Let's pretend....

OK, let’s pretend we’re in the future a bit. We’ve gone and ignored the warnings and completely screwed up our planet. The idea of excess and instant gratification is gone. Prices for everything from food, to transportation, to clothes have forced everyone to learn to live with nothing but the necessities.

We all talk about living with necessities. Everything from how we we dress. What our children play with. What we eat. What we do with our spare time (is purchasing a book and reading a necessity?). How we get around. How and what we design and manufacture. All of it must be scrutinized.

What are the necessities?

As described by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, our most most basic needs are physiological. These include breathing, food, water, sleep, homeostasis, and excretion.

An iPad… apparently.

You should read this: Malthusianism - Wikipedia

I’ve started J.K. Galbraith’s The Affluent Society. In it, he talks about how most of human history has been a struggle for food. It’s only been the last 200 years that we’ve had a civilisation that did not have regular famines. Thomas Malthus, a classical economist, argued that population increases until it outstrips agriculture leading to a famine and deduction in population.

So I guess that food is the only true necessity. Perhaps cotton or washable clothes as well (certainly in Canada).


At least Chris mentioned water, which any backpacker will tell you is the most important necessity. Food, that’s easy to figure out, water is a little trickier.

And there’s a little article in the New Yorker about isolation, so being able to talk with people.

And another about sisterly chats from the NYT.

Not to try and jack the thread. Even though this is probably the same idea just closer in the future.

We all know the first thing we are going to run out of is clean water. 15 years for 1/3 the population and i’m sure it will just get worse from then on. Next to air and warmth you will die without water in a few days. Not to mention be extremely uncomfortable after half a day without water.

Without getting into too much detail about desalination plants basically not keeping up with demand. Or if so the dramatic impacts on life. Economy crash? Food production will also crash as there is no water? Even if it happens slowly I think the world is in for a giant change within the next 30-40 years.

We can all envision the demise. I have no question that will all the end of the world TV shows around (After Humans, or whatever its called) that surmising how it will FAIL is the easy part.

This, believe it or not, is more of an optimistic thread. Its more about the reboot of society. If things to go hell in a handbasket, Barring complete extinction, society will have to reset itself. It will have a period of years where the expectations of excess will be eliminated.

I’m curious as to what is necessary.

As chrisdougherty pointed out, there’s Maslow’s needs. Basic, biologicaly needs to SURVIVE. But I’m talking about the point where society continues to tick along in a way that keeps people happy, but doesn’t cause failure.

Burger Kings and fast food disappears. Vehicles are limited to 1 per household. Possibly even rental only? In your house, do you have a computer? A television? Books? Microwave? You definitely don’t need 3 or 4 of each. Products are limited to a certain consumption limit per year?

A forced trade off system is, effectively, established. Everyone gets the same amount of fuel per year. So if you want an SUV, fine, but it may sit idle from October to January because you burnt through your rations.

A lot of this comes from me trying to make sense of all the SHIT that is in my house. My son comes home from McDonald’s with his grandparents and another crap toy from his Happy Meal gets played with for 15 minutes then goes in a drawer never to be played with again.

How much is enough for me, my kids, my family to be happy. Can we get away from “The Joneses”?

I’m reading Dalai Lama’s: The Art of Happiness (which is a lot less ‘self-help’ than it sounds). While I’m only 1 chapter in, I’d recommend you give it a go.

Happiness seems to be popping up all over the place at the moment. In this TED talk the speak lists The 5 Ways to Well-Being:

Be active
Take notice / Be present
Keep learning

Simple stuff, but I find myself always coming back to them, easily forgotten.
They go in to more detail here - Wellbeing | All | New Economics Foundation

Based on this, I’d say Western societies could do with a whole lot less. Happiness is a state-of-mind and not correlated at all to what we consume.

How much is enough for me, my kids, my family to be happy.

ip_wirelessly - Would be interested to hear whether you agree that happiness is not influenced by material consumption and wealth? From what I can take from your posts so far you do, correct me if I’m wrong.

I’m definitely in the camp that is believing that less is more. My problem is that I don’t ACT that way. It is that disconnect that really bothers me.


10 yrs ago, i travelled to Africa. Spent 3 weeks in Tanzania. The usual…Safari, Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar. Changed my life. I was lucky enough to get to know the cook on the Safari. He took my wife and me to his “house” after we got back and had a day off before we went to Kili. It was a 45 minute walk in the rain forest at the base of Kilimanjaro. This person had almost nothing. But he gave us a huge meal, and spent the afternoon talking to us.

He is the most content, satisfied person I have ever met. He didn’t WANT for more. He was satisfied. My guide on Kili, however, was caught up in the idea that material possesions were what would make him happy. And he came across as very…Western. Dissatisfied and wanting more.

