One of the side effects of the digital version of enshittification is that stuff you thought was yours disappears – and not just stuff you stored electronically, like ebooks and music, but tangible goods, like appliances and cars.

Cory Doctorow had a particularly good piece on that this week. It’s not just that electric vehicles are “computers on wheels” as he says and therefore the manufacturers can stick in things you don’t want and can’t remove, but there’s the definite possibility that if the car maker goes broke, the fancy, expensive vehicle you bought will be bricked.

It’s bad enough to pay for ebooks and then learn that we were only paying for limited access to those books when the company decides to delete them, but think about paying $50,000 for a car that suddenly doesn’t work anymore because the company failed or screwed up.

One of things about buying stuff is the assumption that if you take good care of it, you will have it for a long time. Disasters might happen – these days that’s also a likely risk – but barring that, your stuff is your stuff for a reasonable life span as long as you pay attention.

I still have mass market paperbacks I bought in college and, let’s face it, mass market paperbacks were not meant to last.

Having ebooks disappear is particularly annoying, because those of us who read a lot buy books and then don’t get around to reading them for years. Not to mention that we re-read as well.

But really, very few people I know are in a financial position to buy an expensive car and have it bricked a year later because the manufacturer did something wrong. Also, I spent enough years practicing law to suspect that if you bought the car with a loan from your credit union, you might still be on the hook for the loan on the dead car.

The lender could repossess the car, but bricked it might be worth less than you owe.

The only solution is to only buy things that cannot be bricked or twiddled (to use another Doctorow word). There are two problems with that.

The first is that it’s getting harder to do that. If you want an electric car – and if you have to have a car, that’s the way to go – you will be giving up some control to the manufacturer no matter how much you pay. And this can happen with anything remotely computerized in your life.

The second problem is the basic problem of stuff. Continue reading “Stuff”