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Americans Own Less Stuff, and That’s Reason to Be Nervous (bloomberg.com)
367 points by dustinupdyke 6 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 556 comments



The article identifies some problems but totally misses their actual source. The problem isn't that we own less stuff, it's that the ownership is replaced by a dependency on a handful of corporations which we have no ability to influence or appeal to.

The substitution of individual ownership for a communal one in which individuals retain a stake - a real community, or at a larger scale, a democracy - is not inherently bad. The problem with our recent trend is that we aren't getting communal ownership in return; we're getting nothing but convenience.

Silicon Valley has morphed and commercialized the term "sharing". You aren't "sharing" when you use Uber or AirBnB; you aren't pooling resources when you use Netflix or Amazon Books. You're renting. You're renting from a centralized company which outsources the generation of actual value to others, and pays them as little as possible. You aren't shifting your dependence from yourself to a community, but from yourself to a company that wants nothing more than to make money.


I might add that Silicon Valley et al has not simply cleverly redefined the meaning of ’sharing’ to cover their rental practices, but even the meaning of community has been totally warped out of shape. A community used to be a group of geographically proximate people whose collective survival depended on getting over their sometimes conflicting mutual interests and opinions in order to survive; now we use the term ’community’ to cover collections of isolated loners who are on average many hundreds of kilometres apart but are united by a common and often generally speaking controversial opinion that puts them at odds with their actual neighbours. The Information Superhighway was meant to usher in the Global Village but instead it begat a landscape of virtual ghettoes.


Personally, I view this as a distinct upgrade. Instead of being coerced into lots of interaction with people I may have nothing in common with except vague geographical proximity, I have the option of interacting with people who actually share my interests or concerns or hobbies.

To me, this isn't isolated loners. It's the first real community I've ever known. The first one I've ever actually felt like I was a part of, where I was always welcome and could always rely on finding people like me.

I understand that some people dislike this shift. It's easy to see where it might be inconvenient for local communities that used to depend on coercing membership to exist. It used to be easy to erase those who were alone in the crowd.

You're absolutely right. We didn't get a Global Village. Instead, we have a network of Global Villages. They are many and diverse and offer genuine community to everyone in ways that the old approach no longer did. This is beautiful and terrible - it's a shift from surviving to thriving.

We finally get to see that there's an option other than ghettos run by the tyranny of geography.


The problem with this “virtual community” interpretation is that it alters both people’s perception of prevailing opinions and skews their perception of how and whether they ‘need’ to find compromises with people they actually share space with. Somebody can find a ‘community’ online with whom to share very unconventional views and come away with the perception that this unconventional view is actually widespread despite being very rare.


this is at the core of why the fabric of our society is unraveling. We're heading deeper in this direction with no signs of slowing down. Algorithms that optimize for engagement metrics amplify this.

why would anyone entertain let alone engage opposing viewpoints when it's much more comfortable to just retreat to a place with common similar beliefs. Make no mistake Hn is an echo chamber as well.


Tribalism has been a thing as long as human history has existed and 2 groups of apes both wanted the same banana tree. We have many ways of resolving inter-tribal conflicts, but some just aren't well translated to the internet - primarily because of the consequence free nature of throwing rocks at other tribes. This is changing though - people are moving to more, not less, moderated spaces and communities online. Anonymity only works when there are moderators.

People want to be in a place with common similar beliefs - this isn't a bad thing, its human nature. Its far safer to be around people you know don't like to eat people like you.

The main argument seems to be that because we're not having forced arguments and considerations in meatspace, mano-a-mano, we're not challenged enough. I'd argue we're extremely challenged nowadays, but most of the difficulty is in finding how to deal with the new stage upon with the game is set. Its like arguing that we've lost the ability to form up a cavalry line because of the airplane. You're right in a way, but its irrelevant. The game is changing, and everyone is scrambling to figure out what the new meta is.


> The main argument seems to be that because we're not having forced arguments and considerations in meatspace, mano-a-mano, we're not challenged enough.

In meatspace social pressure exists unlike on the internet. An example is racist/misogynist jokes are not acceptable in most IRL contexts (especially those that are being logged/recorded permanently as is the case on the majority of the modern web) whereas on the internet it's not only discouraged but it's actually a great way to build a following quickly.

The internet is fundamentally changing how we communicate, ingest news, and share information.

The argument is that before safe spaces and echo chambers online, individuals that aim to engage general public with their message in any meaningful context are forced to compromise their extreme views. In my view Alex Jones wouldn't be a nationally recognized name before the internet, at best he'd be able to get influence over 30 or so of his local conspiracy theorists. No publication would print his views, because of how large a portion of the population they would alienate and anger. I'd argue this pressure is a net positive and having it removed online is leading us down a dark path.


> In meatspace social pressure exists unlike on the internet.

That is my point and what is changing, as people figure out how to interact in the platform. In Oklahoma yesterday nearly all local news outlets reported on a group of adults threatening violence (or to have their children/grandchildren commit violence) on a 12 year old transgender girl. They did that on Facebook, and their names are out there along with their identities. People are moving towards more identifiable or at least moderated spaces, because frankly most people don’t want to interact on a platform that’s main feature is they allow anyone to say anything with no consequences.

Alex Jones may not exist if it weren’t for the internet, but the backlash to views like his is real as public spaces on the internet figure out how to deal with bad actors.


> why would anyone entertain let alone engage opposing viewpoints when it's much more comfortable to just retreat to a place with common similar beliefs. Make no mistake Hn is an echo chamber as well.

But in the original "community", you wouldn't actually be exposed to opposing viewpoints all that often either. You actively had to seek them out too. Ancestor comment pointed out that community was required for survival. Once survival and security is guaranteed, then you can start thinking about self-actualisation, which is a different kind of community.

> when it's much more comfortable to just retreat to a place with common similar beliefs

This is an age-old argument, but taking a new form. Of course people like just doing what's comfortable; we've just replaced the 5 hours of broadcast TV a day with 5 hours of mindless social media refreshing. It's only a minority that actively seek to challenge themselves.


Especially when 'engagement-optimising' algorithms realise that the best way to get views is to fan a flamewar by tossing pro-Skub and anti-Skub zealots into a virtual ant-jar and shaking it.


I'm not saying I have any evidence otherwise, but do you have a source for that?

I mean, "more comfortable to just retreat to a place with common similar beliefs" is a good theory. But it is hardly the only one I can think of. Off the top of my head I also have:

1) Wealth is being eroded by the response to the '08 crisis leaving known-bad cultures to thrive in the lending industry. Social fabric starts to unravel due to lack of wealth creation.

2) Academics have had a long history of being in tension with democratic ideals. Famously, right when they came up with the idea of 'academies' Socrates was executed by a jury trial. More recently, communism had strong support in academic circles of Europe. We've massively increased the exposure of people to the university culture in the last 1-2 generations. Maybe technocrat leanings are leaking out? Technocrats don't compromise well on social issues, they believe there is a best answer.

Basically, the problem might not be algorithms and search bubbles, even though this is a forum that knows a lot about algorithms and search bubbles.


I have no source these are just my thoughts and observations.

You bring up very good points.

> Technocrats don't compromise well on social issues, they believe there is a best answer.

You are absolutely correct. Algorithms and search bubbles are just symptoms not the disease. Elite untouchable tech giants with no oversight molding human thought and behavior to increase their bottom line and power with a 'move fast a break things' attitude in regards to the any social or ethical implications - that's the disease.


I guess is the goal for everyone to join in some sort of majoritarian social contract? Being a lgbt person growing up I didn't interact in my local small community at all, because there was a damn good chance the local community would band together and mob me for being what I am. Finding a group of people I can identify with probably saved my life, literally, if not from some band of bigots than depression and suicide.

The rule that seems to be working itself out is this: people can pursue any interest they want, but we have social contracts when those interests interact with other people. Groups converge and have little friction when many people share at least some of the values, so you get things like HN, reddit, etc, but not unmoderated.


> I guess is the goal for everyone to join in some sort of majoritarian social contract? Being a lgbt person growing up I didn't interact in my local small community at all, because there was a damn good chance the local community would band together and mob me for being what I am.

Alternately, by removing yourself from your community you failed to give them examples that would've broadened their horizons.

Like, this is one form of problem with today's filter bubbles--they help polarize communities by preventing the natural mechanisms of discovery and compromise that are required for groups of humans to coexist in meatspace.


When you're in a place that is actually unsafe, where people get assaulted for being different, that's a difficult ask. I went to a safe space first. And due to the magic of the internet (and telling my parents) people definitely know. The culture has changed enough to where it IS safe now to come out in that community (the worst that will happen is you get put into a camp, unlikely assaulted other than at school), but it wasn't then - the ADULTS would come after you. The first thing I heard after I came out was "don't tell anyone, I don't want anyone firebombing my house".

People weren't unenlightened because LGBT people were hiding, LGBT people were hiding because of a fear of violence and ostracization. Only when it became unacceptable to be violent towards people did they change, and that's a slow process. Only then can you effect any change. There are braver people than I who stayed in those situations, but most of them were also a lot better at fitting in with the community in the first place.


Are you suggesting that a closeted person has any sort of obligation to come out to (potential) bigots so that said bigots can attain a more enlightened worldview? It is not incumbent on marginalized people to teach their oppressors the errors in their ways, often at great risk to themselves.


Who is it that teaches the oppressors the error of their ways? I'd suggest it is actually the marginalized people. Civil rights movement is a great example.


What you are suggesting is that school bullies would simply cease to be bullies when you show them the error of their ways. Alas, that's not how the World works.

The only way to get to people like that is to hurt them, either physically, mentally, economically or socially. That's what we're doing as a collective by changing norms so that it's no longer considered acceptable to beat people up for being <insert whichever unique attribute you want>.

Doing that will result in conflicts. Sometimes those conflicts will escalate into violent ones. As a single person it's often not viable to proceed into that territory alone, and so it's better to widthdraw from that society.


Yeah, but from a place of power where they can unify and message correctly, not one from the places where people are being oppressed. When the prevailing message isn’t “oh gosh this is horrible” but “that other person got what they deserved” you’re not going to change people’s mind.

For every MLK there were hundreds of lynchings. You can’t lead with no followers.


I agree with your point wholeheartedly and completely. You are fully correct in every possible way, in every detail.

With that said, a more charitable reading might be that the person was noting the power of representation and role models to inspire.


I think that's exactly what they're suggesting and it's totally absurd.


I used to think the same as you, but I realized that I was putting no effort into my local communities. Once I started to start putting more effort into the local community, I began to appreciate geographic proximity much more.

That said, as all things, there's a balance. The Internet is a great tool for bringing people virtually close together and spreading ideas. Sharing those ideas is a great way to enhance your local community.

> tyranny of geography

Haha. We're a long way from being omnipresent so you better get used to having neighbors. ;-)


Can we just agree that it's not evil that people get a choice now where they didn't before?

You're very right! Sharing ideas to enhance your local community can be incredibly valuable and rewarding! However, some people occasionally find that their local communities do not always uniformly and enthusiastically welcome the ideas they want to share. Some people, faced with such experiences and fears, might consider that analog and digital communities offer different tradeoffs.


> Can we just agree that it's not evil that people get a choice now where they didn't before?

It depends. I find the fact that people can isolate themselves into communities where it's very easy to censor out any possible dissenters and dissenting opinions to be pretty damn damaging to our society.


That's always been the case. You can just as easily ignore all the people outside your religion, specific church, household, or even everyone other than yourself, and that's been the case since we've had those communities. This is just another case of something looking slightly different on the surface but actually being more of the same. The way to fight isolation is not to restrict choice of community, but to reach out to other communities and individuals and make them feel welcome.


> This is just another case of something looking slightly different on the surface but actually being more of the same.

That can be said about every development ever. But it being more easy / efficient can bring out existing systems out of balance at some point, once counter-acting forces are overwhelmed... especially if those don't improve (as fast).

> reach out to other communities and individuals and make them feel welcome.

That doesn't seem to be a winning strategy in current US politics. And the shared consensus seems to be eroding fast. I understand there are a lot of additional problems (like the shitty two party voting system) feeding into that, even strengthening each other. But finding a shared consensus seems absolutely necessary when living with other people in the same city/country/planet at a time were we can dramatically effect each others lives.


> That doesn't seem to be a winning strategy in current US politics.

There are lots of different parties between different constituencies that are incentivized to sow discord between them. I'm not sure any olive branches that are offered are even seen by the other side given all the blades flying about.


I understand! The ease with which people can isolate themselves is dangerous, damaging, and frankly terrifying.

Yet, is it possible that this isn't remotely new? Is it possible that digital communities enable people to find communities where they are not pushed out, instead of being coerced into ones where they are? And that perhaps many people have had the experience not of isolating themselves in dangerous and damaging ways, but of being isolated by the people who are supposed to be their community?

You're absolute right about the danger. It's just possible that there might be some room for subtlety here.


This is the balance on enabling people to escape from communities in which they are censored, to allow those ostracized for their beliefs can find those who will respect them despite, or even because of, the beliefs they hold.

I believe that our tendency to view unpopular beliefs a stain upon a person's immutable character is a more fundamental (as in, earlier in the causal chain) cause of the damage to society you describe.


The phrase "isolate themselves into communities" strikes me oddly. I'm glad to have more options for finding communities I might be able to be a part of.

What makes it "our" society? I've never felt like a part of it.


Unfortunately, by simply existing you have an effect on your local area. Divesting yourself from the local community is limiting your stake in it and can make your action in the local area less accountable. Ownership and community are historically ways to have accountability in a geographical area.


This is more a response to most other commenters that vilify this stance. Yeah, it's good to support your local community and engage with your neighbors in matters that unite purely based on geography. But it can definitely be a tyranny, as many who escaped the small 'everybody-knows-everybody' village into the relieving anonymity of the big city will testify. Especially so if you have been bestowed with some personality trait that traditionally has been subject to chastise or outright persecution. The internet is the freedom of the big city squared. You socialize with peers and like minded people, not with those that happen to live in your apartment building. As for 'echo chamber'; there is that, but on balance I'd say it's not like the internet to a larger degree than previously prevents you from seeing other opinions or doesn't confront you with strange views. On the contrary, in my experience.


I will share your opinion when we at some point have an immersive, livable virtual reality in which everyone has control over their own code.

Until that, the current virtual "communities" seem like a poor substitute for actual communities, long-term. Yes, you get to meet like-minded people (or more precisely, one aspect of the personalities of some like-minded people), however what you can actually do with them is tightly restricted to the online sphere. No common activities, no parties, no activism outside the internet, no dating. No differing viewpoints. No even knowing who you are talking with.

This seems like a poor substitute to (non-coerced) physical communities.


That some people prefer them, complete with all the incredibly glaring shortcomings you so correctly identify, might be considered by some to be eloquent commentary on the importance of choice.


I'd say it's incredibly obvious why people would prefer a restricted environment where they can present themselves as their idealised self. I'm sure it's great for some people, but arguing that it's great for everyone, and not damaging for society as a whole, seems shortsighted.


You're right! We should consider carefully that there might not be a universally correct answer here.

Like most things, I suspect it may be best regarded as a tradeoff. Is presenting as your idealized in a restricted environment more or less harmful to society than being unable to present as anything that vaguely resembles yourself in a less restricted environment?

There might not one answer that's right for everyone.


"The first one I've ever actually felt like I was a part of, where I was always welcome and could always rely on finding people like me."

People who think like you do, who will never challenge you about anything important, or expose you to uncomfortable ideas or opinions, or cause you to question your assumptions about the world.


You're right. Squishies like self-similar bubbles. And squishies like the idea that their bubble is better than every other bubble, if other squishies could just be forced to adapt to it.

This seems to be true of most squishies, no matter how they connect.


The issue is that the forced interactions via geographical proximity are a kind of moderating force.

Communities built around what they love are usually good, but what if what you love is terrible?

https://imgur.com/GripW3M


> Communities built around what they love are usually good, but what if what you love is terrible?

We have the law to regulate what is acceptable or unacceptable - almost all laws are there to regulate person-to-person interactions. If what you love requires murdering someone, we already call that out. If what you love involves playing "I Will Survive" with a kazoo, we don't call you out unless you have a very loud kazoo and people are trying to sleep.

