An undesigned flower

Two grandstanding posts I did on the OpenManufacturing list.

First:

2009/8/4 Bryan Bishop :
>
> On Mon, Aug 3, 2009 at 5:48 PM, Paul D. Fernhout wrote:
>> Philippe Van Nedervelde wrote:
>>> Why would future-Apple and future-BMW still go to the trouble and expense of
>>> designing products? How would they be appropriately (by their
>>> standards) rewarded for their efforts and investments?
>>
>> Why would we need such companies anymore in such an abundant future? What is
>> really their primary purpose even now? What is their justification? Maybe
>> there is one, but please be clear about it.
>
> Have you noticed how futurism has kind of stagnated, Paul? To the
> point that there are so many typical assumptions that have been kept
> around, but yet here I am thinking that these issues were solved
> decades ago, but yet they still seem to be coming up. What’s gone
> wrong? It would be exceedingly helpful to write a ridiculously concise
> document that lists “common woes and common problems”, and then lists
> the solutions that are more or less not wacky that happen to solve
> those problems .. for instance, “well what if the robots put me out of
> the job? Good news! You need to reconsider the need for a job in the
> first place.” And so on.

About futurism stagnating – yes! I’ve particularly noticed it in the
transhumanist arena (wta/humanity+, extropians, etc). The future
they’re cheering for increasingly looks retro, meanwhile they seem to
be missing the awesome strangeness of the present. (eg: Humanity+
releases a glossy paper magazine, wtf?)

Unfortunately, the brave new future in many of these circles is bound
up in obsolete economic assumptions, reifying the government (wta talk
lefties) or the market (extropian libertopians). So for instance in
the discussions of nanotech recently, there are lefties talking about
the importance of control of nanotech, and market types wondering
about approaches to artificially maintain scarcity and thus save the
economy. All these people have stopped paying attention.

Meanwhile, this beautiful, undesigned flower of abundant anarchy
unfolds before our eyes, springing up out of the manure of capitalism.
What a time to be alive!

Second:

2009/8/4 Philippe Van Nedervelde <philipvn@gmail.com>:
>
> On Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 2:34 AM, Bryan Bishop <kanzure@gmail.com> wrote:
>>
>> On Mon, Aug 3, 2009 at 7:26 PM, Philippe Van Nedervelde wrote:
>> > On Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 12:48 AM, Paul D. Fernhout wrote:
>> >>
>> >> Philippe Van Nedervelde wrote:
>> >> > Why would future-Apple and future-BMW still go to the trouble and
>> >> > expense of
>> >> > designing products? How would they be appropriately (by their
>> >> > standards) rewarded for their efforts and investments?
>> >>
>> >> Why would we need such companies anymore in such an abundant future?
>> >
>> > Why bring up *need*?  These companies create products millions of people
>> > *want*. There’s a difference.
>> >
>> > Future people will only nanofacture objects they really *need*?
>>
>> No, they would have their tools build what they want for them.
>
> Where will their tools get the design for the product designed by a group of
> people who rightfully expect to be rewarded for their creative /
> innovative design efforts?  An unauthorized copy of that design?

Wrong question. You should first ask “Where will their tools get the
design for the product?” The answer is very likely they will get it
from what we today would call an amateur. Expect mass amateurization
(see Clay Shirky’s “Here Comes Everybody”) to eat most or all of
professional work like the Nothing eating Fantasia in the Neverending
Story.

Today we are used to getting our interesting complex
information/physical products from large hierarchically structured
groups of people, motivated by financial reward. The real minds behind
these products are people who work inside these groups, for a few
reasons:
– Money to live
– It’s where the action is

– It’s where the action is: Ignoring payment for the moment, many
creative people have traditionally worked in industry because it’s
where you could reach the pinacle of achievement. If you dream to
design real cars, you must work for a car company, because they have
the plant, the finances, the reach. Also, your peers, the people you
desperately want to mix with, learn from, create with, work in the car
companies. Similarly with computers and software and music and
appliances and etc etc etc.

But this is becoming less true. The internet has dropped not only the
cost of collaboration, but the cost of casual collaboration, down
toward zero (and it races closer by the day). So in industries where
there is no plant and financial and distribution barrier (packaged
software, photography, newspapers and magazines, encyclopedias, …)
an alternative model has emerged where you can do significant, world
changing creative work without all that commercial world
infrastructure to support you, because your peers have also recognised
that fact, so real creative buzz is happening in the “amateur” space
online.

(Speaking as an old school software professional, the “amateur”
alternative, viewed from the mixing-with-great-people angle, is vastly
superior to anything you can now find in the workplace, excepting
maybe if you work for google or something like that, but I’m sceptical
even there)

Plant and finances generally are still an issue in physical
manufacturing, but the reach problem is partly solved, the marketing
part. Distribution remains an issue, but less and less.

– Money to live: Currently most of us depend on traditional jobs or
other means of support while this stuff bootstraps. But I feel more
and more that this is temporary. The price of anything that lives
largely in the digital domain crashes toward zero. Why? Because of the
“where the action is” effect, combined with billions of souls. With
the amount of people in the game, anyone who tries to do anything
mostly informational, and hold out for profits, gets undercut by
excellent alternatives created by “amateurs” (ie: highly skilled
people collaborating for love), or by new businesses who understand
that the digital realm doesn’t mean new opportunities for massive
profit, it actually means replacing the outputs of giant corporations
with the mind children of a couple of guys in a garage living off
google ads and t-shirt sales.

This process will continue, and the digital realm’s race-to-the-bottom
economics will bleed out into the rest of our reality. The main
contributors on this list are a great example of people trying hard to
make this happen.

Now above you are talking about MNT, but it’s a long and relatively
textured path from here to there, and the path contains many interim
stages. We have the home fabbing people now, we’ll have consumer 3d
printing in the near future. Not long after that, the race to really
make 3d printers that can make more 3d printers, to make open source
feedstocks, to break out of the corporate shackles in a way that we
haven’t been able to do with 2d printers, will be well and truly on.
You can see that from “consumer” behaviour now; “consumer” is just a
really derogatory synonym for “person”, and those people are aware of
the contempt inherent in the consumer-corporate relationship.

It’s this process which will see, for the physical goods industries,
the “plant” dropping into the consumer price range on the way to zero,
and the distribution costs disappearing (because you fab it yourself).
Physical things start behaving like digital things at this point.

Also during this process, we should see real material benefits
accruing to everyone. It will just be a lot cheaper to have a decent
standard of living, with the things you want. This feeds back into the
“money to live” component of how people create for free – it’ll become
a lot cheaper to support your habit of free creation. This in turn
feeds back into even more downward pressure on the prices of the
products of minds, which increasingly are everything.

In fact, well before MNT, I’m betting that we’ll see this current
society, structured around payed labour and consumption, well and
truly broken, and replaced by something else. Whatever that is, it’s
probably not going to contain much of an IP protection regime. Why?
Because if it’s not explicitly dismantled, it’ll just get routed
around by the efforts of “amateurs” (all of us), to replace protection
laden corporate product with free licensed alternatives, exactly as is
happening (in its early stages) now. In each industry, the closed IP
will first look superior to the open alternative, then roughly
equivalent, then a tipping point will be reached where the drawbacks
of closed IP outweigh the benefits for all players, and it’ll die.

So, by the time we reach MNT, the context will have changed so much
that your original question will be semantically empty. To the extent
that organised groups of professionals will still be working for
profit, it’s far less likely they’ll be trying to charge for designs
than it is that they’ll be giving out free designs and hoping they
impress you enough that you’ll buy a t-shirt.

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An undesigned flower

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