Problems of everyday epistemology

I get accused of being an arrogant prick a lot. That’s weird, because I largely have no confidence. On my bad days, I feel like I have no idea how to know. I have an absolute over abundance of skepticism which can be a massive problem when it comes to making life choices. This becomes a problem when I try to make informed life choices, a category which is exceptional broad. Where this becomes weird is that I actually want more people to follow me down that epistemological rabbit hole of madness. I think the world would be a better place if we all said ‘I don’t know’ a lot more frequently.

I recently read a very interesting article on ZDnet1 It went into why the author does not think the right to repair is good enough, and a potential solution to the problem. The author’s idea is that, aside from having a general right to repair, manufacturers should be obliged to a warranty of at least some years. The problem is that while I agree with the author, I am not sure to what extent I am justified in my agreeing.

Like everyone else, I have purchased a ridiculous number of gadgets over the past couple of years. What is the correct amount of gadgets purchased? How am I meant to know that? There are a lot of questions here that I do not know.

When I left China in late 2017 I had a cheap Huawei that couldn’t handle most western apps. It was purchased in China after my previous phone broke, and it was largely set to a Chinese ecosystem. That phone had been purchased just to get me through my time in China, and I have no idea how long it could last. It may still be operational, and in fact, I still have the damned thing.  The phone was meant to replace a OnePlus One that I purchased in late 2014. It bricked at some point around mid to late 2017, and we will get to the bricking a little later. The Huawei was replaced with a google pixel 2 – not my first choice of phone, but it was cheap and fit a lot of my needs at the time of purchase.

That pixel 2 lasted a year and a half when it broke in a very specific way, the charging port inside the phone loosened to the extent that plugging the charger into the phone moved the port out of contact with the motherboard, and thus the phone failed to charge. And now, of course, we need to address the epistemological elephant in the anecdote – How do I know that this was the case? As the phone was beginning to fail I noticed that if the charging cord was pulling downward it was less likely to charge. As the problem exasperated, I found the charging worked better if I propped the attached charging cord on an object, so that it would be pressing the charging port down onto the motherboard. This worked for about 3 months, until the charging port loosened further. As tech amateur, that seems pretty reasonable to believe. The problem was annoying as all hell, particularly for a person who largely lived on the go. I had had the foresight to buy a two year warranty on that phone, and I got a replacement within the warranty. Another 18 months go by, and I start to see the beginning of the same problem develop on the replacement phone. That’s pretty unsatisfactory.

The Pixel 2 was not that expensive when I bought it (compared to other flagship phones). It’s price tag was part of the selling point. But it is really disheartening to know that a phone cost X to use for 18 months, and X+200(the cost of the warranty) to get to three years (potentially four. I still have the phone, though I have since shelved it. It may still work). And now we can get back to that ZDnet article. The fact that I could notice a problem with my phone, establish a hypothesis, run a test, and find that my test provides a temporary working solution shows to what extent these problems likely are not as grave as the industry likes to think. What the hell would it have cost google to allow me to open my phone (without voiding the warranty), find the problem, take it to a repair shop, and have a certified expert solder the fucking charging port back on? The fact that instead of this, Google found it more expedient to mail another fucking phone is a god damned environmental crime.

I could be wrong. The problem could have been a lot more severe. But I doubt it.

But the truth of the matter is that most of the events of that story are unreasonable. It is unreasonable that the phone comes without a right to repair or a warranty and at the same time seems to come with a consistently defective critical component. Google shouldn’t have let that phone go to market with the problem that it has.

I brought up the Pixel before the OnePlus because the Pixel is the clearly more defective product. I did not have the same negative experience with the OnePlus, despite them lasting about the same amount of time. I abused the shit out of that OnePlus, and if it broke on my early it was my own damn fault. It was the phone I was using when I biked myself into a heat stroke in the middle of a rabidly hot Chinese summer, and if that heat nearly killed me I don’t what chance the phone had. Since I had purchased it it got a lot of fucking use. My headphones were in for most of the day, and there were many occasions where even through my pockets I could feel that the phone was overheating. That was actually my first sign that the thing was going to die.

Right. Here I am at 1000 words and nowhere near finishing this damn thing.  Let’s finish it in another post.

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