Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Discussion of the Gold portion of the Permanent Portfolio

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Pointedstick
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Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by Pointedstick » Fri Feb 20, 2015 10:10 pm

What happens to the value of gold when we inevitably develop a atomic-scale 3D personal manufacturing device capable of synthesizing gold atoms?

Before this happens, I expect molecule-scale machines will take individual atoms as input and re-arrange them into whatever you want (as today we have machines that liquify and arrange compounds), but at some point, possible sooner than we might imagine, someone's gonna invent a thingy that can take a sludge of neutrons, protons, and electrons, and spit out gold. It's hard for me to avoid thinking that when that day starts to look like it's approaching, the gold market is going to collapse overnight. And there goes 25% of our portfolios.

Then again, I guess such a world-changing technology might cause a lot of markets to collapse overnight.

Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age explored this idea, with the book's title being a reference to the idea that once they were able to, it made the most sense for people to fabricate virtually everything out of diamond due to its desirable mechanical properties.
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Re: Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by dragoncar » Fri Feb 20, 2015 10:48 pm

Pointedstick wrote: What happens to the value of gold when we inevitably develop a atomic-scale 3D personal manufacturing device capable of synthesizing gold atoms?

Before this happens, I expect molecule-scale machines will take individual atoms as input and re-arrange them into whatever you want (as today we have machines that liquify and arrange compounds), but at some point, possible sooner than we might imagine, someone's gonna invent a thingy that can take a sludge of neutrons, protons, and electrons, and spit out gold. It's hard for me to avoid thinking that when that day starts to look like it's approaching, the gold market is going to collapse overnight. And there goes 25% of our portfolios.

Then again, I guess such a world-changing technology might cause a lot of markets to collapse overnight.

Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age explored this idea, with the book's title being a reference to the idea that once they were able to, it made the most sense for people to fabricate virtually everything out of diamond due to its desirable mechanical properties.
Yeah, if we had such machines, I don't think money would matter.  See Star Trek your avatar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp3OhC3NoMk

I really liked Diamond Age though.
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Re: Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by Mark Leavy » Fri Feb 20, 2015 11:53 pm

Pointedstick wrote: What happens to the value of gold when we inevitably develop a atomic-scale 3D personal manufacturing device capable of synthesizing gold atoms?
As a huge fan of Neal Stephenson, the Diamond Age, gold, nano-fabrication, materials science - and physics in general...

... I just love this question.  It is insightful on many levels.

However, I've always worked on the premise that if I can't figure out how to do it, no one can.  So far, I haven't come up with anything cost effective.

PS, I'll be the first to let you know when I have it solved.
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Re: Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by KevinW » Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:14 am

Agreed, atomic manufacturing would disrupt pretty much everything. Couldn't you fabricate any physical object at a whim? And couldn't you fix any health problem, even aging? If material goods, health, and time all cease to be scarce, do economics and politics bear any resemblance to what we know now?
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Re: Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by Pet Hog » Sat Feb 21, 2015 5:19 am

PS, a machine that takes individual atoms and assembles them into anything you want is, in effect, performing chemical synthesis.  That's currently really hard to do on anything other than the nanoscale (more like the angstrom-scale), but such a technology is feasible.  But mixing protons, neutrons, and electrons to fabricate atoms?  That's nuclear fusion.  Do you really think we will soon have such "personal manufacturing devices" and that people will use them just to create gold?  Wouldn't the first people to get their hands on such a contraption be tempted to make a few tons of radioactive uranium or plutonium and take the whole world hostage?  That's going to be one hell of an arms race!
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Re: Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by goodasgold » Sat Feb 21, 2015 8:23 am

Pet Hog wrote: ... a machine that takes individual atoms and assembles them into anything you want is, in effect, performing chemical synthesis.
Is it too late to sell all of my Krugerrands and put everything into AIF (the Alchemy Index Fund???)

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Re: Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by sixdollars » Sat Feb 21, 2015 9:40 am

Pointedstick wrote: Before this happens, I expect molecule-scale machines will take individual atoms as input and re-arrange them into whatever you want (as today we have machines that liquify and arrange compounds), but at some point, possible sooner than we might imagine, someone's gonna invent a thingy that can take a sludge of neutrons, protons, and electrons, and spit out gold.
Ahh, some interesting names come to mind, all involving the name Midas..  ;D

It's quite possible in theory I guess.. but how soon are you talking about here and what makes you come to that conclusion?  The idea of something like this even happening in our lifetime seems bizarre and too outwordly to me.  Definitely fun to think about though
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Re: Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by Pointedstick » Sat Feb 21, 2015 10:09 am

I guess it's true that synthesizing atoms is a long way off and requires a bunch of technology we don't have yet. But I guess that element-scale fab machines aren't too far off. I already have a couple of machines that are capable of taking a reel of ABS or PLA plastic, melting it, and extruding it into a new shape. It's not too tough to envision a refined version that has a much higher detail level and draws from tanks of molten iron, carbon, silicon, or whatever else you might want. None of the tech behind such a thing has yet to be invented; it's simply a matter of optimizing everything until it all works together.

With such a machine, I guess you would still need molten gold to make something with gold components or fabricate custom coins or something. That would probably not drop the bottom out of the gold market, but I wonder if it would cause the metal to behave a little bit more as an industrial metal like silver.
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Re: Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by dualstow » Sat Feb 21, 2015 10:21 am

I'm surprised no one has said exactly this yet: wouldn't it be worth it? I'll take a 25% haircut to be able to manufacture anything from any material. First by companies, then by individuals. It's a good trade. Dragoncar did say that money wouldn't matter. Close enough.

The Diamond Age was my first Neal Stephenson novel, btw. So great.
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Re: Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by MachineGhost » Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:12 pm

Pointedstick wrote: Neal Stephenson's novel The Diamond Age explored this idea, with the book's title being a reference to the idea that once they were able to, it made the most sense for people to fabricate virtually everything out of diamond due to its desirable mechanical properties.
Rare, colored natural diamonds full of flaws continue to go up in price.  People still value the real thing as they are marvels of nature.  That's one reason I avoid common modern bullion in favor of semi-numismatic.  There's more value than just the gold content.  Value is not just economic, but metaphyical.

But I wonder...  in theory you could atomize up, say, a MS65 1913 $20 St. Gauden's even down to any aging.  So I think the big problem here will be in counterfeitng, not that gold would be easy to synthesize.  The grading companies are going to have to come up with some really innovative fraud detection mechanisms.
Last edited by MachineGhost on Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by MachineGhost » Sat Feb 21, 2015 1:16 pm

That was awesome!  I'm half-way to the 24th century already. ;D
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Re: Will the gold market survive the atomic-scale personal manufacturing future?

Post by Mike59 » Sat Feb 21, 2015 3:23 pm

Reminds me of a discussion in a silver board i used to follow about mining to soon take place on the moon and other moons in our solar system, crashing silver back to less than a buck and maybe gold back below $50 . That is, if we ever really got to the moon or outside the van allen belt in the first place :o
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