We’re addicted to perpetual growth, and the addiction is quite literally destroying the world.
I constantly see the folly of the forever growth mentality in tech. Investors kept hyping up Netflix throughout the 2010s as they kept growing at an unsustainable pace, then they put on their surprised Pikachu faces and panicked when the growth slowed down. Eventually Netflix had run out of new humans who conceivably wanted to subscribe, and has now pivoted toward squeezing more money out of existing customers by steadily increasing prices, stuffing in ads, and shaking down people sharing their Netflix login (despite the fact that plans were already priced by the concurrent stream).
Capitalism is fueled by this craving for growth. A company is either growing or it’s dying. If you have a 401k, you’re betting a big chunk of your future on the ability for your money to keep compounding year over year for decades, which by extension means that every company with investors grinds away at growing forever to appease shareholders. If your employer’s revenue stops growing, you might not be able to keep your job (and even if they are growing, good luck securing a raise that keeps up with the rate of inflation).
This constantly growing appetite for more isn’t a natural thing. I don’t need to consume 5–10% more food in 2024 than I did in 2023. My home doesn’t need to keep accruing more square footage every year. I’ll have roughly the same number of doctor and dentist visits this year as I did last year.
We’ve let ourselves get duped into working for and feeding this massive and demanding monster, and it wants so much. If I want a few extra bucks to help cover rising costs, I need to earn my boss a ton more extra than that. If I want to be able to retire, the richest people and corporations in the world need to be able to get obscenely wealthier.
And this system stops us from doing things that would be inherently good. Putting an upcycling center in the neighborhood would be really cool; we could re-use things, repair existing stuff instead of throwing it away, and get educated in being more resourceful. But most neighborhoods don’t get places like these, because the person who owns the building it would go in wants a lot of money, and also it would be difficult to staff it with paid people who have the skills to run one, because even though it may be possible for me to repair my toaster oven instead of replacing it, it needs to be cost effective and a worthwhile repair price wouldn’t cover the staff’s time. But somehow, procuring virgin materials and producing a brand new toaster oven, then shipping it a world away, then selling it to you is surprisingly cheap.
There’s got to be a simpler way. We could just promise to take care of each other and I have to think we’d be able to do that, and we’d all be putting a lot less work in, and we’d have more time for ourselves.
Instead we grind needlessly because we’re stuck doing it because we built these completely synthetic constructs that force us to do that to survive. We produce way more than we need to. We overcomplicate everything. We’re making the world uninhabitable for ourselves in the process.
I’m going to expand on this rant a little more in the coming posts.