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Technology And The Growing Popularity Of Planned Obsolescence | Touchstone Words

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Technology and the Growing Popularity of Planned Obsolescence

By Shane Staret on 2018-07-14

You know that awful feeling that you get when something just stops working or is clearly malfunctioning and you have no idea what it could be? All you can think about is how you could have treated that object better or how much money you will have to spend to fix it or even replace it.


Well, maybe it wasn’t even your fault to begin with. Have you ever heard of the term “planned obsolescence”? Planned obsolescence is when a manufacturer intentionally makes a product that is “defective” or not made with the best materials to ensure that the product does not last a very long time. The hope is that the customers will become loyal or will have no other option and will continue to buy the product even if it continuously breaks or malfunctions.

While planned obsolescence is seen as a conspiracy theory to many, it is not exactly the most implausible theory in the world and there have been proven cases of planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence certainly is not a bad thing if you are the company that is trying to maximize your profits. If the company specializes in something very niche or has a monopoly, then your customers must always flock back to that specific company when they need the product that company produces. So of course, having your customer base buying an expensive product from you every two years instead of every five years brings in more revenue for you. However, a lot of people (including myself) believe that planned obsolescence is immoral and bad for society as a whole.

In the United States, there is currently no legislation to prevent companies from utilizing planned obsolescence to purposely kill off their product quicker. Since 2013, the European Union has been trying to tackle the issue, however, not much has come of it. The only actual country in the world that has actually made forms of planned obsolescence illegal is France.

Many US based companies and corporations have been accused of factoring in planned obsolescence when designing their products, with the most popular probably being Apple. Apple is known for creating their products in such a way that conveniently makes it difficult for the user to make any modifications or repairs to the device. On top of this Apple admitted that their old devices were slowing down every time one of their newer devices came out. Now, it is important to note that Apple never stated that they purposely slowed down older versions of the iPhone when the newest version came out, just that they ran their own tests and “discovered” that to be the case. Hmmm.

In my honest opinion, planned obsolescence absolutely needs to be stopped. It goes against the whole idea of capitalism, as companies are purposely making their products worse to make their revenue rise. How does that promote competition or innovation? In many instances, it is argued that government intervention hinders the free market, but I’d argue in this case that government interference may actually help the free market. On top of planned obsolescence being immoral and impeding the free market from doing what it does best, planned obsolescence is also wasteful and can harm the environment. Think about it, if oil is being used to create the plastics in products that are planned to be obsolete before they should be, then that will result in more oil being used than necessary, since more products will have to be created to satisfy the artificial demand.

Just remember to be aware of planned obsolescence the next time you buy a product. Always do your research and follow your morals.

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