Stuff too cheap to steal

Proponents of Drexlerian nanotechnology (MNT) often cite the disruption to the economy that they say will happen when MNT makes the cost of manufacturing everyday products negligibly small. But we’re not far off this situation already; only a fraction of the value in the goods we buy in the shops is added by the manufacturing process (as opposed to design, marketing, retailing and so on). Relentless incremental improvements in manufacturing technology, together with the economic pressures of globalisation, are already causing an unprecedented and sustained drop in the price of consumer goods. There’s rather poignant commentary on this process in today’s Times. It seems that burglary rates have recently precipitately dropped in Britain. Much as politicians would like to attribute this to their far-sighted crime policies, the police instead blame the fact that the traditional things that get stolen in break-ins – televisions, video recorders, computers and so on – are now so cheap to buy new, and are so quickly rendered obsolescent, that the markets for the stolen goods have all but collapsed.

3 Responses to “Stuff too cheap to steal”

  1. anonymous coward says:

    true the intrensic value of todays goods may be dropping but as you yourself pointed out lots of the remaining value is attribuitable to the retail process – the true potential of nanotech goods is ‘on-site’ and ‘on-demand’ construction (the anything box in the garage) – by building it immediatly when and where its needed you remove huge costs associated with transport, delivery and storage…dropping the required cost for selling to essentially the R&D and marketing costs — then throw in open-source designs (and you know these will quickly become prevalent for everything except ‘designer’ goods) you remove that cost as well…basic and essential/common things will then have no attribuitable cost at all except for the raw materials and the energy cost for building them…your argument is correct you just did not take if far enough…

  2. Richard Jones says:

    I think that the marketing and R&D costs are still going to stay large. I don’t really understand why people find branding so important, but they clearly do, and I don’t think that’s going to change even if manufacturing becomes much more decentralised. I really don’t buy the idea that open source designs are going to be terribly important – who’s going to spend their leisure time designing toasters?

  3. Anonymous Coward says:

    true there will always be the ‘designer’ fasionistas – the radical thing about nano-tech production is that if you are not hung up on the social aspects then the ‘required’ and ‘essential’ things for life will be free – you can break out and step away from what today is a requirement – If I want a toaster today I have to buy into the system and spend the $$$ – in the future there will be an open source toaster and I can have it for free QED – I may not have the latest ‘celebrity’ toaster in the latest designer fad fashion but I will have a functional toaster and the only amount I have to buy into the racket it to the extent that I choose to buy into the racket…in many ways it will be a ‘social’ heirarchy where there are still ‘stars’ and followers (not unlike the rennesance (sp?) courts where the courtiers hung all over royalty even though it only served to ‘enrich’ their already substantial assests) but those games are only ‘join in if you choose’ not requirements as they are today – today I can’t get a toaster without $$$ and the whole transport and support system – tomorrow I can have my toaster and not have to be part of the games if I choose not to…and that is a MAJOR shift in paradigm