Section 4.3: Phases 1 to 3 For Earth
The early phases of the program have two main goals. The first is upgrading civilization on Earth. The second is to prepare for and enable the later phase space projects, and the construction of space locations. In this section we summarize the three major phases on Earth that follow the respective Research and Development sub-phases performed on Earth. These are (1) Starter Locations and Network, (2) Distributed and Industrial Locations, and (3) Difficult and Extreme Locations. Since this wikibook is mainly about space systems, we only provide a summary here, and refer to the Seed Factories wikibook where they are covered in more detail as design examples. We feel that the idea of self-expanding production is important enough to get a separate discussion, because it can have such widespread applications. However, the early program phases on Earth are connected to the later ones in space, so we provide summaries here for continuity. All parts of the program exist within and interact with the rest of civilization. Therefore we try to use what already exists when possible, and not duplicate existing systems or ones in development. We may propose improvements or alternatives to current systems if there are enough advantages to doing so.
Phase 1 - Starter Locations & Network
Phase 1 in General
Phase 1 builds the first operational seed factory equipment and begins a self-expansion process that continues through the rest of the program. The equipment is located at small sites, such as individual homes, and larger sites with multiple items, such as community-built workshops. Sites which are in easy travel distance from each other, such as within a metropolitan area around a city, are grouped for design purposes into a "Location". Larger distances require more transport time and expense for people and physical items. The emphasis is then more on communications, remote collaboration and work, and transport of high value items rather than bulk goods. The designs for use within a location will therefore be somewhat different than those used across different ones.
The work in Phase 1 then involves two main areas: tasks that happen within a specific site or location, and tasks that involve coordination and collaboration between multiple sites or locations. These are addressed separately in the following headings, but we expect them to happen in parallel.
Phase 1 - Starter Locations
Starter locations use equipment and location plans designed in Phase 0 - Research and Development. This includes program-wide general R&D, and specific R&D from Phase 0B performed for Phase 1. In some cases, the Phase 1 locations will evolve from R&D locations, or inherit prototype and early units of production equipment made in Phase 0. R&D is done in relatively few locations, so in most cases, we expect Phase 1 locations to use newly made or purchased items as a starting point. R&D is a continuing process, so not all designs will be available at once, and initial designs may be improved or replaced over time. The development of a conceptual design for a starter location is described in more detail in Section 5.0 Personal Production of the Seed Factories wikibook.
A Personal Production location, once expanded to design capacity, produces mainly home improvement and hobby craft scale products for use by the owner-operators and their immediate community. This is a small enough scale that the starter equipment should be affordable. By directly producing for themselves and their local community, the owners have a reason to participate. The design goal is to meet up to 25% of people's needs and wants on a part-time basis. The owner-operators do not need to give up their current homes and jobs to do this. Even at a small scale, though, producing a variety of products with different materials, equipment, and skills goes beyond what an individual can do in terms of funds, working space, and knowledge. Also, home improvement projects like adding a room often need multiple people at once to carry out. Therefore we design for a community of people working together, rather than for individuals.
Since community participation is likely to accumulate over time, the location begins with a small number of people and some conventional tools for specific categories, such as woodworking and carpentry. The conventional tools are added to over time for additional categories, and starter set machines emerging from R&D are added when feasible. Some self-production and expansion is possible even with conventional tools, such as making a workbench with hand and portable tools. The seed machines raise this capacity by being computer-controlled and general-purpose. The sequence of tools and machines for a given location is not fixed, but driven by community interest and skills. The R&D phase supplies guidance on methods and designs to support community choices. Whatever cannot be done internally by the location is supplied from the surrounding metropolitan area or elsewhere.
Phase 1 - Network
Interest and participation will likely not be limited to a single location in easy travel distance of project members. Section 6.0 - The MakerNet of the Seed Factories book develops a conceptual design example for a network of multiple locations. These locations interact physically and electronically to help each other make things. Phase 1 network locations share the same goals as Starter Locations in terms of scale, type of outputs, and meeting up to 25% of needs and wants on a part-time basis.
In addition to making products for current use, a longer-term goal of this phase is to prepare for a future of increasingly smart tools that use automation, robotics, and artificial intelligence to replace conventional jobs. If conventional wage-earning jobs become scarce, people will need another way to meet their needs and wants. One proposal is income transfer programs such as Basic Income. This is unsustainable on a large scale, because you run out of places to transfer income from. Government programs are also subject to political uncertainty. We think a better approach is for people to use those same smart tools to meet their needs directly. By developing a network of skills and equipment, and expanding it themselves as the need develops, this can be done affordably. By tapping a wide range of locations, with different skills and resources, communities can better prepare for the future, and increasingly rely on themselves in the later phases. People without the needed skills can participate by buying a share of the production capacity or contributing unskilled work. Existing network members can also provide training for new people, so they can gain the needed skills.
Phase 0B R&D to support such networks includes software and communications for distributing tasks across sites and locations, automatically where possible. It also includes efficient transport between sites and locations, and remote control and assistance between sites using tools like virtual reality with force feedback. That way, even if people and equipment are widely separated, they can still work together. It would also include developing training materials and instructions to build and operate the elements it designs.
