Resources are finite. That's pretty much the study of economics in a nutshell, right?
Are they, though? Set aside Bastani and his astroid mining - .eps, .tif, .bmp, .gif, .jpg, .png and .webp are all strategies for encoding still visual data. Two or three of them will also encode motion visual data. There is no reason to assume we have tapped all possible encoding methods for still visual data through those seven codecs. How 'bout "music?" That started as oral tradition, became dots on paper, then wax on cylinders, then scratches on vinyl, then magnetic pulses on wire, then magnetic pulses on tape, then tiny holes on polycarbonate, then .aif, then .wav, then on and on and on and on and on.
That's me raggin' on 3d printing like what, nine years ago? I own two of 'em now - there are three in this house.
Consider the world of materials science to be the world of cooking. The world of manufacture is the world of food. 3D printing, then, is a spam-carving contest. Yes, you can make virtually any shape out of spam… but it's still spam. The vision of a 3D-printed future is the vision of a cornucopia reduced to Cheez Whiz. Yes, it's food and yes, it has its uses… but you're a fool if you think you can survive off it.
I wouldn't change a goddamn word. If you're making more than a few of 'em, there are far better ways to do it. But I mean I print several pieces of wire loom a day because (1) I can't buy less than 8 feet of it at a time (2) I need it in weird shapes for what I'm doing so I just doodle in SolidWorks and spit it out of PETG a few hours later. MY productivity is through the roof with the mere addition of a $600 cheez whiz printer because I happened to need a bunch of pieces that are entirely adequate out of cheez whiz.
Look at "growth" in terms of Wallerstein:
- Subsistence includes gardening at home or assembling Ikea furniture - it's stuff that you would have to pay for but you aren't.
There are no permaculture "supplies" to be had. It's entirely a practice that increases productivity. Assembling your own furniture? That increases your subsistence productivity while reducing your availability for other types of productivity. Set aside what you do for fun, as global productivity/growth goes up (the kind that doesn't simply measure consumption of physical resources), subsistence productivity goes up.
- Piecework is selling shit on Etsy, breaking up cartons of cigarettes to sell on street corners, babysitting for your neighbors, anything you make money at but not regularly.
The mere existence of Etsy, the manufacture of cartons and packs and cigarettes, Angie's List, Craigslist, Facebook, anything that links you to babysitting clients, increases growth at no loss of resources.
- Work-in-kind is anything that you would normally be doing except you can't because you're earning wages so someone else is doing it for you.
Everything that makes your work-in-kind more efficient decreases the amount you need to do it, which decreases the amount of wages, subsistence, piecework or influence you earn. A cookbook increases work-in-kind growth, not to mention vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, babycams, fuckin' Zoom...
Here's the thing - does resource consumption really go up as growth goes up? Yeah, if you measure it one stupid way. But if you couldn't do the laundry without a wood fire a hundred years ago and now you've got a tankless hot water heater powered by solar panels, your consumption has not gone up with your growth.
I've seen economists measure "innovation". I've yet to see economists measure it in such a way that it actually tells you something. "Resources?" The way economists practice, it's not truly a resource unless it can be depleted and that's fucking stupid. Energy use in the developed world is actually going down.
Not every person in an 8 Billion strong world can have a half acre of land and two SUVs, but unless we start to regulate which lucky few get those benefits, I'm not sure I can see how that's a tractable problem.
This is another aspect of the problem that hasn't much been grappled with since Mencken. I don't judge my wealth in absolutes, I judge my wealth in terms of my peers. If I decide Elon Musk is my peer I will never be wealthy. If I decide my neighbors are my peers, fuck them I got air conditioning. It's been like four years since I bought a Schadenporsche and I continue to be uncomfortable when complimented. My first response to "nice car" is always a variation of "you should buy one, they're cheap." A true Porsche aficionado wouldn't be caught dead in my little Schadenporsche - after all, the headlights aren't round therefore it is garbage. If I considered myself a "Porsche owner" I would be embarrassed by the lump of shit in the driveway but since I consider myself "the asshole who drove to school in a '77 buick missing a door" I consider that vehicle to be a rung several arm-lengths out of reach that I somehow have the keys to.
McKibben's Eaarth argues that people will get used to having less, because everyone will have less. And I mean, there was a time I could have flown from NY to Paris in two hours. That time is done. There was also a time I could have ridden a zeppelin. I don't see that coming back either. All across Twitter are people who think spending tens of thousands of dollars for jpegs is cool - because their friends do.
Discomfort is the potential gradient that keeps us striving for more, and so long as there is discomfort in the world (always), capitalism is going to be a force.
I don't think it's "discomfort." Petroski doesn't either. I think it's growth. Simply put. Take it back to Maslow's Hierarchy, disproven yet truthy as it is - The less time I spend doing the shit I don't wanna, the more time I can spend on shit I wanna. The less time I spend on anything, the higher my productivity, the greater my "growth."
However, that certainly doesn't mean that we can't adopt policies that aim to allocate resources in a less environmentally destructive way.
And again, the cardinal sin of the Chicago School, Milton Friedman, Jack Welch and neoliberalism writ large is the externalization of anything that disproves your equation. For 70 years, the math has been "you give me all the resources and I increase productivity, for deliberately narrow interpretations of productivity and deliberately broad interpretation of resources."
I was talking to a really smart dude yesterday who had never heard of carbon swaps. He honestly thought Tesla made money by selling cars. Because why would you think anything different? Dude is a dissertation away from a Ph.D and the actual underpinnings of the economic rules to his life are as opaque as Fermat's Theorem.
Quoth Peter Drucker, "That which is measured is managed" and since Taylorism we've been measuring for the shareholders, not the stakeholders. Going back to synthesis, I would argue that an inherent characteristic of "capitalism" is the societal gyration between the needs of the shareholders and the needs of the stakeholders.
The minute we start measuring shit differently we start doing shit differently.