JB MacKinnon’s article in THE NEW YORKER, “The LED Quandary: Why There’s No Such Thing as Built to Last,” available here, makes an argument for lighting product durability. (Cory Doctorow makes the case in short here.)

As an example, he points to the “Light Bulb Conspiracy” of the early Twentieth Century, in which it’s alleged the major lamp manufacturers established a 1,000-hour life for incandescent lamps. This ensured product obsolescence and steady sales. LED lamps can last 25,000 hours, but manufacturers have begun to offer 10,000-hour lamps at a lower cost. Meanwhile, cheap, shoddy foreign lamps are entering the market.

It seems to me MacKinnon is getting this wrong. Manufacturers aren’t limiting the life of their products. They’re offering shorter-life, lower-cost options to appeal to contractors and homeowners and compete with said cheap, shoddy foreign lamps. A 10,000-hour lamp instead of a 25,000-hour lamp is hardly going to solve the problem of socket saturation. In an average American living room, with the lights on 1.7 hours per day, 16 years will pass before the lamp should be replaced. By then, it’s appealing to think whoever owns the home might want the latest-generation product.

What do you think? Feel free to leave a comment.