Star Trek In The Age Of Intellectual Property

from the it-would-be-quite-a-bit-different dept

Over the years, plenty of people have used the Star Trek: TNG “Replicator” analogy to try to discuss intellectual property issues. I recall writing a piece using that as the central construct for a magazine article (that got spiked, unfortunately) nearly a decade ago. Over the years I’ve mentioned it here or there on the site, including in a discussion about how such a replicator would likely, contrary to the belief of many, create more new jobs. The argument there was that by reducing the input costs for lots of products, there would also be increased demand for absolutely everything surrounding those products that couldn’t be replicated.

Of course, not everyone thinks so. Matthew Yglesias has been drawing some attention to a piece that Peter Frase wrote at the end of last year, in which he went through a thought exercise in which he discussed the world of the replicator… plus intellectual property:

This is the quality of intellectual property law that provides an economic foundation for anti-Star Trek: the ability to tell others how to use copies of an idea that you ?own?. In order to get access to a replicator, you have to buy one from a company that licenses you the right to use a replicator. (Someone can?t give you a replicator or make one with their replicator, because that would violate their license). What?s more, every time you make something with the replicator, you also need to pay a licensing fee to whoever owns the rights to that particular thing. So if the Captain Jean-Luc Picard of anti-Star Trek wanted ?tea, Earl Grey, hot?, he would have to pay the company that has copyrighted the replicator pattern for hot Earl Grey tea. (Presumably some other company owns the rights to cold tea.)

This solves the problem of how to maintain for-profit capitalist enterprise, at least on the surface. Anyone who tries to supply their needs from their replicator without paying the copyright cartels would become an outlaw, like today?s online file-sharers. But if everyone is constantly being forced to pay out money in licensing fees, then they need some way of earning money, and this brings up a new problem. With replicators around, there?s no need for human labor in any kind of physical production.

He goes on to discuss what kinds of jobs would be left in such a world, and it’s pretty much lawyers and marketers and not much in between. There would be a few people needed to create the new things that could then be replicated, but he argues that wouldn’t be a big moneymaker, since you could just crowdsource the best ideas for free.

Of course, I think he leaves out a few things. I would imagine there’d be a good business in being a replicator repairman, for example. However, as we’ve pointed out for years with digital content, every new abundance tends to create new scarcities, and there will always be new opportunities to build products and services around those scarcities. Of course, sometimes it’s difficult to predict what those new offerings might be, but we’ve yet to discover a new abundance that didn’t create massive new markets, so I have trouble believing that an abundance of physical goods would suddenly stop that general principle.

Obviously, if it’s easy to get tangible goods, it’s likely that most of the new jobs would be in services, rather than goods, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Of course, to even have this happen, we’d have to get past the intellectual property hurdle, that the estate of Gene Roddenberry might claim rights over your replicator…

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Ima Fish (profile) says:

This solves the problem of how to maintain for-profit capitalist enterprise. Anyone who tries to supply their needs from their replicator without paying the copyright cartels would become an outlaw

The government setting up artificial gates for the rich to collect monopoly rents is not fricken capitalism. Intellectual property is NOT a free market. It’s the opposite of any free market. Sitting back and collecting money because the government is holding the threat of prison over your “customer’s” head is not a flipping free market. Why is this so hard for people to grasp?!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I too am lost over this. I just cannot understand how anyone ever came to believe that the natural state of things was to consolidate the right to exploit ideas in the hands of a few rights holders. No, the right to free exchange of information is something we give up in exchange for creating an economic incentive to create. In a ‘free market’ exchange of information would be free.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Actually, you are falling into what I consider to be one of the best logical traps that Mike Masnick uses to mislead readers. The Star Trek replicator story is one of the common tales that anti-copyright people trot out to get you to accept their line of thinking. It helps you past a few logical hurdles.

Let’s start with the obvious: someone still has to create the original item at least once. Just like a song or a movie, the so called infinite distribution only happens after there is a product created. Otherwise, you would all be pirating empty DVDs and blank CDs. The replicator cannot create what has not been previously defined, no matter how hard you wish. You cannot create the movies you desire out of thin air either.

There is also the failed notion that replicators will make physical labor a thing of the past. It’s just not the case. Have you seen the amount of work going on to a typical Federation star ship? These things don’t run themselves, you need engineers, you need people to collect and regulate the energy and raw materials that will be converted, etc.

Further, there is no free lunch in a replicator. It requires material on the input side to produce goods off the other side. Mostly it’s an energy to matter conversion, and in a world starved for energy, you can bet the price of your average replication won’t be chicken feed, even if that is what you are replicating. It isn’t an infinite distribution device, because there will be costs to every item produced.

Simply put, having the “plans” to replicate a bar of gold doesn’t mean you can just knock out gold for free. When all is said and done, the source energy to produce the goods will likely be at or above the true cost of producing the goods. Any good economics student could tell you what would happen when the supply / demand curves get all out of whack.

Finally, Star Trek represents a fairly utopian, military / socialist society that borders on pure communism. It is an age where there is no money, yet they still seem to have possessions, land ownership, and the like. Perhaps just like the replicator, it’s a pure fantasy that is entirely non-functional, a mental prop to allow a space opera to play out, and not anything that would concern any of us in the real world.

So just like the replicator, the implications are just as far fetched and economically unsound. It’s a nice dream, but would you really want to live in a worldwide socialist para-military commune to make it work out?

AW says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Gold is a raw material, you would need gold for a gold bar.

They have money, it’s in the form of rations. It’s never a big deal because medical, food and living are taken care of.

When you have anti-matter fuel sources power isn’t an issue. They have enough power to have vehicles that warp space time. Power is not an issue. Replicating isn’t all that power consuming either it’s essentially a microwave crossed with a printer and current technology isn’t really that far away from replicators. Force fields are really the only thing missing and those are getting pretty close. I’d wager phasers are farther off than replicators.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Nope, sorry, that is not how the replicator is suggested to work. It is suggested that it can create anything generally from a raw or recycled material) by applying significant amounts of energy. If you follow the plot lines of the Voyager series, you would understand that most of their time was spent trying to get enough energy to run the replicators.

Basically, in order for a replicator to actually work and exist, we would have to make a jump in energy technology and the understanding of matter that would be like going from the stone age to holding an Ipad2. I am not holding my breath, nor would I use someone’s unrealistic fantasy as a way of determining current day copyright laws.

AW says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Actually using Voyager as a reference it works exactly as I say. She specifically gives back a watch because it could be used to make something useful. If this were a power requirements issue using the replicator to demolecularize something would not be considered. The reason there was a power issue was because they were using the warp drives at full power in a area where resources were unknown.

Having enough power to warp space means that power consumption under normal usage is not an issue. It’s the warp drives that needed the power and they had to invent something to make it more dramatic.

Also it’s not a general issue throughout the rest of the Star Trek universe.

From Memory Alpha: “The energy crisis and replicator rations are used with some dramatic license by the writers of Star Trek: Voyager. Therefore, it is difficult to tell exactly how much power replicators used for every whim would actually cost in terms of ship’s energy. Energy that could otherwise be used on replicator functions is being consumed by the holodeck during several episodes including “The Cloud” where the crisis is first noted. (However, on several occasions it’s mentioned on screen that general power supply for ship and the one for holodecks “are not compatible” on Voyager. It may be intentional, in order to protect holodecks and its contents to certain extent even during rapid and ship-wide power failure such as in episode “Night”)”

::sigh:: Us fans always hijack these threads…lol. Nice knowing there’s another fan on here though, get a name so we know who you are!

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

> Basically, in order for a replicator to actually work and exist,
> we would have to make a jump in energy technology and the
> understanding of matter that would be like going from the
> stone age to holding an Ipad2.

Yeah, there was a book published a while back, “The Physics of Star Trek” or something along those lines, by a couple of physics professors, and they said that the transporter/replicator is so beyond even the advanced level of technology of the rest of the Trek universe that it would be roughly equivalent to Christopher Columbus having a microwave oven aboard the Santa Maria.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

” The Star Trek replicator story is one of the common tales that anti-copyright people trot out to get you to accept their line of thinking. It helps you past a few logical hurdles.”

Ya know, nothing other than Star Trek geeks would understand the replicator story. I didn’t until just now. Please leave that tortured logic at the door.

“The replicator cannot create what has not been previously defined, no matter how hard you wish. You cannot create the movies you desire out of thin air either.”

