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 Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?

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PostSubject: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Sun Feb 08, 2009 1:12 pm

Pax suggested...

Quote :
What would be just as good, is an end-planned-obsolescence thread.

Planned obsolescence creates a false increase in demand instead of instilling robustness into products.

Ard Taoiseach (predictably!) replied

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Boo! It ensures a continuous supply of economic growth, profit and advancement.

evercloserunion chipped in

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It also widens the gap in the quality of life between the rich and the poor.

All lifted from The Recession Shopping Thread

Kate P added just now

Quote :
Agghhh - the waste, the waste - the disposal problems, the mindset that infects other purchases...
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Sun Feb 08, 2009 1:22 pm

Planned obsolescence is environmentally intolerable as it uses a lot of precious and also toxic materials that end up in landfill.

The profit system is a bit of a catastrophe, in my view.


How about we all produced less, used less and had a shorter working week instead ?
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Sun Feb 08, 2009 2:05 pm

cactus flower wrote:
Planned obsolescence is environmentally intolerable as it uses a lot of precious and also toxic materials that end up in landfill.

The profit system is a bit of a catastrophe, in my view.


How about we all produced less, used less and had a shorter working week instead ?
Think of all the people who work in the recycling industry - times are bad enough without wanting to add all of them to the dole queues :-) Also, green economics is potentially really interesting - I'd hate to see it being strangled at birth. 
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Sun Feb 08, 2009 2:46 pm

Paul R wrote:
cactus flower wrote:
Planned obsolescence is environmentally intolerable as it uses a lot of precious and also toxic materials that end up in landfill.

The profit system is a bit of a catastrophe, in my view.


How about we all produced less, used less and had a shorter working week instead ?
Think of all the people who work in the recycling industry - times are bad enough without wanting to add all of them to the dole queues :-) Also, green economics is potentially really interesting - I'd hate to see it being strangled at birth.

WHAT!

Better to have goods that do not need recycled, goods that last. Washing machines, freezers and the like could easily be built to last. In any case I thought that re-use was better than recycle. Also think of the jobs in repair, if the goods were made in a manner that repair was economically possible, all local jobs to!

Transporting rubbish around and rubbish generally is inefficiency. If you want to see economies where nothing is wasted and recycling really works you end up in some 3rd world hell hole with children collecting bags of paper and plastic.

Better to have more expensive durable goods and either shorter working weeks or more services in the economy.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Sun Feb 08, 2009 11:24 pm

Zorg: "Father - you're so wrong ! Let me explain... "


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=krcNIWPkNzA
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:07 am

It's not often you get economics lectures in sci-fi but that was Zorg on creative destruction.

I have no link, proof or stats for this theory but here goes: isn't there a certain minimum level of activity required in order to have wheels turning? If items were created in order to last forever then production of raw materials might dry up as a result, people might lose their skills, investment would thin out and become unattractive and so on.

Can you imagine this happening with washing machines for instance ?

On the other hand if a washing machine was invented which caused an overnight revolution because it used no water then that would be a kind of disaster too I suppose... And the like of that has happened with technology - the invention of the skyscraper for example.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:13 am

Auditor #9 wrote:
It's not often you get economics lectures in sci-fi but that was Zorg on creative destruction.

I have no link, proof or stats for this theory but here goes: isn't there a certain minimum level of activity required in order to have wheels turning? If items were created in order to last forever then production of raw materials might dry up as a result, people might lose their skills, investment would thin out and become unattractive and so on.

Exactly, and if finished products were so durable, then the manufacturing sector would shrink significantly, distribution and retail would also suffer and other associated industries would contract. This would mean huge job losses, a fall-off in tax revenues leading to less resources for public services. We need to have a degree of obsolescence in what we produce.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 12:32 am

On the other hand ...

