What a Conundrum!
// Posted by Lois on 06/11/2015 (9:23 PM)
Classmates – sorry my post is coming in a bit late…
Planned obsolescence is a term I was not familiar with until this class. After reading the article Made To Break I was clearly aware of just how much of a conundrum we, the U.S., find ourselves in. The challenge is what to do with waste, and can the volume be reduced? How is the waste we are disposing of today affecting people in the future? So many items become obsolete because they are manufactured for a short shelf life. We read about the electronic devices that we all use and seem to be continuously upgrading to the latest version or model. It made me think…what did I do with my previous cell phone and I remembered that I had donated it. So, I upgraded to a faster, more effective digital product but the one I disposed of was/is being put to good use because it’s being rebuilt for another user – someone who can’t afford to purchase a cell phone but really needs the technology. Thinking of disposal in this regard seems fair and I don’t feel guilty for upgrading to a new device. But, I think the overwhelming majority of devices are disposed of in landfills or just simply sit somewhere until someone decides where it should go. Who is the caretaker of digital waste product???
One example in the reading was General Electric flashlight bulbs. Making an inferior product with a shortened life span increases the demand and turnaround time in between consumer purchases. It’s definitely a financial mess! How many times I’ve blown a bulb immediately after installing it or shortly thereafter only to throw it in the trash not thinking where it is going to end up, and simply purchase more bulbs. I don’t think a lot of thought has been given to this issue over the years but it is surfacing now due to the increased waste Americans generate and the lack of places to properly dispose of the waste. Disposal of waste is a huge part of the discussion around planned obsolescence, but so is money.
Americans are buyers. We spend money. We spend money on lots of things both small and large. Obsolescence of automobiles and computers and cell phones are but a few examples. What happened when Apple announced the iPhone watch? There was a wait list to purchase the watch. It was the newest technological release by Apple and the world was in a hurry to get it! When we make purchases, I don’t think we’re consciously thinking about the lifespan of the item, we’re just happy to have something newer, faster or advertised as “better.” When we upgrade our computers we’re not thinking of the pieces and parts of the computer and the computer screen or what happens to the “old,” we’re focused on the “new.” I think the more attention that is brought to this subject and, the more people are aware of planned obsolescence; the demand for longer lasting, more durable products will increase. Maybe not digital items as the world seems obsessed with increasing our digital capabilities. But items like paper products, lightbulbs, clothing, car parts, etc., could be made better and more durable. But, that would mean less demand from the consumer and less money would be made by the seller which would have a negative effect on the employee whose job isn’t needed any longer due to the decrease in demand. The financial cycle would be effected and trickle down to the average consumer and worker. That’s why I said in the beginning of this blog post that planned obsolescence is a conundrum.
I don’t have an answer to fix the issue…it’s huge and it’s growing. Production of items with a purposely shortened shelf life is not going to decrease because there is money to be made by the manufacturer. As with most things…money talks loudest, unfortunately.
Here is a really spot on video that is a song called “Limited Lives.” I think it showcases planned obsolescence quite well! It’s funny but it definitely sends a profound message to the viewer!