Not responsible with electronic devices

I like to think of myself as a pretty low maintenance person in general. I don’t really follow fads. I don’t rush out to buy the newest and greatest products, gadgets, and gizmos. I don’t care that much about how much memory and processing speed and technical mumbo jumbo my electronics have. I just want something that works and I can learn to use quickly because quite frankly, I am an irresponsible technology owner. I have this terrible habit of misplacing, dropping, and pretty much destroying or losing any electronics I own in under 6 months. This is my biggest problem with technology. Continue reading

Made by people*

I doubt that I was the only person to pause the podcast just a minute in to ask Siri where she was manufactured.  Maybe it makes me a cynic—I didn’t really believe the story the guy was telling.  But then it turns out that I have reason to feel that way when I have the conversation I had with her.  She was in denial.  Even after I made it clear that I wanted to know where she was manufactured, she again, only tells me she was designed in California (conversation pasted below).  This conversation went on for a few minutes.  Then I realized I was getting mad at something with absolutely no emotions.  We use these things and they make us happy (and frustrated), but technology itself is emotionless.  However, Mike Daisey reminds us that the people who make these things do, in fact, have emotions, and it is time someone takes notice of them.  However, I highly doubt I will see “Made by people” replacing “Made in China” on the back of an electronic device anytime soon.

               It is appropriate that I am writing this on the day that something miraculous happened.  Only in my wildest dreams could something like this occur— I get a text message from my dad.  At 53, he is in his 30th year running his own business, but he is only in his 6th year of knowing how to open his emails.  He does not own a laptop, has a nokia flip phone, and is right there with the big group of senior citizens in central PA who is constantly complaining that our local newspaper is going to an online edition and cutting its paper edition to just 3 days per week.  But tonight, when I opened my phone and read, “What time is Bu gm 2mrw night?” I was kind of in shock.  It made me realize that this world seems to be moving on the technology train on a one-way track, and you can either hop on or be left behind.  It is for this exact reason that I wonder if Daisey’s and other similar reports will ever provoke any meaningful change.

               As great as listening to Daisey was, it was almost as interesting to listen to his audience.  His humor brought deafening laughter.  But more strikingly, his vivid recollections of the hardships, for lack of a better word, that these workers had to deal with had the audience so silent you could hear it.  I would have blended in nicely with that audience.  I can only speak for myself, but I really believe that if more people were made aware of this story, and ones like it, a difference might be made.  The only issue is that Apple and these other companies are continuing to get bigger. But the question I pose is: will growing bigger give them a larger shield to hide these problems behind, or will growing bigger make their problems bigger and more exposed?

iCult or the Very First Corporate Religion

Technology…this word gives me a creep, in a good sense, when I actually think about what it means for us as a whole. Every person in the world has been exposed to Technology somehow. It actually fascinates me how people can use this term so freely, without deep understanding what it actually is; and, as matter of fact, so do I. However it is a different topic, so broad that cannot be covered in one single blog of a small person such as me, and therefore I have only slightly touched the tip of the iceberg in order to avoid misunderstanding, the reason to which might be my very own ignorance.

I love technology, if I may say so, and I almost feel it is a special human being to me. This is how close it has gotten in my life and, I am sure, in almost every other person’s life. All the developments and inventions have brought both good and bad, and in order to analyze, we would have to look at technology from the side. But is it possible, when we view our devices as something so intimate? Have you, personally, tried to think of technology as something not so integrated in our lives, not as something given to us by right of birth? With this thought in mind we move on to Apple, the best, most innovative company in the world.

Even though I am not an Apple fan today, I used to be. My Apple experience started long time ago, when I got iPod Mini for my birthday. I found it beautiful, so very well designed, and easy to use. I can still remember myself taking care of my first Apple product as if it was a child of mine. The iTunes player was so comfortable and easy to use, it was receiving constant updates – I felt that Apple really cared about me.  I was worshiping it, I was in deep love with it. A year later I bought another iPod. I was blindly in love with it again, even forgetting the old one. I did not care that there was almost no difference other than memory increase and rounded edges. I was blinded for some reason unknown to me.

Unlike Apple-haters, I do understand Apple-fans, the warm feeling a new iPhone gives. MacBook is a great device, and I do not dare to challenge that. IPhone, IPad are awesome, there is no doubt…or is there?  Have you ever thought why there is a differentiation between Mac and PC? PC stands for Personal Computer. Is Mac not a personal computer? Why do people not call computers with Linux OS just Linux instead of PC? I even heard someone saying that iPad is a huge innovation being a tablet PC.

gatestabletIt appears that tablet first appeared in 2002 and was introduced by this guy. Steve Jobs has changed quite a bit since then, hasn’t he?

I do not own any Apple products anymore. All thanks to undeveloped customer service back in old mother-Russia. Feeling of deep connection vanished over time and I started to see the impaired functionality of Apple devices. It was and still is easy to use, however it felt the company treats me like an old child, not capable of doing anything myself and not knowing boundaries, and therefore provides software itself and limits access to certain things. There is no freedom in using Apple devices.

