In this modern day we live in, a use and throw away society, production is getting so cheap and complex that in most cases a repair of an item is close to impossible.


Let's say we got a cooking pot (though it could be anything), and the cooking pot gets more and more experience in cooking food the more food you cook. It gets memory or experience in how to cook food. If the pot breaks, and it is an experienced pot, it would be important to fix the pot, to keep the memory, rather than throw it away and buy new.


  1. What effect would it have on economics, would better items be produced more expensive in better quality? Would some of the economics be moved on fore repairs, and repairs be more qualified work than otherwise?

  2. How would it affect production, would eg. electronics be produced with larger components that could easily be replaced, or would repair facilities have better capabilities to replace broke components.

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    $\begingroup$ Not a full answer, but I expect effort would be put into separating this memory from the rest of the product, so if the pan breaks, you can keep its experience. $\endgroup$
    – overactor
    Feb 9, 2015 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ My cast iron pots are all seasoned and full of memories. Properly seasoning a cast iron pot takes time and lots of cooking. $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2015 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ Is this memory something inherently included in the item or is it added by the manufacturer? $\endgroup$
    – Samuel
    Feb 9, 2015 at 17:02
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    $\begingroup$ To add more complexity to this question, the philosophical riddle posed in en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus would play an important role! $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2015 at 21:18
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    $\begingroup$ This butter knife is for buttering bread, but don't use it for Jam, it sucks at that. Use this highly jam experienced butter knife instead. $\endgroup$
    – Twelfth
    Feb 11, 2015 at 19:13

10 Answers 10


One outcome might be that new goods would be relatively cheap or- and this is quite plausible to me - they might be provided for free to people who could use them well and "teach" them how to work so they could be sold as "experienced" equipment to more discerning users.

This might mean that people living in relative poverty might often have new and good quality cooking gear, for example, it would certainly become an essential part of the restaurant trade.

The economics might become a little like animal training- if someone was to send me a young horse to train, I would charge them a certain amount per week with the anticipation that after six weeks (typically) of steady work the horse would be ready to ride in various situations and in different gaits. Experts in any given field where "learning" equipment was used would potentially be able to find work as trainers of that equipment.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ brb, gonna go get a degree in training pots and pans. $\endgroup$
    – The Man
    May 5, 2015 at 17:29

The affect is many things would become more valuable the older it gets. But unlike antiques, it would not be because of the age, but the experience. It would also be affected by the user of the item. A fry pan that cooked 10,000 fried eggs has a lot of experience, but if it burned them all, it should be melted down and recast into something else.

A violin that was played by a virtuoso for a couple decades would be much more valuable than one used by students in a middle school for 100 years. So it wouldn't be just how much experience it had but what kind of experience. It would also change who will get to use a well tuned tool. You won't want to hand DaVinci's paintbrush to your 3 year old (unless you are rich and hope it will leave it's talent on your child). It could also be used to disguise a poorer talent, maybe helping a mediocre author write something closer to the Bard.

Another kind of experience, that would attracted a different kind of collector would be on the darker side of things. Knives used for slaughtering, guns of military marksmen, tools used by serial killers etc.

  • $\begingroup$ Guns of military marksmen would, whenever possible, probably be kept by the military. $\endgroup$
    – KSmarts
    Feb 12, 2015 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ @KSmarts Very true, but things happen. Different unit's might even have bidding wars for well known pieces. $\endgroup$
    – bowlturner
    Feb 12, 2015 at 17:13
  • $\begingroup$ Interestingly, the learning violin would be precious to a school if the teachers are good : it would help the kids learn directly - think about a violin that emphasis the good parts and stress the false notes. $\endgroup$
    – MakorDal
    May 24, 2016 at 7:18
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    $\begingroup$ The tone a wooden instrument makes does actually improve over time if played properly. $\endgroup$
    – thebigtine
    May 24, 2016 at 9:04

Similar/related idea: The Practice Effect

Depends how much your "memory" adds value to functions - which you've not even specifically laid out in your question, but that I am inferring.

For complex and expensive items, and for items which are used in important ways - it would become important to design them for ease of repair (one of the "hidden" reasons we don't repair things), and for longevity.

I'm betting, assuming the memory isn't over-arcingly important, that some things would still be made cheap and dirty, and throw-away. So you'd have two classes of items: some to be kept/repaired, and some which are cheap.

