The Technium

Bootstrapping Steel

At the largest scale the Technium is a bootstrapping process. One tool is used to make another tool which is used to make another tool — which is then used to make another version of the first tool. Around it goes, faster and faster.

Today, electric motors are used to make copper wire, and copper wire is used to make electric motors. Yet we often loose focus of these recursive loops. That’s why primitive bootstrapping projects are so endearing. What does it take to jump start this never-ending self-creation? In earlier posts on bootstrapping industrial processes I’ve mentioned folks assembling forges to make a lathe, which makes other tools. Here is another story:


Jesus Hernandez spent a year learning to make a legendary hada Japanese sword — starting with crude iron. He gives a blow by blow account of how he set up a smelter using hardware store fixtures, and proceeded to make steel from iron ore and then work it into a blade, coated with clay for its tempering stages. His story is a small book in six parts. Making swords is not uncommon, but making your own steel is.


Of course he is not making the metal for the forges which he uses to make the steel in. So there is no fundamental purity is this manufacture. Rather it demonstrates how much we take for granted, and how far we’ve come.