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Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (2010) (raptitude.com)
350 points by tacon 53 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 247 comments

Western economies, particularly that of the United States, have been built in a very calculated manner on gratification, addiction, and unnecessary spending.

Calculated, like in planned-economy, directive-from-the-top? I disagree. A lot of the "fluff," as the author describes it, is excess capital finding its way to things people find pleasurable, whether it be dope, travel, beauty, or rock and roll. Purveyors of such pleasures have proved to be remarkably adept at creating & providing these opportunities.

Counterpoint: What do you think "fashion" is? I used to think there were some very cool, fashion-adept people, who have the ability to predict what will considered modern next year.

The reality is, the clothing industry decides what to produce at least 6-12 months in advance. It's not like they produce everything and public opinion decides in the end what is "cool". Granted, the industry tries to predict what will be in demand. But by and large, fashion is not predicting what will be cool, but specifing what will be produced.

When they say "blue will be in fashion next year", then it means you'll be able to buy a lot of blue clothes (and some people will be able to deduce that you have not recently bought clothes, which is a bonus to encourage more buying).

I only realized this a I got older, when certain items were missing in every shop, that were there the previous and following years. Be it a certain cut of jeans or a certain colored shirt. (And it's not just clothes, I noticed it in interior design, PC cases, salad sauces, and just about any product category.)

>The reality is, the clothing industry decides what to produce at least 6-12 months in advance.

It's more the mainstream you're referring to, late adopters basically. of course they can produce in advance as the styles are already validated on urban streets and within subcultures who really set the trends.

There are inventors, early adopters and late adopters, quite similar to SaaS.

That's the party line, but it's just some sub-cultures, teens and troubled personalities that "express themselves" through fashion (the most shallow thing you can do, a juvenile thing in any case), the "early adopters", and then a huge industry copying them at various levels and with various delays. On top of that, there are also top-level mandates "this year let's push yellow strayjackets" or whatever.

This results in a huge industry, selling junk people don't need, which are enviromentally harmful, with the ludicrous insistence that the clothes you bought last season are not good anymore because "fashion".

Fashion is basically part of a real world interface for the social groups you interact with, a way to tweak the first impression. It's only junk for you as an outsider not understanding the social groups of insiders dressing a certain way.

It's valuable and sells because social ladders are everywhere, we're all apes to a degree. It's not a suprise that the epic centers are urban melting pots with a higher population density and more "troubled people".

>Fashion is basically part of a real world interface for the social groups you interact with, a way to tweak the first impression.

Yes. But it's a shallow real world interface, for shallow groups and facile identities, mostly used to associate with teenagers and juvenile group forming.

I dont say it's not a thing, or don't have a use. I say the use is bad.

This is rediculous. Just a few years ago there was an article about silicon valley casual fashion being challenging for minorities who grew up outside the bubble and were taught to dress their best in a work suit or similar. The LGBT is huge on visual signals of allegiance. Popular brands are built 80% on what their brand signals and not on their build quality. There are countless examples of clothing being used to signal elements of personal identity but for some reason you seem to consider this 'fascile' because our wardrobes aren't full-on biographies of personality.

You’re expressing your opinion as if it’s a cold hard truth.

Which part? That fashion/clothing industry is not the leading cause of pollution in the world (aka. bad ecologically)?

>> Fashion is basically part of a real world interface for the social groups you interact with, a way to tweak the first impression. It's only junk for you as an outsider not understanding the social groups of insiders dressing a certain way.

I've seen former peers and fellow students borrow and become indebted to become part of the group this way. Great if the subject can afford it, not so much if the subject is now enslaved to debt or is misallocating funds. Then, perhaps find more welcoming social groups?

Any culture group that expresses itself through expensive clothes will find another expensive way to show group membership if clothes aren't an option. Other subcultures (think grunge, or tech people) either use cheap mismatched charity-shop styles or use other signals (e.g. running Linux at home).

This is so true! If the definition of fashion is extended to also include the latest smartphones, laptops, or service memberships. I never thought of it this way, but makes a lot of sense.

Maybe both?

There are social ladders, and there are people using social ladders to sell clothes they started working on last year?

> it's just some sub-cultures, teens and troubled personalities that "express themselves" through fashion (the most shallow thing you can do, a juvenile thing in any case)

Are you claiming that dressing to express yourself is shallow and juvenile?

Do you just...buy the first thing you see at Goodwill that fits you? I'm not sure how one could avoid dressing to express oneself, to at least some degree, unless you exclusively wear work uniforms or hand-me-downs.

> I'm not sure how one could avoid dressing to express oneself, to at least some degree, unless you exclusively wear work uniforms or hand-me-downs.

Exclusively wearing work uniforms (outside of work) or hand-me-downs is still, in its own way, expressing oneself. One way or another you make a personal decision on how to dress and whether to follow a particular style, trend, price point, etc. and that reflects something about you.

> but it's just some sub-cultures, teens and troubled personalities that "express themselves" through fashion

Like, really?

My dad mostly wears tough leather boots, flannel shirts and aged jeans. It's all old, proven, and tough. He's a heavy outdoors enthusiast, into kayaking motorbiking and camping, and his clothing style fits this perfectly.

My brother is a big rugby player. He prefers a much more casual look, with rugby shirts, trainers, shorts if the weather allows, and a baseball cap (not often seen in rural England!).

We all express ourselves through clothing, whether you do so consciously or not. Even picking clothes that say "I don't care about fashion" is expressing yourself. We're social creates, and there's no getting away from that.

This is such a weird cynical take on fashion I don't even know where to begin...

It says a lot about parent posters close mindedness and lack of imagination, as well as their shallowness for judging people based on their fashion choices

> The reality is, the clothing industry decides what to produce at least 6-12 months in advance.

And they guess wrong all the time. If they could actually control things, they wouldn't have so much unsold inventory.

They're making predictions based on heuristics, not magically controlling the masses.

There is surprisingly little unsold inventory, outlets are selling cheaper versions of clothes not unsold inventory. Of course not every design or brand succeeds, but the industry as a whole is reasonably efficient.

It's really not that simple.

Fashion is an industry where hundreds of individual designers, some with the backing of megacorps and some without, try to meet popular interest (or to lead it), with production times measured in weeks to months, and with seasonal variation.

There is no "fashion cabal" where designers get together for drinks and to anoint "cerulean blue" as the color of 2023 and then pull their customers by the nose ring into purchasing.

(Yes, there is a media-favorite color survey that gets printed every year, and there are some downstream effects of that).

The music industry works similarly. Bands toil for years (or months), doing their thing, and A&R reps from major labels try to predict what they can promote that will be popular enough this year (based on the choices of other promoters in the industry), or next year, to sell in the near term, and yet differentiated enough to have lasting value.

The snack food industry works similarly.

The software industry works similarly.

The political industry works similarly.

> There is no "fashion cabal" where designers get together for drinks and to anoint "cerulean blue" as the color of 2023 and then pull their customers by the nose ring into purchasing.

"Twice a year Pantone hosts, in a European capital, a secret meeting of representatives from various nations' color standards groups. After two days of presentations and debate, they choose a color for the following year."



Not that I'm paying much attention to these things, but I've not seen much to support that "ultimate grey" and "Illuminating" yellow are the dominating colors this year? (https://www.pantone.com/color-of-the-year-2021)

It takes a few cycles to hit if you're not on the forefront of fashion. But perhaps you can see how the colors from a few years back have come and gone even among fashion 'normies'?



HA! The same colors I tend to see in hipster software design and vaporwave music from that era.

Cars in my neighborhood have started popping up that are painted it what appears to be primer with a coating.

I was kind of wondering why that was suddenly a thing. I don't know if that was somehow directly or indirectly motivated by pantone, but it certainly has been a headscratcher for me for some time and this could answer why that is happening.

Pantone was the reference intended by my parenthetical.

There are some downstream effects, but they are overwhelmingly not relevant to fashion design, no matter what their marketing material claims.

And, amazingly, in the year 2000, the color they chose was cerulean blue.

That is exactly why I chose that example. It was the last one I remembered.

Pantone sells color chips. They are not designers, and they do not make or sell fashion.

The color of the year is just a marketing stunt which the media laps up, but the fashion industry completely ignores.

Is the cerulean scene from The Devil Wears Prada based somewhere in reality then?

Wow... this is maybe the best counterpoint I've ever seen on HN.

Did you buy anything this year in response to Pantone's color of the year?

Well since it's not a direct response advertising campaign, of course no one buys anything "in response to" it.

I did repaint my bedroom with an accent wall that's just about the exact shade of blue that is their 2020 color of the year. Not because Pantone told me to, but maybe because their selection of that color led it to be more prominently placed/advertised when I started picking new paint colors.

Tough to say, and your question is too oversimplistic to make sense as part of the discussion.

There was a great article years back, on oped by guitar virtuoso Joe Satriani about the death of Shred music.

In short: the way trends work is they get popular and then all the people already doing that thing get popular too.

There is during that time people who jump on the bandwagon. Once the popularity dies off, lots of people keep doing that thing, it just doesn't get the notoriety it did before: it returns to its niche.

