Things are Getting Less Expensive

Consider the modern television set:

The last TV I bought was a 43-inch smart TV that cost me roughly $500 in 2016; it’s no longer in my possession, but my old roommate is still using it to his great joy. This means that once again I am poking around online for a new TV. I’ve noticed something exciting but sort of crazy: I can purchase a bigger TV for less money, reflecting a broad trend of how high-quality TV got insanely cheap over the past decade. __ Falling Price of TVs

Then consider all the things you get when you buy a mobile phone:

Mobile phones have the computing power of room-sized computers of the 1970s. I use mine instead of a camera, radio, torch, compass, map, calendar, watch, CD player, newspaper and pack of cards. __

That’s just a fraction of what you can do with a mobile phone or a tablet computer. The number of uses for such things is growing exponentially as app developers dig in, and as auxiliary devices — connected by USB, Bluetooth, WiFi, and other means — become more sophisticated.

Many if not most of the special-purpose objects around us are going to be replaced by apps running on tablets. __ Paul Graham

Special-purpose objects can be expensive, but apps are cheap.

The Word is “Ephemeralization”

Doing more things with less resources could be the next big trend, if humans could somehow learn to think for themselves, teach themselves a wide range of skills, and learn to plot their own course through the labyrinth of life.

The idea goes back farther than Bucky Fuller, but how far it goes into the future may depend upon you.

Buckminster Fuller was very fond of the word “ephemeralization”, which he used roughly in the sense of “progressively accomplishing more with less”. A gradually smaller and smaller amount of materials and effort will accomplish more and more useful functions. We get better and better at using materials in more sophisticated ways, so we need less and less quantity of materials.

… I am very interested in anything that will ephemeralize other areas of our lives than information. I think it is inevitable that the means for doing so will appear, despite forces that might want to work the other way. I agree with Fuller that it is an inherent element in evolution.

It makes no sense to me that one would have to work half one’s life to be able to pay for a box to come home to and sleep in. __

Doom is a Popular Meme for Today’s Media

Doom has always been a popular meme for broadcasters, whether the broadcast was done by voice on a streetcorner, or whether it is done from geosynchronous orbit. The human mind is tuned to perk up its attention when the idea of “doom or catastrophe” is brought up. In the mindset of doom, everything is falling apart no matter what you do.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s everybody thought everything was falling apart.

BACK in the late 1960s and early 1970s, rapid worldwide population growth and soaring commodity prices gave rise to fears that humans were outgrowing their planet’s resource capacity. Some worried that crisis and Malthusian collapse was imminent. Among these pessimists was one Paul Ehrlich, a biologist who warned that population increase had gotten dangerously out of hand. Mr Ehrlich’s writings generated scepticism in some quarters, however. Economist Julian Simon famously disagreed with Mr Ehrlich’s view and argued instead that rising commodity prices would lead markets to respond, through efficiency, substitution, and supply increases. In 1980, he entered into a bet with Mr Ehrlich: that the price of a basket of five commodities (chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten) would be lower in a decade’s time, in 1990. Mr Simon easily won his bet, striking a blow for the view that over the long run commodity prices effectively trigger market responses, thereby preventing Malthusian catastrophes. __

Technologists are replacing expensive ingredients with less expensive ingredients — and using less of them. When doomers complain about how many resources go into producing animal products for people to eat, food producers learn to replace standard feed with insects. While catastrophists worry about where tomorrow’s minerals will come from, engineers work out ways to mine the asteroids and the deep sea bottoms. While fearmongers fret about feeding the growing populations of sub Saharan Africa, real agriculturalists expand the definition of “arable land” while ever more efficient agriculture decreases the real need for arable land.

More with less means getting more done using fewer resources of time, money, and exertion.

Doom gets people’s attention, and sells advertising. But the reality is that if we stopped wasting time on doom and distraction, we could get things done to make the world a better place. More with less.

Stop letting vested interests such as the media, academia, foundations, advertisers, government hacks, and the rest of the puppet-masters set your agenda. Start thinking on a level higher than the level of thinking that has gotten people so bogged down.

Expand your skills and your insights. Make yourselves Dangerous. Master yourselves by mastering your constant daily habits. Then learn to stop worrying and enjoy the ride.

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4 Responses to Things are Getting Less Expensive

  1. bob sykes says:

    Globalization drives all wages and prices to the global mean. That means that in rich countries (e.g., US) both prices and wages fall, while in poor countries (e.g., China) they rise. The pressures in the rich countries are deflationary and contractive, and those in the poor countries are inflationary and expansive.

    Europe is fighting deflationary and contractive pressures with negative interest rates. That will only aggravate the problem as people take their money as cash out of the banks. In a deflationary era with negative interest, cash is king. If the banks do not have deposits, they cannot lend, and the economy further contracts.

    Among the problems in the US are the deindustrialization of the Heartland, working class unemployment and underemployment, and alcoholism and drugs. Russia underwent the same process under Yeltsin, and the Russian people responded the same way. The economic strip mining of Russia was far more severe than that of the US, but the pattern, including who got rich, is the same.

    The US middle class has seen its salaries stagnate, but it has benefited from falling prices, and its material conditions have improved. The next stage, of course, is loss of middle class income and jobs, via off-shoring and H-1B visas.

  2. yoananda says:

    We get more vegetables with less nutriment after each agricultural “revolution”.
    We get less land with more money, true also.
    Phones can do more thing but are less usefull (a phone now has the calculation power of the CIA in the 80’s).
    We get more quantity with less quality.

    It’s called progress !

  3. cecil1 says:

    ‘Things are getting less expensive’: Only a half truth

    Things that cost under about $3000 are getting cheaper.

    But Big things, and IMPORTANT things, like housing, auto, education, privacy, medical, TAXES, are NOT getting less expensive

    In fact they have grown to enormous and unaffordable dimensions.

    You are free to buy the trivial for less, but the life giving issues— they are being ripped out of reach.

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