This article continues our study of the
four horsemen of the apocalypse. In Parts 1 and 2, we examined the riders of
the white horse and the red horse respectively. We will now study the one
who follows them, the rider on the black horse.
This third horse appears in Revelation
6:5 and 6:
"When the Lamb broke the third seal, I heard the
third living being say, 'Come!' And I looked up and saw a black horse, and
its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. And a voice from among
the four living beings said, 'A loaf of wheat bread or three loaves of
barley for a day's pay. And don't waste the olive oil and wine'" (Revelation
What does the symbolic language of this
verse tell us about this rider? We can identify several points:
1) He rides a black horse. The color
black is a symbol of famine.
2) He holds a pair of scales in his
hand. The rider (the Antichrist) will be in full control of the world. The
scales in his hand indicate a need for him to carefully measure and ration
the food supply. We know this because the next verse indicates a scarcity of
3) "A loaf of wheat bread or three
loaves of barley for a day's pay." Three loaves of barley equal
approximately one pint. This is generally regarded as a minimum-sustenance diet. Therefore, this verse foreshadows a
time when an entire day's wage will barely yield enough food to survive.
4) "Don't waste the olive oil and
wine." "Olive oil and wine" symbolize luxury items that were the exclusive domains of
the rich during the time the book of Revelation was written. From this
verse, we learn that the famine referenced in the preceding sentence does
not affect the wealthy.
I believe the four horsemen in
Revelation 6 represent the Antichrist and the initial phases of his rise to
power. In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I speculated that Antichrist might
use molecular manufacturing to conquer the world. If this is the case, how
do the actions of the rider on the black horse coincide with the development
of molecular manufacturing (MM)? Is there any reason to believe this
technological breakthrough, which will bring widespread abundance, will also
be accompanied by famine?
Aside from the fact that scarcity and
inflation often go hand in hand with war, and war is triggered by the rider
on the red horse, ample evidence suggests molecular manufacturing will, of
its own accord, lead to
profound economic upheaval.
The Coming Economic Tribulation
The development of molecular
manufacturing will usher in a period of unprecedented economic tribulation,
and no part of the world will escape its impact.
The development of molecular
manufacturing will lead to the proliferation of nanofactories—small,
portable, fully-automated manufacturing systems about the size of today's
washing machines. Supplied with basic raw materials, a nanofactory will be
able to break down molecules and reassemble them into basic consumer
products. A nanofactory will cost little to operate and will be capable of
producing approximately two tons of products per day. As such, it seems
likely that a single nanofactory could supply all the daily product needs of
a typical contemporary American household at a fraction of today's cost.
Nanofactories will be far more
efficient and powerful than the factories of the industrial revolution. They
won't require large tracts of real estate, high-wage employees, high-energy
inputs, reengineered assembly lines, continual capital expenditures, or most
of the traditional costs associated with the factories of past generations.
In addition, because of a nanofactory's precise placement of molecules, its
products will be nearly flawless, yielding an error rate of less than
one-tenth of one percent. As a result, basic consumer products will cost a
fraction of what they cost today, and they will be far more durable and
But nanofactories will also be
different for another reason: They will be capable of manufacturing copies
of themselves. So instead of simply making basic consumer products, a
nanofactory could also produce a second nanofactory. The implications of
this are staggering. At low cost, a single nanofactory could conceivably
produce two nanofactories, which could produce four, then eight, and so on.
In a matter of weeks, the first nanofactory could populate the world with
billions of additional nanofactories. The world economic order will be
thrown into a tailspin as entire industries literally become obsolete in a
matter of weeks. The current global economic order based on the tenet of
scarce resources will be turned on its head when faced with a world of
sudden abundance. As Steve Burgess states in his work,
The (Needed) New Economics of
Abundance, "Abundance, paradoxically, could be highly disruptive." This
means the seemingly miraculous benefits of molecular manufacturing will come
with a price tag of global political, military, and economic instability.
Although the widespread deployment of
this transformative technology will not be rolled out in a single day,
knowledge of its existence and near future adoption will send shockwaves
through capital markets around the world and literally crush certain
industries. Molecular manufacturing will eliminate the need for much of
today's supply chain, including massive factories, transportation networks,
and storage facilities. International trade will come to a screeching halt,
as it will no longer be necessary in most cases (it seems likely that some
markets will continue to thrive, such as handmade Cuban cigars, authentic
French wine, and a number of other historically sought-after luxury items).
In a process we've come to know as
"creative destruction," many industries, such as shipping, distribution,
commodities (including all generic/non-branded consumer products), commodity
retailing, and petroleum, will likely lose over 90 percent of their current
market value. On the flipside, some sectors of the economy—such as services,
intellectual property, branded products, and prime real estate—will likely
undergo a significant increase in value. Nevertheless, the short-term damage
will be far reaching, and the sudden and surprising emergence of MM will
likely cause widespread panic in the short term.
