I have never really been one of those out-and-out environmentalists; I do my share and never really spread my dogma around. Nor have I ever been paranoid, or been in the habit of getting enraged about every piece of inflammatory news coming my way; but recently, something struck a cord with me. The whole Apple/Foxconn fiasco, though overblown by the likes of Mike Daisey, really incited a few thoughts within me as far as the direction in which we are heading as consumers is concerned.
See, it is no secret that conditions in such factories are horrible. It has almost always been public knowledge, but public knowledge, is in essence, transient. As a race of consumers and tech-geeks, we tend to forget the bigger picture and are highly thrifty with our technological possessions.
I see a culture of dispensability emerging within our society, thinking of all our gadgets as use-and-throw implements, always craving for something better, whilst never thinking about what sort of labour goes into their production. I’ve seen plenty of teenagers, intentionally bashing their six-month old smartphone, just so they can convince their parents to buy a newer model and the rate of innovation such self-generating demand is driving is staggering.
The fate of the workers?
From actually keeping and loving our gadgets for a long time, we have been driven to annual or in some cases semi-annual upgrade cycles, where each past generation seems obsolete to us. And the manufacturers are trapping us in, with innovations like sealed-in batteries, which make a phone far harder to repair and make it impossible for a consumer to just get a new battery and put it in after the older one dies out.
While all this accelerating growth and innovation always seemed pretty exciting to me, once I was introduced to the plight of the labourers, I started thinking along a different track. Right now, the world is exploiting the willingness of people in developing countries to work at exorbitantly cheap wages and thus manufacture products at a staggering rate, but this is not a sustainable model.
Imagine a time when even countries like China and our own have developed, who would the world turn to then? Countries even more destitute I imagine. Say this goes on, and at a point (though it seems pretty far off) every country is developed to a large extent, wouldn’t our whole rapid upgrade model bite us right in the derrière? We actually might not even have to worry about that possibility, as our environment itself would not be able to sustain such rapid and pervasive development for long.
Don’t take me wrong here; I’m not against technological innovation. In fact, being a tech-blogger, innovation is pretty much my bread-and-butter. What I am against is non-sustainable innovation, and that is the state of our mobile market right now. There are new SoC’s, new camera modules, new screen technologies coming out of every nook and cranny of the world right now, and we’ve gotten to the point that even a phone from 6 months ago starts looking pretty dated.
We need to remember that this cannot go on forever. We need to remember that there are thousands of people out there, working more than they are paid for, just to make sure enough of us get our spanking new iPhones on time. We direly need more stability in the mobile market, for our sake, and the world’s.
You can connect with Harshit Passi on Twitter @hrshtpassi