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Refrigerator Abundance

Blog Post | Cost of Material Goods

Refrigerator Abundance

You can get 13.23 refrigerators today for the time price of one in 1956.

An advertisement for a 1956 Frigidaire refrigerator has recently been making the rounds on social media thanks to the appliance’s impressive features, like a removable produce drawer and automatic ice ejector. Hundreds of thousands of people fawned over the product, claiming that it is superior to the ones available today. As often happens, the truth is more complicated.

For example, the advertisement neglects to mention an important piece of information—the price. In 1956, a top-of-the-line Frigidaire cost $469.95. Back then, the U.S. blue-collar compensation (wages and benefits) rate was around $2.16 an hour, making the time price of the Frigidaire about 217.57 hours. Today you can get a Frigidaire at Home Depot for $549.00. It doesn’t have some of the nifty features of the older model, but at nearly 14 cubic feet, it is larger and more energy efficient.

The hourly compensation rate, in the meantime, has increased to $33.39 an hour, so the time price of a refrigerator has fallen by 92.44 percent to 16.44 hours. You can get 13.23 refrigerators today for the time price of one in 1956. Refrigerator innovation has been growing at an annual compounded rate of around 4 percent. At this rate, personal refrigerator abundance doubles every 17.7 years.

In 1956, the U.S. population was about 164 million. We have more than doubled in size to over 333 million today. The total time required to earn the money to buy everyone a refrigerator in 1956 was around 35.6 billion hours. The time today is only about 5.48 billion hours. So, we have reduced the total time to provide everyone with a refrigerator by 84.66 percent.

We can measure population-level refrigerator abundance by multiplying personal refrigerator abundance by population size. In this analysis, we went from a value of 164 in 1956 to 4,406 in 2022, a 2,586.8 percent increase. Population-level refrigerator abundance has been increasing at a 5.1 percent compound annual rate, doubling every 14 years.

Elasticity measures the relationship between two variables. Every 1 percent increase in population corresponded to an 11.87 percent increase in personal refrigerator abundance (1,223.3 percent divided by 103 percent) and a 25.1 percent increase in population refrigerator abundance (2,586.8 percent divided by 103 percent).

That said, what if you want a refrigerator that’s top-of-the-line like the 1956 Frigidaire was back in its day? This 22.5 cubic foot behemoth sells for $4,899.95 and has a filtered water and ice dispenser, humidity-controlled storage, and a freezer drawer with an independent temperature range (in case you want your beer extra icy but not totally frozen). At $33.39 an hour, it would take just 146.75 hours to purchase. That’s 33 percent less working time than was needed in 1956.

The next time you open your refrigerator to enjoy a cool beverage or a frozen dessert, thank our fellow human beings who work to discover and create little bits of knowledge each day that show up in the innovation abundance all around us.

You can learn more about these economic facts and ideas in our forthcoming book, Superabundance, available for preorder at Amazon. Jordan Peterson calls it a “profoundly optimistic book.”

Blog Post | Cost of Technology

MacBooks Galore! Laptop Abundance since 1991

Since 1991, laptop abundance has increased by a factor of six up to a factor of infinity.

In 1991, Apple introduced the PowerBook 100 priced at $2,500. Blue-collar hourly compensation at the time was $14.93, so the time price was around 168 hours. Today you can pick up a 13.3-inch MacBook Air for $999. With blue-collar hourly compensation around $36.50 today, the time price is just over 27 hours. You can get six MacBook Airs today for the time price of one PowerBook 100 in 1991.

The PowerBook 100 weighed 5.1 pounds and featured a 640×480 monochrome LED screen, 2 megabytes of memory, and 20 megabytes of storage. The battery was good for three hours. The MacBook Air has 13.3 times more pixels (in millions of colors), 4,000 times more memory, and 12,800 times more storage than the PowerBook 100. It weighs 45 percent less, and the battery lasts six times longer. The MacBook Air has Wi-Fi, a 720-pixel camera, and stereo speakers and comes with 32 apps ranging from music programs to spreadsheets.

While it’s hard to make a direct comparison, a simple way to do an analysis is to ask MacBook Air users how many PowerBook 100s they would need to give up their one Air. Most users now think the PowerBook 100 has negative value due to the disposal costs. That would make the MacBook Air infinitely more valuable.

This article was published at Gale Winds on 11/7/2023.

Blog Post | Cost of Technology

Atari to Xbox

Get two Xbox Series X consoles for the time price of one Atari 2600.

The Atari 2600 was introduced in 1977 and was priced at $199. Unskilled wages at the time were $3.15 an hour, so the time price was around 63 hours. Today you can pick up an Xbox Series X for $499. With unskilled wages today being around $16.50 an hour, the time price is just over 30 hours. You can buy two Xbox Series X consoles today for the time price of one Atari 2600 in 1977.

Atari 2600 home video console system next to an Xbox series X

The Atari had a chip running at 1.19 megahertz (or 1,190,000 cycles per second) and had 128 bytes of random access memory. The maximum resolution was 160×192 with 128 colors.

Combat (video game) for the Atari system, and Gears 5 (video game) for the Xbox series x

The Xbox Series X graphics chip runs at 12 teraflops, or 12 trillion floating-point operations per second. It has 16 gigabits of memory and 1 terabyte of storage and can display billions of colors on an 8K display.

The Series X can display 1,080 times more pixels in millions of more colors 10 million times faster with 125 million times more memory. In the past 46 years, computer creativity has grown exponentially abundant—just as Gordon Moore and George Gilder predicted.

A version of this article was published at Gale Winds on 10/24/2023.

The Human Progress Podcast | Ep. 37

Stephen Barrows: The Economic Madness of Malthusianism

The economist Stephen Barrows joins Chelsea Follett to discuss the intellectual history of population economics, the benefits of population growth, and what we can expect from a future of falling fertility.

Blog Post | Cost of Technology

Portraits Were Just Expensive Selfies

This was originally published on Pessimists Archive.

In the process of exploring reactions to the advent and development of photography, we came across a fascinating article about ‘sun pictures, ’an early name for photography. One notable observation—something we don’t think about today—was that photography extended portraits to everyone. What was once only for kings, queens and titans of industry became available to everyone. This got us thinking, weren’t portraits just expensive selfies? And aren’t selfies just the portraits of modern times?

The full article can be read here and is well worth your time.