Decoupling Quality of Life and Wealth
- During the industrial age that lasted from the middle ages until the 1980s,
people were increasingly driven by a materialist worldview according to which
any improvement in the quality of your life has to come from an improvement in
your personal wealth. Entertainment was something that you had to buy with
your wealth. Friends depended on your wealth. Even marriage, and therefore
family, depended on your wealth. It is debatable if this truly enhanced the
quality of life of individuals, but it certainly increased dramatically the
affluence of individuals.
- The coming of computers has brought together a digital landscape and an
- In today's affluent digital age the materialist worldview is being eroded by
the widespread availability of entertainment for free, status-independent
social networks and even online dating systems that value compatibility over
- This new landscape is leading to a post-materialist worldview in which
individuals can improve their quality of life without actually increasing
- Most of what one needs to be "happier" is available for free.
What is required to be successful in life is not a highly-paid job but
entertainment, a social networks and dates, all of which are being decoupled
- A side effect of the post-materialist worldview, however, is a new form of materialism.
- During the materialist era, the individual was forced to focus on values in
order to achieve a higher quality of life: real jobs, real family, real
commitments. In the post-materialist era, the individual can have all of this
"for free". At the same time, the individual has a much broader choice of
options. If it used to be that a person had to play cards with friends every
single weekend in order to qualify as a real friend, that person now can
indulge in all sorts of activities without any need to build real skills
at any of them.
- Hence individuals tend to try a bit of everything only once
or twice, including relationships.
- The trend is toward "try everything once
so you can be admired for having tried it"
as opposed to "focusing on something that you can do well and for which you
can be admired".
- The new materialism is the materialism of
"casual pleasure". Quality of life may come to be defined by "casual pleasure"
instead of wealth accumulation.