THE BLOG
08/18/2015 03:42 pm ET Updated Aug 18, 2016

The Age of Addiction

Peter Drucker coined the term "the age of discontinuity," implying that we are all experiencing some kind of discontinuity all the time.

He was right.

I would add another description of our age: "the age of addiction."

I suggest we were never as addicted to as many agents of addiction as we are at present.

Why?

Because there are more "pushers" than ever who supply us with addictive "goods" and who are more sophisticated and skilled today than ever before in the history of mankind.

Who are these sophisticated "pushers"?

They are the multi-billion dollar companies with a staff that spends millions to study our behavior, locate our weaknesses and manipulate our needs. In effect they are geared to discover ways in which we are most prone to become addicted to their products... regardless of our well-being.

Consumer behavior, for example, is studied at business schools as well as within corporations. Millions are spent analyzing how we buy, when we buy, and how to make us come back again and again.

The products are designed to addict us. Take tobacco. The tobacco companies have been accused of adding chemicals to the tobacco itself with the end goal of making it addictive.

And how about the food processing companies? They specialize in developing food that is adjusted (read this as meaning corrupted) with chemicals so that it is tasty and we become dependent on it.

And of course the "pushers" have a vast network of sales channels to make their goods easily accessible. They spend millions on advertising, utilizing all forms of media so we can hardly miss the temptation.

Here are some common examples: We are vulnerable to addiction to tobacco, sugar-laced drinks and salty food. More recently we have become dependent on electronic gadgets like the iPhone and the computer with all of its applications. Meanwhile children are addicted to computer games and some housewives to TV. And some are exposed to alcohol addiction and sexual addiction and illegal drug addiction...

There is more to it.

Presumably the pharmaceutical companies are supposed to protect us. Instead they are some of the major corporations intent on addicting us. For example, many psychiatric medicines are addictive. You cannot stop taking them. Or consider the sleeping pill.

Where is this all coming from?

You know the answer. Money. Money.

We live in a world where profit, the search for material abundance is legitimized in economic theory and business school education. In the search for more and more profits companies will explore plans and strategies designed to increase revenue: innovate, promote, serve and secure repeat purchasing. Make the product as addictive as possible. Big Macs. Sugar-laced soda-pop. GMO adulterated wheat. These are only the tip of the iceberg.

What are the repercussions?

The more dependent we are, the less empowered we are.

And we are becoming increasingly powerless. We depend on so many products that we have to work very hard to obtain them. And since we are addicted, it is difficult to resist them.

Take the car. Could you live without one? Even if you use public transportation?

And what about the mobile phone? And computer? Can you live without them?

If I start counting my addictions -- what I would suffer if I did not have them -- the list is not insignificant: iPhone, computer, car, certain food products such as oil, flour, and salt all baked together.

And then there is work. Yes, I am addicted to work.

Vacation is a punishment. Taking a day off without my computer and iPhone is an invitation to suffer.

And food addiction? I have that one too. I am addicted to bread. A meal without bread is no meal, regardless of how incredibly well prepared it is.

When I visit developing nations I find that people are poor, but much more prone to smile. They seem to be free, or at least free in ways that we are not. And I think to myself, all we are trying to do is help them develop. But I wonder as they move closer to becoming a developed nation, will they stop smiling and be addicted like us to the "benefits" of being an advanced economy?

It seems that the higher the standard of living is, the lower the quality of life.