Btw, we have that now, if you're willing to go searching for them. But they're often on the order of 10x as expensive as the cheaper versions, and no way to know how durable/good they are. Example: shoes/boots which can be resoled. (Of course, finding someone who'll resole them is a... challenge).

In addition, some things are made to be throw-away, one-use items. We don't reuse toilet paper, bandaids, and (often) grease-rags.

Basically, it'll be a cost-benefit analysis. How much money would it save a customer (lower fuel bills for your cooking pot? or just a more savory, better dish of food (ie: not worth very much)), and would they be willing to put that money up-front to pay for a better item?

Of course, this would completely destroy the used-goods / thrift-store experience :D

Can items get bad memories? If a cooking-pot is only used by someone who can burn water, does it learn all the worst things?

edit: Theft and customization are also going to be bigger deals in your world. You'd have more custom-made items, maybe with family crests / seals on them, so items can be more easily identified - to protect against theft of high-value, hard-to-replace items.

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    $\begingroup$ I think you overlook something important here, and that is that the value of an experienced item would be different for different people. A pot that improves the taste of food may only be marginally valuable to an average consumer, but to a professional chef it could be priceless. I can imagine fancy restaurants boasting about using the same cooking equipment for a long time. $\endgroup$
    – KSmarts
    Feb 9, 2015 at 15:36
  • $\begingroup$ Depends. I'd argue the other way, I'd expect a Chef to be able to make good tasting food even with inferior tools, whereas it would be of more value to someone who's not much of a good cook. But still not of much value. Many people aren't overly concerned with how their food tastes, as long as they're not hungry, and able to keep working. Also, why wouldn't a restaurant lie? It's just advertising. (or, 1 knife - all the rest is new) $\endgroup$
    – user3082
    Feb 9, 2015 at 15:45
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    $\begingroup$ "Can items get bad memories?" -- if you consider the difficulty of getting prions off surgical steel, yes they can in the real world! $\endgroup$ Feb 9, 2015 at 23:59
  • $\begingroup$ In the addition to function i was thinking one part skill from user + one part experience from item was the result. To make it numeric a person with 5 skill and an item with 5 experience would result in a product of 10. Where a person with zero experience would have same chance of making a nice product with an item experience of 10. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2015 at 10:17

Straight up leveling would result in boring behavior, but specialization could be interesting.

If all we had was a leveling up XP system, so we could have a Cooking Pot (lvl. 4). This would cost more than a Cooking Pot (lvl. 2) but make better product. We have this already. I can buy the \$15 store-brand non-stick pot, or the \$50 name-brand pot, or the \$80 three-ply pot, or the \$150 five-ply stainless steel pot. I'm pretty sure that if I Googled hard enough, I could find a 10 ply stainless steel pot made with steel smuggled from Japan destined for Katanas and other fine swords, tempered in a bath of Martha Stewarts tears.

However, if items retain memory more like people do, it could get interesting. At the simplest, if you make eggs a lot, you could get a +3 Cooking Pot of yolkslaying. Now the items are getting more customized, so its harder for the vendors to produce all of the customized variants. You really have to take the time to level your own pot to your specifications, though you might be able to get away with sending it off to China to have a powerleveler cook a few thousand eggs for you!

Taken a step further, what if they got personalities? What if the process of collecting memories behaves more like how we build memories ourselves? Now you really do have to treat your pan nice, because it will remember how it was treated. Now they could pick up really specialized effects. An Italian grandmother's favorite pot might help you with getting the mix of seasoning just right. A master chef's grocery bag might help you pick the ripest fruit. Your mother's casserole pan would help you make your mother's stuffing for Thanksgiving.

If pots had personality like that, they would start to encroach on "pet" status. They would have moods, and favorite playtoys. You might make sure to cook the pot's favorite hollandaise sauce the morning before a big Thanksgiving preparation, not because the sauce is needed that night, but just to get the pot loosened up. Once they reach pet status, you will see people treating them like pets. They will be nice to them. They'll take care of them. You'll see specialized pot veterinarians which know how to mend a pot without scarring its personality. You'd still have use for normal cookware, but you would pride yourself on your emotionally attached cookware. At the very least, you'd need something to experiment in: I'd never be caught dead burning caramel in my mom's favorite pots. That stuff can stink!

