By 2031 the world economy was beginning to show signs of recovery with demand ticking up. Surviving currencies had stabilised and the key component of any depression – the destruction of wealth – had been achieved by the loss of cryptocurrencies and with pretty much the entire South American debt being written off in the aftermath of their collapse. Corporate and governmental balance sheets were chastened, cleared up, and shrunk back to a level of reality where confidence might once again flourish. China, embroiled with internal management conflict, was grateful of the stoic patience of its people. The people retained a distant memory of the difficult years of the cultural revolution and accepted their leadership would find a way. GDP, living standards and employment fell but these were reality, not propaganda anymore. China was learning that the difference between East and West was less to do with politics and more about leadership capability and adaptability. China had problems, but the media showed everyone else did too, and no one could afford a war despite the rhetoric.
America was no less worse off. Having spent trillions to see off the pandemic in the previous decade, there was little that could be achieved by printing money except to trigger more inflation. The answer as often is the case, was homegrown. America stopped importing. This was possible by the next wave of innovation coming out of Silicon Valley and university research laboratories; the dawn of a new era; molecular fabrication.
This idea first took off in the 1980’s with the first tampering with DNA to unlock the secrets of genetic engineering. From a very narrow focus, the next leap was made with carbon, creating new molecules; buckminsterfullerene found in soot but requiring manufacture for any reasonable quantity, nanotubes and such opened the possibility of generating existing and novel molecules at scale. Over the course of twenty years these discoveries made the transition from laboratory to manufacturing and along the way the applications grew. By the 2020s molecular fabrication was viewed as having the potential to do for industry what 3D printing had already done – revolutionise the way everything is made to the next level.
In 2027 MIT demonstrated what they called a bench factory. Supplied with the CHNOPS in molecular form (carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, and sulphur) the machine was able to construct a range of simple compounds within what was termed the evosphere, a barometric chamber supplied with a range of catalysing options and synthesis processes. By 1929 the demonstration had evolved into a machine capable of synthesising more than 150 molecules from base components. Molecular fabrication had arrived and once meshed with 3D printing, a revolution in the way everything except the most complex molecular structures was about to reinvigorate industry.