Smoke and Mirrors

Rumor has it that Foxconn, one of the China-based manufacturers is assembling the new iPad 3 and that it will begin shipping in roughly a month and a half. With huge demand for Apple’s iDevices around the world, it seems that only China can accomodate this massive scale and deliver iPad after iPad to the wanting public.

I myself have an iPad 2, alongside other Apple devices and I really do admit that I’ve been lured both by the amazing hardware and software integration as well as Steve Jobs’ charisma during his famous keynotes. As I admire the iPad 2’s lovely craftsmanship (I run my fingers through its near-sharp edges), I can’t help but feel that this is all smoke and mirrors, knowing that right now, a Foxconn employee is on a 36-hour shift finishing a similar product that will be shipped halfway around the globe.

Photo by The Atlantic Wire

Smoke and mirrors. That’s what it is. Beyond Apple’s famous commercial to break conformity, in another part of the globe the very same products are being manufactured by people who could have very well fit into the “Big Brother” commercial from the 80’s. And asking Siri doesn’t help. If you ask her where she’s made, she will tell you that’s classified information. Sure we all know she’s made in China, but the AI seems to be telling us something deeper. That something is going on inside Foxconn’s closed doors: The long hours. Suicides. Not getting paid. Depression.

And we’re not just talking about Apple, but outsourced technology in general. Microsoft’s XBOX is also manufactured by Foxconn. And it isn’t just China. It’s just that, well, the iPad is really nice.

In metaphysics, we learn that the “good” tends to spread itself and as a point of causality, something that is “good” must have come from a similar source. But as I browse through the many articles and photos of Apple’s outsource hub, the world starts to make less and less sense. Where people from around the world get to revel in such amazing technology, while sacrificing the lives of nearly half a million workers in China.

Comments

  1. As someone who has travelled in non-urban China, I have a somewhat different perspective. Yes, the working hours and compensation at Chinese factories like Foxconn may seem harsh to those of us living in the USA. However, it would be more correct to compare the fortunes of Foxconn workers to other workers in rural China. Like it or not, the average Chinese person lives on very little compared to even the least well off Americans. Apple does not compel anyone to work at Foxconn, nor does they set Foxconn’s wages. Worker compensation is subject to labor market forces in China, just as they are here in the USA. However, Apple does monitor labor practices and business ethics at all of its suppliers. In fact Apple has an industry leading track record for enforcing ethical behavior throughout its supply chain.

  2. “And asking Siri doesn’t help. If you ask her where she’s made, she will tell you that’s classified information.”

    Paranoid much?

    The reason Siri “doesn’t help” is because iPads and iPhones are made in several different factories in several different locations. Siri isn’t smart enough to know where your particular product was made.

    “She” is NOT trying to hide anything from you. :-/

    And one more thing to remember… ALL tech companies have their products assembled in the same factories. Apple is not the only company. Where do you think Dell, HP, Samsung, etc. have their products assembled?

    Should they all withdraw their business from these factories because they don’t like (and have no direct control) over working conditions in those factories?

    If they did take their business away, who would they give it to? There are no other large scale factories, other than the existing ones, on the planet.

    It’s easy to be a back-seat critic and hypocritically complain about how the product you love so much was assembled. But unless there is a realistic alternative (which there isn’t in this case) you should be content to let social influences in those countries affect the changes we would all like to see.

  3. Asking Siri where “she” is manufactured is not the same as asking where the iPad is manufactured. Siri is a software solution that isn’t manufactured so much as created. It runs on a platform that includes the user device and a huge Apple data centre. It draws on gps signals broadcast by sattelites and communicates across various networks to answer your question. It makes no sense at all to ask it where it is manufactured…

  4. Sounds like someone listens to This American Life. Their most recent episode goes into the story of Foxconn and Apple. It’s well worth a listen, the podcast can be downloaded from their website (or iTunes of course).

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/454/mr-daisey-and-the-apple-factory

  5. Was there a point to “Smoke and MIrrors” except to get some hits?

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