So you’re saying that the “pirate” can’t create from what has already been previously defined? How about remixing the movie, or re editing? How about creating your own movie based off the original? The replicator could make a beet. Does that mean you have to go to someone else to make beet juice?

“There is also the failed notion that replicators will make physical labor a thing of the past. It’s just not the case. Have you seen the amount of work going on to a typical Federation star ship? These things don’t run themselves, you need engineers, you need people to collect and regulate the energy and raw materials that will be converted, etc. “

That’s exactly what Mike pointed to. Just as the physical labor of taking time to grow a beet is gone, the engineering force would increase to fix the replicators. Doesn’t stop people from growing their own beets. It means the supply of labor shifts from one industry to another.

“Simply put, having the “plans” to replicate a bar of gold doesn’t mean you can just knock out gold for free. When all is said and done, the source energy to produce the goods will likely be at or above the true cost of producing the goods. Any good economics student could tell you what would happen when the supply / demand curves get all out of whack”

You’re mixing physics with economics and confusing yourself. That’s not a good sign for your argument.

“Finally, Star Trek represents a fairly utopian, military / socialist society that borders on pure communism. It is an age where there is no money, yet they still seem to have possessions, land ownership, and the like.”

And now for the socio-political terms to alter the audience’s view on replicators because it’s not capitalist. Bravo. You should perhaps stick to the argument instead of trying to make a real world political statement.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“There is also the failed notion that replicators will make physical labor a thing of the past. It’s just not the case. Have you seen the amount of work going on to a typical Federation star ship? These things don’t run themselves, you need engineers, you need people to collect and regulate the energy and raw materials that will be converted, etc. “

Oh come on now – everything that happens in Star Trek is there because of the Roger Rabbit principle (you could have taken your hand out of the handcuff at any time? – no not a any time – only when it was funny).

It doesn’t have make any real world sense – or even be self consistent.

You really can’t draw any physics /economic conclusions from it – and trying to argue that way is just plain stupid.

You can set up your own thought experiment based on the Star Trek replicator – as is done in the article – but you really need to tighten up your premise a bit better before you try to draw conclusions.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Richard, it is the point. When you break down the Star Trek universe, and look at it a little more closely, it perhaps tips the hand as to what Mike would like in this world.

Basically, you are looking at individualist socialism, where individuals are recognized, some private ownership is allowed, and yet there is no longer a monetary system by which it can be easily traded. It is the only possible system under which a replicator type machine could really function, because it would require each of us to effectively give away anything we do to everyone. Since anything can be replicated once “programmed”, there is little reason to keep making anything. At that point, copyright is meaningless, only because we no longer have a monetary / business system in which to transact anything (at least on earth).

The “thought based process” of the article is pretty typical for something that appears on Techdirt – it’s clear the writer started with a conclusion and worked backwards, ignoring relevant information that makes the whole process meaningless. You have to first take all the assumptions as presented and work with them, not just the ones you like!

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Basically, you are looking at individualist socialism, where individuals are recognized, some private ownership is allowed, and yet there is no longer a monetary system by which it can be easily traded.

In Star Trek you only see the “on duty” life of a quasi-military organisation.

It is similar to the onboard life of current Navy personnel.

Civilian life in Federation “home worlds” is never portrayed.

Plus – seriously – remember the Roger Rabbit principle. Everything that happens in Star Trek is there to serve the drama – it is just stupid to look for any deeper meaning.

Even the physics is not self consistent. (Remember the warp drive is nonsense – Douglas Adam’s “inifnite improbability drive” makes more sense – at least it is “crazy enough to be right”

The replicator is just a convenient plot device – it has whatever limitations suit the writers in any given episode.

Remember the transporter was only there to save on the effects budget because they didn’t want to have to make models/mockups of shuttle craft.

The main article is just a bit of fun – you take it all WAY to seriously.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

You said: “The main article is just a bit of fun – you take it all WAY to seriously”

Me: I think of this article in the same way I think of Nina’s lame cartoons. There is enough of a spark of truth hiding in there that the truly stupid or the truly “drunk on the kool aid” ones will buy into it like gospel. Humor is often the best way to see the propaganda of a program, especially when you are appealing to the bread and circuses mentality of the masses.

This one is a little more obvious, others are not. How many have you been tricked by?

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Remember the warp drive is nonsense

Actually it isn’t. If you could warp the space in front of and behind your ship, you could move along, kind of like riding a wave. And if you warp it enough, you can get from one point to another faster than you would have at the speed of light, because you weren’t actually traveling through space faster than the speed of light. The problem is it might take more energy than exists in the universe to do that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

We can all agree that to take all information and not just what we like is a bit difficult since you too can’t even do it.

Just look at your assumption that without monetary incentive people wouldn’t do anything, that is not true, never was and you still keep trying to convince others that it is absolutely true and only “the truly stupid or the truly “drunk on the kool aid” ones will buy into it like gospel.

Ed C. says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

The only thing that’s clear from your comments is that you haven’t really thought about the economics of the situation. First, Earth primarily uses the Federation “credits” as currency in the ST universe, just like the rest of the Federation.

Second, you’re stuck on the notion that no work could be possible without monetary compensation. Sure, in our current capitalist society, you need money to pay for goods and services because the people who provide them also have to pay others for their goods and services. However, if you take away the majority of the cost of manufacturing, the physical labor of reproduction and transportation, you take away most of the cost of goods. This in turn lowers the costs needed to provide services as well. Then, take other basic cost of living such as healthcare and housing, because they become a right rather than a privilege. Without the need to pay so much for goods and services, you decrease your need to charge others for your work as well. What people like you don’t get is that it’s not about decreasing the standard of living, it’s about decreasing the cost of living. Decreasing the cost of living makes it easier to maintain or increase the standard of living.

Finally, the reason for creation ultimately has nothing to do with money at all. Even without money, there’s always a need to improve on current inventions, or to invent something entirely new. There’s always a desire for new art as well. If you want to improve something, or something that doesn’t currently exist at all, you either make it yourself or pitch the idea to someone who can. Then, if the ideas needed to build your new art or invention cost little or nothing, and the cost of production is low as well, you don’t need to make much money to recoup your investment. Replicator patterns obviously have to be created, and that creation can be fueled purely by the desire to create new and better patterns. What people like you don’t get is that it’s not about profit, it’s about creation, which obviously would exist even without the need for profit.

BTW, what people like you don’t understand at all about IP is that making it about profit rather than creation drives up it’s cost to society, making it even more expensive for creators, who are obviously not separate from society, to create their own. It’s an endless loop that doesn’t really benefit anyone other than those who game the system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

Ed, while you are correct in the abstract, you miss the real use of money, which is as a “holding value” that allows us to negotiate the relative value of X and Y.

Instead of trading chickens for a car, we sell our chickens and take the money to buy a car. The car dealer takes the money and buys a chicken for dinner. We don’t have to walk around with chickens in our back pockets to pay for things.

Money is what facilitates a system of trade. Without it, you are living in a pure barter style system where the price of anything is based solely on your ability to negotiate, and not on any market price. That is almost non-functional, so much so that pretty much as soon as mankind could, we started to use money, coins, and precious metals as facilities to store “value”, which could later be traded.

IP isn’t an endless loop at all. Nobody stops anyone from making new stuff, they only profit from people wanting to make existing stuff over and over again. You can write your own song, you can make your own movie, you can develop your own drugs, you can write a book, nobody is stopping you from any of it. It doesn’t hurt anyone, and you would benefit from the same protections for your wonderful new work too. Rather than worry about what others have done, why not just do it yourself?

TechnoMage (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Actually we only see a slice of “Humanity” in these shows, it is discussed often, but from afar. We only see those in StarFleet.. b/c only those people lead the interesting lives(storyline was) and it is basically the Military Wing of the Federation(who also does exploration/science…which isn’t unusual … cough DARPA…cough). There are TONS of people(human and alien) who are not part of federation. Only those in Starfleet (and their families on DS9/TNG) are part of the world we often see in the Star Trek shows. Also, they are the only ones who live a utopian lifestyle like that. Others live much more like we do now, with goods being transferred by merchants, etc.

Plus this entire discussion is missing one VERY important aspect. Replicators do NOT replicate everything perfectly, or even at all. They do not replicate Di-lithium Crystals… as an example… (The entire point of the nuclear submarine subplot in one movie)

So everyone seems to be missing those points… And now I super nerdy for correcting Star Trek people on Star Trek 🙁 … but ehh… Plus I think alcohol was one of the biggest things that wasn’t synthesizable(possibly by design)… so right there is MAJOR product that would still need to be grown/etc.

