Faster than the economy can produce...

...what we want, we are exploring in every direction, following every idle curiosity, and inventing more wants to satisfy. Like everything else in a network, our wants are compounding exponentially.

Although at some fundamental level our wants connect to our psyches, and each desire can be traced to some primeval urge, technology creates ever new opportunities for those desires to find outlets and form. Some deep-rooted human desires found expression only when the right technology came along. Think of the ancient urge to fly, for instance.

KLM, the official Dutch airline, sells a million dollars worth of tickets per year to people who fly trips to nowhere. Customers board the plane on whatever international flight KLM has extra seats on, and make an immediate round-trip flight, returning without leaving the airport at the other end. The flight is like a high-tech cruise, where duty-free shopping and simply flying in a 737 at a steep discount is the attraction. Where did this want come from? It was created by technology.

Finance writer Paul Pilzer notes perceptively that "When a merchant sells a consumer a new Sony Walkman for $50, he is in fact creating far more demand than he is satisfying--in this case a continuing and potentially unlimited need for tape cassettes and batteries." Technology creates our needs faster than it satisfies them.



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This is a blog version of a book of mine first published in 1998. I am re-issuing it (two posts per week) unaltered on its 10th anniversary. Comments welcomed. More details here.
-- KK