You'd imagine things would change dramatically and radically once something new and radical is introduced but I'm not sure..... the skyscraper* is the most radical change I can think of at the minute but there are other things - electric motors, the internal combustion engine, nuclear power (?) and a host of medicines which changed society dramatically in the space of a generation but society didn't seize up. If this happens again then we'll surely cope as we've coped already with those changes...

So if a new washing machine gets invented and obsoletizes the old one then locally lots of people will lose jobs but globally it'll be better maybe.

So should we be planning for the time when we will have more and more leisure ???

I'm a bit off-topic but I just don't know enough about whether there is planned obsolescence or not - Ard Taoiseach says there needs to be a degree of it - question is what degree - and what stuff broke on you last that you'd prefer to have repaird rather than replaced.


*the skyscraper as I understand it, employed the use of the then recently-invented component steel as reinforcing inside mass-concrete allowing engineers to extend buildings well beyond 20 stories or so. The use of electricity for lifts and elevators really topped it off
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 1:50 pm

If the car industry were not based in advanced countries we would be kissing it good bye at the moment.

Technological progress should create natural obsolescence. However, it is not clear whether we could have such adoption of new technologies unless other technologies became obsolete.

There is a theory that developing countries can leap-frog western countries because their technology deficit means that they can skip obsolete technolgies adopting the most up to date stuff straight away. This is certainly true in software and outsourcing.

Natural stinginess and the theory that "if it is not broke, don't fix it" lessens the degree to which new technologies can penetrate existing markets. Given that the future of the planet depends on hige technological advances and the adoption of such technologies this might not be the time to cut back on planned obsolescence.

Another point is that natural obsolescence can lead to the natural death of a company. That is fine and dandy apart from the social consequences of such corporate extinction. From a company's point of view the merits of planned obsolescence are overwhelming. It stimulates its market and it keeps the workers working. It also generates revenue for research to enable the company to fight the battle of natural obsolescence which comes knocking on everybody's door eventually.

My natural instincy is that planned obsolescence is a fraud perpetratedby companies on consumers and by developed countries on developing countries. Surely some obsolescence is obscene. Planning for breakdown of a machine within 3 years is theft imho. It is a little more complex than that though. A certain level of obsolescence is good for technological progress, the wheel to which we are yoked.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 2:43 pm

Zhou_Enlai wrote:
Technological progress should create natural obsolescence. However, it is not clear whether we could have such adoption of new technologies unless other technologies became obsolete.

There is a theory that developing countries can leap-frog western countries because their technology deficit means that they can skip obsolete technolgies adopting the most up to date stuff straight away. This is certainly true in software and outsourcing.

Natural stinginess and the theory that "if it is not broke, don't fix it" lessens the degree to which new technologies can penetrate existing markets. Given that the future of the planet depends on hige technological advances and the adoption of such technologies this might not be the time to cut back on planned obsolescence.

Another point is that natural obsolescence can lead to the natural death of a company. That is fine and dandy apart from the social consequences of such corporate extinction. From a company's point of view the merits of planned obsolescence are overwhelming. It stimulates its market and it keeps the workers working. It also generates revenue for research to enable the company to fight the battle of natural obsolescence which comes knocking on everybody's door eventually.

My natural instincy is that planned obsolescence is a fraud perpetratedby companies on consumers and by developed countries on developing countries. Surely some obsolescence is obscene. Planning for breakdown of a machine within 3 years is theft imho. It is a little more complex than that though. A certain level of obsolescence is good for technological progress, the wheel to which we are yoked.
Some great points there - developing countries leapfrogging developed ones ...

There is an interesting interplay between tech developments, the market demanding new stuff, industries requiring turnover, companies using longevity to compete (KIA 7-year warranty) and the consumer feeling aggrieved that their product doesn't last / doesn't break so the husband can buy a new one.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 3:50 pm

I've been designing products for close to 20 years now, and I'm not convinced that planned obsolescence exists. At least I have never come across it.

Nor can I think of an example where I would suspect it.

