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How cities and the world would change if matter replicators become reality someday?Will money disappear and all goods and services become free?Would create new products become very easy even if they are extremely complex?Would agriculture, commerce, mining and distribution become obsolete?How would cities look like after such revolution?

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    $\begingroup$ Do you mean replicators that take electricity and create matter or replicators that take reserves of all 118 elements and build object from them? $\endgroup$ – Jerry Jeremiah Jun 25 '18 at 4:32
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    $\begingroup$ Either way, the raw materials aren't free (although they're certainly a lot cheaper than conventional methods). Then there's transport costs. And people would still need to be paid to come up with things - prescription drugs, for instance, cost a fraction of their final sale price, but most of that price goes to testing the thousands of non-useful compounds you need to sort through to find one useful drug. $\endgroup$ – Cadence Jun 25 '18 at 4:40
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    $\begingroup$ There's a difference between being able to replicate something, and being able to do it for free. We can fabricate diamonds, or transmute some metals to gold, but the process is much more expensive than the benefit obtained. Energy must comes from somewhere, and it's never free. $\endgroup$ – Rekesoft Jun 25 '18 at 8:09
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    $\begingroup$ There was a good examination of this theme in The Diamond Age by Stephenson. $\endgroup$ – arp Jun 25 '18 at 8:46
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    $\begingroup$ Please see this Meta post on asking for too much in one go. $\endgroup$ – Ash Jun 25 '18 at 11:08
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We already (in the western world) live in the post-scarcity economy as far as our ancestors would see it. We produce enough food and manufactured goods for everyone, and it takes only around 20% of the people of working age in order to do so. And yet it doesn’t feel that way, and we don’t all feel rich, because we have developed new wants and needs, mostly for services, which your matter replicators won’t be able to produce. Given that the economy is already 80% services, a switch to 95% (someone presumably has to make the matter replicators) wouldn’t be a massive change.

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    $\begingroup$ I would add that physically making the matter replicators is less of an issue than programming in schematics to replicate. This is something that will likely take up a large portion of the workforce. It would essentially be an extension of the giant IT industry today, which can be summed up as "half the population building/improving/maintaining the systems that run the lives of the other half". $\endgroup$ – Xono Jun 25 '18 at 7:21
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Not all goods and services will be free.

  • Real estate would still be limited. either it is sold for money, or some other means of rationing.
  • In most settings, those replicators still require power which cannot be replicated directly. One can either replicate and operate a power plant or buy the services of someone who does it. If there is a market, the price of power will be reasonably close to the price of generating power.
  • Many services cannot be replicated at all. You can't replicate a haircut, or an opera performance.
  • Many goods cannot be replicated without becoming a forgery. A replicated Mona Lisa isn't the real thing, and everybody knows it.
  • When human activity (like power generation) has adverse impact on the environment, it must be rationed some way. If cost were no issue (note: it will be an issue, see above), then there would be a "waste heat emission credits" trade.

Having replicators would help to create a post-scarcity economy, but it does not eliminate the need for a rationing system. Money seems to be one which works better than most others (planned economy, gift economy).

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    $\begingroup$ If the Mona Lisa is exactly the same as the original, down to the atom, there is no difference. Unique items won't ever be allowed to be scanned in because they won't be unique anymore. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Jun 25 '18 at 5:07
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    $\begingroup$ @Thorne, for me there would be a difference. I have an old cookie jar from my grandmother. Another one just like it won't be the same because I know it wasn't used by my grandmother. $\endgroup$ – o.m. Jun 25 '18 at 5:12
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    $\begingroup$ @user18428 Your question was about matter replicators, not about AIs, which have an entirely different set of economic effects. $\endgroup$ – Mike Scott Jun 25 '18 at 5:25
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    $\begingroup$ If the kids broke the original and replaced it with an exact copy and didn't tell you, how would you know? The only difference is how you feel about it. $\endgroup$ – Thorne Jun 25 '18 at 5:42
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    $\begingroup$ Thr cookie-jar side question seems a classic Ship of Theseus paradox, and won't get resolved here. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jun 25 '18 at 10:50
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Apart from energy, raw material and ecological footprint costs, the templates, i.e. "recipes" for making items would still be marketable and likely trademarked.

Sure, if you're a programmer, you can try making your own templates from scratch but they probably won't be as good as the ones developed by big companies having thousands of employees working on the same product and having done rigorous testing.

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  • $\begingroup$ plus, as with software today, it's usually cheaper to buy something than it is to make it yourself. I could spend several thousand hours building a word processor or email client to the standards I want it, but why bother if I can buy a license to MS Office for a few cents a day? $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jun 25 '18 at 8:24
  • $\begingroup$ @jwenting A mail client (basic, i.e. worthless today), you should be able to make in a few hours. $\endgroup$ – Clearer Jun 25 '18 at 10:53
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    $\begingroup$ @Clearer that is if you know how to do it. But with a mail client, you don't have to consider chemical compositions, like in the case of a sports shoe or nutritional properties and poisonous chemicals like in the case of food items, or properties of certain types of wood if you want to make furniture, etc. - sorry, went to the wrong recipient :) $\endgroup$ – Real Subtle Jun 25 '18 at 10:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Clearer yes, a worthless one that's basically useless. A fuller featured one that's reliable and reasonably bug free takes a lot longer. Been there, done that, I've been writing software for a living for over 20 years now. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Jun 25 '18 at 11:44
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    $\begingroup$ @jwenting: Possibly a bad example, considering that both LaTeX and Open Office, among others, are both free and arguably better than MS Office :-) $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jun 25 '18 at 19:06
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To the other answers you were given, I'll add only one factor: energy

Even with nuclear fusion available, energy will not be 100% free, and that will add to the cost of using a replicator. In other words, a private will always be paying the bills to get his food & goods, will be fined if the replicator's use will break some law (creating guns, chemical weapons, etc.), and the Government will tax people if replicators are used on a wide scale for national interest.

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  • $\begingroup$ I believe that in the far future when replicators become possible energy producing technologies will be so diversed, descentralized and the amount of energy produced will be so great that energy would become free. $\endgroup$ – user18428 Jul 7 '18 at 15:52
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Money will becomes pure data so it can't be replicated (except by the banking system)

Someone will own the replicators and every copy will involve a licencing fee.

Services are still services at least until AI controlled robots take all the jobs.

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    $\begingroup$ Money becoming a blockchain crytpocurrency fits nicely into this - literally cannot be forged/replicated. $\endgroup$ – Korthalion Jun 25 '18 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ @Korthalion it can be forged if you have more computing power than the rest of the world. Now only if it were possible to get this many computers somehow... $\endgroup$ – John Dvorak Jun 25 '18 at 9:59
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnDvorak That isn't true. The blockchain is static, regardless of your computing power. If you mean creating new blocks at a higher rate than everyone else, then yes that could happen unless regulated. Besides, the blockchain is not infinite. We have already mined the vast majority of bitcoins! $\endgroup$ – Korthalion Jun 25 '18 at 10:29
  • $\begingroup$ 1) Today, money is mostly data. Sweden for example is almost cashless. 2) Patents expire after 20 years, and countries can ignore patents if the benefit is so great. A patent as valuable as this would be challenged in court anyway. 3) If automation takes over some jobs, entrepreneurs will invent new businesses. It's happened before, and it will keep happening. $\endgroup$ – DonkeyMaster Jun 25 '18 at 10:50

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