I suspect there are several separate phenomenon at work. First of all, from an evolutionary perspective, for most of human history dissatisfaction has been a powerful driver for survival. A little more food, a slightly larger stock of wood for the fire, a stronger thorn-gate to protect against nocturnal predators… all these desires would increase chances of survival.

Today however we have through our amazing technologies created for many people a world of over-abundance. Unfortunately our hardwired instincts haven’t kept up, so we yearn for a slightly larger wide-screen LCD set or a newer automobile or whatever we see in the millions of ads that bombard us weekly.

And of course modern economies are based on ever-more consumption, because people running companies want larger salaries. It’s all down to fundamental human nature. Add to this the fact that many of our modern toys serve to alienate us, which makes us crave more connection, which we then attempt to satisfy by using the very toys that alienated us in the first place. This is a classic dysfunctional feedback loop and I refer to it here:

What’s interesting about today’s world is that technology is enabling us to attempt to satisfy our core drivers without constraint, so we’re basically poisoning ourselves because we’re in thrall to our evolved hardwiring. Our brains simply aren’t (in general) adequate enough to over-ride what used to be highly adaptive strategies but which today are highly damaging. It’s ironic, and very sad.

Anyone who enjoys my articles here on Medium may be interested in my books Why Democracy Failed and The Praying Ape, both available from Amazon.

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