Ideas and Notes
The Seed Factory Project,
6485 Rivertown Rd, Fairburn, GA 30213
25 May 2018
Note: This page is a notepad for recording new ideas developed by the author, but which need more work for a paper or to include in a technical report. It is sorted by topic. As ideas get incorporated elsewhere they will be deleted from here.
Starter Sets, Bootstrapping, & Self Expansion in General
- Change is a Constant - This sounds like a paradox, but it describes the history of the Universe since the Big Bang. Our work involves systems that are intentionally designed to change themselves.
- Factories That Can Change Themselves
A typical factory, like one for making automobiles, makes a fixed range of products, at a more or less fixed rate, and is unable to change itself. This section covers the general idea of production systems which can change through their own action, at whatever scale, purpose, and level of technology. They do this by making items to use internally, in addition to making items for others like any other factory. This results in self-improvement, expansion, growth, and upgrades of their own equipment. In turn, the new capacity allows more production for others, and greater capacity for further change. This can result in a super-exponential rate of change - not only increasing by a fixed percentage per time (exponential), but increasing the rate of change over time (super-exponential). The accelerating change comes from incorporating better tools and equipment that are more efficient and faster.
Accelerating self-change has great potential for the future of civilization. This provides motivation to study and pursue them. They have large-scale economic implications, and will therefore involve politics and advocacy to properly implement. These aspects are covered in subsections below, followed by accumulated descriptions, ideas, and names for these systems. After covering the general topic, later sections cover specific scales and applications of this idea.
Factories have always been able to change by outside action. They go from not existing at all to built and functioning by way of outside resources such as money, land, construction materials, labor, and machinery built elsewhere and delivered. They have also been able to change through trade. Sales of products they currently make are used to fund improvements. Some are able to partly improve themselves, when the product they make happens to be useful for that task. A steel fabricator who makes structural parts for buildings can use those parts to add to their own buildings. Companies who make machine tools or robots can use those products in their own factories.
The kind of production systems we consider here are intentionally designed for self-change, generally with an increasing ability to do so over time. A starter set of tools and machines may not have any ability to make items for it's own use. For example, a set of garden tools can help produce food in a backyard garden, but may not be able to make any better garden tools. A surplus of food can be traded for some carpentry tools. Those can be used to build raised beds, a greenhouse, or a potting shed, improving the garden's capacity. A larger set of tools in a home workshop or makerspace may be able to make some items for itself, but not copy all the tools. After a period of growth and upgrade it may become able to not only copy the original set, but produce new starter sets of different and better types, which can then follow their own growth paths. This sort of evolution towards greater self-change can be planned for ahead of time.
- Self-Making Factory
A factory that makes itself from a starter set we call "Self-Making". The starter set is called a "Seed Factory", in the sense that it is the seed from which the rest of the factory grows. The ability to self-produce its own parts can range from 0 to more than 100%, and can change over time. Seed factories are generally much smaller and simpler than the final factory. At first, they require inputs of ready-made parts and materials, and can only produce a small range of finished items. As these accumulate, they can make more internally and need less from outside, relying on internal sources of energy and raw materials.
"Self-Making" does not mean fully automated. People, with their skills and knowledge, are a part of self-production. Smart technologies like automation, robotics, software, and artificial intelligence can partly replace the need for people, but we are not at the point where such systems can run entirely by themselves. "Factory" does not mean a single central building where all the work is done. With modern communications and transportation, the work can be distributed across multiple places. So long as the work is coordinated and the desired products are made, it can still be considered a factory.
Reasons to study and pursue this kind of technology include
- Enabling a post-scarcity civilization using self-expanding automation, renewable energy, and abundant raw materials
- Upgrading civilization to where everyone has a high quality of life
- Creating an open-ended future, rather than one constrained by a finite subset of the resources on Earth
- Bootstrapping a better society, including fewer parasites who feed off scarcity to accumulate extreme wealth and power
Modern civilization grows and changes as a whole by internal action, because there aren't any outside agents to take purposeful action. There are outside forces of nature, and unintended side-effects which we cause, but those don't involve actions driven by purpose. Economics studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services, and how economic agents and economies as a whole work. Production systems smaller than civilization as a whole, which are agents of change within them, are then also agents in the economics sense. Understanding the effects of self-changing systems includes understanding their economic impacts.
- Sneaky Naming - "Credit is what they have - debt is what you have" - a credit is a positive entry in an account book, a debit is is a negative entry. Credit reports and credit cards record the positive entries of the lenders, not your personal situation. What you have is debts, but since that sounds negative (and it is negative), they have renamed things to make it sound nicer, and thus induce you to borrow more.
