Planned Obsolescence

It’s kinda funny. I fancy myself a minimalist; I try to keep things simple. But complexity sometimes adds too much value to be ignored. For instance, in no scenario I have ever seen does going it alone provide the best version of any given outcome. Going it alone is simple because people are complicated, but going it alone also lends itself to fatigue, mistakes, or narcissism. I often chose people over not, but I also use the opportunities to further my personal planned obsolescence.

Planned obsolescence in technological terms is often conflated with the iPhone, that Apple has somehow orchestrated the march of technological progress for their profit. This is most assuredly false or at least pettily misconstrued. Technology continues to progress so fast in fact that older iPhone are old more quickly over time. Apple wants you to upgrade frequently, but they also are just trying to make the best possible devices they can and that naturally leaves their own hardware in the dust sometimes.

However, there is a better example of planned obsolescence, a technology that’s replacement cycle is by definition planned: smoke detectors. Smoke detectors are only meant to last a specific length of time because their sensors degrade over time and become less effective and thereby less safe. No one desires to save money by choosing to use a smoke detector for long past its usable life and no one in their right mind would complain when they have to replace their smoke detectors either because of the safety aspect. This points to a shared understanding that their replacement is necessary and advantageous to everyone involved.

I use planned obsolescence personally as an acknowledgement that nothing lasts forever. I will not be around forever, both in my job and in my life, and I am not always around. I have to be willing to let certain things go, to allow other people to handle things in my absence. There must be a shared understanding that one person’s replacement in any given situation is necessary and advantageous to everyone involved. You don’t have to do it alone.

This approach is really about relationships, it is about delegation and partnership. It is about surrounding yourself with willing participants, who can help based on their own strengths and their ability to learn. It is about learning that you don’t have to weaken yourself to elevate others.

I approach this as a person who is an expert at some things, things I can do myself, and more importantly things I can teach someone else to do. I like variety in my work, but I also like to empower others to do my job for me. I know how that sounds, but too often information hoarding is confused with job security.

I feel secure in my work, not because I am the only one who can do any given job, but because I know that I bring value to my role. Anyone with enough time and effort to learn it can do my job (just like most jobs honestly), so why not provide others with access to my knowledge while I am able to share it. After all, you won’t know the outcome until you’ve taken action.

Which brings me back to the reason why I started this with the comment that I think of myself as a minimalist. In everything I do, I try to maintain a level of simplicity, especially when there are things I know to be outside of my control, when anxiety and fear can guide a person to the wrong actions. Those are the times when we need people the most, not things; those are the times when we need to stop hoarding and start sharing.



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