You’ve probably got 20 light-switches in your house. Have you ever wondered how long a light-switch will last?
If you haven’t, it’s probably because you’re normal. A light-switch isn’t temporary. It isn’t evanescent. You don’t think of it having a lifespan.
I was just looking at an ad for the new SlimStyle light-bulb from Philips. Besides its futuristic 2-D appearance (it’s bulb shaped from the front, but flat when seen from the side), there are a number of cool things about it. One is literally cool: as an LED-based bulb it doesn’t heat up much. The only metaphorically cool, but even cooler flip side is, since it doesn’t heat up, it’s very energy-efficient, about six times cheaper to run than the now-illegal incandescent bulbs it replaces.
Also, it’s much cheaper. Philips hasn’t announced pricing but there are rumors that it may be as low as $3, which would mean that the savings on electricity would make the SlimStyle cheaper than an incandescent in about 500 hours of use. The bulb is rated for 25,000 hours. If you use one of the SlimStyle bulbs for two and a half hours a day — which sounds perfectly plausible to me — it would last 10,000 days, about 28 years.
Maybe it’s the disposable, throwaway, one-time-use culture I come from, but to me, something that lasts 28 years is essentially permanent. The only reason we’re even discussing the lifespan is because we’re used to thinking of light-bulbs, unlike light-switches, as a temporary, consumable items.
That’s no longer the case. If I put a SlimStyle or one of its several close competitors in my house, I will be selling the house with that bulb still installed.
Who knows what else we now think of as temporary will become permanent. We’re using to putting gas and oil our cars on a regular basis. It’s not difficult to imagine that a permanent lubrication, or a method of machining surfaces to eliminate the need for lubricants, might be invented. Gasoline is a little more necessary-seeming, but a few cities are putting inductive coils in the pavement of streets to “fuel” (charge) buses; maybe they’ll expand the idea to passenger cars. Some day, the idea of a vehicle running out of gas will become quaint as the idea of having to adjust the antenna on your TV.