The law of diminishing returns is one of the most ubiquitous laws in society. It states that along any narrow avenue of advancement, at some point, there’s no point in continuing. This law is truly almost everywhere. Cleaning your room for two hours makes a big difference. But cleaning it for three doesn’t do much more. If you clean it for four, you’re likely to start sweeping individual particles of dust and then they’ll come right back.

The law of diminishing returns happens in most research fields. As a mathematician, I can attest to it happening in mathematics. Between about 1900-1970, tremendous advancements were made and many beautiful theories were constructed. Nowadays, math is mostly about heavier and heavier abstractions that almost no one cares about. Take any discovery in pure math in the last five years and chances are, ten people in the world will know enough about it to appreciate it.

Of course, there are always exceptions, but in general, math is mostly a complete subject. The healthy thing to do would be to ask how the general practice of mathematics should change now that there’s very little to do with regard to research. Perhaps mathematicians should take some of their official time to try and help save the world now, but that hasn’t happened.

Generally, when a field or area of exploration stagnates, there are only two possibilities. The healthy thing to do is to change, and figure out something truly productive and useful to do. The unhealthy thing is to plod further and further into obscurity because it’s comfortable.

Unfortunately, most areas of human exploration that have reached the point of diminishing returns start to stagnate instead of continually changing into something new. And when that happens, they begin to become pathological and unhealthy. Frankly, it makes me sick. Humans are sick.

The point of diminishing returns has been reached in computer science and technology also. There is very little technology that will actually help us out of the current problems we face. Again, there are exceptions. Perhaps we will need carbon capture technology, advances in solar panels, and so forth. But the vast majority of technology is now just about making markets more efficient, using more efficient resources, selling people junk they don’t need, and making people more addicted to technology so that when they are finally replaced by AI, they will march happily into the existence of being mere consumers of endless meaningless media.

Just think of all the technology that is being created today to aid in this perverted shadow of what humanity could be: TikTok, algorithms, Twitter, Facebook, virtual reality, all powered and made cheap by fossil fuels and the global economy. Now we’ve got the most digusting thing of all: AI, being pushed forward by truly revolting companies like OpenAI and Cerebras, designed to make the entirety of all human enterprises soulless and mechanical. I place the CEOs of such companies on the level of toxic waste dumpers, deforesters of the Amazon, and killers.

There is one area of which we have not even begun to scratch the surface, and that is wisdom and enlightenment. Some people have caught on the idea, such as Zen Buddhists. Unfortunately, such movements are overshadowed by the sick, global economy that we have created that maximizes short-term economic gains without considering the commons we are destroying and the long-term negative effects.

The law of diminishing returns should not occur in a healthy society. In a healthy society, if some area is sufficiently developed, then the people developing that area evolve into doing something else. For example, mathematicians could change the way they do things. They could put less emphasis on publishing and endless glut of deeper and abstruse abstractions, and put more of their skills into activism and explaining the mathematician relationships in climate change and other important fields.

Similarly, computer scientists and programmers could stop wasting their time developing AI and begin to work directly on climate models or even work on reducing the amount of technology that people need to interact with. Instead, they keep creating more technology that mostly promotes materialism.

The law of diminishing returns is a symptom of the pathological search for perfection in the trite and trivial, and its ubiquitous presence perfectly reflects the sick and dying nature of our society. In a healthy society, we would have stopped most technological development long ago, and long before fossil fuels ever could have been used.

But we had not the wisdom to do so, and now our only chance is to reach a collective state of enlightenment and abandon our materialistic ways driven by the invisible hand of the markets. We may be too late and we may burn for it, but if there is any chance at all at reversing the horror we have unleashed upon ourselves and our biosphere, then at least we should try. So how about we stop trying to make ourselves immortal, all-knowing, and endlessly amused by nonsense and begin to take some responsibility?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *