Armageddon Proof?
Posted: 19 May 2012 04:59 AM   [ Ignore ]
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What do you think, is it possible to build machines which will last (and work) for thousands of years without maintenance?
Could simple machines (like the ancient traps in some adventure movies) survive for such long periods of time, and what could be said about electronics?

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Posted: 19 May 2012 06:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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There was actually a TV miniseries on a similar subject a few years ago. It didn’t look at things on the micro scale of individual devices and machines but it looked at the question of what would happen to our buildings and cities in 20, 50, 100, 1.000 years if all the people were suddenly gone tomorrow. It was actually very interesting.

I think its safe to say our electronics would not last in any working fashion for very long. Circuit boards are made up of dozens of different materials an substances that will go through slow chemical reactions within themselves and with the surrounding environment. Metal components will oxidize. plastic components will slowly break down and chemically react with surrounding components. It might take thousands of years for these to turn to unrecognizable dust but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were inoperable within a decade if left exposed to the natural environment Locked away in a cool dry vault somewhere they would last longer but even then they would still react internally and break down over time.

The things they showed in the indiana jones movies had the advantage of being simple stone machines which are less susceptible to deterioration and might last a much longer time but even those things won;t last for ever. Stones eventually crack and also chemically react with the environment. Dust accumulates, moss grows, insects burrow, animals drag in debris, so any stone machine that is finely honed and requires a smooth surface or a hair trigger to operate is likely to fall victim to the ravages of time eventually too.

Update: I found the name of the TV series.. It was called “Life After People”

[ Edited: 19 May 2012 06:07 AM by macgyver ]
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Posted: 19 May 2012 06:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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macgyver - 19 May 2012 06:04 AM

Update: I found the name of the TV series.. It was called “Life After People”

I think that was based on the recent book, The World Without Us. I read it awhile back, it’s not bad though the really meaty stuff about what would happen is only a small part, and he doesn’t extrapolate very far into the future.

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Posted: 19 May 2012 07:24 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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It’s already been proven. Obviously the pyramids have maintained as much of their power as they had when new.  wink

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Posted: 19 May 2012 12:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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An example I saw was an office building that was constructed across the street from a freeway off ramp I have used about once a month for over thirty years.  It was very attractively landscaped and remained so for about fifteen years, then it started having one “for lease” sign then more of them.  The landscaping was taken over by weeds.  Windows began to be broken.  A temporary chain link fence was put up around it.  The fence was knocked down.  Recently the building was torn down and a sign put up saying something like, “Prime real estate location.  Will build to suit.” 

I guess a good way to build a machine that lasts is to make one that makes copies of itself and has the ability to improve them in response to environmental changes.  Oh, wait a minute, we already have that - it’s called life.  smile

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Posted: 19 May 2012 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Anybody who wants to see just how quickly modern structures can deteriorate in the absence of any sort of care need look no futher then the buildings in the abandoned communities surrounding Chernobyl. Even accounting for the fact that Russian building standards weren’t always the best, they’ve gone downhill pretty fast and some are not that far from the point of collapse.

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Posted: 19 May 2012 07:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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What’s the problem with Russian buildings, Curmudgeon?

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Posted: 20 May 2012 04:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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macgyver - 19 May 2012 06:04 AM

I think its safe to say our electronics would not last in any working fashion for very long. Circuit boards are made up of dozens of different materials an substances that will go through slow chemical reactions within themselves and with the surrounding environment. Metal components will oxidize. plastic components will slowly break down and chemically react with surrounding components.

Back in the 90s I don’t know how many times I fixed memory boards by just reseating the memory chips in their sockets.  We had these AST memory boards with rows and rows of DIP packages of memory chips.  It would just take one pin on one chip to give memory errors. 

Imagine 64k and 256K BIT chips.  You need 9 of them for a 64 or 256K Bytes of RAM.  We had circuit boards about 13 inches by 5 inches just covered with them.

But you can find computers 30 years old that work.  Though probably not the hard drive unless it was left off.

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Posted: 21 May 2012 03:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Well, if God is an intelligent designer, he may have built a doomsday machine to end his game of trying to create a perfect world. Back to the drawing board!

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Posted: 21 May 2012 04:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I spent quite a few years doing, what in in the welding trade is usually referred to as maintenance and repair work.  I’ve worked on a some heavy equipment, quite a lot of farm machinery and a steady stream of commercial and residential jobs, so I suppose I have practical, but undisciplined views about the longevity of metal mechanical devises.  I am not an engineer.

