Fear is the mind-killer

Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.

Assumption: Fear is a powerful tool to motivate people.

When I'm talking about government, fear is one method by which government and politicians get citizens to act in the ways that suit the government agenda, while making them think they're acting independently.

There's often a bogeyman; Saddam Hussein was portrayed as a super villain with weapons of mass destruction to get a large minority of this country to support an unnecessary war.

Politicians use fear to get votes, lying and creating distrust of accurate information in order to further an agenda. Usually, it's industry or religion that gets the benefit at the expense of society.

I've lately noticed that the technology sector has begun to use similar fear techniques to create anxiety. It's related to planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence is the idea of selling something that will eventually be useless and require replacement. Take the Windows XP operating system. A big part of the Windows business model was to create a system by which almost anything was plug and play, so they had to add little fixes to incorporate any new device. And every update created new exploits requiring new patches. But each succeeding system—Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8—was a rebuild from the kernel up. So, when Windows stopped patching Windows XP, anyone who had an interest in security and privacy was forced to buy a new system.

Now, as my contract approaches expiration, I notice weird little things happening to my phone. Changes to the operating system—exclusive to Verizon—through updates that suddenly disable functions that have worked well for years. For example, my custom ringtones no longer work, and Bluetooth and wifi no longer function at the same time. I see in the forums that these “bugs” don't have solutions. My theory is that most people wouldn't try to figure out workarounds but would be made fearful enough of missing an important call to buy a new phone and contract. Call it the strategic malfunction corollary to planned obsolescence.