Feb. 11th, 2008

When the human is under stress it will seek solutions to that stress.

Historically, at least where relevant in evolutionary terms, physical resource scarcity has been a big source of stress. I mean, there are other things that affect whether you pass your genes on, but all other things being equal, the person with more physical resources will survive Bad Things (illness, calamitous drought/famine, attack by neighbouring tribes, blah blah blah) better than the person with fewer of them. (I could go further and say 'stress' is what happens to us when we encounter patterns that are threatening to our survival on some level, but perhaps there are much better definitions out there.)

It has historically been easier or more cost-effective to generally increase physical resources than to increase skills (certainly once into adulthood) or try to predict What Will Go Wrong.

When we get stressed, we try to get more stuff. We're more likely to try to get more stuff than try to get more money, because money is sortof abstract, it's all numbers and little cards and paper and metal that aren't intrinsically useful, while stuff is rather concrete.

The problem is that in Western society today, most of us have LOADS of stuff, and some non-traditional stressors (lack of exercise anyone?). Some of us still have a strong automatic "get stressed, acquire more stuff" response... but this neither alleviates the stress nor particularly ensures we can survive better than the next guy when things get even more stressful. I mean, you can only hoard so much food before it really isn't going to make a big difference one way or another, because in a really really bad situation you only own what you can carry and defend.

I think maybe also, our brains only hold so much catalogue data. After one has a certain amount of stuff (and of course this will be different for everyone), it becomes difficult to keep track of. Some people get around this by being very organised with a place for everything and everything in its place, some people get around it by not having much stuff (either because they've got the "get stressed, acquire more stuff" thing licked, or because they acquire non-tangible goods such as entertainment), and some people live in a hell of a mess most of the time and end up buying more underwear because they lost track of washing the last lot and half of it is under the bed.

Is this making sense? I'm clearly talking out my ass and haven't organised my thoughts on this, but figured I'd throw it out there anyway.

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September 2013

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