Disposable Technology And Yukon Gold

TECHNOLOGY IS GREAT BUT WHY IS IT SO DISPOSABLE?

Disposable Technology and Yukon Gold Why we need to fix broken things 
 
We need a little Yukon attitude around these parts!
 
I hadn't realised just how much hard work goes into mining gold. Not that I've actually tried it, but I've been close enough to know that the hours worked creating a cut and sluicing the pay dirt are pretty close to the hours I seem to spend on Facebook and that's a fair few hours each week.
 
How close did I get to mining in order to find out this little (excuse the pun) nugget of information? I binge watched four seasons of Yukon Gold on National Geographic in two days. By the end of it I had managed to convince myself that I wanted to be a gold miner when I grow up, but boy was it exhausting to watch. Shifting pay dirt to keep the sluice plant fed is nonstop. When you ain't sluicing, you ain't making money.
 
I also hadn't realised just how expensive setting up a mining operation was, and I had absolutely no clue how much was spent on fuel for the old D8 excavator, or the CAT rock truck. I sucked it all up like a sponge even down to the language spoken on the claim. So much so, I felt that it was necessary to do a night shift with the crews to make sure I got all four seasons in over two days.
 
Forget the Gold Rush program on the other channel (I love you too Discovery), Yukon seems more hard-core, and that is evident when you listen to the back story of Big Al who despite losing his wife last year, and despite battling a rare cancer himself, managed to provide more inspiration in a 44-minute episode than anyone else I have ever been inspired by.
 
Plant was breaking and so was Big Al at times, but that didn't stop him from getting out of his wheel chair and climbing in to a huge piece of plant, sorting out equipment failures, and managing to break even at the end of the season when I am sure anyone else would have just given up before they had even begun. And you know what? He laughed it all off.
 
Big Al wasn't the only one who had equipment failures, every other miner was having them too. There were no brand new machines except for Karl Knutson’s crew, but even his new sluice went down more than once. Surprisingly nothing actually stopped any of the crews coming up with innovative fixes in the middle of nowhere.
 
Need a hammer, here, use this rock. Need to dig out a sunken excavator from the mud, here, give it a nudge with this other old dozer. No gold here, move on. The impossible was possible even when temperatures hit extremes of cold. The kind of cold that given a choice, you would never want to experience.
 
On one hand there was all of this gold, a season total of $1.4 million was a target for Karl, the others were more modest but still aiming for big numbers. On the other hand they were getting that gold together in a tough environment with only a little more than you would find if you had been placed in the bush to survive. $1.4 million in gold seems like a lot, but smelt it down in to a bar and you will fit it inside a small bag.

Yukon Gold Motherload mining 
 
They were mining huge swathes of land and the pay dirt wasn’t always paying. Often only a few ounces of gold came out of acres of dirt, tiny, tiny amounts. But they carried on going, just moving on to the next cut which more often than not rendered the heavy machines useless as they hit permafrost. More expense, more innovation, and literally a hammer was nowhere to be found. No problem, we will just weld one together out of these two bits of steel borrowed from the back of the dozer and a rock.
 
On many of the claims the old time miners had done a decent job in digging up the valuable pockets of gold more than a hundred years ago leaving only little pockets next to dredge tailings. In some cases digging down 30-feet to bedrock produced not a single flake of the precious metal. Some of it was heart-breaking, all of that hard work and money they hadn’t really got in the first place, only to find a reward of zilch. Yet they carried on in often desperate attempts to at least break even.
 
It sounds like selling art on Print on Demand. You put the hours in, albeit in the comfort of your own home or studio, you spend hours promoting your work, and then you have to wait for the motherlode. Sometimes for longer than the sixteen-week gold mining season of the Yukon.
 
In one respect, the business of art can sometimes feel like you are mining for gold. The difference is that mining for gold carries much more risk, and the environment is so much more hostile. But the principle of hitting a pay-streak is similar for independent artists.
 
Some might say there is no comparison, what the miners have to put up with is at the extreme end of the spectrum, but artists struggle at times too, they just don’t have those extreme environments, but they do have the long hours and not knowing if their next work will even sell as a greetings card and raise about 75 Cents in commission.
 