Jon B. (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Thanks for jumping on that. My brain focused on that same line…

Capitalism by definition is the default, unfettered state of economy. The existence of replicators doesn’t make capitalism go away or difficult to maintain. It just changes how that default state is described a little bit. Time, space, and manpower will always be scarce, so there’s always something to “capitalize”. Starfleet’s members may not be serving to earn higher and higher paychecks. They serve to earn higher prestige and opportunities to go out and look at things. Even after eliminating money itself, capitalism still exists.

Brian Schroth (profile) says:

How sad is it that we think about whether a replicator would “create jobs”? A replicator, an invention which would instantly revolutionize civilization as we know it and allow us all to live lives of leisure and comfort…and we sit here thinking about whether we’ll still be able to waste away our lives doing our 40 hours per week of drudgery!

Fuck that! Replicator technology would eliminate jobs- and that’s a good thing!

Ed C. says:

Re: Re:

I would agree it would certainly shift our society’s concept of material wealth. Without the need for society to expend so much labor on most material production, or for the levels of capital needed to acquire it, we would have much more time for “leisurely” pursuits such as art and science. (Yes, once upon a time scientific research was mostly constrained to clergy and wealthy academics with the required free time to pursue it.) Yes, I think that at least would be a good thing.

As Mike pointed out though, it would only eliminate certain kinds of jobs, while creating new jobs that don’t even yet exist. For instance, the power needed to run a ST style replicator would be rather large–at least by our standards. The fuel needed to generate the power could not be replicated, as the energy potential of the fuel would require even higher levels of energy to replicate it. The fuel would still have to be obtained and transported, and someone would have to maintain the power plants.

However, The darker side to this revolution would be that the cost of an item would become the cost of the energy needed to replicate it, and the profits for the production would largely go to the power and fuel industries. For instance, the profits for production of the cup of Earl Grey would go to them, not the growers, transport companies, or sellers. If you think that the oil companies have you over a barrel just for the transportation of products to markets, and your work compute needed to earn the money to shop there, just wait until the cost of production instead gets funneled solely to the power and fuel industries!

As for the copyright issue, replicators would probably embed some kind of signature in every copy–just like printers do now. An original sculpture or painting would still be considered unique, and thus valuable, because it can be distinguished from any of the copies. The value would then be in creating originals, not in selling copies.

darryl says:

Re: Re: Re:

The darker side to this revolution would be that the cost of an item would become the cost of the energy needed to replicate it, and the profits for the production would largely go to the power and fuel industries.

Yep, thats right, just like it is today…

The cost of an item today is the cost of the energy to create it.

Why do you think energy industry companies are the largest by far on the planet ?

AW says:

Now I feel like a nerd

In star Trek the patterns are stored the same way recipes would be. Replicators are not common property but, are government property paid for by the Federation. The replicators are set up with patterns often by the government, by people in the government so would fall under public domain. While people in the Star Trek universe could acquire vast amounts of wealth, there is no point. All your main needs are provided for, free healthcare, food, building supplies as long as you have the base ingredients needed. The things that were needed are base ingredients, so unless you need something exotic, you’re pretty much covered.

The whole economy is essentially a utopian communism. With rations being provided and a sense of responsibility taken very serious by the population at large. There is a fundamental change in people brought on by years of war that almost killed everyone and salvation in realizing that the universe is a heck of a lot bigger than we realized. The government is a planned economy and civil rights are highly prized.

So essentially Star Trek is Americans without greed. There ISN’T any IP, because there doesn’t need to be. What’s the point of locking everything up when there’s nothing to be gained? You create because you truly love to do it and you want the prestige that comes from knowing that everyone else knows who you are.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Now I feel like a nerd

> or had to pay for a holo suite session

All this talk about how the replicator would affect society is silly. It’s the holodeck that would truly alter society completely.

When the average guy can come home from work and spend the evening banging Angelina Jolie, that will probably be the end of the progress of mankind. No one will ever do anything else but sit in the holodeck all day and do whatever (and whoever) they like.

darryl says:

Re: Now I feel like a nerd

Replicators are not common property but, are government property paid for by the Federation.

Gee, that sounds like copyright, and censorship to me, I thought Mike was against those things, and having governments ‘lock up’ knowledge.

That would also imply that you are not allowed to replicate anything, but ONLY what you are allowed to replicate dependent upon the wims of your Government.

So the earl gray tea company, copyrights their tea, and charges the Government copyright, and the Government tax the people to pay for that copyright.

Otherwise, the earl will say “no more tea for you” and pickard will have to say “water hot, no sugar”…

AW says:

Re: Re: Now I feel like a nerd

Actually darryl, I can tell you never watched the show. Gold pressed latinum was only dealing with another entity, specifically the Ferengi who were not part of the Federation and even they moved to a society that wasn’t fully capitalism. The gaming tables at 10 forward and the holo suites were free on the enterprise, no one had to pay for them, comparably to the USO. They used rations to purchase items. You were given all your basics and the rations were to purchase anything above and beyond.

The Federation also gave away replicators to devastated societies and almost always helped stranded people, in fact their no win scenario involved saving people they knew they couldn’t save, they knew that it was more important to lose than to not try.

You also misunderstood, I didn’t mean not common as, not public, but not common as hard to find and build, we are talking something that rearranges atoms to a specific state of molecular excitement. You need massive computing skills and tools that most people wouldn’t have a need for.

You can also replicate anything you can program into the computer.

Some specific Star Trek corrections follow.

Gold *pressed latinum was a Ferengi desire, not the Federation.

The only holo suites paid for were at a Ferengi run bar on a Bajoran station that the Federation freely helped run and later it turned out that there was a trade route to the alpha quadrant. There were multiple times they could have cut their losses and left, but they did not because the principles were more important.

Synthehol was a federation product and free on federation ships. You never see a bill on the Enterprise, again it’s a military ship. On earth credits are used at dining places, but there is never a knick-knack shop that anyone goes to. The only items that are ever prized are authentic items of other cultures. When new items are created, anyone can make them as long as they program in the replicator.

10 forward is essentially a USO facility. No one pays.

Earl grey is a type of tea and many companies currently make it. There is no copyright on it.

Lewc Stackwalker says:

Re: Now I feel like a nerd

Many people have rations provided NOW and they do not have a sense of resonsibility. WTF would the rations being provided by a machine instead of fellow humans make these people have more of a “sense of responsibility taken very serious”ly?

As with the current welfare system, there is no penalty function, so I predict that with replicators handling all the daily chores, we might all fall into a haze as described in the old OMNI article “God is an Iron”.

AW says:

Re: Re: Now I feel like a nerd

Nice cherry picking of comments. Let me clarify things for you.

Food, health and general welfare are taken care of.

The change to society was what caused a sense of responsibility and happened because they realized the universe was a vast scary place, not because they discovered replicators. The planet was almost wiped out by ourselves.

Humanity changed before replicator technology, however in real life replicator technology is probably what will cause the change.

AW says:

Re: Re: Now I feel like a nerd

Well…sort of. There is a lot of back-story in various places, much of which you gain from the movies and from bits and pieces that make a cohesive whole. Generally it’s supposedly a utopia for most people with a lot of societal pressure to be a good person and do the right thing or the old ways could come back to get us. When at peace the Federation rule is near idyllic. When at war…well it is generally considered a shock to see troops at all.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

RepRap is the beginnings of replicator technology. The idea behind it is, it can make copies of itself. So there is no need to buy one. Energy is easy, it’s all around us, sun, wind, and any temperature difference. Land you will need to buy some, or maybe you can hop on the starship built with your replicator, and get the hell away from all the idiot earthlings …

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The initial matter might be the contents of the garbage trucks that do weekly pickups.

With such technology, the power production might be a large community, or really society effort — like the building of the interstate system, or lighting all of the streets in your city. Yes it costs a lot, but not when the cost is spread out. Everyone is willing to pay for it because everyone benefits from it.

darryl says:

Re: Re:

by the cost of the generic material and the energy, and of course the KNOWLEDGE.

You can replicate a best selling book with generic material (letters and numbers, paper and ink) but you cannot replicate “the bible” without first having the IP of how those letters/numbers/paper and ink are arrainged.

the value is in the IP, not in the raw materials.

The generic material is feely and very cheaply available to everyone, but the ability to manipulate that into something you have knowledge of, would require to have that knowledge in the first place.

again, in replicator world, all you have is the knowledge, and all you need is the knowledge, and knowledge is IP.

