The latest instalment of Sven Johnson’s Future Imperfect is part of the Superstruct project.
Within it, a future iteration of Sven takes a moment on a cruise-gone-wrong to reflect on the history of 3D spam – the flipside of the fabrication revolution.
So here it is: 2019, and I’m slow-cruising across the Atlantic in a ship which should have been scrapped instead of dragged out of mothballs, refitted with a value-priced propulsion system and pressed into low-cost passenger service.
Yeah, I’m cheap. And with airline ticket prices skyrocketing I don’t have a problem admitting it; I’m not here to impress anybody.
Besides, I figured I’d give the cruise experience a try, y’know. I spent four years in the Navy. How bad could this be?
Well, back in my day, pirates weren’t trying to spoof satellite positioning systems in hopes of luring your defenseless ass into a web of buzzing jetboats tended by some fuel-sucking mothership. And if that failed, they wouldn’t throw a tantrum and hijack the electromagnetic spectrum for the better part of two freakin’ days. Does anyone truly appreciate the psychological torture a bunch of net-disconnected gamer kids can inflict on a sane adult unfortunate enough to be stuck with them on some rust bucket waddling at ten knots across the ocean?
I don’t think so.
It was okay when the pirate stories originated off the Somali coast and involved arms shipments. It’s not so okay when it happens in the North Atlantic and involves moi.
So anyway, what comes to mind now as I sit here eating dinner in the ship’s galley is that it’s been ten solid years since I tried to leave a comment – a warning – on a Futurismic blog entry which raised the possibility of 3D spam.
I tried to alert people to the real dangers; to get the message out. But the PHP gods denied me.
And don’t think I didn’t make more than one effort. I did. Several, in fact. Especially after someone left a bonehead comment about how “there will never be 3D spam” because of the shipping costs involved. Hello? Did that dude never use a home fax machine? Never hear the term “fax spam” or “junk fax“?
Being too sure of yourself is a dangerous thing, folks. As are words like “never” … and “lifetime warranty”.
I can remember the first “fab spam” outbreak like it was yesterday.
Ever walk through a field and come out on the other end with burrs clinging to your clothes? Well, imagine something like those little burrs spilling out of your home fabber. Embedding themselves in the shag carpet. Attaching to an angry cat. Perforating your foot.
If you bothered to look closely, you might even have seen the maker’s mark … right beneath the words “Firewall Protection Software” or “Network Security Services”.
Used to be if someone got past the free firewall you opted to download and install, the damage was “virtual”. Now you have to worry about someone inserting your fabber’s cache with dimensionally enhanced body part files you wouldn’t feel comfortable explaining to another adult, let alone the kids or visiting in-laws.
So what brings this up now, ten years after the fact? Well, like I said, I’m on this ship crossing the Atlantic, and while the food hasn’t been great, up til now it’s been pretty decent. Unfortunately, one of our refrigeration units – the big one – had to go and blow a valve; a system critical thermostatic expansion valve, to be specific.
See, the problem is ships don’t carry very many spare parts these days. It’s not fuel efficient. They mostly carry a few fabbers preloaded with the necessary materials. There’s one or two for rubbery gaskets, another couple for plastic replacement items, and usually a big one for metal components … like the valve that blew on the refrigeration system and spoiled most of our food supply.
To make a long story a bit less long, the little bastards on that GPS-spoofing pirate ship accessed our fabbers during their EM spectrum hi-jinx. Needless to say, this ship won’t be making any spare parts for the remainder of this journey.
It also won’t need ball bearings. Ever.
Now I guess it’s a good thing the underway replenishment ship had MRE’s to spare, but it’s a shame they couldn’t fab the part we needed and send over some fresh supplies instead. Truth is, I can’t help but sit here staring at my half-eaten MRE and find that especially curious.
The Navy has been into direct digital manufacturing technology for a long, long time, and I would have thought they could generate a replacement without much effort. After all, it’s a pretty standard part and the 3D files are readily available.
Thinking about it, I have to wonder if they have 3D spam and fabjacking issues of their own.
Worse yet, maybe they do but don’t even know it. Chew on that thought.
Sven Johnson is an unrooted freelance designer increasingly working at the intersection of tangible and virtual goods. His background is varied and includes a fair amount of travel, a pair of undergraduate degrees and a stint with the U.S. military. He’s a passionate wannabe filmmaker, a once-upon-a-time underground comix creator, and – when facilities are available – an enthusiastic ceramicist who is currently attempting to assemble a transmedia, transreality open-source narrative in what remains of his lifetime.
[Future Imperfect header based on an image by Kaunokainen.]