The Cost of Things…

Posted: January 28, 2012 at 10:59 am

I was just thinking about a conversation I had with Matthew Forsythe during Interactive Screen 1.0, in Banff. I had been thinking a while about the cost of the things we use, I don’t just mean material costs, but also ecological and geological cost. The problem of calculating the cost of a particular product is quite difficult because of the arbitrary horizon (scope) of the calculation.

For example, lets take a pencil, the obvious costs include the wood and graphite, the cost of producing those components could be included. What is the cost of mining the graphite? What about the logging of the wood? What about the people paid to mine and log? What about the equipment needed? Not only that, what about the cost of all the machines used in those processes? What about the machines used to make those machines? We could go even further, what is the cost (in time) of the growth of that wood? What is the geological cost of the production of graphite?

Calculating the “true” cost of anything becomes a problem akin to measuring the length of a coastline. The closer you move the horizon of measurement to “reality” the longer the coastline, and the greater the cost. Perhaps the cost of everything (in infinite quantity) is infinite. The whole history of the universe is required for anything/everything to exist. That is expensive.