Knowledge is not a book, or a diagram or a plan, it is what you know, or what is known.

Without first that knowledge, nothing else (including replicators) will not be possible.

Even this conversation would not exist, as we would have posses the IP (the knowledge) of what a ‘replicator’ is !!!

the only way you can make a bible is if you first know what a bible is and you know exactly (EXACTLY TO THE ATOM) what it is. Without that IP, without that knowledge, you could not even ask your replicator to make a bible, or a cup of tea. (whats tea ???)..

So we would then need a ‘thinkplicator’, that would provide the appropriate knowledge that you do not have.

Then what is the point of having humans at all ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Intellectual Property is a made up phrase designed to conflate patents, trademarks, and copyrights into one unified concept and to conflate said rights as physical property. All knowledge is certainly not “IP” since that vast majority of knowledge is not covered by any of the above rights. Furthermore the rights themselves are the property, even in the cases where they apply, and the knowledge itself is still not property. This idea that all knowledge can be owned is positively perverse, the natural state of things is for all knowledge to be freely shared. We, as a society, agree to give up a small portion of our right to free exchange to provide an economic incentive to share. There is no natural right of exclusive ownership over knowledge, it does not exist. If we were in the Star Trek universe we would have advanced beyond the point where economic compensation is necessary for anything, for any kind of work, so naturally with the only reason why society tolerates copyrights or patents obliterated those statutory rights would die when the cultural reasons they existed died.

sevenof9fl (profile) says:

Re: I AM a nerd

Well, that was one of the major points of Star Trek mythology: with money absent from the equation, people were truly “free” to create, or explore space, or write, or whatever.

And I always understood that the Federation supplied the dilithium crystals – and that the replicator used power from the engines to make whatever you programmed into it – seeing as how everthing is made up of the same matter, just in differing combinations and amounts.

darryl says:

Re: Re: I AM a nerd

where did the dilithium come from ? was it replicated ? or was it searched for and mined and processed, and installed in a special machine to extract the energy !

What did the federation use to trade with the planet that has dilithium mines ?
Who pays the miners, and who pays the federation to pay that planet ?

Who pays for the transportation of that dilithium to the federation ?

who pays for the development of the reactors that use dilithium to generate the energy ? Who maintains those reactors ?

Or is the federation just given the dilithium ? for free ? and asking for nothing in return ?

Do you think pickard would be able to continue to run the ship if he stopped performing his job as captain ? or suddenly lost all his Intellectual property ?

Do you think the federation would allow him to take earl gray tea if all Pickard did was sit in his mums basement and played PS2 all day ?

They ARE paid, they are paid like every is paid today, they are provided with accomidation, food, and the requirements of life as long as they contribute their part to the system.

If they did not work, they would not be ‘paid’, they would not be allowed to use replicators, or eat, or sleep or travel of a star ship.

The ONLY reason they can do what they do, is because THEY DO WHAT THEY DO, and they have the necessary Intellectual Property to carry out the required tasks.

Just like everyone on the planet today.

You ARE what you KNOW, and not from what you own.

Try making a living from what you know, if you dont know anything.

Try making a living from what you own, if you do not own anything that everyone else also owns.

(if you sell something, you no longer own it, therefore you cannot making a living of selling what you own, because before long you will own nothing).

But you can sell what you know, even if you are not the only person who knows that, I can sell the fact and make a living fixing TV sets, I can even do that when there are thousands or millions of other people who have that same knowledge.

You may not be able to make a living knowing how to walk, but you can make a living applying that knowledge and walking (and delivering mail) while you walk.

Knowledge is power, and power is money, without knowledge you have no power, and no money, and if by chance you do have money and no knowledge then you do not know what to do with either that power or that money.

If you have money, what do you do with it????

Do you not purchase the product of Intellectual property that belongs to someone else ?

If you had money, but there was no IP to purchase (or product of IP) what is the use of having money ?

If you can make money without knowing ANYTHING (even how to walk) I would like to know how ?

So you could be brain dead, with no knowledge whatsoever, and somehow you are capable of making money without knowledge !!!!!..

Thanks amazing, but I would not like to rely on the products you create !!!.

What are you going to create, Dribble ?

Ed C. says:

Re: Re: Re: I AM a nerd

No, the only real reason IP has a real cost is because the people who make it have to pay for goods and services to even survive to create the IP in first place (cost of living). Then they have to pay others to produce and distribute a product(cost of production). If you can drastically reduce the cost of production of almost everything, you drastically reduce your cost of living. However, anyone simply creating “property” with perpetual profits but no without any real ongoing cost beyond own existence is a parasite. They of course have know desire to do anything that would upset their free ride.

darryl says:

Re: The point of money to to buy the generic material and energy, and knowledge of what to do with it.

because the generic material and energy have value. therefore without money, you cannot purchase the generic material or energy to replicate anything !!!.

Much like your computer, you have generic material (software) and energy (power), without either your computer is of little value, you can have a computer, but if you cannot afford to pay the power bill, it is not alot of use to you.

You can have a computer, but if you cannot afford the generic material that runs it (the software), then again that computer is of little use. (might be a good door stop)..

Or you can have the IP for a computer and software, and it will be equally useless..

It is not untill you apply Intellectual property to a physical entity that that entity achieves any value whatsoever.

Anonymous Theorist says:

Re: Re: The point of money to to buy the generic material and energy, and knowledge of what to do with it.

Money /= value. Money is a symbolic exchange medium.
There’s nothing “real” about money.

Many cultures thrived on a gift economy. The value in that situation is prestige, social standing, peer status and personal growth and satisfaction. A lot of it is beneficial to the society as a whole and knowing one was integrated and valued in that society.

Money has nothing to do with value that is natural; it is an artifical construct. You kind of touched on it in your response with your computer analogy, but you still seem stuck on the idea that money has no alternative and is a natural “fact”; that the terms “money” and “value” are inextricably tied together. They aren’t.

Donny (profile) says:

“(Someone can?t give you a replicator or make one with their replicator, because that would violate their license)”

In a world where a replicator could make another replicator…well, let’s imagine we start off with two replicators. Both of them are being used properly, and with appropriate licenses. All is as the IP-believers would want it, and going smoothly.

But then suppose that the guy who owned the second replicator decided to crack his, and violate the license, and make an outlaw replicator for a third person. Let’s bracket his motivations/justifications/ethics/reasonableness. In fact, let’s assume he’s a nasty selfish vile-hearted blaggard.

The replicator he just replicated will also be cracked. And the replicators it replicates will in turn also be cracked. And the replicators they replicate will in turn also…etc.

Now let’s fast forward this hypothetical world a few years. What do you think has happened?
My bet is: There would exist ONE legal, proper replicator that still follows its appropriate licenses. And there would exist LIKE A GAJILLION replicators that are free to replicate whatever the hell they want.


This isn’t an outcome I want to suggest is desirable, or laudable. It’s just simply inevitable. There’s no way you could lock up something like that, no matter how noble your desires, or how disastrous that result.

Anonymous Coward says:

Someone would still have to make the ‘recipe’ instructions to build a whatever. Material will still have to be ‘manufactured’ in whatever usable form is needed to feed the replicator. As was mentioned in the article, some sort of repairman is needed and parts so he can do his job is needed to be made.

This sort of pushes in the direction the internet is leading us, if you think about it. Much of the businesses want the internet as a store front with endless virtual shelves that cost nothing to put up and very little to maintain. It’s moving towards brick and mortar stores being the rarity, rather than the common. The communications between the customer and the store representative have been removed along with the time factor to special order. Basically if you want something not on the shelf but available, instead of waiting for the store to order and then the typical 6 to 8 weeks, now it is delivered overnight to your doorstep. Not having to keep up a physical store front means business expenses are cheaper. You don’t need insurance on a virtual store being damaged by a storm or some other cause. You back up your data to a different place and you are ready just in case Armageddon occurs.

With a replicator, the virtual shelves would go the way of the physical store. You buy the material, the recipe, and put in the time of making, during which time is now the scarce commodity as it is occupied with making this so it can’t make that.

As world altering and shattering as electricity.

darryl says:

Re: Re:

the first thing you would replicate is a spare replicator !!

so no, you would not get a job as a replicator repairman.

If you can make anything you want, the only thing of value is the knowledge of how to make that thing.

Therefore, in the replicator age, there is ONLY IP, and IP is the ONLY thing of value..

Because you can make only what you KNOW HOW TO MAKE, and knowing how to make things is a product of Intellectual property.