Millions will be unemployed. Personal
fortunes will be destroyed. As a result, consumer spending will contract,
creating a tenuous situation threatening a complete global economic
meltdown. In the midst of this economic tumult, a temporary solution or an
entirely new economic system will have to be devised in order to deal with
the immediate aftershocks of MM's introduction and the subsequent
Mike Treder, in his
Future Brief commentary, "War, Interdependence, and Nanotechnology,"
discusses the many benefits and dangers of molecular manufacturing. One of
the problems he tackles is the potential negative impact on the current
"We also must consider the potential negative impacts
of advanced nanotechnology on our current socio-economic structure. Low-cost
local manufacturing and duplication of designs could lead to monetary
upheaval, as major economic sectors contract or even collapse. For example,
the global steel industry is worth over $700 billion. What will happen to
the millions of jobs associated with that industry--and to the capital
supporting it--when materials many times stronger than steel can be produced
quickly and cheaply wherever (and whenever) they are needed? Productive
nanosystems could make storable solar power a realistic and preferable
alternative to traditional energy sources. Around the world, individual
energy consumers pay over $600 billion a year for utility bills and fuel
supplies. Commercial and industrial uses drive the figures higher still.
When much of this spending can be permanently replaced with off-grid solar
energy, many more jobs will be displaced.
"The worldwide semiconductor industry produces annual
billings of over $150 billion. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports
that the industry employs a domestic workforce of nearly 300,000 people.
Additionally, U.S. retail distribution of electronics products amounts to
almost $300 billion annually. All of these areas will be impacted
significantly if customized electronics products can be produced at home for
about a dollar a pound, the likely cost of raw materials. If any individual
can make products containing computing power a million times greater than
today's PCs, where will those jobs go?"
Although we have faced the problems
associated with job displacement in the past (i.e., the replacement of the
horse-and-buggy industry with the automobile industry), these transitions
have usually taken place over many years and decades. Following the
development of molecular manufacturing, they will take place in a matter of
weeks and months.
In the "Dangers" section of its
website, The Center for Responsible Nanotechnology poses many questions
about the initial economic shock of molecular manufacturing, citing the
disruption of the current economic order as a strong possibility:
"The purchaser of a manufactured product today is
paying for its design, raw materials, the labor and capital of
manufacturing, transportation, storage, and sales. Additional money--usually
a fairly low percentage--goes to the owners of all these businesses. If
personal nanofactories can produce a wide variety of products when and where
they are wanted, most of this effort will become unnecessary. This raises
several questions about the nature of a post-nanotech economy. Will products
become cheaper? Will capitalism disappear? Will most people retire--or be
unemployed? The flexibility of nanofactory manufacturing, and the radical
improvement of its products, impl[ies] that non-nanotech products will not
be able to compete in many areas. If nanofactory technology is exclusively
owned or controlled, will this create the world's biggest monopoly, with
extreme potential for abusive anti-competitive practices? If it is not
controlled, will the availability of cheap copies mean that even the
designers and brand marketers don't get paid? Much further study is
required, but it seems clear that molecular manufacturing could severely
disrupt the present economic structure, greatly reducing the value of many
material and human resources, including much of our current infrastructure.
Despite utopian post-capitalist hopes, it is unclear whether a workable
replacement system could appear in time to prevent the human consequences of
massive job displacement."
Many of these questions remain
unanswered, and if the world continues to be ignorant of molecular
manufacturing and its imminent development, these questions are likely to be
answered for us by whoever develops the technology.
The Initial Economic Consequences
If international trade stops, if
shipping and distribution companies go bankrupt, what will happen to the
nations that rely heavily on imported goods? It will take at least several
days, if not weeks, to outfit these nations with their own nanofactories and
MM capability. As a result of this temporary initial disruption in the
supply chain, the basic laws of supply and demand will determine the prices
for the basic necessities of life. Although this will not be a permanent
disruption, until enough nanofactories are deployed, it could mean these
nations will face much higher prices and/or shortages.
Such a situation would likely result in
massive inflation, government-mandated rationing, or both. Is this the
meaning of the scales in the hand of the rider on the black horse? It is a
If Revelation 6:6 foreshadows a massive
gulf between the living standards of the rich and poor, this would not be an
entirely surprising outcome. CRN poses the idea that, even after its
full-scale deployment, MM may not be the utopian dream for which people have
"The price of a product usually falls somewhere
between its value to the purchaser and its cost to the seller. Molecular
manufacturing could result in products with value orders of magnitude higher
than their cost. It is likely that the price will be set closer to the value
than to the cost; in this case, customers will be unable to gain most of the
benefit of 'the nanotech revolution.' If pricing products by their value is
accepted, the poorest people may continue to die of poverty, in a world
where products costing literally a few cents would save a life. If (as seems
likely) this situation is accepted more by the rich than by the poor, social
unrest could add its problems to untold unnecessary human suffering."
The idea that molecular manufacturing's
development will initially result in a global war followed by unprecedented
economic instability directly correlates with the predicted behaviors of the
first three horsemen of Revelation 6. The crippling of international trade,
coupled with the bankruptcy of many obsolete Industrial-Age industries, will
result in worldwide economic upheaval. The idea that such a scenario might
result in temporary food shortages or significantly higher food prices is
more than probable. When taken in context with the characteristics of the
white horse of Revelation 6:2 and the red horse of Revelation 6:4, it seems
quite possible that the four horsemen of Revelation 6 foreshadow the
development of molecular manufacturing, a revolutionary technology that may
well be developed within the next three to five years, and almost certainly
will be developed by the year 2020.
In Part 4, we'll conclude this series
with an examination of the rider on the fourth and final horse.
Britt Gillette is founder of
BrittGillette.Com, a website examining the relationship between Bible
prophecy and emerging trends in technology. For more information or to sign
up for his email alerts, please visit http://www.brittgillette.com.