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Author Topic: Wealth is unlimited.  (Read 9487 times)
myrkul
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July 11, 2011, 07:28:38 PM
 #101

The keypad on your microwave breaks so you can either pay a ridiculously inflated price for a replacement part thanks to a proprietary design, or just buy a new microwave even though the other parts of your old one probably work fine. Oddly though your $5 TV remote never seems to have that problem in spite of frequent use and extremely low manufacturing costs. Some things really are just designed to fail and it's not always because making something durable would cost more.

I don't have a good answer for why laptop manufacturers don't use a modular construction, As it would indeed make upgrading easier. That said, you can upgrade a good many parts, such as the memory, the processor, and the harddrive, greatly extending the useful life.

As to why the remote lasts forever and the microwave buttons don't, it's a simple factor of the remote buttons being made with a different switch technology due to the different expected conditions. In a kitchen, everything has to be sealed, so they use a 'bubble switch', a metalized piece of plastic which has a tendency to break with repeated use. Compare that to the remote, which has a traditional momentary push button in it. It's not intentional, but it is a consequence.

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Fakeman
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July 11, 2011, 08:17:43 PM
 #102

In both cases a competitor could come in and offer something less wasteful but there are often significant barriers to entry and the established players generally like things the way they are. The guy who invented Dyson vacuums had a good idea but none of the existing vacuum manufacturers wanted to give up the profits from selling overpriced bags so they turned him down (or so the story goes). Ultimately things worked out for him but I don't know if you could call that a typical case. Good for him but in the absence of patent protections someone could probably hit the same $500 price point with much more durable materials, e.g. more lightweight alloys and less plastics.

Just based on our level of technology and available resources, lots of things could probably be designed for a 50+ year lifespan without stratospheric manufacturing costs (my $6.99 thrift store toaster is about that old) but in practice there can be limited/declining incentives to do so. Eventually we will need to be mining the garbage dumps since that's where a lot of our "wealth" has ended up.

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myrkul
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July 11, 2011, 08:25:37 PM
 #103

Good for him but in the absence of patent protections someone could probably hit the same $500 price point with much more durable materials, e.g. more lightweight alloys and less plastics.

Agreed, and that's why I'm against IP. Innovation does not come from stagnation, it comes from competition.

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July 11, 2011, 09:07:32 PM
 #104

Someone elsewhere on the forums was suggesting that patent laws will gradually become less enforceable as inexpensive CNC-like equipment becomes more commonplace, in the same way that cheap storage and networking technology made it much more difficult to enforce copyrights. I think that makes a lot of sense, and in a way I think it may point towards using a wide range of metals/alloys (and perhaps other materials) as commodity money rather just the "old standards" of gold, silver and copper. If reproducing certain types of physical objects becomes trivial, then the limiting factor is obtaining starting materials with the physical properties you require (e.g. extremes of density and strength, heat/electrical conductivity, etc.). This metal bullion could be worked directly or just used as a medium of exchange/investment. E.g. if I'm an electrician I might buy "copper certificates" if I want to lock in when prices are cheap but don't have a lot of space to store wiring. Same goes for aluminum, titanium, magnesium, nickel, tungsten, or any number of other metals with economically important properties.

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July 11, 2011, 09:23:48 PM
 #105

Someone elsewhere on the forums was suggesting that patent laws will gradually become less enforceable as inexpensive CNC-like equipment becomes more commonplace, in the same way that cheap storage and networking technology made it much more difficult to enforce copyrights. I think that makes a lot of sense, and in a way I think it may point towards using a wide range of metals/alloys (and perhaps other materials) as commodity money rather just the "old standards" of gold, silver and copper. If reproducing certain types of physical objects becomes trivial, then the limiting factor is obtaining starting materials with the physical properties you require (e.g. extremes of density and strength, heat/electrical conductivity, etc.). This metal bullion could be worked directly or just used as a medium of exchange/investment. E.g. if I'm an electrician I might buy "copper certificates" if I want to lock in when prices are cheap but don't have a lot of space to store wiring. Same goes for aluminum, titanium, magnesium, nickel, tungsten, or any number of other metals with economically important properties.

If I've learned anything from watching the markets, it's 'Don't trust "paper metals"' But other than that, I think you may have the right idea.

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July 11, 2011, 09:56:17 PM
 #106

I can't say I trust paper metals either in their current form, but I guess it's a matter of whether you trust who you're dealing with. Paper metals are not really my style personally but some metals have such a low value per unit of mass or volume that some people might prefer to contract out storage to a trusted party. Copper's not really a good example of that but anyway it takes less space to store bricks of copper than the equivalent value in spools of copper wire.

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July 11, 2011, 10:07:35 PM
 #107

This is why they need to take Ayn Rand out of the schools and reintroduce the classics.

 

I'll keep my politics out of your economics if you keep your economics out of my politics.

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myrkul
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July 11, 2011, 10:29:32 PM
 #108

This is why they need to take Ayn Rand out of the schools and reintroduce the classics.

Like Thomas Paine?

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July 11, 2011, 11:41:09 PM
 #109

This is why they need to take Ayn Rand out of the schools and reintroduce the classics.
Can you be more specific about what you mean by "This"?

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July 13, 2011, 02:20:20 AM
 #110

Looks like this thread has been picked up by the media...

http://www.theonion.com/video/today-now-save-money-by-taking-a-vacation-entirely,20678/

Civil Liberty Through Complex Mathematics
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