So you might not pay for the earl gray tea, but you pay for the knowledge of what earl gray tea is, as without that knowledge, you cannot make that product.

That is why you cannot replicate an i9 CPU without first knowing the IP that is required to make the CPU, the physical CPU might be dirt cheap, to create ONCE you have the IP, the knowledge to make one, but that knowledge is now the ONLY thing of value…

So again, the replicator age, will be the IP age, just as it is in star trek.

Everyone in Star Trek live from the fruits of their knowledge, and nothing else.

Pickard does not have to run a veggie garden in his spare time to make some extra money or to eat, no one does.

They just talk, and think and make decisions and say “shield up” and “engage” and go to Rigal 4 alot.

Pickard to Data: “Data tell me what you know about the daggabah system?”

Data to Pickard: the Daggabah system is a ficticious place from an ancient series of moves in the 20th centuay called “star wars”..

Packard to data: “Thankyou for your In Put..!”

Data to Pickard: “that is why I am here Sir!, Sir, did you know I decended from R2D2 ?”

darryl says:

Re: Post 1111 (Dec), HG Wells - Time Machine. You're the morlocks...

how do you manufacture the parts that make up the first replicator ?

how do you develop the knowledge of how to build the parts ? and the knowledge of how to build the replicator ?

How can you build something, that you do not know how to build ?

Or without intellectual property (knowledge) how can you do anything ? (even walk, talk, breath or live?).

It’s still very sad that it appears the material minded Yanks can not believe that what they know is far more important than what they have.

NASA is a classic example, all that IP, skills and knowledge is of huge value, far more value than the cost of a space shuttle. And you threw away both !!!!!

Ever watched HG well’s “time Machine” movie ?

Where the morlocks lived underground and had IP and knew how to generate energy and had technology, and the people above ground lived in a utopia, with no IP and no knowledge, but were actually slaves (and the food source) to the ones with the IP ?

There is a message there for you, but it’s subtle so you probably do not ‘get it’………

(what were the 3 books he took ?) “what would YOU have taken” ??????????

darryl says:

What I nice dream world you live in !!!

Really, You’ve promoted the replicator to something that is capable of predicting the future, creating matter out of nothing and mind reading !!

Lets assume you had a replicator, and the year is 1920.

Could you tell your replicator “I want a quad 1000Ghz i9 CPU computer, with 2TB or RAM, and 1000 TB or RAID 3 SSD’s, and 4 telsa GP/GPU co-processor cards

What do you think the replicator would do ?

In other words a replicator is just that a replicator, it is not capable of invention or innovation, it can ONLY do what it KNOWS HOW TO DO, and it can only do that if the RAW MATERIALS for that are available.

Without IP, without the knowledge to replicate (copy) something, then the replicator is useless, and without the raw materials that are required to build (replicate) that item it is equally useless.

Earl Gray Tea is INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY, by me saying “earl gray tea, does not mean I have some !!! it means that “earl gray tea” (that term and what it is) is a property of my intellect, NO I do not have to have a cup of it to know what it is, yet if I do what a cup of it, I HAVE to know what it is first.

That is Intellectual property.

You cannot have REAL/PHYSICAL property without first having that property as part of your intellect. (your intellectual property).

If picard did not know what ‘earl gray tea was’, there is no way he could make that request to his replicator !!! (could he !!)

If you asked you replicator to build you a computer, one that allready exists in the form of IP, (ie someone knows how to build one) and that computer is ALLREADY REAL, (you cannot replicate something that does not exist to replicate in the first place).

The replicator would ask for the following –

“I need this many molocules of Copper, with a purity of 99.9999%, I need this number of Gold Atoms, this number of silicon atoms, this amount of steel, plastic, rubber, silver, lead, tin, arsnic, germanium, tungsten, glass and so on.
I will also ask for a specific amount of energy, and time.

(do you expect to get all those things for free ??, or do you expect that someone will mine, refine and purify those raw products and provide them to you for free, including the electricity ?)

Where does it get those items from ?

Or does this magic replicator, not only predicts the future, invents it’s own products and creates matter and energy from nothing ?

If everyone had a replicator, apple would know that it would only be able to sell ONE Iphone, as everyone would replicate that phone with their own personal replicator.

Do you honestly think that apple would spend the billions of dollars in R&D and development if they knew that they would only sell ONE product (the prototype) ???

Would ANYTHING be developed, if the developer was aware that the money, effort and time he spend on that development would acheive him NOTHING ??

Only someone who has never made a living from what they know would have such a fairy tale view of reality.

Why don’t you think one or two steps further into your nice dream world ?

Then you might work out, that if everyone had a replicator of the type you invisage then IP would be the ONLY PLAYER ON THE BLOCK, and IP (what you know) would be the only comodity that would have value (assuming somehow raw materials for your replications magically appear).

What about the IP that is required to discover, mine and refine the raw materials, or the IP to discover better ways to build a CPU ?

Yes, lets all get replicators, and then the world will be 100% IP driven, and it will truly be a world were IP is the primary and ONLY commodity of value…..

Zot-Sindi says:

Re: What I nice dream world you live in !!!

Erm… here’s a tip for you:

the ONLY real “intellectual” property is your own thoughts in your own mind

once you make these thoughts public, you don’t own them anymore

want to keep them exclusively yours? do not tell anyone about them, do not make anything based on them public, keep them secret and entirely to yourself

i know it’s hard for some people, but so is “un”common sense

Zot-Sindi says:

Re: Re: What I nice dream world you live in !!!

“once you make these thoughts public, you don’t own them anymore”

to elaborate, it’s like having an animal in a cage, once you make the thoughts public you are releasing the animal into the wild, and unless you have some sort of mind-altering something-or-other that can wipe that particular thought from people’s minds, it’s now beyond your control

darryl says:

Re: Re: What I nice dream world you live in !!!

So when Data askes Pickard ‘what are we going to do captain??’, and Pickard says “shields up”, then by your logic, Pickard is finished, he’s exposed his IP so therefore its everyone’s.

Anyone, at any time, can respond to Data’s request with “shields up”, and all will be well !!!!!!!..

Because they are now applying ‘public IP’ !!!! ??????

Please, NEVER EVER take up a job of responsibility !!!!! better still DO NOT DO ANYTHING !!! if you honestly believe what you know, you no longer know if you say it !!! wow… how very very sad…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: What I nice dream world you live in !!!

Thus is nothing more than a transparent conflation of l knowledge and authority.

Anyone that heard him say “shields up!” would obviously gain the knowledge to say “shields up!” but the authority to have data respond as if you were Picard is an entirely different, altogether unrelated thing.

This has nothing to do with no longer knowing somehing once you say it and everything to do with everyone that hears and understands knowing what you know once they hear you say it. Communication, what you seem to be suggesting is the exchange of ‘intellectual property,’ is the natural way of things.

darryl says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What I nice dream world you live in !!!

Pickards authority stems only from what he knows, when he makes that command, the people who perform that comment do so due to the knowledge that Pickard has the required IP to make that decision, whereas they do not.

They may know how to raise the shields, they do not have the specific knowledge of when or why to raise them.

Picard is the boss, because of the content of his intellect, because of the property of his intellect, his OWN intellectual property.

Is it really THAT hard ???

AW says:

Re: Re: Re: What I nice dream world you live in !!!


Shields up is a button push…anyone can do it. It’s like turning on wiper blades in your car.

command codes are required for certain sensitive commands, these change often.

Please stop double and triple posting, I admire your enthusiasm, but think through your thoughts and finish them before posting, otherwise it’s considered rude.

Please also get a browser with spell check. Two of the most popular browsers are free and open source, so you aren’t hindered by IP and they come with spell check, which would help in the presentation of your ideas.

darryl says:

Re: Re: Re:2 What I nice dream world you live in !!!

if it ‘just a button push’ why not just get a monkey to do it randomly ? that should work…. no knowledge required, except “push button, sometimes, randomly”.

just as in turning on the wiper blades that requires considerable knowledge, knowledge that is part of your intellectual property, tell that same monkey to ‘turn on the wiper blades’ and see what happens !!! (he’ll probably throw his crap at you !!)..

writing a best seller book might only be ‘pressing buttons’ as well, but without again IP, (and lots of it) no amount of button pressing will create a best selling book.

you said so much yourself, you commented about my spelling, you were saying that if I had a higher level of IP, and could spell (or type) better then my comments would have MORE VALUE !!!!!..

so you admit that IP has value 🙂

Great, I always knew it did.

