The article discusses about planned obsolescence.


Yes, there were cases of collusion that lead to artificial obsolescence such as the limiting of light bulbs. Also, printer cartridges seem to stop working before using up all the ink.

But is there a sinister force that wants everything to break down so there is continuous consumption?

I would not think so.

First, given the competitiveness of today’s economy, it is hard to collude and plan obsolescence. It is likely that one of the firms would deviate and increase the profit and market share. So it is harder to collude.

Second, with so much information online these days. With so many reviews, it is very likely that products with aggressive planned obsolescence will be found and shunned by consumers.

So then why do things seem to break down?

Because of economics.

Consumers tend to like newer things. We could argue whether this is driven by firm manipulation or not but the fact is that consumers always want better things and demand new products/ services. So given a short product life, firms do not have to use the best components that will last decades. Instead, they have to ensure that the product will survive until the consumer gets a new product.

Also, using not the highest quality components, lowers price, making the products affordable to many consumers. Many cheap cell phones break down within five years but because they are cheap, many people in the developing world can afford them, improving their lives.

But what to do with all the waste created by obsolete products?

Luckily, there is already a movement to fix things. People see the waste and they are starting to fix things. This trend will likely to grow. As a consumer, you can participate in such movements. Also, you can just decide not to upgrade products for many years, or until it is absolutely necessary.

We can also invest recycling technology. Recycling has become more efficient but it has a long way to go.

Finally, you can demand firms to create products that can be more easily recycled. Write an email to Apple or Samsung asking for more environmentally friendly products. Take it to social media. Let your concerns be known. To be more effective, by shares of those companies, and let them know that you are concerned as a shareholder.