The Third Wave, CNC, Stereolithography, and the end of gun control
Baseball is the national sport, but for those with an extra 2 or 3 IQ points above the mean this is displaced by the even more fun activity of confusing cause and effect.
For example, we are told that "the labor movement is the people who brought you the 40 hour workweek", but any objective review of facts shows us that as technology improved and the consumer surplus increased working people negotiated a goodly portion of this new surplus in the form of shorter working hours.
The labor movement – whether consciously or unconsciously – tried to position itself in front of a train that was already moving, and like a small kid marching in front of a parade, came to believe that all the bands, elephants and baton twirlers were following its lead.
(There is a tangential story here, about how the labor movement took a left off of main street onto Mao Zedong Blvd and then got ripshit that the bands, elephants and pretty girls didn't "continue" to follow it, but that's a post for some other time).
The 40 hour work week is not the only social movement driven by technology, broad social trends, and mass communication wherein cause and effect were reversed in the popular narrative.
Slavery was repealed in the West thanks to growing consumer surplus caused by technology, and growing awareness of the evils caused by cheap printing…( I argue that the former is far more important – it's a lot easier to oppose slavery when you can buy clothes made cheap by the cotton gin than when you have to choose between "blood clothing" and not eating for a few weeks in order to buy a new outfit). Again, in the popular imagination, cause and effect are reversed, and Abe Lincoln's invention of Total War (including mass enslavement of free men by the State, war crimes and atrocities) was the cause of emancipation, instead of uniquely bloody, bungled, and murderous implementation of a world wide technology-driven trend that managed to be peaceful and bloodless almost every place that the US Federal government was not involved.
And speaking of technology-driven emancipation, we arrive at the thesis statement for today's rant: the end of gun control is not politically or culturally driven, but was a historical inevitability that was written into the book of destiny by 1810, when Joseph Jacquard started using punched cards to control weaving patterns on his looms and when the practice of chucking rotary cutters into lathe headstocks was adopted en masse at water powered factories in Western Massachusetts in response to British attempts to confiscate American civilian-owned firearms.
OK, if I'm going to do an impression of James Burke, let me do it right. Hold a moment while I put on a thick set of glasses and hammer myself in the mouth with a mallet. …and…MMFGH! .. Ah, yes, now I look more like a product of British government-run dentistry. < spits teeth ; makes appointment for follow-up care with NHS sometime in late 2017 >
So, how does weaving in France tie in to British seizure of civilian owned weapons, BITNET, and the Homebrew Computer Club, and lead us to the death of gun control in the 21st century?
People ascribe the invention of punched cards to Herman Hollerith in the late 1800s, but in fact they dated back 150 years earlier, where they were created as an easier-to-file version of the ancient concept of the tally stick (Pliny the Elder documents these before the birth of Christ, but it turns out that we can push the date back 20,000 years before that).
So we've got people recording data on punched cards in the early 1700s, and a few decades after that we've got Basile Bouchon using them to half-assedly control textile mills in France, and a few decades after that Jacquard drastically improved the mechanism.
(Hint: the end of the week quiz will cover this specific point, and in your response to the essay question you could do worse than to note the parallel between 'using stored information to create physical items' in 17-aught-mumble and 20-aught-mumble).
So, we've established that information can be amplified into a nearly finished product by clever arrangements of spinning bits, moving bits, and stationary bits.
Let's take a quick digression into metal working.
Your average man on the street has a pretty good idea of how wood is worked: metal is harder than wood, therefore metal cuts wood.
…but how in heck is metal itself cut and worked? I've done a few small social experiments and it seems that, like the internals of a MRI machine and the operation of the Federal Reserve, these concepts are delegated strongly to a mental bin labeled "magic", and or "Jewish currency manipulation / mysticism". (This view is not 100 percent wrong).
