Mankind has nearly exhausted their natural resources. Even recycling is insufficient for the growth rate the world's population.

And then along comes the device. It's not magic, except in the sense that Arthur C. Clarke used the word. The device is able to take an object as input and return two of the object. However, because of the sophistication and the expense of making a device, as well as keeping it running, only rich companies with advanced technological capabilities can operate a device.

Note, though, that, while operating a device is cost-prohibitive for the normal person, the actual process the device uses to duplicate matter is cheaper than recycling, gathering, or otherwise producing the matter any other way.


The device needs to cause an economic collapse for important plot reasons. What sort of events could happen to result in this?

Preferably, the collapse of economy would lead to a destruction of known society organization, where governments wouldn't exist anymore and anarchy would rule over.

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    $\begingroup$ What constitutes an "object"? If you duplicate the whole planet, for example, you'll have a physical collapse before an economic one. If you're talking about industrial duplication of household items, how is that really any different than normal mass production? $\endgroup$ – Nuclear Wang Dec 12 '17 at 15:01
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    $\begingroup$ It is essential to understand what you mean by a "collapse of the economy". Many people would believe that free resources would be rather good thing, although in a sense that would mean the end of "economy" as we currently understand it. $\endgroup$ – AlexP Dec 12 '17 at 15:02
  • $\begingroup$ Edited to give a better background and explanation about what I mean by collapse. $\endgroup$ – Faed Dec 12 '17 at 15:11
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    $\begingroup$ Economics is the science of allocating scarce goods. If you eliminate scarcity, economics goes away. What's the value of the air market? Who knows, because it's an abundant resource so we don't even bother to think about it. The same thing would eventually apply to everything that your technology makes abundant. $\endgroup$ – J Doe Dec 12 '17 at 16:41
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    $\begingroup$ "Note, though, that, while operating a device is cost-prohibitive for the normal person, the actual process the device uses to duplicate matter is cheaper than recycling, gathering, or otherwise producing the matter any other way." This looks like internally contradictory conditions. How would that be possible? $\endgroup$ – Mołot Dec 14 '17 at 10:54

It has been pointed out in the comments that the economy doesn't have to collapse because there will still be immaterial properties and such, thus making your premise flawed. I want to address that briefly because I believe arguing how the economy can potentially "end" should be part of an answer ;).

I do not agree that the economy surviving is absolutely certain (especially since this is a fictional world with fantastic machines in which one can make stuff fit). I don't think that enough people value brand new or immaterial goods themselves enough to keep society going, especially given a certain end-of-resources tech level. But there is more entertainment, culture and art out there than one can consume in a lifetime already. I believe that especially given that we are in the far future where technological progress might have slowed down to a creep, you can assume that economy as we know it ends with the invention of those machines. If you do not want progress to stall, you can always make new inventions and so on public, a current trend that might lead to consequences in the future. But I also believe it is somewhat irrelevant, you can always define economics as whatever you wish.

I also want to briefly address infrastrucutre: You cannot duplicate a cellphone network, an airport or the internet, but you can make this a non-issue in your world. Given that you have super advanced tech, I believe it is more than reasonable to create a world where infrastructure doesn't have to be constantly maintained, for example because the satellites will work for another 100 years without anyone taking care of them and things like that. The slow breakdown of everything can help you get to the anarchy at the end even. How to do everything in detail goes way beyond the scope I want this answer to be in.

So we assume you are post competition, improvement and mechanisms to put things right on the market. So we assume that economics is already out the window. So let's talk about achieving anarchy. I don't know how many of those machines there are, but if they can replicate any object, they should be able to replicate themselves. And remember, we are not dealing with mathematical certainties here, the writer has to fill out the gaps. Now imagine three scenarios (of course there is an infinite amount of possible scenarios):

a) The communism approach. Someone claims they control all the machines and decides, of course with incomplete knowledge, what needs to be produced and what doesn't. The people there could be corrupt, idealistic or just incompetent. But no matter how competent, they will never be able to commission everything that is needed to keep society going. But Politicians are quick to act and slow to think, they might already have outlawed other possibilities of production. Well, it might be impossible to produce anyways because you are waiting for those resources. Create a shortage in vital medicamentation for example. This will lead to poverty and a "collapse" of the society, a strong black market and strong organized crime, at least long-term. If you want it fast and drastically, make the people in control of the machines even more incompetent and corrupt.

b) There are enough machines and the access is not restricted. Well, great. You've just eliminated any need for a community. Why would people still need go to school and learn about how to be good people? They can just replicate food. You can be a drunk and drug addict and still live in a flat filled with jewelry and eat only the finest foods. Why would anyone choose a social career? Why would anyone still wipe the behinds of the elderly or take your blood tests if they could sit at home and play playstation? Well, you could force them and go to option a) or directly obtain your goal: anarchy. There will be those that will still behave socially, but if you believe this will be the majority, well, that's good for you.

c) Create a super plague. People have stopped doing their homework because Pharma doesn't make any money anymore. And those idealists will love that, finally big pharma is dead and everything is free. If your machines can just replicate anything, as soon as a new medicament is on the market, it can and will be replicated, perhaps even by the government. This is already somewhat true, but in your society the boundaries for this are especially low while our current society tries to prevent that a little bit. So after a couple of years/decades in your copy-paste world, stuff has become immune. Have a plague of some kind wipe out civilization. Anarchy is way cooler anyways if you don't have 12 billion people sitting on top of each other but a bit of room to breathe.

Maybe one of those options gives you an idea. I don't think this is the time and place to elaborate them much more. A lot is story-based from here.

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    $\begingroup$ You are forgetting the Star Trek universe option, where people simply decide to fulfill a purpose. You might be surprised how far "prevention of boredom" will push people. $\endgroup$ – computercarguy Dec 12 '17 at 16:01
  • $\begingroup$ It is true that I didn't think about Star Trek and it certainly is an option (anarchy isn't boring though), but I wrote 2 things: "of course there is an infinite amount of possible scenarios" and "There will be those that will still behave socially, but if you believe this will be the majority, well, that's good for you". I'm not trying to sell mathematical certainties, as I pointed out, at one point this gets story based. In most of Star Trek, everyone is an enlightened academic. We see the best of people. I travel by train every day, I do not believe in such a future ;) $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Dec 12 '17 at 16:10
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    $\begingroup$ Granted, however, trains tend to draw a "certain type of people." That's an over generalized stereotype, I know. I have seen YouTube videos of all kinds of creative types on inner city subways, playing instruments, etc., so it's not entirely hopeless. :-P $\endgroup$ – computercarguy Dec 12 '17 at 16:21
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    $\begingroup$ 1) you confuse poorly executed planned economy with communism. Communism is only possible in a post-scarcity society and does not have any politicians. 2) you assume that people build communities only because they need to procure food, shelter, and protection. This is so fundamentally wrong... humans are social animals. We sick other humans because we need social interactions for our development and well-being. 3) you assume that post-scarcity society will lead to the lack of innovation and motivation to work. There is very little scientific support for this belief. Humans like to work. $\endgroup$ – Olga Dec 14 '17 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Olga I actually agree. I find it sad that this question is put on hold because I'd love to see answers that are more than just cliché. The premise itself is, well, it violates Physics as we know it, so who really cares about anything from there on. But what can I say, I was in the mood for such an answer. And always keep in mind what kind of sci fi movies make all the cash at the moment - the more cliché and straight-forward the better, that seems to be the current trend. Btw if there are real mistakes, I'm happy to edit my answer. But this thread is dead, I'd rather not put too much work in $\endgroup$ – Raditz_35 Dec 14 '17 at 10:42

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