I’d say this is a more nuanced and sophisticated explanation of the same dynamic the person you’re responding to is getting at. Yes there is no “cabal” as in a smoke-filled room where shadowy figures make the decision. But, in practice, the net effect is that of a large genetic algorithm settling on an approved trend that it then uses its market power to push people towards.

And, of course, the more the industry is consolidated the more “directed” it will seem.

Color Marketing Group's whole business is proposing new color palettes to embody the anticipated zeitgeist. Behold their dreamlike prose:

"Color Marketing Group’s North America 2022 Key Color, New Day, is the color response for a time still in transition. New Day suggests confidence and familiarity to greet 2022 with a sense of comfort.

"A light, fresh blue with red influences, New Day is an inspiring color designed to convey the classic connotation of hope and new beginnings. …

"As calming as New Day may appear, its red undertone is a stimulation aspect of the color, making it ideal for practically any product application. From commercial to residential spaces, consumer goods to fashion, and graphic design, New Day is a color that stands for truth and hope."


When they say "blue will be in fashion next year"

"They" being the Color Association of the United States.[1] Which had a lot more clout when the US made its own textiles.

They also used to manage the consumer electronics color cycle, from grey to black to white to colors to putty and back to grey again.

[1] https://www.colorassociation.com/

I've been wearing the exact same jeans cut for 30 years now. When they get holes, I just push a button on Amazon for more. My dress shirts are 20-30 years old. They're not out of style.

Of course, I've never been cool, so there's that.

> My dress shirts are 20-30 years old. They're not out of style.

They are, you just don't care. Which is OK.

Eh, you can pick plain white or blue button-up shirts with one of a few normal collar types and you won't be trendy but you also won't be "out of style". There are also some approaches to fashion the point of which is (at least in part) that they change only very slowly ("prep", for instance, which is practically defined by that quality—certain very casual styles like country/cowboy might also qualify, they have trends but you can definitely avoid them and achieve a look that's as close to timeless as it gets, on human-lifespan timescales).

Suits are slowly evolving fewer buttons but you're probably still OK with a 3-button in most contexts, and a 2 or 3-roll-2 is probably future-safe for 15 years at least. Suits may well be almost gone by the time they're out of fashion, really, and will only remain in contexts that don't really evolve (the 3-button is firmly OK in a legal, funeral, or wedding context, for instance, and likely to remain so pretty much indefinitely, provided, in the latter case, it's not an extremely formal wedding and/or you're not in the wedding party itself)

You're right that I don't care, but if you saw a photo of me in one you couldn't tell what decade it is from.

Classics never go out of style.

I'm kind of in the same boat. I never cared about fashion much. It always seemed hollow and vapid to me. Even as a kid/teen-ager/20s when it's supposed to matter the most.

Perhaps your circle of friends didn't care either.

For kids/teenagers/early-20s, what matters is belonging - observable patterns of behavior that follow are whatever gets amplified when everyone looks at everyone else in their vicinity for signals of approval.

FWIW, I also didn't care about fashion, and neither did my friends. I expect this to be the case with quite a lot of HNers - this comes from being a nerd and having nerd friends. We amplified each other on different patterns of behavior.

This isn’t an accurate take.

Fashion trends are created in the same way art, architecture, and music trends are. By people who are talented and come to be influential.

The fashion “industry” is the very last stop in the process. The trends are determined by the “cool kids” for the most part.

If you don’t have exposure to the communities that actually drive trends it might feel the way you describe but if you live in a place like New York or pay attention to certain media the dynamic is obvious. If you’re basing your read on what you see in the local shop you’re fully a year or more behind the curve.

Which is fine. You don’t have to care about it at all really. But the your description of the dynamic isn’t correct.

Yeah, it’s a complex system like economics. It often has to do with things like immigration and cultural fusion in influential neighbourhoods. Musicians or break out visual artists chasing an career and bringing their style to London or NYC.

More subtly a smaller but far more interested proportion of the population tries more experimental things and the big shops just copy that. That's both cheaper for the buyer and the producer.

It's the same for tech, various gadgets or technologies that are hyped right now have been gathering traction since years but have been picked up by the big brands only very recently. Best example is the trend of using non-x86 Computers, a few desktop/laptop projects have been there including Chrome books. Now Apple picked it up and it's a completely normal thing to buy an ARM laptop.

Looks kind of planned but it's not. It's just that some things fall out of fashion for whatever reasons...

>Looks kind of planned but it's not. It's just that some things fall out of fashion for whatever reasons...

"Not planned? Whatever reason?" There are huge billion dollar campaigns for what things "are in fashion" this season. For starters, the thousands of ads by fashion brands with the same "current fashion" messaging.

Without that, the majority of the population could not care less what some "small proportion" of idiots consider "experimental/cool/etc". Sub-culture fashion would stay with the subculture (like most of it does, unless it's picked up by the mass fashion industry and promoted to hell).

It's the endless branding, messaging, adverting, PR, articles, etc, that get Joe/Jane Average buying into this season's fasion.

The people chasing "this season's fashion" are rather niche. People care less and less about this stuff as they get older. We also work in an industry where free conference t-shirts and khaki shorts are perfectly acceptable work attire. It's been over 100 years since blue jeans were invented and they're still quite popular.

And if some people get enjoyment out of trying out new fashion styles, who am I to judge? No different than me buying the latest video game or checking out the newest programming language or listening to new releases of music.

>The people chasing "this season's fashion" are rather niche.

The people who consciously chace "this season's fashion" are niche [1].

But even more so, people who are bombarded with messages to buy new clothes, and that this style is now obsolete, get this instead, are pretty much everybody though.

[1] Though not that small of a niche: a big percentage of women do it quite a lot (as evident by the success of that side of the fashion industry and peripheral industries like accessories, perfumes, cosmetics, and such), and men have increasingly being doing it ever since the 80s too, especially if we include things like sneakers and so on).

As someone wrote, it's not like 250 million Americans, men and women, each individually by themselves, decided bell-bottoms are a good idea some year in the 70s...

You could say that of rock and roll too couldn't you? Or disco? Or 80s rap? Or hipster coffee shops? Or Atari video games?

Like, of course we have waves and trends of various things that take hold of popular imagination for some time. Trends start as some niche then people see it taking off and jump on the bandwagon. Sometimes it sweeps the whole country or an entire culture. But it's fun and people get enjoyment from it. And it gives us a common cultural framework to relate to each other with even across vast distances.

Was there no trend you ever participated in that you look back on today and smile about?

But who produces that experimental clothing in the first place?

>The reality is, the clothing industry decides what to produce at least 6-12 months in advance.

That's fast fashion. It's neither elegant not particularly valued by people who are into fashion.

No, it's the companies who show at PFW and places like that which need 6-12 months. Zara can do it in 14 days.

There are cool people with the seemingly uncanny ability to predict fashion, but it's a bit of a trick. They do something that's different and can be monetized, and the industry grabs on to that and tries to push it as The Next Big Thing, through advertising, magazine contacts and social media influencers. Meanwhile, the production lines are running full-tilt so they can have the clothes in stores for when the right level of desire/FOMO has been built up.

At that point, the cutting edge fashionable people are already on to the next thing, and the cycle continues.

Since it's impossible for ordinary people without industry contacts to be ahead of the curve, do you try to follow the fashion trends, knowing that you'll always be at least a half step behind?

Or do you stick with tried and true stalwarts, such as slim-to-regular cut dark denim jeans, Oxford shirts, sports jackets and so on, never being super fashionable, but also certainly not sartorially hopeless?

Trends are almost always pushed or at least encouraged by financial interests.

> It's not like they produce everything and public opinion decides in the end what is "cool".

To the contrary, public opinion does decide. Brands are trying to guess what will sell and be in fashion, and produce that. But they get it wrong all the time, as sales plummet for a particular season collection because consumers don't like it but really like another designer who guessed better.

The fashion industry isn't monolithic. There isn't one person deciding what gets produced. Ultimately it is all consumer-led as brands compete to try to produce what people will buy -- and they know fashion-conscious people don't want to buy what was for sale the previous year. But individual brands get tastes wrong all the time -- even well-known brands have seasons where they just totally mess up.

I've gone through probably 300 slide decks from various industries that explicitly state that 'consumers in x demographic sector will need to be re-educated about the value of [something they didn't want]'.

I've seen it in regards to premium breads, in-app purchases, crude oil solvent levels, public infrastructure features, clothing, etc. This isn't a new thing. Sometimes you just spend money to fabricate culture when it isn't on your side.

>There isn't one person deciding what gets produced.

Is this really an appropriate standard for examining whether or not an organization can push culture rather than merely adapt to it?

Well sure every company is trying to convince customers their thing is best. That's just marketing.

But different companies can be trying to convince things that are totally opposed to each other too. It's still not monolithic. (Regardless of whether it's "one person" or not, it was just an illustration.)

At the end of the day it's still customers buying what they like from a range of companies that are all competing with each other, some succeeding and some failing.

Not really. All companies that make bags may be pulling consumers in different directions with respect to which style of bags they should purchase, but all will pull in the direction of "purchase bags".

You can zoom out from bags to fashion, and the same idea repeats itself.

Consumer consumption itself is the unified cultural zeitgeist. That's the issue - in some areas it'll spur innovation, but in others it is an obviously wasteful use of limited resources and time.