It is possible, however, that users do not need all the functionality and freedom – they would rather just use an easy product instead of bothering themselves with the fascinating complexity behind the scenes. Perhaps my perverted views on this matter are completely weird, but how could all the missteps by Apple remain unnoticed? The answer is simple enough: “Apple cannot do wrong”. Being an Apple fan has become “a religion”, as Michael Daisey said, and I totally agree with him. As for any religion, there are problems when people to start think and ask questions. Is it really ok to exploit people, even if they are Chinese? This was not an attempt to be racist, but instead to point out that those working conditions would never be accepted in United States. Is it fine to use poisonous chemicals in not-automatized production without equipping workers with the least protection such as masks, gloves, goggles? Many other issues, including those raised by Mr. Daisey, remain not solved.

I Phone For Help

It is scary to think that despite the fact technology is essential to my everyday life, I have never thought to think where it all comes from. People are concerned, or at least aware, about where clothes come from, if their coffee beans are free trade, if they are using green products and other aspects of their everyday consumer lives. But when it comes to the fastest growing industry, people rarely consider how their electronic devices were made.

Personally, I never thought about the roots of my electronics till my business class sophomore year when my teacher handed out an article about Foxconn and Apple. To be honest, I never heard of Foxconn even though they create one-third of the electronic we use. I assumed my electronics were made in some factory in China with complex machines I never have even seen. However, it takes an article about Foxconn putting nets on the side of their buildings to stop suicides to have me question the creation of electronics. This whole time people thousands of miles away working 15 hour shifts on minimum wage have created the majority of my electronics. It never occurred to me that they were like any other product: man made.

The circumstances Daisy explained in the factories made me ashamed to think that I never questioned my electronic devices. They closely monitor every move of the workers with cameras and staff looking over their shoulders. They force workers to stand all shift because they are “more efficient.” Factories demand quiet to ensure workers are working. The most horrific aspect of the factories to me was the dorms. Daisy described them as cement curbs that were stacked on top of one another so close that “none of us could actually fit in them.” These workers go through hell to obtain a minimum wage job that forces them to sleep in a crowded room where they can barely fit in their beds. Daisy even describes that when he was there an employee died because he was working a 34 hour shift.

The working conditions at Foxconn would never be accepted in the United States. By expanding labor overseas, we distanced ourselves from the ethical dilemma of fair labor. Especially in the tech industry, companies choose not to investigate and force suppliers to act morally. As Daisy said, companies and consumers “see what they want to see.” However, the way to stop these conditions is through companies demanding oversea suppliers to offer better working conditions. For example, Apple is starting to make a positive impact on Foxconn through demanding forcing them to offer counseling, numerous audits and constantly monitoring working conditions. Overall, people need to think critically about where electronics come from just like other consumer products. By doing this, people force companies like Apple, Dell, HP and other electronic companies to monitor and force suppliers to create better working conditions for employees.

Do I Control Electronics or Do They Control Me?

Growing up as a kid, I was very technologically sound, and what kid isn’t these days? Everyday I walk around campus, everyone is on a smartphone, whether they are checking their e-mails, listening to music, or playing words with friends, technology has really impacted our everyday lives. I remember when I was younger and I got my first cell phone, all I used it for was calling my parents. Eventually, texting starting to become the next major thing. People weren’t calling each other anymore, they were texting each other. So what did I do, I got a new plan and got unlimited texts. Next, Blackberries became all the rage since you can now access the internet from your phone, which was a big deal for any kid growing up in the internet age. So I got a Blackberry and began to search the net from my phone and not from a computer. Then, a revolution broke out when I was in high school that would forever change our technological society, the iPhone.

Apple, known very famously for its computers and the overwhelming success of its iPods, decided to join the cell phone industry and changed the business completely. On this phone, you could have an app for your e-mails, an app for finances, an app that played guitar sounds, and even an app that could track your phones whereabouts even if you lost it. It was revolutionary on the grandest scale, and what did I do of course, I bought it. So I held in the palm of my hand, something that could  not only make phone calls and write texts, but an electronic device that could give me access to all my e-mails, finances, music, social media, video downloads, etc. Hell, I even have an app that  makes the phone a flashlight. I mean, even the flashlight industry took a hit because our smartphones now emit enough light to help us see in the dark, which is ridiculous. So what happened after?

Zombies. No not zombies in the sense that people are going around trying to eat humans for their flesh. I mean zombies as in people now have become brain dead and increasingly less social amongst each other when meeting physically. Every time I am out to dinner with friends, people are just constantly on their iPhones. And doing what you may ask? Playing a game, posting a Tweet, reading a blog; it’s ridiculous. I remember when I used to have full conversations with people, now and even including myself, we all just text or even send snapchats of ourselves for social communications. This product from Apple has completely changed our lives. Even now, computer sales are dropping as people are now switching from their Macs to iPads. So what’s next?

I know about Apple and their business methods. They use sweatshops to create their products and constantly change their products on a yearly basis just to increase sales and sometimes not even value of the product. Mike Daisy describes the horrors he saw in Chinese sweatshops and how terribly they treat their employees. Are sweatshops bad, of course they are. Do I feel terrible because I use products like Apple or Nike, where they use these kind of places to make their products, most definitely. Unfortunately, my technological addiction that I have developed over my entire life from these products has consumed me to the point where I block out the bad automatically and relish in the good. And I’m not the only one. Most people today believe sweatshops are terrible, but they still buy the products that these companies create. So why? It’s because we have created a new society where technology controls our lives and we have fallen victim to its vast innovative power. We are consumed by its sleek and innovative design and are astounding by what such a little item can do. But what did I lose in the process, am I now consumed completely to the point where this phone controls my life? What do you think?