The 1972 book Limits to Growth, which predicted our civilisation would probably collapse some time this century, has been criticised as doomsday fantasy since it was published.
Now, someone decided to check the model anyway and see if it actually made sense, 40 years on. Turns out, we are pretty much following the model to the T.
Not good news there. The model predicted collapse of society around 2040. There is only so much that we can exploit in our thirst for continuous growth, it said. And we are close.
Doomsday scenarios apart, these are actual findings based on solid research. From Harvard no less. But you must look around you and wonder – really? Is it that bad?
A conversation that I had with the client touched upon growth of investments. When casually asked about my savings, I told him that all of it was in India. “Growth is there in India”, he said, “but depreciation has pretty much wiped out what you made.”
“Try the US market”, he reasoned.
Our focus on growth has become the centre of our world. Growth in money, growth in stature…what about growth as a person? Growth in peace and happiness?
Or are we happy swimming in an endless stream of EMIs and (the latest fad) Buy-Now-Pay-Later?
Moore’s Law predicted super growth in the capacity of transistors, but even that had a limit of 7 nm…now we have breached that limit and Apple I guess is at 3 nm. But what are we getting in return for this breakthrough?
How are we applying it? A better camera on a phone…editing videos real time and AR so that you can plonk a virtual chair in your living room.
All that life-changing tech and the masses click better selfies and reply instantly with custom-memojis.
How long can we continue to buy devices every year, cars every three?
The life-cycle of the things we use and the clothes we wear now resembles our attention-spans.
And artificial intelligence reaches new highs even as we are too lazy to get off the couch and change a song (hey Siri, might as well do this for me since you are always listening anyway).
So growth does have a limit. Emperical studies say so, and so does common sense.
At one point, growth on your portfolio will not matter as much as peace in your mind. Oddly enough, most people whose portfolios grow well seek quietness and solace in meditation, to calm themselves and take off the pressure.
Reminds me of a story.
The great Alexander had decided to set out to conquer the world. And so he went to meet his teacher, to seek his blessings before he embarked on the mission of conquest.
He found his teacher resting under a tree. Alexander greeted him respectfully and told him his intentions.
“This is nice!”, remarked the teacher. “So what will happen when you win your first battle?”
“I will leave one of my generals in command of that kingdom and move on to my next conquest”, replied Alexander.
“And what happens then?”, asked the teacher.
“I conquer more lands, and have more generals manage my expanding territory”, replied Alexander.
“And what then?”
“Well, I will continue without rest until I am the emperor of the whole of Greece!”
“And what then?”
“And then I will continue without rest until I am the emperor of the whole world!”, said Alexander emphatically.
“What next?”, continued the teacher.
“Once I have conquered the whole world, and no king stands before me, I will return to this land, and finally have my rest…”, said Alexander.
The teacher smiled. “You will spend years and years traveling to faraway lands, and create destruction through conquest, subjugate millions and instill fear and hatred in many more…and then come back here to rest?”…he now laughed uncontrollably.
“Why, my son…”, he said with a twinkle in his eye. “when you can rest here already, like me, in the shade of this nice tree!”
Growth is good. The tendency to seek growth is natural. But to seek ONLY growth, and be blind to the harm it creates not just to the world around us, but also to ourselves…Surely we can find a better model of living?
A few less percentage points…and a lot more smiles. A few zeroes less, and a lot more days with loved ones…a few less dollars, and a lot more peace of mind.
It does not take a Harvard study to tell you what a better life is made up of. Time to introspect, and seek that growth within ourselves.
The rest, can wait:)