Simplicity has become a lost art
April 1, 2014
One of the interesting things I have experienced over the years is the rapidly increasing complexity at all levels of our culture.
Consider that my father grew up farming with teams of horses.
In just a few years we have gone from horses to huge combines and big, four-wheel-drive tractors.
We have gone from buggies to beautiful vehicles with heated seats, air conditioning, music and GPS.
Communications has gone, in my lifetime, from mail and hand-cranked phones to face-to-face real-time conversations with people all over the world.
My grandkids chat with friends in China, and I walk by and wave to those friends.
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In my fire department days I hated cell phones. Drivers would call 911 if they saw a campfire or someone having a blowout.
On the other hand they have saved many lives because emergency services could respond much quicker.
On the other hand, how many wrecks have occurred because of texting or cell phone calling drivers?
Complexity is happening at all levels. Remember when you could take your toaster or waffle iron to the repair shop?
Now you just throw them away.
How many microwaves have you taken to the dump because they were unrepairable?
How many appliances have you hauled to the dump because it cost less than repairs or they weren't repairable?
Where are all the environmentalists obsessing about preserving natural resources?
Computers and email were supposed to save paper, but I print off and save incredibly more stuff than I ever formerly knew existed.
My main peeve, however, is vehicles. I was taught in engineering school that there was great advantage to keeping things simple.
First, they were cheaper to build. Second, they lasted longer and were more dependable. Third, they were easier and less expensive to repair.
I had a 1951 Ford which I bought for $800.
I could change the plugs, overhaul the carburetor, replace the brake shoes, put new headlights in, etc.
It even got 21 miles to the gallon.
Now if something happens to my $20,000 car I have to find someone with a computer to plug it in and tell me what's wrong.
I get 23 mpg.
Almost always the problem is some electronic sensor and not a real mechanical problem.
Now we have so called high-tech vehicles. The Editors Report in Motor Magazine states that vehicle electronics currently make up 40 percent to 50 percent of the total cost of a vehicle, and that's a 20 percent growth in just the last decade.
The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) says that the automotive industry is a leader in technological research and development.
Here are some interesting confirmations
1. An average vehicle contains around 60 microprocessors.
2. More than 10 million lines of software code run a typical vehicle's computer network. That's about half the lines of code that reportedly run Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.
3. Worldwide automakers spend an average of $1,200 for research and development for every vehicle manufactured.
4. Approximately 4,800 patents are granted to the automotive industry each year.
5. GM and Ford industrially spend more money on R&D than either GE or Apple. (Information from February Motor)
I believe that the driving force for all this innovation is competition in the industry.
They take advantage of human pride and self-indulgence.
The bottom line is your car costs twice as much, you can't fix it yourself and repair costs are incredibly higher.
Another concern is that the complex electronics in everything makes you more vulnerable.
Not only can it be that your vehicle and maybe you could be tracked by satellite but someone could point some sort of EMP (Electro Magnetic Pulse) and shut your car down, maybe permanently.
That might eliminate high speed chases but at what price? Simplicity has become a lost art.
Making your lifestyle simpler at all levels will seriously reduce stress.
Remember the old saying, "Keep it simple, stupid."?
"Out On A Limb" appears on the first Tuesday of the month. Ross L. Talbott lives in New Castle, where he is a business owner.