Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Forever Light Bulb


(cue Andy Rooney) Ever wonder why that little filament inside the light bulb wears out?  I mean, yeah you could get those squiggly ones that lasts for years, and I get those not because of any supposed environmental benefits, but because I'm lazy, and I have absolutely no desire to change light bulbs any more than absolutely necessary.  I'd have my whole house dark if it meant I didn't have to do that every two weeks.  Why should I have to change a light bulb every month when there's no real reason why we can't make light bulbs last for years, decades, even.  Except for the fact that once everyone had light bulbs in place, given their price, the light bulb companies would go out of business.  Even the fluorescent light bulbs that I purchased recently don't last nearly as long as the ones I bought back in 2001 that would keep me from having to change the bulbs in my room for years to come (but was, incidentally, about $10 for one bulb, as apposed to $6 for three now.)  

There actually is a book that deals with such things.  Well, that's how it starts out, anyway.  Clifford D. Simak wrote Ring Around the Sun back in the early 60's and envisioned a group of people from an alternate reality (the idea that Earth is actually one of millions of Earths orbiting around the sun in a extra-temporal dimension in which there are alternate realities, generally.  These beings have figured out how to cross between realities and are looking for the right people to populate their own world.  And then they get rid of the other people in the other worlds in order to have infinitely different worlds to colonize.  They do this peacefully (in their own way) by introducing things like the Forever Light Bulb that reduces the economies of the world to ruins. (You must forgive me, it has been a long while since I've read it. And Simak doesn't always think through plot lines. It's the idea and the science behind it that is important.)

We are, after all, consumers.  We don't necessarily believe that anything will last forever (except for our computers' hard drives, which we naively believe will last, and then we curse when it dies.)  We have made everything disposable, so that it is much easier just to buy a new one than to replace or repair the old ones.  I'm sure you've heard the arguments on clothing, where in the past, if a child gets a rip in his pants around the knees, they are either repaired with a sewing kit and some fabric, or the child suddenly has a new pair of shorts for the summer.   But now, it's much easier to buy new clothes instead of repairing the old ones.  For me, who cannot use a sewing machine (mainly because, again, I'm too lazy), I've tried to get my mother to repair some of my pants for years, and they have yet to be mended.  And that would be a problem, except it is much easier to get them at Goodwill for $4.50 a pair, when you can find them.  I know whenever someone fat has died, because all their pants get donated to Goodwill and I pick them up.  And I wear them for a few months until I rip the seams somehow, and into the mending pile they go.  It's so easy to replace them nowadays.  Inflation of product. 

So what about people?  How easy are they to replace?  If one person gets sick and has to go to the hospital, why bother with the injured worker when you can hire 10 more from the unemployment lines.  We have inflation of people, now.  Where, because we are consumers, and there are so many  people now, the value upon each person, speaking from a business standpoint, is lowered.  Except we cannot just replace ourselves.  We don't just respawn in a certain place (unless you believe in reincarnation, then that's another story) like in the video games, nor do we have 4 lives plus another life for every 100 coins you might pick up.  There are no 1-UP mushrooms in this world.   Consumers are often like cattle, with so much credit, so much potential, until they are used up and pushed aside.  And while that is capitalism, I am not saying that this is something I'm against.  People have the ability to regulate themselves and not become inflated and worthless.  It is up to them.  I could always be careful with my pants that I purchase, make them last longer, or turn the lights off in my room, and the bulbs will last longer.  So it's a balancing act, one that should benefit all sides involved.

It's odd, that blog didn't go where I wanted it to at all.  And that's neat, because the
idea formed as I was writing.  About light bulbs.

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