- Modern Feudalism - Parallels of modern wealth concentration and required payments of average people to those with more money to medieval feudalism. We want to escape from this. Community owned production parallels early town charters.
- Smart Tools & Economic Collapse
Humans are the original "smart tools". We are able to copy ourselves and pass on our knowledge. We built other tools using food-powered energy and raw materials from nature. Then we used these tools to improve our lives. Technologies like automation, robotics, software, and artificial intelligence are going into new types of smart tools. These new tools don't need us any more to do their job. They will also be able to copy themselves, pass on their knowledge, and make other tools using energy and materials from nature.
The problem is our economic system is based on trading our labor for money, then trading that money for the other things we need and want. If the owners of the smart tools don't need people to run a business, they will get rid of them as an unnecessary expense. But the people who are unemployed will not be buying the products and services those businesses are selling, so those businesses lose income. The unemployed can't afford rent or mortgage payments, so landlords and lenders also lose income. Governments then lose tax sources based on income, employment, sales, and property. If replacement of people by smart tools becomes widespread, everyone loses. It leads to recession, depression, or economic collapse of our current system.
Our tools are only going to get smarter and cheaper with time, but people have a limited ability improve their skills or learn new ones. So eventually all conventional jobs are at risk from this problem. The question is when, and how do we deal with it?
One solution is distributed ownership of the smart tools. People then gain the benefits of what they make directly, without needing jobs and money. Since the smart tools are able to copy themselves, You only need to start with one set of them. Eventually you will have enough sets for everyone. The cost of that first set can then be distributed among all the people who will eventually benefit.
Politics & Advocacy
Convincing people and organizations that self-changing systems are coming, and that the technology is worth pursuing, involves some combination of economics, politics, and persuasion.
- A political solution: "Re-employment guarantee" - Government jobs supplied to anyone who needs them, and can't find other work, doing useful tasks. But also includes training and start-up support so they can become more employable or work for themselves. This would partly replace welfare and unemployment insurance. Pay would be slightly less than market rates to encourage people not to stay in these jobs forever.
- Persuasion - Note that loaded terms like "extreme" affect how people view things, and fear of loss is twice as strong an emotion than opportunity for gain. example: "Do you want to lose your job to robots", of course not. But since robots are coming anyway, it's better to own them yourself than some faceless corporation.
- Persuasion through story-telling:
- - A story has a protagonist(s) who have a problem which they have to overcome, with opponent/s and roadblocks to reaching a final resolution.
- - Our protagonists are several regular people - My father, the trash pick-up guy, a local teacher, and my insuarance agent. Their problem is job insecurity caused by automation, robotics, AI, and software, respectively. Collectively they are beset by these agents of change known as "smart tools" directed by the "evil mastermind" of the soulless capitalist system, whose heart is blackened by the profit motive (greed). Our heroes win by joining together, and bringing the agents of change over to their side, building a new community, and replacing greed with compassion and hope.
Descriptions, Ideas, & Names
- The TREK Principle:
All of civilization has been built by using the tools, resources, energy, and knowledge we already had to make more of them. This started with our own bodies, sticks and rocks found in nature, the food energy we could gather, and the knowledge that had been accumulated and passed on in the community. As more knowledge accumulated, we could make better stone tools, better shelters for protection, harness the energy of fire, produce more food through agriculture, and develop language and writing to better pass on knowledge. This cycle continues to the present day. We can adopt the "TREK Principle": consciously applying Tools, Resources, Energy, and Knowledge to make more of each. The pieces are still available, all around us. We just have to put them together to bootstrap a better future."
Tools are all the artifacts of civilization used to achieve a desired goal. The first tool is our own bodies, and we still use them for some tasks. But the human body has a limited range of abilities, so we supplement them with a vast range of living and artificial tools. These range from the most basic hand tools up to the most advanced machines. What we generally refer to as tools are the things used to make or maintain other items, as opposed to finished items like artwork that are not. But items like roads and buildings, and furniture like workbenches and chairs to sit at them, are necessary artifacts to make and use the working tools we usually think of. So we include them in the wider class of artifacts used in the production of other items.
The tools themselves plus the knowledge of how to make and use them make up "technology". That knowledge can be internal, as active skills and experience of people, or external as books, journals, data, plans, and instructions. Resources are the inputs used to make new items. They include raw materials, finished material inventory, parts, and already made tools and machines supplied from outside. It also includes less tangible inputs like ownership rights and money. Energy is the ability to do work, both animate an inanimate. It includes various forms of stored energy like fuels and food, sources like sunlight and wind that can be collected, and flows like electric power which can be applied. It also includes available human labor, which is our ability to complete tasks using stored food energy. Living things must frequently replenish their energy, ultimately from inanimate sources like sunlight.
