China Says It’s 3D Printing a 590-Foot Hydroelectric Dam With Zero Human Labor

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Getty / Futurism

Here’s a riddle for you.

How can a country with enough resources to 3D print a new hydroelectric dam using artificial intelligence, driverless trucks and seemingly the best construction equipment money can buy still somehow lack the ability and resources to deliver food to starving residents trapped in a COVID-19 lockdown?

While you’re mulling that one, we’re willing to admit China’s newest construction project isn’t unimpressive. According to the South China Morning Post, the new clean energy source will likely be the world’s tallest 3D printed structure when — and if — it’s complete.

The dam, described in a study in the Journal of Tsinghua University back in April, include a high tech smorgasbord of autonomous excavators, trucks, bulldozers, pavers and rollers, controlled by AI, that’ll use materials delivered to work sites to construct the dam slice by slice. It’s effectively one of the biggest 3D printers the world has ever seen, and the goal is to finish the job by 2024.

The Chinese government won’t be able to complain as much about labor shortages if a human-free task of this magnitude is actually successful. But it’s not a great look for a country dealing with seemingly endless lockdowns and food shortages.

It’s easy to question China’s priorities here, but there’s at least one good takeaway for the US.

According to universal basic income (UBI) advocate Scott Santens, the US wouldn’t dream of completing a national infrastructure project using only AI, because its economy values job creation as the best poverty solution.

“The US would never undertake a project like this (at least not until we adopt UBI),” Santens said online yesterday. “Why? Because we worship job creation instead of believing that the point of work like this is to get it done, not to employ people in the process.”

Everybody has an opinion about whether the US or China is doing the current it thing better, whether it’s smartphones, infrastructure or space exploration. But it honestly doesn’t seem like the average person in either place is doing particularly well at the moment.