Crazy Eddie Tech
Sam Aurelius Milam III
Several years ago, my sister's refrigerator failed. Her husband bought a new one for her. I thought that the new one was too complicated but, beyond that, I didn't give the matter much thought. A year or so later, my mother's refrigerator failed. I still didn't give the matter much thought. She got a refrigerator repairman to come and fix the thing. He and I had an interesting conversation. He told me that he'd once seen a refrigerator that had been bought by the owner's grandmother. When he saw the refrigerator, it was 80 years old and it was still working. I started to give the matter some thought.
During the 1950s and 1960s, we expected that a refrigerator would last indefinitely, maybe a lifetime. Things have changed. The refrigerator repairman told me of some comments that he'd overheard at a company where he was being trained to repair their refrigerators. At a staff meeting, the engineers claimed that they could design the company's refrigerators to last for 60 years. The manager in charge of the meeting said that was great and then instructed them to go back to work and design the refrigerators to last seven years.
At the time that my mother's refrigerator was being repaired, I was using an old refrigerator that I'd bought for a few dollars from a man alongside of the road. It was rusty, noisy, and it leaked water on the floor, but it did an excellent job of maintaining the correct temperatures in both compartments. So, I tolerated the noise, ignored the rust, and stepped around the puddle on the floor. About a year after my mother's refrigerator was repaired, she died and I inherited her refrigerator. I got rid of my old one and moved hers to my place. After I started using it, I noticed that it had a problem. The compressor would start and then immediately stop. It would do that repeatedly before it finally continued running. I used it anyway, because it maintained the correct temperatures in both compartments, it didn't leak water on the floor, and my old one was already gone.
A few months after my mother's death, my sister's new refrigerator failed. One of its fancy features, the ice dispenser, stopped working. The ice dispenser had never been entirely reliable and it still isn't but, one day, it failed completely. She got a refrigerator repairman to fix it. He and I had an interesting conversation. During that conversation, I told him about the compressor in my refrigerator starting and stopping. He said that such behavior indicated that complete failure was imminent and that it wasn't worth fixing the thing. He recommended that I buy a new one. I asked him what brand he would recommend. He said that Whirlpool had been the most successful at trying to maintain a high level of product quality. In retrospect, I can see that it was a carefully worded reply. That is, he didn't actually say that any brand is of particularly high quality.
My sister and I went to Lowe's to buy a new refrigerator. The salesman asked me what I wanted. I told him that I wanted a refrigerator but that I didn't want one that talked to me, or that had a computer in it, or that had internet access, or a TV screen on the front, or a complicated control panel, or that eavesdropped on my conversations. He seemed amused but we actually found a somewhat simple refrigerator. It was a Whirlpool. After it was delivered, I put my freezer and refrigerator thermometers in it. I noticed right away that the tem-
|perature in the freezer compartment would reach
about 20°F, which is 20° above the recommended maximum freezer
temperature, before the refrigerator would resume cooling. I turned
the freezer control to Max but that didn't solve the problem. Also,
the refrigerator compartment would often drop below freezing.
We got a refrigerator repairman to look at the thing. He and I had an interesting conversation. I mentioned my expectation, from years gone by, that refrigerators would last for many years. Without hesitation or apology, he said, "Those days are gone." I asked him how long it would be before my new refrigerator would fail, and need to be repaired. He said, again without hesitation or apology, that it would be about three or four years. He also stated that the necessary repair parts will cost about three to four times as much as their analog predecessors, as he put it, would have cost, if the parts are available at all. He also predicted that things are going to get worse. He said that a transition is under way to use butane as a refrigerant. He said that the Grenfell Tower fire, in London, was caused by a butane refrigerator that exploded. Freon and tetrafluoroethane don't explode. I don't know if he was correct about the transition to butane, but I've started to think more about refrigerators.
That repairman didn't know how to fix my Whirlpool refrigerator. We got Lowe's to replace it. The replacement worked as poorly as did the first one. In addition, it had a misaligned freezer door and a bent leveling foot. We returned it and bought a Frigidaire. That was in the middle of July. As of this writing, the Frigidaire is working better than the Whirlpools did. I can hope.
The installer who delivered the Frigidaire refrigerator warned me that refrigerators don't last as long as they used to, in the old days. So far as I can recall, I didn't encounter a refrigerator that failed at any time during the first 65 years of my life. In the last five or so years, I've encountered about seven or eight (I've lost count) instances of refrigerators that failed in one way or another. Such deterioration in quality and life expectancy isn't limited to refrigerators. It's symptomatic of the forced obsolescence that exists with regard to most of the products that we use. There are various examples. Lawn mowers come to mind. When I was young, we never gave a second thought to leaving the gasoline in the lawn mower, or in a gas can, over the winter. We just used the old gasoline and the lawn mower worked. Nowadays, they've changed something in the engines, in the gasoline, or in both, so that I'm forced to buy a new supply of gasoline at the beginning of each mowing season. Otherwise, the carburetor will get so fouled that the engine won't start. Of course, forced obsolescence is notorious as a finely honed tool for increasing the sales of such things as computers and home electronics.