This is essential TV. Documentaries like this allow you and me to witness things we never think of. We take everything for granted and when we buy a gold necklace we rarely appreciate that a miner somewhere has had to literally put their life on the line to actually get the gold to produce it.
 
And it also makes me think that we need a little Yukon inspiration in our everyday lives too. It seems to me that outside of the Yukon and the third-world, life is pretty much based on everything being disposable.

using gold in mobile cell phones 
 
MOBILE GOLD
 
Let’s take the mobile phone for example. Inside there will be precious metals such as gold, silver, and platinum and some other rare and difficult to get materials too. There’s not a lot of it in any single device, but collectively it all adds up.
 
In Apple’s Environmental Responsibility Report 2016 which covered fiscal year 2015, Apple recovered a whole heap of these materials, including 2204lbs of gold. Now that doesn’t seem like much, but the value is around $40-Million.
 
You can read the Apple report here
 
The total amount breaks down to 61,357,800lbs of materials comprising of:
 
Steel 23,101,000
Nickel 39,672
Plastics 13,422,360
Lead 44,080
Glass 11,945,680
Zinc 130,036
Aluminium 4,518,200
Tin 4408
Copper 2,953,360
Silver 6612
Cobalt 189,544
Gold 2204
 
This was accomplished through Apple’s take-back initiatives in 2015, and to do this they built robots called Liam.
 
Now Liam might just be the most successful gold miner of recent years and I am sure the crews in the Yukon will be weeping when they see these figures, but surprisingly this is all fairly recent. Whatever happened to every mobile phone that didn’t get recycled, or that now just sit in a drawer never to be used again? That’s an awful lot of gold that needs no dozer or D8 to dig down to the bedrock, it just needs something like Liam.
 
Gold mining in another hundred years will be disassembling all of the stuff we bought today and threw away as soon as the next model came out.
 
That is a real problem, and one that continues to be encouraged by the big name manufacturers who think they know what we want from the next-generation of mobile phones. Actually what I want is an iPhone that doesn’t bend, shatter its screen when it is dropped from anything higher than an inch, and a battery that lasts for a whole day or even two of heavy use and a guarantee that it  won’t catch fire.
 
I want a headphone socket, not a dongle that makes it even bigger than the previous version, but actually I don’t want something so thin or made completely of glass that it will break as soon as I do something it seems it was never designed to do, you know, like actually use it every day. Most of all I want an iPhone that will be more akin to a Life Phone but I don’t want an Android because I have spent a fortune on apps.
 
I don’t want to spend £919 for a device that has enough storage to actually hold the photographs the manufacturer encourages me to take by making the camera half decent. That my friends is without the phone call and data plan I will need to actually use it. Then just one year later I have to pay it all out again if I want to keep up with the silly release schedules, and I get next to nothing or nothing at all back when I exchange it or place it in a drawer.
 
PRINTER INK
 
Often described as liquid gold, printer ink is another lucrative industry which relies on many operations such as mining, oil, and ultimately the timber industry to provide the paper the ink appears on.
 
Plastic cartridges rely on oil, but the chips used to tell us how much ink we have left, gather our print analytics and send anonymous data back to the manufacturer about our habits, tell us we are not using an original, all use gold. It is a faff to extract the gold using chemicals and you would need an awful lot of it to produce even a pair of earrings, but again, collectively there is so much gold out there sitting in landfills it is inevitable that one day it will be mined.
 
I have written about printer ink before and you can read the post by clicking here. Getting the most out of your printer. 
 
I was sorting out my stock of printer ink the other day. I managed to separate all of the individual spare colours I have and place them into labelled boxes so that I can keep an eye out when I am running low of a particular colour.
 
There is no doubt about it, ink is expensive. Well original ink is anyway. The refills often cost as much as a printer and when you produce professional quality art you need to go with original inks.
 
