In this system, one of the worst things a company can do is to make a cheap product that lasts a long time. If they do, where will the year-over-year growth come from? Corporations have learned that it is far better to sell you variations of the same thing over and over — sending the older versions of their product to the landfill — rather than to sell it to you once and be done with it. In many ways, our system requires obsolescence.
Sloan’s model has created our modern conundrum — massive economic growth paired with catastrophic environmental destruction. Planned obsolescence has given many of us our jobs and created previously unthinkable prosperity, and it has put far more carbon dioxide and plastic into the environment than nature can handle. Planned obsolescence once seemed like a clever marketing hack; now it’s at the root of a planetary disaster.