I’ve been thinking of late about how we are seemingly all sucked in – in some way, shape or form – to the cycle of upgrading technology.
The latest mobile phone, the latest annual iteration of a computer game, the latest remake of a classic film, the latest TV…whatever it is, we are sold a new item which replaces something which is not even close to being obsolete, and often that new item doesn’t even do anything markedly different to that which it is replacing and is simply a set of new gimmicks. Is this the ultimate con trick of these companies who make new technologies? If they were actually being deceitful about their items, I’d say yes, but we allow ourselves to just go along and spend our hard-earned cash on something which is probably 95% identical to the last one in its functionality and gives us only fleeting satisfaction (and maybe an opportunity to gloat at someone who doesn’t have it – like they even care). Are we conning ourselves?
I’ve inherited my last two mobile phones. At one point I went into a store to look at the latest iPhone and asked the shop assistant about the different models available. He asked me what I needed the phone for and I said “to make calls and send texts”, to which he honestly replied, “why don’t you just get an older one?”. Refreshing.
When you upgrade your mobile phone (as an example, and assuming you just buy the same brand), the first thing you do is set it up exactly like the old one, and iTunes even does this for you! There isn’t really much fun in it or much reason to explore. It doesn’t seem to make much sense if it isn’t replacing obsolescence, except for those companies who want to keep making lots of money so they can keep designing small improvements to roll out next time. Perhaps it is simply the milking of brand loyalty by large corporations.
It is hard to understand how we can get so much gratification from this, and yet somehow we do, me included with certain products. Surely it would make sense for us to upgrade less often and actually feel like we are getting something that is actually much better (maybe even life-changing) instead of just mildly different? We’d have the added benefit of saving some of the earth’s scarce resources if we upgraded any consumable items less often, which would be an added bonus, although at least older phones can be dismantled by machine and the valuable components re-used.
Something for us all to think about.