(the ability to spell, and intelligence bears little relationship with each other)

I would far rather have my intelligence and not spell as well, as to be able to spell very well, and be stupid, and have no intellectual property.

AW says:

Re: Re: Re:3 What I nice dream world you live in !!!

Wiper blades are common technology created by a need, they are public domain technology for the most part since they were created almost immediately. They are a switch with a reciprocating motor attached. IP would only hinder wipers and safety.

I am sure I could train a monkey to turn on the wiper blades when it rains with very simple Pavlovian training. Language is far harder to teach and we have done that.

I am sorry you misunderstood what I said about your spelling. I stated that your presentation would be more effective with proper spelling, not that you were unintelligent or your opinions were not valid or valued. I also stated that there were free sources available unfettered by IP, so that you could increase value without increasing IP restrictions.

You are also making the assumption that value and property are the same thing. Properties, like your words have no value if no one wants them. For example Mike’s words hold value to the Techdirt community so we provide him with occasional monies in the form of direct payment for some and as product to advertising clients. There, as far as I am aware, is no site of yours that people find enough value in to provide the same, though with free and open source solutions unfettered by IP you could most certainly have an opportunity to do so, thus increasing overall value without the need for IP. I encourage you to explore this avenue if you feel that you having something to offer above your comments.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: What I nice dream world you live in !!!

darryl, it is you who live in the dream world of IP.

I believe replicators will not create this great demand for IP.

There will be people who create and then give away their IP. Like Open Source. Or Creative Commons.

Hey, I designed this great chair. Here is the design, put it into your replicator and pass the design on to others.

If someone wants to charge for their IP, they can. But nobody is forced to buy it.

People will build free IP based on other people’s freely given IP. At first will be freely available designs for small parts. Soon for all of the parts of a computer. Next there will be freely available designs for assembled computers. People will build upon other people’s work.

This is inevitable for any complex machine — including replicators.

I suspect the real economy will center around energy production and labor that only a human can do. Service jobs will be what is in demand. People who make your bed. Help check you into the hotel. IP will be remembered as a relic of the dark ages.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Re: The Intellectual Property In Earl Grey Tea Has Long Since Lapsed.

Articles of food are rarely novel. To take some examples.

Earl Grey Tea ca. 1830
English Breakfast Tea 1843
Orange Pekoe Tea 1819
Beef Stroganoff 1861

These dates merely reflect documentary evidence in cookbooks. Innovative cooking tends to be “poor peoples’ culture,” the property of illiterates, so it is not very well documented. The rich tended to hunt, and to eat whatever they killed in great big slabs of the best cuts. Stews and soups and sausages, and whatnot, were what poor people did with the parts of the animal that the rich people didn’t want. You can take it as read that Russian peasants were eating something like Beef Stroganoff, long before it appeared on Count Stroganoff’s table. It may have been Chicken Stroganoff, or Pork Stroganoff, or whatever. I myself have made Garbanzo Stroganoff. The same technique, applied to beans instead of beef.

Intellectual property is not really much of an issue in food recipes. All the major popular dishes have long since been cloned, and the recipes published, generally over a hundred years ago. The last big fundamental innovation in foodstuffs was the so-called “great cultigen exchange” of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Plants, such as the potato or American corn (Maize), which had been grown in only one part of the world, were shipped all around the world, cultivated all over the world, and integrated into the various national cuisines, increasing the choice of vegetables by a factor of five or six.

Incidentally, it sounds as though you are confusing Intellectual Property with “Truth In Labeling.”

darryl says:

Replicator I want a cuban cigar

Ok pickard, give me awile, as I have to go to cuba to do that, as a cuban cigar is made in cuba, with cuban tobacco, I cannot replicate a cuban cigar unless I am in cuba, if I arrange these molocules to make something that ‘looks like’ and tastes like a cuban cigar then I am providing you with a fake, and therefore I cannot meet your request.

The intellectual property of a cuban cigar is a cigar that is made in, and sold from Cuba, and please DONT ask for a “hand made” cuban cigar, as hands (and travelling to cuba) are not my strong points.

“Replicator, I want a quantum computer the size of my watch, that 10,000 teraflops.”

Replicator: “please input the required IP for that replication”

darryl says:

And again -

Caveman to replicator –

“Replicator, please replicate my club and flint”

Caveman, our life is complete we have unlimited quantities of flint and clubs, there is no need for us to progress any futher, our life it complete.

No need to invent IRON, or machines, or argiculture, or an economy or social structure.

(I wonder then how a replicator could be invented, or could it be a product that came into existance without intellectual property)

Zot-Sindi says:

Re: And again -


me dun no bout no in-teh-lecktual p00perty

me bored wit clubs, me go make somethin else

*invents stuff*

push button

*copies it*

uhhhh…. me bored wit dis too

*invents more stuff*

P.S. i think you mean an IDEA? there’s a huge difference, with intellectual property as in an exclusing thought kept to oneself nothing gets made because it never leaves the mind or nobody knows either way since they don’t show it to anyone

an idea it has the potential to get made

intellectual p00perty is the bastard child of the above where an idea gets made and some bozo not only gets them mixed up with exclusive thoughts they delude them-self (and apparently congress) into believing they can control what other people do with the sam-.. i mean, “their” idea

darryl says:

Re: Re: And again -

and how do you invent it ?

You do not even know how to make a club, or a flint, that knowledge was lost after the first one was replicated.

So you do not know how to make flint or clubs, but you expect that without any knowledge of ANYTHING (like making things) then you are going to be able to invent something like a i9 CPU ?

so when was the last time u used a knife and thought to yourself, “wow, I can design a better one, with different materials, that is capable of cutting through anything” ??

So the cave man is going to think “yea my flint stone is good but if i made the blade from diamond, and put a titanium handle on it, and made the handle to exactly match the shape of my hand, then my life will be complete… Replicator, make me a diamond bladed knife, with a titanium handle pleases”

“Replicator my club is not effective anymore, please replicate me a nimitz class aircraft carrier, complete with F-16 fighter jets….”

Replicator: “I cannot comply with your command”, please input Intellectual property.

Caveman, But I have no idea how to design a jet engine !!!

Replicator: “whats a jet engine???? “

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Exactly, and once you don’t need to work to get the necessaries, and some luxuries, people who do jobs they hate will stop doing them. But people doing things they love to do, will still do them, as they do now.

My father was a scientist, a researcher.
When his unit was closed down he was close to retirement age, he never got another paid job.
What he did get, was lab space in a university, managed to get a grant to purchase some equipment and kept doing what he had been doing until long after retirement age.
He didn’t do it for IP or to get IP, he did his work because that was what he was interested in.
He got paid for it for a long period of time, he won awards for it, but he’d have been doing it whether he got paid or not, or whether he got awards or not as long as he had the ability to provide the necessaries for himself and his family.

People who think that even in a world of infinite supply, people would still only work for reward betray an amazing lack of understanding of the human race.

darryl says:

Re: In the replicator age, there is ONLY IP, nothing else.

in star trek there is nothing but intellectual property, pickad does not make anything, nor does anyone else.

Their entire life is spend in the application of their knowledge, they do not do physical labour, they think and made decisions for a living.

They live off the product of their knowledge, for them that is the ONLY thing they posses of value.

Just as it is for us, it is not what you can do, it is what you know how to do that makes you what you are.

If pickard did not have the required intellectual property to run a starship, then do you think he would be running his own starship he built from a replicator ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: In the replicator age, there is ONLY IP, nothing else.

Now your are transparently conflating ‘intellectual property’ (your usage of which already begs the question) with anything that is not a physical good. Does a military officer in command of a naval vessel produce physical property today? No. So by your logic they must produce ‘intellectual property’ then? Also no. They provide a service. Running a starship isn’t a form of ‘IP’ anymore than walking is a form of ‘IP.’ It’s something you learn how to do through trial and error and, hopefully, with some amount of instruction. I guess under your definitions teachers are pirates though so in your future unliscended teaching would obviously be outlawed. Want to teach your child thier times tables? Gotta pay a liscensing fee to the ‘IP’ owner before you can share your knowledge. Free exchange of information? That sounds like something a criminal would do.

darryl says:

Re: Re: Re: In the replicator age, there is ONLY IP, nothing else.

so if you did not know anything would you still be able to provide that “service” ???

What value does your ‘service’ have if not only the value of what you know and contribute to that service ?

oh, it’s something you LEARN how to do !!!! (like walking and talking) !!!!!..

