Anton has had a good month. His energy consumption is down and his reputation capital has doubled after volunteering at the Sunnyside Nursing Home. Content, he relaxes into his fabricated Eichholtz Goldoni armchair, swipes off his retina display and shuts his eyes. It’s very comfortable, the armchair. His Drexler did a good job of fabricating it, of manipulating the molecules to the exact specifications. But Anton can only imagine the luxury of reclining in the genuine article, where the stitching isn’t perfect and there isn’t the permanent still-new smell. One more good month and he’ll have enough social capital to own the real thing. ‘Is that what makes me human now?’ he thinks as he sinks closer to sleep. The quest for authenticity. He thinks of his Grandad, telling him of the once endless chase for money, of entire lives spent, ruined even, pursuing ‘the dollar’ so that people could fill their houses with things they eventually just threw away. It sounded like madness, and yet, so visceral. People dying over money. He briefly finds himself pining for such folly, until his firing synapses alert his retina display, which over-rides its shutdown and projects a Fijian beach for him to fall into blissful slumber, whereupon he dreams of antique furniture.
I recently read in the New Scientist about Eric Drexler, who in 1977 imagined a nano-fabrication device capable of manipulating individual molecules to produce anything you wanted. I think there’s a whole world to create here, with all the implications that would ensue from such technology, where the question becomes one of access rather than ownership (like Spotify for example).