Waste Not, Want Not… the art of obsolescence & obsoleteness

The unrelenting growth of the Technojungle produces a need for obsoleteness and waste of unimaginable proportions.  

My mother brought to my life a family expression I have never forgotten. Whenever we didn’t finish our food she, or one of my aunts, would say, “Waste not, want not.” In other words, if you waste something by not fully utilizing it, then you should not want more, or something else. Perhaps the expression was born out of lack during the Great Depression of which my previous generation of family lived through. My dinner is just an example that fits with the larger concept behind the expression, but we need to dig down to the culprit.

It is obvious that the Technojungle produces waste. From physical waste that damages the environment, to non-physical waste, such as digital data and information. Enough has been said about the damages and the need to clean up. What we need to consider is, why do we need the latest and the greatest the Technojungle has to offer? 

Watch any Technojungle construction project and you will see huge bins of wood and debris hauled away as waste. Renovation projects are the same. Often somebody just wants something different, so the existing gets ripped out and replaced. What materials have you noticed being chucked out at construction sites, or during renovations? Waste not, want not!

I have been watching the construction of a new Technojungle townhouse complex right next door and am astounded at the waste—and that is after an entire house was demolished and turned into waste. Day after day, after the crews have left for the day, I have watched the site manager climb into the dumpster bin and sort out some of the debris being discarded. But, he could only reach what was on top.

I know that leftover wood can be repurposed. Just look at all the Technojungle furniture products made from particle board, also known as manufactured wood products. Now, couldn’t waste wood from construction be used for other products? Check the furniture and other items in you house or workplace, how much real wood do you have, and how much is a manufactured wood? Waste not, want not!

It is the push to build and complete the Technojungle project that forces workers to simply toss away what they don’t need at the moment without separating into what can be recycled. We are all told to recycle, and some of us work hard at it. Yet, it seems to me that the bigger offenders are Technojungle industries who can’t afford the time and expense to recycle. So they waste. Waste not, want not!

Let’s consider the opening statement to this chapter, if they are going to waste, they should not want more. In the Technojungle construction example, somebody else is paying the way, so they are complicit in the problem.

The Technojungle and the people who sell it and its products, relentlessly pursue us daily to persuade us to upgrade to the newer more improved version. We must ask ourselves some serious questions. Is what I have sufficient for my purposes? Is it still useful and working? If so, how can I ensure it is not wasted and discarded to contribute to the massive problem of Technojungle garbage? Am I driven to a new product out of actual need, or is it want? Waste not, want not!

I realize that these remarks are common sense. However, I notice that people don’t always operate in the Technojungle out of common sense. Have you looked in any dumpsters lately? What did you find?

What else do we waste?

I heard that up to 50 percent of food gets wasted.

Food is, of course a big one. In what ways are you aware how food is wasted?

We waste time and our attention in the Technojungle. Sometimes we need a little down time. What I want to get at here is for you to consider what you are getting out of your time and attention? Who, or what are you giving your time and attention to?

We seem to waste relationships. In my lifetime I have seen marriages become disposable like rotten food. It’s not just the married couple, but everyone connected with the family, which includes kids.

If you go ahead and create your own list of Technojungle waste, either yours, or around you, what would you include? Take into consideration digital Technojungle waste. We have looked at information waste, or information excrement. Waste not, want not!

A quick look around the Technojungle will reveal devices everywhere. How many of these devices get used to their full possible potential lifetime? Do you believe they get properly recycled? What about small devices that are glued together and very difficult to dismantle for recovery of various materials? What is the culprit, or are the culprits?

Waste not, want not is an idiom and proverb. 

If you use something wisely, sparingly, and completely, it will be less likely that you find yourself in need of anything. —Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

If you do not waste anything, you will always have enough. —McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Wise use of one’s resources will keep one from poverty. —The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

 If you use a commodity or resource carefully and without extravagance you will never be in need. —Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

If you never waste anything, for example food or money, you will have it when you need it. —Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017 

Economical use of one’s resources pays off. —The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer

The culprits, as I eluded to at the opening of this chapter, are Technojungle obsolescence and obsoleteness. Obsolescence is a process whereby things become outdated, on the path to becoming obsolete. When something is deemed to be obsolete, it is no longer able to serve our purpose. Its usefulness is diminished. It is no longer produced, or is out of date (whatever that may mean). Eventually, almost everything is no longer required, or maintained. Things wear out or cease to function. However, I notice that things that are reaching obsolescence or are obsolete can still be in good working order and thus still useful, just not wanted. Can you name some things you have had to replace due to obsolescence, or actually had become obsolete? Waste not, want not!