- "Leveling Up":
Leveling up is a phrase that originated in role-playing games, and is now common in video gaming. A given character starts at a low level, with modest ability to complete tasks and reach their goals. Over time they can accumulate items and experience, and gain increased abilities. In a broad sense, our entire civilization has been leveling up since it started, with new levels defined by new kinds of tools and technologies: Stone tools, fire, language, agriculture, cities, metals, and so on. We can follow this kind of progression on purpose with our own tools, resources, energy, and knowledge:
Tools - You can start with the first tool, your own body, and learn to use it better. Then you can add manual hand tools, powered hand tools, larger stationary and mobile power tools, and finally "smart tools". These use technologies like automation, robotics, software, and artificial intelligence. As you level up your tools, you can get more done, and do it more easily.
Resources - Tools need inputs to be worked on - raw and finished materials, parts, other equipment to be assembled and maintained, etc. Basic resources can be found all around us for free or at low cost.
Knowledge - You can improve your current skills and experience, or learn new ones. You can also accumulate or access external knowledge like books, plans, and instructions.
You can also choose not to do any of these things and not level up. But then you can't expect your life to change or get better.
You can upgrade your job, or start working on the side. You can also arrange your housing (which is also a tool) to cost less or allow more work space. These improve your finances to start saving money. Then you can apply that money to get better tools, or improve your knowledge, and thus earn more. You can also invest it so it builds on itself. You can then level up your wealth and standard of living. Games teach us that groups with different skills and resources can often work together to reach goals they can't as individuals. In games they are called clans or guilds. In real life we call them partnerships or companies.
Automated production that bootstraps from a starter set by making more of itself from stored designs.
- A vision of a better future using self-bootstrapping automation. All of civilization was bootstrapped from rocks and sticks, so there is no reason we can't do the same (except using a more advanced starting point)
- Self-Replicating Networks: Beyond a single Makerspace to the MakerNet
The peasant farmer can grow his own food, but he can’t make the metal or wooden parts of his tools and home. Conversely, the blacksmith and woodworker can make the metal and wooden parts for the farmer and each other, but not grow their food. All three have to participate in a network to supply each other with what they need. Similarly, in the modern world, a single tool or machine can’t replicate itself, regardless if it is a simple hand tool or a smart robot. A network of people and their tools, supplying each other, can.
- Techno-Emancipation, or Freedom From Work
Automated production makes the basics you need to live, such as food, shelter, and utilities. It also makes parts for its own maintenance and expansion. This leaves you free to work on what you choose to do, rather than what you have to do to live. You can use the extra time to work for extras, self-improvement, or just relax, it's up to you.
I believe in the power of people working together to build a better future(BABF). Our goal is a better future for everyone.
- "Planting the seeds of a better future",
- "Putting the pieces in place for ABF", or
- "Building the foundations for ABF"
- "Wouldn't you like to BABF for yourself, your family, for everyone?"
Harness tools, resources, energy, and knowledge to BABF. There's enough of these for everyone in the world to live well. But people are too used to thinking in terms of scarcity. Partly that's because some people create scarcity, and sell the heck out of it for their own benefit.
Factories that Imitate Life - They grow, and evolve, and copy themselves. We want to apply the same powers of growth and reproduction that life uses to endlessly sustain itself. We can copy nature, and make our tools and industry grow and reproduce too, sustaining us and themselves forever.
Names and Slogans
Sorted alphabetically to reduce duplication:
- @Home Movement - Factory, farm, banking, etc literally at home or locally.
- Artificial Systems which become something else over time
- Automated Production that Evolves
- Automated Replication
- Automation Village - A demonstration community using high levels of automation. A community owned business
- Autoseeds - Another name for the starter kits for self-expanding automated factories.
- Bootstrapped Replicators
- Bootstrapping Technology - Methods to upgrade and expand from starter sets to higher levels of technology.
- Civilization in a Box
- Fabrication Network - A name for a distributed production system where different people own some machines in a production node, and collaborate over a network.
- Growth and Replication Tech - Technology that copies what living things do.
- Human-Augmented Replicators
- Production systems that self-expand from a starter set
- Replicating Production Systems - A production system makes stuff. A replicating production system makes itself too.
- Replicator Seed - Another description for a Seed Factory.
- The Seed Factory Project - "After 10,000 years of civilization, isn't time to end scarcity?"
- Seed Tech - A short description for the concept.
