Every so often, a Google Calendar reminder that I set up ages ago reminds me to charge our old cell phones. This is to prevent their batteries from dying as a result of a deep discharge.
Old cell phones, you ask? Well, yes. When we swapped phones, we kept the old ones for a while, just in case. And then we kept them because wiping them securely seemed like too much of a hassle. And then we kept them because, well, what’s the alternative? Landfill? Yes, I know, some service providers accept old phones, might even give you credit. But what happens to those old phones? Who needs them? Who can use them, with their ailing batteries and, worst of all, the absence of software updates, including security patches?
Indeed, this end of support was the main reason why we ditched phones in the past. And it really is tragic. Never mind phones old enough to have outdated specs. I have here a few devices that have hardware specs that would be reasonable on the low end even today. The devices are perfectly functional. Yet they are worthless.
This is just… conspicuous consumption, forced upon us by a society that measures the health of the economy not by its stability or sustainability but by growth. Pointless, limitless growth.
Never mind that in the meantime, the middle class shrinks, the income and wealth gap widens, society is becoming more polarized, ultimately threatening the very foundations of our Western liberal democracies. Who cares about such nonsense when there’s a new phone out there with half a dozen camera lenses and who knows what other nonsense just to make you believe that they’re worth your money and that it’s perfectly okay to throw away a capable, quality piece of electronics that would have many more years of useful life left?
Darnit, I realize I almost sound like a grumpy old commie, when in reality what I worry about is the future of a healthy capitalist society, characterized by freedom of conscience, the rule of law, freedom of speech, and freedom of enterprise. But there’s a fine line between freedom of enterprise and the “tragedy of the commons”, and when free enterprise undermines the very foundations of liberal democracy, perhaps it is advisable to do something about it before it is too late.
By the way, I really liked these Nokias. What a pity we had to get rid of them. They still function perfectly, but without security patches, they’re not worth the risk.