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Obsolescence in support of innovation

Obsolescence in support of innovation

Everything changes. As far as we know, all organisms – from single-celled life forms to massively framed mammals – exist at some point on a scale of varying states of being, ranging from inception, to decay, to death.

As far as we know.

And despite being veritably surrounded by death, our world generally feels quite alive. Even the predominately intangible creations of our species, like expressions of feeling and thought, can seem concrete and lively; our ideas are animated as they disperse and evolve, and especially those which prove to irrevocably alter our physical reality in implementation, like the discovery of electricity and its eventual employment in semi-automated automobile technologies.

Our ideas can be embodied.

But again, everything changes. And this reality can be unsettling for a human mind adapted to seek some semblance of certitude in daily patterns and past experiences; we find solace in that which is knowable and known.

Life in scientific and technological concepts is maintained by those who seek to innovate. To animate a concept, we must continually iterate – making use of new, incoming information, emerging awareness, and the resultant capabilities. We witness this process in research fields, among those laboratories seeking novel opportunities to cure and prevent disease, identify the smallest particles within our realm, and craft substances to improve our ability to meet the demands of the day.

We see innovation in the production and maintenance of consumer products, too.

But when a product is designed and engineered to address consumer needs, it is ideally provided to audiences attending to the constraints of the human mind; we humans appreciate certainty and predictability, and often, we resist change. 

While a statement like this may have created social distance for some in the past, inspiring the self-effacing suggestion of, "I don't understand technology, much," the reality is that these matters impact each and every one of us, daily; from your smartphone to the point-of-sale system used at your local grocer - we interact with digitized systems frequently.

This presents a trying reality for organizations pressing always to present consumers with something previously unknown.

Hardware and software companies - particularly those shipping comprehensive operating systems, like Microsoft - must be able to plan for obsolescence to continue innovating. Whether this is pursued incrementally, through stepped iteration, or in a drop-dead fashion in which users are provided a definitive timeframe for hardware and/or software replacement, organizations will benefit from transparency across audiences, with consumer and enterprise customers, alike.

So despite the potential for cognitive dissonance in obsolescence, we must collectively encourage companies to innovate to ensure we breathe life into our shared future, and we must command companies to do so with care for the interests and needs of us, the people.

Planned obsolescence is a meaningful part of innovation. Like us, our ideas are alive. 

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