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

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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Recycling
by jburnett on Sat 1st Oct 2016 16:00 UTC
jburnett
Member since:
2012-03-29

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.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Recycling
by Alfman on Sat 1st Oct 2016 17:27 in reply to "Recycling"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

jburnett,

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?


Products should be both easy to recycle and to reuse.

I agree that things like computers during "the last few decades" have made enormous gains, but it's only recently that we are seeing them shift to non-serviceable components. So right there I don't think we should give disposable products too much credit for the industry's progress.



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.


Keep in mind this shift actually occurred with government intervention. For it's part, the free market wasn't actually that motivated to upgrade (we still don't have an HD TV yet). Arguably we're better off now for having made the transition, but the 5 year life-cycle you cite is extremely wasteful and normal consumers expect their TV to last much longer than that.


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.


Absolutely, I agree with you that there have been gains. But once again we owe a lot of those gains to the EPA's energy-star programs. Clearly there's a threshold where it makes sense to throw away a very inefficient appliance to replace it with a new efficient one, especially for appliances predating energy star. However this still doesn't justify new products having shortened lifespans.


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.


I don't know anything about the IRS, but in the corporate world that often has to do with software rather than hardware. I'd like to read those articles, if you have the links.


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.


I'm honestly not following how a 5 year lifecycle plane would change airplane routes?

It takes a ton of energy for industry to build these vehicles, what would be gained by replacing them every 5-10 years and how would you mitigate the costs of doing so? What expenses you can cut out of a 5 year plane, realistically?


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.


I don't know where you live, but it seems we constantly need to repave highways and bridges already and they can't keep up with the work - counties and states are having trouble paying for it.


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.


Well, isn't that what Sweden is looking to do?

Edited 2016-10-01 17:28 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Recycling
by kwan_e on Sat 1st Oct 2016 23:24 in reply to "Recycling"
kwan_e Member since:
2007-02-18

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.


You say that like it's a bad thing. Do you really want these critical services migrated to the cloud, given all the trouble that causes?

For critical services, you'd want quality over disposability. Well, maybe a lot of people do want their tax records disposed of...

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.


No, we won't. The airport architecture has nothing do with the disposability of planes, but the volume and throughput of air traffic to handle.

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.


So what if it's universally disliked? Flying is SAFE. Why would you want a plane that's built to be disposable?

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.


Yeah. Imagine a world where there's constant roadworks. People love driving through constant roadworks and having to change their routes to work all the time.

I would argue disposability is clawing back technological progress. That's because I don't see technological progress as "do what we're currently doing, but faster and if it doesn't work, throw it away and buy a new one". I see technological progress as "let's do something different from what we've done in the past".

The mentality of "if it doesn't work, we'll just throw it away" keeps people and technology stuck in that rut, doing the same thing over and over again. That's not technological progress. That doesn't produce breakthroughs.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Recycling
by dionicio on Sat 1st Oct 2016 23:52 in reply to "RE: Recycling"
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

"The mentality of "if it doesn't work, we'll just throw it away" keeps people and technology stuck in that rut, doing the same thing over and over again."

Agree, Kuan_e: An attitude of disposal toward our crafts ends also being toward the culture that generated them. If We don't get used to fix our messes and tantalizing steps, then We end starting "over and over again". That's a Nietzsche-ian course.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Recycling
by dionicio on Sun 2nd Oct 2016 01:25 in reply to "RE: Recycling"
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

"...Flying is SAFE...".

And it has to do a lot with this long term, 'feed-back' loop embracing view of technology.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Recycling
by dionicio on Sun 2nd Oct 2016 00:15 in reply to "Recycling"
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

"...I'm probably going to get flamed for even suggesting this, but we should be developing better recycling/recyclability instead of better repairability?"

Quite the contrary, Jburnett. A very well meditated argumentation. But a 'consumer' one:

"...By not adapting to a disposable culture many governments are running critical services on laughably outdated hardware."

Thanks God, but no. The latest, most global hall of shame blunders have occurred not on 'laughably' outdated hardware, but on those critical services uploaded to the 'Cloud'. 'New' doesn't USUALLY carry an equivalence to 'better'.

"...Nondisposable tech tends to be problematic."

Yes, that's exactly Sweden point. There is no 'problema' in simply disposing of what at first try didn't deliver. Sweden is committed to return empowerment to their local technicians. That's a National Asset.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: Recycling
by dionicio on Sun 2nd Oct 2016 02:06 in reply to "Recycling"
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

Not dropping the thread without commenting where I agree with you, Jburnett:

Always markets accepting nothing MORE than piano-black|pearl-rose and 6mm, top. For them the way forward could be to pay the full tax, and ask Gov. for it to be hard-linked to oxygenating the still tantalizing electronics recycling industry.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Recycling
by dionicio on Sun 2nd Oct 2016 02:13 in reply to "RE: Recycling"
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

Is it for real? That "Electronics Recycling Industry"?

Or could it be just a maliciously crafted & delivered Myth to the masses?

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Recycling
by dionicio on Sun 2nd Oct 2016 02:20 in reply to "RE: Recycling"
dionicio Member since:
2006-07-12

Another one...

Reply Parent Score: 2