Beyond Information Abundance

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Essay: 21st-Century Political Economies: Beyond Information Abundance. by Roberto Verzola



"As a result of the relatively low cost of digital reproduction, a global transformation is occurring in the nature of products and processes and in types of goods and services. Arising from information abundance, this global transformation is making the phenomenon of abundance a major field of study, not only for economists but also for other social scientists and physical scientists as well. This essay proposes an economic definition of abundance and a typology of sources of abundance. It argues that real economic abundance can come about only when the demand for a good is finite and the plentiful supply makes the abundant good affordable enough to all members of society. It lists an abundance-nurturing ethic as a major goal of abundance management, and encourages economists to make abundance together with scarcity their conceptual point of departure. Finally it links the phenomenon of abundance to the concept of the commons." (


Roberto Verzola on the Demand Side of Abundance (the 3 SAT’s):

"The following concepts will help show that needs and wants can remain within finite bounds:

  • Satiation: Many economists still cling to the hedonist principle that „more is always preferred to less. But some acknowledge, at least in theory, that a satiation level exists for some, if not most, goods. Varian, in particular, says that most goods have a satiation point and that „you can have too much of nearly anything,” which contradicts the „unlimited wants” assertion in most definitions of economics
  • Saturation: Beyond the saturation point, one's body either will become incapable or will involuntarily reject additional servings of food and drinks. One can only wear so many clothes, or shoes. One can listen to only so many CDs or watch only so many videos.
  • Satisficing: Even before we reach our satiation or saturation levels, we may already reach our satisficed level, in which the quantity we have of a particular good or bundle of goods already suffices to satisfy, and beyond which we would only weakly prefer more.13 In contrast to satiation, which results in a strictly lower preference beyond the bliss point or satiation level, points beyond the satisficing level are either equally preferred or only so slightly or weakly preferred that it does not make a difference.


Roberto Verzola’s Typology of Abundance :

Compiled by Rok Kranj:

Definition of abundance

“when a person can afford enough quantity of a good or bundle of goods to reach his/her satisficed level, then the person enjoys a state of abundance for that good/bundle of goods [...] This definition also allows a good's state of abundance with respect to one person to be quantified: it is the ratio of that person's affordable quantity (economists call this demand, which varies according to price) to his/her satisficing level, which is the point where any further reduction in price does not anymore increase that person's demanded quantity.”

Main arguments:

>Information goods are a unique commodity - nonrival, non-material goods with diminishing/near-zero marginal cost (what Verzola calls “multiplicative abundance”)

>Several abundance archetypes may be defined

Abundance Archetypes:

  • Multiplicative abundance of information goods: abundance that is created when the cost of reproducing the (non-material) resource approaches zero
  • Reproductive abundance of living organisms: as long as the right conditions exist for the reproductive processes to occur, ecological systems of interacting biological webs of organisms will provide us a timeless source of abundance

Two additional archetypes below are based on the massive bulk of certain elements and compounds found on Earth and elsewhere (e.g. air, water, sand, wind, minerals, solar energy).

  • Abundance based on persistent mass: matter is never really destroyed - persistent matter (e.g. metals) undergoes very little chemical transformation - their persistence allows them to be reused or recycled over and over again, with little additional processing; the principle management approach for this archetype is a better system of recovering and recycling the resource, to enhance the persistence of these abundant goods for their human users
  • Abundance of massive-dissipative resources - while we may start with an abundance by virtue of their bulk, the use of the resource transforms and depletes it; the principle management approach for this archetype should be conservation, to leave as much of the resource to future generations, who may discover much better ways of putting these non-renewable resources to good use

Careful though, for … Pseudo abundance - bads posing as goods (e.g. not accounting for externalities)"

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Source: Verzola, Roberto. 2009. “21st-Century Political Economies: Beyond Information Abundance”. The International Review of Information Ethics 11 (October).


  1. Issue 11 of IRIE: Ethics of Waste in the Information Society
  2. Another article on the topic of Abundance: Network Ecologies: Geophilosophy between Conflict and Cartographies of Abundance. by Soenke Zehle