Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 29th Sep 2016 22:42 UTC

How often have you taken a gadget or a pair of shoes in for repair and found out that fixing it will cost more than buying a new version? Too often, that's how often. And Sweden is trying to fix this, by halving the tax paid on repairs and increasing taxes on unrepairable items.

The new proposals come from the ruling coalition of the Social Democrat and Green parties, and, if successfully enacted, would be accompanied by a publicity campaign to encourage Swedes to repair products instead of replacing them.

I am a proponent of this, and feel like we should push especially electronics companies much harder to release information about parts, repairs, diagnostics, and so on, to ensure that consumers are not at the whims of the Apples and Samsungs of this world when it comes to defective products.

In response to cars becoming ever more complex, lawmakers all across the United States and Europe started proposing and passing bills to ensure that independent repairs shops and dealers would have access to the same kind of information that first-party dealers get or to make sure that vehicle warranties were not voided simply because you brought your car to a third-party repair shop.

We should strive for similar laws for electronics. Much like cars, if your smartphone is broken, you should be able to bring it into any repair shop to have it fixed, by forcing electronics companies, like car manufacturers, to release repair, parts, and diagnostics information, without said repair voiding any warranties. I see no reason why electronics companies should enjoy a special status.

And yes, this includes forcing companies to provide software updates for a set amount of time, especially when it comes to security flaws and bugs. Software has enjoyed its special little world wherein it's treated like a delicate little flower you can't demand too much from for long enough. The failure rate of the software we use every day is immense, but if we keep letting companies get away with the shoddy work they deliver, this will only get worse.

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by jburnett on Sat 1st Oct 2016 16:00 UTC
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I'm not convinced that disposable is bad. In fact I think disposable might be a key part of what has allowed our technology to develop at the pace it has for the last few decades. I'm probably going to get flamed for even suggesting this, but we should be developing better recycling/recyclability instead of better repairability?

In the not too distant past we fixed things. Because we fixed things, they tended to stick around when superior options were available. This meant that superior options were frequently nonviable commercially.

For example, look at TV. It took decades to upgrade from the old ~240 scanline standard to HD because nobody upgraded their monitor. However, in about a decade, 4k is already starting to show up in a significant portion of homes. The adoption of 4k is being pushed by disposable tech like TVs with 5 year lifespans and cheap disposable streaming boxes like Roku and Chromecast.

The same thing can be said for washers/dryers. They were pretty much unchanged for nearly a century. But look at the last few years, massive gains in efficiency.

What about computers? Look at the various governments that keep hardware forever. By not adapting to a disposable culture many governments are running critical services on laughably outdated hardware. Every year there is an article about the US Internal Revenue Service running 1960s era computer hardware, and 1980s era software, for many of their necessary functions.

This argument can be repeated for almost any product: cameras, cellphones, refrigerators/chillers, cars, etc...

Nondisposable tech tends to be problematic. Trains, planes, buses, roads, buildings. We find ourselves complaining about these things because they do not evolve or do so slowly. We end up with old, dirty things that people do not want to use.

What if we scrapped our planes every 5-10 years. Would we still have this hub based airport architecture, or would we have smaller more personal options. Because we fix them, and they tend to stick around, our whole aviation system is based around a bus/train model. Manufacturers do not develop anything else because it would not fit that model, so it reinforces a system that is universally disliked.

Imagine if we could scrap our roads every 5-10 years... alright every 10-20 years. Still, imagine a world where everything was adaptable. Instead of clawing back technological progress we should be trying to push it everywhere.

On the other hand, I understand the concern with disposable cultures, they create waste. Nobody wants to create a waste problem. But I propose that the problem is not disposability, but recyclability.

We need to spend more time/energy in developing better ways to break things down into reusable parts. We also need to find a way to make our products in ways that are easier to break down into reusable parts.

Before somebody says anything, what about the money though? Wealth inequality will have the same effect in a repairable world as it does in a disposable one. The rich can afford to buy the best. The only difference is that the best will come along much slower, and the poor will be without it even longer.

For example, look at private planes (and trains back in the day), expensive toll roads, corporate shuttles, etc. Now, try to find an example of where rich people have a cellphone or TV option that poor people do not? It might be stupid for a poor person to have an iPhone 7 with a 65" 4k LED TV, but I know more than a couple who do anyway. I don't know any who have a private plane, or that drive in the lexus lanes very often.

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