I'm constantly fascinated by the concept of productivity.  

For much of human history, and most of human pre-history, we've been more or less on a break even basis.  You produce enough crops and houses and clothes and furniture to get by, with a little surplus.  The surplus is taken up by periodic wars or famines.  Life goes on generation to generation, maybe a little better, sometimes a little worse.

It's not really true anymore.  Our standard of living is on a steep upward slope.  One farmer can feed what, dozens or hundreds of people?  One small team of workers with modern tools can build many houses a year.  I can build all my own furniture and grow a lot of my own food, and it's not even the most efficient use of my time (I'm a rank amatuer at this stuff).  The most efficent use of my time might be writing business sofware or something.  I produce physical goods purely as a hobby.

The point is that even if scientific and technological progress came to a screeching halt right now,  each successive generation will still be richer than the previous.  In time, because of the productivity surplus, every child could have an iPhone, every teenager could have an electric car, every house could produce its own solar power.

The only thing that keeps us poor is the pace of progress of technology (no gadgets are heirlooms) and the pressure of population growth.  That is frickin crazy.

What's almost crazier though, is our response to it.  Never have we said, "that's enough, let's just work 20 hours a week and relax the rest of the time."  Instead, the average number of working hours per family per week has risen dramatically over the last 50 years.  I'm not one to argue agaisnt progress, but consider.  The promise of technology has always been to make things easier, but to what end?  I guess I always assumed, growing up, that the point was to have more leisure time.  I had this concept of, oh, machines will do all the work for us, so we can spend our time learning or playing or whatever.  WHATEVER.

I mean, I make casual games for a living so maybe we're already there, it just doesn't taste like I thought it would.  I want my freedom.


  1. I'm with you all the way!

    That's why Brian and I are rebelling against the "you must work full time" mentality. OK, to be fair, between the two of us we are (well, will be, once the baby comes) working the equivalent of a single full-time employee. But at least it's less than many other families in our social category. This decision means we're giving up a lot of the disposable income we could have had compared to other families. But compared to past decades I still think we're wealthier. Sure, we will have to spend more time "doing it ourselves" but this is a small price to pay (in my opinion) for a more leisurely lifestyle (although some people might not consider taking care of babies as leisure). Plus, I often like "doing it myself" anyway.

    Actually, there are a few reasons why we don't reduce our hours even further, which basically have to do with our minimum lifestyle requirements.
    (1) Interesting work: The unique type of work we want to do means we don't have much choice about where to live and work, and along with this comes a certain cost of living. We could theoretically move somewhere cheaper and telecommute, but a large part of what I like about my job is the face-to-face interaction. in addition, long commute = NOT LEISURE.
    (2) Family: We want to have a fairly large family and this can take extra $$ - although perhaps not as much as some people seem to think.
    (3) Domicile: (Wow, did I actually use that word?) Having outdoor space at my disposal where I live is important to my concept of leisure, and around here that means owning a house, with corresponding mortgage. Fortunately, I don't need a big house, just a big yard.

    It's looks like, when our society had the choice between increasing leisure or increasing consumption, we chose consumption. And tried to disguise it as a desire for more leisure. And then went overboard with it.

    Hmm, can you tell I've put a lot of thought into this? It sounds kind of silly, but I've essentially applied a requirements flowdown analysis to my life (which is much of what I do at work. So, all that training has paid off, I guess!)

    OK, I'd better hit the "submit" button before I write an entire book.

  2. Yeah, I really admire your (collective) decision to go down to half time. It is a tough one.

    I always get in trouble because I love having shiny new toys, and traveling, and eating out. Cutting way back is something I may have to come to terms with if I want to live up to some of my more important values. More likely though, I'll continue to try to have it both ways and just whine about it. ;-)

  3. My plan is to work full time, reduce my expenditures, invest the savings, and build up enough capital that my investment profits constitute a full-scale income.

    I'm fortunate in that my revenue is higher than my expenditures by enough to make this plan viable, and that I enjoy what it is that I do full time.

    I've been down the 6.5 days a week, 14 hours a day path and I'm never going there again. The lesson I learned is that in the business world, you have to look out for your own interests, because nobody else is ever going to. You'll get taken advantage of if you agree that's it's OK to do so.