Growth is a big thing these days, particularly in the economic, stock-market sense. A company doesn't have to be making profits, but if it isn't growing, preferably growing fast, then it's dismissed as a loser. In the same way, people focus their personal energies on increasing their wealth, their power, their fame. If they aren't moving up in the world, then they're relegated to the sidelines. And to get real attention, linear growth isn't enough; you have to be growing at an accelerating rate. (Get those higher derivatives up, or out you go!)

But nothing grows forever, and few things grow for long. Growth has side-effects, externalities that affect the neighborhood of a growing system. At some point, the negative spin-offs of growth trigger feedback loops that make the growth slow down and stop, or even reverse. If the feedback is highly nonlinear, growth beyond a certain limit leads to catastrophic collapse.

Growth über alles is the ideology of a carcinoma. In the short term, a cancer cell does splendidly. It takes in nourishment, cranks out copies of itself, and thrives. And for a while, it can say "I'm all right, Jack!" and apparently prosper. But in the longer run, it kills its host and itself.

A "Me first!" philosophy can't last. What's needed instead is understanding, balance, and a recognition of the need for quality rather than mere quantity.

Wednesday, May 19, 1999 at 21:53:09 (EDT) = 1999-05-19

TopicSociety - TopicOrganizations - TopicEconomics

(correlates: ThirdPlace, FutureLiteracy, GrowthAssumptions, ...)