Planned obsolescence or built-in obsolescence is the policy of planned or designed artificial limitations on the lifespan of anything tangible. This could include actual physical objects or thoughts. Anything that can be produced by human ideation is subject to the manipulation represented by planned obsolescence. Entropy is the natural law that states that anything subjected to cohesion as complexity will eventually succumb to reversion from cohesion into its simplest structures. This means that if you put it together it is going to fall apart. All things do. So, in a sense, the very Universe itself has a planned obsolescence built into it. We age and die after a certain point and this is certainly a planned obsolescence that touches every single person alive.
But who has planned this obsolescence? Under what circumstances is it a “natural” occurrence and under what circumstances is it contrived and to what extent is it beneficial or detrimental in either case? This is the question we have before us today especially as we move into the Information Age.
Information is said to be the first Infinite Product. Some have said that data is not subject to entropy as it is a concept and not subject to physical laws such as entropy. This may be provable or it may end up not being provable, what is certain is that we can make data obsolete with planning. This is done with information systems which place a template upon data for a particular result which allows any number of lifespans to exist in what would normally be an infinite expression. Yet we also find that the information escapes these confines eventually as data is recycled into new uses as effortlessly as it was confined in the first place. Truly information wants to be free.
In the Information Economy, the idea that one could approach an Infinite Product is not only stimulating but tantalizing as well. The idea that one could surpass the dynamics of planned obsolescence as a driver of design and, well, just about everything else, is stunning in its implications not only for the human being but the human doing and the human mind.
Imagine for a moment a world in which innovation was released from planned obsolescence or built in obsolescence. Imagine for a moment that instead of stimulation of growth through inferiority we instead created an economy based on the ever increasing complexity of the whole. This would mean that evolution of information and its systems would be predicated upon the ubiquitous contributions of an equally ubiquitous economy.
The extension of features upon the core model that is expanding is what I believe under-girds such creations like Social Networks and the “App Revolution”. This has created such things as Platforms upon which a central idea spawns an infinite growth curve expanding into ever more features yet remaining essentially the same design only larger and more complex, like a fractal. This is a contributory economy and it has the potential for unlimited growth while reducing entropy to its smallest possible emergence.
Is it time for planned obsolescence to be obsolete? I think so. I think we are already on the event horizon of the greatest expansion of human commerce ever. The question is, what is standing in the way? For me the answer to that question is in the nature of the information systems we are currently employing to try and achieve this perpetual growth machine.
We are close, but not quite there. I envision something I like to call the iPortal. This is a cockpit if you will that enables full immersion into the digital world and allows direct interface between the human architecture and the digital architecture. Once this is achieved the human will be able to influence the digital and the digital will be able to influence the human. Data will then be an infusion rather than an externalization.
Involvement and engagement are the keys to the new production of features and complexity rather than consumption. With consumption one has to convince or SELL that consumption and the means to that consumption can be limited for gain which also limits the potential of the gain. With involvement and engagement, participation is automatic and contains its own impetus for further growth as interaction produces stimulation towards the evolution of new products and services to further the growth in an infinitely fractal generation process.
Units of exchange can be built upon the nature of the contribution to the complexity of the whole and do not have to be limited to individual gain but can be collaborative in a natural instance of engagement and involvement.
Social Media giants like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and technology giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft can orient themselves through the emerging VR world to approach the iPortal. When we finally have a customized, personalized, fully immersed session based digital reality that is machine intelligent and semantically capable humans will finally be on the doorstep to the Infinite Economy.
So is it time for planned obsolescence to finally become obsolete? I think so. I think it can be achieved upon the 100th anniversary of planned obsolescence, 2024. How about you? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.