The Great Obsolescence Debate
This morning I had one of those moments (fairly frequent in this office) that remind me that I have the best job, and the best colleagues that anyone could ask for. It went something like this:
In between meetings in the stair well, outside Danny & Berry’s offices, Dan was telling us about a documentary he had seen called The Light Bulb Conspiracy (see below). The basic point of the documentary, as explained by Dan, was that products were initially designed to last lifetimes, now they are designed to be replaced at regular intervals. The classic example of this is mobile phones (which was the subject that sparked the debate), which are replaced like clockwork when your contract expires. Dan argued that there are obvious benefits to a light bulb that lasts for 100 years, but that it was a conscious decision by manufacturers to create inferior products in order to maintain revenues. This argument is backed up by the fact that our planet is consuming non renewable resources faster than ever, and are consuming many renewable resources faster than they can be consumed, we are essentially out-consuming the planet. This argument is particularly important to one of our investments, Beehive Digital Manufacturing, who are working to create quality and truly sustainable cradle to cradle products in Sydney.
Klara then stepped in to play devil’s advocate, posing the counter-argument that in a world where populations are growing faster than economies we need to consume more than we did 100 years ago (when the 100 year old light bulb was invented) in order to sustain our populations. There is obviously a middle ground there (or at least, we believe there is), where we can consume at a sustainable rate whilst supporting our population, but this debate gives rise to the arguement of growth…
Why is growth the holy grail of our economy? We always see politicians and business people on the news proclaiming that we need to improve productivity to drive growth, and behind those buzz words we are basically asking people to do more with less, so we as a society can get more. What if, instead of working longer hours, or doing more work in the same amount of time, we stopped growing? We enjoyed the amount of wealth we have and more importantly the amount of time we have with our loved ones. This would no doubt be impossible in the current economic system, and there are many complex issues with this which will not be discussed here, but it is a question with asking. To put it another way, where is the point where our Gross Domestic Product, and our Gross Domestic Happiness meet?
We think it was time this impromptu debate moved beyond out stair well and into the community. Tell us this: what does growth mean to you? How would you measure it? And what would you measure? Send us your thoughts, ideas, or any articles, videos, or anything that helps you define what growth is or should be. Let’s start the conversation.
PS. The 100 year old lightbulb actually exists, it have been burning bright, without stopping for over 100 years and you can watch it online here!
PPS. You can list your thoughts on growth below, or email them to [email protected]