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I am trying figure how long it will take to recover from the chaos that could happen to the modern economy if a spell that duplicate anything the size of a candy bar four times were to suddenly be revealed in the early 2000s.

To be clear, duplicates cannot be duplicated unless they are radically transformed, like being burned to ashes. The same rule applies to the original after it was duplicated. Knowledge of the spell have already been distributed and it is fairly easy to perform.

I figure several years would be enough as people settle on the new normal in regard to scarcity. There would still be a need for factories, mining, and so on, if only with reduced production as people are duplicating items.

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    $\begingroup$ What comes after the "to be clear" makes it actually more difficult to understand. What do you mean with "duplicates cannot be duplicated unless they are radically transformed"? $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jun 6 at 9:12
  • $\begingroup$ If you duplicate an item. The resulting copy cannot be duplicated itself, unless something happen to make it unrecognizable to what it once was. $\endgroup$ Jun 6 at 9:38
  • $\begingroup$ How do you distinguish an unduplicated hundred euro bill for an already duplicated one? They don't have the same value. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jun 6 at 13:35
  • $\begingroup$ could you duplicate a small piece of wood into two candy-bars? $\endgroup$ Sep 14 at 10:28
  • $\begingroup$ What’s stopping people from infinitely duplicating items by duplicating an item, chemically changing it, duplicating it again, and with the new copies undoing the chemical change and starting over? For example breaking water back into oxygen and hydrogen and then duping them and merging that back together. $\endgroup$ Oct 8 at 18:40
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This might be stupid but I'm going to put it out there, since gold is pretty dense and its safe to assume industries would be built around cutting gold into candy bar sizes and duping it, would all this mass being added effect the gravity of the earth in any way? That might be one of the issues.

Also I feel a market for "originals" might emerge, if there was a way to verify them.

There would also be mass debate about wherever or not certain cultural artefacts should be cut into dupable sized pieces, duped then professionally restored. (the Mona Lisa for example)

Going back to the gold thingy, if two small gold bars, one duped and one un-duped original were melted down and mixed, would the resulting bar be dupable? Would only the original gold be duped, leaving you with a bar thats half the density but the same size? Some sort of gold areogel.

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  • $\begingroup$ That will not work. There should be some chemical change to most of the original mass. $\endgroup$ Jun 6 at 16:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Herbertsnick Do you mean the point about the mixed duped and unduped gold? $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Jun 7 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ Yes. That is the point I was referring to. $\endgroup$ Jun 7 at 17:49
  • $\begingroup$ There are no chemical changes to gold, so the gold will simply become 5x the amount it was before. The price of gold will go down 80%, unless all the money gets multiplied as well. All at once. That is probable, because duplicating money would be the first thing people want to do. Banks will fall, when they refuse to deliver the service of duplicating money to the max. Result - at first - will be inflation. It will reach a new balance. With less production (of anything). It would be very beneficiary for climate change, because production would require far less energy. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jun 11 at 1:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies Most banks are no longer on the gold standard though, and haven't been for a while. But pensioners who put their savings into low risk gold investments will get screwed. $\endgroup$ Jul 6 at 16:14
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Total economic and cultural breakdown

The initial part will be bad. People are used to a certain way and this will completely break it.

Why? Economic value cannot be trusted. Gold and other valuable materials can become four times its original volume. But the energy sector as well. You can use four times as much gas, or get four times the use out of coal. Other things will reduce in value and costs. The whole chip industry can make high end chips and create four copies. All that is needed is the time and personnel for the spell. This might not be viable in all cases with large volumes like gas, but certainly on a personal level it makes sense to duplicate your tank of gas, or copy your phone if it's thin enough to have the mass of a candybar.

Worse even are duplication loops. Even just copying your food can change the world. Not alone because it can end world hunger. You copy food, shit it out, which you duplicate to fertilise a field, which grows into food, which you duplicate, which might be baked and thus transformed, which can be duplicated, which is eaten..... whole industries to copy can be created.

Possibilities

It doesn't mean the end of civilization. A crisis is the biggest motivator for change. The population might go through an uncomfortable period with devaluation of many products and materials. But if people adapt, it can be a large boon to the society. They can rebuild with the new outlooks on values and use cases. Products might form to specifically allow duplication or prevent it. Services and automation become more important. It leads to a more utopian society with abundance.

That is of course if people can let go of the old and get some agreements on the new. The society might collapse outright, leading to so much unrest that the society will tear itself apart. It is strange to think that with sudden abundance for everyone, they can start fighting.

Time

The time can really differ. Looking at Corona, a societal change, we can see that most were already 'comfortable' with the change after a year. I'm not saying this change was sustainable, but it was largely accepted. That means after a year, people might already be comfortable with the change. However, it really depends on the unrest created by also media and such. We can see that regardless of what is happening, media can twist or fabricate a lot to their will. This can influence to acceptance or rejection. This in turn can lead to total collapse, taking decades to recover. It can lead to unrest, but creative solutions and the abundance, especially for the "common man", can lead to a divide in society that can take years to mend. Or the first one, that media and abundance can reduce the unrest to such an extent that a year is all that's needed for widespread acceptance.

What is more interesting to me is how much extra mass can be created. If the full population just copies its food every day, how long until the abundance of these carbohydrates and the like do something interesting to the ecology? How long until it influences the Earthbin a tiny, but significant, bit by just added mass?

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  • $\begingroup$ When matter could be copied without limitation, "whole industries to copy can be created" indeed. But I think this is not meant. The limitation is key here. Any shit from duplicated food can't be duplicatable, because its matter was already duplicated. If looped duplication would work, recursive duplication would also work. Then it would be sensible to first duplicate planet Earth. Then, duplicate every big city on the planet's two copies, duplicate their contents, etcetera.. you got 8x or 16x the yield. I don't think that would be a "limited" scenario. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jul 9 at 12:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies good points, but in this case just off the mark. The maximum size to duplicate at a time is a candybar. Looped duplication can work, as "duplicates cannot be duplicated unless they are radically transformed, like being burned to ashes". The definition when to duplicate isn't fully clear, but loops are certainly possible. Wood can become ash, which can become wood again. Food becomes shit, which is a radical transformation and can be duplicated, which can fertilise, which can become food that can be duplicated, etc. The most limiting factor is how quickly/efficiently we can duplicate. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Jul 9 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ Our shit is not white ash. High temperature and energy creates white ash.. that can be processed into duplicable material. For biological processes, the transformation is not enough and the yield will not be duplicable. Your duplicated soil - containing white ashes of duplicated food - could yield duplicable vegetables.. but this process will cost at least a few months to complete. The current experience with recycling goods learns that people are hardly interested, nor prepared to join in. There would be far less production needed to meet demand, so recycling will not be needed for a while. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Jul 9 at 13:39

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