Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Planned obsolescence - another unjudged crime

A few years back I was irritated that my not so old gadget broke down. "How could that be, it is almost new!" I exclaimed. My friend smiled saying "things are made to break down, ideally, before you reach your home from the retail shop". I laughed thinking it seemed like it. Little did I know that there was a term and a whole strategy behind such an idea.

Planned obsolescence, a term known to environmentalists, those who inquire about our ways of living or economists who know this term as a golden rule for depreciation. In industrial design this is "a policy of planning or designing a product with a limited useful life, so it will become obsolete, [...] unfashionable or no longer functional after a certain period of time. Planned obsolescence has potential benefits for a producer because to obtain continuing use of the product the consumer is under pressure to purchase again, whether from the same manufacturer (a replacement part or a newer model), or from a competitor which might also rely on planned obsolescence." (Wikipedia)

Perhaps in 1950s, when the idea was popularized by an American industrial designer, Brooks Stevens and when the world's population was roughly 2,5 billion, built-in obsolescence could have been "excused" or ignored. Nonetheless, today when the population mark has passed 7 billion and is expected to grow over 9 billion by 2050, this practice is a crime!

Obscolescence might be hidden under the "fashion" claims or functionality failure. Does your IPhone 3G no longer allows updates for main applications such as Viber, Skype or Whats App? Do you get a messages "only higher versions of your Apple gadget support this product?" Then you know what this means, body. The next version is out! Better? No, shinier...

What happens tech once its trash?
No matter how much upcycling and repairing we do, no matter how green we attempt to be, if we do not stand up to such shallow practices that impact grossly on our planet. It is frightening to see how we have became accomplices of such strategies without even noticing. The cancer of the society slowly spreading through our consumption. Planned obscolescence is part of today's business curricula, while sustainability has not reached or is only timidly tapping into the classroom of future innovators, managers and leaders at large. We all have fallen victims of this culture, we all have been sinning to smaller or bigger degree through promoting and being silent about wastefulness. 

As we indulge in new fashion, as we update our gadgets, appliances or our outfits, we are supporting crimes against Earth! Complacent with the claims of our retailers " all gets recycled, don't worry", we destine our trash to hidden landfills further ashore that leaches toxic substances into the land, water streams and air.

The light bulb conspiracy (trailer) 
Movie on the birth of Planned Obsolescence here (Spanish), 52min

Ecocide is a crime, and so should be Planned Obsolescence!

RELATED: Life sentence for Ecocide!
The story behind electronics


  1. Wow, so sad, and so true ... I wonder the same things about other products, not just the electronic ones, such as shampoos, soaps, and medicine in general. Making most of our daily pills, vaccines and what not, as weak as possible so that consumers would buy new ones of the same brand or from a competitor which is also doing the same thing to their products ... It's terrible. You notice it with all the Sony products, having their own cables, own memory cards, etc; and now with the new iPhone plug-ins, apps, cables and so on ... Shameless, truly shameless.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Yes, Fabio, it is important to ask such questions. Business and politics are not necessarily areas where ethics are applied.

    As for medicines, pharmaceutical business is one of the largest industry generating serious profits. Questions come in mind when e.g. colloidal silver that has been used before invention of antibiotics has been banned for internal use. It is simple, cheap and efficient. Yes, its overuse can be hazardous but that is with abuse of any substances of such kind. More dangerous, I consider, however, the abuse of antibiotics, which we are exposed to both conscious and incousciously. Other example might be the issue of EU's ban of unregistered herbal medicines.

    The list would be long and cosmetics would not be any different with many toxic substances that get into both our bodies and the nature only because it is profitable. See my section on cosmetics.

    Please share this movie with others. Thank you.