Phase 2 - Distributed & Industrial Locations
Phase 2 - Growth Locations in General
By design, all types of seed factories can grow by self-expansion and upgrade. The natural continuation of this process is to increase the scale and intensity of operations beyond the part-time and small scale of Phase 1, towards full self-support and trade beyond the internal community. This will likely not happen all at once, but rather by evolution of phase 1 sites as individuals decide to move past it. Phase 1 equipment can be used to make some of the parts for larger equipment. Starter sets are optimized for flexibility, doing many tasks with few machines, to keep their size small. Full-time use tends to favor more specialized machines optimized for their tasks, because efficiency and time savings are worth more. It also favors designs for higher duty cycles and longer operating lives. Such heavy-duty designs are normally more expensive, but self-production and automation can minimize the increase. Lastly, higher intensity of use favors more automation, since the savings are higher the more times a task is performed. Since the designs are different in this phase, additional R&D is required, and again will not happen all at once, but is supplied incrementally. Additionally, research is needed for the optimum growth paths from Phase 1 systems, and across wider ranges of industries than than those for personal use. Finally, not everyone will choose higher levels of activity, and not all of their equipment upgraded to those levels. So the network of locations will include a mix of Phase 1 and 2 elements.
Phase 2A - Distributed Locations
Phase 2A Distributed Locations include small business and commercial levels of operation, including full-time participation of the people involved. This level can be reached incrementally, through internal growth, but may also be started at new sites directly at that level. The larger scale may require outside funding or partnerships to get started. It may also require dedicated sites due to scale and specialized needs, and from legal constraints on where certain types of activity can happen. This sub-phase is called "Distributed" because the full set of equipment and activities is not likely to be at one physical site, but distributed across multiple sites in a given location. As commercial scale operations continue to grow, some can eventually evolve to the Industrial Locations of Phase 2B, while others remain at the smaller scales, all operating in parallel.
This scale of operation is not limited to production tasks, but can serve the full range of industries. This includes service-type industries that use products, but do not make them. For example, a restaurant requires a building, furniture, and kitchen equipment. All of these must first be manufactured, but the restaurant only produces satisfied diners, not finished products used in further production. So the logical progression of growth is from core machines that are used to make more machines, to machines that make end-use items, to industries that only use end items to operate, but don't make any of their own.
Phase 2B - Industrial Locations for Earth
The final growth phase in moderate locations on Earth is to the industrial scale. The goal for this phase is to serve larger and more widespread markets at the most efficient levels of size and specialization. At this scale, outputs are far beyond the community needs of the owner-operators. As in Phase 2A, this scale can be reached by internal growth from previous scale locations, or by starting new sites at full scale. These can be Greenfield Sites (previously unused land} or reconstruction on Greyfield or Brownfield sites. These are respectively outdated and underused sites which have been developed in the past, or previously used for industrial/commercial use and possibly contaminated. A mix of self-expansion and new construction may also be used.
Starting new sites more strongly favors outside funding, because, for example, half a blast furnace is of no use. To be useful it must be complete, and thus need enough resources at one time to build it. Likewise, a large parcel of industrial land is usually acquired at one time, since later additions from neighboring land may not be possible. Once acquired, there is an incentive to put the land to use right away, otherwise the funds could be more productively applied elsewhere. To the extent the needs for an industrial site exceed surplus production capacity and income, then outside funding for may be required. One way to obtain sufficient funding is to distribute ownership across many people, both project members and outsiders. Outside market forces become more important than internal needs at this scale. Since those forces can't be entirely predicted, distributed ownership across multiple industries reduces risks. Work and equipment can then be redistributed when markets shift, and maintain useful production.
Even with sufficient funding, industrial scale sites require larger work spaces with larger input and output flows. Since land parcel sizes, utility supply, and transport capacity are finite, this tends to limit an industrial site to fewer product types or stages of production. Since the sources of inputs and markets for products are more widespread, transport is relatively more important than earlier phases. Section 7.0 - Industrial Production of the Seed Factories book will develop conceptual design examples for this scale. It is currently unfinished.
Most of the output from this phase is intended for use on Earth. A portion will be service, transport, habitation, and production items to reach or be used in space. The industrial locations which supply space-related outputs are still integrated with the rest of civilization. But since they represent specialized industries, and fall into the main subject of this book, we cover them separately in Section 4.4.
Phase 3 - Other Earth Locations
Phase 3 - Other Earth Locations in General
The previous phases were intended for locations on Earth that have moderate environments and surrounding development already in place. This phase continues development on Earth to places that are not as easy. A major goal of this phase is a better quality of life through sustainable development. The Earth's population is growing, and most people want a developed lifestyle. Serving more people at higher levels of development requires more physical resources and energy. Obtaining them from the limited places with moderate conditions is already stressing the capacity and environment in those areas. A way out of this problem is to leverage smart tools (automation, robotics, and AI) in two ways. One is to access more difficult and extreme locations, where additional physical resources can be found. The other is to produce large amounts of renewable energy, which will have less impact on the environment. These are made affordable by bootstrapping self-expanding systems from starter sets. Section 8.0 Remote & Difficult Locations of the Seed Factories book will develop conceptual design examples for this phase, but is currently unfinished.
Phase 3A - Difficult Earth Locations
Difficult conditions involve one or more environment or development parameters that are significantly outside the moderate range. Examples include cold tundra, hot deserts, rain forests, high elevations, weak soils, significant depths underwater or underground, or places requiring long travel times to reach. The different conditions will require some modified or new designs to meet them, and therefore some prior R&D work from Phase 0E. Where the locations are undeveloped, with little in the way of local services, then more equipment is needed to start a minimum level of operations, and more transport of needed supplies from elsewhere. Where possible, these are supplied from previous phase locations.
Phase 3B - Extreme Earth Locations
Extreme conditions go further beyond the difficult conditions and reach up to the limits of available technology. Some parts of the Earth, mainly at great depths, are not accessible at all with current technology, and therefore excluded as possible locations. Working in these conditions may need extensive R&D in Phase 0F to advance the technical limits, and to supply new or modified designs to handle the conditions. Experience in difficult conditions will be useful for the more extreme ones, so this phase logically follows 3A, but is in parallel with all previous phases, which continue to operate.