I think you're having a different conversation?

I was arguing that fashion trends are ultimately driven by consumers, not by companies (as GP was arguing). Consumers aren't blindly buying whatever's for sale.

Whether people are purchasing more than they need, or whether that's wasteful, is a totally orthogonal conversation.

But pretty sure most women need bags. And a lot of guys use backpacks too. They're not some artificial need invented by companies.

> Consumers aren't blindly buying whatever's for sale.

But of course they are. This is the case not just in fashion, but pretty much everywhere (and particularly visible wrt. hardware and software). Consumers are given a bit of a choice to get completely confused by it, but ultimately they pick something from what's for sale. They can't just go and say, "I want these trousers, except cut like these other ones, and with the color from that dress" - much like they can't go and say "I want a phone like this new iPhone, but with my damn headphone jack back". Not without spending 1-2 orders of magnitude more money.

What this means for our discussion is, it's vendors who set the trends, because they choose what is available for purchase at scale.

You're missing the point which is that vendors are making the products they think people will buy.

Vendors aren't arbitrarily setting "trends", they aren't inventing things in a vacuum.

They literally do market research, interview consumers, figure out what people want, and then try to give that to them.

Of course any single individual doesn't always get exactly what they want (the pair of pants, the phone but with a headphone jack), but collectively we do trend strongly towards that. Manufacturers aren't perfect, they don't always get it maximally correct, but they're generally trying their best, because, you know, competition.

>Vendors aren't arbitrarily setting "trends"

You're right in that trends aren't arbitrary, but you've jumped from that idea to the idea that consumer needs are the reason. That's not the case. A large proportion of the time the reason why a particular trend is set isn't 'consumers want this'. It's 'the commodities to make this product are going to be particularly cheap this season - so margins should be healthy'. The McRib is a great example.

As a crystal clear example, do you think any consumer in their right mind wants their products shrinkflated? Do you think misleading packaging is based on satisfying consumer desires, or manipulating them?

The competition is for dollars, not for goodwill.

Yes and no. People can pick out vintage and older stuff and mix it up.

Also you should look up Zara and fast fashion.

Imo the real fashion trendsetters don’t think about it in terms of what might become trending to surf it like q wave but are focussed on ideas&concepts which are relevant for society in that year/age.

The isnt entirely true. clothing companies mimic what was on the runway a season before and mass produce it for consumer consumption

Even an emergent intelligence is different from top down dictate.

That quote is right out of Herbert Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-Dimensional_Man).

Marcuse argues that we only think we're choosing to pursue certain things (pop music, sex, cars, food, etc). Actually, society has been transformed by certain parties to push these "false desires" on us.

I think there's something creepy about telling people their desires are false. This is an example of what Isaiah Berlin called the abuse of positive liberty: telling people what they should rationally want, which amounts to a kind of paternalism.

I suspect you're right, this stuff isn't top-down. To the extent that taste-makers and corporate boards determine what we want (which I suppose they partially do), they are participating in the same economies as us and are acting for the same reasons as we are. There's no domination going on here as far as I can tell, though there are certainly undesirable outcomes (from my perspective).

> I suspect you're right, this stuff isn't top-down.

But it is, thats where Bernays enters on the picture with Manufacture of Desire and Manufacture of Consent through Propaganda and Mass Media imprints

> “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. ...We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. ...In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons...who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.” - Edward Bernays, Propaganda 1927

> “No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.” - Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda 1927

> “Universal literacy was supposed to educate the common man to control his environment. Once he could read and write he would have a mind fit to rule. So ran the democratic doctrine. But instead of a mind, universal literacy has given him rubber stamps, rubber stamps inked with advertising slogans, with editorials, with published scientific data, with the trivialities of the tabloids and the platitudes of history, but quite innocent of original thought. Each man's rubber stamps are the duplicates of millions of others, so that when those millions are exposed to the same stimuli, all receive identical imprints. It may seem an exaggeration to say that the American public gets most of its ideas in this wholesale fashion. The mechanism by which ideas are disseminated on a large scale is propaganda, in the broad sense of an organized effort to spread a particular belief or doctrine.” - Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda 1927

> To the extent that taste-makers and corporate boards determine what we want (which I suppose they partially do)

Maybe they dont determine what we want but they certainly define the options available.

In the post he seems to only being talking about corporations (as far as I can tell). His point about corporations pushing products that people don't actually need, and in fact often make people less happy, seems fairly on point. The entire advertising industries that exist to be a conduit for advertisements (most of the media) are based on trying to get people to spend their money on things they wouldn't naturally spend them on.

His argument that the 40 hour work week is a deliberate way to force people to be consumers is extremely unlikely.

You're point about excess and un-directed capital, though, probably hits at the larger issue. It also can be used to explain things like administrative bloat and inflating tuition at higher education institutions, as well as a host of parasitic industries that go beyond mere consumption.

It seems like we hit the singularity years ago, but the majority of the new capacity mostly went into waste, unhealthy addictions and borderline scams that have taken up an increasingly large part of the economy. One wonders if more direct involvement from society (perhaps a robust industrial policy) could have lead us in a more prosperous direction.

In consumerist societies "pleasurable" is very much stretched, when your life is dull, you'll find spending money on whatever cool guy is trying to sell you. People with big pockets know all about your flaws, social behavior in the large, fads and followers, and they sure play with it like an orchestra conductor.

unlike russian communism you're not forced to do anything but you're seduced out of your mind, I guess it's fair

> you're not forced to do anything

You are forced to choose between working to pay rent and health insurance or go hungry, homeless and ill or in prison.

In various developed societies there is free healthcare, social safety nets, or some forms of UBI or other help.

> but you're seduced out of your mind, I guess it's fair

Fair? Consumerism is threatening all ife on the planet. Humanity can do so much better.

A Malthusian crisis has been “imminent” since the 19th century. I think that you should try writing down what facts you think support the a priori assumption that our sinful ways are leading us to a future, sudden disaster. I don’t think you will find much evidence that isn’t traceable to popular opinion. Sorry, fam, it’s just Puritanism for the modern age.

Some guy in the 19th century made a bad prediction and that's your rationale for dismissing climate change?

Are you saying that climate change, ocean depletion, soil depletion, desertification, plastic pollution and food shortage are not real?

We don't have a food shortage. Crop yields and agricultural productivity are at all time human civilizational highs.

This is a fragile argument. Systems can often be at peak before crashing.

It's a factual argument. Our civilization has been peaking in agricultural productivity decade after decade for 200 years. Your hypothetical argument is not statistically likely. Sure, on a long enough time frame some natural disaster will occur that causes a crisis, but the fundamental mechanics of photosynthesis and ag science aren't going anywhere.

The population growth trend proves OP point.

No, it doesn't. It still levels off way above what was the carrying capacity of Earth before the "Green Revolution" - and the systems maintaining our food production are unsustainable. We extract surplus food from the ground by destroying the ability to grow more food in the future.

It was, and it was postponed several times through technological means, at the cost of widespread environmental degradation. The underlying logic of the prediction is still sound.

It's like someone is warning you that, with your current spending patterns, you'll go broke in a year. You come to them five years later, showing off your fancy new car and talking about vacations, defying their "alarmist predictions", conveniently omitting the fact that in those five years, you've maxed out on all your credit cards and every possible loan anyone would give you.

No, the crisis is still ahead, and will hit us that much harder unless we work quickly to make our economy sustainable.

When I say fair I mean 'accepted' by people, they know people are selling them stuff, probably useless, but they still choose to go and buy some. It's fair to most people's brain inner workings IMO.

Also I had various western countries in mind in my comment, including those where healthcare is paid for, it doesn't change the overall lifestyle that much (high rent, long hours, dumb jobs)

> You are forced to choose between working to pay rent and health insurance or go hungry, homeless and ill.

Oh lord, being “forced” to provide work in order to receive the work of others

I think the US has serious progress to make on safety nets, but this type of statement doesn’t really help move the discussion forwards

> Oh lord, being “forced” to provide work in order to receive the work of others

I didn't write the comment you responded to, but I don't think its author was advocating for the mythical "free lunch." I read their comment as a statement decrying the seemingly artificial constraints built into modern (American, I presume) society that force workers to make an essentially binary choice between a stable, secure life and one of, potentially, poverty and marginalization.

To be more explicit - most people can't simply provide (even valuable, in-demand) work on their own terms, so they're forced (by various intentional and unintentional social/economic/legal/etc. barriers) to work according to terms that may not make sense to a rational third-party. This is (probably) why the commenter you responded to mentions the binary distinction between financial stability and physical insecurity - there's hardly any middle ground between the two categories when it comes to most fields of employment. Although "tech" is probably the most flexible industry in this regard, it's still difficult to find positions that allow part-time employment with health insurance benefits (even at lower-than-average pay rates), for example.

In most industries, the prospect of being able to work to provide only enough "value" to comfortably sustain oneself, as opposed to "being forced" to fully commit to the lifestyle (i.e. 40+ hours/week, car for commuting, lodging within commuting distance, childcare, general cost of paying for convenience in food/housework/etc. due to having less free time, etc.) is laughable. I believe this is what the commenter you reference was referring to - having the freedom to live cheaply without becoming financially insecure or socially marginalized, not some desire to have others pay for their lives.

