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Consumerism and Obsolescence

Obsolescence and marketing

In the non-human animal world, the main driving forces are food and sex. Sexual drive is the force behind fights between males for females. Even our image of the little Christmas card robins is misleading, as some 10 per cent of male robins are killers in fights over territory and females. We, as humans, have precisely these same instincts, but the thin veneer of civilization has added another layer to our problems—wealth and possessions. Technology therefore intrudes into our lives: as good technologies offer better and more desirable goods, we want them. This means that to purchase new toys we need money. According to one song, money is the root of all evil. Perhaps this is not totally true, but it is a high priority for most people, both rich and poor.

Social status and image

Affluent nations survive by skilful marketing and consumerism, but an undesirable feature of this is to have considerable obsolescence, together with the unfortunate social aspects of isolation (as discussed in the previous chapter). If we want to head towards a better world with a long-term future, then one target should be to minimize waste and obsolescence. This may seem unfashionable, as politicians and media all offer ideas and advice on how to increase our income, but very few seriously consider or propose either how, or why, we could economize. Politically, the reason is obvious, as it has little voting appeal, and similarly the general media and commercial TV need advertising money. I suspect I am a social misfit because I am unexcited by most advertising of new technology, but instead am concerned about the future.

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