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?