First of all, in the current system there is a huge incentive to master the art of planned obsolescence. When the market is as flighty, and style and trend conscious as Madison Ave. has taught it to be, building too well, designing for durability and longevity puts you out of business.  Often a new and improved product is only improved esthetically, sometimes at the cost of function, by designing a fairly short lifespan into a product you can try to guarantee yourself a future market.

Secondly, there’s the issue of building a product that uses current technology well and can be upgraded.  The value of new technology probably should be weighed against the cost of manufacturing the machine that incorporates it.  I think I could make a pretty good argument that, considering mileage standards, purchase, and maintenance costs, modern pickup trucks are not a great deal.  If you added safety upgrades, modern electronics and fuel injection to a 1960’s era pickup, something not all that hard to do, you might have a vehicle that could out work and out last it’s 2012 equivalent.  If longevity and function, (I mean hauling loads), were the driving considerations in buying a pickup it wouldn’t be that hard to build a truck in which the drive train could be upgraded and with proper maintenance could function for a very long time at a very low environmental cost.  (I do recognize how difficult it is to create a design that allows future technological upgrades when the designer has no idea what technology will develop.)  I believe this kind of design can often be found in ocean going ships and some aircraft. A steam locomotive would be an example of technology that would be very hard to upgrade, no matter how well constructed.

Finally there’s the cost of building devices that can last indefinitely.  In my world it’s all “cycles to failure”.  By adding size and using better material it’s not hard to build a machine that has a hugely increased lifespan, but the trade off is in weight and cost.  If too much of a machines operating costs go into merely moving the machine around, or if it’s too heavy and awkward it isn’t a successful design.  And, even if a machine depreciates very slowly, if the initial cost is too high and it’s going to outlast your needs, that’s not good design either.

Of these issues, it is the issue of planned obsolescence that I find most objectionable.  When a machine can function well and appropriately for it’s time, it just seems wrong to have it be designed fail.

[ Edited: 21 May 2012 07:46 AM by Jeciron ]
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Posted: 21 May 2012 04:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Interestingly, wooden sailboats, if properly maintained far outlast fiberglass boats. Eventually the fiberglass breaks down where wood retains its resiliency. But the maintenance of a wooden boat is far more expensive than for a fiberglass boat.

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Posted: 21 May 2012 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Interestingly, wooden sailboats, if properly maintained far outlast fiberglass boats. Eventually the fiberglass breaks down where wood retains its resiliency. But the maintenance of a wooden boat is far more expensive than for a fiberglass boat.

That blows me away; I thought that fiberglass would far outlast wood as it is constantly exposed to water. We owned a fiberglass sailboat but maintained the hull by taking it out periodically and after cleaning it we waxed the surface. It lasted several years until we sold it. I visited the Boat House in Maine where they hold classes on building wooden hulled boats then you were allowed to take the finished product home. They used a traditional method of laying the keel and buliding the boat up from ribs. I believe they were shellacking the outer hull to seal the wood. No matter which, I love to sail. No motor, no gas, just wind!


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Posted: 21 May 2012 07:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Jeciron - 21 May 2012 04:16 AM

First of all, in the current system there is a huge incentive to master the art of planned obsolescence. When the market is as flighty and style and trend conscious as Madison Ave. has taught it to be building too well, designing for durability and longevity puts you out of business.  Often a new and improved product is only improved esthetically, sometimes at the cost of function, by designing a fairly lifespan into a product you can try to guarantee yourself a future market.

Secondly, there’s the issue of building a product that uses current technology well and can be upgraded.  The value of new technology probably should be weighed against the cost of manufacturing the machine that incorporates it.  I think I could make a pretty good argument that, considering mileage standards, purchase, and maintenance costs, modern pickup trucks are not a great deal.  If you added safety upgrades, modern electronics and fuel injection to a 1960’s era pickup, something not all that hard to do, you might have a vehicle that could out work and out last it’s 2012 equivalent.

We are manufacturing garbage but that creates more cash flow.

But economists do not talk about Demand Side Depreciation.  That term does not even exist in economics books.

http://www.quantumcritics.com/20070704123/business/general/from-economic-errors-to-globalies.html

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Posted: 21 May 2012 08:44 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Too bad that the market focuses on long term profit and not on durability.

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Posted: 21 May 2012 02:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Alexander80 - 21 May 2012 08:44 AM

Too bad that the market focuses on long term profit and not on durability.

So is the problem that consumers don’t know enough about science?  Have we had technology change too fast without our so called educational system helping people keep up?

I was amazed at how much IBM did not tell it’s own employees.  Just enough to keep the equipment running.

Can we keep our world running on this much ignorance?

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/plenty-less-fish-in-the-sea-dramatic-838275

So many simultaneous problems.

psik

[ Edited: 22 May 2012 07:27 AM by psikeyhackr ]
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