Freelance writer and ghostwriter.
Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.
Giles Slade is a freelance writer and ghostwriter whose book Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America, addresses the issues of a disposable society, where virtually everything made is created with the idea that it will one day be thrown away and replaced by something new. The obsolescence of various products began in earnest during the early twentieth century. According to Slade, the trend began with small items that could be easily manufactured en masse, such as razor blades. Rather than sharpening a razor, it became far easier simply to insert a new blade. Eventually the entire razor became disposable. Then larger, more expensive items began to have a set lifespan programmed into them, at the end of which it was expected that the owner would just throw away the item and purchase a new one. In many instances, this theory of obsolescence was applied to items in industries where the technology was advancing at a rapid rate, and therefore by the time the item in question stopped functioning, it was practically obsolete based on its inability to incorporate new technological functions anyway, regardless of its ability to keep functioning. Cell phones and computers are prime examples of the type of items that have a specific, predetermined lifespan.
Over the course of the book, Slade discusses the history of obsolescence and what this system of retiring belongings in favor of new ones, rather than simply getting the original item repaired, is doing to the overall ecology of the planet, as landfills and waste centers fill rapidly with thousands and thousands of units of items that people have chosen to throw away. Even efforts to improve technology often result in a fresh supply of garbage, such as the switch to high-definition TV that spells the end of every analog television set in every house around the world. Nor are these issues merely pertaining to popular consumption of entertainment and media-related gadgets. The military faces built-in obsolescence of weapons as well, begging the question of what happens to these weapons when they have passed their expiration date. Donna Seaman, in a review for Booklist, found the book to be a "fresh and thought-provoking analysis of conspicuous consumption and its unintended environmental consequences." Don Lockton, writing for Architectures of Control Design with Intent, found Slade's effort to be "a very engaging look at the threads that tie together ‘progress’ in technology and society in a number of fields of 20th century history."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, April 1, 2007, Greg Downey, review of Made to Break: Technology and Obsolescence in America, p. 549.
Booklist, March 15, 2006, Donna Seaman, review of Made to Break, p. 12.
Business Week Online, May 22, 2006, "Talking Trash and Pushing Durability: Our Throw-away Society Is Cluttering the Earth."
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, September 1, 2006, K.D. Winward, review of Made to Break, p. 135.
Isis, December 1, 2007, Bert Hall, review of Made to Break, p. 879.
Nature, July 13, 2006, "Throwaway Culture," p. 139.
Science News, April 22, 2006, review of Made to Break, p. 255.
Technology and Culture, April 1, 2007, Pamela Walker Laird, review of Made to Break, p. 428.
Times Literary Supplement, August 11, 2006, Austin Williams, review of Made to Break, p. 30.
Architectures of Control Design with Intent,http://architectures.danlockton.co.uk/ (October 8, 2006), Dan Lockton, review of Made to Break.
Harvard Typepad,http://harvardpress.typepad.com/ (June 24, 2008), author profile.