3.3 The Addiction of Wishing


Wishing is an addiction, plain and simple. The desires which provoke the wishing are never ending, especially when a ubiquitous media is geared to stoke those desires. It is standard practice among modern sales professionals to use the AIDA concept[6], Attention, Interest, Desire, Action: attract the Attention of the potential consumer, invoke Interest, establish Desire and finally facilitate the Action of purchasing. We fall for this manipulation mainly because consumption has been promoted as the means to establish our social circle and then to define our place in it. For the Miglets, having been raised with cable television and the internet, this promotion of consumption began from their infancy onwards.

In general, the wishing becomes increasingly frenetic as the wealth possessed by the wisher increases. Society builds goods, exotic goods, with fancy artwork, using thousands of hours of human labor and tons of input from Nature, for one-time use for the rich. I was at a charity auction to support a non-profit and an incredible, hand-crafted, Indian silk dress was up for a bid. The bidding was fierce until there were just two women raising their placards. Both the women were at our adjoining table that was sponsored by the same rich couple and they obviously knew each other. Yet the women kept raising the stakes until the bid reached $5000 and the woman sitting next to me stopped raising her placard. The other woman won the dress.

I turned to my neighbor and said, “You know that your friend has the dress. You can always borrow it from her and wear it whenever you want.”

She replied haughtily, “She wears it once and then that dress is finished! It will never be worn again by anyone!” It turns out that in her social circle, dresses are worn precisely once in public!

Later, I asked a reputed economist how can this continue forever with billions of people wishing for ever more one-time use goods, ad infinitum. And he replied: “Why not? With productivity improvement and price signals, infinite growth is possible.” And he proceeded to use Moore’s law in semiconductors as an example of productivity improvement that can drive the growth in economic activity, ad infinitum. Gordon Moore, a co-founder of Intel Corporation, famously said that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively in a semiconductor would double roughly every 2 years[7]. While Moore’s law has held true to date, having been in the trenches of the semiconductor revolution, I believe that the economist is sadly mistaken in his assertion that Moore’s law can continue for ever. For example, if Moore’s law continues for the next 300 years, there would be more transistors on a single semiconductor device than there are atoms in the solar system, which is absurd. Nevertheless, even if we continue to build tinier and tinier devices with more and more functionality that we replace at a faster and faster pace until we literally run out of atoms, what is this being done for, except to fuel addictions?

Therefore, wishing is an addiction. This is why billionaires with more money than they can ever spend are trudging daily to work to wish for more money. Even if that means building and expanding businesses and enterprises that pollute and destroy Life on earth.

Addictions are hard to break.

During my college years, I took up smoking much to my mother’s distress. She reminded me constantly that I was a sickly, asthmatic infant and that she had to massage my chest with warm, medicinal oil every day for the first two years of my life to help me breathe normally. Therefore, my smoking habit was truly a stupid move on my part, but from the moment I dragged on that first cigarette, I was hooked. And from the moment she found out about my smoking, Amma made it her mission to get me to stop. I tried to quit several times using nicotine patches, nicotine gum and even hypnosis, but couldn’t. And during every telephone call and in every letter from India to the US, Amma pleaded with me to quit.

In February of 1997, Amma died in her sleep peacefully in her 60th year.

In March of 1997, I quit my smoking habit for good. I was devastated that I couldn’t fulfill my mother’s one simple request when she was alive and I was determined to quit. This time, it wasn’t Amma’s nagging that was making me go through the motions of quitting, but an irresistible force from within the depths of my being that was compelling me to quit. All the propaganda, advertising and chemical machinations of the tobacco purveyors were no match for this inner force. I quit cold turkey, even before understanding most of the things that I’m writing about in this book.

Human behavioral change occurs in one of two ways: through manipulation by external forces or through inspiration from within. It is change of the latter kind that is enduring. The former changes come from coercion or fear and can be reversed when the coercion stops, while the latter changes come from love. But often times, we need an eye-opening event to trigger that inspiration, to wake us up from our habitual stupor.

For the past few decades, Nature has been sending us distress signals that our addictive wishing under the Cosmic Fig Tree cannot continue. When a population of 100,000 tigers gets diminished by 97% within a century, the Holocaust that we are perpetrating on Life through our addiction is unmistakable. Yet we continue the wishing furiously, while inventing newer and fancier technologies to stoke the desires of the wishers. Indeed, most of Google’s considerable annual revenues come from advertising related to searches, which is the pin-point targeted pushing of this addiction. Facebook promises to further refine the targeted advertising by using all our social history and our friend circles to select the products for our potential consumption. This is personalized AIDA on steroids.

Should we not quit this addiction of wishing, our Caterpillar lifestyles, before our common mother, Earth, dies? Or is there a way to continue our Caterpillar lifestyles while using alternate energy sources to fuel the Cosmic Fig Tree’s benevolence? If the latter, can this be done while raising the wishing opportunities for the nearly six billion other human beings who aren’t indulging in the tree’s bounty to date? And can this be done while preserving the biodiversity wealth of the planet? These are the questions of our times.


[6] Dan Zarella, “Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness: The Science, Design, and Engineering of Contagious Ideas,” The Domino Project, 2011. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/193671924X

[7] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore’s_law

3.2 Two Pillars of Happiness
4. The Really Inconvenient Truth
Sailesh Rao
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