But how is that binary choice artificial? You’d have exactly the same choice 10000 years ago. Either go and hunt and forage for food, or starve

I mean, I'm living near a concentration camp for folks who were doing that.

Some folks fenced everything off, hunted the large animals to death, and re-educated the children.

There really isn't a choice, or at least if there is, I've seen what the US did to the folks choosing that choice, and it wasn't pretty.

This is a false dichotomy. Parties do not have to have binary, 1 and 0 values for how much power they have in a given transaction, and remarking that employees having little power places them in the same place as ancient hunter-gatherers is... perhaps somewhat dishonest?

If we're experiencing what it is to have an employer have 8:2 relative power to an employee, that doesn't mean that a ratio of 6:4, while still favoring the employer, is no different.

Perhaps the world has changed somewhat in the last 10000 years.

It's not the work that's the problem, it's that most people are forced to work in an arrangement that's stacked against them.

> I think the US has serious progress to make on safety nets, but this type of statement doesn’t really help move the discussion forwards

This type of statement is nothing new. The abolitionist and former slave Frederick Douglass had this to say on the subject[1]:

> [E]xperience demonstrates that there may be a slavery of wages only a little less galling and crushing in its effects than chattel slavery, and that this slavery of wages must go down with the other

According to Wikipedia[1]:

> Douglass went on to speak about these conditions as arising from the unequal bargaining power between the ownership/capitalist class and the non-ownership/laborer class within a compulsory monetary market: "No more crafty and effective devise for defrauding the southern laborers could be adopted than the one that substitutes orders upon shopkeepers for currency in payment of wages. It has the merit of a show of honesty, while it puts the laborer completely at the mercy of the land-owner and the shopkeeper"

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wage_slavery#History

There was a comment that is provably true and has been downvoted:


I think the comparison of carbon footprints between the average westerner and the global south seems to indicate these issues aren’t about the raw number of people and absolutely to do with lifestyle.


>Calculated, like in planned-economy, directive-from-the-top?

Doesn't matter. You don't need to give "directive-from-the-top" is your interests as an industry with the interests of other industries are more or less the same, and you can all push individually in the same direction.

>A lot of the "fluff," as the author describes it, is excess capital finding its way to things people find pleasurable, whether it be dope, travel, beauty, or rock and roll.

Some things yes. Most things, people find it pleasurable because they are in a state where they take pleasure from buying shit.

In fact, they only find them pleasurable before they buy them, afterwards there's a small rush for a few days, and they could not care less for them again, they're back into the lookout for buying the next "pleasurable" thing.

This is not accidental, it's the result of many changes, including what the post describes, but also a century of efforts from advertising and industry leads which have been well documented and with the overt intention of bringing up consumption and reducing self-reliance.

This was my exact thought, and was wondering if they were using ‘designed’ and ‘built’ in that sense of being planned and directed.

I’m with you and agree that it’s an unforeseen side effect.

I’d even take it a step further and suggest that along with being unexpected, that the majority of our leaders in the world are oblivious that this is even occurring since they are typically so far detached from most peoples lives.

Yes, it seems far more likely that it is emergent rather than planned.

That's not to say you shouldn't try and understand and criticise it and opt out where necessary but there is no big conspiracy going on.

I agree, and find it funny how many responses blame the government, corporations, etc. We are born with free will. Most of the time we act mindlessly, and try to blame someone else for it. Being happy with little possessions is a virtue that takes a lot of work. The benefits are beyond monetary.

Chicken and egg.

Does the money flow to that which is pleasurable, or does the pleasurable get created to attract the money?

Ask people which of these two is not possible.

Yes. The planned directive is a fiduciary duty to maximize profit for shareholders in combination with a lack of protection for those who face the externalities of these incorporated entities. We are maximizing for capital growth rather than happiness, and undervalue life.

There are job postings for mobile app/game developer positions requiring x years of designing slot machine casino games as a prerequisite. Calculated addiction and whale hunting is a major part of the economy right now

Yeah, I think we got here by evolution not revolution.It's a local minimum until the next upheaval. Lots of people are comfortable. As can be seen by comments on HN of "how can anyone possibly live on $100k?" . I think we may be at a local max of change as a certain level of comfortableness has allowed a false sense of revolution/being deprived as well as POC taking on more political power in the country. This has reached a critical mass in the form of the current republican party headed by Trump, I think unfortunately the violence from them will get much worse before it gets better.

> Purveyors of such pleasures have proved to be remarkably adept at creating & providing these opportunities.

It feels like this was also the central point the author was making, although they made it more forcefully.

.. these purveyors aren't necessarily 'providing these opportunities'; they are actually the inventors of many of the pleasures in the first instance.

It's not a calculated directive from the top. It's a crystallised consensus from those in a position of influence. Incentive based capitalism, at it's worst (or best, depending on your point of view).

Markets and government interact in ways which mix and transcend the top-down/bottom-up dichotomy. Consider freeways.

Freeways are government projects, commissioned federally, given to private contractors, which setup cities, which enact a policy of sprawl reified by a small committee, of which only one member was elected, and for which in order for people to live in the city, they must purchase cars for themselves, appearing to the free market responding to the problem of getting around.

So at all levels, there is a mix of group-agency vs individual-agency: different concentrations of power.

Ultimately the chain of causality to create freeways and thus create demand for cars is started by a few people at the top.

But from the consumer's perspective, buying a car is a need combined with other luxury requirements to differentiate the car-driving experience to their tastes, and the market provides it. They don't always ask if there are alternative urban models that policy-makers could have tried.

See also lobbyists, that distort this process near the top as a bid to artificially create demand, or to stay solvent as economic actors without revenue from the free market. This also creates the illusion that the market is merely responding to consumer needs, when in fact it is constrained in ways that encourage specific consumer responses.

Capital being money, the flow of which is managed by Fed policy and laws.

So, yeah, calculated from the top. Handed to those closest to the tap.

Look into our transfer payment system, our system of political budgets, and apportionment.

Before it gets to workers, how money is carved up is very much monitored and managed.

Just because one is ignorant of how the system functions does not mean there is a free market.

So disappointingly predictable that you're being downvoted. It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it, and all that.

If interest rates were up at 8%, there would be a lot fewer bets of the type of "litter the sidewalk with scooters and hope some money falls into them". The entirety of Surveillance Valley is basically a play to parlay overabundant monetary capital of the present into surveillance capital of the future.

The "continual growth" mindset was only worthwhile when it produced productive investment. The mass malinvestment we see today indicates that it has gone way too far. If you care about sustainability and global warming, you should be concerned with monetary policy - it's the main lever controlling the amount of production/consumption.

Furthermore, higher interest rates would allow technological deflation to actually occur, making it so the surpluses of technology get widely distributed in the form of lower prices. As it stands right now, the feedback cycle from the mandate of "full employment" guarantees that everyone on average will need to keep working the same amount, making technological gains accrue centrally to where new money is created.

Pseudoscientific is the default state of the mind.

Propaganda research became behavioral economics, advertising, marketing, and various psychology programs, but surely that’s not been used socially to titillate biology and insert desired talking points in that excited state from childhood forward.

It can’t simply be we were easily mesmerized by what are really banal statistics extrapolated from speculating on the movement of political scrip in an era of imperialism that’s now faded. Humans have never succumb to nonsense group think before!

Believing one has transcended their biology is not limited to kooks who think they can live on light alone.

By “It can’t simply be…” I mean economic theory as a basis for accepted political norm.

Which form of meta-analysis we use to normalize against politically isn’t up for debate in the market of free ideas and information exchange.

It's hard to believe western societies willingly and collectively wanted the fleshlight.

Debt is >60% of the economy, and it's price fixed. It's interesting that people seem to think fixing the price of bananas has more consequence than fixing the price of debt.

How is it price fixed? Interest rates go up and down, different lenders offer different terms, etc.

It's just a planned economy not by government men but by mega corporations. Then they put up some facade to pretend that you have the freedom of choice.

It's more akin to evolution operating on culture rather than genes. Corporations are trying various things to differentiate themselves and be profitable. The ones that consumers like either due to real interest or due to marketing keep getting made/refined, the rest die off. And the process repeats from there.

That's the ideal conception of it, but practically, power also plays a very large role. Firms don't get to "try things" without lots of resources already, any novel startups may simply be acquired and assimilated or even shut down, large existing organizations are capable of sustaining failures despite market conditions, extra-market rules may be implemented by firms with political access, and if enough of the supply enforces a choice, consumer interest doesn't matter and may even adapt to what is available.

I agree with you, but in evolution there are also power differentials due to organism size/features or population leading to some organisms/species having an advantage at a certain point in time. I think this could be considered analagous (not exact mapping) to corporation power at a given time.

sure, but if you're going to admit that classical evolutionary pressure is not present, and the market is designed by the players, you've conceded it's a planned economy.

These appeals to power are disconnected from the selection pressure given in the original proposition though, which was based solely on consumer choice, and which would have been more relevant to the original idea of lifestyles being designed vs spontaneous.

>It's more akin to evolution operating on culture rather than genes.

Only there's no evolution. It's just "buy this" and "now buy that", because if you continued to buy the previous (or a perennial) model, they'd be out of sales. That's not some cultural evolution.

