I found this post on the diminishing marginal utility of stuff climbing Hacker News yesterday morning and it resonated with me both in general and for my trip.
Particular lifestyles more easily lend themselves to having less things. For example, computer programmers without families can live in a cheap apartment with not much more than a laptop computer, some t-shirts and jeans. Other professions are not as easy to do with less stuff, such as working in the financial industry because you tend to need suits, dress shirts, and ties for both work and social events.
Yet certainly it's much easier today with the digitization of many products to do with less stuff. I use a Kindle and iPad for reading instead of keeping mounds of paper books around. I watch movies on-demand instead of storing a library of DVDs. My pictures are in digital albums instead of physical photo albums.
However, that's not really the point of the post. Really what the author is getting at is that after a certain point of comfort with food, water, shelter, and entertainment options, there are less useful things available to purchase if you are not interested in big-ticket luxury items such as expensive cars or big houses stocked with furniture. What would really be worth purchasing is enhancements to ourselves, such as cures for ailments. The author brings up a vision deficiency he has. Certainly he'd be willing to pay thousands of dollars to fix that issue but there is no available cure today.
It will be interesting to see if advances in biology and bioinformatics eventually lead to worthwhile purchases that allow people to fix or even "upgrade" themselves. Wealth would certainly flow from people with means to the companies that could provide those solutions.