What if our tech were also as important as our pets? I’m sure that for some of you the image of those creepy Aibo robot dogs or the adorable yet terrifying self-surveillance owl Ulo come to mind instead of regular tech care as what I’m actually referring to is far tamer, but critically important for the survival of our planet, our species, and the tech we’ve come to depend upon.
Thanks to the two sides of the economic coin: capitalism and consumerism, buying the latest and greatest things is normal. While it may have roots in a variety of things such as car releases and the pressure to trade in older models for newer ones, Millennials and Zoomers (aka Gen Z) are probably most familiar with this trend through handheld devices like smartphones, consoles, smartwatches, etc.
Since 2001, Apple has churned out a new iPod almost annually for 18 years with ever-increasing functionality. There were new models that could play videos, new models with more storage, slimmer models, models with a color chassis, models that could connect to WiFi, and models that were cheap. The iPhone took this to such an extreme that Apple incorporated it into their culture and encouraged people to wait for days outside their stores.
But all that new tech comes at a steep price: factory workers in countries with minimal labor laws work in soul-crushing conditions, lithium mining poisons the water and destroys the land, and tech giants are incentivized to fund coups across the globe to extract more resources in order to churn out more tech. The people who died so this tech could be made were irreplaceable and the resources extracted to build this tech will run out eventually.
Without a dramatic course correction, there will come a day when there is no more of whatever resource is needed to make the latest and greatest tech. Water in many places will be unsafe to drink, the fish and other marine life will be dead, and the soil too toxic to grow crops in. It’s a grim and unpleasant picture. What if there was something we could do to make peace with the eventuality that we will no longer have the rapidly evolving tech we have now? What if we could change the culture and reject consumerism?
What if we thought of our tech the same way we think of our pets?
My grandparents had a Shih Tzu dog named Pepper. He was a grouchy old dog who barked or even bit anyone who got too close (with the exception of my grandparents and oldest cousin who spent a lot of time with the dog). My grandparents loved him all the same. My granddad explained that ever since Pepper went blind he didn’t like strangers. It was stressful to have strangers in your home when you can’t see them. My grandparents loved their dog even though he scared the grandkids. The thought of getting rid of Pepper now that he was blind was unthinkable.
My phone is a Samsung Galaxy S6. It was already an older model when I bought it in 2017. The S8 had just come out, but that didn’t bother me because what really mattered is that my beloved S3 had been stolen and I needed a new phone. My phone is now 5 years old. The protective casing I bought for it is wearing out, but underneath is a perfectly good (albeit dusty) phone. Why would I buy a new one (besides the fact that I don’t have $1,300 sitting around for an unnecessary purchase)?
What if we put the same devotion into our tech care as we do in our pets, rather than treating it like it was something to be thrown away when a new one comes along? What if we thought of our tech as unique because it’s ours and therefore irreplaceable? It’s counterintuitive, but only because we’ve been taught to devalue even the slightest imperfections in our tech. That and the fact that many things are built with planned obsolescence, meaning that they are built to fail or break down after a certain amount of time despite whatever amount of tech care you invest in it. Apple is a leader in planned obsolescence and actively discourages repairing devices (“why can’t you just buy a new $850 iPhone 11?”)
Nobody is suggesting you put a leash on your Roomba and take it for a walk around the block. What is important is that the tech we have is treated with the value we have for our pets. New dogs, cats, fish, and more are born every day but we don’t toss out the pets we have just to have newborns. We can’t end capitalism overnight, but we can bring the gears of the reckless industry to a slow halt by investing in some tech care.
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