Now, I spend my life working my ass off to make a “good” salary but still feel as though I am chasing something elusive.

I would definitely need something to completely disconnect my brain from all the worries, do’s/dont’s, and thoughts that keep boggeling me.
But the beauty of that is that it could be anything from drawing in sand with a stick, to something high-tech and excessive (TV/internet?).
I guess the same effect could be attained with meditation, but thats not my cup of tea.

It might sound silly but it’s a necessity to me, I go nuts or get depressed otherwise.

or why not a

Well as talk about all this it raises the very valid point of relativity. What stage are we at. Does the internet even exist anymore? So don’t really need a computer right? I suspect travel itself will follow the same steps of the past. Depending of course the level of necessity of travel. If it’s simply low levels of fuel then maybe only the rich can afford vehicles the rest revert to public transit?

As chris pointed out, to physically survive, air, water, food and shelter.

For society, the rule of law.

Unless of course, you are an anarchist, then you want to hang with this guy,

Personally, I think a slow decline is much more likely than a collapse. What is determined as necessities will also slowly decline. Hopfully, reality TV will be on top of the list.

Ugh, ohh, - the Hamster is sensing his wheel. Not good.
You should definately have a deeper look into Buddhism. You already read “Zen - or the art of motorcycle maintanance”?

Concerning the original question of necessities: I fear that most men are sensible and humble, until they start to
compete for women. Have a look at warzones 3-5 years after the last combats. You`ll see the pyramide of necessities

On a personal note: I didn’t have a fridge in my first own place (being 19). I didn’t feel it was a problem, as I moved there
in October. But my friends were so shocked they organised a used one before Christmas.
I already new then, that I didn’t need it, but I used a fridge ever since… :wink:



This thread may gain urgency sooner than you thought, when you went to bed last night:


As said before, Maslow’s Pyramid is a good reference for both needs and wants.

The fundamental building blocks of human survival in society consist of :
1)Energy; used to power
2)Industrial/Technological Raw Materials; used to provide
3)Food, Air and Water

Let’s put it this way.
“Let’s assume that we are interstellar travelers, originating from earth, as it is known today, and in our journey we stumble upon, amazingly enough, an exact replica of our planet, the only difference between the current state of this new planet versus our own is that there are no human begins, human evolution has not occurred. Hence there are no establishment orders, no social arrogances, no money, nothing to limit our possibility. Given the advanced scientific knowledge we have today, how would we go about redesigning our social infrastructure from the ground up, with the goal to create, nothing less, but the most efficient, conscientious and sustainable society as possible?”

Your perspective of how society should be seems to be attached to the need for property, but what if society was design for universal unrestricted access instead?

Jon: I see where you are going now.

I feel the same way. I think any intelligent person quickly learns that we don’t need very much that money buys & that chasing it is a fairly hollow challenge.

I feel the same way about the future now that I have for the last decade. The cost of basic goods is quickly dropping to close to zero and less people are being involved in actually creating things (manufacturing, farming, etc). Eventually, we will realize that there is no scarcity and our economic concept will fail. After that, we will restructure our whole society around supporting people’s self-actualization.

However, in the short term, there will be turmoil. It won’t be evenly distributed. I was just in Arizona for the holidays. Nevada, Arizona and some of California are just a hiccup away from a massive draught. We’ve already seen holes in the US electric grid (the NYC blackout, Cali blackouts, rising costs). There is a reason that I still live in Canada: Hydro-electricity and ten times more fresh water than the population can use.

Reading that makes me think of how difficult it would be with all of the burdens that the modern human has taken upon themselves. Order has evolved over a long period of time and trying to establish Order, especially on an empty planet sounds like disaster. Sure it might pan out, but the politics would be as tumultuous as they are today. Just look at Battlestar Galactica when they tried to live on New Caprica. It only worked out in the end when they went completely primal on Earth.

It will be interesting to see whether the children* in charge of running our country let it go to the brink over this. Part of me hopes they do it, just because I’m curious to see what it looks like when a country implodes. And I have another passport and can leave when it does.

*Even a fairly dim child would not look at a 33% budget deficit and think it can be fixed by 1)not raising taxes and 2)not cutting the military, social security, or medicare. Along with interest on the debt, which obviously can’t be cut, those three things account for roughly 70% of our total expenditures. So even if we eliminated every single other function that the federal government performs, we’d still have a deficit.

I am so glad there are other Battlestar Galactica geeks on here :slight_smile:

This is a very similar concept to what they analyze throughout that show. The difference between my thoughts and those in BSG is that theirs are based in the concept of fatalism. I’m more in the belief that technology has caused a significant amount of the discord in our society. I also believe it is capable of bringing us (me?) back to a sense of equilibrium.

there is always a black market…