Embracing Autonomy: Sustaining Freedom with Sustainability

Sustaining Freedom with Sustainability

One of the defining features of my personality is the quest of being free, that is, not at the mercy of any indiscriminate authority. It likely stems from my childhood, in which my different interests and perhaps autistic thinking were often in conflict with the establishment. Early school was torture, as the system tried its best to get me into the mold.

Fast-forward to today, I live practically off-grid. House, heating, electricity, water, sewage treatment and even broadband connectivity are independent and managed by me. I’m not a prepper as such, but with solar, wind and diesel generators and storage we can sustain living for months without external supplies. I also maintain fishing and hunting skills, in addition to an amateur radion station. I think this is the best therapy for me, as the fear for helplessness has mostly subsided.

Having learned to repair and maintain most of my equipment, I am always surprised how much talk there is about sustainability versus real actions by companies and people. Business models are still centered around one-time sales and even planned obsolesence, and waste is then freighted around the world. How many iPhones have passed your hands?

Take the fairly complex and expensive sewage treatment plant, which I installed in 2007. It has two tanks, large pumps and a logic controller with sensors to ensure a continued treatment process. The device cost about 8 k€ back then and had a standard one-year warranty. After sending me the service manual, the manufacturer had no communication with me. In the manual there was only a list of authorized service dealers. None of them offered me any continuous service, only on-call fixing in case I detect a problem.

The business of the treatment plant (which became mandatory by law around 2010) manufacturer would look completely different, had they modeled the full lifecycle of the customer and offered continuous service assurance. Ít would have resulted also continuous revenue flow and a customer base to build upon. But instead, the treatment plant business was later sold to a larger manufacturer and development virtually ground to halt.

In order to get rid of the unidirectional conveyor belt model, almost any business must start thinking their products’ full lifecycle at the customer. It’s no longer just ‘additional service business’, it’s the core of the live product itself. For a while we’ve had all the technologies like Digital Twins around to make this happen. The main challenge is to change thinking.


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