Generally I do my everyday printing for things like invoices, letters, and day to day requirements on an inkjet printer, and my artwork gets printed on a dye-sublimation printer. Otherwise I would be spending a small fortune to write a letter of complaint to the printer manufacturers. They probably don’t mind you sending them a letter because you are using their ink.
 
So for the inkjet I just get whatever seems to work and is about the right price. The other benefit is that the cartridges are reused in most cases so I am cutting down on the environmental issues associated with the manufacturing of new printer cartridges. There is probably some research somewhere sponsored by a major printer manufacturer that will tell me I am making an environmental mistake, but I refuse to pay full price to write a complaint letter.
 
Whenever I place a non-original cartridge in the inkjet I am always met with flashing lights, wailing sirens, and the printer police knocking down the front door to organise an annoying pop-up box on my screen, telling me that I am not using original ink and that the quality will suffer, the guarantee is void (it was three years ago), and that I am taking the caviar out of their babies mouths, and press OK to accept and continue if I am a communist and wish to take the deeply sinister risk of clogging up the print head. The printer cost me £39 ($48.70 US), I’m fine with that level of risk, and after all it is a throwaway society right?
 
Of course there is a term which is used by the tech industry that adds a positive spin to a rather distasteful problem, they call it planned obsolescence and it is a viable business strategy. In short and in language that many of us understand better, this is business speak for ‘consumers will need to buy replacement products within a year or exactly the day after the guarantee runs out’. It is a world made by design and it’s getting more and more expensive.
 
I think the other word they use is consumerism. We have been hearing a lot about how global warming is/isn’t a problem, but whichever way you lean there is no getting around the fact that creating new, needs energy, resource, and raw materials. Then a year later we throw it away because old bad, new good.
 
THE YUKON ATTITUDE
 
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The miners in the Yukon certainly know this. Often having only equipment that was left behind after the last claim left, the miners continue to reuse what they already have. Making do, fixing things, and inventing things.
 
Now I know that might not suit everyone, but I have been a technology lover since I was a mere dot. I have also been an early adopter of technology, and much of it is embarrassingly sat in drawers, in the attic, or stacked in cupboards. I am expecting a dozen claims to this technology from the Yukon miners because there is bound to be more gold in these than there was in Moose Creek.
 
I have no idea how much I have spent over the years but probably enough to regret.  
 
My old Casio BE-300 PDA, Sharp Mini-Disc Player, a collection of Mini-Discs, an old Blackberry (wait, I am not Amish), Archos 605 with Wi-Fi, Samsung E-900, T-Mobile Android, Nokia C1, HTC (shipped in the UK under the BT brand) Smart (ish) phone, and a couple of Sat Navs are just a handful of the old devices sitting in my number one man drawer which I pulled out to take this photo. All of these were good or even great once, except that Blackberry. 

Mark Taylor artist and technology 
 
I have more man draws – one even called the Apple man draw with various Apple devices inside. There are still various gizmos and gadgets in the other seven man drawers but I was running out of space and didn’t want to attract any attention from the wife who might finally realise I am beyond hope and also realise just how much I have spent on this stuff.
 
Now I could either start a cult or a retro museum, and there is even more in the attic. I could probably get away with charging admission to my home and giving a guided tour of the past decade. That’s right, everything here is roughly from around the last decade only.
 
Those phones took a few knocks, battery’s lasted about a week, and that old Centron Camera cost about £250 at the time and took great photos for a point and shoot. I mean 8.1 Megapixel photos and we are only now really seeing anything above 8.1 Megapixels on the best modern smartphones.
 
WHY DON’T WE FIX THINGS ANYMORE
 
So just why don’t we fix things anymore. There are hundreds of reasons, and I blame everything from the introduction of Pentalobe screws to iOS updates. All geared to last for the minimum amount of time that manufacturers can get away with before you have to buy a replacement.  We have also lost the generations of people who actually knew how to fix things.
 
They say everything is of a higher quality, and more complex, and lasts a lot longer. My daughter got through two replacement screens when she had her Samsung Galaxy 3 a few years back now, and whilst these gadgets can do new super whizzy things, just how often do you actually ask Siri to do something other than asking for the Pod Bay doors to be opened?
 
