Monday, May 25, 2009

Book Review: Spent: Sex, Evolution and the Secrets of Consumerism by Geoffrey Miller & William Heinemann

Darwin's birthday coincides with the premier of the film, Confessions of a Shop-a-holic. While this might appear to be two mutually independent events, authors Geoffrey Miller and Willian Heinemann beg to differ. Shopping, they attest, is an trait we have acquired in our evolution and plays significantly in out current methods of selecting the ideal partner. They tie together evolution and our developed consumer spending habits to assert that the latter "“makes us forget our natural adaptations for showing off desirable fitness-related traits." In other words, money has the ability override our sexual selection abilities by granting us the ability to purchase desirable traits! Luckily, Miller et. al. continues their theory by asserting, luckily, we --luckily-- have evolved concomitantly since the introduction of consumerism and now, we have the innate ability to detect these purchased and fake traits and override their appeal! He uses these theories, loosely based on Darwin's sexual/social selection findings, to explain the impact of consumerism in our lives.

Additionally, he advances his findings by using them to explain routine and normal consumer decisions. For instance, he assert that often, extra features on an consumer electronic device are not purchased for their technical use, but for their abilities to provide the consumer with a way to discuss those features in ways that makes them appear more intelligent.

In my opinion, the book is mostly geared towards marketers and others in the business industry who aim to attract others' affinity for a living. Those looking for a scientifically sound explanation of how evolution and consumerism evolved together and fit into our modern lives should look elsewhere. There's hardly any attempt at empirically proving the assertions in the book. It's quite loony at times. However, it was still highly interesting to see how Darwin's findings can be incorporated into out daily, modern lives. "Spent" was also a fun and entertaining read, albeit I remind you it wasn't super educational, read. I recommend it for the curious, the stags, and the marketers.


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