By Cosima Dannoritzer
Once upon a time..... products were made to last. Then, at the beginning of the 1920s, a group of businessmen were struck by the following insight: 'A product that refuses to wear out is a tragedy of business' (1928). Thus Planned Obsolescence was born.
Shortly after, the first worldwide cartel was set up expressly to reduce the life span of the incandescent light bulb, a symbol for innovation and bright new ideas, and the first official victim of Planned Obsolescence. During the 1950s, with the birth of the consumer society, the concept took on a whole new meaning, as explained by flamboyant designer Brooks Stevens: 'Planned Obsolescence, the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than is necessary...'. The growth society flourished, everybody had everything, the waste was piling up (preferably far away in illegal dumps in the Third World) - until consumers started rebelling...
The current throwaway climate - where the latest technology is outdated after a year and electronics are cheaper to replace than to repair – is the basis for economic growth. But infinite consumption is unsustainable with finite resources: With the economy crumbling and consumers becoming increasingly resistant to the practice, has planned obsolescence reached the end of its own life? Combining investigative research and rare archive footage with analysis by those working on ways to save both the economy and the environment, this documentary charts the creation of ‘engineering to fail’, its rise to prominence and its recent fall from grace.
Humanist Hall is wheelchair accessible around the corner at 411 28th Street
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