In this video, monologist Mike Daisey discusses the inhumane working conditions he witnessed at the Foxconn manufacturing plant in Shenzhen, China. I went and saw Daisey’s monolog about his experience, The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs last September in Portland, and now, with the release of this TechCrunch interview, I feel compelled to write about it.
Foxconn makes just about every electronic device we use in America today–our smartphones, laptops, and yes, our supercomputer components and storage devices. The plant has over 430,000 workers. That’s hard number to get a handle on, but it might help if you picture a cafeteria made for 10,000 people.
At the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, there are 25 cafeterias that size.
And as described by Daisey, all those people working at Foxconn are treated as machines to be used and thrown away. It’s something we’d never tolerate in this country, yet we feed the beast:
I think there’s a great responsibility. When you export your jobs, you should be exporting your values with your jobs. And if you do not, if you do not do that, that simple human thing, you’ve committed a grave injustice, a very deep sin against humanity itself. I think it’s a terrible, terrible thing.”
Now, I have to admit that I love high-tech as much as anyone. I love my gadgets and I make my living writing about technology. But as I type this on my fancy Macbook Air, I have to wonder if a child’s labor built the thing. Somebody’s kid. A kid just like mine.
Then this sinking feeling rolls around in my gut. I am an accessory writing about the crime. But that is exactly what Daisey is asking journalists to do. And since it isn’t really about HPC, I don’t suppose the other high performance pubs out there will follow my lead on this one, but I wish they would. It’s a story that needs to be told.
We are a nation of great wealth, magnificent technology, and soaring ideals. I’d also like to think we are a people of great compassion.
We are better than this.