Support Long-term Thinking
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Last Year’s Model

by Austin Brown on August 28th, 02009

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In his Seminar for the Long Now Foundation in January, Saul Griffith mentioned what he called the Rolex/Montblanc Pen approach to solving climate change.  As a way of cutting down on wasteful consumption (and the carbon embodied in consumer goods production), he suggests making and using fewer products.  The few products we do use, he explains, should be of the highest quality so that they’ll last and be worth using for our entire lives.  He exemplifies the idea by suggesting that everyone should be issued one Rolex watch and one Montblanc pen at birth:

I just have to own less stuff and make it last ten times as long.  Sometimes I call this the Rolex and Montblanc pen approach to life. So that just made me sound like a pretentious wanker. I am really not.  I am a deep green environmentalist and so what you want is when your child is born or when you are born to be issued a Rolex and a Montblanc pen and that’s the only writing implement, the only time piece you get for your whole life.

All right, so we solved just now writing and time reading but how about cell phones? So I think this is actually kind of great challenge.  The first company that makes the cell phone that will last a lifetime totally wins. That will be the most amazing thing.  For everyone in the audience who just got laid off please go and start a company to make a cell phone that lasts 100 years.  That would be the best thing you can do.

Anil Dash tells us that we’re already using plenty of very high-quality products.  Since there is no reason to throw out something that still works, he has started Last Year’s Model:

It’s totally normal to lust after the hottest new geeky gadgets. It’s also cool to put some thought into what we buy, and what we throw away. So this is a place to show the world that a lot of us are choosing to use Last Year’s Model.

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In a way, it’s a prescriptive take on Kevin Kelly’s idea that species of technology never go extinct.  We may consider them ‘obsolete’ because we use a different tool for the job now, but somewhere someone is doing it the old fashioned way.  It can be a pretty fun challenge to find uses for the old tech you’ve got laying around and Dash’s site encourages people to submit the ways they’re still using iPods with (*gasp*) moving parts, or other less-than-shiny products from back in the day.

Also, I hope we can all agree that un-boxing videos have always been a little weird.