Nov 24

Nat Torkington

Nat Torkington

Raph Koster: Copy Away

Raph Koster has a fascinating VentureBeat piece about the Second Life copybot. Raph observes that using the data stream to duplicate objects is analogous to the analog hole that lets people copy movies as they're converted to display on an analog screen. Raph's conclusion is that infinite copying should be accepted as part of the online world and products can't be businesses, only services.

Also, as Raph and others have pointed out, it's a glimpse into a future where 3D replicators exist. They're still a long way off, but 3D printers are high on the O'Reilly Radar watch list (sadly, because we used the same software as the TSA, "3d pruning", "hp printers", and "jaws 3d" are also high on the watchlist and we can't figure out how to get them off). As Simon Wardley from Fotango pointed out at EuroFoo, 3D printers are not only within arm's reach (a rich arm at the moment, because they cost in the tens of thousands of dollars price range) they're capable of huge changes to the way we think about our world. We're seeing these challenges play out in Second Life, and if SL is anything to go by then the reaction in First Life to a 3d printing copybot will be to outlaw its use, lock up people caught with copied artifacts, and generally try to deny its existence rather than work with it. Memo to early adopters: first thing to copy is the copybot ...

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Comments: 7

  Scott Carpenter [11.24.06 08:31 AM]

No discussion of the nanotechnology/replication would be complete without mentioning Neal Stephenson's Diamond Age. :-) Interesting ideas around the use and consequences of the technology.

  Taran Rampersad [11.24.06 09:42 AM]

Well, this all supports the creation of digital content as a service itself. Like the software as a service debate years ago.

The act of doing is worth paying for. But when it comes to copying and packaging, the creator is usually not the one to get any recompense. In fact, they normally get screwed and the publishers take the brunt of it and get angry when they get screwed.

Rethinking 'property' is in order.

  Jeremy James [11.24.06 12:01 PM]

"...products can't be businesses, only services."

This is a very profound statement. As an artist / content producer who can see the day when my audience will consume most if not all their entertainment content in a digital (and thus infinitely copyable) format (that can be obtained very cheap or free if "shared"), I think viewing your career as a "value-added service" instead of a "product creator" will be critical.

The question arises: How can authors or musicians expect to make money on books or recordings when consumers can obtain digital copies of their work for free? (Publishers and record labels ask the same question, no doubt.)

The typical answer is, "advertising."

But what if, say an author, were to stop looking at their income stream ultimately coming from the number of books they sell, and instead, as getting paid to WRITE the book itself, and nothing more?

In other words, an author could freely distribute their first (n) books until they've built a rabid following who are hooked on their stories. Then, they could simply refuse to release their next work until a certain number of fans have PREPAID for the author to write it. Then the author, check in hand, wouldn't worry about how many times their work got copied after it was released.

  Jeff Barr [11.24.06 03:33 PM]

Well its not exactly a CopyBot, but the service provided by Fabjectory ( certainly seems to be relevant to this post. They make 3D, physical renditions of Second Life avatars and other objects.

  Neil Kandalgaonkar [11.25.06 07:09 PM]

An interesting use of 3D printers -- is a home-based business, a guy making prototypes for puzzle designers. Some of them don't get picked up by manufacturers, so puzzle fanatics and collectors can order them as limited editions, produced by the 3D printer. Donald Knuth co-designed a few of these puzzles.

  Anonymous [01.20.07 06:54 AM]


You may want to look at two closely related projects aimed at creating 3D printers which are, to a large extent self-replicating. These can be seen at: (Darwin)

and, a related American bootstrap project (Tommelise)

Both are open source technology projects. Darwin is slated to cost some $400 in parts while Tommelise is aiming at $150.

Since I gather that you live in New Zealand you may want to visit with Vik Olivier of the RepRap project. Vic created Zaphod, a RepRap prototype which has printed replacement parts of itself. Vic lives near Auckland. You can contact him through the RepRap website, I believe.

Keep well,

Forrest Higgs

  Forrest Higgs [01.20.07 06:57 AM]

BTW, I don't know if you will be attending the O'Reilly eTech conference in San Diego this March. I will be presenting a paper about Tommelise there.



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