The Repair Monopoly and Humanity’s Loss of Basic Skills

This past Tuesday I ordered a new laptop to replace a device that just broke due to my negligence. When I received the new device, I noted that the RAM (Random Access Memory) was constructed at only 4GB whereas I am used to minimal 8GB but prefer much larger. I was not discouraged however as I simply planned on removing my old RAM sticks from the now broken laptop to the new one which would increase the capacity and speed of my new computer.

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As I began this process however, I was searching through the manual and noted instructions that indicated any opening of the back of my computer to do self-repair would nullify my warranty. I immediately was reminded of the reading from Steven Jackson titled Rethinking Repair.

In the reading as well as our class discussion we talked about how society has moved away from repairing our broken items in favor of simply buying new ones. In the same way that Lenovo has designed their products so consumers such as myself cannot alter their products, society has completely embraced this idea in the name of capitalism. It is much more economically beneficial for companies to privatize their own products but this is highly detrimental to the consumer experience. The amount of money that we are forced to put into our devices is exponentially increased by corporation’s domination of the repair market. Beyond the financial losses that we as consumers suffer due to this lack of a repair abilities is significant, I believe that this mentality of not fixing our problems when capable has more dire consequences.

I feel that this reliance upon “certified experts” to fix our problems, which is especially obvious in technology, has caused us in general to lose some of the skills that helped us get to this place of innovation. Gone are the days where the everyday man knows how to fix a flat tire and complete basic home repair. Now we tend to call AAA or hire out a contractor out to paint rooms in our homes or trim the bushes. These are all things we have the capability to do and really ought to be doing but society (helped along by capitalist greed) has relegated us to points where we do not feel comfortable and would much rather spend money and allow a trained professional to do the work.

Something that seems peculiar about this current state of affairs in my opinion is the fact that the internet makes the spread of knowledge greater than ever in human history. Anybody can go into google and search any issue and google will bring up thousands of results in an instant whether its video tutorials or instructions designed to help anybody walk through problems in any field. Why we have a fear of searching and finding the answers but will spend hundreds of dollars is truly mind-boggling. As a student technician at Technology and Innovation I can attest to this fear in so many ways.

A mere three hours ago when I arrived for my shift, I came across somebody having an issue with page breaks on her Google Docs. I have absolutely no experience with page breaks in Google Docs, but I simply clicked around and explored the page for a minute or two and discovered the solution. It is not some form of training or great technical skill I possess but rather my willingness to explore and engage with the faith that I will find the answer and will not mess anything up. I feel like society as aided by consumer capitalism has driven us to fear tinkering and learning about our own products and I find this to be a sad thing. As I take apart my own computer prepared to insert a new RAM drive into it, I take pride in my ability to repair my own products and I hope that one day this will become the norm again.

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