- Self-Bootstrapping Automation
- Self-Changing/Modifying Systems
- Self-Expanding Systems
- Self-Improving Networks
- Self-Modifying Systems
- Self-Replicating Communities
- Self-Replicating Networks
- Self-Reproducing Distributed Factories
- Self-Supporting, Sustainable Communities with a High Quality of Life
- Toolbox Evolution - Self-expanding, growing, modifying, changing, upgrading, improving.
- TRUE Growth System - Tool Replication, Upgrade, and Expansion.
- Viral Factories - that can copy themselves
Starter Locations & Network
These projects begin gaining experience building and operating starter sets, bootstrapping, and self-expanding systems. They are in moderate environments, in already developed and populated areas, which are the easiest places to start.
- Personal Production Network
A personal production network is made up of a distributed group of people who work together and help each other.
- - They begin with a starter set of skills, knowledge, tools, and resources.
- - They bootstrap from there by building and operating their own equipment, and creating useful products and services for themselves and others.
- - They help each other upgrade and expand their capabilities. This includes:
- -- Learning new or improving existing skills,
- -- Adding more information, designs, and plans to their knowledge base,
- -- Adding more tools, equipment, and workspaces to the network by purchase or making their own using what they already have, and
- -- Accumulating funding, materials, energy, parts, and other resources to work with.
- - Their goals include:
- -- Meeting most or all of their personal needs through the network,
- -- Becoming self-supporting and economically secure, and
- -- Able to help new people by growing the network or starting new ones.
A fully developed network would be able to make everything members want, including copying all their equipment and supplying new starter sets. A self-contained production chain, from raw materials to finished products, makes self-expansion and upgrade easier and less expensive. "Smart tools", which exploit automation, robotics, software, and artificial intelligence, can grow efficiently with little labor. A new network won't start out with all these abilities, but would grow into them a step at a time. As owners of the smart tools, they are not at risk from labor displacement. They still benefit from the tools, no matter how smart they get.
Names and Descriptions
- Bootstrap a Better Future: by networking and making our own stuff.
- Bootstrap Co-op
- Building our Future Network
- Community Automation
- Community Bootstrap Network - Bootstrap our own ability to make things via increasingly smart tools.
- Community Development Co-op: - Improve our homes and ourselves
- Community Exchange - similar to Community Exchange System but emphasis on tools, making, and building.
- Community Project Network
- Community Upgrade Co-op
- Community Upgrade Network
- Co-Working Network
- Make & Build Network - Neighborhood network for helping each other get things done. A network of people who can make things for themselves and each other.
- (Atlanta) Southside Improvement Network - Build a better life for ourselves & each other
- Neighborhood Project Network
- Production & training incubator center
- Phase 1 Names: "A Project Network to build a better future", Home Co-op,
- Seed Factory Technology Center
- Seed Factory Network
- Self-Help Network - Help people to help themselves, because corporations sure won't once automation allows it. We need to learn to do things on our own.
- The difference between working together and working for someone else is you get to keep all of what you make.
- Grow the ability to make anything we want on command, using smart tools. Voice command already exists (Alexa & others). Computer-controlled factory machines and robots also exist.
- A network of people, and their tools, resources, and knowledge. They build real wealth and security by making useful products, with a goal of meeting all their basic needs and replicating their tools to expand the network.
- Programmable Self-Expanding Factory - Uses combination of direct labor, remote operation, automation, and robotics.
- Mobile Factory Elements - Bring the factory to the worksite.
- Versions: - Residential, Industrial, Distributed, Difficult/Remote, Space.
- Growing System - Containerized hydroponics using waste cardboard boxes, organic mulch (like leaves and sawdust with compost) and a manure tea.
- Robotic Proxy - Using a tele-operated robot to observe or perform tasks. Reasons include reduced commuting, living in preferred locations, or the task location is remote or hazardous.
- Countering Resource Depletion - Premium resources (e.g. high grade ores or easy to mine) are limited. So by recycling and extracting from lower grade sources we can extend the life of all resources.
- Self-Sustaining Communities - That can efficiently make most of their own physical needs via automation, and also do other/outside work for services and fill in what they can't make.
- Resource Model - For spreadsheet version, use separate lines for alternatives, with % weight column to switch or mix choices. Use separate pages for phases, with flows between them for growth, and different table values and added lines to indicate state of the factory. Flow diagrams can also be included. Research free modeling tools besides spreadsheets.
- PV Tracking Mount - To increase output from purchased PV arrays. Since we cannot easily make our own solar panels from scratch, we can supplement their output with an active mount. We use single polar-axis mount and ignore seasonal tilt because the concentration ratio is low. Use side reflectors to increase collection area. Make sure panels are qualified for higher temperature use.
