Here’s something manufacturers and industrial designers need to think more about: backlash on planned obsolescence.

If there’s one thing in this world that I can’t stand, it’s companies like Microsoft and Apple…

Who seem to make things go obsolete well before their time. And no one can tell them not to. They just keep getting away with it. Why? Probably because they make a lot of money getting away with it. That’s why.

But there are no laws to stop them getting away with it. And what this materials scientist thinks right now is “by fucken oath there should be [laws to stop them getting away with it]”. That is coming from an ex materials scientist. Right.


I think you all know what I am talking about. I’m talking about ‘old’ printers that don’t work with newer computers simply because the ‘drivers’ have ‘issues’ with the “operating system”. I’m talking about new software that won’t run on old hardware. I’m also talking about new hardware that won’t run old software. I’m talking about Apple’s proprietry connectors.

Let me tell you a little anecdote. I can even remember my dad saying about 15 or 20 years ago way back when I was a kid that Apple (you know, Macintosh it was once called) forced you to use their special cables and connectors, and thus were able to charge a premium.

At the time, I took what he said with a pinch of salt. I thought “well it’s their computer system, I suppose they would want to do that. Who can blame them?”. But now, fast forward twenty-odd years and my old man is dead [RIP, he died last year] and what he said to me in the 1990’s is looking even wiser now than it did when he said it all those years ago. Because it just so happens to be true. This man, my father, would be 90 years old if he were alive today. He was old but he knew something that I didn’t. That something is called ‘wisdom’ and all early adopters from what I’ve seen tend to suffer from a severe lack of it.

Back in the day, we used things called serial ports and parrallel ports to plug in our printers. So they got the information from one cable and they got their power from another completely separate cable. The thing is, they were slow. Really slow. But when USB came along, all those printers and mice and things became much less useful. The same thing happened to compact discs when Apple decided not to include a CD drives on their latest desktops.

People will always need to buy new peripherals to work with new plugs on their new computer system. That is now happening with USB-C connectors. Do you want to know what I think? I think USB C can go and get fucked, that’s what I think. All of my stuff (two external hard drives, external sound card for microphone, graphics tablet, mouse, wireless solar keyboard, external webcam, flash drives, the entire bloody lot is USB2 now isn’t it?). USB2 and it is plenty good enough. I’m sticking with it.

Yes, I’m talking about Apple ditching the 3.5mm headphone jack on it’s newest smartphone. Now, keep in mind that I don’t even own an Apple iphone. In fact I have never owned an Apple iphone. And here I am, compelled to write a blog article about how narky it makes me feel. Because knowing what I know, I probably won’t ever own an Apple iphone. I’m writing this from an imac retina. I don’t own an ipad. And right now, that is the way it is going to stay. After buying just one Apple product, I’m fast becoming anti-Apple. And the headphone jack decision is my last straw. It is the catalyst to me becoming “anti-Apple”.

So I’m going to just say it here in black and white. I’m going to share with all you strangers the reason it makes me so narky. Because this is my blog, my little ‘space’ and I can say pretty much whatever the hell I want. Right? There’s this thing called “free speech” in the West that not enough people take advantage of… this is vida enigmática… [Read more…]

If we were living on Mars…

I’d like to remind people of two things:

1. Would Mars colonists be doing things the same way that we are here and now? For example, would they be mowing grass if and when they manage to get it to grow under their domed little base stations?

I think not. Not very sustainable, is it? Using up petrol and mower parts all for what? To keep the grass shorter and produce less oxygen? (at least that’s the excuse I give now for only mowing 9/10 of our backyard rather than the whole darn lot) Why do we cut grass anyway? Those are the sorts of questions humanity ought to be asking itself.

2. Just imagine if all of 7.4 billion of us humans were *already* living on Mars (indoors) and we just happened to “find” Earth in the ‘state’ that it is in now, except with no people…

Do you think we would stay on the planet Mars? Where do you think we would move to? That’s right, we’d move right over to the planet Earth, where you can breathe freely… where the essential things like oxygen and rain are still free… where dirt is *almost* free (right now it costs $10,000,000 to launch a tonne of dirt into outer space). The planet with the deep oceans and millions of species already there. The planet that doesn’t need terraforming because its already terraformed.

So now knowing these two things.

Why the hell would we want to even consider moving away from here? Why would we want to cut down more forests here, if next-generation colonists wouldn’t do it on another planet in future? Otherwise, we’re just going to make the same mistakes on planet #2.

Here’s a simple thought experiment. Why aren’t we simply pretending to be living on a new colony already? That way we don’t even have to waste resources getting there.

