September 2012 Archives

September 21, 2012 11:30 AM

The PSYchology of Abundance ("Gangnum Style")

    Since we are still in week 1 of a potential regulatory word contagion, I am going to try to contain this outbreak by mentioning it.   The potential risk of the word "abundance" and its meaningless companion phrase "psychology of abundance" cannot be overstated.  Consider that--gone unchecked--"abundance" could potentially proliferate to the scale of the word "space" (which took the place of the traditional term "market" in the late '90's through mid-2000's), or the equally-pernicious "ecosystem" (which appears to have taken the place of the correct term "economy" as little as 3-4 years ago).

    Does "abundance" have the potential to "blow up" as quickly as Korean pop star, and Internet-enthusiast, PSY's "Gangnum Style"?   Of course not!  But, it can still creep into our vernacular even at much lower rates of profusion.  For those of you that have not been among the over 230 million viewers of this video on Youtube, here's your chance.

   Oh, and that cat in the yellow suit with the Beatles wig at around 1:40?  People speculate that it could be a cameo from the world's "number 2" Internet enthusiast:  Chairman Genacowski.  Which brings us back around to the newest linguistic threat to rational regulation--the psychology of abundance.

The Chronology

    GigaOm reported on comments made by Chairman Genachowski last week at a Silicon Valley event, in which the Chairman made this statement in response to a question about how his thinking has changed regarding data caps:

"Anything that depresses broadband usage is something that we need to be really concerned about." And he further said, "We should all be concerned with anything that is incompatible with the psychology of abundance." (emphasis added)

    Now putting aside my personal view--that the FCC is contributing to depressed broadband usage by continuing to allow Blackberry to advertise its products as "smartphones"--the last statement is "ground zero."  The GigaOm article came out last Tuesday--9/11.  The same quote was published in numerous media sources throughout last week.

    Less than one week later, on Monday of this week, Scott Cleland wrote a blog mentioning the offending statement.  Randy May blogged about it the same day.  Again, on Monday, the third Republican rooster crowed, and Commissioner McDowell claimed his own gratuitous and unexplained use of the word "abundance" in his separate statement released with the cable-CLEC merger forbearance order.  Specifically, Commissioner McDowell stated,

"this action is consistent with my continued call for FCC policies that promote consumer choice offered through competition and abundance rather than through regulation and its unintended consequences."  (emphasis added)

Yes, insert your best Chris Berman "What!"  Increased consumer choice through competition . . . sure, I understand . . . but "abundance?"  Abundance [Chris Berman voice, again] . . . "What??"  Abundant choice . . . sure, but that's redundant.  No, this was "abundance" for its own sake.

What Is "The Psychology of Abundance?"

    Well, here's where it gets really interesting.  As I noted, three fairly well-esteemed sources repeated the "psychology of abundance" quote--GigaOm, Scott Cleland, and Randy May--but here's the thing: no one questioned what it meant.  Not the GigaOm reporter who asked the question, and neither Randy nor Scott in their commentary.  

    So I see this phrase sprouting up everywhere this week, and I'm thinking the whole world is already familiar with a phrase I never saw until Tuesday!  So, what do I do?  I look it up on the Internet.  And you know what?  Aside from a few scattered references, which shed no light on the subject, the only "consensus" definition of "psychology of abundance" seems to be pretty much reflected in this explanation from Psychology Wiki.

In psychology, psychotherapy and management theory, abundance theory postulates a benign universe in which any individual with the correct attitude, training, or spiritual alignment can acquire personal abundance which should lead to material abundance: wealth regardless of economic or social circumstances (reality).

    Apparently, if you are open to the many opportunities of the universe (not just where you live, but the whole universe--this much is also agreed upon), you will attract "abundance" to yourself.  Not just in spiritual benefits, but also material rewards, and--according to the Chairman--greater broadband consumption, too (if you're open to it).  


    Unfortunately, now that we understand the "psychology of abundance", we are no closer to understanding the Chairman's response to the GigaOm reporter's question.  It's hard to see how a devout practitioner of the psychology of abundance would find data caps to be any sort of impediment to "abundant" broadband usage.  Any individual with the right training can easily attract abundant resources to pay for the occasional data overage.

    This leaves the rest of us to deal with another regulatory-induced linguistic rupture.  Please do your part and stamp out this pernicious threat in its incipiency.  By repeating this meaningless phrase, we all run the risk of legitimizing more flotsam in the already-bloated regulatory vocabulary.  Muddled language cannot produce intelligent discourse.  No matter your views on the threat posed by data caps, the misuse of the term "abundance" threatens all of our sanity.