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    $\begingroup$ Interestingly enough, there is a real life example of this. In the Linux world, we have a file called .cshrc. It contains all of the customizations a user has built for their C-shell experience. You will literally bend over backwards to try to transfer your .cshrc from one server to another rather than have to level a new .cshrc up from scratch. You might even call on the blessed sysadmin Guru to help you weave together the local program's preferred .cshrc with yours, never an easy task. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Feb 10, 2015 at 5:36
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    $\begingroup$ I had to give this a +1 for the idea of sending the pan to China to powerlevel. That's priceless. (All the rest of it is great too!) $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2015 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ @CortAmmon It's not just the C-shell (or bash, or ksh, or [etc.]). Anything that involves heavy customization for personal use applies (browsers with lots of addons, favorite IDEs/text editors, etc.). $\endgroup$
    – JAB
    Oct 10, 2016 at 22:08

I am firmly convinced that machines respond to kindness. So if you burn your toast and swear at the toaster, it'll just burn the toast more next time, and probably jam itself at the same time, taunting you toface it with a knife. But a kind word and a delicate touch to the control and it'll do better...

Cast iron saucepans definitely respond to care, and the memory of good meals lives on in the flavour of new meals.

If you are to build a relationship with your pan - or toaster, or car or watch, you'll want a good pan to start with. Now how much of its character comes from its maker, and how much comes from the honesty and integrity of its materials - I don't know, probably both are important. Cast iron and carefully chosen hardwood handle, or cheap plating that flakes off? We've probably all seen relationships like that, and I'm not just talking about pans.

Anyway, we'd certainly go back to an economy based on fewer, but fundamentally better, goods, and on taking care of them.

Once I saw a TV program where some anthropologist was up a tributary of the Amazon, studying the ways of the tribe's shaman, and the spirits in the plants and trees. He was totally unprepared for the elder to tell him one day "Today we work with spirit of ... outboard motor".

Having occasionally trusted my safety in the North Atlantic to a Seagull I suddenly gained a new respect for the shaman...


The mechanics of how the items gain experience and what that experience provides will have a big effect on how they affect economics and production. I'll walk through an example to show some of the ways you can determine how the particular mechanics you choose will affect things.

RPG character style experience

Suppose they gain experience as if they were RPG characters - no matter what they are used to do, they'll gain some experience. Higher levels of experience give the person using the item a better chance of doing what they were trying to do and with a higher level of quality, and the item itself will become more durable. Repairing a higher-level item to perfect condition is as easy as repairing one of lower level to perfect condition.

This probably requires a magical explanation for how they gain experience, such as being crafted by wizards. That implies that only skilled crafters can make such items, so they would be more rare and valuable right off the bat. Repairs would have to be done by someone of similar (though perhaps distinct) skill, so repairing would also be expensive.

Because in this scenario only the experience matters and not how they obtained that experience, items will be priced based mostly on their experience, with the current condition of the item only playing a secondary role. Since repairing a low-level item is expensive, most people would opt for normal, non-magical items - at low levels the non-magical items are almost as good, and you can get many of them for the price of a single magical one. Anyone buying a low-level magical item would expect to end up putting quite a lot of time and money into making the item better.

There would be quite the market for high-level items. Due to the significant investment required to get them to that level they would be very expensive, but as you would be able to get significantly better products using the items the elite would get them whenever possible. This would also result in the elite owning the tools that the craftsmen doing jobs for them would use.

There would also be a market for mid-level items. These items could come from the people who repair items for a living - they would buy low-level items for practice, whether for themselves or for training apprentices. This way it's less of a loss if the repair goes wrong and the item breaks permanently. Then after a while of using it and repairing it, the items will be valuable enough that they will want to sell it.

This also encourages the development of agreements between different tradesmen - for example, with cooking pots they'd make an arrangement with the local restaurant to have them use it for their trainees to practice on so that it could get experience between repairs. When it comes time to sell the item they would share the profit, either by the repair shop selling the item or the restaurant keeping it to begin using for food that they'll actually sell.

Other than that, there wouldn't be many ways that low-leveled items would be used enough to get more experience. You'd get the occasional person from the upper class who wants an item and can't find one that's a higher level, but other than that the cost of getting them to higher levels would be prohibitive. This lack of demand for low-level items would lead to fewer creators being interested in creating them, further increasing their rarity.

