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 6:5-6, NLT).
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 food.
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 nanofactoriesâ€”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 powerful.
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 economyâ€”such as services, intellectual property, branded products, and prime real estateâ€”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 humanitarian crises.
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 economic system:
“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 possibility.
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 hoped.
“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.