Laws and social pressure are also a moderating force. Forcing 2 people that are very opposed to have a forced interaction about the things they are opposed on probably results in quite a few bar fights - more often than not though they leave.

If the lack of general empathy and over-demonization of the "other" is a problem, well, try being a person of color in the 50s or before. If anything interactions have gotten better, except for those who need to have everyone look and act like them in order to function.


> Laws and social pressure are also a moderating force

Perhaps this was true in the days prior to the internet, but it certainly isn’t the case now. In fact, social pressures in the online sphere can be the opposite of a moderating force. In the analysis of the online culture wars, many authors have pointed out how the alt right bursting into the mainstream was in many ways a response to the societal pressure to conform to ever increasing (and at times, absurd) rules of a radical “PC culture”.

As a disclaimer, this isn’t to justify the alt right movement or to condemn political correctness wholesale. But the point is that societal pressure is not moderating anything. On the contrary, the internet has allowed people to simply retreat from the parts of society that previously may have pressured them into moderation, and instead to enclose themselves in the parts of society that not only accept their radical culture, but encourage it.

> If the lack of general empathy and over-demonization of the "other" is a problem, well, try being a person of color in the 50s or before.

And yet the rights of racial minorities still made massive strides in absence of the internet. Many of the commenters here have made arguments that along the lines of “a gay person would never have found acceptance without the geographical boundary breaking communities of the internet”, and frankly, I’m not sure that is true. The changing attitudes towards LGBT persons isn’t any more radical than many of the other social revolutions that have taken place without the internet.


I think you have a reasonable interpretation, though I disagree that the endpoint is increased radicalization. Certainly it’s far easier to find people that are on your side, but that doesn’t mean that the number of people that believe what you believe goes up naturally. I think everyone is jockeying around in a new space and trying to figure out what “community” means as conversations move online. There definitely is a radicalizinf element in an echo chamber, but there’s also a lot of wonderful communities being built that could not have. When things start to translate into the public sphere is where it is messiest right now.


Bang on. Other people are definitely a moderating force towards what they collectively believe to be reasonable. Sometimes that's something like "no murder". Other times its "those with the wrong skin color are subhuman".

It's possible that this kind of conformity might be best treated as something other than a universally positive force.


I think you're applying the words "tyranny" and "coercion" very sloppily here, and seem rather dismissive of community as it's existed prior to "real community".

I don't see anything you've stated as mutually exclusive to the previous comment.

I point out what I perceive as dismissive because I think there are important aspects of human character that 'tyrannical' circumstances help to shape, enabling us to learn patience and tolerance of opposing views.

It's how we ultimately achieve error correction in culture and progress as a society, and it's not clear to me that an option for people to utterly extinguish all of that from one's environment is an upgrade.


Thank you! You're very right. I've not communicated well. Please allow me to clarify.

I should rephrase: this is the first experience I've had of what is commonly described as "community". I hope that clarifies matters. I am not describing a community encountered as an artifact. I am describing the experience of being a member of a community. I hope this helps! Do let me know if I can help clarify more.

The comment to which I was responding took a very narrow view of what defines a community. The definition offered is one that would have been obvious to an illiterate serf a thousand years ago - people nearby they have no choice but to cooperate with for basic survival. For the most part, you had two choices: membership or death. And membership meant conforming.

Some might consider such a choice coercive. Such a person might even consider the circumstances that require that choice tyrannical.

I have offered a much more expansive one, where a person can be a member of multiple communities non-exclusively in a way that allows them to find communities that suit them. This formulation, unfortunately, can be seen as dismissive of the value of the communities of the past.

This is a very understandable viewpoint. After all, the expansive definition would seem to do away with the basic tenants of the narrow one. Yet, it's perhaps possible that this view could become even more correct than it already is! There's absolutely value in what even the narrowest of definitions would consider a community. They teach the value of belonging, of collaboration, and of many hands making light work. It just might be worth considering that there could be other lessons to be learned in this world that might not be fully captured there.

After all, humans are not TCP/IP. Capital-T Truth is not always easy to come by. There are still people in this world who consider (for example) failing to say the right ritual words at the right ritual time every day to be a grievous error in need of correction.

In a world where the obvious truths of the past are today's errors to be progressed beyond, we are presented with the wonderful opportunity to let endless forms of community bloom most beautiful. That we might learn from this glorious array what can be progressed beyond and how.

Though I understand if some would prefer not to.

Thank you very much, from the bottom of my heart, for the opportunity to engage.


And thank you for your reception and elaboration.

It seems as though we are illuminating more nuance of the varied interaction and outcome of communal constructs.

I find what you've elaborated to be true and insightful, and reminds me that our perspective can always miss significant factors that may determine our outlook to be optimistic or pessimistic.

I wonder if what the aforementioned comment suggested is still unresolved; would some or all of us lose incentive and/or mechanisms that temper and shape our proclivity to compromise and coexist despite still unaltered and conflicting values and behaviors?

If it's true that the range and resolution of possible human values and behavior has grown considerably, with new nuance blooming all the time, it would seem to follow that there are new lines along which to fracture as well. Though not necessarily in a unique way never overcome before.


> I wonder if what the aforementioned comment suggested is still unresolved; would some or all of us lose incentive and/or mechanisms that temper and shape our proclivity to compromise and coexist despite still unaltered and conflicting values and behaviors?

Would some of us lose the pressure to conform? Yes. And I think this is all to the better.

Ultimately, I think that conformity is what this entire conversation is all about. I do not value conformity and I reject the notion that forcing people to conform is a societal gain.


>Personally, I view this as a distinct upgrade. Instead of being coerced into lots of interaction with people I may have nothing in common with except vague geographical proximity, I have the option of interacting with people who actually share my interests or concerns or hobbies. To me, this isn't isolated loners. It's the first real community I've ever known. The first one I've ever actually felt like I was a part of, where I was always welcome and could always rely on finding people like me.

Apologies, but I don't agree that's nearly sufficient enough an "ontology", in the philosophical sense if you will, of community. You are involved in a community the moment you hear someone screaming out for help nearby; you are involved in a community when you're one of those scmucks stuck communicating to work in a packed trainer in the morning, you're involved in a community when you respond to the presence of minorities or certain of other races in a manner which may make them uncomfortable (100% not alleging a thing btw, most certainly not the point right now); you clearly join a community when you join the military, but you have, for better or for worse, shockingly few rights and freedoms therein.

My point is that, for human beings, we are by definition, as social animals, involved in a community some way, some how, because we inherently respond to one another's presence, even when that response is indifference (perhaps in the face of someone screaming out for help nearby). This is almost, for myself, the entire lesson of watching Mister Rogers (if you're an America, I don't know if you are).

Choosing a community for yourself, therefore, shouldn't be a reprieve, relief, or, worse case, a retreat from those other communities you're involved in, like your neighborhood or family. We all may have run into that person who appeared to us to be way too chatty and friendly in some public space that we were constrained to, say, the train; they're just answering to their involvement in a different way.


> "I have the option of interacting with people who actually share my interests or concerns or hobbies"

Have you stopped to consider the unintended consequences of this? Mainly, that you become so comfortable with lack of adversity and diversity (of ideas, etc.) that when the time comes to leave the bubble you're unprepared. You don't have the tools and mindset to adjust to those who are unlike you.

Yes. It's nice to find others similar to you. But just the same, there's also value in being an island and still being capable of interacting with strangers.


You're absolutely right! It's very possible to become so inculcated with the level norms and comfort and lack of diversity of a community that you cannot function outside that bubble. You lack the tools to even consider such a thing.

It's a terrifying thing. You've described the experience many have upon moving out of a small town in the Midwest. A good friend is having the same experience now when she looks to move away from the Bay Area.


One problem with virtual communities is that they can't help you with local real world problems.


>Personally, I view this as a distinct upgrade. Instead of being coerced into lots of interaction with people I may have nothing in common with except vague geographical proximity, I have the option of interacting with people who actually share my interests or concerns or hobbies.

I.e. echo chamber.


Or maybe someone who was lonely and then found people who he feels somewhat good with. There is zero guarantee his previous social groups were unusually diverse - very likely they were just bubble of different sorts - else there would be likeminded individuals.

Not everyone is happy, plenty of people were and are misfits to particular bubbles they were born into.


Every community is an echo chamber, digital and analog alike.


Not really. You probably have in mind a "community of interest". But the analog world forces you into many communities of proximity without shared interests as well.

There are communities where you pick the people who are associated with, and communities where you don't get to do that (or do it as much).

The internet gives you huge control over picking communities that think/have interests exactly like yours (and that's exactly what the parent was mentioning to like about the internet communities).

In real life communities that are not e.g. a chess club, but more like neighborhood, school, etc, you are forced to live with, and deal with, all kinds of people, not just the one you chose to. At best, you can move to a different location, but you still don't have the control to pinpoint and seggregate interests the internet gives you.


You're completely correct! Real life analog communities, light neighborhoods and schools, can force a person to live alongside and deal with a wonderful diversity of people.

However, is it perhaps possible that I may have explicitly considered this kind of purely physical analog community? Maybe that I could have even been thinking explicitly about such examples when commenting that all kinds of communities are echo chambers?

One of the common characteristics of communities is that they enforce norms on the people who are their members. Physical neighborhoods and cities and schools are not different in this way. They are echo chambers too, generally reinforcing a distilled version of regional thinking, and the main lesson they teach tends to be how to bite your tongue.

The big difference between these analog communities and most digital ones is that in the case of the latter, a person can generally search for communities with amenable norms.

You're completely right! Communities of interest are very different from non-optional analog communities. It's just worth considering that despite this major difference, it may not significantly affect their echo chamber nature.


To respond to OG comment spirit:

I love my echo chamber, thank you very much! :)

But I get what you are saying and agree, but also with OG comment as well.

I think we want same things, more genuine connection with people who are meaningful to us.


Isolated in groupthink.


I disagree that community requires geographical proximity, but I definitely agree that it's on the list of positive terms co-opted by internet companies to disguise their profit-driven motives. Community requires compassion and shared interest; these days it's applied to any and every kind of human connection, with no regard to whether that connection is beneficial or even wanted.


I would even go so far as to say that "community" has come to mean "group of people who have some common characteristic". No actual interaction or bonds between any of them is required. The word loses meaning as the actual human connections involved are removed.



I think topics like this (definitely Cowan's style) are better left a little more open.

The "thing that is happening" is a sort of etherealization of property. One underlying cause is that the bits of "property" themselves are digital/ethereal. Books, songs, films... They are no longer physical, and the economic norms around them are changing to reflect that. In conjunction, I think the cultural impact of consuming more digital goods (and probably a million other things) is that people are used to this type of economy. They want the same for their car, bike, etc.

I would call uber a step passed renting, or an extreme form renting. Leasing has already been the norm for a while, along with financing that is indistinguishable from leasing.

The "handful of corporations" part is... more of a consequence, I think. Etherealization/digitization is proving to be very centralization (or winner-take-most) friendly. There are a bunch of drivers to this though. One big reason is centralization of wealth. Big piles of money need big investments to go into. Uber could raise money on better terms than an "uber-for-aukland," adjusting for scale. $1 of profit/revenue/DAU is simply worth less than 1/100th of $100 in profit, on the "speculative investment" market.

I agree on your main points. There is a danger of becoming more of a "rentier" economy. If this trend continues (projecting trends is always speculative) we could end up with more property/wealth in corporate hands, and private individuals will only have liabilities and consumption.

The big elephant in this room is the same elephant that stomped through pyramid rooms 5,000 years ago: real estate, or "land" as it was once known. This is the big ticket item, and represents most of the wealth ordinary people own if they own anything. Cars, CDs and such just don't add up to much value, not anymore.


The scary thing is that these private companies have an superhuman memory and are motivated to judge my worth as a customer. The article alludes to Amazon disabling accounts, but in the near future anyone can be blackballed from a major transport provider (Uber), communications service (Facebook, WhatsApp), store (Amazon), news source, TV network (YouTube, NetFlix), etc. with little to no recourse.

Up until this point in history having cash was all you needed to complete a transaction. Now you have to maintain your status as a “good” consumer, under the threat that you will be defacto excluded from a part of society by an algorithm. At which time you lose access to the platform as well as all your previous purchases.

There are also companies who are commoditising digital reputation. So a single, private, company will be able to effectively turn you into a pariah.


> Silicon Valley has morphed and commercialized the term "sharing". You aren't "sharing" when you use Uber or AirBnB; you aren't pooling resources when you use Netflix or Amazon Books. You're renting. You're renting from a centralized company which outsources the generation of actual value to others, and pays them as little as possible. You aren't shifting your dependence from yourself to a community, but from yourself to a company that wants nothing more than to make money.

Amen. What grind my gears even more is when governments adopt that novspeak and promote the uberization of entire sectors under the guise of "sharing resources".


"The substitution of individual ownership for a communal one in which individuals retain a stake - a real community, or at a larger scale, a democracy - is not inherently bad."

It's not necessarily bad, but it is a major change to share something among thousands of people or millions of people vs. just among family and friends.

Saying that the people sharing are a "community" makes it sound wonderful, but it's actually a large group of people that may have interests very different from yours. Decisions need to be made and it's hard to get consensus among a lot of people, so you are basically talking about a government of some kind, along with all the conflicts that creates.

Private ownership is not particularly convenient, but it has a very interesting relationship with freedom that we should not cast away lightly.


Minor quibble, but Airbnb doesn't own the hosts' homes or apartments, and Uber doesn't own the drivers' cars.

Renting is an accurate descriptor of Netflix or Kindle (and Google Play movies actually does have "rent" on the label of the button when you want to rent a movie). And I can see what you mean from the perspective of the guest or rider, but not from the perspective of the host or driver.


> a centralized company which outsources the generation of actual value to others

I would argue that you're still renting from Uber and AirBnB, who are just outsourcing their labor and properties to others. Companies like this - I'm looking at you, Facebook - like to claim that they're only impartial platforms, but the reality is that they gain an enormous amount of power over both sides; stealthily, because they hide behind that image.


They're brokers.


Market-makers, even.


A market maker provides demand and supply to both sides to smooth out pricing. Airbnb does not do that, they are just the market. An argument could be made that Uber does do that by paying wages to the driver independent of what it charges the rider.


It’s somehow funny to think about these companies as utilities or infrastructure, which is traditionally created and maintained by the state. I’m not sure if that’s the better scenario


Created and maintained by the state, or simply regulated by the state. One of the two is absolutely appropriate for at least the most important of the companies we're talking about, but we currently have neither.


You could argue that you are in control and just outsourcing the making of money and spending it to Elon Musk or the large corporations :)


I'd also agree that Uber/AirBnB do not really fit well in that comment. These are companies that mostly just serve as middlemen. They could theoretically be entirely decentralized enabling people to genuinely connect directly with other people to offer a service. There are even technological solutions towards avoiding bad actors and abuse. For instance mutual facial recognition to ensure people are who they say they are - when you get in a ride, you and the driver both snap a pic of each other, it's verified on both ends, and off you both go. And all metainformation could be publicly stored in a trustless append-only decentralized ledger.

They're just the early middlemen of budding industries that, in an optimistic future, will not even need middlemen.


They're protocol. Without a trusted party in the middle, there isn't a market.


...which makes me wonder if maybe the blockchain aficionados are onto something. The problem that blockchains solve is precisely to replace the "trusted middlemen" with a distributed network of miners and coin-holders, and to split the rewards that would accrue to them across a competitive market. If every Internet marketplace were replaced with a smart contract, that's a massive potential market.


Yip. In my opinion this is the real future of blockchains. There are even incredible possibilities like connecting decentralized services to create new businesses. Imagine a digital farmers' market that directly connects consumer to farmer using our decentralized vehicle transport service.

Only problem is that this/these sort of project(s) would entail an enormous amount of energy and effort to develop. And then you'd also need to ensure you have sufficient marketing clout so it doesn't just lay dormant. And then in the end it's a completely decentralized system. The idea of a creator sitting around skimming money off every transaction is not really part of this picture.

So it's not really the most enticing of projects to take on. Big investment, minimal personal reward. On the other hand, I think it will happen - eventually. We just need another Tim Berners-Lee type individual. Except preferably one that happens to be a brilliant engineer, salesperson, and billionaire.


