There were several fascinating papers at the SIGGRAPH conference about using 3D printers, micro-scale textures and special inks to fabricate perfect replicas of real objects — including subtle yet important visual clues like slight transparency (as in milk or soap) and anisotropic reflection (as in cloth or satin).

The work was impressive, and the results were stunning. Yet they also called to mind Philip K. Dick’s wonderful novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”. In the fictional future of that book, it has become easy to replicate all sorts of things, including animals. In fact, some people keep android sheep as pets (hence the title).

As a consequence of nuclear war fallout radiation, actual animals have become scarce and very precious, and it is a sign of wealth and high social status to be able to have a real animal, as opposed to one of the plentiful and cheap perfect copies that technology has enabled.

I wonder whether we are heading down some sort of analogous path. As perfect replicas of more and more things become cheap and plentiful, have an original of anything may become a rare privilege.

One thought on “Replicas”

  1. Your story reminds me one of the Dick’s story also, but I forget the title as always… There was a planet and a specific creature evolved to acquire mimicry, it can mimic even a functioning machine. One day you saw your shoes were duplicated, and wonder did I have two pairs of shoes? You can use it, but at some point, it eats your leg. One day you saw your microscope was also duplicated, you can magnify and see some cells, but it eats you…

    Someone apparently can print a functioning gun (you need to assemble them). One day 3D printer can print out functioning machine without assembling. I hope it is not a killer robot or a weapon. That’s worse terrorist attack than some spam email prints out their advertisement. Maybe my avatar can be printed out somewhere on the planet. Actually I want to have my assistant, can I print out it one day? So the 3D printer seems a origin of the transporter.

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