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June 27, 2005

First File Sharing, Then People Sharing

BBC News reports that "[c]omputer scientists in the US are developing a system which would allow people to "teleport" a solid 3D recreation of themselves over the internet."

"Teleport" is in quotes because the technology, even if it existed, wouldn't really allow you to teleport yourself, but instead would create the illusion of doing so. To "teleport" yourself to your friend's house, you would need a camera connected to the Internet, and your friend would need a special machine with a stash of special synthetic atoms. The camera would take a picture of you and transmit the picture to your friend's machine, which would assemble the synthetic atoms into your shape. Capturing and transmitting images over time would produce a moving replica of you at your friend's house.

It seems that the same technology could be used to perform remote manufacturing. The manufacturer of a machine could transmit a 3D design for a machine anywhere in the world, and have the machine manufactured on location, thereby saving the cost of transportation. Unlike in the case of you and your friend, there wouldn't even need to be a physical "original" from which to make copies, just a CAD file generated using software. And any number of copies could be made, assuming a sufficient supply of raw materials.

This would bring the basic feature that has been causing so many problems for the "copyright industry" -- namely worldwide, instant, perfect, and (essentially) costless copying of audio and video -- to the manufacture of physical machines. Although automated manufacturing based on CAD-generated designs is old news in certain fields, it is unclear what its implications would be if it were to become ubiquitous.

Posted by Robert at June 27, 2005 10:42 PM
category: Design & Engineering | Intellectual Property Law

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