As my last post introduced the topic of planned obsolescence and e-waste. This post will expand on it, discuss the utopia and dystopia of technology, and provide possible solutions for beating planned obsolescence and e-waste..
The utopia of technology is that it give us endless access at our fingertips, helps us plan and schedule our everyday lives, and even technologies so advanced cars can start driving for us (almost). Life with technology has made things so much easier.. but then again maybe not? The dystopia of technology is that technologies break, connection and service go down.
This is related to planned obsolescence and e-waste because we are happy to have technology in our everyday lives, until there start to be problems with it. Once the dystopia kicks in we are no longer patient and want to be rid of the technology that is causing us problems.
For instance, right now my MacBook Pro,13-inch, Mid 2012, (which they don’t even sell anymore) has been causing me a lot of problems lately and I’ve considered getting rid of it. Which is very frustrating for me because I got this laptop when I started college in 2014. So yes it was already 2 years old when I got it, but I would think that it would get me at least through college. I’ve taken good care of this Mac, and I’ve had to bring it into the Apple store multiple times, two of which I had to leave it with them for a period of time to be worked on. Frustrating.
Lately my issue with this computer is that it decides to randomly freeze and then just restart. Just to give an idea of how often this is happening.. I tried to work on homework and within a 3 hour window my computer probably restarted about 10 times. I wish that was an exaggeration. So I need to take it in to be looked at and worked on, again.
Luckily I have AppleCare and am still covered, so any repairs I need are still free (expires this June). However, at this rate I am getting sick of having to get my computer fixed that I am considering just buying a new one.
This is the dystopia that my computer has put me in. In the beginning I loved my computer and there weren’t any problems, but now there are so many. Maybe this is because my computer is 5 years old and it was planned to breaking down after this amount of time that I have had it..
I have always had Apple products, but after all the problems I’ve had I am considering changing to a different brand of computer. If I get a new computer, what should I do with this one? (Since my research I now know that about the Apple Renew program, which is free!) Additionally, Apple will offer a trade for your device for an Apple gift card, if your device is still working.
However, if I am offered an Apple gift card for my MacBook Pro, then I feel inclined to use it towards a newer Apple device. This is a business strategy on their part to keep me buying Apple products.
PowerON is a third party company that Apple contracted to run the reuse program. More about it here.
Additionally Amazon offers a trade program, where you can send them used electronics and they will send you an Amazon gift card (another business strategy for you to keep buying from Amazon).
Also, note how after all these problems with my Mac I am only considering getting a computer from a different brand. I am so used to Apple products, how I use them in my everyday life, and how the products work with each other. The interconnectivity of Apple products with each other is the biggest reason I want to stay with Apple. I love having access to all my things, no matter what device I am on.
This is why I am so torn between getting a new product and sticking to what I’m used to, the utopia and dystopia has taken me for a spin..
Let’s take a quick look at what kind of people own what kinds of devices. The Pew Research Center looked at different generations and what kinds of devices they owned. It wasn’t surprising that cell phones were the most popular device among American adults, then desktops/laptops.
“Younger adults are leading the way in increased mobility, preferring laptops to desktops and using their cell phones for a variety of functions, including internet, email, music, games, and video” (KATHRYN ZICKUHR, 2011).
So how did we get so into technology? Why do we always crave new technologies? It all goes back to World War 1. Around this time “Americans were being enticed by consumer pleasure and indulgence rather than into work as the road to happiness” (Leach, pg 3-4, 1993). In the early 90’s the culture was being urbanized and commercialized, focusing on personal pleasures like department stores, theaters, restaurants, and so on, this new era brought on the “cult of the new”.
The “cult of the new” was the beginning of commercial capitalism. New ideas were being thought of and therefore created more and more commodities. As the cult of the new grew, value began being put on capital or money required to produce new goods. This was the beginning of the shift of American workers losing control over their work and starting to depend on others, rather than themselves. They started to put value and look up to products, capital, and the big companies that produced them. Over time consumption of products became the measure of value amongst people and the channel to reach happiness. In other words, we look at people’s value based on what brand of devices they have and can afford.