All in all, this leads to a fairly small impact on the normal economy. Thanks to their scarcity and cost, you could think of it being similar to expensive art in our world. The upper class would buy as many magical items as they can, but they would be prohibitively expensive for the lower class. The middle class might be able to afford one or two mid-level items. Restaurants and other businesses would be similar - the expensive, fancy restaurants would exclusively use magical items, nice but reasonably priced places would have some mid-leveled magical items (thanks to their arrangement with the repair shops), and cheaper places would not have any.

Small changes to these parameters could have huge changes. For example, if repairs were easy to make then there would be more demand for low-level items, leading to them being even more expensive to buy. It would be much more viable for people to make a profession out of leveling up items and then reselling them - there is the significant initial cost, but after that it's mostly time that they have to spend. With people willing to buy them, more creators would be interested in making the items, leading them to be more common. With them being more common, more of the economy will revolve around acquiring and using them. You wouldn't find magical scissors in my original scenario (not much use for how expensive they would be), but in this scenario they might show up.

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    $\begingroup$ Butterknife of Balduran +5 $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2015 at 3:03

The first thing companies would make would probably tools that use other tools. These tools could rapidly get newly made user-tools up to proper skill, much quicker than humans could. The longer the tool would be used by the machine, the more expensive it would get.

The second thing would be the realisation that these tools that used the user-tools would also be able to learn and they would get even better at getting new tools ready for their users. But they would also be able to break down, and need to be fixed. Or at least, their experience would have to be saved.

So they would build tools that could teach tool-using-tools to use tools better and faster, to get more mileage out of them. These tool-using-tools-teaching-tools would then also be able to teach each other, since a tool-using-tools-teaching-tool is, itself, both a tool and a tool-using-tool.

This would probably start spiralling out of control pretty quickly if the base tools are durable enough and can learn quickly enough.

Ultimately it would start looking a bit like a robotic society, full of teachers, students, employees, etc, except all of them are machines with more or less sophisticated purposes.

Once you start building learning tools that can design tools, you basically usher in the Artificial Intelligence Era and replace humans.

(Ultimately, human beings match your description quite well. We learn, and we can break, and we can be worth fixing, depending on what we do. Learn from human history about the value of a learning tool; it really depends on the job. We both have members who need to learn for decades and are then considered a valuable commodity to a country/company and people who are used as a disposable resource; discarded as soon as a cheaper model becomes available or as soon as their work-stream runs out.)

  • $\begingroup$ The case of artificial experience would be this pot is experienced in the use of a machine. Would not be as experienced in use with a human since the operated by experience is not the same. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2015 at 18:04
  • $\begingroup$ Can experience transfer between people? If the pot's experience is linked to the person using it I wouldn't use the term "experience" rather than "attunement". If the experience can transfer, you can probably build machines that are close enough in using the device that the experience can transfer. Otherwise, instead of machines it would probably be unskilled labour working the tools instead (as mentioned in another answer) $\endgroup$
    – Erik
    Feb 10, 2015 at 19:04
  • $\begingroup$ Look at the difference in how a machine cook today versus the way a human cook. It is not the same way. If you construct a robot who can either cook or mimmic they way a human cook it would work. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2015 at 7:47

Computers already have this quality of becoming more useful as they gain more programs in their memory. It seems that if memories made objects more people would try to preserve these high memory items like they do computers now.

We usually try to save or computers when they are damaged because we recognize the value of the memories they hold but we also acknowledge that we sometimes just want the memories and actually want to put those memories in a new more advanced object.

I would imagine that this would be much like the advent of computers where we found various ways to store the memories the object created externally so that they could uploaded into different objects we want.

  • $\begingroup$ memory was ment more like Experience in doing a task. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2015 at 11:41
  • $\begingroup$ The issue with this is that a computer's data can be easily transferred into another computer. In the original question, it doesn't seem like that's a possibility. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2015 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ @ilinamorato yes, though it is to avoid exploitation, eg. someone makes a hammer, split the hammer and the shaft, attach a new shaft to the head and new head to the shaft, now you got 2 hammers with the same experience. I will not choose to rule out any options, but the purpose would be that hard work = better item. $\endgroup$ Feb 11, 2015 at 7:52

In considering this, two things came to mind.