If we were to be honest and truthful, it may come down to us simply wanting a new one. But why do we always need something new?

Our real culprit here is planning and there is a term for it—planned obsolescence. I can’t overstate the seriousness of this culprit. I would go so far as to say that every Technojungle thing we obtain has a built-in planned obsolescence with the goal of one day being unnecessarily obsolete. Somebody has determined how long the Technojungle product should last. Even worse, in the case of most technology, the product begins its obsolescence even before it leaves the manufacturer. Sometimes I see rumours for the next version of a Technojungle product even before the next expected one is available. 

What does this planned obsolescence do to us? How about the sort of advanced planned obsolescence of leaked rumours about upcoming versions of Technojungle products before the expected next one is available? 

For me, I get confused as to when to buy. I am also averse to the costs of trying to keep up. And… waste not, want not!

I am writing these books on a Technojungle computer that is nine years old. It was actually the end-of-life computer of my son. He gave it to me. So I upgraded it by doubling the RAM and adding a solid-state drive (SSD) with twice as much capacity. I also replaced the battery and the keyboard, which had a defective key. Then I installed the latest compatible operating system (OS). I am amazed at how wonderfully useful and capable this computer is. I saved thousands of dollars and kept a machine from possibly hitting the recycling depot before its actual end of life. Because I don’t go out much during the pandemic, I use this computer all day and evening—many long hours. 

I did similar to another computer my sister gave me. It is older than my laptop, however, I discovered that it runs the photography cataloging software I have used for over 15 years, so I can continue to access all my old catalogs of photos. One day I will upgrade. This computer is nice because it has a 27 inch screen and I can use that screen to connect to my laptop. I connected my scanner to it and am scanning all my old family photos. Both of these computers have lots of ports for connecting peripherals. Newer computers have less ports.

I should also add that I have some other very old computers and I am using one to read old media containing files I want to recover. Being able to access old files can become a huge problem as hardware and software change and compatibility for the old is no longer supported. So you need to keep this in mind if you have documents or photos you want to be able to use in the future.

Let’s clarify the difference between update and upgrade. To update is to bring something up to date. It is a small incremental change. To upgrade is to make a bigger change, to make an overall improvement. For example, I am careful to ensure I update software on my Technojungle computers which usually means keeping up with security measures. However, if I completely replace some software or hardware, that could be a major change and therefore an upgrade. Are your Technojungle products updated? Does anything need to be replaced?

We should always try to update, however, consider carefully when to upgrade. You can repaint something to update, but upgrading to replace may result in something being discarded and wasted.

I think some Technojungle technology, including cars are designed to get people to replace, that is to upgrade, in around four years. Yes, it is nice to get something brand spanking new. But is it necessary? What will happen with that which you are replacing? How often do you get a new car?

The Western Technojungle society I grew up in and still live, is notorious for people having too much Technojungle stuff. I know I am guilty. On the other hand, getting rid of stuff to maintain a more minimalist lifestyle, can result in extra unnecessary waste. It can also mean having to buy something new when you need it because you threw out something that would have served your purpose well. Waste not, want not!

Some years ago someone coined the term Affluenza to describe the affluent society we live in. This equates being affluent and having too much Technojungle stuff with a disease. We can also spell disease as dis-ease, that is, not at ease. Do you have Affluenza? I wonder if there is a vaccine for affluenza? Waste not, want not!

In recent years I have seen trucks that will haul your Technojungle junk away. Advertising claims, all you have to do is dial (who has a dial on their phone anymore) a number and they will come and take your junk away with no worries. I don’t know what they do with all that junk, but I see these trucks everywhere in the Technojungle and often hear the advertising, so this indicates something like an epidemic. Waste not, want not!

I also hear another kind of advertising that indicates another epidemic, that of personal financial debt. It seems so simple, if you are in spiralling debt you can call an insolvency trustee and get a consumer proposal that excuses you of a large portion of your debt. 

Do affluenza, junk and debt go hand-in-hand as epidemic plagues in our Technojungle Western societies of this future world?

The car business is an enigma to me. New models come along every year. How can Technojungle manufacturers, and parts manufacturers, retool every year to keep the planned obsolescence? This must be costly, and those costs get passed on to the consumers.

My wife had one of our cars in for service at the dealership. They told her she needed a new battery. Since this is pandemic time, our other car is on storage insurance. I run it once a week, however, I am working toward selling it, and we are working toward one electric car. A few weeks ago, the battery was completely dead. So I bought a device that can charge, maintain, test, and actually recondition a car battery. It worked, so I have done the same with our other car. I have saved hundreds of dollars and even more important, kept batteries from having to be recycled.

