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Planned Obsolescence

An Evil Plot by Manufacturers or the Lynchpin of the Economy? – Blanca Sans.

Would you believe that planned obsolescence is not as manipulative and immoral as often said? The truth lies below. Planned obsolescence describes the intentional act of producing goods and/or services with short economic lives. Though various reasons lead manufacturers to pursue such strategy, their primary motivation is to stimulate consumption of new and more up-to-date items. This does not imply that newer product are inherently significantly better, just that they coerce consumers into further consumption. This practice is commonly referred to as ‘shortening the replacement cycle’. The question remains whether this a malicious ploy by manufacturers, or rather a source of stimulation for ever-improving goods and services.

One Step Too Far
Seventy years ago, planned obsolescence was not a common term. Since then it has grown and reached a point where it is deeply rooted into our daily lives. Everything we consume has its days numbered, but we often turn a blind eye and keep accumulating. Consumers have always been willing to offer far more for products they believe to be of the highest quality. This is the case, in part, because they believe that expensive is almost synonymous with quality and durability. Interestingly, luxury brands are often the biggest culprits of planned obsolescence. Take Apple, the biggest multinational IT firm, renowned for producing technology of the highest quality. In December 2017, Apple admitted to deliberately slowing down older iPhones through software updates ‘in order to address issues caused by aging batteries’. Whether they had malicious intent or not, it is an obvious example of planned obsolescence: slowing down the ‘older’ products to incite the purchase of ‘newer’ and ‘faster’ versions.

Environmental Disaster
Each year firms produce newer and ‘better’ electronic devices; however, consumers often discard them after a couple of years. Smartphones’ screens crack, batteries (run out quicker?), components are irreplaceable and operating systems non-updatable. As we perpetuate this cycle there is an accumulation of discarded products that is being disposed of in an inappropriate and environmental-hazardous manner. Air, water, and soil pollution are just a few of the many issues obsolescence has aggravated. In 2014, we produced around 42m tons of e-waste worldwide, which is expected to raise to 50m in 2018. Why, then, are we allowing it to continue?

Different View
The simple idea of manufacturing and selling governs today’s world; this has and will always be the main reason behind obsolescence. Hence, let us consider how it may actually benefit us. Planned obsolesce creates a large amount of jobs producing rapid turnover of goods, which leads to economic growth. Additionally, during economic slumps and times of cyclical unemployment, planned obsolescence can help support aggregate demand; mitigating the economic downturn.

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