A non-zero sum game

One of the primary reasons for prosperity is an increase in productivity. This means getting more for less. Such an idea is sometimes difficult to grasp. It is easier to think in zero sum terms. Those are when more in one place means less in another. The brothers Judd cited an Economist story that illustrated how technology can make for more with less.

In this case, the technology was cell phones. Off the coast of Kerala, a part of India, cell service slowly became available to fishermen for twenty or so kilometers off the coast. As the fishermen became able to communicate with shore, they were able to find the best markets for their catch. The result was less wastage and more uniform pricing. The fisherman got more because he had a better chance of selling all of his catch. The buyer got more because the prices were evened out in markets up and down the coast as the competition broadened from a local to a regional focus.

Another example is in the agricultural extension services in the U.S. That effort to increase the efficiency of farming resulted in greater crop yields at much less expense.

There is also the incremental change, the little things that add up. You have to stop and think about things and look for these else they creep into your life and take their place as a given. If you look at the history, the very recent history, of technology, you can see this. The internet just became public in the early 90’s and is now a major avenue for commerce. Cell phones make portable communications assumed which reduces the time to respond to roadside emergencies and other incidents. And the entertainment – from LP’s to tape to CD’s to MP3 players. TV from a couple of over the air channels to hundreds via satellite.

So when you hear about the doom and gloom about the future, stop to think of how much more you will be able to do with what you have in just a few years!

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