Philip Ball writes in Aeon about the culture of repairing things as a creative expression rather than simply a manifestation of thrift. It’s a good read, but I think he misses one of the realities of modern technology.
Equally detrimental to a culture of mending is the ever more hermetic nature of technology.
That’s true of technology as a physical thing. But more than ever, the technological devices in our lives exist in a constant state of disrepair, and many of the devices in our lives with embedded systems (think thermostats, automotive systems, network routers) limp along with us a lot longer than their shiny-new-object counterparts.
Now consider that much of the critical infrastructure we rely on—payments, telecom, power, transportation—is built on a foundation of decades-old technology that is routinely patched and upgraded. Some software patches are minor fixes, while others address critical vulnerabilities like this week’s Shellshock bug. (Not to mention the occasional need for major architectural fixes. Remember Y2K?)
Glenn Fleishman writes in Boing Boing about the seemingly eternal life of software protocols and the resulting security failures.
But we also face unplanned, eternal obsolescence with modern embedded hardware, computers, and other devices. Operating systems, firmware, and add-on software can continue to run indefinitely and without any path to upgrade when flaws in operation or exploits for local or remote access appear.
It rarely makes headlines, but the culture of mending is an unavoidable and increasingly important byproduct of technology.