Once you learn about Moore's Law, you start to see it everywhere. Not only is CPU speed increasing exponentially, but so is hard disk storage and network technologies. Beyond the direct participants in Moore's Law-like growth patterns there are secondary and tertiary fields that have also been affected: weapons have become exponentially deadlier and our ability to reap food from the Earth has become exponentially easier. There's a compounding effect to all this. Faster CPU speed makes it easier to do research, which makes it easier to invent the Internet, which then makes it easier to do research, which then makes it easier to make bullets and farm.
But just as we are seeing Moore's Law everywhere, we are also noticing where it's absent. Despite the proliferation of many Moore's Laws in many fields, there's just some things that won't change. For example, tables in restaurants will still be uneven because the incentives to constantly bend over and adjust the tables in restaurants aren't there, and the value of a stable table isn't high enough to justify the invention of affordable self-adjusting table technology. Exponentially increasing CPU speed won't mean that such self-adjusting table technology will all of a sudden become affordable, or that if it does, it may take 100+ years to get here. So don't hold your breath.
But that may just be a problem with the nature of human demand. We aren't really demanding unwobbly tables that much, and it doesn't affect the restaurant-going experience that much, so it doesn't necessarily get the fruits of technological progress as quickly as something core, like our ability to kill each other and farm food.
But even controlling for human demand, the limits of Moore's Law can be found in technological areas. For example, pervasive cell phone reception does not appear to be increasing exponentially. Even though cell towers are getting more powerful and cheaper to build, the cost to install them probably isn't changing much. Even as the cell phone bandwidth is getting better in places where there already exists coverage, it still is horrible on a cross-country drive across the United States, and it is likely to remain horrible for a couple more decades. Sure, there isn't enough demand in those rural areas to justify installing a cell tower, but the problem is also subject to labor costs, which are probably rising as well as fixed resource costs, such as the fuel necessary to move installation equipment to those rural areas. It takes a certain amount of calories to dig a post for a cell tower that just won't get automatically obliterated by exponential technological progress.
We therefore have one foot in the rapidly changing future and one in a world that is becoming increasingly banal. Our impatience for technological progress that should be here by now is encapsulated perfectly by the question, "Where are our damn flying cars?"
Carl Jung's concept of typologies has a resonance in modern times, because one of the most common divides and labels that people struggle under is whether or not they're a people-person. The people-person is hailed as being charismatic, potentially a leader, able to connect with many people and rack up thousands of Facebook friends. The non-people-person carries the stigma of being aloof or uninterested in others, and by extension, uninterested in the human race.
What the typologies do is give these shy people a different label to linger under. It gives them the terms introversion and extroversion. Introversion changes the conversation from substance to style, from content to the nature of the content. It's not people that introverts have a problem with, but it's the tempo and over-stimulation of socializing, especially in large groups. It's not a people-problem that introverts have, but rather a temperament-problem.
Temperament is the middleware of the brain. It represents our inclination for certain patterns and structures of thought. It deals with pacing and flow. For example, when we receive a stimulus, do we process it and deal with it immediately, or do we reach for the third of fourth association and start to daydream? Or, do we parallel process those thoughts? None of this says anything about whether introverts like people or not. Socializing just carries with it a certain tempo. People in a group stream in and out, with their own thoughts, topics and proclivities, and structurally it can be an overwhelming swarm for introverts to handle.
Does the existence of Advil make headaches more insufferable? If there was absolutely no cure for headaches, would we suffer them as much? We would probably have a lot more resignation towards it, or perhaps we wouldn't notice it, since it would lay solely in our blind-spot.
When we reach for a palliative, we assume the order of events is from vexation to question to answer. We think that the unpleasant feeling in our skull leads us to ask others, "Have you ever had a headache?" which leads to an answer, "Sure, just take an Advil."
But what if the sequence of events moves in the opposite direction? The existence of the answer draws the question out of us, and in tandem the knowledge of the vexation. A mother notices her son is quiet in the backseat and asks, "What's wrong?" To which he replies, "My head hurts," which is a sentence he overheard somewhere. After which, a Children's Tylenol appears in his mouth, and now an entry for "headache" is created in his mental database of fixable things. Perhaps even the question, "What's wrong?" wouldn't have been asked 50 to a 100 years ago because parents didn't have iPads and pills in their panacea toolbox.
Likewise, how does the pervasiveness of anti-depressants change the meaning of happiness?
So much of fashion is about sticking to certain trends and styles to convey that I'm this "kind" of person: "I'm a rocker," "I'm a tech professional," "I'm into creativity and art." But within these kinds or species, there's incredible differentiation among organisms. Some species have a lots of conformity of expression, such as investment bankers, and others have much more variability, such as New York fashionistas. But even with the variability of a New York fashionista, you can still look at them from across the street and think to yourself, "Oh, this is some 'New York fashionista'" even though their ensemble may be very individualized.
The hipster poses problems for this way of thinking. Hipster fashion defines itself with being syncretic, slapping together bits from other species, almost like a collage, and then re-purposing them with some commentary such as irony or nostalgia. However, despite this remixing, you can still spot a hipster. Even if they dress like a jazz musician from the 50s, there will still be dead giveaways: the curly mustache, the fake eye-glasses, or simply that the guy looks too young and savvy to just be a professional jazz player.
Now that hipsters are falling out of fashion, the question is, What will take their place? While for most hipsters their dress was about conforming to their indiepop-youth scene, some of them were trying to push the limits of individuality (like our 50s jazz muscian). The next logical step then is a new kind of style based around sui generis, which means "of its own kind or genus." The members of this new way of thinking will have to be so far from each other that they can't even be accused of being some syncretic "out there"-thinking or ironic hipster. They have to not only avoid appearing like a goth or a rocker or this or that, they have to not even be accused of being part of this new movement. Everybody in this new "group" will need a look that is simply undefined.
This will complicate one of the purposes of fashion, which is to identify your kind. The only way members of this "sui generis" class will be able to identify each other is if they can can tell that the person is dressing really well, but simultaneously can't tell which box they belong to.
An attractive woman who is perpetually single presents a paradox. (For the sake of argument, let's consider only women, since beauty is such a linear selector for them). If we assume that she is straight and desires a relationship, the paradox is obvious: How could someone presented with so many options find themselves with none. When they pass us by on the street, we often think, "It must be nice." It must be nice to be attractive and have plenty of suitors. But for the attractive woman, it doesn't feel that way.
A clue can be found in the oft-cited study on the paradox of choice. Grocery shoppers, when presented with a table of three jams vs. a table with thirty-seven, often buy more from the table with fewer choices. The reasoning is that having too many choices causes decision-anxiety, since there are too many items to compare amongst.
But perhaps this misses the true cause. The attractive woman who has exclusive access to high-quality suitors sees their situation as a burden. They find themselves with a unique opportunity, and so they have a greater responsibility to maximize their gains. Their ancestors took all sorts of genetic risks to produce a great-great-great-granddaughter of eminent beauty, and now their chickens are coming home to roost. The attractive woman then holds out, straining to maximize their options.
When there is a so-so pool to choose from, any satisfactory candidate will do. But when presented with exceptional choice, only an exceptional candidate will do.
So perhaps the jam study isn't about the numerical overload of choices, but about the pressure to seize opportunities. The more splendid the situation, the more we start thinking about the most we can extract from it. Our ancestors, upon discovering a grove with tremendous bounty, thought about how to transport the most and best of this back to the tribe. If they didn't, then they would have never created alpha males nor buoyed their tribe enough to survive harsh winters.
The word "opportunist" is often a derogatory term, but we are all opportunists at heart, just latent ones.