I'd also agree that Uber/AirBnB do not really fit well in that comment

They are not “sharing” anything in the sense that people normally understand the word. Money is exchanged for services, as normal. The only thing they do differently is evade regulations and taxes.


As lallysingh noted just above, Uber and AirBnB are brokers.


Content isn't king.

Channel control is.


Yes.

Thought experiment:

There are two channels. One airs very compelling content (the king), but is low quality. The other has tepid content, but is excellent quality.

Which do you use?

Over time, I have asked this of a ton of people and have A/B tested it a few times in my home. Originally about legacy, broadcast media and choices I did not understand.

Compelling is the majority answer people give. And yes, that varies, but not so much as to make the discussion moot.

Yet, what we see is majority tepid, regardless of production and delivery quality. Secondly, peak quality is rare. Choice comes before that. Broadcast wants multiple streams more than fewer, better ones. Almost every time.

Channel control is king. Competition gets balanced to avoid mass tune outs.

Anyone doing all compelling, goid quality, few to no ADS will win big, costing others a lot.

Watch Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and the legacy media sorting all that out right now.


The vein I had in mind would better be reflected by; excellent content but generally unavailable, vs. mediocre content, but it's unavoidable. Sole-vendor contracts with major metro areas, piped into all public spaces, stores, restaurants, bars, coffeeshops. Incorporated in other entertainment (films, video games).

That's control over channel.


I agree. I think we're sort of talking at this Dynamic from two different points of view.


>The substitution of individual ownership for a communal one in which individuals retain a stake - a real community, or at a larger scale, a democracy - is not inherently bad.

IMO it's still terrible if there is effectively only one product option. A democratic decision is just as bad as a shareholder one if it's choosing to favor a majority group over the minority (2 wolves and 1 sheep voting for dinner choices).

>outsources the generation of actual value to others

If you don't think there is value in the network, feedback mechanisms, and simplicity of using Lyft/Uber/whatever, you have completely missed why they are popular. Cabs would still dominate and would have been as popular as Lyft and Uber are now if all of the value was generated by drivers with cars. I think you probably meant to say 'outsourcing the labor' to others, which is completely different and companies have been doing that for centuries.

Labor != Value. I can go dig ditches in a yard for 10 years and not create any value.


If the local can company had an option for me to call one of their cans and i could track it to my door, I probably never would have used Uber. There's some value in being an app you can use in any city, but the number of people who are jet setting around the world _and_ need a cab is probably quite low


I basically avoid cabs at all costs. I'd rather stand in front of an available cab and get an Uber because of crappy cab experiences are. The drivers are miserable and rude and the cleanliness is low.


>If the local can company had an option for me to call one of their cans and i could track it to my door, I probably never would have used Uber.

Yep, and for you to report them when they scam you on rides and lie about broken credit card machines. But alas, most cab companies don't have this so you turn to the apps that do provide it.


Yes, I will put it out there that Uber/Lyft/fasten/local Uber clone all provided an actual benefit since you knew up front what the cost is.

That, however, does not mean that their network affects are worth their externalities as any individual company could provide services in a city where you knew the price up front, but did not rely on their global network effects


Based on my travel experience and given that taxis are rather cheap in many countries, I’d say that most of the people jet setting around the world are very likely to use a universal cab-hailing app at some point.


My point, which I did not make clear, is that there aren't very many people traveling all over the world to begin with. Most people on the planet do not routinely visit other cities outside their home area and could easily be served by a single local company rather than needing a company with a network that spans the globe


Of course, but all over the world is not needed: a company with a presence in whatever country you go for holidays/work is enough, so an app with a nearly global presence will get all the travelers' money automatically. (For instance, I never use Uber in my home country, but at the moment I am in Romania, and the fact that I could call a cab at the airport in a new city with zero hassle is very sweet; I imagine that people coming to my country and not in the know about the local taxi market will be in the same position.)


If there is one place in a country where finding a cab has always been straightforward, that's an airport. I mean, it is easier to find a cab by walking through the airport doors than avoid the cabs there :-) That's really the place where Uber & Co add zero value.


> That's really the place where Uber & Co add zero value.

In my opinion, the added value with Uber at an airport is knowing the price up front. That's not always possible with whatever driver is first in line at the taxi stand.


> Labor != Value. I can go dig ditches in a yard for 10 years and not create any value.

Well that really depends on a) whether someone (including you) wants or needs ditches (farming irrigation? undertaker? dog hiding bone?) and b) the amount of time required to produce an article under the normal conditions of production, and with the average degree of skill and intensity prevalent at the time. If someone really wants a ton of ditches, and you can dig faster and deeper than anyone else, is your labor more valuable? As programmers we should hope so.

I don't mean to sidetrack the conversation but let's not make sweeping statements of fact without thinking about them!


>Well that really depends on a) whether someone (including you) wants or needs ditches (farming irrigation? undertaker? dog hiding bone?)

You just proved the point though. It's not about how much labor was expended. If we are irrigating and I spend 20 hours digging a ditch by hand and someone spends 10 minutes using heavy machinery, they both produced the same value. Labor is independent of value.

>If someone really wants a ton of ditches, and you can dig faster and deeper than anyone else, is your labor more valuable?

Only if time and depth are a factor. It's the result that has value to the purchaser, not the labor. If said company could hire someone for half the price that does it in twice the time while still meeting the company's deadline, your labor is definitely not more valuable.


Except that network is only valuable because it has people in it to do the labor.


Yes, that's how network effects work. The connectivity provides value. Telephone networks were also useless without the people to call.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network_effect

A bunch of people independently operating their cars to give rides with no common means to find them, schedule them, and pay them makes them almost completely useless. The network is the only thing making them useful to consumers.

It's like claiming Google is only valuable because it has websites to crawl.


"The network is the only thing making them useful to consumers."

No, this statement is entirely and purely false. The reason the network has value is because there are people on the network doing the work. If no one was doing the work, the network would be worthless.

Stop falling into the trap of believing that the people actually doing the labor are not contributing, or do not have value.


"Stop falling into the trap of believing that the people actually doing the labor are not contributing, or do not have value."

That is not what pathseeker said. You said (and pathseeker agreed) that the network is only valuable because there are people in it to do the labor. Pathseeker also said that having people willing and able to do the work is only valuable with a network to organize them and connect them to the people who need work done. You're both right. The people and the network are both contributing, and they both have value. Neither would be valuable on its own.


> Neither would be valuable on its own.

but often the network gets a disproportionaly large share of the reward (i.e., the extraction of value is higher on the network side vs the labour side). This is the same as the capital vs labour argument - one without the other isn't going to produce value, but the capital side is able to extract a higher value than the labour side.


"Larger share"? Maybe. "Disproportionately"? I think not. The correct proportion is not necessarily 1:1. If the capital / network gets a larger share, it's because it contributes more by multiplying the productivity of the labor. Also, in a culture where everyone wants to consume and live in the moment rather than save and plan for the future, capital is relatively scarce compared to labor, which gives capital owners an advantageous position in any negotiation.


I do think they get a disproportionate share of the reward. And you can't argue that it's because the network contributes more; it's purely because the network has access to venture capital.

Saying capital is relatively scarce compared to labor is flat out false. Look at the last 10 years or so. Venture Captial has been flush just about anywhere you look.


So your argument is that venture capitalists are idiots, throwing money at people building networks and not expecting anything of similar value in return? VCs are not in the habit of throwing money away. When a VC-funded venture succeeds, the VCs take the lion's share of the rewards. Accepting VC funding is not a quick path to easy riches. (Of course, the VCs are also taking on the majority of the risk if the venture fails, as happens more often than not; in the end, over enough ventures, it all balances out.)

Capital is not money, but rather durable goods which contribute to more efficient production. It is the networks which are the capital here. Money can be used to buy capital, but only if someone goes to the trouble of designing that capital first. There is plenty of available labor looking for productive work to do, just as there are plenty of VCs searching for ventures likely enough to succeed to justify the investment. It is a lot easier to find people able to do whatever work is required than it is to find the right capital (networks) to organize them and enabled them to do the right work productively.

Both capital and labor are needed. The networks receive a greater portion of the reward because they are more scarce than labor as well as contributing more to overall productivity.


Except they are arguing that the network is the thing to care about, rather than the people doing the work.


It's bad because our historical growth is based on us accumulating things using credit. Producing and consuming things is what creates job growth which sustains our growing population. Our acceptance of inflation due to said consumerism, credit, and the black hole of the federal reserve issuing new currency is what provides "new money" for investment in research. If we transition to a society where things are no longer valued for possession I have to think that we won't care to share them either. If a car is not cool enough for me to want to own, why would I care to use the communal car rather than the bus? Can the auto industry survive selling 10% of the vehicles is does now? Will consumers pay 10x what they pay now, it costs no less for R & D, all while not truly owning the thing? This communal ownership changes half the paradigm, the funds to rent the items still needs to come from an economy that relies on people buying things to own and those things becoming unavailable to the rest of us forcing new consumers to buy new things from a factory and hopefully destroying it or hoarding it before it hits the secondary market. I think we need to stay on the current path until we have abundant free energy.

Add: I also feel this is why new home sales is such an important metric to judge the momentum of the US economy, lots of new home sales means lots of new home-wares. You buy or build a house you also buy a refrigerator, microwave, carpet, furniture etc. Mostly on credit. If we truly become a communal society the cycle is broken, the same people who said "no new house and no new car, I'll just save my cash" now earn less 5 years later because there are many fewer things sold and the interconnected supply chain stalls.


>If a car is not cool enough for me to want to own, why would I care to use the communal car rather than the bus? Can the auto industry survive selling 10% of the vehicles is does now?

Not every industry has to survive forever. Can the telegraph industry survive the ~0% of sales it had before? Cars just aren't that useful in densely populated areas. The US will have to move away from personal vehicle transport and to mass transport/walking/cycling.


In other words, monopoly.


That is absolutely the end goal of all these network-effect companies. Uber wants to be a monopoly on transportation, Google a monopoly on search, Spotify a monopoly on music consumption, etc.


*Google a monopoly on advertising


FB blows it out of the water for audience/demographic targeting


I'd say they have it well split with Facebook at the moment, but yeah, a duopoly isn't much better.


Monopoly is if one corporation owns an entire market. This is about multiple corporations. The proper word is cartel or "corpocracy" which dislike as corporations are just a legal fiction. Someone still owns the corporation. The article isn't really about americans not owning stuff. It is about average americans not owning stuff. Poor, or at least not-rich, people are today less likely to own things like houses and cars. But the rich still own plenty. They are owning a greater percentage of everything. So perhaps the best word is plutocracy.


Plutocracy is the name of governance style where a few parties hold all the power.

But on a corporate level oligopoly would be better. A few corporations dominating an entire market segment.


Sounds like the 70's film classic "Rollerball."


> Monopoly is if one corporation owns an entire market. This isn't quite right. Traditionally for a company to be a monopoly it isn't even required it control a majority of the market. It has more to do with the company being in a privileged circumstance in a market and explicitly using that privilege to bolster themselves or suppress competition in the same or related markets.

An example is Microsoft with Netscape. Microsoft was sued with anti-trust laws not because IE or Windows owned the entire market, but because Windows gave Microsoft a privileged place in the web-browser market that they abused.


Nothing in the parent comment indicates or requires a monopoly. At all.


It does, partially. While it's no replacement for democracy or other forms of cooperative stakeholding, the one avenue we have for influencing companies we grow to depend on is through our business. Monopolies remove that sole piece of leverage.


Depending on those handful of corporations may be a problem, but it also may not be. You depend on a handful of corporations for many important services, and I'd bet you mostly doesn't even notice that. It depends mostly on regulations and competitiveness of the market (and more on the quality of those than their existence).

Besides, a for profit service can create a community just as well as a communal repartition of it. It adds another risk to the community, of the service provider going bad, but it's not some overwhelming factor that makes all other irrelevant. Like it or not, you are sharing stuff when you rent them, the resource pooling is present (more or less present, depending on the renting modality), people are coming together (or not, depending on how it's shared), and there is social development just like with a communal resource.

The problem of Uber|etc and Netflix|etc is much more on how they do the renting than on they actually renting things.

There is some related problem you didn't point, in that once people start pooling some resource they didn't use fully, they should become more wealthy. We are not seeing this, so is it that the pooling isn't efficient or is it because people are being forced into pooling them by poverty? Either way, it's a problem.


The biggest change probably isn't that you are renting things, even from companies (which tends to be a bad thing to do long term). But that the people, or companies, you rent from doesn't even own their stuff. Banks i.e. capital increasingly owns everything. They are the record companies of reality. Takes little of the risk, does little of the work, but profits handsomely and makes everything more expensive.


For what it's worth, in some cases this arose after people tried genuine sharing and found it didn't scale (I dislike that word but it's appropriate) well. See Zimride, the predecessor to Lyft.


I don't own a safe, I rent a safe. It's fine.

If ever these corporations cause trouble, our government (well, maybe not the US government, but most sensible governments) will step in to remedy the situation. We've done so with privacy laws, we've done it with non-compete laws, we're going to do it with other companies as well.


One can hope. But the U.S. government is so deep in the pockets of corporations - hiding behind America's blind worship of the free market - that I question if we'll ever get back to a place where it's willing to intervene.

Europe has been doing a great job of picking up our slack lately, but there's only so much they can do. Most of these companies are based in America, and most of the world's market is in Asia. There's a ceiling on how much the EU can fine companies before it's easier to just stop operating there. I'm sure those numbers have been crunched and that they're walking that line.


Cities and states pick up where federal governments do not. Airbnb is being restricted by the cities (not federally) and so is Uber in a lot of places.

> I'm sure those numbers have been crunched and that they're walking that line.

A large company is not going to leave a market because it doesn't want to comply with regulation, esp. one the size of the US, the EU, or China.


They do a little bit, but in some cases the federal government has overruled them.

They would if it became unprofitable, between the fines and the costs of compliance. Google was recently fined $5 billion; that's a significant chunk of their annual revenue, of which Europe is probably a minority. Add onto that the cost of updating for GDPR, and the EU is pushing about as hard as they can afford to.

I'm not saying this is a reason for Europe not to take a strong position. I'm just saying their leverage is finite, and less than that of the U.S. government.


Brexit will not help the situation, either.


I’m surprised at the criticism here and I think the critics are missing the author’s point. He’s not saying, “buy more stuff you don’t need” or even, “possess more stuff.” He’s saying, “you ought to own the stuff you possess.” Which I didn’t think was a controversial opinion but I guess I stand corrected.

I might be an outlier. I make a deliberate effort to own instead of rent. My commute is enormous because I moved to a place I can afford to own a house, rather than be beholden to some landlord whose interests are not aligned with my own. I’ve never leased a car because I value the ability to repair and upgrade it myself. I don’t rely on streaming services for media, which could one day disappear without replacements. I do my own taxes. I don’t even eat at restaurants often. I feel that relying on services is risky coupling, unnecessarily involving another party in my success/outcome/enjoyment of the product. If I have the MP4 on my hard drive, Netflix can’t wake up one day and decide I can’t watch it anymore. I’ll only (grudgingly) subscribe to a service if there is no other realistic option, such as with Internet service.


What is the value of "owning" something?

I've owned VHS's, they're worthless I've owned houses - that I had to short sell I've owned DVD's - they're worthless I've owned Books - they're worthless

What is the value of owning over just paying to enjoy access?

I like spotify because i can sync music to my phone to play offline - but "owning" all this music is worthless... I had a HUGE cd collection growing up but they were all stolen one day. Owning was worthless..

It seems we're substituting "ownership" with control. There are landlords that let you "control" your house - paint it, update it, customize to your liking - without having to own it yourself. This is a win-win since you get the benefit of fix annual costs whereas owning the place you could be liable for so much more.

heck, Everything i "own" actually owns "me" and burdens me with costs... but i can cancel spotify/netflix/hulu and re-sub later. I like the flexibility of our new model. I get the 4k version without having to "Re-own", i get higher bitrate songs without having to re-encode or re-buy, i get more quality content because i'm paying the producer - not a middleman distribution.


