Warranties are interesting things. In the most familiar usage, they are commitments a corporation makes to consumers that its products will meet a predetermined performance level. If that performance level is not met, then the corporation will assume responsibility to repair, replace or refund.
These kinds of warranties serve several business functions. They add to the overall value and quality perception of a product offering, and thus help build confidence in consumers at the point of purchase decision. The hope is that any quality doubt in the consumer’s mind can be overcome by the warranty; it may also be that a warranty can sway a consumer to buy one product over a competitive product that may not have a warranty.
On the flip side, companies limit their liability through the warranty, agreeing to pay for this but not that. A warranty can also help a company hedge against poor product quality or limited value in the overall offer.
A symbol of the limitation of liability that warranties imply are those little stickers you see on many products. You know the ones: “Warranty Void if Removed.” And what this always means is that if you open up the sealed system, any problems with the product are your responsibility. There’s also a boundary statement: beyond the seal is a territory reserved exclusively for authorized experts.
Well, if you’re anything like me, you’ve peeled off plenty of those stickers on products, to fix things yourself or to simply learn what’s inside. It’s something I’ve had from childhood: you take things apart to see how they tick. What else are you supposed to do with things? How else can you soup up, hot-rod or customize? Who cares if you’re not an authorized service person? It’s your thing. You own it.
And sometimes, you know, you put things back together the way they were, sometimes in a better configuration, or sometimes not at all.
I think creating the future starts with taking off a hell of a lot of these “Warranty Void if Removed” stickers, in a metaphorical sense. Not just stickers on our laptops, but stickers on our lives, our work, our economy, our cities, our politics, our physical world, everything.
When you open all these things up, of course, you void quite a few warranties. If you reconfigure how you work or live, for instance, you may have to give up whatever security or comfort that the big institutions of work (traditional corporate employment, perhaps) and life (government, “mainstream” society, whatever) guarantee you.
That’s just the way it is.
But it’s your work. It’s your life. You own it.