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Chapter Four: Putting it all together.

Discussion in 'Eventually Everything will become free.' started by amusicsite, 30 Apr 2018.

  1. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    So in the last two chapters I’ve crudely shown that it would be possible, at some point, to fully remove all humans from the process of making something by automating the whole production chain. If you can fully automate the mining, processing and manufacturing industries then you could deliver a finished product that cost you nothing in labour. To start with there will be the initial cost of setting up the fully automated systems and of course the companies will want to make a bit of profit too. As I’ve shown once you have automated all this and the system can make a copy of it’s self. From then onwards you basically make everything else from then on free.

    So lets say we design and build a fully automated system to make one thing, lets use the example of a simple wooden chair again. First you would erect a portable wind turbine or solar panels near a bit of woodland and use the free power to run an automated tree cutting machine, which already exists but currently is human operated. These work currently by a human in the machine pointing the device at the base of a tree. Then the machine automatically chops through the trunk, strips off the branches and the human directs it to where the pile of logs is being stored. The technology being developed for self driving cars could easily replace this persons job. Then you will need a robot arm on a moving platform that can pick up the logs, maybe chop it up into manageable lengths on site and put them on a self-driving truck. The truck drives it to the factory where robots unload it onto a conveyor belt. That takes it to a cutting machine that cuts out the shapes needed for a chair. These parts are taken by a robot to another machine that puts them together, assuming for this example that wood is the only raw material needed for this. Another robot loads them onto a van and it drives it’s self to your front door. Whatever you pay for that chair is almost 100% profit. Add in a tree planting robot and it’s also sustainable.

    Now if you can repeat the process for making all the equipment needed to make this including the making of the renewable energy generators, the robots to repair the equipment, cutting machines, self driving trucks and even robots to make the buildings needed. Then the whole system can be made or extended with zero costs. You quickly get to a point where you can make almost anything for free which means you also eradicate the need to recoup the cost of setting up the system. Then the really big engineering projects like hyperloops around the world, global clean water supply, covering deserts in solar panels, a global electrical network, artificial islands and the like become much easier to do. In fact full automation would really help space mining costs and eventually processing or manufacturing off planet too, as the cost of getting things to and from space would also be nothing. Technically all this automation could be replicated on any planet, moon or chunk of matter floating around in space. All you would need to do would be to protect the system against any local environmental threats and you are good to go. This will likely be much easier than setting up a similar environment safe for humans.

    In the distant future I can see huge processing plants in space which gets it’s raw materials from rocks floating around in space, slowly removing some of these threats floating around the solar system while you are at it too. Space production can be powered by huge solar panels floating in space around the unit, running continuously at the same power. There is no day-night cycle or atmosphere to get in the way. Turning the raw materials into products within the single unit which has everything it needs. You could almost send the products to the required location by dropping it out of orbit to right near your home, no matter which planet or moon you live on. If there are no humans involved with the making or delivering the goods then your only cost would be securing the raw materials you need. If you were mining in space and found ample sources of all required raw materials then the price of raw materials could well be free, unless humans claim objects in space and charge you to mine them.

    Just like the mobile phone boom or other disruptive technologies, this could happen very quickly. I’d imagine there comes a time where the companies that makes parts and equipment needed for automation will fully automation process of making their own parts. If you hear about a large automated mining drill or one of them huge trucks they use, being delivered to a mining site without a single human being involved in making it. Then we will be at the beginning of the automation explosion. If it costs next to nothing to make a 40 ton drill, manufacturing plant, robot arm and renewable power generators. Then for almost no extra cost you can double production very quickly. Eventually you could get to a point where almost anything you want can be ordered for free and delivered to you relatively quickly while broken objects will be taken away and repaired or fully recycled.

