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Technology & Innovation

Downsizing the American Dream

As heartbreaking as the job losses and foreclosures are, there is also a bright side to the downward economy — Americans are beginning to see that “less is more.”

Sometimes it takes a catastrophe to create a little growth — cultural growth, instead of economic growth. Instead of our ravenous hunger for more, some Americans are learning that living with less has a lot of rewards even beyond the obvious economic benefits. E.F Schumacher of “Small Is Beautiful” fame wrote, “The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity.” As we pick up the pieces of our shattered economy, perhaps we can rebuild with a more enlightened idea of how much is enough and a more holistic view of wealth.


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It’s plain to see that I’m an optimist, sometimes more than is socially comfortable. The ease with which I dismiss the disastrous economic decline above serves as one example of that. I wrote that the recession will benefit our political system, and, before I cut this line, as having “rewarded our company for methodical execution and ruthless efficiency by removing competitors from the landscape.” I make no mention of the disastrous effects on millions of people, and the great uncertainty that grips any well-briefed mind, because it truly doesn’t stand in the foreground of my mind (despite suffering personal loss of wealth). Our species is running towards a precipice with looming dangers like economic decline, political unrest, climate crisis, and more threatening to grip us as we jump off the edge, but my optimism is stronger now than ever before. On the other side of that looming gap are extraordinary breakthroughs in healthcare, communications technology, access to space, human productivity, artistic creation and literally hundreds of fields. With the right execution and a little bit of luck we’ll all live to see these breakthroughs — and members of my generation will live to see dramatically lengthened life-spans, exploration and colonization of space, and more opportunity than ever to work for passion instead of simply working for pay. Instead of taking this space to regale you with the many personal and focused changes I intend to make in 2009, let me rather encourage you to spend time this year thinking, as I’m going to, more about what we can do in 2009 to positively affect the future our culture will face in 2020, 2050, 3000 and beyond.

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