So when you LEARN something, do you KNOW that thing ? do you have KNOWLEDGE of that thing, (that allows you to provide that service) ?

Would you still be able to provide that service (or walk and talk) if you did not have knowledge ?

Do you OWN that knowledge of how to walk ? you most certainly POSSESS that knowledge, is not knowledge a product of your intellect.

If you HAVE that knowledge in your OWN intellect, you OWN that knowledge, and I would expect the knowledge of how to walk would TOO YOU, be of great value, (even though many other people posses that same knowledge), your knowledge of it is your own property, and has value not only to yourself but to everyone you intend to ‘service’ by that application of your INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY….

Does a military officer in command of a naval vessel produce physical property today?

Yes, of course he does, and every day when he is acting as the commander.

He might say “steer heading 275 degree’s, full ahead”.

That will cause thousands of tons of steel and ship to produce a PHYSICAL PROPERTY.

That physical property is the ship at a certain course, speed at a specific time.

All because of the application of IP.

Would the commander be able to make a physical change if he did not know how to order the direction of the ship ? or even what a ‘ship’ is ? or where he is allready ?

Does the value come from him saying ‘steer course 275’ or by his years of knowledge and IP that enabled him to make that decision based on his IP to make that order ? or is the value just from the words themselves. (so they could be said at any time, and any place and it would be correct ?)..

When you intellect tells you “I want to go for a walk” you stand up, and once again you call on your IP and say to yourself “thats right I KNOW how to walk”, and off you go.

If you did not possess the IP or knowledge of ‘walking’ then you would not be able to perform the physical task of walking, no matter how badly you wanted to do so.

put it another way,

what can you do, that you do not know how to do? and is what you know how to do is that a part of your intellect ?

Do you think your knowledge of how to walk is your property ? after all you said you discovered it yourself by trial and error ? therefore it MUST be your property, a property of your intellect !!!!.

What would you call a property of your intellect ????

How bout, “intellectual property”…. !!!!!!! and there we are !!!

you think, therefore you are

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 In the replicator age, there is ONLY IP, nothing else.

What the f*ck are you talking about? I’ve been reading the comments for this article and…all this talk about IP…do you even know WHAT IP is?
noun: property that results from original creative thought, as patents, copyright material, and trademarks.

Where does a naval captain learning sea-faring in officer training and saying “Set Course to 275 Degrees” apply in I.P.? He doesn’t own the phrase. He doesn’t own the ship (its owned by the navy, and by extension, his government). Saying “Set Course” is an order and his sub-ordinates following that order is part of their training. Is there some form of literature or market enterprise created by saying “Set Course”?

“If you did not possess the IP or knowledge of ‘walking’ then you would not be able to perform the physical task of walking, no matter how badly you wanted to do so.”
This is where I think that you are literally a moron. You’re confusing IP for general knowledge. Everyone knows how to walk. It’s not an idea that can be owned. Ideas cannot be owned. I don’t look up a registry of who owns the knowledge and idea of how to walk, before I get up and walk. I just do it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 In the replicator age, there is ONLY IP, nothing else.

All because of the application of IP.

The application of intellect. Nothing to do with the legal concept of intellectual property.

Most of your reasoning is circular; trying to claim that intellectual property, itself an intellectual construction currently used to describe several different legal concepts, can be used to justify itself because it exists.

There is nothing “natural” or “intrinsic” about IP, it is simply a legal tool to transfer wealth from one to another, a currently very poor means of balancing the books.

taoareyou (profile) says:

Replicator Needs

Why does anyone need to mine materials from a replicator? All you need is protons, neutrons and electrons. It breaks them down and reassembles them. Sort of like transporters. The fuel for a replicator is any sort of matter. If you want earl grey tea, you only need enough matter to equal the amount used in final product.

Like many who have stated this, if replicator technology existed, jobs in the normal sense would vanish and everyone would have all their needs easily taken care of without the need for money or property.

People would likely be devoting their time to academic pursuits, exploration and arts.

darryl says:

Re: Replicator Needs

What is required to pull apart or put together protons, neutrons and electrons ?

ENERGY, and vast amounts of it.

You might have even seen it (at least on TV) yourself, I am sure you have seen many nuclear explosions (fission), when they take matter, and with the application of a great deal of energy they ‘split the atom’, this process creates energy and also requires vast amounts of energy, (and temperature/pressure) to achieve.

Nuclear Fusion, that is combining protons and neutrons to ‘fuse’ the atoms (can only be actually done with Hydrogen into helium) (and not the heavier elements), requires VAST QUANTITIES of energy.

Our SUN, has ALOT of energy, but it is not a big enough sun, and does not contain enough energy to create the heavy elements (the metals) within it’s core.

It requires super massive stars before you have nearly enough energy to fuse any elements heavier than Hydrogen.

Good luck trying to get one for your kitchen…..

Yes, I am sure you dream world would be far better, if those damn laws of physics were just a little different, allthough you might regret what you wish for. and you might miss our nice warm sun…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Replicator Needs

It’s a thought exercise where you assume the replicator works as it is shown to work. That’s why they call it science fiction. What purpose doesn’t serve to point out it is fiction, of course it is. If you don’t want to participate in the thought exercise then shut the hell up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Replicator Needs

For the thought impaired, here’s a hint on how this game is played.

(1) You take an idea, maybe a preposterous one, and see what the implications of accepting it are. (2) Then you try to figure out what’s different and similar between the imaginary world you just created and the one you’re living in. (3) Then you try to figure out why it’s different, and whether the defect is in the imagined world or the current one.

I’m sure philosophers have a name for this, I just don’t know what it is.

In this case, (1) imagine that you had a machine that could replicate anything more-or-less for free, should people be allowed to replicate whatever they want with it? (2) Seems to me that it would make sense. If you can have whatever you want, why limit it? (3) Since we have replicators that can replicate anything digital more-or-less for free, why would we want to limit the reproduction of them? There might be reasons. Maybe they’re good, maybe they’re not. That’s the whole point of the exercise, to clarify the reasons for limiting free replication.

But now that you understand it, have fun! That is, if you’re going to bother making comments, you can make meaningful comments about the discussion at hand, instead of just complaining that the game is stupid.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Replicator Needs

“People would likely be devoting their time to academic pursuits, exploration and arts.”

Much more likely that a large fraction would devote their time to mind numbing chemicals, sex, and porn. A pretty large fraction of them do that now, when they are supposedly struggling to meet their basic needs of life while being dominated by heartless capitalist taskmasters.

Jamey says:


The only way replicators will not be allowed to make other replicators is if they are built so that the user cannot create their own designs to be replicated.

Unfortunately, RepRap is starting to kick that ass.

Once replicators are in wide usage, though, there will only be three critical factors – raw material to make things from, energy to make the changes to the raw material, and the designs to guide the changes. Any fully-generalized replicator is of necessity a fully-generalized disassembler, as well, so raw material will be a minimal issue. Energy will likely be problematic, for a while, but not too long – be it fusion, space-based beamed power, or antimatter/dilithium reactors. Designs – well, as they’ll be digital in nature, we already know what happens to digital files. (Are digital “goods” really “goods” in the legal sense, as in “goods and services”?)

Ultimately, the only scarcity will be: Attention. Be it attention to hear our newest composition, or attention to help us design something we don’t know how to design, or simply attention to share time with someone – the only thing not in essentially infinite supply will be attention. We’ll all only have our 70-120 years of 24-hour days worth of attention to share out.


While I’m here – How much would it cost to provide every child, at birth, a DVD/BluRay spindle loaded with every public domain text, image, work of music, etc? *ALL* of the world’s music – all of the world’s art – all of the world’s literature? Include with that a small reader/player capable of being charged by solar power?

darryl says:

Re: Scarcity - will get far worse

so raw material will be a minimal issue.

You would have to use exactly the same amount of raw material that is required to make the item you wish to replicate.

You cannot make a cup of tea with only half a cup of water.

There will be NO (ZERO) reduction of the amount of raw material you need to make something.

the same amount of energy will be required to ‘re-replicate’ the raw materials, as it will to re-arrainge them into the form you desire.

+ the energy to find, test, extract, refine, transport, and distribute the raw materials.

And all the waste materials, and empty earl gray tea cups will have to be disposed of.

If a replicator requires ONE specific part to operate, that part (or material) will be hugely expensive.

Some people here do appear to have a very weak grip of reality, please do not take up a job of trying to predict the future, and please do not work in any area that requires any scientific knowledge, or economic knowledge for that matter.

