How A 'Dumb Phone' Can Save Us From Drowning In Technology

Feel the novelty fatigue growing inside? But it is not just the vintage feel of the reissued Nokia 3310 that makes it convincing, it is something deeper.

The 'new' Nokia 3310
The "new" Nokia 3310
Aïna Skjellaug

GENEVA — The Nokia 3310, the historic and so-very vintage cell phone that you could drop a hundred times without breaking, is back. And I've been wondering why I find that so cool, despite defining myself as a technology addict. I should be swearing only by the latest model of Apple iPhone, AI-powered robots, self-driving cars, automated payments, digital home automation.

Maybe this return of the dumb phone is just another trend. The marketing of ancient technology has already taken us through the sudden return of the 80s Casio watches worn by my male friends and vinyl records spun by my female friends. Not to mention old vegetables, Jerusalem artichokes and others, 60s-style stirrup pants and Abba remixes lighting up the dance floor on Saturday nights.

But ultimately, I don't think this is really about nostalgia, but rather about pace. It's got to do with the never-ending feeling of moving towards something we haven't asked for.

I feel novelty fatigue growing inside of me. I can feel it with my smartphone, the one that shows me real-time stock values, allows me to purchase everything without even touching the screen, to chat with thousands of people at the same time, the one that serves as my torchlight, my weatherman, my map, and guide and more. You have one too, you know what I'm talking about.

You also know that I can't live without it, though from time to time I'd also like to get a break. I'd also like for my phone to be just a phone, not something that ties me down, creates anxiety, becomes addiction. I wish I could spend more than five hours away from home without needing a charger.

Yes, I do believe I will get myself this old-new Nokia. I will give in to the novelty of an old-fashioned thing, but for $50, and maybe I'll feel like I'm 17 again, when having a cell phone felt incredibly good but hardly compulsory. Everyday life objects talk to us and sometimes even tell us what matters and what doesn't. What matters is who I call or who's calling me, who wants to have a drink or go to the movies. And not that piece of plastic inside my handbag.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

— Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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