Efficiency Age: The Factories (Part 1)

from Casey Trimble

June 21, 2014, 10:39 p.m.

Click, whirr, slide the conveying lines of plastic. Intricate machinery engaged in the creation of itself, the manufacturers could not conceive of any self doubt. There were no mistakes in the choreographed sequence, for there were other machines designed to monitor the process in anticipation of such unpredictable events. A faulty spring, a broken gear, quickly diagnosed and replaced by the bots, such was the bodily mechanism of the factory. All of this, and not a single human in sight.

No factory workers were required, as the process was much more efficient when funded by electricity produced in the nuclear reactor under the building. The pay simply could not be merited, because human machinery required too much input energy for such simple tasks. There was no need of cleaning staff, either, as there were systematic methods for the disposal of waste. With the absence of human activity, air filtration was only required to remove particles which might shorten the lifespan of the factory. On and on, churning vats of toxic molten materials vented into the room to produce a putrid haze.

There were no managers, there were no engineers, there were no windows, there were no doors. There were only conveyors, leading from the entry docks, attended to by transport machines— also unmanned —which supplied the factory with the raw resources required for production. In the event that material arrived for processing, the unloaders buzzed into life, quickly offloading metal, oils, plastics, and nuclear fuel with orchestrated grace. Once assimilated, the fresh supplies would traverse the inner tract of the building, moving in a perfectly optimized network of production machinery and becoming a finished product with the absolute minimum amount of work required, as dictated by physics.

With the job done, the factory would resume its necessary slumber. No silly bouts of overproduction could ever happen, for only necessity drove the machines. No dreams of profit, no clever salesmen, no misguided judgment. There were no mistakes, and there were no drawbacks. When the transport arrived with an order, it was filled. Obscurity was a human endeavor, and manufacture was no longer a human endeavor.

All of this occurred in a room of about 50 square feet, approximately 50 feet high. With no need for maintenance catwalks— there were machines to do that —the production process required hardly any space to be effective. With no labor laws to restrict the workdays of production automata, the machines labored continuously for days, quickly and efficiently exchanging the pre-calculated number of input materials for export materials, which departed from the exit docks directly to the left of the entry docks by the same transport mechanism. Such was the perfect production process, with no humans in the middle— no, only on the receiving end could humans be found.

And where were these endless consumers of machine effort? To what end did the magnet tracks of the near perfect efficiency transports fly?

In truth, they did not know. The machines could not know, they had no mechanism to handle information of such abstraction. Only a human could understand the system in full, and the vast network of complex interactions and emergence was a human thing to care about. Wildly different was the work of manufacture, which was of the simplest possible actions that any able mind could imagine. To be efficient was to reduce the complexity of a motion while still achieving the desired end, and machines were created to embody this simplicity.

With all of the simple chores being handled by simple beings, the humans had turned to the task of expanding their true potential. Structured complexity had become something of a currency. Networks of humans, institutions, and individuals coexisted in a realm of beauty that was quite intentional. Since the advent of complexity matching, the connection of tasks to taskmasters of matching levels of complexity, the human race quickly reversed the damage of its past crimes.

The archaic factories and warehouses had been demolished and processed with expediency. Pollution was now sequestered by the new factories as a matter of simple procedure, piped into environmental isolation that had been engineered by the great revolutionaries of the early Efficiency Age. Massive, sprawling complexes were no longer required. The space required by the manufacturing needs of the institutions and cities of humanity had been reduced one hundred fold with the advent of reliable diagnostic bots, which successfully eliminated the need for direct human presence in the response to inevitable malfunctions.

It was the birth of safe nuclear fusion that had enabled the revolution. With an abundance of hydrogen, easily acquired by a mechanized process contained in the power generators themselves, manufacture processes were only limited by the availability of the resources required for production. The genius of the Efficiency Age was to eliminate three things in production: human inefficiencies in simple tasks, the need for profit to ensure the survival of productivity, and the destructive nature of pre-Efficiency Age fossil fuels.

It is in this paradise that the institutions thrived, and yet with no shortage of struggle. Though the impetus of war lay all but completely dissembled, though the production of food continued with perfect efficiency in supplying cities with calculated nutritional shipments, and though the entire earth bent to the will of mankind, there was ever the looming ghost of scarcity. No, not even a deep and sophisticated understanding of scarcity is enough to combat its adamant influence on development and survival. It is this problem that humanity now faced.

To be continued.


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