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Why Scarcity is Good

Photo © piyaset/

The banker: “With all this money you and your children will be secure forever. You will not have to worry about a thing.” The old lady: “Sounds like a curse to me!”

The quote is from Pachinko, the acclaimed (and highly recommended) TV series from Apple. A small piece of land owned by an old lady of modest means is blocking a huge development project. The banker is offering a fortune to get her out of the way, but she’s not impressed. The point she’s somberly making is about abundance: To her, riches seems like a curse.

Not a novel observation, but an unusual one these days: The world – you and I – watch the old lady with admiration and respect, then turn around and crave for more of everything: Money, property, ‘stuff’, pampering, relaxation, time off, etc. – abundance. And here’s the thing: Many, maybe most of us have no idea what scarcity feels like. Except 2nd hand – from TV and movies. And increasingly from the news.

An unfortunate situation because it makes us fragile. We’ve made ourselves dependent on assumed predictability. One that exists only in short windows of time. An unnatural state – yet we pretend it is the opposite, a given. Then, when reality hits, we – at least in my part of the world – demand that the government fixes it. 

It’s tempting to dive into the scores of examples hitting us through the daily news cycle, but my point is this: We need scarcity to rebalance our relationship with life, with work, with nature, with ourselves even. And we’re getting there, however unwillingly, at an accelerating pace when we discover that not even clean air or water are given anymore. It’s going to be a rough ride, but the sooner we can turn our mindset around and synchronise with reality, the better we get at handling it.

This week’s post on is about a different kind of scarcity and the inspiration and creativity it generates – in a technology setting. Not immediately obvious, but retrocomputing – learning, understanding, fixing and using old computers and technical equipment – delivers that. They present an environment with technical scarcity and related challenges which force us to think differently, turn every stone, literally use every ‘bit’ to deliver the impossible. 

Right off the bat, retrocomputing may sound like a pastime, a hobby – and to many people it is. Surprisingly it’s also a fascinating career path, which is what the post Why Retrocomputing is Important discusses. Spoiler alert – it’s about Voyager Spacecrafts, the Apollo Lunar Lander, BART (trains), surprising dependencies and interesting career paths. Who would think Windows 98 may be powering the train you’re riding today… ?

Bottom line, and back to the headline: Scarcity is good because it forces us – and teaches us – to get along, optimize, share, be creative with what we have, avoid wastefulness. Recover some of what we lost in years of abundance. Rebalance. And make us more resilient.

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