For tonight, an interesting item from the frontier of advancing technology.
One of the the most promising innovations we discussed and saw demonstrated at Singularity University back in April was 3-D printing, in which a movable printer head builds up solid objects by depositing one very thin layer at a time. The extraordinary thing about 3-D printing is that complexity adds no premium: it is no more difficult to replicate, say, the head of a rose than a coffee mug.
The state of the art is advancing very rapidly indeed, as the resolution and precision with which layers can be deposited improves, and as the range of available material widens — and as this technology moves into the nanoscale it will become possible to custom-build objects at the molecular or even atomic level. At the SU presentation it was suggested that soon we will be able to print food, or even human organs. It was also pointed out that we would be able to use 3-D printers to print 3-D printers!
What all this means is that the enormous premium added to manufactured goods by the cost of assembling and constructing them from raw materials will tend toward zero. So, in many cases, will shipping costs, depending on the local availability of raw materials. Imagine, for example: we drop a mid-21st-century printer into a remote location. First we use it to create copies of itself, then make the swarm of copies available for local manufacturing of necessary goods: clothes, tools, furniture, screws, pipes, medical apparatus, you name it.
As I said, this technology is advancing very rapidly indeed. How rapidly? Have a look here.