Before 19th-20th century marketing and mass advertising societies could do decades without changing fashions.

Maybe among peasants, but the upper classes were very fashion conscious and things changed, maybe not quite as rapidly as today, but still. For example, in America we picture our founding fathers as wearing powdered wigs, as that was the style around the time of the Revolution. But that was a comparatively brief fad, and a decade later had fallen out of fashion.

Markets are distorted by subsidies, lobbying, credit lines and old-boy networks to (a) remain solvent beyond their actual consumer revenue, and (b) act on information or distort the flow of information in a way that's independent from consumer choice, and in fact frames consumer choices.

Large corporations also act anti-competitively through acquisitions without market development, which in the evolutionary metaphor is like an invasive species suffocating the diversity of ecosystem by digesting other species only for what they need and excreting nothing valuable back into the whole.

So you're articulating an idealization that's only true in free markets, and we are not, and almost never, in a free market.

You may be being unrealistic about the role of spontaneous personal choice in this.

To a surprising extent, people find things pleasurable because they're told to find them pleasurable.

No one sane would inhale burning carcinogenic leaves to damage their own health, but people do - because they're encouraged to.

People buy new phones because they're somehow "cool". No one is really sure why, but it's something that happens.

There used to be an element of spontaneous creativity in trends. Traditionally industry noted the trends and sold them back to customers.

But it's easier and cheaper to skip the organic and spontaneous part and sell trends top-down by linking them to perceptions of social status.

This is done by key players inside the relevant industries instead of by a Politburo of fat elderly men. But it's still heavily bureaucratic and centralised. Just in a cool way.

It also creates economies of scale, which is both convenient and useful.

Certainly advertising makes people want to start smoking or maybe continue. But people smoke because it gives them a high from the nicotine. Why do you think people were smoking in 1700? Because the nicotine made them feel relaxed, good and they became addicted.

> No one sane would inhale burning carcinogenic leaves to damage their own health, but people do - because they're encouraged to.

That's a bit naive. The carcinogenic leaves have mental effects, a buzz, pleasurable even before and despite addiction and carcinogenic qualities.

New phones have new features, speed and sizes / resolution.

None of these things are free of influence, peer pressure, advertising, and 'needing to feel in' the group. Sure. But to remove personal choice too strongly is a False way to look at the world. But this - this, call it systemic, way to look at the world - is popular and trending - ironically.

> No one sane would inhale burning carcinogenic leaves to damage their own health, but people do - because they're encouraged to.

This is a ridiculous take. You think indigenous communities in pre-Colombian America were using tobacco because of media influence?

It’s a pleasurable and highly addictive drug.

The difference being that indigenous communities weren’t aware that they were inhaling a carcinogen.

> No one sane would inhale burning carcinogenic leaves to damage their own health, but people do - because they're encouraged to.

Smoking dates back to tribal society thousands of years back. People chose to do it without any corporate influence.

"Unnecessary" is such an odd category: humans could live in caves, for example. Who determines what is necessary? Is art necessary? Music? Nice food? This seems often tangled in some odd moral/theological origin, i.e. possessions are frowned upon.

I like to be shown new things to try, for example. So some advertising I actually like. Is my life planned by large corporations? From my work there I would say not, as most campaigns tend to fail even in the short term.

The author seems to indicate that what makes something "unnecessary" in this context is when it very temporarily scratches an itch but does nothing to meaningfully improve your quality of life in the longterm. What would really improve your life is less money, fewer purchases, and more free time.

Again, why is short-term pleasure wrong? My life would not be improved by less money, by the way. More free time, yes, fewer purchases, not necessarily.

Short term pleasure is not wrong. The entire premise boils down to the belief that the 40 hour work-week means you are sacrificing long-term and short-term pleasure for superficial short-term pleasure, and that the inherent dissatisfaction arising from the arrangement is the only thing supporting the economy and resulting lifestyles as they exist, perpetuating dissatisfaction, for, practically, the sake of dissatisfaction.

> My life would not be improved by less money, by the way. More free time, yes, fewer purchases, not necessarily.

If the entire economy were not designed to suck money out of your pockets (and thus time out of your life), you might feel differently.

Let me put it this way: people have been spending on pleasure since ancient times (including people without any need to work). So that type of economy has existed for a long time.

The sacrificed long-term pleasure seems rather mythical to me and very different from person to person.

I think free time allows you to seek long term pleasure. That was my experience when I was younger, penniless, relatively un-obligated, and much more free. I would (and do) describe my current 9-5 existence as largely joyless.

Fair enough. I tend to feel most free with a lot of resources at my disposal and just enjoying my life and the world. And I'd agree that a lot of work is joyless. I think the difference is more that I tend to enjoy things "locally" and not "globally".

A million things that do meaningfully improve our lives also provide short-term pleasure. They just don't provide profit for others to siphon off. Then there is the "pleasure" that is just really a temporary relief from pain that was induced to sell the temporary cure. E.g. people feeling inadequate for not looking like actors and fashion models.

And it's not about anyone's specific life, it's about the world we make for ourselves and its sustainability.

> The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats- his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies. These commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only “forced draft” consumption, but “expensive” consumption as well. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption.

-- Victor Lebow, 1955

> The relatively new trouble with mass society is perhaps even more serious, but not because of the masses themselves, but because this society is essentially a consumers’ society where leisure time is used no longer for self-perfection or acquisition of more social status, but for more and more consumption and more and more entertainment… To believe that such a society will become more “cultured” as time goes on and education has done its work, is, I think, a fatal mistake. The point is that a consumers’ society cannot possibly know how to take care of a world and the things which belong exclusively to the space of worldly appearances, because its central attitude toward all objects, the attitude of consumption, spells ruin to everything it touches.

-- Hannah Arendt, "Between Past and Future"

> But when the last war has come and every man has been provided for, no ultimate peace is established on earth: the power-accumulating machine, without which continual expansion would not have been achieved, needs more material to devour in its never-ending process. If the last victorious Commonwealth cannot proceed to "annex the planets," it can only proceed to destroy itself in order to begin anew the never-ending process of power generation.

-- Hannah Arendt, "The Origins of Totalitarianism"

> Why is short-term pleasure wrong?

This is a great question, and firmly in the realm of philosophy, so there will never be a definitive answer, only ones which you might find useful.

I prefer the Stoic's attitude toward pleasure. To (very loosely) paraphrase Marcus Aurelius:

For each evil characteristic a man can have, the gods gave also a counteracting virtue. For dishonesty, honesty. For fear, courage, etc. To counteract pleasure-seeking, self-control. How can it be good if we are given a virtue counteracting it?

I am more a proponent of some forms of hedonism. An emperor talking about indifference to pain or not seeking pleasure isn't someone I could follow philosophically.

Epictetus was a slave.

Agreed, but there are certain people I've experienced who simply can never acquiesce to stoic doctrine.

To poorly paraphrase Epictetus (from "Against followers of the academy"):

When a man had hardened himself against what is manifestly clear, what argument, what flaming sword can I bring to bear against him?

Perhaps pleasure-seeking is instead the virtue to counteract self-control?

It’s not wrong per se. But things that provide instant gratification tend to be destructive, and deep satisfaction seldom comes from things that are easily obtained.

Nobody said it is wrong, but a life optimized for work and short-term pleasures is the lifestyle corporations have carved for you. Many people enjoy it, nothing wrong with that. But for some, it is meaningless.

People have been pleasure seeking long before corporations existed, so I think the causal chains runs the other way: corporations exist because they cater to that. My life does not revolve around work, so that part isn't for me. I'd be happy not to work at all.

Well for one, because it's very inefficient.

Why would efficiency be a relevant measure for how to live my life?

>meaningfully improve your quality of life in the longterm

In the longterm quality of life decreases until life is over. Quality of life after death is 0.

You'll have to explain what that has to do with the discussion about having a fulfilling life. It sounds like you're saying there's no point in improving your life because you die eventually anyway.

You have to spend your investment at some point. You can't take it with you.

> The ultimate tool for corporations to sustain a culture of this sort is to develop the 40-hour workweek as the normal lifestyle. Under these working conditions people have to build a life in the evenings and on weekends.

I slightly disagree with this point. The 40 hour work week is a rather recent development; in the past, people had to work a lot longer with no or only one day of. The trend actually goes in the direction of reducing it further (at least here in Germany), where 35 or 32 hour weeks are getting more common (depending on the job, of course). Plus, there are alternative models, such as 4x 10h days + 3 days off.

Sure, the current model serves corporations, but it is by no means their invention. And while they are a big part of why it still is so large, the reason is most likely that they need the labor hours, not the specific consumption behavior.

Longer work weeks we’re mostly confined to Industrial Age city populations that didn’t have access to land to farm. Few laborers working in early industrial mills was doing so because it was easier then farming.

Agfa, Foraging and hunter-gatherer populations, work about 20 hours per week and transitioning to farming increased working hours.


!Kung spend 40 to 45 hours on food gathering and prep between women and men.


And hunter gatherers lived to what age, 40?

And you’re skipping a few thousands of years of civilization between hunter gatherers and the industrial revolution. I can guarantee a Roman or medieval farmer worked pretty much every hour of sunlight

"Hunter-gatherers do not experience short, nasty, and brutish lives ... there appears to be a characteristic life span for Homo sapiens, in that on average, human bodies function well for about seven decades."


Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

> And hunter gatherers lived to what age, 40?

Transitioning to farming is what dropped lifespans.


It says in your article that life expectancy at birth was 25 years for hunter gatherers societies. Now that’s in great part due to infant mortality, but where does this lower infant mortality come from? Advanced civilization with doctors, medicines and machines that can keep mothers and babies alive,

Not really, it’s due to healthier moms and sanitation, as evidenced by socioeconomic disparities in infant mortality and higher infant mortality in the U.S. relative to other developed countries.

The U.S. example in particular refutes your “overwork = good” thesis

>I can guarantee a Roman or medieval farmer worked pretty much every hour of sunlight

The work was seasonal, though. They built up their reserves for winter, when I imagine they didn't have to work nearly as hard.

There's plenty of work around the farm to be done over winter (basically, all kinds of work that isn't strictly necessary around harvest season will be pushed out to whatever other time there is in the year). You still have farm animals to handle. There are repairs to be made. Trenches to dig. And as the winter comes full force, given how low-density an energy source firewood is, you at least needed to regularly get out to haul and process fuel for heating.

Etc. My life experience is only slightly farm-adjacent. I'm sure someone who grew up on a farm can contribute more examples of winter work.

You can't guarantee that. If that was the case the bourgeois revolution would have happened way before with all the surplus someone working every hour of sunlight would produce on a piece of land.

> The 40 hour work week is a rather recent development; in the past, people had to work a lot longer with no or only one day of.

At a point in time, hours worked where often lower in pre-industrial times.


Agreed. There’s quite a bit of evidence that the 40hr work week has a lot to do with our human tendency to compete.

Here’s a relevant 3min podcast on the topic (also transcribed).


People worked fewer hours in preindustrial society[1], and people had more time off, as well.

[1] http://groups.csail.mit.edu/mac/users/rauch/worktime/hours_w...

I've noticed an interesting congruity - people in the FIRE community tend to target saving two-thirds of a modern western income, with most finding that living on less than one-third begins to have serious impacts on quality of life. From some studies I came across while studying sustainable energy it also seems as though a well-designed community in which residents make certain lifestyle choices can reduce resource requirements by around two-thirds.

Most people in the FIRE community of course work more than the minimum long enough to save money and then join the investor class, without doing paid work at all from that point - but it's fascinating to think that we could all reduce work and lifestyles by two-thirds in a sustainable, ongoing way.

If “we could all” is constrained to households earning 6-figures, I tend to agree. I doubt a household making $30K/yr could realistically live on $10K/yr.

(Further, if everyone FIRE’d, growth would slow to the point where you’d need to save more to generate the same income from investments. We’re so far from that being any kind of practical worry, that it can be safely ignored I think, but would be a concern if it became more than vanishingly uncommon almost-fringe behavior.)

Isn't the FIRE person just delaying it's consumption? At some point the saved up money will be spent, therefore I wouldn't expect it to have a huge negative impact on economic growth

I think generally no: FIRE adherents are planning to retire early (the “RE” in FIRE) and expect to spend less over their lifetime than a standard American working that same level of job/income for 40 years instead of 10 or 15.


FIRE, or any retirement strategy tend to rely on smart investment to generate income, and investment only makes the difference between how much worker is getting paid and how much they generate.

If we all become full time investors, who do we invest in?

There'll always be generational differences. FIRE is no different from normal retirement, only it's taken to greater lengths.

Normally people in generation X spend the first 40 adult years producing goods & services, partly consumed by themselves, partly exchanged for credits with old retired people of generation X-1.

After generation X is done with this working period, they retire, now holding credits. They exchange their credits for goods & services produced by generation X+1.

And so on and so forth.

FIRE simply shifts the lengths of the working periods and generations. Instead of working from 20 til 70, it may be from 20 til 60, or 50, depending on how successful you are in accumulating credits.

The credit system ensures that this doesn't really turn into a big issue. After all, if people are hugely successful accumulating credits and stop producing, and the population of producing people becomes small enough, then the exchange rate of goods&services to credits will worsen. The demand of goods & services will be lower than the supply, such that goods & services cost more credits. This is a natural incentive for people to start producing again, as the value of their accumulated credits goes down, but the value of them spending their time earning credits goes up.

Of course credits is money and the worsening exchange rate is inflation.

In short, we could all FIRE (i.e., every generation can retire at some point). But we cannot all FIRE at extremely early ages. The FIRE movement is essentially exposing the 'true' retirement age possible if we were more deliberate and intentional about our production & consumption. In a world where we all consume as much as we can, it makes sense we may need to work many years till an old age. A world in which we consume much less means we can produce much less, and thereby work less and retire sooner (or retire partially, i.e. parttime work).

It's not delaying but also reducing it significantly - the FIRE person lives on 1/3 a typical income and saves the other two over the course of a compressed career. Typically they retire once they've saved 25X their yearly expenses and then draw down at a rate of 4% a year, putting any excess capital gains towards their portfolios to offset inflation.

So consumption is reduced by 60% over the course of a lifetime, which by most metrics would shrink the economy by a similar amount - of course, most FIRE people also keep being productive after retiring, so it's probably not so straightforward to account for everything.

Depends if it's "lean" or "fat" FIRE.

Objectively, a lot of the consumption of modern Western life is unnecessary. We don't have to drive out to dinner, there's edible food at home. We could skip those bucket-list vacation trips, purchasing new items instead of making-do with old, we could live in more modest housing for our income levels.

It's kind of trippy to imagine what the large-scale effects would be. If everyone cut their consumption by 1/3, our economy would contract a lot, but long-term it'd be healthier, right? Less waste, more efficiency, less environmental degradation overall, though I'll admit we need new technology to replace old dirty technology in energy. Overall, it's a very interesting subset of Westerners, the FIRE group.

Probably an argument that a forty hour workweek makes that kind of unnecessary consumption possible. People with time and groceries would probably make dinner rather than go out

How is that consumption "unnecessary"? I bet 99% of the people here would not save money or time by working less hours and using that time to cook more often. Time spent cooking, cleaning pans, shopping and sorting/storing groceries etc can easily be >$100/day

As long as you’re not making elaborate new recipes all the time, but variations on the same several, shopping and cooking don’t take nearly that long. I cook three or four big meals a week, generating a lot of leftovers.

Since I’m in the habit of cooking and keep a well-stocked pantry, the time from “what’s for dinner?” to “time to eat!” is faster when I cook than if I order delivery.

Then again, I’ve cultivated a love of cooking and a like for grocery shopping, so neither feels like a chore. My husband appears to have cultivated a non-aversion to kitchen cleaning and a keen appreciation for lower-sodium meals, so win-win.

I'm not sure about that, even when my wife and I were both working full time we still cooked all our own meals. It's not that much of a burden.

In-person shopping for food (including travel to/from the place of purchase), food prep, cooking, and the associated cleanup is an enormous time sink. Perhaps you have free time or are already used to spending a lot of it on these tasks, but let's not pretend that it's "not that much". It's huge.

Shopping for the four of us in this house takes about three man hours a week. Cooking about 15. That is much less than an hour a day per person. If we felt like it we could optimise the shopping even further by only shopping when we were already passing the supermarket on the way to or from work.

If we felt like it we could do the shopping online and cut it down to a few minutes a week.

Cooking Sunday dinner for four today took me less than two hours. Would have been faster if I had not prepared everything from scratch.

18 hours per week, and a lot of that is spent whether you are cooking for 1 or for 4, so those that live alone are talking about 15-16 hours per week. A whole waking day.

I think my mother realized this implicitly when I was a kid. She wasn't so motivated to cook when it was just for herself, but was when it was for the entire family.

I guess in the end, it needs to become a team effort for a team result to become efficient.

I'm interested in the recommendations here to help solve that problem, there are some new ones I haven't heard before: https://www.reddit.com/r/fatFIRE/comments/ost9hc/folks_in_vh...

We share the work between the four of us so it is much less than an hour a day per person. I bake a large loaf every other day, it takes an elapsed time of 24 hours but only 15 minutes of that is actual work.

It depends a lot on how varied a menu you want/require (or your spouse does....)

Cooking with variety (or "buy whatever's on sale") is really hard if you also want to do it cheaply (minimize waste & spoilage, especially). Cooking the same few meals, maybe with some seasonal rotation, is easy because you can get the measurements of what you need each week ver exact to keep spoilage very low, and arrange them so waste from one meal always goes into another later in the week.

Like anything, it’s a skill that you develop over time. Certainly at the start, you might find that cooking respectable meals takes more out of you than just ordering them. But at some point, with enough practice, this flips for most people.

Of course, there might also be some survivorship bias here. And food delivery changes things (but, so too does grocery delivery).

I'm a good cook and have been cooking my whole life. Cleaning easily takes as much time as the cooking, sometimes more.

Well if it is just an equation of time for you, is there any sort of multitasking you can do to get more out of it? I find that I’m able to pay full attention to audio-based media when cooking meals I’ve made before, and especially when cleaning up. So if any of your day is otherwise spent with audiobooks, news, etc, maybe you could do your cooking with the time you usually spend listening to those, and sort of get it for free?