What happened to solid well-made goods designed and manufactured in the Technojungle to last a long time? Why is obsolescence and obsoleteness so prevalent?

I remember when Technojungle products were made in the USA, or in European countries. We didn’t think much about where something was made. Then, almost suddenly, everything came from Japan and seemed inferior. We didn’t like it when we saw, ‘Made in Japan’ on a product. Then, almost as suddenly, Japanese products were comparable or even superior to products from other countries. Today, Japanese companies are huge. Many have purchased major US Technojungle companies. 

Next came China. They seemed to catch the wave of inflation and the need of people to be able to purchase cheap products. While Japan rose from being war-torn after WWII, China was a very rural, oppressed, communist country. In a matter of years, cities sprung up as a massive workforce was utilized to grow China’s production capabilities such that they could supply the world with any Technojungle product very cheaply. Technojungle companies all over the world have moved their production to China.

But the rise of China as an industrial Technojungle behemoth has not been the same. We still look at products to note something is made in China. Someone will ask, “Where is it made?” The answer is almost always, “It was probably made in China.” 

Some Chinese products can be very good. However, China is notorious for making inferior products. They will also make knock-offs, where they copy a very good reliable product, only it is not as well made and is therefore cheaper in both cost and quality. Still there is a huge market for these ‘cheap’ Technojungle products that are not designed or produced to last. What are some of your experiences with Technojungle products from Japan, China, and other countries of the world?

What happened to solid well-made goods designed and manufactured in the Technojungle to last a long time? Why is obsolescence and obsoleteness so prevalent?

The Global Economy, a world-wide system accounting for the economies of individual countries as one huge group, assisted by Technojungle technologies, has made it possible for countries like China to rise quickly to produce and distribute their products globally.

The Technojungle has contributed to what we now have as a choice. When considering the purchase, we must consider whether to buy cheap poor quality and replace, or upgrade, often; or buy expensive high quality and replace, or upgrade, seldom. Do you consider buy cheap, or buy quality when you make purchases?

There are other considerations. For example, China and other third world countries lack the environmental regulations of developed countries resulting in pollution. Technojungle materials used may have health risks. Workplace health and safety are often absent. Do you take manufacturing considerations into account, such as environmental, health safety of materials when you make purchases? What else do you consider?

Back to planned obsolescence. We can easily see that if a product is cheap, it will need to be replaced sooner, and it will likely get discarded. This can be planned in order to sell more products. Technology products, of course, face a constant roll-out of new products. Perpetual Technojungle innovation, research, capital investment, are just a few of the drivers that need to be supported. What other considerations are drivers of obsolescence?

It is interesting, as I have noted, that computers can last a long time. Technojungle high-tech products can be extremely reliable despite being unimaginably complex. Technojungle corporations have to be creative in the ways they artificially limit product usefulness. One way I have noticed is the corporations create more products with enticing new features. Some of these products will require older versions of other products to be upgraded. What other ways do Technojungle corporations use to limit product usefulness thus making them obsolete?

Another way planned obsolescence can be created is to change the trends or what is fashionable. Technojungle clothes, of course come to mind, and also cars. 

Technojungle corporations have to be creative in the ways they artificially limit product usefulness.

I suppose there are some balancing acts involved in planned obsolescence. If a Technojungle corporation has a product line in competition with other corporations, it is important to have brand loyalty. In computers, an ecosystem, means that all the products produced by a particular corporation will work well together.

I’m sure there is a carefully planned system in place whereby a corporation must straddle a fine line as to how they manage the rates of innovation, trends, new products, etc. with exactly what their customer base will tolerate. Couple that with competition from other Technojungle corporations and we can understand how important planned obsolescence is. It becomes a carefully managed art.

So, if we keep ‘waste not, want not’ in mind, we can, not only save money and garbage/recycling, we can have an impact on how Technojungle corporations manage our lives. 

Consider waste not, want not and the notion the art of obsolescence & obsoleteness, can you see any ways some of what we have looked at can apply to data and information? How about other aspects of your life?

We are in a battle between Technojungle corporations, our ever growing need to declutter and recycle, the environment, and our pocketbooks. What other enemies are we facing? We must always consider, waste not, want not, and remember that these Technojungle corporations are using their arts of obsolescence and obsoleteness to continue their relentless need to produce and sell to gain your money. But the stakes are high, when you are just trying to learn about being a better human being and living in this technology filled world—the Technojungle?

An old adage can help guide our acquisition and dispossession of Technojungle stuff. Keeping it in mind can help us stand up against the Technojungle corporations wanting us to constantly upgrade to new products. Are these corporations acting morally or ethically? 


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