Zaphod told us that the secret is to 'bang the rocks together', but Zaphod was a liberal arts major and probably should have stuck to opining on Womyn's studies issues and pomme frittes upselling. The real secret is heat treating. Bring some steel up to temperatures that you can reach in your basement with an oxy cutting rig that you can buy for less than the cost of taking your wife to dinner and a show then plunge it into cold water, and you've got a nearly diamond-hard object where the carbon atoms have been do-si-doh-ed into proper body-centered cubic alignment…and then throw it in a $20 toaster oven from Target and you can relieve some of the internal stresses and create a cutting tool that can slice through regular steel…and
cut through aluminum like Tipper Gore through the 1st amendment.
The point of all of this being that working metal is not magic, and if more of us saw our dads building mufflers from scratch instead of building bird houses from scratch, the mental block on home-building stuff from metal in modestly equipped shops wouldn't exist).
Advance the clock a century or two and move the Google Earth cursor a bit to the left and pretty soon we've got Wozniak and Jobs unloading the first breadboarded Apple computer out of the backseat of their car and taking it in to show their fellow geeks.
We all know the part where Gordon E. Moore descends from the catwalk over the stage supported by ropes held by a Greek chorus, waves his magic wand, and declares that the price of transistors will fall by half every 18 months.
(Little know fact: the Intel it-760 Quad Core has the processing power of 7.9 trillion punched cards, and can control six automated looms for every person on the planet.)
You see where we're going here: information not only wants to be free – it wants to control machine tools.
So how much does it cost to start cutting metal at home, using all the power of Jacquard, Jobs, and Moore?
If you want to do it right it's still not cheap.
…but if you're willing to go small, crappy, and scrappy, the options are there.
If you're content with laying down lines of extruded hot glue, the friends-and-family of the Bng-Bngers will sell you a device.
If you're a bit more roll-your own, you can cobble together you're own glue-extruding mess from instructions .
If glue is a bit too shoddy to build with and you want to turn work wood, people are rolling their own machines for about $1.5k.
If you want to take a step up to working metal, that's about $2k…or closer to $1k if you already have an old box sitting around that you can install Ubuntu on. (Side note: How did it get so cheap to build machine tools? By taking the labor out of the process and using automated metalworking machines to build automated metalworking machines.
If you really want to carve big metal, you can pick up a 2-ton, full-sized Bridgeport milling machine with a J head off of Craigslist for less than most folks spend on cable TV over the course of a year and follow instructions on how to CNC-ify it.
So, we've established that
- technology and productivity drive social trends
- data-driven control of tools is nothing new
- working with metal is pretty easy with cheap tools
- off-the-shelf CNC tools are cheap and getting cheaper
There's one step missing: proof that the average man on the street can actually use cheap CNC tools to build firearms.
Even with out a first amendment, samizdat would ensure that the data would be out there…but given that the legislature and the executive do have to respect our right to speak (even if it has to be reminded somewhat rudely by the courts and the people from time to time), it's relatively easy to find folks to talk to about home CNC production of firearms.
And remember that thing about information wanting to be free? In our glorious jetcar-free, but peer-to-peer-laden future, collecting and swapping is no longer just for baseball cards; it's also for plastic printing your own AR-15 magazines and lower receivers.
…or, if you prefer metal over plastic, download the plans for a a full AR-15 lower that you can crank out with your fresh-from-the-box $1k Sherline CNC milling machine and $15 worth of aluminum, then kit it out with $410 worth of barrel, shoulder stock, and such.
Due to forces of technology (CNC controlled machine tools, cheap computation, open source ethics, and social sharing of designs) gun control is utterly dead. It's a corpse, staggering along, not yet aware that it's been gut shot, it's blood pressure has dropped to zero, and its brain (such as it is) is about to die the True Death.
Try to outlaw gun powder and we'll move to railguns and big capacitors. Try to outlaw primers and we'll see plans for electronic ignitions up on wikileaks by the end of the day.
Go back a step and outlaw the sparkplugs and the capacitors and …yeah, it'll work as well as the restrictions on cold syrup have ENTIRELY shut down meth production.
Gun control will stagger on for a bit, but there's no putting some genies back in their bottles, and home printed firearms are one of those genies.
One hundred years from now everyone from Chinese peasants to American bankers (or do I have that backwards?) will have all the firearms and ammo they want, in the same way that 15 year old have all the hot monkey sex pr0n they want today.
It's called technology, and it's the universal solvent.