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The productivity gains have happened _because_ people were obsessed with increasing output. What's even more interesting is that we've had to adopt a consumer culture to keep the economy rolling in the face of an excess of supply. Marketing is an entire field of pseudoscience devoted to increasing demand to meet an artifically inflated supply.

Even the web is funded largely by advertising, marketing. Could it exist if we in the west had a classical eastern philosophy of not desiring more than we needed? Given that china invented practically everything, but got "nowhere" doing it until they adopted consumer culture, i suspect that the web wouldn't have happened.

Admittedly, China didn't "go nowhere". Late Medieval China had living conditions better than any the pre-industrial and industrial West managed, while working less than the post-industrial West does today. Only the onset of social democracy and post-industrialization drove living standards up to what the Chinese enjoyed for ages.

Admittedly, they mostly managed this because large portions of their land area could naturally support plenty of people without too much work put into agriculture.

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