Build for a better tomorrow
Monday, 31 March 2008 — by Wayne Smallman
How we’ve harnessed technology has brought our world to a cross roads; we must now think more carefully than ever about how we build the things we use to make our world what it is. Our awareness of resources and our efficiency in their use is paramount. Now, we must build for a better tomorrow, today…
Tomorrow’s technology — let nothing go to waste
The world that we have made for ourselves is under unique pressures. Some are self-inflicted, while others are transient, with all the inevitability of the seasons.
Dwindling natural resources, climatological and environment disruption from fossil fuel emissions, land misuse and pollution are driving our creativity towards efficiency and a sympathetic approach to our environment through technology and design.
This isn’t just about the internal combustion engine. This change is about how we live, where we live, what we eat, how grow and harvest what we eat, when, why and what we then do with the waste afterwards.
Ingenuity is no longer about the one big idea. Now, we have to consider the greater impact of our genius and think up lots of smaller but no less important ideas that build towards the bigger better picture.
Consider those occasions when you’re buying a new computer. You’re sifting through all of those various permutations, devising your dream set-up. Then you see the cost and quickly off-load those “must have” additions, to replace them with the ones you can actually afford.
This is the BtO, or Built to Order product page. For the computer manufacturer, it means less inventory, less wasted parts and an increase in savings.
But is this perceived efficiency enough? No, it isn’t. But it’s a start, even if the reasons are those of smart business and not greater environmental awareness.
A better Built to Order
How much stuff do we buy which includes features that we’ll never, ever use? I know that the Apple MacBook Pro I’m using includes several ports that I’ll never use.
For me, that’s waste. It’s also a waste for Apple. But because their manufacturing facilities aren’t sophisticated enough to deal with producing items to such specific requirements, it’s much more cost-effective for Apple to include those parts, even though their own internal figures will probably tell them that a good percentage of their customers will never make use of those features.
I’m not singling Apple out, because the other computer manufacturers are in much the same position, if not worse, in some cases.
Apple have only used a couple of types of hardware expansion; such as SCSI and PCI, while most other manufacturers have typically used several. Plus, there’s all those other ports for peripherals and such.
Flexibility is good, but right now, it’s also a waste, too.
In a world of dwindling resources, might a more sophisticated form of BtO be a smarter way to build stuff, even if it’s going to cost more and take longer to produce?
I think there’s been a gradual increase in environmental awareness this past 10 years, even more so the last 3.
People are starting to see that we all have a part to play and maybe “Stack ‘em high, sell ‘em cheap!” days are over for some classes of products.
Standardized parts & components
Think of all those orphaned “wall wart” chargers for mobile phones and other devices. Why don’t the phone and gadget manufacturers get their heads together and standardize on just the one type of charger?
This holds true for a lot of things. There’s just no excuse for the continual re-invention of something when a standardized method means cost savings for everyone, alleviating the pressures on the environment into the bargain, also.
If I knew I was only getting what I wanted and nothing more, I’d wait longer and pay a little more for those products.
We’ve become accustom to the pace of life and the immediacy of things, which may appear good for the consumer, but it’s bad for almost everyone and everything else.
I have faith in mankind and the truly innovative thinking is still to come. In the same way we look forward and see great things, in the future, we’ll look back and see how important the need was for great change…
- Pownce — the BTO thread
- Why we shouldn’t save the planet
- When newspapers, ‘blogging, recycling and wireless access meet…
- Bin tagging and a small matter of the rubbish of big business…