[ExI] Neo-minimalism and the rise of the techno-nomads

Jebadiah Moore jebdm at jebdm.net
Wed Sep 22 21:52:33 UTC 2010

2010/9/21 police dept <policedepts at gmail.com>
> Nothing wrong with a great deal of possessions if they are quality, and you
> can enjoy them-- that is to say if you buy thousands of good DVDs and never
> watch but a handful of them, that's a waste.

I suppose the article didn't touch on it much, but the idea behind
"neominimalism" or whatever you want to call it is that having more things
is, in general, worse.  That is, the utility of the set of the things you
own is not just equal to the sum of the utilities of those things
individually (perhaps plus the utilities of owning certain combinations of
things), but also includes a term which defines a negative utility which
grows in proportion to the number of things you own.

In other words (in Haskell-esque prefix notation):

  Old model: set-utility things = (sum (map utility things)) + (sum (map
extra-utility (power-set things)))
  New model: set-utility things = (sum (map utility things)) + (sum (map
extra-utility (power-set things))) - (f (length things))
      where f is some strictly increasing function such that for all x > 0,
(f 0) > 0

Of course, if the quality of the some thing is high enough and you use it
often enough, that should be enough to offset the negative utility of having
it.  But a lot of people have a great deal of things which contribute very
little to their lives.

And it's not just about avoiding waste.  There is actually a negative
utility that comes, not just from wasting resources, but from being
encumbered by stuff.  As it applies to "technomads", having a lot of stuff
makes it more difficult to travel, because you have to carry your stuff
around with you or find storage for it.  For some people, that may not be a
huge issue, but if you don't have a free place to store your stuff--and a
lot of people don't--it might make frequent travel prohibitively expensive.
 Even if you don't run into money issues, there are always attachment
issues--people won't/can't make certain choices because they have things
that they are so attached to that they become rooted to one spot.  And then
there's the matter of clutter; many people find that having a lot of things
around them is quite stressful, both on the level of having to maintain that
stuff and because it splits your attention.

That said, a lot of "neominimalism" stuff is kind of overblown, and it's
almost always accompanied by some level of... er... granola-esque?
sentiment.  For instance, take "the Last Viridian Note" (
which says a lot of interesting things but has this other stuff mixed in
with it.

Jebadiah Moore
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