> I've owned VHS's, they're worthless ... > I've owned DVD's - they're worthless > I've owned Books - they're worthless

I honestly find this unbelievable and amazing. You have never rewatched a video, or re-read a book? You've never lent a movie or a book to a friend? You've never used a movie or a book to job your memory and spark a conversation with someone?

There is value in all of those things to me, not to mention the value of being able to watch a movie or read a book whenever I want, regardless of my current state of subscription to netflix/hulu/xfinity/cbs/amazon prime/hbonow/etc.


It really is exceptionally rare that I've reread any book or rewatch any movie, and in those cases it wasn't hard to get another copy of the book from the library or find the movie again on Netflix or wherever. Maybe you reuse all of these things, but I think the 99% DVD is watched exactly once.

Having these physical DVDs or whatever really is a very mild burden, but even that mild burden is larger than the mild benefit provided, people just like having their DVDs on their shelf because of the intrinsic value of owning "stuff".


It depends.

Have I rewatched every video I own enough times to offset the cost of renting it for each time I've watched it? Overwhelmingly "no". Not even close. Rentals of even new things are a couple bucks, DVDs are often $20 or more. I'm quite free to lend stuff out too, but it's still <1 on average and even if you include "every lend == the full cost to buy it on launch day" I'm still in the negative. Most people I've run into who would be interested already have it or have already watched it.

Add in that the stuff I do rewatch is relatively old and rent-able for dirt cheap, and it's even more "no". There are a literal handful I'd buy, that's it.

Same pattern with books, except that odds are pretty good that the library has a copy of it :) And even slightly not-super-famous books are pretty likely to be new to people I lend to because there are so many. (technical books are another matter, they're frequently not in libraries, but there too I've only reread a couple that are meaty enough to actually justify more than one pass)

---

Books I still keep buying, especially since much of what I read for fun is somewhat old and available for extremely cheap. But I haven't bought a movie in... a decade? And I feel zero desire to do so.


I have MUCH more access to all the worlds books, movies, television shows, music libraries and documentaries by paying for a service or using the library then I would ever have in trying to own it.

I'm not sure re-watching or re-reading anything is really limited or granted by owning...

Lets take netflix for example. If there is something on netflix that i want a friend to see and they don't have netflix, i can just bring my phone/tablet over to their house and cast the show to the TV and watch it there or they can pay a few bucks and watch the entire series in a month.

I don't have to collect anything, store anything, remember who borrowed what and quite honestly there is enough content on a few select services that i don't need them all and i'm quite content in having so much new stuff to enjoy that the need for having a favorite to watch over and over is sort of history for me.

I watched the shit out of goonies as a kid becasue it was only 1 of 5 movies our entire family could own. Had we had on-demand everything that habit would have been a non starter for me. That doesn't mean i don't love goonies to this day and that i won't ever re-watch it but i may only re-watch it when it makes a round again on netflix and magically shows up as available - and i think that kind of experience to me is much better than feeling i owe myself to watch it because i'm moving it, storing it, seeing it, shelving it and having it occupy my life in some way.


You're more arguing the differences between digital and physical technologies than you are arguing the merits of ownership as such.

If we can ignore ethics for a moment, piracy still provides a superior product than rentals because pirated objects don't lock you into particular ecosystems nor does it prohibit you from using the product in any way.

Given the choice, I don't want to have to buy an apple, android, or windows phone/tablet just to download movies to watch while camping or something. I would rather have the freedom to do whatever I want with the things I paid for.


I don't have to care for that by choosing services that don't vendor lock me in.

For example, i don't buy from itunes or google store if they restrict me to those marketplaces. But i do subscribe to netflix and hulu because they don't give a crap where i login from.

piracy isn't ownership either... even if i pirate shit, i have to provide a service akin to that netflix provides to be able to watch it on my tablet/tv/phone or on the road


That's a fair point but I think they are saying that if they really wanted to re-read a book, they could just rent it again. The other side of the coin is how many of the books or movies that you own have you never rewatched? What happens if you DVD stops reading? I think neither are wrong, just different. It depends on your goals.


But the point of the original article is that "just rent it again" is entirely dependent on the renting authority deciding they still want to rent it to you. If Kindle decided (or was pressured) to censor a book for whatever reason, then it has enormous ability to dictate exactly what type of information you're able to consume.


This assumes anti-competitive authorities as monopolies but that is as far from reality as can be expressed.

Amazon Kindle doesn't own the content of the books to be able to censure them, they can't legally censor or edit books that weren't censored or edited by the writer/publisher.

Also, there are dozens of ebook stores - a vast competitive market to choose from - not to mention many libraries have ebooks and print books available and interlibrary loans are awesome to get things you want even if not available locally.


That's only true if Kindle has monopoly power over books as a whole, which is obviously not the case.

Now, services like Kindle or Steam deciding to revoke access to prior purchases is a potential Big Problem...but as of yet, it remains just that: potential. And at least in theory, there are government agencies that are charged with protecting against abusive behavior towards consumers (obviously actual results there are somewhat mixed).


Well, the whole point of the article is to observe a trend. None of this is a big problem right now.

But economic incentives might push the renting model to become the main - or even only - model to use many goods and services in the future. Similarly, trends about the number of service providers seem to point towards consolidation as well.

So if those trends hold true, we might at some point have Megacorp Inc. offering Living-As-A-Service. And then we would have a problem.


http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-santa-monica-sco...

"Bird and Lime deactivate scooter services in Santa Monica for a day in protest"


> That's a fair point but I think they are saying that if they really wanted to re-read a book, they could just rent it again.

...unless they somehow pissed off Amazon and lost their account. Or the publisher/auther pissed off Amazon and got taken down. Or...


A movie is a story you experience, the physical copy that you own is representative of the experience but it is not the experience. If we lived in a world where I could have ready access to my favorite movie without having a physical copy on hand, the value of such a physical copy would be reduced sentimental value. The physical disk that holds the movie is nothing but a souvenir from the vacation, you can have a physical item representative of the experience to admire, but it is not the experience.

Likewise, a book's value is not in the paper and binding, but the content of the writing. I concede that I have an attachment to the exact copies of my favorite books, but I don't feel like I should. The important things are the what I take with me from reading, not the physical books themselves.

I'm tired of consumerism, I'm tired of articles complaining about the change of paradigms since the baby-boomer generation. I'm not going to consume media in the same way a middle class worker from the 70's or 80's did. A subscription service lets me listen to any song I can think of on a whim while driving in my car, not limited to the selection of CD's I can jam into a binder. If the apocalypse hits and Amazon Web Services goes down I'll start buying CDs again.


Anecdotal. I am slowly realizing that not many of the people I know like to rewatch things. For a while I told myself they don’t want to rewatch it so I shouldn’t force them to. But I realized that I was depriving myself from reliving the movies and the great scenes just because no one else rewatches them. It’s great to just put on a old movie and do chores. I recently watched The Dark Knight for like 8th time (last time was a couple of years ago) and I just enjoyed it.

Different strokes I guess?


Renting is giving up money for conditional access to an item. Owning is giving up liquidity for unconditional access to an item.

In renting, when you are done with the item, you terminate, yielding access and recouping none of the money. In ownership, when you are done with the item, you sell, yielding access and recouping some money.

High-end hobbyist equipment such as camera lenses and woodworking tools are great things to own; they offer great enjoyment, tend to retain value, and you can typically find a buyer if and when you want to sell.

Things that are difficult to sell and poor at retaining their value are good things to rent.

I've heard compelling arguments for both Renting and Owning of Houses and Cars and it really comes down to circumstances, but it's always good to own something you can use and sell if the need arises.


I agree completely, but it also depends upon whether renting an item costs you a lot more over the life of the item (which is often dependent upon how well someone takes care of the item). For example, I think most people would agree that Aaron's Rent-to-Own is a sub-par method of purchasing furniture.


> It seems we're substituting "ownership" with control.

But you do not control anything any more with those companies. They can revoke your accesses, they can ban you from using their services for any reason, they can change the terms of services, the offers, the rates, whenever they wish.

Unlike you, I would say you lost the control which came implicitly with ownership, and did not regain another form of control. At least not as much, far from that.


Reductio ad absurdum...

Historically everything from the ownership society has died - everything. Do you still buy betamax players? lazerdisc players? minidisc or walkmans? no...

When the hell have you ever been banned from netflix? If the price goes up, i'll just cancel the service. I don't "collect" netflix shows or have any desire to do anything to feel complete so a change of terms of service, rates, offers or even content doesn't matter to me. I only buy the service because it affords what I want and if that stops, i'll choose a different service.

Historically and basing the future on the explosive growth of current trends, our options are ONLY increasing. There are networks just for science documentaries. I paid 25 bucks with one service to watch probably 200 documentaries over 5 months that i could have NEVER experienced anywhere else and would i want to own them? never... but guess what. in a few years as new content is produced and i can pay another 25-30 bucks and re-binge a bunch of stuff and if this service goes out there are already competing services.

I have more control, more flexibility, more content, more freedom of choice, more freedom of how i can consume, more ways to download, stream, watch, play than i've ever had in my life.

Netflix works on my tv, phone, tablet, computer, Xbox, it works on chrome, safari, edge, firefox.

How can you not see how democratizing this is? I'm so glad I don't have to wait 3 years for disney to "unlock their content warehouse and have a special release of a movie that cam out 10 years ago for the great low price of 99.99" - we're you around for those days?


> When the hell have you ever been banned from netflix?

Better example: It's extremely frustrating to be in the middle of an intense movie and have your internet become flaky or go out completely at that moment. On the other hand, nothing would have stopped you finishing that movie if you owned it, save perhaps a power outage.

Granted, movie watching isn't important enough for me personally that I find owning movies worth the costs, as I'm sure is the case for most people, but for some it very well might be—it just depends on your priorities. For instance, when I commuted to work (about an hour each way), I didn't use Spotify because I didn't want my music listening on the train to be at the mercy of my mobile connection.


Hey can you tell me what that documentary service you used was? Sounds like exactly what I’ve been looking for.


I recently cleaned out the garage and uploaded all my old music to the cloud. I would not have been able to do so had I not owned the music to begin with. Some of those songs are simply unavailable anywhere: youtube, spotify, google music.


> i get more quality content because i'm paying the producer - not a middleman distribution

I mean, I get where you were going, but this statement is incorrect. I'm willing to bet that you consume a lot of content that you didn't get directly from the people that produced it.

To your other points I largely agree. I have a giant box of cd's that I move with me from residence to residence, but never open. At this point it's really more of a burden, far outweighing the value I might get out of it someday if I ever decide to finally open it back up.


I would point out the very fact someone was willing to risk jail time to steal that CD collection means it's not worthless.


> I've owned VHS's, they're worthless

Just keep them long enough, one day some hipster will come out and claim that "vintage" technology has something more than modern technology... Just like what happened with vinil disks /s


I do have Netflix, and other subscription services, but by the nature of licensing, they're very limited. Do you only watch/read/etc the most common, most popular, current movies/music/etc? If you seek out anything a little off the beaten path, you pretty much have to own it or you won't be able to consume it, or get access to it later.

For example, I recently went through several lists of underrated (i.e. not the megahits like Ghostbusters or Indiana Jones) movies from the 80s and 90s and I'm hunting them down and watching them. Of the seven movies I watched this past couple of weeks (About Last Night, How to Get Ahead in Advertising, Nothing But Trouble, Other People's Money, The Wrong Guy, Top Secret, Used Cars), ZERO of them can be found on Netflix or Hulu. Five of them can be rented individually from Amazon Prime at $4 a pop, but aren't included in their prime subscription that I already pay ~$100 a year for. That's the full extent of how you can get access to these movies from subscription services. I could have just stuck with what subscription services offer, but if it's not something new the selection gets increasingly worse and worse.

Is that what you want the future to be like? Where these movies might as well have disappeared off the face of the earth because no one can get ahold of them anymore? Because that's the direction we're starting to go in with more and more things going digital only and subscription only.

I used to work in the video game industry, but I have almost nothing to show for it outside of some trailers on Youtube, because almost all of those games were released on digital channels and are no longer available to download. I had two games on the Wii Shop and the Wii Shop is now closed and the company is defunct, so those games are gone. Another on Xbox Live for 360, and a couple of Xbox Indie Games that you can't get anymore because they killed the service. The only game you can still get is Neverland Card Battles on the PSP, and that's because it was released as a physical game.

You can still also play my Flash games I did before I got into the industry, at least until browsers kill Flash off entirely. There was a whole thread on HN recently about how we're about to lose a whole decade of culture from Flash and how one guy is trying to preserve it as best as he can.

Not being able to own the media (even if only in digital form) sucks, because companies can't be trusted to always remain solvent, always have license agreements in place, and always care about keeping all the content available for people to get. If you don't care about the content, then you probably don't care that you only get some access to some stuff some of the time, but for those that care about the time and energy that creators put in and want to experience and share those things with people that may have missed it the first time around or whole new generations of people, this current trend is terrible.

That's actually one reason why I shifted gears and started designing board games the past few years. I have perfectly good and playable copies of board games that are 60 years old now, decades after the companies have gone out of business. I won't have to go through extra effort to make sure that people can still have access to my board games long after I'm dead.


> Is that what you want the future to be like? Where these movies might as well have disappeared off the face of the earth because no one can get ahold of them anymore? Because that's the direction we're starting to go in with more and more things going digital only and subscription only.

Pretty much. Most of the time I am more than happy to watch something on the current rotation of Netflix/Amazon/HBO. It doesn't work when you're trying to seek out something specific, but the streaming world works better when you let the content come to you. I certainly don't want to fill my home with plastic discs of movies and if I ever want to watch something specific I can almost always pay to stream it. If it's not available as a rental I can just watch another movie. There is more content than anyone can ever watch, if it's not accessible to me I feel no need to go out of my way.

It's sort of like having a very well done company cafeteria (a la Google) vs going out to a restaurant. I may not get exactly what I want every day, but it's good food without having to go anywhere and at an unbeatable price. I'll probably choose that over a restaurant 9/10 times.


There is a huge network cost towards doing this. The centralised platforms by definition will push us closer towards the mean (as the mean is most profitable) at the expense of the outlier.

This means that you'll have a higher quality median (note, not mean) experience at the cost of experiencing any true outliers. The best way it's been put to me is the follows:

* (AI/ML/Algorithmic Recommendation) = 8/10 products you will like, none you'll love or hate

* (Serendipitous Searching) = 5 products you will guaranteed like, 1 you will hate, 1 you will absolutely love

By only having access to the current rotation on Netflix/Amazon/HBO you cannot find the 'diamonds in the rough' that suit your taste.


I guess what I'm saying is I am OK with this and vastly prefer it to collecting things in my home. I could put a ton more effort/money in and clutter my house and get some marginal more enjoyment from movies, but for me that is a losing proposition. I'd rather not buy anything or put in the time and enjoy the content less. I can definitely understand if movies are a passion this would be undesirable, but they're not a passion of mine and I really enjoy being able to outsource the hassle.


That's a very reasonable approach. The issue is that if this is extended to every person in society then the cumulative effect would be worse.

An issue where the incremental benefits to one individual may have negative externalities throughout the society as a whole,


I think these friendly disagreements often come down to “how otaku are you about a given area of human expression.”

You and I (but not various other folks on this thread) place a lot of value on not avoiding hassle, and a pleasantly low albeit non-zero price for a reasonable subset of the output of Hollywood.

People who are deeply invested in being able to apply their own personal filter on what media is available seem less satisfied.

I know other people who play out the same disagreement for comedy and music.

For some reason not for dance. Where’s the cheap version of Netflix for the ballet?

Maybe somewhere on YouTube; I refuse to use YouTube so I wouldn’t know.


I think that point of view is fine on an individual level. For people who like to live a minimalist lifestyle and don't want to be tied down to a location or want to be able to pack up and move easily, or just plain hate clutter and don't find enough personal value in owning these things that's fine (although you can store a lot on a single external hard drive nowadays).

But I don't think this is a good idea for the world to become like this as a whole. The more things are centralized (stream from one server as opposed to living in a bunch of locations all over the world), the easier it is for parts of our culture to disappear.