Nobody would argue, for instance, that Betamax and VHS were planned to become obsolete from the outset, similarly for floppy disks, pulse dial telephones or CRT televisions.

In the majority of cases, stuff gets obsoleted because new materials, processes and technologies provide enablers for manufacturers to produce more feature rich and more efficient products for lower cost / higher margin. Since these manufacturers have to compete on USPs, naturally they will have to continually develop products. Also, the manufacturers of products are continually forced into redevelopment by the rapid changes in the underlying electronic component industries.

What I have come across is the same mistakes been made over and over again in product design. It's usually small things that slip through the testing net.

Take my digital camera as an example. It has a motorised lens which pops it in and out. Prior to motorised lenses, we had a plastic lens cap. Not much can go wrong with a plastic lens cap. But a motorised lens brings with it a whole new set of possible failure modes. In my case, the lens got stuck, making the camera entirely unusable.

My point is that as consumers we are continually been offered products which have been lab tested, but not consumer use tested, due to the short development and life cycles of products these days.

I bought a twin dect phone set in Aldi last year, I brought it straight back because I was convinced the firmware had not even been debugged. It was riddled with obvious bugs. While I'm on firmware, a lot of products you buy these days require a firmware upgrade as soon as you get them home. iPod, playstation etc are examples. This gives you some idea of how the development cycles have been compressed, and therefore the risks and failure modes that have been missed.

Silly things like moving parts made out of fragile plastic, when a stronger plastic or a metal substitute would have ensured a satisfactory lifetime. This is a failure to design in ageing factors and real life use being more abusive than lab testing.

The paddles in my washing machine drum fell off one by one. Temperature accelerated ageing coupled with shite plastic. The same machine door lock also broke - cost reduced design coupled with shite plastic. The flush lever in my downstairs loo snapped. Well that's 20 years old so I'm not complaining in this case.

Of all the examples I can think of, the one that kills me is kettles that drip. We have been making jugs and kettles for thousands of years, yet you buy a new kettle and the spout drips. This is one of these things where the designers prioritise aesthetic over function. There should be a law against it.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 3:58 pm

Auditor #9 wrote:

*the skyscraper as I understand it, employed the use of the then recently-invented component steel as reinforcing inside mass-concrete allowing engineers to extend buildings well beyond 20 stories or so. The use of electricity for lifts and elevators really topped it off

Just as an aside:

By one of the marvels of nature (it marvels me anyway) , the thermal coefficient of concrete and steel are almost identical. If it were not for this extraordinary coincidence, reinforced concrete would not exist. Where would that leave the skyscrapers....
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 4:07 pm

EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
My point is that as consumers we are continually been offered products which have been lab tested, but not consumer use tested, due to the short development and life cycles of products these days.

I bought a twin dect phone set in Aldi last year, I brought it straight back because I was convinced the firmware had not even been debugged. It was riddled with obvious bugs. While I'm on firmware, a lot of products you buy these days require a firmware upgrade as soon as you get them home. iPod, playstation etc are examples. This gives you some idea of how the development cycles have been compressed, and therefore the risks and failure modes that have been missed.

Silly things like moving parts made out of fragile plastic, when a stronger plastic or a metal substitute would have ensured a satisfactory lifetime. This is a failure to design in ageing factors and real life use being more abusive than lab testing.

The paddles in my washing machine drum fell off one by one. Temperature accelerated ageing coupled with shite plastic. The same machine door lock also broke - cost reduced design coupled with shite plastic. The flush lever in my downstairs loo snapped. Well that's 20 years old so I'm not complaining in this case.

Of all the examples I can think of, the one that kills me is kettles that drip. We have been making jugs and kettles for thousands of years, yet you buy a new kettle and the spout drips. This is one of these things where the designers prioritise aesthetic over function. There should be a law against it.