First, if objects had memory, personally, I would probably assume that they can make sense of those memories. I would end up thinking of objects as beings with life, and develop affection, or at least some form of relationship with objects I liked, or felt intimate with (clothes, bed sheets, etc). This may not be as relevant if objects have always been able to remember.

Second, how would humanity have discovered that objects can remember? If we assume that it was through the actions of objects (a primitive axe which has been used for many years works better than a new one), than that would imply that objects can store, recall, and use memories.

If only human-made objects show this trait, then maybe humans have some kind of power to transfer parts of their being into other objects, which would create a need learned people to become craftsmen.

Assuming that all objects are able to remember, and act upon their memories, I wonder on what level this ability is displayed. Are only "completed" objects able to store memories? If, instead, the faculty to remember is imbued to the smallest particles which make up an object, the implications would be rather interesting. Perhaps those smallest components are actually the "beings", and everything they make up is merely a reflection of the background and desires of an external object looking at the society of smallest particles as a whole?

I don't think this is a good answer to your question, but I found it interesting to consider, so thank you for the compelling question.



Society would collapse.

The effects of this?

1) The rich would get richer. So much richer.

2) Consumption would dramatically decrease.

3) MAD or Skynet.

Paraphrasing Terry Pratchet, only the rich can afford to buy cheap things. Someone who is rich might pay a lot for a pair of boots that will last 20+ years, making them cheap per use. The poor don't have that much money lying around to buy these cost effective items, so they have to buy items that are cheap to buy, but don't last, and are thus expensive per use.

So the rich will buy good quality items, including good quality tools for repairing things. Over time, these will become so good that people with new items just can't compete - the rich can create Michelin Star quality food with little skill, effort or cost. And if their equipment breaks, they can easily repair it themselves with their high level hammer, without the need to pay for these repairs.

This would lead to rich people being removed as consumers completely.

What can someone without rich parents do in this world to earn a living wage? Pretty much nothing. Skilled Labor is unnecessary, the equipment will be so skilled as to make great quality equipment anyway. How could a taxi driver compete with a Google self driving car that has leveled up significantly? Becoming a doctor would be classed as unskilled Labor, as the scalpel would do all the hard work for you. Child Labor laws would be relaxed due to intensive lobby pressure "what's the point of educating our children, we already have high level items so they're going to be in unskilled labor their whole lives, lets just start them working at 10"

This means that the poor/middle class get much poorer. They are forced to buy items even cheaper than they currently do, which break before reaching level 2.

So we don't really have any consumers. This leads to a massive collapse for pretty much all industries, which can't survive without customers.

So we are pretty much down to some tiny communities of people who have wealth (mostly in the form of items), but no income, living a net neutral lifestyle - basically no income, but they can have a comfortable lifestyle without it, producing what they need with their efficient machinery, but without a large audience to sell it to.

Everyone else is pretty much living in poverty.

So, now the only question that remains is which end state happens quicker.

1) Weapons level up to the point where individual wealthy people are capable of annihilating the planet. One of them will go crazy, or get drunk, or suicidal. It nearly happened in the Codl War when only a few people had the keys, now, thousands will.

2) A computer levels up to the point that skynet can happen. Robots level up to the become terminators.

There are of course a couple of branches you could introduce. Perhaps a communist revolution early on would shift things off track.

Or perhaps a Warhmmaer 40k/Dune/Battlestar Galactica style techonphobia would develop?

  • $\begingroup$ Weapons in a stockpile would degrade from not being practiced at all. WMD are threats and not to be used; they would not exist. $\endgroup$
    – JDługosz
    May 24, 2016 at 2:31
  • $\begingroup$ Note i said WMDs, note Nukes. Biological and chemical WMDs are perfectly capable of being re-used, allowing them to level up. They could be tested by loading them with relatively (or completely) harmless payloads, or they could be tested on Mars, which we would easily be able to colonise with our high level rockets. Or a large nuclear power plant, after leveling up to increase capacity, could be made to overload. $\endgroup$
    – Scott
    May 24, 2016 at 3:02
  • $\begingroup$ Technology still advances, meaning that a kettle might be replaced with an electric one. Broken stuff still needs materials to be repaired (maybe such as en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kintsugi) so removing rich people from the consumer group is unlikely but reducing it could be true. And remember an unskilled person using a great tool is still going to get bad results. If i buy a super expensive paint brush of super quality, i will still paint crappy pictures. $\endgroup$ May 24, 2016 at 12:28

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