[P. J.] [RU] [FR]

Lability as a Social Disease

This is madness.

They change everything, at any moment.

They persuade people to abandon the old ways of life and run for spurious novelty.

Do we really need that?

"New" does not mean "better". Why should we lose so many good things just because somebody else wants us to change? I used to buy a certain kind of bread, or milk, for a few years; and I was quite content with them. Now, the companies decide that they must be more aggressive on the market, and they start to update their products every year, so that I can no longer know what to buy and what is better for my health. Quite often, all the change is only in the name, the material or colors of the can—which is presumably more technological, and hence more expensive. But, the worst of all, it is also confusing, since I cannot always recognize the same product under a new guise. I have to spend a lot of time trying to find goods that I like in the mountains of garbage I don't need.

Sometimes, the change may be literally fatal. For instance, if I can no longer find that unique sort of medicine that helped my organism to keep up despite all the chronic dysfunction, I am doomed to illness and death. The effect of certain classes of drugs (e.g. neuroleptic) is very individual, and it may take years for a good doctor to find a proper combination. If some business idiot introduces a smallest change, the delicate balance will break. If a drugstore suddenly decides to modernize its catalog and sell only the newest drugs, those who depend on the old will die.

In many cases, the new versions of the same things are worse in quality and less convenient to use. Shoes, clothes, chemical detergents, tea and coffee, bakery, cheese, perfumes or panty liners are most likely to be spoiled by any change at all. Remakes of the classical movies are almost always terrible. Repeating old jokes is no fun at all.

In many other cases, new things are indeed better, within the same range of functions. For instance, a new computer is likely to outperform an old model almost in any respect, provided there are analogs of the old software that can process the same file types. However, a new car is not necessarily better, if the old one is already quite satisfactory as a means of transportation; similarly, an old TV set is quite enough, if you don't need any uncanny functionality out of it. A new version of computer software may be a disaster, if you don't want to double the size of required memory and hard disk space.

The introduction of new products can only be justified if they do something that no previous product could do, provided all the old functions are preserved. The development of Intel processors is an example of fair programmatic compatibility: almost any code written for some older system can be performed by any higher model, while newer software can use more advanced features for better performance (unfortunately, this does not hold for the operating systems). A rewritable CD is a step forward compared to simple CD-R, provided you still allow people to buy cheaper one-time CD-Rs if they don't need multiple rewrites.

Some new products cannot be compared to any older things at all. For instance, a DVD player has nothing in common with a VCR, and no synthesizer can replace an acoustic guitar or real piano. Unfortunately, market competition results in the artificial suppression of older products to impose the newer. The consumer has no choice. We must upgrade to keep on. A good old thing goes to garbage just because the available services and product supply are oriented to the most recent technologies.

In science, new discoveries do not annul the previously established laws within the limits of their applicability. Understanding relativistic or quantum dynamics does not mean that the motion of the macroscopic bodies around us does not obey the laws of classical mechanics any longer. Some theories may become obsolete, but they are no less applicable, and they still can be practically used with certain tweaks if a modern theory comes less handy, albeit more accurate.

In the arts, uniqueness reigns. One can never replace one artwork with another, and new modes of expression can only extend the realm of art, giving birth to self-contained masterpieces rather than mere versions of the same. As with science, there are obsolete works that do not appeal to the modern audience; however, this does not diminish their artistic value in their own cultural context.

Similarly, a digital camera is no replacement for the traditional "wet" photography, and new watches cannot supersede an old chronometer. They accumulate in the culture, complementing each other. Blanc Moelleux by Paul Chenet is entirely different from the same title by Henri Maison; Swiss and French Nescafé have nothing in common with the Brazilian, Indian or Russian make. One such product just cannot be replaced with another.

Shame for modern society, that it has become so deeply infected with the anticulture of change for the sake of change. In fact, all that rush for change only serves to disguise the necessity of one essential change, the replacement of the ancient social and economic organization with a new way of life much more deserving the name of the human society.

[Assorted Notes] [Unism]