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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 affluent population.
  • 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 income.
  • This new landscape is leading to a post-materialist worldview in which individuals can improve their quality of life without actually increasing their wealth.
  • 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 from wealth.
  • 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.