I like Samsung. Actually, I’m quite smitten with their current set of gadgets. They are quite remarkable. From their form factor to the high-resolution displays, what’s not to like? I even like how their televisions look. Whoever is responsible for the industrial design of Samsung’s products is doing a really good job. It is quite obvious why the people of South Korea have so much pride in the company. Samsung like South Korea itself has come a long way and are now major players on the global stage.
For me personally, I own a Galaxy Note 3 and a Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1. I recently acquired these gadgets this year. Also, the next laptop I get might also be a Samsung, simply because the design of their ultrabooks impressed me tremendously. Besides Samsung, my second favorite computer manufacturer would be Lenovo, however that also means I am a fan of American-based IBM, the original creator of the Thinkpad.
We as consumers are apt to fall in love with our gadgets and software, whether they come from Google, Samsung, Nokia, Lenovo, BlackBerry, HP, Sony, Motorola, Apple or etc. We embrace new technologies with gusto like high-definition displays (except for the 3d thing however) or even artificial intelligence applications like Apple’s Siri. What we don’t ever really think about however is the flip side to our embrace of all things high-tech.
The data centers that power all the social media sites we visit and all of the things we do via Google, are contributing to global greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, all of these websites and services are working with intelligence agencies, like the NSA in the United States, to collect petabytes of information on us all. Lastly, let’s not forget about the low wage workers toiling away in factories, some even dying, to produce our computers and other gadgets.
We’ve heard the stories coming out of China where it concerns manufacturers like Foxconn who have done work for Apple and other big tech firms. Apple has since begun to try and make amends, but still has a long way to go. Now however, alarming news is starting to get out about one of Apple’s major competitors in Samsung, and the factories they run in South Korea.
BusinessWeek has written a feature-length article discussing the consequences of working at a Samsung manufacturing facility.
The doctor told Hwang his daughter had acute myeloid leukemia and asked for permission to start treating her immediately. “I thought I was blinded. I felt darkness and hopelessness,” he says. He knew little of leukemia but did know the disease often could be fatal. Yu-mi was inconsolable, her mother says, even though the doctor gave her good odds for a recovery.
In this particular case young women who were working to produce the computer chips that go into Samsung devices were becoming seriously ill. The sad truth is that none of this is new.
Despite the reliance on cleanrooms, semiconductor manufacturing has never been a particularly clean business. Chipmakers have been using extremely hazardous chemicals since the early days of Silicon Valley.
These are only a few examples of the dark side to our embrace of technology. Throughout history this has always been the case. Possibly hundreds of thousands have died from labor practices during the Industrial Revolution that swept the globe. We’re still polluting the planet and killing people to extract the fossil fuel energy to power it all too.
Now is the time for us to rid ourselves of the past. Progress should not equal pain for anyone in the 21st century. Those who control global capital flows need to learn that lesson. There are lessons for consumers, especially in the West, to learn as well. If we must pay a little bit more to have a better world then it is a small price to pay. Instead of progress equaling pain, we should be building and buying humanely and with sustainability in mind.
Photo by Janitors