If everything was free: the economics of abundance - Ka Leo O Hawaii: Opinion

If everything was free: the economics of abundance

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Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 5:00 am

Imagine going online and, with a single click, printing out any physical object. With a miniature production plant in every home, there would be no need for retail stores, factories, shipping or the pollution associated with those activities. Large-scale automation of a huge segment of the workforce, combined with free worldwide-Internet, 3D printing and renewable off-grid energy will free humanity to achieve anything without worrying about basic material needs. 


In the next few years, everyone on the planet with a wireless device will likely have access to high speed, uncensored Internet. A futuristic project spearheaded by the New York-based Media Development Investment Fund will see 150 miniature satellites launched into low Earth orbit beginning in June 2015. These satellites will “datacast” the Internet around the planet in a manner similar to satellite television, with plans to make the signal two-way soon after. 

Citizens of the planet will be able to educate themselves on any topic at no cost, exchange billions of ideas at the speed of light and organize to overthrow oppressive governing regimes should the need arise. The Internet has already been responsible for the rapid rise of free software and entertainment including music, movies, books, news and video games and will continue improving when combined with 3D printing. 


The capabilities of 3D printers have grown exponentially during the past decade. The Nanoscribe 3D printer can replicate the Empire State Building within the width of a human hair and can construct models 30 millionths of a meter in diameter by layering of liquid plastic. It’s a matter of time before 3D printers are able to print at an atomic and molecular level; this development could allow people in the comfort of their own home to download designs off the Internet and print tools, parts and robot assistants to perform repetitive tasks. 

Larger 3D printers could construct infinitely customizable houses, cars, boats and planes within 24 hours for anyone who wanted one. While hugely liberating for the modern working class consumer, 3D printing threatens established institutions of power and wealth that may resist the coming technological revolution. 


The overwhelming majority of conflicts in human history have occurred between governments as a result of resource scarcity. Spain, Portugal, England, France, Holland and Germany fought hundreds of battles while spreading disease and forcing the colonization of millions of natives around the world in order to bring home cheap crops, minerals and labor. 

The Empire of Japan attacked the U.S. in World War II to secure access to oil and commodities in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and the main reason the Southern Confederacy wanted slavery to remain legal was to avoid many of the costs of labor involved in the production of cotton, tobacco and other agricultural commodities for European export. 

Governing bodies have only existed just as long as organized agriculture, and their function has largely been to redistribute surplus resources in the form of taxes as payment for safeguarding consumers and stockpiles of goods from those who would raid them. If ideas, resources, goods, labor and energy become abundant, there would be no need for Social Security or welfare, and maintaining a defense force would be pointless as resources and goods would be available to all free of charge. Money would also become obsolete, because it has no intrinsic use or value.

In a world of free and uncensored Internet, 3D printing and near-limitless clean energy, organized central government would no longer be necessary nor serve much purpose.

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