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The Reason Scientology is Fighting Right-to-Repair That No One is Talking About

Scientology LogoRight-to-repair is a hot topic these days.  Proponents seek to combat manufacturers who specify that only their maintenance services, tools, and components can be used to repair electronics, automobiles, and other consumer equipment.  California recently passed a right-to-repair law.  Other states are considering similar laws.

Some abuses that this movement seeks to address:

  • Manufacturers who require service only at their facilities or shops
  • Manufacturers who use intellectual property as a way to block repairs
  • Locking devices with manufacturer-exclusive components
  • Voiding warranties when third-party repairs are performed
  • Manufacturing devices and equipment in such a way that they cannot be repaired

This is a consumer-versus-manufacturer fight, and to be fair some makers have been pretty friendly towards consumers, while others have taken longer to see the light.  But ultimately this is a commercial matter…right?

Scientology says otherwise.

Cult of Greed and Silly Tech

If you have never heard of Scientology…well, you have a lot to catch up on.  It’s a cult started by pulp-era science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (1911-1986) that practices extreme mind control through a variety of bizarre pseudo-scientific practices.  Their story is bizarrely fascinating and includes

  • Espionage activities against the US government
  • Fighting a multi-decade war against the IRS – and winning
  • The founder taking to the high seas in a ragtag fleet to avoid prosecution
  • Celebrities such as Tom Cruise and John Travolta

If you want more, read the Wikipedia article for a start, watch Going Clear, or watch Leah Remini’s TV series.

One aspect of Scientology’s “tech” is the E-Meter.  This is an electronic device where the user holds two electrodes, through which a tiny electric current is passed.  The user is that asked various questions and a needle monitoring the resistance flickers, floats, or bobs around on the display, supposedly revealing the user’s innermost thoughts.

Scientifically, it’s about one-third of a lie detector and complete nonsense, as all it’s measuring is galvinic response.  From moment to moment, the needle is going to give different responses, and of course a myriad of other factors can influence – including how much the user squeeze the electrodes.  Regardless, it’s a core piece of Scientology “tech” and they sell for $6,000.

BTW, it costs Scientologists $12,000 because they’re required to have two.

However, you can buy them on eBay for about $500.

Scientology’s Plan to Stop the Gray Market

The “Church” doesn’t like that.  They have a nice ploy to eliminate this gray market, which ties in with their opposition to right-to-repair.

You can read their letter to the US Copyright Office here.  Their argument is that while  you should be allowed to fix your iPhone or your tractor, “other devices can only be purchased and used by someone who possess particular qualifications or has been specifically trained in the use of the device” and these devices should be excluded from right-to-repair.

What devices are we talking about”. E-Meters, of course.

Why?  Because they’re protected by DRM now.

Starting in 2022, the Church updated its E-Meter, requiring members to throw away their old systems and use only the “new and improved, official” model.  The new models have a clock chip which expires in one year, deactivating the device.  After that, the user must connect to a church computer for another one-year reauthorization.  If they’re not in good standing with the church, the device is bricked.

The church wants to prevent third parties and gray marketeers from circumventing the device.  Of course, Scientologists are prevented by being loyal Scientologists who follow orders, but those who fall away have a habit of offloading their gear to whoever’s willing to pay.  The church doesn’t want to be required to manufacturer their E-Meters in a way that is repair-friendly.

It may be a moot point.  Given how simple the devices are (photos here), and  how incompetent the Church of Scientology is in general, circumventing the self-destruct chip is probably trivial.



1 Comment

  1. cAPSLOCK:

    Scientology is a weird cult. That’s for sure.

    Also I see serious nuance here… I dislike proprietary lock ins with all my heart. I hate that the printer companies do it, and Apple is doing it, and even tractor companies have started doing it. But I also hate telling companies they cannot build things the way they wan or do business the way they want.

    I think the trend comes from centralization of power and disruption of competition. And we will get there just as easily if it is being fronted by governments, as capitalists. And the only thing worse is what we actually have. Collusion of both. I guarantee you if California does this they will 1. Drive even more business away, and 2. end up cozying up to “compliant” companies who end up becoming basically arms of the state. Pick your poison. Decentralization and free markets fix this.

    October 20, 2023 @ 7:21 pm | Reply

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