The artifacts we find from thousands of years ago are a super tiny handful of many, many, many more that existed (perhaps not exact copies, but the same types of things), and we have lost who knows how knowledge and cultural artifacts from the past, in particular the ancient past, due to things like libraries and museums getting burned down or destroyed, statues being removed, massive wars fought, etc.

Even in our own lifetimes there have been the Taliban that have destroyed ancient Buddhist statues in Afghanistan[1], ISIS destroying artifacts in Iraq museums[2], and looters destroying or stealing artifacts from a Cairo museum while the Arab Spring was underway[3]. Along with many, many other examples[4].

We collectively have the capability to have exact or near-exact copies of all sorts of documents, art, video, audio, etc. The more people that hang on to these things, the more future generations benefit from it. And the more we can benefit from the archival actions of others now.

But again, it doesn't require that everyone do it, or even for each person to try to have a copy of literally everything that exists. Just that enough people own copies of the things they love and share them with people as much as they can, helps insure the survival of our cultural heritage.

BTW, I found an interesting site that chronicles all the various types of media that are known to have existed but are now lost. It's called LostMediaWiki, if you're curious. I was surprised how long the list was just for video games, which aren't that old as a medium.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamiyan

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destruction_of_Mosul_Museum_ar...

[3] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-12442863

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_destroyed_heritage


These things aren’t disappearing. It’s just that the non-mainstream gets more expensive.

So I don’t agree it’s worse for society.

I do think it would be nice if game producers would put their code and assets in escrow, so once the platform they were built for goes away, and the producer decides to not invest in a succesor platform, the assets/code could be released to the public.


That is a really good idea. It might be worth developing a platform for that. Convincing companies to trust their code to a third party service (or to even bother) might be a pretty big uphill battle, though. Still tempting, though.


> “you ought to own the stuff you possess.”

That is the base that Richard Stallman created for the open source movement. You should own your own hardware, and the only way of fulfilling that is to own the software that makes it run. And I also thought that this is common sense at least for the past generation of developers. I am not so sure how much the message has been lost, but it is not so strong as it used to be.


I got to see Stallman talk at a large state school a few years back. Almost everyone, including myself, thought the guy meant well but had really lost his mind. It wasn't just the Emacs song, but how he spent so much of his time and energy understanding and maintaining all of his freedoms. Thinking back, it's like we forgot our rights aren't guaranteed and didn't need to be protected or even considered at those levels. We were very naive and short-sighted.


> Almost everyone, including myself, thought the guy meant well but had really lost his mind.

Yep. I know a guy that hang with him for a while and Stallman behaviour was already off. That was years ago.

But the original idea it is still relevant today. It is important to detach the message from the messenger.

> Thinking back, it's like we forgot our rights aren't guaranteed and didn't need to be protected or even considered at those levels.

Yes. I think that the success of the open source movement makes it commercially important and the message got diluted. There was a lot of pushback against LGPL and GPL licenses at that time.

Nowadays people contribute to projects that any company can take on and convert to a closed product. Just put some effort in some improvements - a nicer interface and some documentation - and the freemium version will overtake the free version. GPL was designed to make that move impossible unless the original company owned all the code, as then it can change the license whenever they want.


Those companies (and capitalism in general) excel at identifying your sloths (as any other vice), encouraging and developing them in order to turn them into money. They thrive on such mechanisms.


I think the current fad of everything being offered 'as a service' has changed many people's minds. Can't find a link, but I've seen people on this website claim that electron apps that are just a web page (and thus don't work offline) are better for Linux on the desktop than actual native applications. Sure, they do mean that cross-platform is essentially free, but you have to rely on someone else's computer for them to work. Which is one of the big reasons I'm so desperate to move away from fusion360 for personal projects. I'm fine with closed source provided the model isn't that restrictive, I certainly have no problems with sublime text.

Edit:I needed to be clearer, I know fusion isn't electron, but I've had no luck at all using it offline. Very rarely will it work. And unless things changed in the last 6 months, the Github desktop app can't commit locally without an internet connection.


> Can't find a link, but I've seen people on this website claim that electron apps that are just a web page (and thus don't work offline) are better for Linux on the desktop than actual native applications. Sure, they do mean that cross-platform is essentially free, but you have to rely on someone else's computer for them to work.

This is false, at least in the way you're thinking. Electron apps are written with web technologies, yes, but they generally don't load their UI via the web; all HTML/CSS/JS lives locally on your machine. I don't use the GitHub app, but if it's true that it can't commit without an internet connection, that's just bad design, as opposed to something inherent with Electron.


> the Github desktop app can't commit locally without an internet connection

Wait, what? Why?


FWIW, BitBucket's app can.


> Which is one of the big reasons I'm so desperate to move away from fusion360 for personal projects.

I understand the need here and would humbly suggest trying to support development of FreeCAD for this reason. - FreeCAD Dev


> That is the base that Richard Stallman created for the open source movement.

I understand what you mean, but RMS is very against "open source": https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point....


Why though? I'm definitely of the sort that doesn't buy into Stallman's philosophy at all. What's the practical negative impact that I ought to be feeling from engaging in commerce with the usual suspects: Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, etc.? Because to me, it just looks like the (mostly potential/future) downsides are massively outweighed by the (mostly actual/current) upsides.


> Because to me, it just looks like the (mostly potential/future) downsides are massively outweighed by the (mostly actual/current) upsides.

Yes. That is true for most things. Eat fatty and sugar-rich food, have pleasure now pay it later. Drink a lot of alcohol, have fun now pay the consequences later. Burn fossil fuels have cheap energy now have catastrophic consequences later. Spend all money now, not have savings in the future.

You are prioritizing current convenience against future consequences. That is a very human thing to do.


Your examples are completely different. Eating a crappy diet now has very well-known, basically deterministic consequences. Ditto for drinking too much or burning oil or blowing all your money. There's no question what will happen if you do these things.

Most of the complaints around big companies seem to be around things they might do (e.g. Amazon could gain monopoly power and raise prices to exorbitant levels) but haven't yet done, and could easily end up never doing.


> He’s saying, “you ought to own the stuff you possess.” Which I didn’t think was a controversial opinion but I guess I stand corrected.

I think you and the author conflated ownership of "stuff" with ownership of--or a stake in--society. All of the things you listed as owning versus the not-owning (whether it's called renting or leasing or subscribing) are trade-offs you made because you value the concept of ownership of stuff over the opposite.

My view is different: I want ownership of society; I want to be a full participant in society, regardless of the actual state of being of the physical and electronic objects around me. This is why, for example, I give money to local journalists on Patreon, and why I deliberately live in a smaller place in a large city where I can pay taxes to a well-funded library system. This is the type of "ownership" I value.

Other things I do, like ride mass transit, subscribe to Spotify, and pay my city electric bill (I wasn't aware that buying electricity from my municipality impacted my "ownership" of anything, as the author claims), are all things I do because I find them to be more efficient or more useful to me. There are things I unequivocally own, like records or my treasured collection of baseball cards, that have value to me beyond my simple possession of them. There are some things I own, like my residence, where ownership has been more of a burden to me than a non-ownership method would have. It's all about balance.

(One last question: Could you clarify "I do my own taxes?" What is it that doing taxes yourself, presumably by pen and calculator, gains over downloading a product like TaxAct and saving the PDF of the result?)


> (One last question: Could you clarify "I do my own taxes?" What is it that doing taxes yourself, presumably by pen and calculator, gains over downloading a product like TaxAct and saving the PDF of the result?)

The general principle I failed to articulate is that all other things being equal, I value Self Reliance over Interdependence.

There are varying levels of interdependence though, maybe I can take a stab at ranking them from least objectionable/risky to most.

1. Dependence on friends and family: largely acceptable in my view

2. Dependence on local community, groups, churches, etc.

3. Dependence on local government, public transport, libraries, etc.

4. Dependence on state/national government

5. Dependence on local businesses

6. Dependence on remote/global businesses

You might notice that the ranking is also ordered by how accountable (at least in theory) they are to you in terms of their actions, where businesses tend to be the least accountable. You can’t vote them out or alter their bad behavior, and their interests least align with yours.

EDIT

Also, I don’t see how paying a corporation for a Spotify subscription gives me any kind of “stake in society”.


I'd personally flip 4 and 5 since I think having incentive not to screw you and recourse if you get screwed is important. Local businesses have much more reason not to screw people and people have much more recourse when screwed compared to state or national government.


I'd agree, another way to look at is who do you have the greatest recourse to when something goes wrong.

Local businesses will often be more sensitive to their customers than local governments. National governments will be even less sensitive.


Local businesses can't shoot your dog or take your kids and say "oops, take it to court if you don't like it" (well they can, it'll just work out very, very badly for them).


> I make a deliberate effort to own instead of rent.

In GENERAL, it seems like it takes a lot more money and resources nowadays to do this, relative to other benefits you can have. In Media, having a wall of $19.99 blue-rays and an apple music full of albums is going to cost you a lot more given how must people consume media (a lot, and constantly). The cost to get that permanence is like an order of magnitude over more or less the same content with subscription services + rentals.

I tend to think of it like this - if netflix takes a show off that I watch constantly, I might buy the series online. If Netflix as a whole goes down along with all the other streaming services, then the whole internet and society is probably down, and I suddenly don't care about all the media I'd be consuming, because there's bigger stuff happening in the world.

Of course, "disconnecting" is probably undervalued - I'm just old enough to remember the time when offline was the default for media. Not having to deal with the engagement machine and autoplay was a bit of a blessing.


> I tend to think of it like this - if netflix takes a show off that I watch constantly, I might buy the series online. If Netflix as a whole goes down along with all the other streaming services, then the whole internet and society is probably down, and I suddenly don't care about all the media I'd be consuming, because there's bigger stuff happening in the world.

What if Netflix bans you from using their service?


Then you virtually always still have the opportunity to purchase physical copies of the media you're interested in. It's still at an order-of-magnitude markup over streaming it, but there's little reason to pay that cost upfront if it isn't necessary.


> In GENERAL, it seems like it takes a lot more money and resources nowadays to do this, relative to other benefits you can have.

If you're talking about small ticket items, this seems true, but it certainly doesn't hold for more consequential expenditures like real estate or even cars.


Are you sure it "certainly" doesn't hold for cars? Cars are expensive as hell: after the amortized sticker price, maintenance, gas, parking (I pay $150/month to park near downtown Seattle) and insurance, it takes quite a few Uber rides before choosing the renting economy puts you in the red overall. And by contrast with a house, a car really isn't any household wealth worth speaking of, they depreciate so fast.


If cars had a delivery system as efficient as netflix, it would make far less sense to own a car. Longer-term "capital" goods are very different than disposable media consumption - some like cars (and media, and technology) deprecate but land is an investment in a commodity that is getting more in demand over time.


It's especially true for cars. Uber style car renting brings a much higher utilization for them, and the costs of car ownership are almost all in capital and fixed ones.


Isn’t it especially true for cars and houses? You need a substantial amount of capital for both of those, especially for a mortgage. And that’s not even getting into whether you actually own something if the bank can take it from you for missed payments.


Owning stuff is essential at times of peak demand. It is essentially impossible to rent a nice ski house during Christmas week. Uber is not be trusted when it comes to getting home from a large event. The app was failing for me on Saturday at the Outside Lands festival -- i resorted to driving on Sunday.


> My commute is enormous

And:

> rather than be beholden to some landlord whose interests are not aligned with my own

It sounds like you're now beholden to a situation that's misaligned with your interests. You've traded one kind of serfdom for another.


Eh, that's kind of a stretch...also, there are usually multiple ways to approach a long commute (I don't have a long commute, but I have had one in the past).


how is it a stretch? he's traded an ideological view for another?

I live in Austin, and I'm tired of hearing how traffic bad is from people who decided to buy a 3,500 sq foot home 40 miles outside of town and complain about "traffic" driving in.

we have a pretty messed up view of "owning" something without realizing that "owning" doesn't mean much other than "being owned by..." that big commute owns YOU


Not everyones' feelings about their commutes are the same. I've also traded a short commute for a much nicer home and neighborhood. I always listen to audio books and usually look forward to that part of the day. I actually sort of miss it when I'm working from home.


Do you have kids? do you have other hobbies? are you always working? do you have time to read and not passively listen to books or podcasts? do you really enjoy that time or are you just comforted by the notion it's not all for not?

I'm not trying to say how you should or shouldn't feel. I did lots of commuting over the years and I too said the same things you said...

but now that I'm 42, now that my kids are older and now that life seems to be going by faster and faster, I super regret spending years of my life behind the wheel rather than doing what I really wanted to do.

That bigger house wasn't worth it, the bigger tv wasn't worth it, the bigger commute wasn't worth it.

I had no time for my wife, my friends, my kids, my hobbies. I didn't go kayaking, biking or running as much as I wish...

I thought my commute time was my time, but it was "alone time" but not necessarily objectively "me" time - i was still upset at the traffic, delays, weather, people everywhere and no one talking, everyone just mindlessly going places while being jerks and i had to use books/music to escape...

only to go home to pay a big mortgage, stay up late to have that hour of time, get up early to try and have more time. Before long i was spending all my mental energy trying to justify it all and it became overwhelming.

Today, I live 6 miles from work, a 15 minute drive in worst of traffic. I'm home, i'm not mad, i can still listen to music/audio books but more importantly i'm there - i don't mind driving home to pickup kids to take them to scouts or off to music - because i didn't just spend 1.2 hours commuting. my rage is less, i'm there more, i'm more present and i have time for hobbies/friends/family and ME


For many people the commute is the only, or at least the majority, 'alone time' that they have. I step off the bus and my heart sinks as I re-enter the maelstrom of family life.

The only other me-time I have is getting up at 05:30 to go for a run, which is magnitudes less pleasant than sitting on a bus.

So, as you say, everyone's opinion of commuting time differs. For me it is a highlight of the day.


I don't want to put words into your mouth or say how you feel is wrong, but like I said, I felt the same for the longest time too.

Now my morning run is me time - I run where I want to run, I wave to people, I smile, I pet the random dog that runs up to me, I smell the fresh air, I sense the warmth of summer, the coolness of fall and the crispness of winter. I feel the sun on my back, the wind on my face. I can listen to music, I can listen to an audiobook - my mind is clear - think the most and remember the most when i'm out on my jog.

When I commuted to work, it was so mindless sometimes I forgot how I even got from point a to b. On the bus or the train or sitting in my car, I wasn't there with nature, I wasn't there in mind/body/spirit. I was kept busy by stuff I didn't really pay attention to because it was all a distraction from the commute that I lied to myself was what mattered as me time.

at 5:30 in the morning - there is a good chance you will see the stars set and the sunrise - the birds chirp. You run - you start feeling better, you feel healthier, you feel more alive. You get back home and that coffee tastes better, that shower feels better. YOur muscles ache less and less as you do it.

That commute - unless you happen to be lucky enough to be bush pilot flying the mountains of Alaska to get to work or a park ranger driving thorugh a national park to get to work usually doesn't offer what we take foregranted but forget what life should be about.

When I lived in PA i had to commute 1.5 hours each way and i too swore to myself how good that "me time" was...

figure 253 working days a year, in one year I spend 759 hours just getting back and forth to work - not including all the extra time, bad days, slow days or working late, or having to come in early or use my free time to study, answer alerts/pages or stay ahead of tech/services/requirements that is a lot of time. Really put into perspective when you realize 750 hours is essentially 19 weeks of man hours of worka year. I couldn't name a book, or learn anything new or remember a damn thing that happened during those commuting days - but i could remember how bad traffic was, what time every school got out and how often i ran across the same asshole on the way to work or home and what frequency life sucked because of holidays/events/activities going on.

i guess my point is, if you can enjoy it, by all means enjoy it, but don't do what i did and fool yourself into enjoying it without realizing you weren't getting out of it what you perceived you were.

Its kind of a shame we're good at convincing ourselves something like a jog, where we're alone in nature with mind, body and spirit is "bad" but in the hustle and bustle of senseless rush to get to work or get back home - we see that as a me time. (not saying this is how you feel, but how i perceive the quirks of our society)

Also, lets not forget, if you had a 10 minute commute to work your run may be at 7:30 instead of 5:30 or it could be at 5:30 pm instead of 5:30 a.m which may be more enjoyable for you. Or you could go fishing before/after work or just spend an hour at starbucks enjoying a coffee rather than sitting in traffic by choice.

