The distributed production, future utopia bullshit is getting just too f*@king deep!  I’m sure Mr. Carson is a very nice person, but he is a great example of wrong, wrong, wrong. Just so f*@king wrong on so many levels.

The old infrastructures, as I argued here, are extremely capital-intensive, high-overhead, batch-and-queue systems that devote 80% of their total capacity — idle most of the time — to handling 20% of the total load at peak hours. – Carson article.

Oh, right. You sit at your industrially manufactured desk, on a manufactured chair, on a manufactured carpet, typing on a computer you couldn’t dream of manufacturing at home if your life depended on it, driving to the store when you want to in your car you don’t understand to buy food that magically appears on shelves, showing off your near total ignorance of industrial production while talking on your iPhone.

Hey genius!  JITKANBAN and Poke-Yoke on the factory side! Tightly coupled inventory management on the retail side! Retail inventory management is where the KANBAN idea came from! A smart Japanese guy had the idea to manage the internal factory system so each part is handled like in a retail store! It works fantastic.

Since the capital goods possessed by the endpoints is a miniscule fraction of the cost of a centralized infrastructure, there is no incentive to subordinate end-users to the needs of the infrastructure. – Carson article

To start with, it’s obvious that you meant to say that your fantasy distributed production system (Star Trek replicator idea) is the “capital goods”.  Aside from your inability to say what you mean, how do you know the collective cost of distributed production is lower? Let’s take automobiles. Cheaper than rail transit? Not! Is the total cost of all laser printers greater than the cost of a central facility that could handle all that? Not!

 

But let’s ask ourselves if distributed manufacturing has existed before. Oh! It has! We have had distributed manufacturing capability for a long time. Your rose-colored-glasses are describing piecework in the home, a dire throwback to near slave-labor conditions, with high injury rates! Sure, small machine shops are in every big city and can make it in niche build-to-order environments. But dude! You are also confusing the means of production with actual production. There is no such equivalence. That’s what the Soviet Union did. 

Too many shoes

You don’t get productive use of equipment just because you acquire it. That’s ridiculous. Factories are highly tuned (temporary and flexible) entities that are focused on producing something that people will buy – in the most efficient manner possible. Trust me, if products people want could be made at distributed little shops cheaper, they would be.

The waste in distributed systems looks small in absolute terms but add it all up and it’s huge! Take waste putting gasoline into automobiles. Each car fill-up, you can smell a little gasoline. Add it up for all those cars and it’s tons and tons. Same for small-scale production. Waste is a big reason why piecework manufacturing in the home went away. And quality control?  Re-imagine your iPhone made by kids while a tipsy, desperate, poverty-stricken single mom slave-drives her kids to put the goddamn thing together. 

Ed Fenster’s Sunrun didn’t redistribute the power/production to the end-point! He just created an alternative plug and play utility owned by his company. He had serious subsidies to make it viable. And – to work, Sunrun had to tie it into the grid and sell power back to the grid! The users are just getting a price break – for a while, courtesy of Uncle Sam.

Even if things like 3D printing overcome some serious issues, you will still have manufacturing and distribution of feedstock, machinery, etc. You still have the cost of means of production versus the value of what the 3D printer produces. And the law of utility still applies.

 

Mr. Carson, when you buy a car, you don’t attempt to maximize your use of it for transport 24/7 do you? No. Your measure of value is that the car does what you need when you need it. Industrial manufacturing has the same need. Factories don’t try to maximize utilization of a drill press on an assembly line. They want that drill press to do its job for them when they need it to produce a product they have orders for!

Manufacturers do not keep running factories to make product that isn’t needed. (Dear lord man, what’s wrong with you?!) Manufacturers use a version of the inventory formula that takes into account lead time to make the product, lot size and orders. Manufacturing of most things is effectively integrated all the way from the consumer back to the acquisition of raw materials. Everything is pull-through now!

Reorderpoint

Yes, Bucky’s example of satellites is great, but ask yourself why it is that in the satellite connected world copper cable has been replaced with fiber-optic trans-oceanic cables? There is a simple reason – time. Satellites have a delay. Fiber optic cables can transmit far more than metal cable.

The theory behind the guarantee is that utilities need to attract billions of dollars to maintain the grid. At the same time, banks today have access to nearly unlimited capital despite typically earning lower returns, which are notoriously not guaranteed. Why should public utilities have it better than Wall Street banks?

Excuse me? You don’t know the vast difference between banking, which deals in the money abstraction, and an electrical utility that creates utility value in the real economy?! News flash! Banks on Wall Street flim-flammed our economy into a tailspin! They did it by “investing” in money that invests in money that invests in money – that doesn’t produce anything real!

There may be something to this idea that creative destruction isn’t accounted for when looking at signs of Jared Diamond’s collapse, but Mr. Carson hasn’t come near supporting it. There is no “successor society” visible anywhere. What? iPhones? iPads?

This is just the zombie version of the 1960’s commune-let’s-all-live-mother-goose-beautiful-out-in-the-woods redirected toward decentralization. Let’s all drop some acid and become totally cool people!

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