Planned Obsolescence — A Crisis of Capitalism

  • psychological obsolescence — making the older model unfashionable
  • use of inferior materials in critical components (especially the single point of failure areas)
  • Using a layout of components that is predetermined to be troublesome sooner
  • Prevention of repairs
  • Systemic obsolescence — this program is no longer supported.
  • Costly replacement parts — try to perform a screen replacement of an iPhone.
  • Psychological obsolescence — release a newer model that is exactly the same as yours but exists to make your older model feel inferior and outdated
  • No battery replacement mechanism. You cannot open it and put in new batteries. Once your battery is no longer functioning at its best, that's it, you live with it, or you buy a new one.
  • Software — the software version on this iPad is no longer supported.

No, it's not about Lowering Costs — It's about Repeat Purchases

It is tempting to think that Planned Obsolescence is about cost reductions. It's not even about that. The goal is to get repeat purchases.

No, It's Not About Innovation — It's about Sales Growth

Take Apple, for example, the shifts from one model to another in the early years represented pure innovation. There were real differences between a newer model and an older model. This is no longer the case. Even customers are struggling to perceive the differences they market aggressively.

It's a stupid system

The insatiable appetite for growth in saturated markets is the reason for all of this. If we were to check how prevalent this whole thing is, we would be shocked by the results. It's pervasive. It’s everywhere

Gross Misallocation of Resources

The misallocation of resources is gross. Instead of using one car in two decades, you are forced to use two. Families are buying a new fridge every three to five years instead of one fridge lasting for a decade. My collection of dead hair clippers is a symbol of waste. These are resources that could have been used for something else.

How Much is this Costing Us?

I have not yet found a comprehensive study that calculates the annual value of planned obsolescence. As a quick guide to illustrate the monstrosity of the value, consider Apple’s revenue of $365 billion. If a conservative 30% of this is comprised of sales that are there simply due to planned obsolescence, then we can say Apple’s planned obsolescence cost us $109 billion.

How is this not viewed as Crisis?

This is a crisis, but it is not viewed by many as a crisis because our secular definition of a crisis is only limited to situations where there is an outcry and people are complaining. The absence of an outcry doesn't mean there is no crisis.

What's the point? What are we doing?

Recycling has not yet done the magic. Robots have not yet taken over. Natural resources are actually not infinite. Innovation has not yet found suitable replacements for many natural resources.

We are creating “Growth” for the Capitalists and Jobs for the Boys

We are so obsessed with worshiping the Growth Gods that we have to fudge growth numbers via planned obsolescence. In order to avoid the reality of not growing sales numbers, reported profits, and market cap, we resort to ‘gaming’ the system. The capitalists want growth and nothing else. How about we divert resources to other areas where we can have real growth as a human race, like progress on cancer research, making life multi-planetary, etc. Why are we obsessed with fake growth?

Collapsing Under the Weight of its Own Contradictions

Planned Obsolescence is an example of the many contradictions of capitalism. These contradictions are a heavy burden on capitalism which will eventually fall under the weight of its own contradictions.

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