I was first introduced to throwaway technology by Dr. Ali Mousavi of Brunel University, UK (2007) who came into class and made a joke about how his father thinks that the 1980ies Mercedes Benz he owns is the the best car in the world. Although funny, this joke opened up the floor for a more profound debate which argued about how a TV was handed down for generations as a family heirloom. As we all know, in the modern era, a TV becomes obsolete in less than six months. Given this scenario, it is unlikely that we would be able to pass a TV down to our kids in the years to come without them suing us for pushing them hazardous material. i.e. we have no other option but to throwaway our old (6 month old) TV and buy a new one. Thus this technology becomes throwaway technology as there is no other option available other than to throw it away in order to keep up with the lightning speed of evolution and innovation in modern day technologies. Needless to say that this is not just applicable to TVs but every piece of technology we use in the 2.0 era regardless whether it is hardware or software. In the case of software, what will you do with your old Windows 98 CDs without throwing them away??? Do you think you would be able to give them away???
The other aspect of throwaway technology is that the modern day consumer can afford to throw technology away. Back in the day, a TV or a car was the culmination of a person’s career. In modern times a car or a TV is just one more thing that you need to have to survive just like toothpaste or soap. Modern day consumerism has gotten to such a point and has cheapened to such a point that technology is no longer a luxury but a necessity. Gone those days when we called countries who didn’t have food “under developed”. Nowadays the IT infrastructure, access to technology and access to information plays a bigger role in determining whether a country is developed or not. In such an atmosphere consumerism has hit hard to sell the latest and the most cutting edge technologies to the user even though sometimes the consumer is used as a willing (premium paying) guinea pig to beta test technologies.
Ironically, one of the major benefits of subscribing to throwaway technology would be the promotion of technology. For example, in modern times we are unable to survive without a mobile phone (smart phone) which connects us to the outside world. i.e. we pay premium for a smart phone which gives as all the industry standard features which are used by us to keep in touch with the world. However, there will be a newer version of this smart phone in 3-4 months which would advertise even more features which we will eventually not be able to live without. The problem however is whether we can afford to throwaway the smart phone we paid premium for just to get the newer version of it? This is the height of consumerism where very smart companies are selling us not very smart (in terms of longevity) pieces of technology at premium prices under the guise of “hip” or “trendy” technology. I myself will not be able to throwaway a piece of technology which I paid $1000 in six months. i.e. I will console myself by saying that I will use it for two years. However in less than one year this “hip” or “trendy” piece of technology will be as old as the 80ies Mercedes. This gives rise to the era of savvy consumerism.
Let’s say you buy a mobile phone with all the features available in the premium phone for half the price… In that case you will be able to throw it away in half the time. i.e. a smart phone you buy for $500 can be thrown away in one year rather than two. At this juncture you can spend the $500 you saved by not buying the premium phone to buy a much more up to date phone faster. This way you will have the last laugh when you show your much newer phone with much newer features to the idiot who paid premium for technology which was obsolete the day it hit the market (this is a very bold statement but if you think about it, when a piece of new technology hits the market it is already being made obsolete in the product development lab).
In conclusion, all the technology we use in modern times are throwaway technology. However, it is up to the savvy consumer to decide whether to throw away $1000 or $500 when keeping up with the times. I personally make fun of people who pay premium to buy pieces of technology which they have no clue how to use. Having said that, it is up to the individual to make the right choice when it comes to buying technology to decide which technologies suit their needs the most. I have nothing but respect for people who can tell me exactly why they paid premium for a piece of technology even though it will be obsolete in a few months. However when considering the rest of us, the savvy consumer will always have the last laugh…
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