Filmmaker Alex Gibney investigates the fact that the 400 richest Americans control more wealth than the 150 million people in the bottom 50 percent of the population.
This documentary travels through a world of joblessness, debt, and economic uncertainty to the sovereign nation of the plutocrats, where each crisis seems to offer a new business opportunity. In America, where the 2008 financial meltdown cost $4 trillion in economic output, fortunes were made by the very people who precipitated the disaster while millions lost their homes and their savings. Austerity in Europe, economic stagnation in Asia, a lost generation of the young and unemployed - signs we are living through a fundamental global reorganization, the result of which no-one can predict. The world of the 1% has arrived, and the wealth gap is now greater in many countries than during the Gilded Age, the era of the Rockefellers, Carnegies and Vanderbilts. Can our stressed democracies deal with the fallout? Or have governments simply become instruments of the new elite?
2017 • Economics
Planned Obsolescence is the deliberate shortening of product life spans to guarantee consumer demand. As a magazine for advertisers succinctly puts it: “The article that refuses to wear out is a tragedy of business “ - and a tragedy for the modern growth society which relies on an ever-accelerating cycle of production, consumption and throwing away. THE LIGHT BULB CONSPIRACY combines investigative research and rare archive footage to trace the untold story of Planned Obsolescence, from its beginnings in the 1920s with a secret cartel, set up expressly to limit the life span of light bulbs, to present-day stories involving cutting edge electronics (such as the iPod) and the growing spirit of resistance amongst ordinary consumers. This film travels to France, Germany, Spain and the US to find witnesses of a business practice which has become the basis of the modern economy, and brings back disquieting pictures from Africa where discarded electronics are piling up in huge cemeteries for electronic waste. Economists and environmentalists believe that the growth society as we know it is unsustainable in the long run and that Planned Obsolescence needs to become a thing of the past, as it is impossible to combine the limitless consumption of resources with a finite planet. But what are the alternatives? The film offers thought-provoking analysis by thinkers working on ways of saving both the economy and the environment, and presents hands-on stories showing entrepreneurs putting new business models into practice.
2010 • Economics
In the first of this three-part series investigating consumer spending, Jacques reveals how the concept of 'product lifespan' holds the key to our ever-churning consumerism. Exploring the historical origin of planned obsolescence, when some of the world biggest electrical manufacturers formed a light bulb cartel in the 1920s, Jacques reveals how products that are essential to our modern lifestyles are still made to break. During his investigation, Jacques uncovers the process by which a crucial transformation happened and attitudes towards spending were transformed. Instead of needing new goods because our old ones were broken, we learned to want them for reasons of fashion and aspiration - awaking a consumer appetite that could never be satisfied. In the US, he visits a recycling centre where brand-new high-tech goods are destroyed before they have even come out of the box. Jacques also meets some of the companies that encourage consumers to be dissatisfied with what they have and encourage purchases as part of an ever-faster cycle of 'upgrades'. He asks a senior IKEA executive why, despite the company's commitment to sustainability, it still encourages repeated discarding and purchasing. Jacques also talks to a former senior Apple employee who reveals how the company's new focus on fashion, with its colourful iPhones, keeps us buying even when technological innovation slows.
Robert Peston travels to China to investigate how this mighty economic giant could actually be in serious trouble. China is now the second largest economy in the world and for the last 30 years China's economy has been growing at an astonishing rate. While Britain has been in the grip of the worst recession in a generation, China's economic miracle has wowed the world. Now, for BBC Two's award-winning strand This World, Peston reveals what has actually happened inside China since the economic collapse in the west in 2008. It is a story of spending and investment on a scale never seen before in human history - 30 new airports, 26,000 miles of motorways and a new skyscraper every five days have been built in China in the last five years. But, in a situation eerily reminiscent of what has happened in the west, the vast majority of it has been built on credit. This has now left the Chinese economy with huge debts and questions over whether much of the money can ever be paid back. Interviewing key players including the former American treasury secretary Henry Paulson, Lord Adair Turner, former chairman of the FSA, and Charlene Chu, a leading Chinese banking analyst, Robert Peston reveals how China's extraordinary spending has left the country with levels of debt that many believe can only end in an economic crash with untold consequences for us all.
Jamie Bartlett reveals how Silicon Valley's mission to connect the world is disrupting democracy, helping plunge us into an age of political turbulence. Many of the Tech Gods were dismayed when Donald Trump - who holds a very different worldview - won the American presidency, but did they actually help him to win? With the help of a key insider from the Trump campaign's digital operation, Jamie unravels for the first time the role played by social media and Facebook's vital role in getting Trump into the White House. But how did Facebook become such a powerful player? Jamie learns how Facebook's vast power to persuade was first built for advertisers, combining data about our internet use and psychological insights into how we think. A leading psychologist then shows Jamie how Facebook's hoard of data about us can be used to predict our personalities and other psychological traits. He interrogates the head of the big data analytics firm that targeted millions of voters on Facebook for Trump - he tells Jamie this revolution is unstoppable. But is this great persuasion machine now out of control? Exploring the emotional mechanisms that supercharge the spread of fake news on social media, Jamie reveals how Silicon Valley's persuasion machine is now being exploited by political forces of all kinds, in ways no one - including the Tech Gods who created it - may be able to stop.