Forgive me, but I think you have asked a flawed question. It seemed that you implied that powerlifting gear is here to stay and that it was fanciful to think that equipment can be made to vanish. I don’t think that this is the case.
I think that Powerlifters have the, quite real, ability to make equipment disappear, or at the very least marginalize it. All they need to do is stop using it. There are raw leagues out there. More could spring up quite easily. Every league will let you lift raw, and I have never seen a lifter denigrated for deciding to lift raw at a meet. Quite the opposite in fact.
The much harder question I think you need to ask is: would you as a lifter rather train like mad to bench 215kg in a raw league, or train the same amount to bench 260kg in an equipped league? Most of us got into powerlifting to see how much weight we could lift, and giving up that 45kg is hard to do.
With that on the table: I like the equipment. I think it adds an interesting technical challenge with a significant feedback loop. I also enjoy handling significantly larger weights.
I guess I would rather pole-vault than high-jump; it’s who I am.
If your powerlifting friend doesn’t like lifting in gear: my advice to him is to stop! Pick a raw league: not only can you bench raw, but you are on an even playing field, so you can win too. If that is inconvenient, lift raw in a single ply league! I know several people who do that regularly and receive tremendous respect and support. You may not bring home hardware, but you’re not really doing this to yourself for a plastic, $5 trophy are you?
If the lifters really want gear to go away, you’ll see a mass movement to the Raw leagues, and Raw divisions popping up within existing leagues, while the equipped leagues become more and more marginal.
It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years. Personally I don’t think it’s going to happen, but I could be wrong.