Monday, April 28, 2014

If you think about it, I predicted Godzilla, too.

If you want to know what's going to happen next, just look at what I was talking about a few years ago.

In my book Santa, Godzilla & Jesus Walk Into A Bar (a/k/a The Greatest Xmas Story Ever Told), ($3.99 Amazon) my villain used a "Santa Claus Machine" to try to take over the world.  A "Santa Claus Machine" is a machine that can take any material and turn it into anything else.  The phrase was coined by Theodore Taylor in 1978, according to Wikipedia. (This seems like the kind of thing Wikipedia is good for.)

I had been thinking about Santa Claus machines at the time because of a podcast on them, one in which two "scientists" talking about the possibility of such machines said they would be the "end of design," that having machines which could make anything out of anything would destroy creativity.  I was amazed at such a lack of awareness and creativity on the part of the "scientists" themselves, and in the author's note to my book I pointed out that freeing up the tools for creativity has never resulted in less creation or variety.  Computers in particular have freed up the tools for drawing, music, writing, and filmmaking, and the results have been an explosion of webcomics, indie novels, new bands, and other creativity.

Instead, what I said would happen was that as these machines (which are essentially 3D printers) became more common, you would see people having different-sized machines: most households would have one for everyday use, making things like socks or dinner, while specialized ones would be large enough to build cars or houses, with the creativity coming in people's apps -- programmers would create specialized programs to make the most awesome shoes or whatever.

What I posited has now started to come true.  This was on Gawker yesterday:

In this edition of The Future, a private firm in China called WinSun has used its technology to build huge 3D printers that in turn print even huger fully-functioning houses. Their printers can manufacturer 10 in a day. Let's assess.
The WinSun printers are 32 feet by 21 feet, and four of them are needed in constructing one house. The company uses the printers by spraying "a mixture of cement and construction waste to build the walls, layer by layer."
Each house costs under $5,000 to build because of its recycled materials and lack of labor. Chinese construction regulations don't allow 3D printing of multi-story houses yet, but let me repeat that, yet.
They seem kind of livable, if not pretty ugly.

Sometimes -- as when Neil DeGrasse Tyson talks about Felix's jump from space -- scientists forget just how awesome science is.  That's why we need people like us: we may not know how to build a Santa Claus machine, but we know having one would be great.

PS Did I mention that one of the characters in that book is called Sexy Cop, and that another character is Other Sexy Cop? That's literature! Take that, Tolstoy! If you don't want to read a Xmas story in April, check out my writing on lit, a place for stories.


Robin said...

Things are never bad or good in and of themselves. It is what PEOPLE do with them. Creative thinking can produce beautiful amazing stuff like art. It also can produce an ideology like Nazism that led to the Holocaust.

And that is what I think about 3D printers. Some people will use them to make wonderful, brilliant things that better this world. And others will use them to make the opposite.

Briane Pagel said...

You're right about that. For as many great stories have been written on the Internet, there are a zillion racist Youtube comments.

What I was surprised about, though, was that no scientist seemed to think anything good would come of Santa Claus machines.

Andrew Leon said...

No scientist believed that man would ever fly or leave the atmosphere, either, back when the fathers of rocketry first began their work. Two of the three were disgraced and, basically, laughed out of academia.

Andrew Leon said...

I think, mostly, scientists tend to be non-creative people, so they have a hard time seeing the possibilities of things.

Briane Pagel said...

You might be right. Weird, that people who know so much about the world can't use that knowledge to imagine stuff.

I suppose there are lots of creative scientists out there, though. We just don't hear from them.

Andrew Leon said...

Actually, what I should have said is that people tend to not be very creative, scientist or not. Unfortunately, that means most scientists, a field which needs creativity, are not creative.

Liz A. said...

I'm sure you've seen the show and the stuff on the internet about how Star Trek predicts the future. That is, some of the things they came up with on that show (like Data listening to several types of music at once) led those currently working to create things they saw there (like mp3 players).

If they make it, we will use it. In surprising ways. But those who make it have no idea how those who use it will make use of it.

Rusty Carl said...

Sheesh... all the scientist bashing today. Actually, I don't think most scientists are that creative, but I think the run of the mill scientist job requires a very, very analytical mind, that is okay with doing mind numbingly repetitive tasks for many years in order to gather the data necessary to to publish results. Stuff like that isn't really for the creative types.

BUT - some of my favorite authors are/were scientists, namely Alastair Reynolds (but also Mike Brotherton, Ian Tregellis and a few others of note). So there are plenty of very clever and creative folks in the sciences... I'm just saying is all.

I'd love to have a magic printer like that. I'd probably not print too many socks with it though. Then again, if I could recycle things, I'd never had to wash dishes again. Just throw the dirty ones in the printer and melt them back down to be turned into more lego pieces or something.

debi o'neille said...

Creativity can be good and it can be bad, depending upon how it's used. As for me, I want a Santa Clause machine just because. :-0
Good post, makes us think.
Deb@ http;//

Crystal Collier said...

Yikes... 3D printing of houses... That's insane. I knew about 3D printers, but ones on that scale? Whew!