MSimon wrote:I believe the BFR can derail that whole scenario.
In any case high tech civilization depends on access to all 92 elements which are unevenly distributed around the earth. A collapse to regionalism means a collapse of civilization. I'd rather that didn't happen.
In any case you are entirely too pessimistic. Men are ingenious creatures. They will find a way or make one.
Economic Depressions, collapses of economic globalism and reregulations of finance and industry have happened before. They are hardly the stuff of civilizational collapse.
I partly agree about the Polywell. Cheap access to ever higher intensities of power is one of the best historical indicators of the advance of civilization.
The Polywell makes possible what I call the Mk1 faber. Think of the dream of the nanotech universal assembler, and then downgrade it by an order of magnitude. Consider the various 3D rapid prototyping schemes being looked at, such as the RepRap Project.
Take a structure the size of an 18 wheeler trailer or standard international shipping container. Small polywell on one end. Fusion torch to break down any raw materials thrown in, magnetically sorted to raw materials bins.
The mechanism is able to form raw materials into any of a range of advanced structural materials. Bulk metallic glasses, carbon fibre composites, GaAs semiconductors, etc. Manufacturer segments can shape these into final modules.
A deployable cage with assembler arms, capable of assembling modules into a final product does so.
The Mk1 is capable of building almost anything up to say the size of a fighter plane, but not at maximum efficiency. Cloth, ammunition, drugs, whatever. It can build an item in a few days, or replicate itself in 1-2 weeks. It is the initial bootstrap module. It can also build dedicated mass production lines, also polywell powered, that build only a limited range of final products, possibly of more advanced materials than the Mk1. Gang 10-20 dedicated lines and you can build products much faster.
Dedicated heavy industry facilities would be capable of building things upto the size of An-124 cargo planes, or even larger, say something the size of a supercarrier 300 meters long. Tho the larger the items, the longer the fabrication period, even allowing for a hell of a lot of "dedicated" component lines.
Say one year to bootstrap up to a basic industrial economy, 2 years to a fully fleshed out industrial economy. Replication of basic Mk1 units is geometric, and you only need one to "reboot" an economy somewhere else.
The only remaining expenses are energy costs, costs of obtaining raw material feedstock, and whatever remuneration scheme you decide on for template designers.
Allowing for a few more refinements such as automated full service medical care
and the social welfare state is available on the cheap. Which makes QED powered expansion into the solar system or beyond (please, God, FTL?) that much easier.