culture

Peak Peak

The Guardian recent published a little spattering of articles talking about such frivolous things as peak beard and peak craft beer. While this is a cute way of poking fun at current trends I worry that it is devaluing a useful term.

Most people are using “peak X” to mean simply “X suffers diminishing returns”. Namely that at some point supply of a product, be it facial hair or small-batch beer, exceeds demand and its over-supply actually diminishes demand.

The original form of the term, peak oil, refers to the moment when you maximise the conversion of a finite resource. The point about peak oil is that once you’ve hit it you can no longer achieve the same output again. After the peak, the value of the resource begins to rise due to its scarcity and the diminishing availability of the resource starts to outweigh the efficiency gains in its conversion.

Although it seems that in terms of popular usage the misapplication of “peak” seems to be winning, I think it would be a shame if people start misunderstanding the original meaning of the term due to the misapplication to renewal resources.

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