Food for Thought – « Just because things are inevitable does not mean that they are good ». How technojunk is killing the automobile we love. « Obsolescence – the other side of Consumers Electronics Show » (CES), by Rob Norman, Chief Digital Officer GroupM, Chairman GroupM North America. Jan 11, 2016 – LinkedIn PULSE. In our kitchen we have a refrigerator. This is a familiar first world luxury. It’s 15 years old. Within any reasonable tolerance it does exactly what we bought it for and, barring the need to change the light bulb (IotT not required), it works just fine. Fast forward to CES; refrigerators that open at the brush of a foot but sensitive enough to know the difference between human and canine paws. Refrigerators with cameras, sensors, tablets and wifi that alert you to freshness and quantity and re-order when stocks are low. It seems probable that one or more of these features won’t last 15 years. Any combination of hardware or software failure, or indeed the expiration of any of the dependent apps could lead to a significant reduction in the utility expected. This will lead to either buyer’s remorse or the desire to replace the refrigerator which, in all probability is still performing its core purpose. Extend that thought to other sectors, and for that matter the new as well as the old. The press release from the 2015 JD Power Automotive Initial Quality Score Survey includes the following statement: Entertainment and connectivity systems remain the most problem-prone area for a third consecutive year, with voice recognition and Bluetooth pairing continuing to top the problem list. At the same time as quality scores relating to core functionality are up; scores relating to connectivity and IotT (Internet of Transportation Things) are down. For us Subaru owners it’s possible that our desire to keep our cars for 200,000 miles maybe somewhat compromised if the telematics are as good as redundant when the odometer his 50,000. It seems likely that this phenomena of ownership being undermined by failure of systems on the periphery of core functionality could be widespread. Perhaps degrees of disappointment as well as the level of desire will be equal drivers of purchase frequency. The smart phone business now operates on a two year (or shorter) replacement cycle, PCs and tablets between two and four years and video displays at around 5 years. All this leads to four broad possible conclusions: 1. ROPO (Return On Planned Obsolescence) is now a business model. 2. There will be a continuing shift to lease based purchasing of any product that has any significant technology built in as a hedge against dissatisfaction 3. That for all our collective protestations regarding environmental sensitivity we are collectively colluding to a massive increase in technojunk and its effect on the world around us. 4. That there is an imperative to develop strategies that recycle functional products to people to whom need is greater than want. Just because things are inevitable does not mean that they are good. Our connected future may advance the cause of personal happiness for some and even for a time their efficient use of resources, but looked at through a wider aperture perhaps the picture is less attractive. Of the multitude of things I saw at CES I can’t think of a single one that was designed to last longer than that which replaced or that increased the life expectancy of something already in use. In a recent post here I commented on the impact of other notorious solutions to first world problems. There may be more ahead.