I’ve been wondering recently why nothing ever lasts.
Not in the sense of entropy, or our futile battle against energy dispersal.
But in the sense that cars can’t be fixed by hand anymore, hardware/software is compatible for next to no time, phones are built to last months not years, my tablet battery isn’t replaceable yet alone accessible…
This post popped up Just in time…
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/obsolescence-other-side-ces-rob-norman (amazing by the way LinkedIn, I didn’t realise I’d authorised your app to access my brain yet)
…and neatly helped shape those frustrations that things are built to fail, built to be replaced ever quicker, built to earn quarterly profits not long term customers.
“ROPO (Return On Planned Obsolescence) is now a business model.”
Doesn’t it feel ironic that this spiralling of shorter product lifecycle actually locks people into loyalty.
Whether it’s because of the ease of silos or the benefits of product development, there’s no brand bed hopping with cloud back ups, synced accounts and fridges that takes selfies.
“Of the multitude of things I saw at CES I can’t think of a single one that was designed to last longer than that which replaced or that increased the life expectancy of something already in use”.
Doesn’t that feel like a shame?
I guess there’d be no innovation if we relied on making things that didn’t need replacing every five minutes, rather than using obsolescence as a route to quick bucks?
No one makes money from my eight year old refrigerator nor the 185,000 miles on my twelve year old car (except the repairman, if a repair is economically viable).
“For all our collective protestations regarding environmental sensitivity we are collectively colluding to a massive increase in technojunk and its effect on the world around us.”
Doesn’t that feel…contradictory?
Ever wondered where we’ll put all the CDs and phone chargers once we don’t need them anymore?
“There is an imperative to develop strategies that recycle functional products to people to whom need is greater than want.”
Doesn’t all of this create an imperative to be more ambitious – to reconcile innovation with longevity; sustainability with consumption; economies with people?
Recycling redundant tech to luddites or the less fortunate might help; but resolving our paradoxical attitudes to conservation and profit may require the adoption of a new paradigm in our technology fuelled economy.
Perhaps I’m short sighted to think I’d have all these great things that improve my quality of life if there wasn’t an ever quickening lifecycle of product and profit to fund innovation.
Perhaps I’m naive to the intricacies of our globalised system – jobs, growth, poverty, opportunity, entrepreneurship.
Perhaps I’m a hypocrite – for all my reusing, recycling, charity shop donations and one cup kettle boiling, my consumption setting is stuck fast on eat-sleep-repeat, I’m the son of a society that’s long explored and exploited the world’s assets.
Perhaps I’m old fashioned now I’m in my thirties and past my sell by date.
It must be time to replace and upgrade me with a smile detecting duo-camera, temperature sensitive controls and integrated selfie stick.
But despite my ignorance – as you can tell I’m no economist, business brain or philosopher, let alone scientist – I’d like to think that there’s a better way to innovate than creating waste where it’s not needed. (The second law of thermodynamics might disagree).
Version 1.0 of me doesn’t have the answers.
Perhaps I just need to get used to the fact that nothing ever lasts forever.
Or not even nearly that long.
Not even a well made fridge.
Sorry Rob Norman, I've robbed you conclusions without asking. Hope you don't mind my product development? Sorry Beko as well. Once I found out it wasn't pronounced 'bee-ko', I couldn't resist. Your lettuce looks lovely by the way (and remarkably useful compared to paw-proof doors).