- Makerspace/Community Workshop - Build excess space and lease out use to help with growth. Possible roll-away lockers, with lockable carts or cabinets, so that people can put away their work, and easily pull it out and move it to a work area when needed. Larger sizes of storage/private work areas, and a merchant/vendor area (like indoor flea markets). Ample parking.
- The Paradox of Automation - Corporations are legal entities, they don't design and build anything, people do. Thus whatever technology is developed within corporations will also be available to individuals.
- The Automation Revolution - Parallel to the Industrial Revolution. The latter replaced much of human labor with new power sources. Automation will replace much of human thinking with new computation resources.
Commercial & Industrial Development
As self-expanding systems grow, they go beyond personal scale, to commercial and industrial scale.
A shopping center is where you go to buy things that are already made. A production center is where you go to get things made. The rise of automation and computers makes it possible to custom-make items on demand. Grouping design, fabrication, and supply/warehousing makes it more efficient to do this, and promotes customer traffic. In cases it makes sense, a production center can support mobile operations (i.e. construction and home improvements), distributed production (marketing, supplies), provide startup space and support, and training for people who want to work or start new businesses.
Developing Earth's Frontiers
These systems expand into difficult and extreme environments. They are supplied at first from previous systems in easier environments, then start to trade with the growing network.
- Earth Colonies
The world seems a crowded place to many people, but this is a result of selection bias. Most of us live in places where other people live, so that is what we see around us. For example, in 2016 55% lives in urban areas with a lot of development. But this only makes up about 1% of the land area or 0.3% of the total planet's surface. The remaining population is distributed more widely, but only about 13.5% of the Earth's surface is used to any great degree. This includes urban, forest, and farm lands. The remainder is areas like oceans (70.8%), deserts (3.5%), ice sheets (3.1%), and tundra (2.3%), which are hardly occupied and lightly used. Even the part we use amounts to only a thin surface layer on average. If we add up the entire biosphere, of which we use a significant fraction, plus everything humans have made, and distributed it evenly over the 13.5% of the Earth we use, it would make a layer about 18.5 cm thick, about a hand-span. In a very real sense we have barely colonized our own planet. So how can we talk about colonizing Mars or other places in space?
The answer is that any given location, on Earth or in space, is easier or harder to live in based on the local environment and resources. We are an adaptable species, but we tend to occupy the easiest places first. As our technology improves, we can occupy more difficult places and still live well. For example, in the US, the development of air-conditioning allowed a large population shift to the hotter south part of the country. Heating by means of fire is an old technology, so we were better able to live in cold places, but cooling by means of electric devices is relatively recent. Cost also matters. At any given time, quite a few people are living aboard cruise ships, but most of them are tourists who only stay a few days due to the high cost. Relatively few people live on ships if their job isn't there, due to the great expense involved. Thus we don't yet have floating cities on the oceans. But if better technology brings the cost down, such cities may evolve.
Colonizing harder places on Earth would be good practice for colonizing space, because you have to solve the same kinds of problems. No matter where you live, you need protection from the outside environment, food, and basic utilities like water and electricity. If you want to be self-supporting, rather than depending on trade, you also need to make things using local energy and materials. The farther you are from other developed areas and the greater the difficulty of transportation, the more important it becomes to use local sources.
- Space Systems Engineering Book - Updated names - Future Space Systems & Programs, Future Systems for Earth and Space, Handbook of Future Space Systems
- Economic Development of the Solar System: A Vision for the Future
We treat economic development as a process which should be extended to the entire solar system, including the large parts of the Earth not currently used. We discuss a roadmap for this development starting from what exists today, and leveraging smart tools and self-expanding systems.
Names and Descriptions
- Launchways - Power-Assisted Runways for Space Launch - Includes gas pipe, electromagnetic, and mechanical accelerators.
- Space Truck Stops - Food, fuel, and rest on the way to anywhere. LEO, HEO, MTO, Phobos, Mars.
- Satellite Service Station - by analogy to automobile service station. Fuel, repairs.
- Space Engineering Task Force - To assign space addresses (by analogy to IETF)
- Outer System Mining - Determine delta-V, mass return ratios, and materials availability.
- Sustainable Mars Colony - By that we mean it is affordable to sustain it. Thus the whole logistics and production chain has to be made affordable. Pushing everything from Earth is too expensive.
- Ownership of Locations - Establishing ownership tenure as a spur to space development. This includes defined orbits, as well as traditional land-based parcels.
- "Developing Space: the Solar System and Beyond"
- "The Riches of the Universe are All Around Us"
- Asset Droid Mining (a pun on asteroid mining).