This cult of the new brought on new ideas and products that people didn’t even think they needed, until advertising showed them otherwise. Advertisements are everywhere, you can’t go a day without seeing one.
“Experts estimate that the last time the average American went a full day without exposure to a single advertisement was in 1915” (Advertising Age, 2003).
A magazine cut their cover page price from 25 cents to 10 cents, in 1893, and made up for the cost with advertising. By the end of the 19th century editorials-to-ads ratio was 50.6 to 49.4 (Ad Age, 2003). Additionally, ads have only continued to spread with the growing mediums. What started in traditional media, such as magazines, newspapers, and billboards, is now spread to radio, television, and of course the Internet. The Internet is a big one because there are no physical boundaries, therefore ads can reach you through spam email, cookies from your past searches, and every other way imaginable.
So the cult of the new brought on the desire for new products and this paired with the increase of advertisements over years has created a never ending cycle of consumer “need” and making us feel we should upgrade to newer technologies or products every chance we get. I use quotes because we don’t really need these products, but advertising makes us think so.
So going back to my topic of planned obsolescence and e-waste, how do we beat it, with the never ending new devices being released and advertising telling us we should buy more and new technologies? It starts with you, and then us, and everyone as a whole. People need to want to change their consuming habits and look more into the devices they are using and ask themselves, and the producers of the product if the electronics they are using are safe for the environment. Us consumers need to think more about where old devices are going, what are in our current devices, and what we want in future devices. Otherwise, maybe our planet will become like the environment in Wall-E. An Earth covered in e-waste and technologies so advanced they do everything for humans and as a result people become so obese that technologies are taking over and doing all the work for them.
On another note, e-waste is a direct result of modern computing and the Internet today. So as technologies advance so does e-waste because new devices are being created to keep up and the old technologies are being thrown out. Movies today are increasingly using futuristic technological ideas. Take “God’s Eye” from the Fast and Furious 7 movie. This futuristic technology allows the user to hack into any device with a camera and/or a microphone to find anyone in the world. That’s kind of scary, but this isn’t possible.. yet.
Some companies have already started to try and beat planned obsolescence and reduce e-waste. One company is Fairphone. They started in 2010 and want to create longer lasting phone designs that use fair materials and make sure workers have good working conditions. Their goal is to map the supply chain of major materials used in phones, such as, tin, tatalum, tungsten, and gold.
Another company is Phonebloks. They started in 2012 and their concept was customizable phones. They wanted to create a phone that the consumer could choose what they wanted in their phone. The idea is that there is a base board which you connect blocks to such as, a battery block, a camera lens block, etc. and if a piece breaks or you want to upgrade it to something bigger/smaller, you just change that piece, rather than the whole phone.
Google was originally working with Phonebloks to create this phone and make it a reality, but sadly Google dropped the project because they claimed they were taking on too many projects and needed to reduce it to focus more on their own company. Which is unfortunate because this idea is really cool and I want to see it become a reality. Google might have just wanted to work on their Google Pixel phone instead. Which is cheaper to make compared to the Phonebloks where you need to create all the different blocks and base board.
A non-phone related idea to reduce e-waste, is the Japan 2020 olympics. They are making the olympic medals out of e-waste and are asking for the public’s help. They ask the public to donate any e-waste, and are hoping to collect 8 tons of metal.
So all of these possible solutions are beginning to bring the the conversation of reducing e-waste and beating planned obsolescence more into the public. What do you think? Would you change your habits and use of current devices to try out something like Fairphone or Phonebloks? What other things could you do to reduce e-waste or extend your electronics life? If it is still in working condition, consider selling it to a friend or on eBay. However, if it is not working maybe use sites like Earth911 or RecyclingNearYou to find places to safely recycle your old devices for free.
Now (assuming) you read my first blog which introduced and explained planned obsolescence and e-waste, and now this second post providing possible solutions.. what are you going to do about it. Maybe nothing at all, but I hope you take what I’ve provided into some consideration when buying a new product or trying to get rid of an old one. If I’ve opened your eyes about these topics, maybe you’re willing to try out a new and different devices that are more environmentally friendly and longer lasting. If it is the latter let me know! I would love to hear about your experience with a different device. Thanks for reading!
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