The always wonderful and thought-provoking Venkatesh Rao has a typically spot-on analysis of the ideology underlying the idea that we are heading for a world of either collapse or abundance. Along the way, he drops all kinds of great thoughts, like the Generalized Godwin’s Law: "Every discussion within an online community converges to a zero-information signal characterized by empty assertions concerning the foundational dichotomy of that community."
A resource gets cheap enough to waste when it is cheap enough that you can leave it out of the strategic cost calculations for most products and services that it is a part of.
This is a relative definition of cheap. Global shipping is an example of a wasteable resource today, for value-added manufactured goods. Relative to manufacturing and other costs, the costs of shipping something from China to the US (say) are so trivial that as a first approximation, you can ignore them. You can think about business models and strategic positioning issues without thinking about transport (your accountants still have to include it in their book-keeping of course). The design space for your business model shrinks in useful ways.
Not all resources are wasteable in all industries. Electricity is something you can waste in many contexts in the developed world, but not in the data center business, where it is a big enough cost component that it pays to locate data centers near cheap power.
This suggests a good measure for development actually. A nation or region is as developed as the resources its economy views as wasteable (in the good+strategic sense).
Waste, Creativity and Godwin’s Corollary for Technology
(Image: E-waste collection, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from mosmancouncil's photostream)
KPMG is one of the "Big Four" accounting firms: that means that whenever a plan for a business or a public project has a box that says, "Make sure no one is cheating," it means that you hire KPMG or one of its rivals to come in and check the books and make sure that […]
A year ago, Trump FCC Chairman (and former Verizon exec) Ajit Pai killed Net Neutrality, leveraging illegal, fraudulent industry dirty tricks to ram his rule through the process; all along, he claimed that Net Neutrality was a drag on investment, competition and service improvements, and that Americans would see immediate benefits once he was done […]
The looming threat of mass-unemployment driven by automation has been grossly overstated: while it's true that "truck driver" is one of the most common jobs in America, the vast majority of truck drivers are not long-haul drivers, which are the drivers at risk of having their jobs automated out of existence.
So you cut the cord and got rid of cable? Join the steadily growing club. But while you’re out picking a streaming service, you might find one big blind spot: Local TV and sports, not to mention first-run programming from the big cable networks. Luckily, there’s a throwback way to get it for free: The […]
Even if you feel like AirPods are worth the price tag, you’ve got to admit there’s a certain anxiety that comes with using them. What if I lose them? What if they get wet in the rain? Or drenched in sweat? Or fall into the drink you dropped them into? Shiny tech is great, but […]
With the quick-fix appeal of video games and their own cell phones, it can be tough to keep kids focused on supposedly “educational” toys. And while it may seem counter-intuitive to fight tech with more tech, we’re all in when it comes to the Toybox 3D Printer. We’re not sure if anyone had envisioned a […]