Young people in Britain have become a lost generation who can no longer mend gadgets and appliances because they have grown up in a disposable world, the professor giving this year's Royal Institution Christmas lectures has warned. Danielle George, Professor of Radio Frequency Engineering, at the University of Manchester, claims that the under 40s expect everything to 'just work' and have no idea what to do when things go wrong. Unlike previous generations who would ‘make do and mend’ now young people will just chuck out their faulty appliances and buy new ones. But Prof George claims that many broken or outdated gadgets could be fixed or repurposed with only a brief knowledge of engineering and electronics.
I think there is an aspect to this that is being missed to some degree. Yes, it is true that repairing a device with surface mount components the size of dust by hand is a lost cause. It is true that manufacturers build their products in ways that makes opening them impossible or nearly so, and it is true that it is often cheaper to replace something than repair. None of that is going to change.
But off to the side, tons of people are making their own stuff with Arduino/Pi/etc.etc. People are learning about interfacing with the real world through sensors and adjusting it, or adjusting to it, with any number of methods. The barriers to these types of projects have dropped immensely recently and there are lots of people who take that broken toaster oven, and totally repurpose it as a soldering oven.
So, perhaps people _are_ less likely to try to fix things than they were decades ago -- instead, a great number are learning how to _design_ their own rather sophisticated stuff. Grandpa may have been able to repair his tractor, but his grandkid can automate it to minimize overlap when out tilling the fields saving diesel, time, topsoil, and mechanical wear/tear. The former skill is valuable, but the current skill is valuable in its own way.