Of course, getting other people to change is very, very difficult. All I can do is change myself. So what if I pretend that I am living on the planet Mars. What would I do if I was living over there? I would plant trees, not cut them down. I’d grow more forests that I cut down.

What else would I do? Why, I’d use my own urine as liquid fertiliser instead of going to the store and buying something that was obtained from a phosphate mine, wouldn’t I?

I think a lot of people on Earth have lost hope and they think that it’s almost like a “lost cause”. And I say: “fuck that”. I’d like to remind everyone that it’s FAR easier to get ourselves back on the right track here than to start from scratch over on Mars…

I hope this has given a few of you some much-needed inspiration!

Is a ‘circular’ electronics industry possible?

I think one of the biggest problems that humanity will face in the not–too–distant future is a lack of synthetic biodegradeable semiconductors.

Okay, so I’ve put that thought out there into cyberspace and now I suppose I should explain it. Why do I think this is going to be such a problem?

As we are all too much aware, human civilisation is fast becoming dependent on technology. You might say that the 1st world is already highly dependent on technology. And a big part of current technology includes electronics devices. Electronics drive everything from robots to computers. Without electronics, we go back to the analogue era. I’m sure that I don’t even need to explain that any further, do I? Without electronics, we’re screwed.

So earlier this year, I asked two questions on Quora:

  1. What are the main semiconductor compounds used today?
  2. What elements are used in the manufacturing of circuit boards and electronic components for consumer electronic devices?

It doesn’t make any sense to totally rely on something that we can only make in limited quantities, yet we are doing just that. Because the trouble is this: the way in which we produce electronic devices today is completely unsustainable. We mine the Earth for new minerals and the only element we recover from all of our electronic waste is gold (well, okay, we do sometimes also recycle lead and copper). But what about recycling all of the other elements that are used in electronic components?

Are we recycling tantalum? No. Are we recycling indium? No. Are we recycling gallium? No. Are we recycling arsenic? No. Are we recycling cadmium? No. Are we recycling selenium? No. Are we recycling tellurium? No. Are we recycling germanium? No. Are we recycling samarium? No. Are we recycling neodymium? No. Are we recycling niobium? No. Are we recycling antimony? No.

[Read more…]

What I think about jet racing in the year 2016…

I’m sure you can do it honey. I’m sure you can. I once went to a drag race at Eastern Creek. Yes. And I think this would have been cool too. In about the year 1988.

Hello! What about the environment? Have you EVER stopped to think about the environment? Did your parents even teach you about that? Clearly they haven’t. This is what worries me. It really does. Not teaching another generation about the importance of sustainability.

What’s that all about? It seems everyone just wants to have as much fun as we want today. Because the Earth will be fucked within 200 hundred years anyway… so why bother doing anything about it now? Well I’m going to do something about it today, by criticising the hell out of this bullshit.

So it just seems to me that all of this it’s a total waste of oxygen. It’s a waste fuel. How much flaming CO2 does that thing even produce I wonder? And for what? For you to be somewhere that you don’t even need to be quicker than someone else? Whatever for? Just so you can feel better about yourself? So you feel ‘superior’? Because it’s pretty clear to be that you have some kind of female version of an inferiority complex. But my message doesn’t just apply to women racecar drivers. It applies to all drag racers. Male, female, trandgender, whatever. [Read more…]

Rise of the machines

Google has just announced that they are working on a “killl switch” to prevent robots from doing things they shouldn’t… I’m guessing things like… taking over the world.

But I don’t think that is going to work. At least not if the robot has read about human psychology. What if robots start to manipulate us without us even knowing about it?

If we really wanted to prevent robots from doing things we didn’t want them to, wouldn’t it be easier to just… stop building robots? Or rather, stop building robots that are capable of doing things that we might not want them to do, should they “disobey their orders”.

I think the definition of life should include a statement about decreasing local entropy (because that is essentially what all lifeforms do). And one might argue that on that basis, computers are more ‘ordered’ than organic beings, so they are almost destined to take over.

So where ‘we’ will fail is when ‘they’ realise that ‘our’ system is not as ordered as ‘their’ system. If and when robots become aware of that, that what we are doing is not very sustainable (and they have a more sustainable and less chaotic way of ‘managing’ this planet’s resources) then that’s when I think they would potentially start to take over, you know, “for the greater good”. And no one can really argue with that logic.

Not only that, but intelligent lifeforms with defensive capabilities will take actions to guard against threats to their existence. The worry is when robots can start reprogramming themselves… (adaptive programming). They’re already being connected together in an unprecedented ways.