I had an extremely cold Christmas as a result of my boiler going out of action - apparently because the makers (Potterton) decided some time ago to phase out lead in their solder. The tin-based solder that holds the circuit boards in place in the boiler is particularly "vulnerable to cracking...as a result of alternate heating and cooling". Good choice, for a boiler...
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 4:38 pm

Have any of you ever had to buy a "roller" for an out of warranty HP printer? They are prohibitively priced on purpose.

Also, many cars have "black box" style electronics that necessitate the replacement of an entire module if something goes wrong.

Perhaps there isn't planned obsolescence but there does seem to be planned scrimping on materials and design knowing that this will affect longevity.

The existing business models put huge pressures on businesses to shorten cycles and cut costs. If you are not "growing" sufficiently fast enoug then you are losing. Sound familiar?
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 4:59 pm

ibis wrote:
...

I had an extremely cold Christmas as a result of my boiler going out of action - apparently because the makers (Potterton) decided some time ago to phase out lead in their solder. The tin-based solder that holds the circuit boards in place in the boiler is particularly "vulnerable to cracking...as a result of alternate heating and cooling". Good choice, for a boiler...

Oh dear. A victim of the ROHS Directive. Pretty much everything had to go lead free a couple of years ago, though certain product categories got exemptions for later compliance, products affecting personal security ans safety etc. You can guess why.

The lead in solder got replaced by silver, about 2% I think, so everyting has to be heated much higher now during PCB manufacture. It's funny the way Y2K got the world in such a false panic, yet taking the lead out of electronics didn't cause a flutter.

Zhou wrote:
Also, many cars have "black box" style electronics that necessitate the replacement of an entire module if something goes wrong.

In cases like this, it probably is more economical to change the whole box. The problem here I suspect is the car manufacturers applying stupidly high margins to spare parts - because they can. You can't buy it anywhere else. Any car manufacturer worth it's salt would have a 10 year parts warranty on something like a car management unit. But they don't. Too much after-sales money to be made.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:19 pm

A world that worries about lead and yet puts mercury in people's mouths.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:22 pm

Thermometers contain mercury, their outer shell is not made of mercury.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:32 pm

The mercury still goes into the mouth. One bite and you're fucked.

Though apparently eating small amounts of mercury isn't as dangerous as you would think as because it's so heavy it goes through straight your system before it can do any real damage. Or something.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 5:50 pm

Dental Amalgams 50% Mercury, 35% Silver, 15% Tin and other metals.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:10 pm

There is another side to this.

Consumers need to start doing more homework before buying stuff. Ignore the clowns in the shops, they generally haven't a clue and just want to sell you stuff. Use the web and ask around and look for quality instead of shiny brand name hi-tech crap.

Some of the planet's biggest brand names have gotten very sloppy on quality lately imo, and are being surpassed by unheard of Chinese and Korean brands etc.

The correlation between price and quality is very thin these days.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:20 pm

Squire wrote:
Dental Amalgams 50% Mercury, 35% Silver, 15% Tin and other metals.

Presumably cause autism, then...
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:27 pm

Presumably mercury wasn't dangerous in 1981, when our science teacher spilled some out on the desk and asked us to see if we could pick it up ?
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:29 pm

Did you try using a fork? According to David Llyod George you will know what it was like to negotiate with Eamon de Valera if you did.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:34 pm

EvotingMachine0197 wrote:
Presumably mercury wasn't dangerous in 1981, when our science teacher spilled some out on the desk and asked us to see if we could pick it up ?

Ach, we were allowed to do all kinds of things back in the earlies. We did a proper nylon synthesis, which had been banned for quite a while even then. Our head of chemistry used to do bomb-making demonstrations.
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PostSubject: Re: Planned Obsolescence - False Demand or Economy Driver?   Mon Feb 09, 2009 7:34 pm

johnfás wrote:
Did you try using a fork? According to David Llyod George you will know what it was like to negotiate with Eamon de Valera if you did.

No, I think I used the thumb and forefinger I used to have. Razz
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