CH. 60 «Planned Obsolescence»

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I had been aware that it’s only a matter of time before my dinky little communicator would reach the end of its lifespan, but does it have to be time for my trusty workstation to go too? It’s almost like they both heard that I was contemplating their replacement so they put in their two weeks’ notices, and now they’re loafing as they wait to see who will be taking their place. I don’t blame them though.

Technology is as disposable as any other product we purchase and waste on a daily basis; the electronic gadgets we lust after so much are just another type of consumable. Your average device will usually last: a short while longer than its warranty covers; when the manufacturers projected they will have their newest product out; when they expect a new technology will create a radical paradigm shift in the market; or just when you really need it to work. Producers effectively predestine any one of their stock’s life spans by programming a death date.

This planned obsolescence can be observed in objects as great as automobiles and spacecraft, to tiny as communication devices, toothbrushes and even things like tools and clothing. You use one up and move on to the next. Manufacturers love it because it makes consumers buy more product more often, and pay many more credits under the assumption that the product doesn’t have a set life span. But the consumer who is actively engaged in the economic system loves it too, as it generates a great diversity of available merchandise from different competing sources routinely. The idea of paying a bunch for a product you know will deteriorate and eventually rendered inoperable isn’t so daunting. When it’s spent and gone you don’t feel upset because you know you know you can always get another one, reliably; maybe they have an even better one by now.

These mass manufactured creations don’t even deserve the punishment they receive from humankind. And I’m sure every day you see people thinking it’s ok to treat other things with the same regard. Once one of my dad’s businesses has outlasted its usefulness—or it’s impossible to come out with any financial advantage—he simply closes it and starts an identical one with a new name. There’s no way for me to tell you how many companies he’s gone through in the past few years alone. I knew a girl who would let her pets come to neglect, forcing someone else in the family to pick up slack, as soon as she bought a new fuzzy or scaly critter. There was a menagerie of forgotten pets left behind when she moved out of her family’s unit.

I’ve known many to regard all of their relationships as having built-in-obsolescence, and never worrying about getting too attached to any one lovi. My father, again, has always given this example, but more presently I’m thinking of a young Amazonian girl I live with, who just so happens to have tossed her old beau to upgrade to a taller, sleeker, less sporty model. It’s also interesting to think that both my father and Rikka are also the people I know to upgrade comms most frequently, whether it’s because they’re both short on patience and are quick to deem something useless, or they saw a new one they really wanted, cause they’re just used to the cycle.

What the gork?! Oh great…speaking of cycles and getting a new comm, my computer isn’t the only device finding the approach of its own demise becoming ever nearer. The spring-loaded swivel that spins the screen open to reveal the keyboard has busted somehow, and is no longer able to hold my comm closed; allowing it to swing unrestricted and possibly even answer itself. As I predicted before, the gadget would become intolerably unusable right before it would be time for me to redeem a 2-year discount I was so close to earning…great…
I guess that’s the kind of world we live on though; products don’t have to fit the needs of their intended users, they just have to make credits for the producer. Those corporate creators also aren’t thinking about the needs of the environment either, and often end up generating a deal of negative impact on both person and planet. Just think of how many things that end up expiring on us containing lead, asbestos, lithium, cadmium, mercury, thorium, uranium or plutonium that we just throw in the trashbin without thinking? Of course, anyone of them could design products that lasted longer, but it would go against their entire business model if said products didn’t need to be replaced annually. Who knows, they may even design their widgets to indeed know how to break down when the owner needs them most. We’re just being sold an item made from the weakest materials available and could really be paying most for all the research into more fragile and easily destructible technologies.

As consumers, it’s near impossible for us to avoid these tactics which are being targeted directly at us. Everything is hastily and cheaply fabricated en masse to be disposable and eventually require replenishing, and I mean everything. From the packaging painstakingly wrapped around our food and drinks, to all plastic toys we buy for our loved ones and electronic ones for our selves, even the fancy desktop station and the sphere controlling your home. Pens and pencils, lighters, eating utensils, tents and instant-shelters, writable cards and discs, batteries, sunglasses, envelopes, air fresheners, umbrellas, stickies, and water bottles. Booster rockets, landing capsules, battery packs, oxygen tanks, fuel cells. There’s a huge market for health and beauty products, like cotton swabs, flossers, tissues, soap, toothbrushes, hairbrushes, razors, anything in a dispensable stick form, or anything that dispenses for that matter, whether it’s a tube or one of those standing, motion sensing squirters. They all get used-up, they all run out, and they all serve their purpose. And then you have to purchase more to maintain the same status of life you attain while burning through all of these so-called necessities each day. We live in a single-use-disposable culture.

Even people are ultimately expendable, and I don’t just mean soldiers and henchmen, though I can’t think of anyone who better fits the bill of dispensable workforce. Employers are always willing to hire on anyone whom they can effortlessly fire when they’re no longer needed. In fact, if you’re getting yourself into a job that pays really well, you’d better expect your boss does not want you to be having to do it for very long. Any job paying a wage of over $15 an hour at entry level without a degree probably won’t last you longer than a month or two. If it’s a job with slaggy pay, they’re going to incentivize you into working for them longer in order to attain raises and promotions.

My current job pays me $17 an hour…which means that by the time you get this transmission, that sentence should read “my last job”. The office has been in frenzy this weekend to complete and collect any and all outstanding work still roaming about in the field, walking from airlock to airlock. I’m afraid this chapter is drawing to a close on would could be the last day I’m deemed useful to the government. It looks like I’ve been assigned at least one last operation, way beyond my jurisdiction. Maybe they need someone with a success rating like mine to make something disapear. Heading south today won’t be bad though, it will be a nice chance to get away from the creeping claws of The Caspian Company and places I probably don’t need to be much longer.

Any discussion or decision about a replacement for my disintegrating texti will just have to wait until after this enumeration mission. Doesn’t matter how much I’d prefer to get a new comm before anything else goes wrong with this one. I just hope that doesn’t happen while I’m still out there. I’d really hate for this mission to be the last for both of us.

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PREV: CH. 59 «The City of Caspian»

PREV: CH. 59 «The City of Caspian»

NEXT: CH. 61 «Need a COG»

NEXT: CH. 61 «Need a COG»



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