    Even things like growing our food could go off planet. If we can build in space then size is not really an issue. We could build a garden is space the ideal distance from the sun with with a predictable environment. Most likely using solar powered electrical supply to power lights that create the perfect condition for every plant. People are already experimenting with growing food indoors under lights. It’s called vertical gardening as it potentially has the power to let us grow multiple crops on top of each other in farming sky scrapers that reduce the amount of land we need for agriculture. There are a few good benefits like reduced water usage and less waste, better protection from infection or the threat of bad weather wiping out the crops. At the moment it’s mainly just green leafy produce that is economical to grow because you need a lot more electricity to grow more complex crops. Cheaper electricity will make more complex crops achievable and moving food production into space to huge structures that provide the perfect gravity, climate and light for the plants to grow could enable the production of perfect crops every time all year round. The only pest that would get there are ones we have taken there and if an area gets infected it can be cleaned and replanted bug free. Huge solar panels can stretch as far as is needed into space to power it and using compartments you could grow everything on cycles so each week you have all the food you need ready to be dropped onto earth where it’s needed.

    If you think about the logistics of totally replacing most jobs with automation it does not seem an unachievable goal. Take the example above about fully automating the chair. If you spent 18 months sorting out the software for the tree cutting machine and cracked that problem, the rest of the automation process is going to be off the shelf type stuff to set up. In fact a small portable automation system may even suit this job. Cut the trees down, feed logs into one end of a small unit which cuts it into planks, the planks are moved by robot arm onto cutting machines that make the parts, which are then once more moved by another set of robot arms to an assembly area. A couple of robot arms put it together and put the finished chair onto a conveyor belt. Logs in one end, chairs out the other. No transporting it around and final product can be shipped straight to the warehouse or customer.

    I reckon if you had money to burn, you could set something like this up in 18 months tops. Add in a robot that can plant new trees and some nice flat land that’s easy to navigate and I think you could just keep churning out chairs. You could run the whole thing off solar power where you charge up the batteries and when something has enough power it gets to work. As it’s not costing you anything to run it, you don’t have to run it 24/7. Have a sunny few days then chop down as many trees as is practical and store them by the processing unit. If it goes cloudy for a few days you could run the lower power automation unit to process the logs into chairs. It doesn’t have to be fast or run all the time. All it needs to do is turn all the available wood produced in a year into chairs over the course of a year. Apart from a few repairs now and again, I can’t see why you could not get a system like this up and running today that would then run human free from gathering the resource needed to making the final product. I also reckon you would make your money back on the hardware costs of setting it up fairly quickly. Take your first chunk of labour free profits and put it into setting up a second self sustainable automated woodland and you can drop the price of your chairs by 50% as you are making twice as many for little to no cost. It only takes one person to crack it and then everyone is going to start working to do the same. Replace all labour costs.

    Chapter Five: So what does it all mean?
    Last edited: 22 Mar 2020
  2. Yellow Fang

    Yellow Fang Veteran Geek

    18 months tops? Building a set of robots that can plant trees, fell them, take them to the sawmill, and turn them into chairs sounds a lot harder than moving parcels from a lorry to a conveyor belt and from the belt to the trailer. This is the only job I have at the moment. I was noticing just the other day that there were quite a number of late middle aged Parcel Force drivers, and thinking maybe that was something I should consider. But if we are going to get driverless cars and robots that can see where things are and are dextrous enough to put them in place, then you wonder how long those jobs are going to last. Although, I can't see those robots getting out the van, bringing you your parcel and ringing your doorbell, not for a while. The thing is a lot of desk jobs are likely to be supplanted by AI too. This is going to be very disruptive.

    This sort of thing has happened before. To me it seems the most important things get mechanized first, resulting in people doing progressively less important, although sometimes better paid work. Farms were largely mechanized in the C19th and farm labourers found themselves having to move to the cities to find work. I wonder if farm mechanization would have happened if there were not the jobs in industry. Maybe socially it would have been too difficult. Then that heavy engineering went to countries where labour was cheaper, and then became largely automated. A lot of that work was boring and back breaking, but at least it was manly. Now what do we do? First educate ourselves till our early 20s, then sell each other coffee; stand around looking pretty in department stores; and find ways of selling ever more refined things to people that do not really need them.
  3. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member


    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zBt_BbWgFzE

    Well I think we are a lot closer than you think. According to this video it don't seem too much of a challenge to fully automate the cutting down of trees or moving around a forest environment. According to them the hardest part is moving the logs from where they fall to the trucks that take them away. They are working on that problem and throwing some money at solving it. Once you get it on the truck most of the rest of the process is fairly heavily automated anyway.

