cannot afford much of anything

      I believe the cost of real-estate in cities is the dominant cost... You could be middle-class in most of the US, but unable to afford a tiny apartment in NYC, LA, etc. It's a shame "welfare" doesn't have the option of relocating them to smaller towns away from the city, where a fraction as much money would easily pay their rent AND keep them fed and equipped. I certainly consider rental prices when looking at job salaries in different areas... that's a big reason why I never moved to Silicon Valley. So why can't welfare programs?

      As a single, middle-class guy, I'm paying 1/3rd of my gross income in taxes... If my job didn't prevent me from moving back to a lower-rent area, I could live comfortably for 4 years, on just what I pay in income taxes each year (never mind sales taxes, gas taxes, etc., etc.)... Of course much of that goes to military, police, roads, not just social programs, but still. Since the breakdown between tax-paying versus non-tax-paying people is more like 50-50, it sounds like there should be plenty of money to go around, if it was not for welfare programs paying astronomical rent prices in major cities (See: Section 8).

      --
      Hydrogen cyanide is a delicious and necessary part of the human diet.
  • (Score: 2) by lubricus on Monday March 24 2014, @07:22AM

    by lubricus (232) on Monday March 24 2014, @07:22AM (#20123)

    Everytime I see a story like this (our future moneyless/costless etc-less society), I do a mental check against Star Trek. It seems like there's more right about this than wrong, it just depends on the time frame.

    --
    ... sorry about the typos
  • (Score: 1) by m2o2r2g2 on Monday March 24 2014, @07:59AM

    by m2o2r2g2 (3673) on Monday March 24 2014, @07:59AM (#20128)

    As with all things human greed will be the deciding factor.

    Into the future, more and more of the capital will move towards those who already own it and see the benefit of increased efficiency. They will have to control the masses to stop revolt.

    When we get to the point of a large mass of people having nothing to do, if they are given sufficient entertainment and goods to not be outraged, it could be a peaceful transition to some kind of post scarcity society, where there are quelled masses ruled over like ancient Rome.

    If not there will be attempted revolt. Then it becomes a question of automated human suppression systems. If they are good then we can look forward to some kind of futuristic feudalism. If not then we could be looking at some kind of apocalyptic standoff or futuristic anarchy.

    Then there is always the issue of someone upsetting some eventual homeostasis by cyber attack. If the whole world is automated, the whole world is up for grabs by those with the technical know how.

    • (Score: 2) by metamonkey on Monday March 24 2014, @03:24PM

      by metamonkey (3174) on Monday March 24 2014, @03:24PM (#20285)

      I'm sure the powers that be are awfully tired of having soldiers with their stupid consciences operating the drones blowing up weddings and shit. First chance they can get, those guys are going to be replaced with AI. And domestic law enforcement is drooling to get in on that sweet, sweet UAV action.

      Give it 10 years and we're going to have 24/7 armed UAV surveillance and interdiction. Any "revolt" will be quickly quelled with a hellfire missile or twelve.

      --
      Okay 3, 2, 1, let's jam.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @10:09AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @10:09AM (#20150)

    when beer is free. As in "free beer".

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @11:00AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @11:00AM (#20158)

    Opinions are like noses, and everyone puts theirs online. If the premise of a post-scarcity digital world is true, why would anyone pay $6 to read opinions in the NYT when they could get them free online?

    Especially because this guy (like most people) misses the point that Napster happened in the middle of the great media shift from LP and cassette to CD. Music industry sales were artificially high in the 90s because a lot of Generation X people like me who grew up with analogue formats got jobs, earned money, and bought CD versions of their old albums. By the mid-2000s, when the music industry was crashing hard, everyone who wanted to replace old media with CDs already had. What the music industry saw was normal demand for their current product, and it wasn't pretty. Instead of making a better product, they blamed Napster.

    The inflated music-industry revenues of the 90s were the result of demographics and technology, and will never happen again. No generation will grow up with LP and cassette, and want to replace them with CDs. With music albums, essentially there's nothing better than the CD. You can't reproduce sound any better for normal people who aren't audiophiles (who hear things that aren't there). Most people are content with MP3. So there's nothing else to format shift to.

  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 24 2014, @12:53PM

    by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @12:53PM (#20185)

    "recycled plastic as feedstock"

    Is anyone actually doing that? For a decade or so I've heard how cool it would be to make your own filament, but no one does it, to the best of my knowledge.

    Buy 5 pounds for $50, print three times because it never works right, then throw away or toss in recycling bin.

    This is a big 3-d printing problem. My new commuter car weighs 2295 pounds. At $10/pound or whatever filament is going for, and 66% waste, assuming all plastic, printing my car would cost about $70K. However it actually cost $18K or so, including shipping from Japan. Printing an entire car is of course idiotic, but the somewhat more practical task of an auto body shop printing a replacement door after a crash, is a big problem because it's still going to be cheaper to source manufactured door panels than printing them.

    Or I "recently" got a new roof on my house and 3-d printing roof shingles simply isn't economically viable.

    I do see 3-d printing one, or a couple, steps back in the process. So I can't 3-d print roof shingles economically, but I could 3-d print a lot of the parts to make an assembly line for a plant that makes roof shingles. Think of all those conveyor belts and gears and rollers and bearings. Still need some generic steel, but...

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @02:22PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 24 2014, @02:22PM (#20240)

      3d printing is akin to general computing. It does a lot of things. But not necessarily good (or it can be depending on the program/hardware).

      However general computing always costs more time wise than a custom asic doing a job.

      For example folding or looking for aliens. General CPUs were the rage for a long time with those. Then came the GPUs. Suddenly you could do 10 work units in the time your old not too shabby CPU could do 1.

      My point? A custom factory will pop out 100x what a 3d printer will. 3d printers are wildly inefficient for mass production. They are *really* good at one off or custom parts. Simply because the cost to build the custom factory is wildly high.

      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday March 24 2014, @03:04PM

        by VLM (445) Subscriber Badge on Monday March 24 2014, @03:04PM (#20269)

        I see your point. I suspect a 3-d printer would be an effective way for the car modders to print a 5 foot tall spoiler for my commuter car, or a seven inch diameter muffler tip. Or more likely a customized rearview mirror.

        For better or worse an interesting societal trend of the future might be the same people who cover their bumpers with stickers might get custom body panels molded with fish symbols and 1-800-eat-soylent witticisms.

        I could also see trademark violations. One of the locals drives a van around painted exactly like the scooby doo mystery machine, or as near as a semi-pro can produce. I predict a lot of that. Download and print this Transformers(tm) conversion kit for your car. No its not legal but it looks cool.

        • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Monday March 24 2014, @05:26PM

          by Grishnakh (2831) on Monday March 24 2014, @05:26PM (#20353)

          I could also see trademark violations. One of the locals drives a van around painted exactly like the scooby doo mystery machine, or as near as a semi-pro can produce. I predict a lot of that. Download and print this Transformers(tm) conversion kit for your car. No its not legal but it looks cool.

          I imagine that in the future, police will be trained to look out for those things and arrest people for these crimes (they'll happily use tasers, and maybe even full SWAT teams in some cases). After all, IP "crimes" are considered far more serious in the US than any other offense.