Anonymous Coward says:

hate to say it folks @10 @ 13

you nee dto understand that your aren’t creating matter, you are reforming energy into matter and guess what its been done on a scale of one atom and even beamed a short distance.

now working on 100 atoms and so on…this tech once out there will destroy copyrights forever. AS parent states and i always say. ONCE all the robots and replicators do all the work , what do we do? we get on that space ship and explore , we fight the bad guys , we create art and create music for its own sake….wealth is no longer required. POWER however comes form you and me giving it to a authority over us and there may still in futures i will guess be wars.

OH and if i never had to pay rent or for food and could have all the tools i wanted to create i would and will do so and id prolly get together with others in vast big swaths of entertainment creation. ITS called entertainment for a reason. ENTERTAIN YOURSELF….its not that hard. Apple of course would not create the iphone666 because scientists working on the WePhone1 got 1 million people working on it and in a year came up with the bestest phone ever does everything and has a replicator built in.

Bruce says:

Replicator story discussing consequences for society July 1958

One of my favourite short stories relating to the consequences of having replicators is

“Business as usual during alterations”


Ralph Williams (Astounding Stories July 1958)

When you have a economic system based on abundance, what is the scarcity that fuels the abundance – the talent to make the originals that become abundant.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Replicator story discussing consequences for society July 1958

Another scarcity is work that only a human can do. Or that people prefer a human to do.

This ultimately means any kind of service or responsibility job.

Lifeguard. Fireman. Maid. Concierge. Doorman. Doctor.

Any type of skill that is valuable. Geeks will be more in demand than ever.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Author misses one important point...

I don’t think it will be that simple in reality.

Plenty of people will just do nothing but stay in mom’s basement and play PS3 all day.

There will be economic value to jobs and services that only a human can do, or that people prefer a human to do. Lifeguard. Fireman. Doctor. Maid. Bartender. Counselor. Doorman. Scientist. Researcher. Artist. Engineer.

PrometheeFeu (profile) says:

I think only marketers and lawyers is quite an absurd conclusion. There are lots of service jobs which replicators do not eliminate: Researchers to invent better replicators, healthcare professionals, computer programmers, architects, teachers, starship captains, etc… Also, replicators are limited in size so you would need people to assemble large objects from replicated parts. Finally, let’s say there are no jobs needed. What that would mean would be that replicators have replaced humans. So what? We would all be fabulously wealthy incredibly rapidly. Jobs are a means not an end in themselves:

darryl says:

we allready have replicators

yes, thats right, they are called factories.

You put raw materials on the input, you add energy, and IP stir, cook and then, you have your replication.

they are also called farms, you input raw materials, (seeds, water, light, heat, energy), you perform some process and you ‘replicate’ food.

Without any of the raw materials you are unable to ‘replicate’ that item, so if you do not have steel, energy and IP you cannot make a car.

If you have stell, and energy, but not the IP you are incapable of creating a car.

There is allready a machine that you can say “tea earl gray hot” and you will be provided with a cup of tea.

It’s called a ‘tea shop’, it takes raw materials, and IP and energy and replicates your request.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: we allready have replicators

Again confusing IP with knowledge. I can have the raw materials and the tools to make say a chair (wood, hammer and nails) but I don’t need IP. I need materials, tools and knowledge. Should I have to pay some nebulous business man to input the molecular make-up of a chair into my replicator? I can understand that we might have to pay for the raw materials, but for the knowledge?
That’s the problem today with music. We have the tools to play music, but we have the artificial limitation of having to pay a middle-man for our tools to play a sequence of notes. We’re told to pay a middle-man so we’re allowed hum music using our own vocal cords.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

I truly love where this is going

One of the reasons I came to techdirt is, I see the future. On my shelf is the “bunny book”, drexlers engines of creation, Nano systems, and a study done by NASA. The future of IP never entered my mind, until I realized someone could charge $100 usd per NAND gate.

Now I realize, when this replicator technology occurs, everyone will ignore peoples “intellectual property”.

Frost (profile) says:

Are we THAT hung up on money? Really?

Even in todays world, money is a vastly destructive force and the concept of a profit-based is literally destroying the world… so anyone who would retrofit copyright, patents and similar horror-concepts onto a world that had matter/energy conversion is completely beyond me. The only basic core function of copyright and patents are to secure a monetary flow from something that has been created – something that would be beyond nonsensical in a replicator-level civilization and already in our current one has got to go.

darryl says:

its not even a replicator

if it was a true replicator, pickard would first have to place a cup of earl gray tea (hot) into the replicator, and ask it to replicate it.

Therefore, before you can replicate anything, you need one of them in the first place.

So it would only be usefull if Pickard wanted TWO cups of tea, otherwise it is not a replicator, it is a portable, unmanned factory.

It’s a ‘creator’ not a replicator, and a create cannot create something that has yet to be created, if something is yet to be created, that means the IP for that ‘thing’ does not exist, so again, the value is in the IP, and not the item.

Try asking your photocopier to ‘replicate’ a document that has information that is not in your possession !!!

“photocopy replicator:, please replicate page 666 of the bible”

replicator: “please provide page 666 of the bible, place it in the photocopier and press “COPY”.”

But I do not have that document, or the IP of that document !!.

Replicator: Bad luck… loser…

Rikuo (profile) says:

Re: its not even a replicator

Darryl…please research what IP actually is. All Picard needs, assuming that the replicator works, is the raw material and the knowledge of the molecular structure of a cup of earl gray tea. At no point is IP involved.
Once someone in the Star Trek universe figures out the molecular structure of a cup of earl gray, they let everybody know that information. Thus, anyone with a replicator and the raw material is able to make one. Yes, only at the very beginning would one need an initial cup to scan, in order to get the molecular structure, but after that, that particular individual cup is not needed. You’re forgetting that a Star Trek replicator is a computer with storage capacity: it has the data programmed into it for all types of objects.

K_Man_ALPHA (profile) says:

Funny enough though, we already have good communicators – cell phones, data pads – tablet PCs, phasers – we do have laser weapons, we would make a tricorder – if it would sell…

The replicator is a little ways off, and hopefully by then we will have abolished the “powers that be” and are working for the betterment of humankind, sans draconian copyright laws. Let us hope we don’t have a Eugenics War or World War III to get us there. “First contact” could be cool though.

Jeffrey Nonken (profile) says:

Replicator repairman

“I would imagine there’d be a good business in being a replicator repairman, for example.”

Stuff and nonsense. Once you’ve built two working replicators, you use one to get the pattern for the other. From then on you just need to feed one of them enough matter to create more duplicates.

If a unit stops working, throw it into the “raw material” hopper and create another one.

I suppose it still could be a good job to have, but it will consist of driving around to customers’ sites with a special duplicator (one with the pattern recorded, and without the normal lock-out (you don’t REALLY think they’ll let you and your neighbor duplicate each others’ machines, do you?)) and some extra raw matter to offset losses.

You don’t even have to go into the house to haul the old one out on a hand truck — you have transporter technology, after all. Once authorized by the adult present you zap the old one out and a new one into its place. Two minutes later you leave with a signature and make your way to the next house on the list.

Actually, come to think of it… you don’t need the truck. You have transporter technology, after all — just do it from the main office.

All you need to ever do is build two of them, and have enough matter and energy at hand. Once you’ve done that you’ll never have to tinker with one again. (Even if your main office units die you can always get two customers’ units, defeat the lockout with the s00per sekrit override code, and use one to generate a new pattern of the other.)

(Of course this whole thing is based on the assumption of Star Trek-like technology. If you assume other limitations it changes the requirements.)

Aesadai (profile) says:

Now I feel like a nerd

Loved your post… but a few things. If you think about it the explanation they give for not having money is that “we serve a higher purpose” or some such nonsense. The implication is that since we have replicators so there is no hunger or lack of goods that the need for prices evaporate.

However, fully accepting the technological state of the world presented in Star Trek for the purpose of this discussion, prices are not directly connected to physical goods but are directly connected to scarcity. Scarcity ABSOLUTELY exists in the Star Trek world… human resources (peoples skills, time and effort), food and wine is still grown, distributed, and prepared for those that have distinguished pallets and can tell the difference between replicated food and the real stuff. Then there is new technology yet to be in replicators or some items that defy replications (not enough of a nerd to quote series and episode but I remember that being a plot point).

Price does and should go away when and where scarcity is not an issue (prices only persist in areas where scarcity goes away but the government enforces a monopoly on ideas via patent/copyright/etc).

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