    Though when I said could be done in 18 months tops, at the moment that may be if you had an unlimited budget and made it a global effort to solve the problem, pulling together the best minds in the world. I reckon if you slapped down an x-prize type pool of money like $1 billion to anyone who could fully automate making a simple chair... I reckon you would have a winner. The system may be a bit chunky and only just about work but I reckon within 18 months you could fully automate the tree to chair system.

    1) Team to convert the tree cutting machines to electric powered, seems a fairly easy task these days. While you are at it add in some LiDAR, cameras and other sensors. Along with a self driving computer which can be programmed to make it move around the environment it's going to be used in, position it's self in the best place to chop a tree and then start the process. I reckon a small team of good people could crack that in 6 months.

    2) Getting the fallen tree to the processing unit. Seem to be the hardest part. Maybe another self driving unit that can cut up the tree into smaller parts for moving and another that can move these smaller parts. As no part of a chair is that long, you could cut the tree into quite small chunks where it landed without affecting production much.

    3) With unlimited budget I would definitely go for the local, mobile processing unit. You could positing it where it's easy to get the logs to and, if you you have already chopped the trunks into smaller bits, it would not have to be that big to process the wood. So the basic design of this would be something like... Robot arm to pick up log and place it on belt. Belt take it to cutting machine the cuts log into timber blocks. The output of this is scanned and analysed buy cameras and A.I. then sorted by robot arms into usage type. Which are sent on to the next stage for cutting and the waste from the plant can be sent to a shredder to pulp it into compost for the forest.

    4) Making the chair parts would be quite easy. I'm thinking something like the chair in this example.


    The parts for that chair look quite quite simple and it should just be a case of a few machines to cut them into the right shapes and a bit of machining. With a few robot arms, more AI cameras checking things after each stage. It would be a complex system but fairly heavily automated already and probably not too hard to get set up.

    5) Putting it all together. Well that chair looked quite easy to assemble so I'm sure it would not be too hard to then have a system to do this.


    In fact someone recently did one. Then you just need a robot to pick up the finished chair and load it on a truck.

    I do think you could automate that with unlimited resources within 18 months...


    There are two main problems with automation at the moment. First they are very slow and second they take a lot of debugging.

    "automation works best when it's added incrementally to a production process that's already working smoothly... bringing in way too many robots, way too quickly, leaving little time for testing and refining the process."

    So I reckon you could get it up and running and 'working' in 18 months. Though it would be very flaky, clunky, not optimised and still need work to get running smoothly. Once you have it running though, it will only be a matter of time before you get it running nice an smoothly human free.

    Also the rate of change at the moment in 18 months time it might be a lot easier to do this than now and maybe by then you would only need 100,000s to set up something like this rather than millions. Especially as A.I. systems are now getting quite good at designing systems like this. Throw all the problems into an A.I. system and get it to work out the solutions. You may well be able to get one person today to enter the process into an A.I. machine and have it come up with an optimised, robust and affordable solution in under a week.

    The only real question seems to be when will it become cheap enough to be economically viable. The more complex the system, like making a car, the harder it gets. Especially if you are looking at high volume. I quite like the idea of a light automated manufacturing unit in the forest that process the felled trees into their end products there on site without any transportation or pollution. To me it seems like a 'next logical step' and something that will eventually come.
  4. amusicsite

    amusicsite dn ʎɐʍ sᴉɥ┴ Staff Member

    Actually when I visited Africa it was the women in their culture that did the manly tasks. Work is actually very cultural. I think the big change automation will bring is that it will change our culture. We will not have to work, so what do we then put out efforts into? What becomes our purpose if we don't need to do anything to stay alive?

    The system we have at the moment seems to have run it's course though. The must get customers to spend more money every year was never going to be sustainable and as people leave the workforce, taking a lot of spending money with it, the amount people can spend will drop. The capitalism system will be broken and we will need a new system. The new system will reward things that last, are environmentally friendly, optimised and efficient. Thing that last a lifetime or more, are easy to recycle or repair and reduce demand. Without the demand to make more money then the products will get better as there is no pressure to get people to shell out money again in 2-5 years time.

    It will change the world for sure. How we adapt to this new era is unknown but I'm sure generations in the futures will look back as now being the end of the era of work. We will adapt and work it out, we always do. Anyway more on some of that in the final chapters coming soon.