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--I used to test hifi equipment for a consumer magazine (I did the technical part, the staff writer got the byline for the verbiage).

It was clear that once the initial problems with CD's were overcome by better low pass filtering there really was no place to go to improve the quality of the sound. Electronics equipment had become essentially noiseless and distortionless. The one area that remained in need of improvement (and still does) are the loudspeakers.

While people will argue over whether .001% distortion is better than .1% they continue to ignore the 1-10% distortion that come from loudspeakers.

Interestingly what has happened since then is that the goal of "perfect" music reproduction has been replaced by the desire for everywhere music reproduction. So the standard of reproduction, typically MP3 or the like, is actually worse than what was the norm 20 years ago. I now spend a good part of my time listening to an internet radio (through my hifi) and while the range of programs available is terrific the fidelity is truly mediocre.

I think most young people have never heard high quality music reproduction. Where would they? Even if you go to a "live" music event you will be hearing loudspeakers, electronically generated or altered sound and singers using amplification.

Whether this is a good thing or not, it means that there is no real market for high quality sound leaving the field open to charlatans. I remember an electric clock being offered that you plugged into the wall to "clean" the electricity going to your hifi. There are no limits to the human imagination when it comes to selling snake oil.

--The desire to be a peacock via conspicuous consumption is nothing new just look at "The Emperor's New Clothes" for a good treatment of the subject.

--Since I keep railing against materialism this thread might be a good jumping off point for a discussion of how people will validate their existence if they can't do it via "stuff". What will be the important values that they should adopt instead? This is important because we are running out of the raw materials to make the "stuff" out of so we need to find other goals in life.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 09:58:21 AM EST
--Since I keep railing against materialism this thread might be a good jumping off point for a discussion of how people will validate their existence if they can't do it via "stuff". What will be the important values that they should adopt instead? This is important because we are running out of the raw materials to make the "stuff" out of so we need to find other goals in life.

I think people validate their existance through status, and "stuff" is one of the ways to acquire status.

So, the question is how to have a competition for status that isn't resource-heavy. And, of course, since status is a psychosocial phenomenon there's no reason why status should cost the earth.

In fact, as less and less stuff becomes available people will be forced off "stuff" as a status market, and access to "stuff" (concentrated natural resources) will be the mark of the superwealthy.

Most economists teach a theoretical framework that has been shown to be fundamentally useless. -- James K. Galbraith

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 10:08:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
In fact, as less and less stuff becomes available people will be forced off "stuff" as a status market, and access to "stuff" (concentrated natural resources) will be the mark of the superwealthy.

The problem is that the efficacy of "stuff" as a status differentiator is correlated with its scarcity.  If everyone can have it, it is no good for denoting relative status.  If it is exclusive to a few - whether the super wealthy, ruthless, talented, or lucky - then it has value as a status differentiator.

The fact that elephant tusks are getting scarcer just makes them more valuable.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 10:36:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Stuff, especially exotic pseudo-magical stuff, is a useful differentiator. But it's still some way down the totem pole.

There's more about that in Pt 2, as and when.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 11:27:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well there is always this:



Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 11:59:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't think that people's desire for physical stuff is the real problem. The real problem is mass production, which requires mass marketing as a condition for its survival. Get rid of mass production, and you get rid of the need for a lot of marketing, which in turn gets rid of people's artificially inflated desire to consume products.

Current manufacturing processes are much too wasteful: if you want to build ten products, then you have to build a thousand - that's 99% waste, which is literally swept under the rug by convincing people who don't want it to store it in their basements.

Of course, rewinding the clock to the pre-industrial age is not an option (although it's always a danger as you point out). I believe the next step forward is better on-demand production. We're seeing the first baby steps with digital goods, on-demand production of CDs and books, etc.

What we need are more versatile robots, that can build a multiplicity of components from raw material. There are printers that can build 3D objects layer by layer from an engineering drawing - this is the kind of thing that's needed, but with a variety of types of material that can't be done today. It cuts out the need for factories that produce components - and in turn cuts out the need for all those surplus components to be actually stored and transported all over the world and used to produce more useless goods and marketed to people who store them in their basements. It also cuts out the need to mass produce a product to justify lower manufacturing prices.

Ideally, in the post-industrial on-demand society, you simply visit your local manufacturer and choose some products from a catalog, then pick them up a couple of days later after they've been built - all without the baggage of global trade and marketing.

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$

by martingale on Mon Jan 12th, 2009 at 08:24:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Or you share stuff and work out a rota for using it.

There are twenty five houses in this village, and all of them (except mine, more or less) have their own lawn mowers.

It shouldn't be beyond the wit of everyone to arrange a time share of a single uber-mower. But the Law of Mojo forbids it, because formalised sharing of non-luxury property carries intense anti-mojo and is experienced as narcissistic wounding.

(Never mind that people could live, cook and eat together too - that's just crazy talk.)

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 10:07:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, that sounds good, but how do you deal with the tragedy of the commons?

--
$E(X_t|F_s) = X_s,\quad t > s$
by martingale on Tue Jan 13th, 2009 at 10:53:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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