The first year i stopped commuting i started going fishing at a small pond on my way to work. I'd just keep a collapsable rod in my car and some lures. I got good at catching large mouth bass and crappy and i got to see the bats, birds, fish, deer and that 45 minutes of fishing before work was the best healing for my spirit i could ever ask for. Thats mother fucking ME time right there!


Look, it sounds like you had a longer commute than I have now -- I traded a 10 minute commute for a 45 minute commute. It also sounds like you also work near somewhere you can go fishing, whereas I work in the middle of a major city.

If you want to talk about "convincing ourselves", I look at some of my co-workers who live in tiny apartments that don't even have fully functioning kitchens, for the sake of being a few blocks from work. They talk about how great it is to have a short commute and seem oblivious to the fact that they've chosen lives slightly better than those of Chinese factory workers, only the company doesn't pay for the exorbitant rent on the tiny pods they're living in or all the meals they have to order from delivery services because they only have a mini-fridge and a microwave.


5am, tie my shoes, go running up a hill, still dark, waving to strangers running too, everyone so happy! Best time of the day


I disagree, which is why I posted what I did. You can commute in ways that don't add to congestion - which is what I did. In my employers case I was even able to work while commuting (via train) and remote work a couple of days a week. I didn't feel like that commute owned me at all.


IH-35 around Congress is literally a parking lot from like 4PM to 6PM. I don't think I ever knew anyone that lived so close to work that traffic wasn't a problem for them.


Not to mention that he's still probably beholden to his bank.


saying, “you ought to own the stuff you possess.”

I succumbed and buy music and movies online because that battle is already lost; I'm not going to commit to maintaining VHS, DVD etc players forever and obsolescence is built into the format. Hell there are probably people with laserdiscs that they can’t play anymore.

But I still buy physical books because they are a real thing.


> I might be an outlier. I make a deliberate effort to own instead of rent. My commute is enormous because I moved to a place I can afford to own a house...

You're not an outlier if you live in the USA. You might be part of the problem. "Drive till you qualify" is peak consumerism.


Everything this guy illustrates in this article as frightening and subversive, I see as positive. Americans confuse control with love; that's why we say things like "you belong to me" and "I only hurt you because I love you". That's why we substitute possessions for relationships. It's a thoroughly poisonous attitude.

The most bizarre statement is when he says "The nation was based on the notion that property ownership gives individuals a stake in the system." It's pretty obvious to me that a deliberate and intentional effort has been made to ensure that only people who own a lot of property have any voice in the system; to flip that relationship around and make it a moral statement is frankly a little scary. People really think like this?

Look, what Americans need is to spend more time with their friends, their children, their spouses, their families. Not to spend time collecting fancy cars or other hollow pursuits. This is a lunatic point of view.


> It's pretty obvious to me that a deliberate and intentional effort has been made to ensure that only people who own a lot of property have any voice in the system; to flip that relationship around and make it a moral statement is frankly a little scary.

That's not true. The reason why property ownership was required to vote is because in a democracy, the founders knew that if the majority of voters didn't have property then they would eventually just vote to take away the property of others. But they also knew that if the majority of people didn't own property then the government would also fail. So their solution was to only allow property owners to vote, but to make it easy and basically free for all citizens to become a property owners, and to heavily incentivize them to do so.

Early American democracy only worked because there was basically an unlimited amount of free land to give way. And to the extent that it still works, it's because technology and intellectual property have replaced land as the primary sources of capital.

American democracy is designed around broad-based capital ownership, not broad-based ownership of stupid shit you don't need. This is why this article doesn't make sense, because it would be far better for democracy if e.g. the average American owned $20,000 worth of Uber stock rather than $20,000 worth of car. Stock is capital, whereas a personal car isn't.


> the founders knew that if the majority of voters didn't have property then they would eventually just vote to take away the property of others.

That argument seems to fly in the face of the 5th Amendment:

"... nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."


I don't get it, by my reading that amendment supports the argument.


> "The nation was based on the notion that property ownership gives individuals a stake in the system."

It's technically true. It's clear that the original law of the land assumed that only landowners had a stake in running things.

I didn't get the impression that the author claimed this was a moral truth. Rather, I thought he was saying that the resulting culture made the country prosperous and productive. As more and more groups started owning things, they became enfranchised into the system.


It's clear that the original law of the land assumed that only landowners had a stake in running things.

The Roman Republic had a rule that to serve in the army you had to be a landowning Roman citizen (with a minimum-value requirement for the property). Largely for this reason: if you owned land, you had a stake, something to fight for.

It didn't work out so well, because -- and it's up to you if you see parallels here -- the Roman Republic was also incredibly corrupt, and its wealthy/powerful classes used every trick they could come up with to commandeer productive land, leaving Rome in a situation where there weren't enough eligible citizens to form a useful army.

The further, and longer-lasting, consequence was that Gaius Marius reformed the system, creating essentially a standing force of professional soldiers, rather than a landowners' militia that had to be re-recruited and re-trained for every war. This was a big boost to Rome's military capability, but also resulted in soldiers having loyalty to their general (who would pay/reward them) rather than to Rome. And that played a part in the eventual change from Republic to Empire.

So do keep in mind that a "rights for property owners" system can in theory expand rights as more people gain property. But can also reduce them and concentrate power as unscrupulous people work the system to accumulate property in their hands instead of others' hands.


I don't think you've really taken in the article if you think what it says is we need to buy more cars. The point here is that we use things we don't really own, and in fact ownership (particularly home ownership) has traditionally been one of the things that's ensured the stability of the country. People who feel they've got something to lose don't generally seek to burn down the whole system.


> People who feel they've got something to lose don't generally seek to burn down the whole system.

This is such an important sentence. People high in the chain need to understand, that exploiting and hoarding every dollar from those at the bottom will only lead to one thing. And as history shows, first victims of rising of the masses are the people highest in the chain of an old system.


"home ownership"

Does this take mortgages into consideration?


Yes. The thirty-year fixed-rate mortgage was kind of the cornerstone of the whole system and arose because of government intervention to assure stability


A lot of comments here are conflating the notions of "property ownership gives individuals a stake in the system" and property requirements for voting. They're not nearly the same thing.

To understand the point of the author you need to look back, deeply back, at the history of human society. For most of human history, most people did not own any property. In a feudal society, for example, a few lords owned everything, and everyone else worked for them and owned nothing.

The "American experiment" was radical in that it placed the individual at the center of governance. The U.S. system of government is "built up" from citizen consent, not "pushed down" from a divinely-granted right of hereditary rule.

In order for this system to work, citizens must own property. Otherwise, they don't have the resources to collectively enact change. The Bill of Rights presumes citizens who have the resources to speak, associate, petition, etc. That's why it is worded to constrain the government's power, not worded to grants things to citizens.

The fundamental idea behind American democracy is that Americans have the means to pursue their goals and to influence each other.

This is why it was so much easier for early U.S. citizens to found churches and corporations than it was in Europe. European churches and corporations were top-down, and therefore few and conservative. U.S. organizations were bottom-up, and therefore many, diverse, and innovative.

So... that's why property ownership is at the heart of American democracy.

But what about:

> deliberate and intentional effort has been made to ensure that only people who own a lot of property have any voice in the system

There's actually a lot of evidence against this, for example the entire labor and environmental movements. Collective citizen action has worked a lot of change to the U.S. over the years, and I predict it will continue to do so.

All that said, I think it's a pretty far reach to claim that the American experiment is at risk because a few people don't want to buy CD's or cars anymore. People still like money and things! The real estate market is not drying up. There's plenty of property being owned and desired by Americans.

I think that lack of money is a bigger issue. Over 40 million people in the U.S. live below the poverty line! I think that's a much bigger problem for American "stake in the game" than whether someone who has disposable income decides to spend it on a Kindle instead of books.


> Americans confuse control with love

Ownership culture has always exhibited this sort of pathological tendency. People who live next to a park with a basketball court insist on an inferior hoop in their driveway. The suburbs are littered with garden sheds full of identical, mostly-idle tools. We insist on a car for every member of the household.

Similar examples are readily conjured.

To the extent that any of these involve practical advantages, they're far outweighed, it seems to me, by the bizarre psychological impulses that are really driving all this compulsive behavior.


If you want to share tools with your neighbor you have to know them and be on and maintain a good relationship with them. There are numerous downsides to borrowing and sharing, so much so that people would rather not do it. Nobody wants to pester their neighbor over and over to use some tool X. It's annoying for them and annoying for you. Ideally the tools would exist off both of your properties in some neutral place that either of you could just go and get the tools out of without pestering one another but for most people this just isn't practical. It's so much easier to just buy your own tools, or pay a contractor.


Fine, but that doesn't explain the installation of crappy Wal-Mart-special basketball hoops adjacent to the public park's pristine full-courts. Nor does it explain the U.S.'s intense aversion to public transit, which burns far hotter than any practical consideration could possibly explain. Neither does it shed any light on the sad way in which suburban dads build rickety basement bars, never stopping to consider that the point of the bar is that it is, in fact, located at the bar and not your basement.

There's pretty clearly something deeper here.


>There's pretty clearly something deeper here.

IDK why there has to be something deeper.

>public park's pristine full-courts

I mean there's only so many courts maybe you don't want to play with other people you just want to take shots, and it's convenient.

>Neither does it shed any light on the sad way in which suburban dads build rickety basement bars

They do it to hang out with their friends. Same way you order a pizza and eat it at home instead of at the restaurant. What are you after the pizza or "being at a restaurant". For most people it's the pizza. The phenomenon of rickety basement bars as you call them is just people hanging out at home drinking cheaper beer at a home built bar. They get some of that "I'm out of the house" vibe while getting all the "hanging out with my friends" that they really want.

I don't know what else you are implying could be operating here. So I'll have to assume you just hate improvised home bars.


Perhaps you think it’s a silly objection, but, yes, I think shoddy simulacrums in private basements miss the point of the “third place” entirely, and the desire to pull every aspect of the public sphere under one’s own roof betrays an impoverished worldview.


I don't think it's a silly objection, but I feel it's too abstract, ignoring certain practical realities that aren't really attempting to do what you say "pull the public sphere under one's own roof". This feels like some kind of "plato's world of forms" type analysis of something that's more simple and practical than anything else and is motivated more by convenience and thrift more than something like an "impoverished world-view". Your comments feel to me a bit like you are looking down on the parochial plebs for their simple pleasures.


> Your comments feel to me a bit like you are looking down on the parochial plebs for their simple pleasures.

No, no, no! The plebs will live happier and more fulfilling lives if they meet their friends at the bar for a pint (and stop pursuing the illusory control of their very-own basement bar). [0] This is about looking up, not down!

[0] By the way, I'm just the kind of guy to want to build his own basement bar. These are message-board musings, not cultural edicts.


When I meet my friends at a public bar it is always very loud and I have trouble hearing them. Some of my friends zone out watching the sports on the tvs. Some of my friends are always trying to pick up a date. A couple of my friends completely detest the experience and wont even show up. At the end of the night I'm out $40-$50 and I have to figure out a way to get home.

When I hang out with the same friends at their rickety basement bars more of them show up and we're all very engaged, we talk or play games and I drink more moderately. I'm only out $14 for a 12 pack and if I overdo myself I can just crash on the couch for a bit.

Personally I find the basement bar more fulfilling.


We're way off in the weeds now, but you've described a bad bar. There are more than 60 thousand of them in the U.S.

Go to a better one.


I was generalizing for rhetorical effect. I've been to hundreds of bars and it's true that they don't all have sports on TV, or TVs at all, but they all have some feature that impacts my ability to enjoy myself in the company of my friends. I have had some enjoyable solo bar experiences, as well as visits with a singular friend.


> It's pretty obvious to me that a deliberate and intentional effort has been made to ensure that only people who own a lot of property have any voice in the system; to flip that relationship around and make it a moral statement is frankly a little scary.

Well, it hasn't been a deliberate and intentional effort to exclude those without property or net worth from the decision making process - People like that, who reside at the bottom of the hierarchies they inhabit, have never in history been looked to for guidance or input on any decision. I'm making an evolutionary biology claim: Folks with no clout can only have a say if it is deliberately & intentionally given to them. It's the opposite of your speculation that it's been taken from them.

And frankly why _should_ someone who cannot gather value for themselves have a say in economic decisions that will affect others? The reason we have these big evil hierarchies, where the poor are dispossessed and a small group of tycoons at the top make the decisions, is because they have a track record of good decisions. If you suddenly took some progressive initiative to invite some idlers to give input on tax law, they might make a decision that inadvertently lowers your country's GDP by half a percent for five years.


First off, a lot of people are born at the bottom, and born at the top, of various hierarchies. I'm certain that the people at the top think they earned it. They didn't.

Second, maintaining these kinds of hierarchies does not happen as the result of some kind of natural process. It requires violence.


I'm working quite hard to ensure that my children will have a far greater head start than I did. Why should I not be able to pass on the fruit of my labor?

Yes I know this is going to be a controversial question. I'm genuinely interested in what people's opinions are.


It is good if the society evens this out: it should not completely take away the fruits of your labor, because then your incentive to be productive will be low. But it also should ensure that less lucky children get a good start as well, to ensure that as many children as possible become productive citizens. To do the latter, the wealthy have to give up some of their wealth.


"To do the latter, the wealthy have to give up some of their wealth."

No, this does not follow. It is perfectly possible to ensure that every child has a reasonably good start and every chance to become a productive citizen without stealing from anyone, if only the people who are specifically interested in "evening things out" give up some of their wealth for the purpose. As a bonus, the children then get to grow up in a society where theft and parasitism are not deemed normal and acceptable forms of behavior.


That does not seem to make much sense. Do you also think street building and maintenance, police, army, etc. should only be supported by people "specifically interested" in these services?


Yes, of course. If you want a service, you pay for it yourself. You have no right to make anyone else pay for what you want against their will.


Game-theoretic results prove that this cannot possibly work (tragedy of the commons).

Your second sentence is no argument, just a claim. I counter-claim that I do have that right. So it seems to be a stalemate with respect to claims.


> The reason we have these big evil hierarchies, where the poor are dispossessed and a small group of tycoons at the top make the decisions, is because they have a track record of good decisions.

Good decisions FOR THEM.


This is beyond ridiculous. The crux of the article is:

> Each of these changes is beneficial, yet I worry that Americans are, slowly but surely, losing their connection to the idea of private ownership. The nation was based on the notion that property ownership gives individuals a stake in the system. It set Americans apart from feudal peasants, taught us how property rights and incentives operate, and was a kind of training for future entrepreneurship.

Whether you own music or rent it doesn't give you a stake in the system, nor does owning a car vs using public transport.

What gives you a stake is your net worth -- whether in a bank account, investments, land, a house, a company, or several.

And being able to rent services instead of buy permanent goods is an economic gain, allowing you to deploy your savings in a more targeted way toward whatever really matters the most to you.

If we want to be nervous, let's investigate inequality of net worth and the policies that lead to that -- and not be distracted by something totally irrelevant like whether I buy or license my books.


> Whether you own music or rent it doesn't give you a stake in the system, nor does owning a car vs using public transport.

You're correct, but it does at least give you some agency independent of the system. If you own a DRM-free mp3, you can listen to that song every day for the rest of your life if you want to. Whereas if you just have a Spotify subscription, a record company can decide to pull the track whenever they please (which usually happens across all streaming services at once), and then it's just gone.

The tradeoffs are debatable, but they exist.


I don't want to listen to the same collection of songs every day for the rest of my life, though. If services like Spotify fail and go away completely, the solution wouldn't be that I start buying music all of the sudden: It would be that I listen to less music, much like I did before these services came about.

If one record company pulls a track, so be it. That track will simply be out of my rotation. If I happen to be listening to popular music and I really want to hear the song, it is probably available other places. If I can't find it, so be it: I'll listen to something else and soon forget about that song. No big deal. In the end, I'm still dependent on the record company making it available in some way or another.


but you need electricity, hence a service


And the people (via the government) regulate electricity, so that electricity companies don't gain an inordinate amount of power over society. We just don't have that kind of legislation yet for the sudden influx of service-style companies that have popped up in recent years.


