The Ethical Smartphone

Andrew Leonard:

The implied paradox is a head-scratcher, to be sure.

“It seems odd to me that the devices that empower us so much,” Wood says, “should themselves be the products of alienation. But it’s even more interesting to think that they could be one of the first cases that can actually help overcome the gulf between the different worlds of producers and consumers. A demonstrator in Taiwan can film an action at HTC on their smartphone, and upload it to Facebook, where six degrees of separation can see it viewed by half the people on the planet. And if you can’t forget it and do want to find out more, a couple of clicks can make direct contact and link your device with that of people on the other side of the planet, whose existence you’d never given a second thought about before.”

Welcome to the fundamental contradiction of the age of the smartphone. The same gizmos that enable the ultra-efficient globalized exploitation of labor — computers, broadband networks, digital communication devices — are the tools that we must use to address and overcome those inequities. Sounds crazy, but it’s true: If you want an “ethical iPhone,” you’re going to have to use your unethical iPhone to get it.

What I am not sure is whether this is actually global exploitation. With the population of China and India, workers need to have jobs to feed themselves even if they are not comparable to the developed countries standards.


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