Post Scarcity and You

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Star Sage Star Sage's picture
Post Scarcity and You

So I posted this on Reddit on a whim recently and folks seemed to enjoy it so I thought I'd share it here as well since I don't know about you, but I hate having to bounce around 4 different forums for the same game to find what I'm after.

So I've been working on a few projects that serve as easy primers for folks unfamiliar with Eclipse Phase or confused about specific elements of the setting. These are meant to condense a lot of information floating around about the topic, be it from fan discussions that have gotten a lot of traction or official material scattered between books.

So without further ado I decided to start with one that confused me like nobody's business when I first got into Eclipse Phase, Post Scarcity. (I'd give a warning for strong language, but Eclipse Phase is already a game with plenty of that and very mature themes, so if you're already into Eclipse Phase and are 9 I am more impressed than anything)

"So you live in the New Economy now, life is looking pretty good. Does this mean you have infinite of everything for free in an edenic paradise? No. People may call our these “post scarcity economies” but scarcity seems oddly prevalent despite all this “post” business. First things first, cornucopia machines require time and materials to make your fancy gear. Sure you have plenty to work with, being able to feed half a dozen folks for the day while also cranking out a dozen suits of clothing that same day. However fancy shmancy augmentations, elegant dinner parties for scores of people, and building yourself a plasma cannon are all very material and energy intensive. This is why you need a high Reputation to get extra privileges beyond your free healthcare, free food, free furniture, free clothes, etc. With Reputation you can get that fancy new body you wanted, the one with the great tits and lazerbeam eyes. With reputation you can build your own spaceship and fly around on space adventures.

So yeah, material and energy intensive shit needs reputation because your community won’t cripple itself just so you can abuse the replicator to build five cottages in your space station like some retard.

But it turns out some stuff is still considered rare. Sure you can use nanofabricators to imitate just about any artifact, but the genuine handcrafted model has a great deal of value for those sentimental old fools that value history and hard work over having the replicator from star trek.

Skilled labor is another valuable commodity, being able to custom design fancy pieces of technology or specially tailored clothes or morphs are all stuck with steep price tags. Sure manufacturing them isn’t much more expensive than the standard equivalent but a lot of time and effort is put into designing the damn things.

Living space is also rather expensive. It turns out even with nanofabricators, building a space colony is surprisingly complicated. Apparently expanding a space colony is also complex business. So being able to own your own private asteroid castle is a good way of telling folks you have way more Reputation or Space Cash than they do.

Finally making stuff still earns you money. Most templates, be it for music, food, fashion, whatever the fuck, enjoys a degree of copy protection that lasts a maximum of three years, with most independent habitats keeping this protection down to a year. Yeah sure some asshat who can’t wait a year will pirate your awesome cookie recipe, but most folks who want to enjoy the next big thing now and raise the creator's rep so they can enjoy those cookies in time for mother’s day. A lot of transhumans in the New Economy make their living off these Novelties.

Also some elements are pretty damn rare… relatively speaking at least and aren’t as easily obtained for your nanofab. You see these machines aren’t REALLY the replicators from Star Trek. We don’t have some magic wand that turns air and shit into Picard’s favorite whateverthefuck tea, cup included. No, no, you see nanofabricators, they need the actual god damn elements and materials to work with and from there give you what you need. Thing is some elements are trickier to come by than others and a lot of folks disapprove of local civilians having a few kilograms of uranium lying around in case they wanna try and upgrade their spaceship with some fancy milspec addon they found blueprints for. Others like tungsten are just rare, sure certain asteroids might be oozing tungsten out the wazoo, but what matters is your station doesn’t have much of it.

Now the good news is nanofabs can turn some elements into others with relatively basic chemistry and give you some pretty impressive shit or even grow organic material, so you can usually get more out of your feedstocks than you might think. That’s why you can put in the right feedstock and get yourself a hamburger or even Picard’s favorite tea, but you can’t just ask your nanofab to use the air around it. Ya gotta give the damn thing something to work with and stop being so god damn ungrateful for your future machine.

Good news though is you can set your nanofab to disassemble shit you put into it (not literally! Okay that might actually work, carry on) and it can either treat that as feedstock or spit out feedstock for convenient storage. Sadly most space stations are filled with boring jackasses that don’t want you murdering people in the most metal way possible, so nanofabs are usually programmed to not disassemble anything they detect as living or even if it appears to have once been a living transhuman. We live in the future and we still aren’t allowed to turn our neighbors into furniture. Go figure."

If you enjoyed this little primer I'm happy to post others and even take suggested topics from folks on particularly confusing issues. One I have in the works discusses a transhuman's sense of self and the continuity of consciousness. A topic that would naturally examine bioconservatives to a degree and give them their fair shake.

"No shoot fire stick in space canoe! Cause explosive decompression!" --Attila the Hun

kigmatzomat kigmatzomat's picture
factories - still your friend

Nanotech is nice but it's kind of slow. Look at how not-quick human nanite swarms move. Now imagine the speed of them moving mass. Even if they just pass it like a bucket brigade, they move grains of sand. And as nanites are subject to endothermic events (aka catching fire) they have to operate at fairly low temps or retreat while high temperature tools are involved. That either limits the materials or slows manufacturing during the cooling cycles.

Factories will still exist. They make runs of finished products you need in large quantities (space suits, kitchen utensils, morph cloning tanks, bullets) in between making common bulk items like sheets/bars of metal, I-beams, bolts/nuts, wire, standard CPUs, textiles, ceramic tiles, plastic "boards", insulating panels and the like.

Nanotech should be the difference between a tool and a tool with a mirror finish. You let bulk processes do 98% of the work and use the nanites to do the final fit and finish.

How long does it take a cornucopia machine to sinter a hundred metal forks? How long does it take a stamping rig to make 100 almost identical forks? And if you want a custom engraving on your facotry produced forks, stick em back in a cornucopia machine. Adding engraving won't take but a fraction of the time. Meanwhile the stamper is reconfigured to make spoons.

Why have nanites extrude a fabric from feedstock when you can load a bolt of fabric, have manipulators do the coarse cuts and then have the nanites weave individual fibers together to make a visually seamless object in a fraction of the time? And while a nanite-built standard pistol is "perfect" couldn't you build many more equallly effective if less perfect firearms using a CNC mill and then use that cornucopia machine to deburr the friction surfaces and ensure everything is in perfect alignment making them 99% perfect?

I'm not rules lawyer, I'm a rules engineer.

uwtartarus uwtartarus's picture
I think nanofabrication makes

I think nanofabrication makes living in Outer System possible but Hardware: Industrial was a skill in 1e for a reason! Easier to program a machine to design an industrial machine to mass print parts that can be later modified or assembled elsewhere.

Profession: minifacturing too!

An entertaining read, probably going to foist it on my new players.

Exhuman, and Humanitarian.