Everything is hidden in a case that is impenetrable, not for human contact, certainly not repairable, and heaven forbid you actually want to fix a dodgy cable under the hood of your car. Why should modern man be expected to get oily hands?
 
In Sweden they have announced tax breaks on repairs to clothes, bicycles, fridges and washing machines. You can see more here
 
The incentives are intended to reduce the environmental impact of the things Swedes buy. Ultimately they believe that this will not make people avoid buying new things overall, but it will make it easier for people to buy better quality things because they know they can be repaired.
 
Local labour markets will increase as local repair shops spring up, and it also reduces the emissions from importing from other countries. If any country wants a good economic policy, here is the place to start. The only problem I think, will be that younger generations will need to be re-educated on the benefits of repairing things, and the benefits of learning how to repair things.
 
If I was in charge I would send a representative or two from every local community to the Yukon to mine gold for a season. Not only would it help with these allergy problems where someone is suddenly allergic to things we didn’t even know you could be allergic to when you were growing up, but after sixteen weeks of trying to grab an ounce of gold out of a 30-mile creek with equipment left behind in the 80’s that had already broken down, I figure they would be re-educated pretty quickly in the art of make do and mend.
 
WHAT YOU CAN DO
 
There are a few things I will not be doing this year and a few things I will definitely be doing.
 
Firstly I am not upgrading my iPhone to the iPhone 8. Boy is this going to be really hard but my iPhone 6 does everything I need it to do. I can type up the blog, I can create a few graphics, I can take reasonable photographs when I haven’t got my camera with me, and I can browse the web and make a call, check my emails, and use my £300 Bose Headphones with a cable and still watch Netflix for now at least, or until the inevitable and eventual iOS upgrade renders it useless.
 
I am replacing old bulbs with LEDs, purely on the basis that they will save me money and last longer. I am buying one per week because if I replaced every bulb in the house at the same time I would need to remortgage or sell someone else's body because you wouldn't want this one. 
 
I am going to favour comfort over style. In fact style-driven purchases will be replaced only with essential purchases, oh, and art. Can’t forget the art.
 
After my experience with two coffee machines of the same make in two years breaking down, I purchased a new one with replaceable parts. I am also cutting down on trips to Starbucks because my coffee is better. Also do you know how much a daily coffee works out at? Average £2.95 – one cup per day, five days per week, total £767 over 52 weeks. ($959.90 US) or the cost of a decent iPhone 7 or maybe the 8. Go figure.
 
Where I can I will repair things, this will either fix or at least extend the life of things I already own or will completely break them beyond any hope of repair. Sometimes you don’t need to be experienced to repair stuff, just a little bit adventurous.
 
Saving money is a welcome bonus, but even better is that I will be saying no to this consumerism malarkey on my own terms, or at least I will until the update that renders everything completely useless is released. 
 
I am going to buy a £10 ($12.53 US) gold pan. We have tiny pockets of gold in the UK but my expectations are low. I know I won’t even cover the £10 for the pan, but I will be outside getting fresh air and pretending I am in the Yukon, and the weather in the UK seems similar at times.

Do you still own old technology that you still use? If so I would love to hear about it and especially if it is related to creating art. 

You can find out more about the TV show Yukon Gold here.

ABOUT M.A

Mark A. Taylor is a UK based artist who has been creating art for more than 30-years. His work is sold around the world here and in more than 150 physical retail stores across the U.S and Canada, including the Great Frame Up, and Deck the Walls. 

Mark is a harsh critic of coconut water, is often called the voice of the people (sorry people), and it would be really nice if he had lots of fans. You really should check out his artwork though, he's been creating it for a long time. He also supports other local and independent artists and you can follow him on Facebook by clicking on this link  Go on, it is really easy.  You can also follow him on the Twitter thingy @beechhouseart You can also sign up to receive every new post by submitting your email address in the box on this page. He doesn't like spam, canned or other, so you will only receive new blog posts when they are published. You can also find him on the News360 app for Windows, iOS and Android by searching for Beechhouse Media. 

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