Digital Minefield

Why The Machines Are Winning

Hoarding: An Economic Good?

In the eighties, after hours in an IBM office building, I noticed a few computers sitting in the hallways. I asked my host and was told they were headed for the dumpster. Getting new computers was necessary, but tossing useful machines seemed to me sacrilege. I asked, why not donate them to charity? I was told it was complicated company politics.

Waste, in some form or another, is an inherent part of our economy. Yet we are oblivious to the problem, even ignoring the planet’s accumulation of plutonium. This is insane. An unavoidable by-product of nuclear reactors, plutonium is deadly in the smallest amounts—for twenty-five thousand years!

When last week’s post suggested shooting garbage into the sun, it may have appeared impractical. But it’s the only safe place for deadly materials. Sending a payload into the sun is far easier and cheaper than putting a satellite into orbit: it merely needs to escape earth’s gravity. (Plus a little math to avoid Venus and Mercury.)

Last week’s post may have looked like exaggeration, but the truth is this economy is completely dependent on getting rid of the now-not-so-new. Have-nots cannot afford to keep buying the next used thing, which leaves disposal. Or not. Many hoarders are merely accumulators of the once new.

Unlike neophiles who buy because it’s new, I buy because I need. I bought my car in 2004 because of improved airbags. My batteries also last (recyclable), as do my lights (florescent). However, it’s time to replace this aging computer. The parts might be useful for a while, so it will join the four older machines still here. One man’s garbage is another man’s hoard.

Our economy simply cannot afford to shoot dead computers into the sun. Could we go hi-tech and separate the components into raw materials? Another expensive solution, We are locked into economic choices that send them to landfills to poison the earth. My old computers may look like junk or hoarding but they’re just waiting for the landfill.


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