How does the Crazy Eddie idea fit into this? Unless I've been deceived by alarmist propaganda, the resources on this planet are being depleted, waste is accumulating everywhere, energy is getting more expensive, environmental degradation is escalating, and the population just keeps growing. It seems to me that, soon, food and water will be available at a rate that's just barely sufficient. Everybody will be kept busy just trying to supply the bare necessities. Just when things are at their most expensive, when resources are getting scarce, when waste is a plague on the planet, when we need to build things to last if we want to have them at all in the future, then the marketers arrange for things to fail prematurely, so that we have to keep replacing them over and over again. To me, that sounds a lot like the Crazy Eddie mentality from The Mote in God's Eye.
I believe that there have been many cycles of high tech human societies on this planet in the past, that each such society has failed, and that the records have been lost. I'm afraid that we might be facing the end of the present cycle and that the Crazy Eddies are hastening its demise. I'm not afraid that my grandchildren will have to buy a new refrigerator every four years. I'm afraid that there might not be any refrigerators at all.
Additional Suggested Reading
A Long Way Down from the Top, Frontiersman, June 2017, page 2
Born to Rave, Sam Aurelius Milam III, Pharos
The Mote in God's Eye, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, POCKET BOOKS, New York, October, 1975
More Adventures of the Lone Raver, Sam Aurelius Milam III, Pharos
They Can Fool Too Many of the People Too Much of the Time, Sam Aurelius Milam III, Pharos
Sam Aurelius Milam III
Nowadays, many people don't know how to use a map. A lot of the young ones probably don't even know what a map is. I'm not talking about some newfangled gizmo that somebody might have recently invented and called a map, like a tablet, for example. A tablet is a pad of paper, bound at the top. If the people who invented that other thing were as smart as they think they are, then they'd have thought of a good name for it, instead of stealing a name that already meant something else. Their respect for word usage is Gone Past Saving.
Anything that's code controlled and remotely accessible is hackable which means that, at least potentially, it's also remotely controllable. See my article A Question of Intelligence, on page 1 of the January issue. So consider the Go Pause Stop in a car. When somebody's following its directions, he probably doesn't even pay much attention to where he's going. More likely, he just mindlessly follows its directions. It's a victim or slave mentality. Just obey, even if it's only a machine that's giving the instructions. However, is it only a machine?
I saw some cop show recently where somebody hacked the navigation system in a car and directed his intended victim into an ambush. The victim didn't even know that he was being misdirected until the shooting started. What an idea. Wouldn't that be convenient for the various government agents? Not only can they use the navigation system to locate their intended victim, they can use it to send him to wherever they want him to go.
Here's my advice. Get rid of the Goofball Paralyzation Scheme in your car, and get a map. The map can't be hacked. It can't remotely reveal your location. It can't be remotely controlled. It'll give you a good excuse to stop and rest, while you look at it. While you're stopped, stretching your legs, you can ponder the meaning of GPS. Initials and acronyms can mean different things. When the Gizmo Promoting Servitude tells a driver that he's arrived at his destination, it might not be talking about geography at all. It might be talking about mentality. At what mentality has he arrived? For a Generally Precautionary Suggestion, see the title of this article.
Letters to the Editor
I am happy that Mr. Outman has an outlet to allow his good articles to be shared. Most of my writing efforts have gone into brief and writ writing....
Greetings to ya all from Arkansas! Hey if a man is charged with a serious crime of murder, and the state deemed him to be mentally ill because he claims that he had obeyed the Voice of God to commit the horrible murder, then isn't everyone who believes in God, and who seeks guidance through prayer mentally ill as well? And if we the American society claim to protect people's religious freedom, then should this same society have the right to declare that one person's irrational beliefs are legitimate and commendable while another person's are crazy?
You see, how can a society actively promote religious faith on one hand, and condemn a man to prison for adhering to his faith on the other? Are people who believe in divine guidance, or who believe that God sends guardian angels to protect them mentally ill?
Is their not billions of people on this planet who were all taught from birth to believe in God and a spiritual world? Are people who practice in exorcisms mentally ill because they believe in evil spirits? And if our society creates laws based upon old ancient biblical references such as homosexuality, a sin punishable by death, then why isn't this society arresting and executing all homosexuals?
But the most famous execution of the history of earth was of Jesus Christ, and he turned it into one of the greatest symbols of hope....
But imagine this, who wants to spend their last days on earth in a state owned nursing home or hospice facility that looks and feels like a prison, and you and everyone there is on death row?
Religion has been the most bloody and brutal influence in the known history of human society. It has caused more harm than all other institutions put together. It's the best known example of "man's inhumanity to man". Its pervasiveness in all known human societies is a sad comment on human nature.
Being religious isn't the same thing as believing in God. Religion is a usurpation of the belief in God by the use of which the members of the clergy maintain their power over their gravy trains, that is, their congregations.
My thanks to the following: SantaClara Bob; Betty; and Eric, of Ione, California.
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— Sam Aurelius Milam III, editor