Are We Trading Tech for Humanity?

Are We Trading Tech for Humanity?

Jun 4, 2010

This is an example of a good factory I visited

I have come to a real crossroads in my life. I blog about tech stuff but what is really going on? We all want the economy to come back, but do we really want it to be on the backs of more indentured servants? How many times do we have to do that before we realize that a lot of people are in a lot of pain so that we can have little rushes of materialistic pleasure that only support our turning away from the unified truth that we are all one organism? Since when is the heart happy when the liver is dying?

Do you think a company like Apple doesn't know what is going on at their factories? I feel like someone like Steve Jobs, who has experienced so much success from his own type of ruthlessness, just doesn't have time to care.

I have a friend who works for ILM and I asked him about Jar Jar when that movie came out. He basically said that everyone except George Lucas and Ahmed Best knew how Jar Jar would be received. Everyone just had to nod and smile to keep their jobs. I have another friend who said "What? You mean a reclusive billionaire has lost touch with his audience? How unexpected."

Before it starts to sound like I am pointing fingers at the rich folk, I want to acknowledge that not only do I want to be "rich folk", but I also don't really think they are the core problem. We all are.

It's every fanboy out there who thinks that Apple, Sony, Nintendo, Foxconn, Microsoft, Toyota or any other company is going to make the world a better place. Following an outside source for your happiness is the problem.

We have come to believe that people's complaints are evidence that they deserve scorn and ostracism. There are comments all over the web suggesting that people who have killed themselves building our technology somehow deserve what they got. Read any forum and you will see comments about how hard someone's job in the States is versus someone in these Chinese factories. As if they should just grin and bear it. This is the opposite of what compassion is: when you know someone's pain and you tell them that it is how it should be, rather than having the light go on in your head that something is wrong across the board. Somewhere along the line we decided that emotion leads away from dollar signs and the security and sense of accomplishment they represent. I don't know how we came to view survival of the fittest as a method for engaging each other when it was originally used to describe our evolution through nature.

Suicide should be an obvious sign of something systemic being off. I have felt those pains and inclinations and I can say with certainty that they are not arrived at casually. You want to tell someone how to live their lives then get out of your armchair and deliver the message personally, troll.

I am on the list for an iPad 3G, but I am not going to get it. I am not making a huge stand because my company is about to release two iPad cases for public consumption. I am pissed because I spent many months developing these products and this recent news is just killing me. I can't afford to drop this line because I turned away some other work to complete it. The thing is, if we boycott all the companies that hurt people, places and things in the process of delivering our goods to us, we will be left with a few organic peas and recycled tire sandals to feed and clothes us.

Sorry about the bad photo- taken by an employee of a factory we work with

I used to be more activist minded when I was younger. I ran a small clothing company that used only sustainably sourced materials (hemp and organic cotton) and I ruthlessly hunted down the most ethical methods to bring these products to market, looking for perfect, domestic factories where everyone was treated respectfully. I met all my retailers and insured that they were running perfectly perfect businesses as well.

It was a nightmare. This was back in the 90's when these practices were significantly less accepted than they are today and believe me when I say that it was like finding needles in haystacks all around the world to get anything done. All materials and methods were way overpriced because of their small scales of production and, along the way, very little money was made. You just can't run a sustainable business that way. The business also has to sustain itself. When I read about my contemporaries in magazines, it all sounded so ideal and noble, but the reality that everyone lived was very different. Few of those companies are still around and many of the suppliers have turned to other activities.

I had a teacher who told me that you must always have one foot in the known and one in the unknown in innovation. You jump too far ahead and you break ties with your foundation. I think this holds true for all evolution. If we just drop all business everywhere, then we will crash hard. We may come out just fine but a smoother transition is to be had through appropriate change. It can't be too incremental because the crash can come just as easily if we don't change quickly enough.

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