I think you might have a logical hole here. The biggest problem with renting things is precisely that they have a negative effect on your net worth. When you buy a product that is something that you have the right to sell, rent, trade or otherwise enrich yourself with, at least within the confines of intellectual property law.

As an example I enjoy games and my Steam account likely now is 'worth' some thousands of dollars that I should be able to sell at some depreciated rate. Except it's not, and I cannot. As I'm effectively renting access to these products instead of actually 'buying' them, my account is worth exactly $0. I could try to sell it nonetheless, but it would be unlawful. If I was instead able to actually own these games, my little hobby would still have cost me money, but I'd be able to recoup a substantial portion of it at a later date -- or perhaps even work to monetize "my" games in some way, again within the confines of the law.

This is sort of a microcosm of what causes wealth inequality. A more typical example would be a poor individual spending decades paying rent each month that is simply subtracted from his net worth. A wealthier individual might be paying off a mortgage on a property that eventually begin to earn money for him, or at the minimum provide him a residence with no rent due other than that which the government demands. It's interesting to consider this aspect of the migration to cities. People move into these extremely dense areas where they're obligated to rent homes which, due to high demand, consume a very large chunk of their earnings - and then at the end of the days, weeks, years, decades, they have absolutely 0 to show for what will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars for most people.


>What gives you a stake is your net worth -- whether in a bank account, investments, land, a house, a company, or several.

I don't think a bank account applies here. If I have a large bank account but no other ties to the community, I have no real skin in the game as it applies to community proceedings. I'll vote however and if I make mistakes I will leave with no losses.


He has become insufferable, especially with broad statements/generalizations like this, and that is why I stopped reading his blog or his articles many years ago (except when posted on sites like HN). And the evidence cites is weak.

'Property and stakes' in the context of American history and feudalism means land, not doodads. It's so many banal platitudes. Tyler is a smart guy but some of the stuff he writes and says is just...bad.


Yup, property ownership is moot to people that have so little they are unable act with any practical level of independence.


The article mentions houses specifically as something that, with the "smart home," may end up looking more like your iPhone and less like we've traditionally thought of houses.


Record companies own music...do they not have stake in the system?


>If we want to be nervous, let's investigate inequality of net worth

And we should find ourselves completely at ease at the end of our investigation, for in every species success is distributed inequitably. Inequality of net worth is a natural law, and human society is no exception. And we need to keep very hard working people motivated to keep working very hard by ensuring them that they will always keep the lions share of their labour's products.


I think this argument would resonate with me if wealth was more meritocratic. My wife is from rural Iowa and I've learned that working hard doesn't guarantee you a living wage (especially if you have medical bills).


I don't really think striving for total equality is necessary, but the number of people I see begging for change every morning suggests to me we've taken this to a pathological extreme.

The connection between hard work and wealth is also rather more attenuated than your simple ideal suggests.


> we need to keep very hard working people motivated to keep working very hard by ensuring them that they will always keep the lions share of their labour's products

I'd love to agree with you and rewarding work is very important, but in our current society outcomes seem mostly determined by starting conditions. People born into poor household that cannot offer good parenting & education are expected to "work way harder" to achieve a similarly happy life than people who spawned lucky. That's fine to some degree, but should be kept under control. Once enough people feel the system isn't fair and rigged against them will they burn it to the ground.


> And we need to keep very hard working people motivated to keep working very hard by ensuring them that they will always keep the lions share of their labour's products.

you're joking with this part, amiright?

don't you think "very hard working people" receive more like the vulture's share, only after the lions have fully fed?


"And we need to keep very hard working people motivated to keep working very hard by ensuring them that they will always keep the lions share of their labour's products."

Tell that to a single mom who works 2 jobs.


It may be better for the environment to not own stuff, but instead use services.

For example, take a fridge. If I buy a fridge, the company I buy it from has an incentive to make it break in N years, so they can sell me a new one, i.e. "planned obsolescence".

However, if I subscribe to a service to keep my food and beverages at a certain temperature, then the company has the incentive to make the fridge last as long as possible.

EDIT: Besides eliminating planned obsolescence, there are more advantages:

- Increased market transparency. The market is more transparent if I know exactly what a service costs me per month, as opposed to buying a product and not knowing when it will fail. A more transparent market leads to better competition.

- Another advantage is that the whole life-cycle of the product, including recycling it, becomes a natural responsibility of the company.


I got burned by "buying a product and not knowing when it will fail".

Samsung made the largest fridge available. I got the $2500 model: stainless steel, no IoT but digital, double doors over drawer freezer. It looked really solid and durable. It failed in so many distinct and interesting ways!

The door shelves constantly shattered, at $50 each. The structure had been compromised by artistic design, with two kinds of plastic joined together. The ice maker died. The main shelves broke a couple times. The temperature display (blue 7-segment numbers) became nonsense. The drawer handle had a hinge made from plastic which broke and non-stainless steel which rusted out. The compressor went out, as we determined by diagnostic codes. The tech sent to fix that ignored us, never checked diagnostic codes, didn't look at the compressor, insisted that our problem was the ice maker (which was indeed broken but not our complaint), charged us $75 for nothing, and fought us when we did a credit card charge-back.

I cut that fridge up with a demolition saw to get it out of my house. This was satisfying.

The replacement is a pair of smaller fridges that were about $400 each. One of them even has old-style wire shelves that seem unlikely to shatter. We've only had two broken shelves so far, in the other one.

Famously, there was a "lemons and cherries" paper on the economics of used cars. I think it also somewhat applies to new goods. There is information asymmetry here. I can't know that the hinges are fragile plastic and non-stainless steel. The fridge looks nice, and it says "stainless steel". I've learned my lesson: do not pay more in an attempt to get quality, because you'll just pay more for the same old junk.


How do you keep breaking so many refrigerator shelves..? I've never broken one in my entire life..


Samsung fridges are hot garbage and imo should be avoided at all costs.

I had a not-so-drastic experience with a high-end samsung fridge: A design flaw where the recirculation fan would accrue ice, and symptoms were that it sounded like a chainsaw every time it turned on, and eventually the fan would freeze over. The only way to "fix" it was to thaw it out every few weeks, and any attempt to replace parts was futile since it was a design flaw, not a mechanical failure.


Until I got a Samsung fridge I would have said the same thing. Now my fridge shelves are not strong enough to do the job.


Heat.

If the shelf is glass, and the glass is not resistant against wide temperature variations, the glass weakens and eventually will shatter.


I doubt it. I open the door of course, but I don't put hot things into the fridge.

My shelves are generally packed with large jugs. For example, on a main shelf I might have 4 gallons of milk and a half dozen half-gallon containers of juice and then more stuff to fill out the remaining space. Door shelves are similarly packed, with the ones in the Samsung being about 12x8 inches and thus big enough for gallons of milk.

The fridge is constantly used by kids. It needs to be mostly restocked every other day.

Glass shattered in one of the $400 fridges. The other $400 fridge is wire. Glass shelves in the Samsung would break around the edge, leaving me with an intact sheet of glass and some broken plastic. Door shelves are always plastic. Samsung snapped white and clear plastic together to make the shelves, with a fragile zig-zag at the joint. I got to wrapping the shelves with string-embedded packing tape before installing them, which increased the typical life from weeks to months.

Give me forged metal grates please, or at least something like rustproof storm drain covers.


I bet you he (or she) stores large heavy things in their fridge, like big pots of stew or heavy cuts of meat.


> I've learned my lesson: do not pay more in an attempt to get quality, because you'll just pay more for the same old junk.

Price does communicate some usable information. The problem is that most people naively assume that the more expensive item must be better, while the good items are actually fighting for an informed customer looking for a good cost/benefit. That means that most of the very low price stuff is crap, but also that if the value you can take from an item has a ceiling (limited comfort options, limited maintenance savings, limited "extra durability"), most of the very high price items are also crap.


"cut that fridge up with a demolition saw to get it out of my house. This was satisfying."

So, Mr Customer, how do you really feel about our product?

Yeah, definitely satisfying. Well played.


> I've learned my lesson: do not pay more in an attempt to get quality, because you'll just pay more for the same old junk.

I don't agree. I think you can still buy quality things. The problem is that the market pushed the prices so low for "good enough" products, that it's difficult to justify paying much more. In the case of refrigerators, you'd have to pay at least three times more for a Sub-Zero fridge, for example.


I wouldn't trust the Sub-Zero fridge. I suppose I could feel somewhat safe with a refund/replace warranty (at my choice) with hefty payouts for downtime.

I went looking at high-end oven/range things one day, after having had the Samsung fridge experience. I noticed that underneath the fancy knobs they had the same crappy quarter-inch shafts as the low-end models. Some of the knobs looked like seriously impressive chunks of steel or brass... but that only put more weight and leverage on the standard-sized shafts.

I saw somebody take apart an older iPhone, maybe the 4. The phone had some really nice looking buttons on the side, machined out of stainless steel. Inside the phone it was a very different story: really flimsy crap.


> However, if I subscribe to a service to keep my food and beverages at a certain temperature, then the company has the incentive to make the fridge last as long as possible.

Theoretically, landlords would have the same incentive to purchase the longest lasting things for their rental units. In my experience, both as a renter and someone who designs buildings, the directive is "get the cheapest possible thing that will work".

Sometimes that's because the person paying to build the building is going to sell it once it's rented out, so they won't have to deal with the long term consequences. Sometimes it's just budget restrictions that won't permit the funds to buy the high-quality option. Sometimes it's just short-sightedness. It's rare to meet an owner who truly wants to invest in high quality, long-term solutions.


Or maybe it's because landlords know that it doesn't matter how long something is supposed to last in the hands of someone who has no willingness or incentive to preserve it


Exactly this. I'm a landlord, and I can't tell you how poorly some people will treat your appliances and other interior household components.

I'm not going to put a Bosch dishwasher in when someone is going to let their kid sit on the door while it's open, not maintain it properly (cleaning out the drain screen monthly), and so on. Maybe some tenants will, but most do not. I make sure to pay for the extended warranty, and my credit card tops the warranty up some more, because one service call is more expensive (and it's built into the cost of the rent). Something breaks? I file a warranty claim or service call, schedule it with the tenant, and move on with my day. My tenants are entitled to working appliances, not fancy appliances. If those appliances are durable and long lasting, bonus.


You have two options: pay a premium for a durable fridge that needs less/no maintenance or send out your staff to perform regular maintenance. It's more or less what the tenant is paying for when you rent your appliances.


It's also hard to gauge quality. Is a Samsung fridge 10% or 20% more durable than a no-name fridge? How much of a price premium to pay?


> Theoretically, landlords would have the same incentive to purchase the longest lasting things for their rental units. In my experience, both as a renter and someone who designs buildings, the directive is "get the cheapest possible thing that will work".

This is a great example, and it also has many parallels in—e.g. provision of online services.

The gp isn't wrong, service-providing companies are incentivised to optimise for low waste in certain areas, but it breaks down in other areas like this because service providers aren't optimising for QoS, they're optimising for perceived value.

For example (from the gp's comment):

> if I subscribe to a service to keep my food and beverages at a certain temperature, then the company has the incentive to make the fridge last as long as possible.

This depends. If the company is doing the above by leasing you a fridge you keep in your house and are responsible for maintaining, they getting you the worst fridge and replacing regularly may be better for them (see also ISP routers). Your statement only holds if they're running a large refrigeration warehouse where you keep your food at all times, in which case the logistics get a bit tricky.

The "perceived value" argument gets worse when you have large corporations with multiple offerings outside of their core: here the core competency can lend credence to less optimal/efficient/sustainability-friendly side-offerings.


It sounds like a nightmare to me.

A fridge service provider might run the hardware longer, but they wouldn't care much about your power bill, nor fridge features - if old phone monopolies, cable boxes and current isp's are any indicator.

And good luck trying to prove to a fridge service provider that their unit has an intermittent thermostat problem...

Recycling might be the responsibility of the company, but they might systematically find the cheapest way to do it without regard to the full externalities of how it's accomplished.


> Recycling might be the responsibility of the company, but they might systematically find the cheapest way to do it without regard to the full externalities of how it's accomplished.

It's a lot easier to hold few companies accountable, than to hold millions of consumers accountable.

> And good luck trying to prove to a fridge service provider that their unit has an intermittent thermostat problem...

That's also a problem when you buy a product.

> but they wouldn't care much about your power bill, nor fridge features

I suppose the market will do its job. Cost of ownership is transparent (monthly fee plus power use), so consumers can easily choose, and they can easily switch.

> It sounds like a nightmare to me.

I'm already having nightmares about the environment right now.


Consumers largely dispose of waste through municipal pickup which is already well overlooked. Setting up oversight for industrial disposal by a bazillion corporate entities in this theoretical shareconomy of appliances would be an enormous burden on the already undercapable county and state EPA offices. It would probably all just get shipped out of the country anyway.

If you think modern refrigerators are wasteful I'd ask you to prove it. The design choices they make are manufacturing trade offs—not simply cutting corners to make it break. A refrigerator might only last 10 years, but its a net gain if it cost 1/10 the energy to build, uses 50% of the power, never leaks refrigerant and uses a small ammount.


It's not just disposal. It's also the choices that are made when building/buying the product. Consumers are easily persuaded to choose based on different qualities than environmental-friendliness. Also, the recycling facilities may be optimized specifically for the type of fridge that a service-provider uses.


A fridge service provider would care just as much about your power bill as a fridge vendor.


Yeah I was trying to parse this too, if my fridge SP was awful in all the ways mentioned, wouldn't I be looking at the competition, especially now that it's easy to cancel a contract and get a better one so easily - instead of paying $1k for a new fridge.


You can rent fridges right now, few people elect to do it...


I rent my apartment, and it comes with a fridge, so I guess I'm renting the fridge too. IS this not common? Do people usually bring their own fridge in when they rent?


I think you mean "Few people elect to do the thing they barely know exists."

The model being peddled on TV/radio/etc isn't "Rent a fridge." is it?

This is just another "language war". The airwaves and communications channels are monopolized by discourse that protects the known way of doing business. It's not a law of physics it be that way.


Because it's more expensive over a relatively short period, perhaps?


I suspect for long term goods that are below some cost, it's just cheaper for people to own them vs renting over the lifetime of the device. A corporation will tend to finance the capital cost of the good if it's renting, then needs to pass on the interest costs of those goods to the renters. On top of that a rental corp also need to maintain techs to install/remove appliances. It all adds up to higher cost to rent than own in this area.


A company will also pay for and pass on the cost of non-paying customers in terms of repossession or loss of rented units.


Cable, certainly, but the phones you rented from Ma Bell were nearly indestructable. My uncle has a lake house with several phones that were originally provided by the phone company. They still work and will no doubt continue to do so as long as pulse dialing is supported.


Right, but it doesn't seem like a fridge vendor would be a monopoly. It would be a competitive market where power consumption would be an attribute consumers consider.


Sounds like some great things for fridge service providers to compete on:

"Our fridges are more power efficient!"

"Ours have advanced health monitoring!"

"We have the greenest recycling program!"


That’s a perspective that is common these days, but awful in practice. I don’t want to be a tenant, period — it’s almost never a better deal or value for me. I don’t need to pay a premium for the overhead and financing of a “cold food as a service” company while getting a level of service that meets the most minimum standard possible.

What we are missing today is meaningful competition. You can’t buy an appliance that isn’t a piece of garbage because we have a financial environment that encourages consolidation above all else. There’s only a few companies making anything, so there is no incentive to use quality as a differentiator.

I first started become aware of this when I started having trouble finding shoes. In many categories, all shoes are made by one manufacturer, often in one factory in Guangdong.


Eh, I just think this reflects changes in lifestyle and values. You can still buy shoes that are handmade in America and will last decades (like Alden and Allen Edmonds for mens dress shoes), they just cost a fortune and people don't wear those kinds of shoes nearly as much as they did 50 years ago. People today own more shoes, they wear fitness shoes as everyday shoes, styles change constantly, etc. Most people seem to want to buy hundreds of different styles of shoes over their lifetime, so they need to be cheap. There are people who want to own 5 pairs of shoes for their entire life and are willing to pay for the privilege, but they're a vanishingly small minority.


