Tuesday, March 10, 2009

ETech: The End of Obsolescence

I'm in "The End of Obsolescence " with Lane Beckerand Thor Muller....

Lane Becker and Thor Muller

Companies sell stuff, in order to do so they hire people, they become employees, get paid, and they go off and buy stuff, but they want mores stuff, so they borrow money, banks lend to them, China lends to lenders, shareholders cash in, the media sells ads and the politicians represent their constituents, or cash in?... and that's consumerism. But,

Things getting better precisely because things are getting worse...

During a time when people have less money in their pocket, they taper off their spending, and go out and get things fixed rather than buying new ones. The question is will this continue? There are signs that this time round, perhaps, it might.

They're talking about design patterns for post-consumerism. The world simplifies down into two kinds of people; back to basics and and the progressives. They argue that the back to basics days are behind us, there isn't any way to drag the world back to the days before the plough.

Design Pattern 1 is free. It's gotten a lot of press. This is free as in speech and as in beer. This isn't giving away the razor to sell the razor blades. If we can create an economic and cultural value around free that's more than the economic value again they that's interesting, and open source culture is pointing us in that direction. Obviously capitalism isn't going away, but it is shrinking.

Design Pattern 2 is the repair culture. Things should be built to last, and when they are, oddly enough people actually want them to last. People take care of them. If you build objects that are built to be disposable, people want to do just that. We've shed a lot of the repair culture in our pursuit of innovation. But we can innovate by extending the lifespan of our products.

Design Pattern 3 is reputation scaled. You can argue that reputation is the fertile ground that civilization comes from, but the problem is that this worked best at the level of the village. The transformation event from the village, to the global economy to the global village, where reputation is traded on and important once again is really important.

Design Pattern 4 is the loaner-ship society. The question about whether you can get more use out of something is not just about repairing it when it breaks. Why does everyone have a cheap power drill? They're arguing fewer, better made, repairable power drills, that will actually last is a better thing? This doesn't mean you can't make money, you only have to look at Netflix to see that...

Design Pattern 5 is virtual production. This is where stuff gets made, and stuff gets sold, but it's all digital. Digital goods are replacing physical goods. Our interfaces are getting so good these days that we can replace physical products, you only have to look at virtual spirit level applications for the iPhone.

They've talked about five design patterns here, but there are many more, and they argue that we have to change the incentives that drive continued growth and consumerism in our economy...

...and we're done.

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