Ironically I think things like a regular cooking + cleaning regime and staying very close to home are most palatable when they’re essentially forced by a 9-5 job. With time on my hands I’d have much more pressing desire to explore, sample, and generally spend on what the world has to offer.

FIRE = Financial Independence, Retire Early for those who don't know.

I like the concept. There are even young people experimenting with retirement but for typically one year, also known as a 'gap year' where they don't work/study - they just explore.

In Europe, a gap year has been a thing for couple decades now, if not more.

Depends where in Europe. Definitely not common in France. I know it’s common in the UK, not sure about other countries

It's been a thing since at least the 1660s, when people called it a "Grand Tour".

Before Covid made it impossible, I wanted to do this for at least 6 months. I still hope I get the chance to travel for an extended period of time .

This gap year has been pretty common in Europe/Aus/NZ for a while. Lots of young people do it. We even have visas for it called "working holidays" so they can work a part-time bar job etc, so you dont need to save up much to do it.

I missed my chance on this. I hope I'll get another after my kids grow up a bit. I believe this is called "sabbatical" (except in this case it'll be self-funded).

Can confirm. Am young person considering this. Though I'll be taking it to study, mostly :)

A big part of FIRE is putting your income i to index funds that get profit from mindless consumption, unlimited growth and capital extraction. I think if everyone would do that there wouldn't be any return on the investments.

Most people in the FIRE community are still under 50. I'm watching to see how this plays out.

It’s kind of an interesting thought experiment. Think for a second how much many of our incomes depend on ad revenue. Certainly if a large contingent of consumers massively cut their spending we have to work harder and longer for the same pay. And so on across all jobs producing discretionary goods and services.

>Think for a second how much many of our incomes depend on ad revenue.

I don't think advertising makes that much difference. Most people spend all their earnings. The only thing advertising does is direct where it is spent.

>Certainly if a large contingent of consumers massively cut their spending we have to work harder and longer for the same pay.

If we all did it then we wouldn't be working longer and harder for the same pay.

  > I don't think advertising makes that much difference. Most people spend all their earnings. The only thing advertising does is direct where it is spent.
Even if it were true that advertising only directed where money was spent, there'd still be 2/3 less money to go to advertising or anything else if everyone was making 1/3 pay.

  > If we all did it then we wouldn't be working longer and harder for the same pay.  
I don't understand what you're trying to say. Economies of scale mean that you're more productive with more consumption. IE) If you write code for a living, you're generating more value the more people who use it. If less people use it, you have to work harder to get the same level of value and the same pay.

I liked the post and I'm afraid that the author is right on so many points.

Lots of persons seem to be "uninterested in serious personal development", is this by some design or just natural evolution of modern society? I guess it was always like this, but I can also imagine that there are entities (ie, companies, governments, people) that are doing some thing or the other trying to keep the status quo: keep the people in the right state to consume as much as possible...

It's a consequence of our unprecedented prosperity that we can fret about such things as "personal development." See how much you worry about personal development when you're trying to bring in enough of a harvest to meet your caloric needs.

>Lots of persons seem to be "uninterested in serious personal development"

I don't think being uninterested in disengaging from consumer capitalism is akin to being uninterested in personal development. Being pro-mindfullness and anti-consumer is valid, but so is being pro-consumer and uninterested in mindfullness (because they are chasing other goals, which could be considered part of personal development). The mistake the author makes is assuming their goals are the best way to go, and then prescribing solutions for that.

The author's point of view is actually just fairly narrow. There is nothing wrong with their view, or the ideas they suggest for improving one's life if you share his perspective. But a lot of people simply don't share that view. As a counterpoint, some people (not mine) think the highest goal in life is to work as much as possible. They will do so, and probably consume a lot in order to maximise their time working. That goal and lifestyle might seem unsavoury to me or you, but it is another way to personal development: that you can, personally, be a really good worker.

As a 30-something tech worker, time is definitely the scarcest and most valuable thing I possess. Even more so now that my wife and I have a dog.

This statement gets orders of magnitude truer once you factor in the scarce overlapping time I have with my friends, all of whom are like me: 30-somethings with tech careers and young families.

Whether the shortage of time is by corporate design or no, I'm in a phase of my life where the shortage is very apparent. And it's hard for me to deal with. I feel a bit like I've been robbed of the space to have meaningful personal experiences outside of the corporate space or my immediate famy.

Just wait till you have kids. You'll look back on this time as a paradise of freedom.

I wouldn’t say “paradise” of freedom. Definitely more flexibility without kids, but kids bring so much joy and meaning to life. For most people it’s a very worthwhile trade.

Yeah I fuggin hate the "just you wait" attitude about kids.

I'm excited to have kids, even in spite of the tradeoff involved in my spare time.

I don't need endless reminders of the tradeoff. That's just piling on.

It's both.

Let's not lie to ourselves: kids are demanding. There are moments when I hate my life (usually when I'm falling behind on work, errands and sleep, simultaneously). But then, one minute I'm feeling sorry for myself, and the next minute my daughter does something silly or touching, and I suddenly feel like the happiest, luckiest man on the planet.

Looking back, I'd say the perfect time for a kid is the earliest moment when you feel you have control over your life and yourself. I.e. if you know you're struggling with personality/emotional/mental problems, try to sort this out first. Other than that, it's better to have them early, when you're still full of energy: it'll make confronting the challenges easier, and leave you more energy to enjoy the rewards :).

But it's still true: all time management problems look serious until you have your first kid. This will teach you about prioritizing real quick - but also will shift your priorities, so it doesn't hurt as much as it sounds. For example, before becoming a parent, I was worrying I'd be depressed over not having time for my side projects. And indeed, I have almost no time for them[0]. But I also feel much less need for them. The desire for independent creative expression is still there, but the daily challenges of parenthood often tickle similar areas of the brain - the kind of how artificial sweetener can substitute for sugar without being the real thing (and also makes you feel better).


[0] - I'm hoping that when my daughter is old enough to communicate verbally and reliably keep attention on a single thing for more than 30 seconds, I can get her involved in helping me with tinkering in stuff. But that's still years away.

Since you replied as such, I’ll just add: I’ve found that being a parent has made me much better at time management, and as a result my productivity today is higher than it was in my 20s, even though I have less free time. I’ve heard this same experience from many other parents. I’m sure it’s not universal, but if you’re so motivated there’s a good chance you can have a vibrant career and also a great family life with kids.

Cheers and good luck when the time comes :)

@burlesona said it well, and I'll make a stronger statement: my kids gave my life meaning far beyond what it had before. Everything I do, and the way it do it, changed for the better, even though my parenting itself has often come up short.

Be excited, and don't worry about the tradeoffs. For me, they weren't tradeoffs at all given the magnitude of the reward.

"All Joy and No Fun"

Or don't have them =)

Comments like this always remind me of the interview with some kids dumpster diving behind some grocery store that I read many years ago: “Look at all those suckers going into the store to buy stuff with money, when you can just pick it up for free behind the store. Idiots!”

That is a funny quote, but I don't think it's the same as questioning the idea that everyone needs to have kids. Going to the dumpster is a bad idea if you value your health for everyone, but not having kids isn't clearly bad unless you only think of having kids in economic/religious terms (need to produce more workers/believers, or having support in old age).

I think you’re missing the point of the funny quote: both decisions don’t work if everyone acts like that, both rely on everyone else (or a vast majority) to do the ‘right thing’.

If no one buys in the grocery store, there will soon be no grocery store to dumpster dive behind. If no one has kids, there will be no one to pay into health insurance, social security or take care of you when you’re old. Would you be willing from now on to only accept services from people and technology older than you are? This isn’t an economic decision, this is survival of the species.

Both decisions are, of course, personal, and I don’t judge. But I think a personal choice that relies on externalities and someone else footing the bill could maybe dial down the smugness a notch.

I missed it too, thanks for coming back to explain.

> till

Let's replace "until" with "if".

Otherwise that's a pretty ironic comment, given we are discussing an article titled "Your lifestyle has already been designed"

That's a pretty uncharitable nitpick. I think we all knew what the parent meant.

That sounds depressing.

And yet you decided to get a dog, which binds your time and resources

Sure did. Would do it again, too.

Living for others, at the end of the day, is vastly better than living for yourself.

I disagree that the authors return to wastefulness/consumption is a result of systemic forces. I think it’s more likely the case that when you have a higher rate of income you spend money to convenience yourself and save time/energy because you value your time/energy at that higher rate of income.

> you spend money to convenience yourself and save time/energy because you value your time/energy at that higher rate of income.

Agreed, but the way I put it is that the higher consumption is done to compensate for the stresses that come with the work life(style). I have a lot less patience and mental energy to do impulse control or to judiciously weigh the pros and cons of this versus that purchase when in a stressful work environment compared to when I'm not. I'd say that counts as "a result of systemic forces".

I am a man and I own 13 pairs of shoes. They're mostly specialized--water shoes, snow boots, steel toe, fancy shoes, flip flops, running shoes, and several pairs of dress shoes. But when I was backpacking in Europe, I only carried one pair of black Timberland boots with me, which took me from the nightclub to the top of the Tatras to the catacombs of Paris. It's amazing how effortlessly I accumulate junk and how every item seems so important and necessary, until I go traveling with only a 30L backpack and I seem to have everything I need.