The only way you can possibly justify that sort of view point is the implicit hard cap on what you're willing to pay. You can't find "quality" (in appliances, in shoes, in just about anything) because you're not willing to pay for it.


No way. Price is all about market segmentation, there is little or no correlation with quality. The most expensive built-in refrigerators, for example, have very high failure rates.

After going through 3 washing machines in 9 years, i bought a Speed Queen commercial washer without a cashbox. It is not very pretty, and cost $50 more than the mid-range residential washer that it replaced, has a 5 year warranty, and an expected life of 10-15 years.

This is true for most categories of consumer products. Appliances, shoes, pants, furniture, etc.


You can easily spend 3000$ on a crap fridge.

The problem is optimization as energy efficiency and lifespan for example are often at odds. Further you can measure energy efficiency much easier than lifespan so the incentives get out of whack from what consumers want in favor of what they can measure.


Energy efficiency is one of the most noxious concepts in appliances.

We probably spend exponentially more energy manufacturing, distributing and delivering new appliances that fail due to pointless efficiency engineering than we shave off.


They really just have an incentive to make sure that on average you pay more than enough to make them a profit over the expected lifetime of your fridge. They also have an incentive to get you the least expensive fridge with the longest lifetime, regardless of power consumption or any other factors.

You already have something very close to this with home warranties and the providers tend to be awful in my experience. The goal is just to extract money from you and keep costs down.


> They also have an incentive to get you the least expensive fridge with the longest lifetime, regardless of power consumption or any other factors.

Sure, as long as you assume higher power consumption doesn't increase the cost of operating the fridge.

If you're not willing to assume that, then "regardless of power consumption" doesn't make a lot of sense.


If the buyer/owner of the of the fridge is the landlord but the user and power bill payer is the renter then the landlord has little incentive to care about power consumption.


> The goal is just to extract money from you and keep costs down

While this mentality definitely exists, this doesn't account for brand and a wish to protect reputation. Hence why personally I tend to stick with established companies for things like trades as in the absence of a personal relationship, knowing someone has a brand to protect (and history against it) improves my chance of receiving a quality good/service


> this doesn't account for brand and a wish to protect reputation

While the preservation of a brand might be rational for a corporation as a whole, it might be somewhat easy for executives that are paid quarterly and annual bonuses to temporarily goose profits by sacrificing long term reliability and brand (which only shows up with a long lag time, years down the road), then take their bonuses from investors before going somewhere else.

This theory of 'looting' by executives might leave both customers and long-term investors worse off, but is caused by the inability of customers and investors to perfectly incentivize (or monitor) long-term decisionmaking.


>For example, take a fridge. If I buy a fridge, the company I buy it from has an incentive to make it break in N years, so they can sell me a new one, i.e. "planned obsolescence". However, if I subscribe to a service to keep my food and beverages at a certain temperature, then the company has the incentive to make the fridge last as long as possible.

You just described a grocery store...

They keep food and beverages at certain temperatures. When you are ready to consume that food or beverage, you can pick it up (or have it delivered). And best of all, you pay no subscription fee :) But in reality, that's not practical. Most families eat 3 meals a day, and consume multiple glasses of some drink a day. To make a trip to the grocery store (or fridge depot subscription place) every time you want to eat or have a cold drink is not practical (and increases environmental pollutants). So maybe you want to go once a day, you'll still need some device at home to keep your groceries and drinks cold until you want to consume, some device like a fridge :p

If you found a solution, that'd be great. But you'd probably just be a food delivery startup with some fancy marketing lingo. And we have plenty of those already.


>And best of all, you pay no subscription fee

The Prime-Member-only prices appearing at my local Whole Foods suggest that this may be increasingly untrue in the future.


I think you missed the point that in both situations there will be a fridge in your house. It's just that in the case of a service, you don't own it but a company does.


"All our customers live in rented flats above the cold storage unit as a service, and pick up the things they need on demand."

Fixed :)


Most people don't live particularly close to one.


Frankly, I deliberately avoid nearly everything with recurring revenue attached. It is hard to save, take risks, etc. where minimum payouts per month add up.

Fridge?

And I have three actually. One runs on propane, one standard power and one is a deep freeze, like what one would put in a garage.

All were cheap, all work well, all take modest to very liw resources to run.

The gas powered one works no matter what. That has saved me a time or two when there was no power. I may well get another. It is insane cheap to use.

Anyone selling me something that is planned to break gets the following:

Added to avoid list.

The product gets hacked wher it is posdible to untether it and or remedy the failure.

I tell others.

Now I realize all of that is contrary and toxic to many business models today. I rarely buy new.

I grew up poor, and had time which I invested in skills. Those have paid me off many, many times over.

I also think maximizing what has been produced makes good jobs, is better, with some qualifiers, for the environment, increases personal agency, lowers personal risk and cost.

Among many other good things.

Service models can make sense. For many basics, they just do not make sense.

I would much prefer we distribute repair, support modifications, upgrades and such across many enterprises as we used to do.

TV's were a good example. I grew up learning to repair them. Used to do it for date money. Offered in home service too.

Cars remain a good example. John Deere is the other extreme.

A blanket, "this way is good" makes little sense to me.

Would much rather have many local relationships than the same with big enterprises. More options, and if I do work, I get the immediate returns of lowered cost and risk.


An essentially never discussed option is also that the fridge could be open source. Now when it breaks there is both motive and opportunity for third party repair companies to offer upgrades and fixes.


Most fridges are repairable modulo buying one with a complex motherboard. Even then they're still fixable just spendy to do so. Also most aren't complex enough that you couldn't just reverse engineer the Mobo easily. People do this for cars and computers.


They could be much cheaper to repair if they used standard parts so repair places didn't have to order in custom pieces that they only use about 1 per year because every fridge has it's own version.


They might be more expensive to build, esp since customers may be more interested in having a tablet in their fridge than a repairable fridge.


Needing to make a fridge open sources screams at me that we really need to be simplifying the operation of a fridge.

I think component complication for planned obsolescence is much more of a thing than programming something in X years to kill itself.


Err it depends on your outlook. I’m such a hacker at heart I literally want everything I own to be open source.


Devices that are more efficient tend to be more complex, so that's another tradeoff to consider.


I.E. Internal Combustion Engine vs Electric Motor


I would much rather they build an Appliance that were design to last 10+ years, and with an warranty of 10 years for a higher price. Such design would means the company has an incentive for the fridge not to break in the 10 years, and extremely simple to fix within the 10 years.

There are things that I would like to buy for life. Kitchenwares, Desk, etc. There are things that are consumable and may be being a services would be better.

The world already has made a Subscription model for an Expensive and long last fridge and that is called installment plan.


I think Miele has ten year warranties for some appliances, and it wouldn't surprise me if Viking does. I know that Sub-Zero warranties some parts for up to 12 years. So, if you are really willing to spend big money on appliances, you can get lengthy warranties. Anecdotally, Viking, Miele, and Bosch appliances last a very, very long time.


We are quite offtopic already, so: in my experience, Liebherr fridges last decades.


I think you assume too much about which type of fridge represents the lowest cost. Countless enterprises have already embraced "cheap to buy, cheap to replace" products in favor of long lasting reliable products.

Now, the one place a company with a fleet of fridges could really do the world good would be maintenance & repair. When you've got all your own repair crew on the payroll and you operate one kind of fridge, those costs plummet.

They will happily externalize as many costs as possible as well. Your electric bill is high? Oops, guess you should have negotiated that in the contract. Five hundred dollars of fresh groceries went bad because we gave you a shoddy refurb? We'll have a new unit out to you tomorrow, good luck with the rest.


> The one place a company with a fleet of fridges could really do the world good would be maintenance & repair. When you've got all your own repair crew on the payroll and you operate one kind of fridge, those costs plummet.

Yes, so the market will ensure that this kind of company will prevail.


There are a lot of assumptions hidden in "the market always works" statements like that. In this case, there's the assumption that the line you're quoting represents a business model that's cheaper than "buy the cheapest fridge possible and replace it with another cheap-as-possible fridge when it breaks," especially when you factor in that you no longer need a repair crew on the payroll (because you don't repair things).

Here's another, more complicated problem: even if the math proves that, say, over a long enough horizon, you'll make more money with the longer-lived, repairable version of the product, that isn't necessarily the best way to maximize returns for shareholders/owners. If that concern overrides all others, then you may well be better off maximizing profits short-term, through any (hopefully legal!) means possible regardless of the effect on the long-term viability of the business, and investing them in other markets with higher returns.


Not necessarily, depending on all kinds of market factors, e.g. like stickyness of the transaction: how lazy would consumers be about changing out a fridge provider with poor service, or locking in the consumers with time boxed commitments. The slower and more inconvenient the transaction, the more the provider can wedge in rentier profits, and the poorer the market will respond.


Sure, but then that kind of company starts to look more like a fridge repair business than a "RaaS".


Something I'd suggest is being a parasite off the commercial businesses and pretend the retail market doesn't exist.

You can't buy a residential clothes washer designed to last longer than five years; laundromats won't tolerate that; solution, pretend Home Depot doesn't exist and buy a Speed Queen that your kids can probably inherit.

An interesting side effect is residential / contractors special type stuff has a very low initial cost of purchase but overall lifetime cost is always lower for commercial grade stuff; this makes sense, if it was cheaper to buy residential garbage the beancounters would force it to officially be commercial...


I think we just reached peak tech, ladies and gentlemen.


> If I buy a fridge, the company I buy it from has an incentive to make it break in N years

They also have an incentive to make it last a long time so you're a loyal customer. Loyalty is extremely important if you only purchase a half dozen of something your entire life. Guess which incentive is stronger?

As a corollary, there is a big difference between being incentivized to do something and simply not being incentivized to do the opposite. The average full-size refrigerator lifespan is 17 years. The fact that Maytag doesn't spend millions of dollars developing a fridge that can last 30 years doesn't mean they're incentivized to make a shitty fridge, it just means people don't care enough about years 18-30 that they're willing to pay what it would cost to get that fridge.


Not to mention, if you buy from a company that makes a quality, reliable fridge, you'll recommend it to friends who need a new one; if they intentionally sell you a barely-qualified lemon, you'll steer everyone away from them where possible.


> If I buy a fridge, the company I buy it from has an incentive to make it break in N years, so they can sell me a new one, i.e. "planned obsolescence".

Only if they don't have competitor for your business with a reputation for longer-lasting fridges that are otherwise of similar utility.


Another example I‘ve run into yesterday is that HP now sells ink subscriptions, eg €3 per month for max 50 pages (+50 pages rollover to following months). The printer orders new ink automatically when it runs low. I can imagine that those ink cartridges will not be half empty, as usually.


Instead of you owning the fridge, now the service company does. It'll just buy you a new fridge every time some little thing goes wrong; because it's cheaper to pay for delivery of a new one than to pay skilled labor to come and fix it (multiple times, usually).


It'll exchange you for a new one. But once you own thousands of fridges, I'm sure it's more economical to repair them afterwards with in-house technicians


I don't think replacing one bad thing with another is the right solution. Planned obsolescence should be illegal, plain and simple.


  Planned obsolescence should be illegal
Is there a clear line between planned obsolescence and just making a cheap, low-quality product?


Yes. The distinguishing feature of planned obsolescence is that the customer doesn't know the real design lifespan of the product. Just require companies to declare that and the problem goes away. Looks like the EU already does: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Planned_obsolescence#Regulatio...


Thats kind of how warranty works only that usually the product lasts much longer than the warranty.


Definitely. A key example is phones whose batteries cannot be replaced by the end-user (and end-user repairability in general). Forcing users to update their phone's OS to newer versions which require more power from the newer models is another example. Printer ink cartridges often contain chips whose only purpose is to disable the cartridge - even if it's still got plenty of ink - after a certain amount of time passes. Also consider video games which require an internet connection to play, but do all of the logic on the client - when the servers disappear, well, time to buy this year's game instead.

Legislation against this practice isn't unheard of, there are fines and jail time for it in France.


Do you think that Apple will be fined for not making the battery replaceable? I don't see this happen, and certainly not in the US.

My guess is that Apple will simply claim that they can't make the phone as small/thin when the battery has to be replaceable.


350,000 phones were being into landfills every day in 2010. Fuck Apple's "thinnest phone ever", it's not worth the social cost. Dumb consumer vanity isn't the metric for optimization here.


I'm not sure Apple is the one to yell at here. The iPhone is one of the only phones that continues to get updates and is useful beyond 18-24 months. Short of destroying the motherboard, few iPhones are likely sent to landfills until they are many years old. They certainly do not end up in landfills because the lack of a user replaceable battery.

iPhone users either get the battery replaced, sell the phone, or they trade the phone in. The trade in then gets sold again, and likely again after that. The iPhones resale value makes sure it is a long time before any are simply thrown in the trash.


Apple will recycle any Apple product for free just by handing it to them in any of their stores. An Apple phone ending up in a landfill is the consumer's fault.

These recycled phones either end up as refurbished phones in other markets, or are taken apart by their special robots down to the individual pieces, which are then recycled themselves.


By recycling they likely mean burning the phone and getting about 10% of the valuable material back out of it.


Apple will pay you to not throw your old iPhone in the trash.


services have predictable longtime cost and that's why some people (especially businesses) favor this, but for me and many other people it's a different model: I NOW have a certain amount of money I am willing to spend on a fridge or other thing. Sure, it can break or something could happen, but that's another discussion. I have it, I paid for it, I can do whatever I want. I don't have to keep the mental burden in my head of "amount $x per month for thing $y" - and yes, I have a stable income but I guess for people without one it's a lot more financial security to not have running costs. (please ignore power costs for the fridge, I do think those are a lot more easily budgetable, like "power is 50 EUR per month, period")


>Another advantage is that the whole life-cycle of the product, including recycling it, becomes a natural responsibility of the company.

A responsible tax system could accomplish the same without causing people to pay 100x the value of a good product over their lifetime.


well one bad trend recently in HVAC services is companies trying to get people to lease the units for their homes. this then prevent easy sale as the HVAC leases usually allow the leasing company to require payment in full for the units or credit check the buyer to insure continuance of the lease.

So I disagree with your premise based on the example you gave. I would say it would be fine with items you only keep a few years and not long term appliances. I really do not think it encourages them to create units that fail because many companies still want their reputation to be built upon longevity. Simply put, the sales volumes are already great enough to not require shenanigans like what you suggest


> because many companies still want their reputation to be built upon longevity

History shows otherwise:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoebus_cartel


Interesting, but in your example how would the food be delivered to your home? But maybe a delivery service once a week or so is better than every individual taking their car to the supermarket? Interesting topic anyway.


They're only speaking of a service to keep food and beverages at a certain temperature. No delivery. That's another service.

And another line item on your revolving monthly expenses.


You seriously think that’s a good idea? I’m all for capitalism (until we have somrthing better) but creating that kind of dependency between people and a service will put too much power in the hands of businesses like Amazon.

People need to own, people need to be reaponsible with their decisions, and to think a business or corporation can do it better is dangerous.


That's a huge oversimplification. Who controls when the fridge stops working? Who has the right to end the contract and when? Who decides if the fridge has internet access or not?


Planned obsolescence is only an issue if there is a monopoly or significant collusion. The market incentives will sort this out.


The market can only sort it out if the lifespan of the product is made clear. If I buy a fridge today, I have no idea how long it will last. I can't see what standards the fridge was engineered to or what shortcuts they took and by the time it's known how long that model lasts it's already off the market and replaced with a new one.


It may be better for the environment to not own stuff, but instead have it produced by a socialistic society.

For example, take a fridge. If I buy a fridge, the company I buy it from has an incentive to make it break in N years, so they can sell me a new one, i.e. "planned obsolescence".

However, if I subscribe to a communistic society to keep my food and beverages at a certain temperature, then this society has the incentive to make the fridge last as long as possible.

EDIT: Besides eliminating planned obsolescence, there are more advantages:

- Increased market transparency. The market is more transparent if I know exactly what a 4 years planned product costs me per month, as opposed to buying a product and not knowing when it will fail. A more planned society leads to better resource distribution.

- Another advantage is that the whole life-cycle of the product, including recycling it, becomes a natural responsibility of one society.

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