Since the truth of the working conditions of those who make our iDevices has come to light, thanks in very large part to Mike Daisey, our collective consciences have been, shall we say, challenged.
Some have decided to forgo Apple altogether as a result, which I think is fairly pointless unless one wants to live an entirely tech-free life, since Foxconn and its ilk make pretty much everything. Others, particularly in the tech press, twist themselves in knots to justify the conditions, play up Apple’s alleged heroism in improving these conditions, and of course, fixate like a laser on Mike Daisey’s thimbleful of theatrical embellishments on his experiences as though those few fictions (unfortunately mixed into a journalistic context) rendered moot the terrible truth about the life of a Foxconn factory worker. Most, I think, like me, try not to think about it too much, try to be generally good people in the ways we can, but still buy and use the products produced in this manner. Just like we still consume meat, despite the treatment of animals, we drive cars and use electricity despite the planetary, existential harm we do by the use of fossil fuels, etc., etc.
In the wake of the much-heralded release of the iPhone 5, however, Daisey has one small suggestion to make things a little easier on those factory workers, one small way we can have a modicum of control over what otherwise seems an intractable problem too big for anyone to solve.
We can wait:
We now know that Apple’s launches create enormous strain on their supply chain. The NYT’s fantastic reporting in January detailed multiple iPad factory explosions caused directly to the incredible rushing needed to meet launch day demand for iPads, and the recent stories of students conscripted into being forced labor at Foxconn is specifically to make iPhone 5s for their launch.
I believe that after weighing the evidence the ethical choice is to wait. After all, there’s no cost to the users—Apple stores now cover the country, and so one can simply not participate in the mania of preorder and launch day, and then in the weeks and months ahead pick up the phone you need. The only reason to get an iPhone 5 on launch day is tech mania and hunger—and in light of what we all know about the conditions and the supply chain, it can no longer be defended.
It’s easy for me to agree, since I’m stuck in contract for another year, and ineligible for a subsidized upgrade. But my iPhone 4S is an excellent device that I have almost no complaints about. It does amazing things, and it will continue to be amazing one year from now (as the original 2007 iPhone is still an amazing device). Look, no one suffers from Apple-gadget lust than me. But I hope that even if I was eligible right now, that upon hearing this advice from Daisey, I would heed it.
In my stead, I hope you all will too.