I have 1 dresser. In my mind, 1 is a nice small number of dressers to have. But in physical spacetime, one dresser takes up a hell of a lot of volume. I wonder if many of our possessions are like this: they occupy little space in our mind, even as they occupy evermore physical volume in our homes.

I've found that moving house can really make you take an extra look at all the stuff you have, and is a great opportunity to get rid of some of the accumulated junk. I've been living in this apartment for 13 years now, so I feel it's about time :-)

One thing that I think everyone should do once a year is take out all of their clothes, sort it into types and then go through it piece by piece. Identify everything that doesn't fit anymore, anything you haven't worn in a long time or maybe ever, anything you just don't like/love. Give it away to charity, or if it's something really nice, put it up for sale.

Clothes you never wear are of absolutely no use.

Sounds super simple but I've literally never done this in 30 years. Will be moving homes in a month (if all goes to plan), and I'll certainly do this before I move!

The trend towards larger homes and storage probably contributes to accumulation.

I’m in a ~450 sq ft studio and having to consciously think about where a new purchase will go cuts down on buying “junk” and makes me a lot quicker to sell or dispose of things that are just taking up space.

Similarly, when I moved to a city with hideously expensive parking, I sold my car when I wasn’t using it enough to justify the expense.

I understand this perspective, but I take a different view on life. I don't worry about spending money. I have high leverage skills, so I focus on making more money. Life is more enjoyable to me when I can spend without care knowing I'm always increasing my skills, fulfillment, and by consequence earning potential.

The author exactly captured my experience - when I moved from an in person job to a remote job 4 years back I realized that I had more time to indulge in hobbies that I enjoyed in the past - reading, working out, cooking. I gradually lost interest in eating out as much, drinking at bars. During Covid, it accelerated more as the one indulgence I had of eating out once a week, also disappeared. I rather get fresh ingredients, make a nice meal, fix a nice cocktail or open a nice bottle of wine for me and the wife.

Weak article. Mostly virtue signaling.

Yes, your lifestyle was once "designed". That probably peaked in the late 1950s. See "American Look". [1] That's the high point of industrial design. Also the era of tailfins. That was when the US first had far much manufacturing capacity than it really needed.

As for fashion, go watch this clip from The Devil Wears Prada.[2]

All this used to be coordinated from New York, when Madison Avenue and the Manhattan garment district had real power. Now it's much more random, with manufacturers struggling to keep up with trends, rather than dictating them.

[1] https://archive.org/details/american_look

[2] https://youtu.be/KqaOY6al-ZQ

I think the article has worth if you are unfamiliar with these ideas. You don't think to question your fasion until someone exposes you to the right concepts. For someone who is interested in anti-consumer mindfullness then this article is probably really good. But if you are not that kind of person it is indeed a weak article.

The "travel mentality" that has been circulating in the last ten years portraits travel as the ultimate goal for many tech workers. It sells the ultimate concept of freedom and zero responsibility. Social media extended this with the van life blogs, pictures and clips. This of course a big fallacy. When you're traveling you have zero planning ahead. You don't need to think about major decisions in your life, you usually don't invest in hobbies (how could you go to your gym if you're not in the same place every month) and of course it usually correlates with no spouse or kids, that require major decisions of their own. When you live on your backpack you avoid many major decisions and that's ok. but you can't compare the two situations.

I don't think that's a fair portrayal. These people are still planning where to travel, how to maintain their hobbies and fitness, how to maintain a social life, and all the other things people normally do. They're just doing it w a change of scenery every so often in mind.

Like you can still workout without a gym.

That's a good point. I think I was aiming at people that dedicate most of the day to travel. If you are working, have social life, got to the gym and just change scenery from time to time (a digital nomad) I would consider you less of a "traveler".

I agree that the 40h workweek is not technically “designed” per se but rather it’s the best confluence of factors such as keeping competition at bay, keeping society productive, making people feel useful, making life purposeful for many, etc. It’s the current local minima. If we could work 60 or 80 hours and still get the same benefits, we’d do so. However, nobody has experimented with working less while others work more because competition will eat you up.

The part in the article about finding time to work out hit hard. He's right: there is so little time to work out because it takes 1hr to work out and 1hr to travel/clean up: 2hrs is a big deal when you only have ~4 hours free hours per day to take care of life. That made me pretty depressed, not just for me but for every overweight person who is being shamed about not exercising. You have to exercise a lot to alter your physique, and cramming that into normal life with a 10hr/day job and kids is brutal.

What's worse: this is from 2010. Pre-microtransation in video games, pre-dozens of $10 TV channels fighting over a few film copyrights, pre-subscription-razors, subscription juice, subscription groceries, subscription everything...

I can't believe people who pay $15/month for one TV channel (Disney+) are shelling out $30 to rent (not own!) the latest blockbuster. Blows my mind.

I'm old enough to remember in the 80's when conservatives blamed poor kids for saving up to buy $100 Air Jordans as some kind of societal ill, when in reality it was just the correct operation of the American consumerism.

Marketing has really upped its game in 40 years.

> That made me pretty depressed, not just for me but for every overweight person who is being shamed about not exercising.

FWIW most weight change is due to diet. If you're overweight, exercise is probably a much lower priority than finding a way to sustainably eat less.

I'm not just sounding off here; I lost 20+ kg by tracking what I ate and eating less.

Weight change happens depending on whether calories consumed - calories burned is positive or negative.

Diet tends to be more effective for weight loss because it's a lot easier to cut excess empty calories than it is to burn them off with exercise.

Jogging a mile might burn 150 calories. Eating a Big Mac adds 600.

Summarized memorably as “you can’t outrun the fork” or “the most effective exercise for weight loss is an early tricep extension at the table”

> He's right: there is so little time to work out because it takes 1hr to work out and 1hr to travel/clean up:

Then do shorter workouts (a 30 minute workout is still good), kill travel (workout at, or if its by running/biking starting/ending at) home. Merge cleanup: do it before your morning shower.

> $15/month for one TV channel (Disney+)

Disney+ (or other major atreaming service) isn't really comparable to one TV channel; each is more comparable to the whole stable of channels available from a single media megacorp (and often bigger megacorps than a decade ago, because mergers.)

> You have to exercise a lot to alter your physique,

If you are a competitive body builder. For most people that want to transform physique and improve fitness, you need to exercise a bit to maintain muscle mass and tone, and improve (both by reducing excess calories and improving nutrition focus) your diet.

> shelling out $30 to rent

My family of four can pay $30 + grocery store food costs to have dinner and a movie or we can pay around $100 to go see a movie and have dinner at Alamo. $30 is a bargain.

You're proving my point: that same film is $100 in the cinema. $100!! But the Overton window pushed you into thinking $30 is a bargain. You think that wasn't intentional?

How isn't it a bargain?

Because you've been tricked into thinking $30 isn't so bad compared to $100, when you should be demanding $20 for the cinema for all four of your family, instead of rolling over and saying, "Jeez, I sure got a deal." That's what the Overton Window is all about: making one option artificially bad so that you don't negotiate and take whatever other option they give you. But if everyone just shuffles along and opens their wallets to whatever the studios ask for, they will absolutely charge more.

When I mentioned $100, that was for food and the movie.

Second, we can all go to the movies for $20 and even less if we are willing to wait. There are "dollar" theaters where tickets are less than $5.

But, if we want to see a new movie and want to go to the modern theater with a full menu, comfy seats, and a great sound system, then it costs more. $12 / ticket for 90+ minutes of entertainment doesn't seem out of line.

The same goes for watching movies at home. We can get plenty for free if we are willing to sit through commercials or watch one of thousands we have available through services we subscribe to. But if we want to watch the new thing tonight, it's $30.

> if we want to watch the new thing tonight

Which is what 1/2 of the article we are discussing is about: The way we are herded into spending our hard-earned money on the need for "the new thing" by marketing and manipulation.

Your position is "I need to entertain myself and my kids and they want the new shiny thing", my position is, "You're being conned out of your money for shit you don't need."

I'm being wildly judgemental because I look at people who need "the new thing" as suckers, aaaand I also think it brings us all down, because now all the money goes into paying Scarlet Johansen $50M to make the same movie five times and we miss out interesting/engaging cinematography.

> Your position is "I need to entertain myself and my kids and they want the new shiny thing"

No it isn't. It has nothing to do with need.

> we miss out interesting/engaging cinematography

When was a better time for movies and television?

2021 was a bad year, but before that there were more than two movies released every day in the US. You couldn't find anything interesting in those 800 titles?

Huh? Well, since you replied: I'm not the one spending $30 on top of my monthly fee to rent some cheesy remake of the same bland film and calling it a bargain. I prefer my fun a little less canned and a little more engaging. But I don't have kids so I don't know how to entertain them, and perhaps I'd feel the same way if for some reason I found myself with four kids. Although I'd probably be like my friends who make board games with their kids and have banned TV (good luck to them when the kids hit 13).

The marginal cost for the provider of you seeing the movie when streamed into your house is ~$0.

Marginal costs determine profitability, but don't have a lot to do with the price of anything other than commodities.

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