in tech, Uncategorized

The iEconomy

The New York Times has been doing a phenomenal job assessing the human and economic toll of all Apple’s wonderful, magical gadgets. Their first piece explained why it is we’ll never seen an iPhone manufactured in the United States. The second one delves into the corners that are cut in order to deliver iPhones and iPads, and the tragedy that can result.

Apple has been in the news a lot for this lately. A recent, fairly effective episode of This American Life showed the personal side of this process. That episode presumably forced Apple to respond, which resulted in a response in kind from This American Life.

Apple fanboys have expectedly rushed to Apple’s defense, and while they are only partially correct, I feel there is a coming reckoning for all of this. At least, I hope there will be. Throughout all this reporting, there emerges one fundamental truth: if Apple really wanted the conditions at factories to be completely humane, it could make it happen. It could insist. It could create a supply chain that was beyond reproach. Sure, they might need to charge a bit more for their products. Their profit margins might not be the same. They might not be able to make as many iPads per quarter as they can at the moment. But they could theoretically do it.

They don’t, because no one cares. They don’t because the voices of their shareholders are louder than the voices of their consumers (who are voting with their dollars and buying products left and right).

At some point, the American people will need to see the human cost of all of our toys. When that day finally arrives, may it also bring dramatic change along with it.

  • Dave, I don't think it's as simple as charging "a bit more" for their products. We're talking hundreds and hundreds of dollars here. And we live in a country where Netflix increases the price of their service by $5 and loses a million subscribers.

    When it comes down to it, Americans won't pay hundreds more dollars for a product that was once 500, no matter the morals and ethics behind it. Well this in and of itself is a little sad, I can see why Apple would chose to stay the way they are.

  • @Matthew You'd be surprised at how LITTLE the prices would need to increase. No one's saying "Move the jobs to the US!" because that's impossible at this point. But treating Chinese workers humanely? Not out of the question.

    I'd also be curious about the price elasticity of Apple's products. I doubt it's as elastic as Netflix's prices. And Apple is destroying its competition on price right now, in large part because of the ruthless efficiency of its supply chain. Sure profit would take a huge hit, but would it be worth it in the end? I'd like to think so.

  • @Matthew Legarreta

    This is bullshit and you're bringing up this 'hundreds and hundreds' of dollars figure out of your ass. The amount of human dexterity needed to make an iPhone is shrinking as automation becomes increasingly capable. Yes, human hands are still needed in the process, and you'd need to pay a premium for ethical worker treatment. But even if manufacture was brought to the US, this is still $65, not "Hundreds" as estimated by The Verge, NYT etc.