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More than wires - exploring the connections between energy, environment, and our lives

A socialist iPhone?

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Yes, yes, yes, new iPhone, new IOS, new stuff, cheap, expensive, blah blah blah.

Nobody needs to tell you that your phone is obsolete about an hour and a half after you buy it, and nobody needs to tell you that your old phones either build up in our house (I can put my hands on two old phones without leaving my desk) or join in a surging tide of electronic crap either building up in the waste stream or being shipped to developing countries, where the poorly paid risk exposure to chemicals and other dangers to mine valuable metals from the mountain of junk.

These dudes at phonebloks.com have figured out a way around that.

The idea is simple. Various manufacturers cooperate in a Lego-style model of phones built of separate blocks: a camera block, a memory block, a battery block, a screen block, all fitting into a basic grid base. You design your own phone -- choosing your own components by Apple or Samsung or Nokia or Motorola or whomever. It's assembled, and there you have it. New, faster chip comes out? You replace that, not the whole thing. If you want to.

Okay. I'll just wait while you stop laughing. Didn't get past "various manufacturers cooperate," did you? Me neither. It's a lovely idea -- just like unbundled cable programming choices and the valuable and cheap automatic door locks without the unreliable and expensive automatic windows on your car. Or like cars that get the highest possible MPG.

I love this idea -- but for it to work so many companies have to choose to make a reasonable profit delivering a good and long-lasting product according to the choices of their customers instead of an enormous profit delivering a good but short-lived produce according to their own models for profit maximization that it's a borderline nonstarter.

I mean, share the video, yell as loud as you can, try to get manufacturers to start designing electronics that last longer than their packaging. I'm for it, and I'm with you.

But I can't say I'm optimistic.

 

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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