The Art of Endless Upgrades

Kevin Kelley on The Technium: The Art of Endless Upgrades

When we first moved into our current house, newly married, I had some caulking to do around the place. I found some silicon caulking that boasted on the tube that it was warranted for 20 years. Cool, I thought. I’ll never have to do this again.

Twenty years later, what’s this? The caulking is staring to fray, disenigrate, fail. I realize now that 20 years is not forever, though it seemed that way before. Now that I am almost 60, I can see very permanent things decay in my own lifetime. Surprising, asphalt doesn’t last forever, nor do iron and even stone. Some of the most permanent things we can think of — the earth beneath us — visibly moves over 60 years. The hill our house rests on is slowly sliding around us. Over a hundred years tree roots can crumble foundations. Try to make something last for 1,000 years and you’ll quickly realize that this is an almost impossible achievement. It requires the constant application of order and energy to combat the everyday entropy unraveling what has been made.

It’s taken me 60 years, but I had an ephipany recently: Everything, without exception, requires additional energy and order to maintain itself. Not just living things, but the most inanimate things we know of: stone gravemarkers, iron columns, copper pipes, gravel roads, a piece of paper. None will last very long without attention and fixing, and the loan of additional order. Life is maintenance.