Ultimate state products are the ideal from a sustainability standpoint, but far less than ideal from a capitalist position. In reality, it is nice to only ever have to own one of anything, say a hammer can last lifetimes, sure you can make improvements to it’s handle comfort, drive ability, balance, etc. The reality is that it drives a nail, you can only use 1 (maybe 2 if you’re good) at a time. Improvements to this type of product have to be very compelling in order to see the benefit of buying another of similar purpose. But then you have different types of hammers for different types of applications, you wouldn’t use a tack hammer to drive framing nails, you in fact might use an air hammer for this, but still, a framing hand held hammer would do the job. Weigh the value of owning the hammer, even a nice one that you can show off to your friends, against the value of what you can create with it and the value that brings to others, enablement to do good things, to progress, is what we should be doing with our resources.
Cars, can we, as in the human race, develop a chassis and powertrain that can last 500,000+ miles with minimal maintenance? Certainly. Problem is many have been conditioned to see a car as a commodity, not a tool, a way transport oneself, this is a great enabler we all too often covet as a status symbol. We often don’t see 10 years into the future when that new car no longer grants the satisfaction of having the newest or coolest, and if we do, I would say it’s negligible that many see that car a generation older (in the junkyard) and envision it’s impact not on what it itself is doing to the environment, but the indirect impact of those resources sitting in a pile, wasted.
My point in all of this is that this planet has a finite amount of resources and we’re blowing it, big time, on re-making stuff that ultimately can and should have a final state, or design. Instead we re-tweak, and market it as the new thing to have, because people needs jobs and income to buy more. Planned obsolescence is, in my mind, thievery against future generations. In interesting thing to contemplate is what could we do with those resources in the future. Cold Fusion? Infinite energy? Cures for diseases? Deep space exploration? World Peace? Then consider if it’s possible that we’ve already expended the resources we would have needed to accomplish those endeavors.
I know that a lot of this sounds very cliche, but back to Transformist’s question about improving the product. In regard to Apple having arrived at Ultimate States in industrial design, have they? Is your G5 case upgradeable for the foreseeable future? Has Apple so wisely designed their hardware platforms that you never need to buy a new case/power supply ever again, just the peripherals, ram, etc? Can you easily, as the user, remove the MacBook’s internals in exchange for more advanced technology, and retain the components that you know are in the final state? And those components you removed, can they be 100% re-insreted into Apple’s manufacturing cycle? Has Apple adopted power/video/USB plug standards to insure universal compliance with 3rd party manufacturers for things such as cables and cords? I’m just asking, because I know that in a few years when I need to harvest metals for recycling, my hammer will still be up to the task of breaking it down.