Lessons from the Printer
Lessons from the Printer
You ever struggle with understanding how the world work? Or what the big picture is? Well, maybe your el-cheapo inkjet printer can shed some valuable insight… Lessons from the printer?
The other day, my printer started giving me trouble. A green light kept flashing that normally never flashes. An amber light was illuminated and a dangerous looking red light was flashing over the door for the ink cartridges. I pushed the button for printing out the diagnostic page and the results were not good. While the print heads were in fine shape and the ink cartridges more than half full, the pink cartridge had expired. In fact, it had expired last year, meaning I had be using an ink corpse for almost a year.
I removed the pink, which is called magenta for some reason, and examined it. I did not see any signs of decomposition, so I put it back in and the lights returned to normal. I was able to print whatever it was I was printing. The next time I tried to print something, the bad lights lit up and I had to go through the same process. For some reason, taking the cartridge out and putting it back in tells the printer to ignore its own concerns about the fitness of the ink cartridge, but only for one print session.
Of course, expiry dates on ink cartridges are ridiculous. In theory the thing can dry up, but that’s just another version of empty. The whole point of doing this is to force users into buying new printers. In my case, the ink replacements will cost twice what I paid for the printer. Only an idiot would do that, so I’ll buy a new printer for $100. Apparently, something happens to ink cartridges to make them cheaper when they are wrapped with a new printer. That means trashing a working printer because pink has expired.
Imagine buying a cheap compact car and finding out that a brake job or a new set of tires costs more than the car. That would never happen, of course, because public outrage would force the government to crack down on the car makers. Built-in obsolescence is fine if it only applies to styles or fashion. When it is part of the engineering process of a good, then the state is expected to step in and put an end to the practice. Planned obsolescence is a form of fraud. The maker is using insider knowledge to trick you.
There has been at least one court case over the practice of the obsoleting of ink cartridges by HP. The resolution was a few million bucks, nothing to discourage the printer oligopoly from continuing the practice. Third parties have tried to get into the print cartridge business, but the makers abuse patent and copyright laws to thwart them. Lexmark went all the way to the Supreme Court in order to block these companies from reproducing cheap ink cartridges. Lexmark lost, but only on narrow grounds so the practice continues.
This is an example of something Steve Sailer has pointed out about Silicon Valley. This industry has thrived as much by thwarting the laws that apply to other industries as they have by pushing the barriers of technology. Whether it is patent laws or labor laws, these big tech firms have played by a different set of rules. In fact, they have often been given the right to make the rules.. Volkswagen is facing a criminal probe over gaming the emissions system, while Apple faces none for tampering with your phone.
The other thing that the printer scams, and now the phone scams, are signalling is the end of the technological revolution. Companies like Google and Apple stopped being technology companies a long time ago. Instead, they are oligopolists. In the case of Apple, they were never a technology company. They were a design and marketing firm that repackaged existing technology into cool consumer products appealing to cosmopolitan hipsters. They sell expensive display items for the trend setters and the fashionable.
As a reader at Sailer’s site observed, Google now resembles an adult daycare center where mentally disturbed women terrorize the few people doing real work. Google has not don’t much of anything, in terms of tech, once it gained a near monopoly of on-line advertising. The reason Susan Wojcicki can wage endless jihad at a money losing division like YouTube is it is owned by an oligopolist given a special right to skim from every internet user on earth. Google is now a tax farmer, not a tech company.
The end of the Industrial Revolution featured civil unrest and industrial scale violence across Europe. In the US, it resulted in great social reform movements that ranged from public morality to economics. By the middle of the 19th century, it was clear that the old feudal governing system was no longer able to maintain order in Europe and the colonial model was not working in America. A century of war and revolution resulted in social democracy, a Western governing system compatible with industrial societies.
What my printer is telling me is not just that the pink has expired, but the social arrangements that allow this scam have also expired. The Technological Revolution has made the old arrangements untenable. It’s why our ruling class struggles to do even the minimum. It may turn out that the managerial state is the perfection of industrial age governance, but entirely unsuited for the technological age. Whether or not we are on the verge of a century of social tumult is hard to know, but that’s the lesson of history.
This also suggests that the great biotech revolution is unlikely to happen. The Industrial Revolution happened outside of state control. Similarly, the Technological Revolution happened outside of the regulatory scheme. Biotech is pretty much a government funded and regulated enterprise at the moment. There are no entrepreneurs in their garage challenging the boundaries of genetics. All this work happens in government sponsored and regulated laboratories. History says revolutions from within never happen.