×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Can You Buy Tech With a Clean Conscience?

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the no-amoled-screens-were-harmed-in-the-making-of-this-post dept.

Earth 412

Barence writes "Is it even possible to buy technology with a clean conscience? With the vast majority of gadgets and components manufactured using low-paid labor in Asia, manufacturers unable to accurately plot their supply chains, and very few ethical codes of conduct, the article highlights the difficulty of trying to buy ethically-sound gadgets. It concludes, 'The answer would appear to be no. Too little information is available, and nobody we spoke to believed an entirely ethical technology company exists – at least, not among the household names.'"

cancel ×
This is a preview of your comment

No Comment Title Entered

Anonymous Coward 1 minute ago

No Comment Entered

412 comments

maybe not, but it isn't all equal either (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121359)

For example, if you care about preserving the right of the public to control their own computers, you're going to stay away from Apple and maybe from Android.

If you care about working conditions of workers in factories, you'll stay away from some of the low end suppliers.

If you care about privacy, you will stay away from Facebook.

And so on. Just because there are problems everywhere does not make everything the same.

Re:maybe not, but it isn't all equal either (-1)

TheFutureIsMyCleanPC (2648281) | about 2 years ago | (#40121377)

About eight months ago, I was searching around the internet to find out why my computer was running so slowly (it normally ran quite fast, but had gradually gotten slower over time). After a few minutes, I found a piece of software claiming that it could speed up my PC and make it run like new again. Being that I was dangerously ignorant about technology in general (even more so than I am now), I downloaded the software and began the installation. Mere moments after doing so, my desktop background image was changed and warnings that appeared to originate from Windows appeared all over the screen telling me to buy strange software from an unknown company in order to remove a virus it claimed I had.

I may have been ignorant about technology, but I wasn't that naive. I immediately concluded that the software I'd downloaded was, in fact, a virus. In my rage, I broke numerous objects, punched a hole in the wall, and cursed the world at the top of my lungs. I eventually calmed down, cleared my head, and realized that the only remedy for this problem was a carefully thought out plan. After a few moments of pondering about how to handle this situation, I decided that since I barely knew how to properly handle a computer, I should turn it over to the professionals and let them fix the issue.

Soon after making the decision, I drove to a local computer repair shop and entered the building with my computer in hand. They greeted me with a smile and stayed attentive the entire time that I was explaining the problem to them. They laughed as if they'd heard it all before, told me that I'm not the only one who has trouble operating computers, and then gave me a date for when the computer would be fixed. Not only had they told me that the computer would be completely repaired in at most two days, but the price for their services was surprisingly low, and to top it all off, they even gave me advice for how to avoid viruses in the future! I left the building feeling confident in my decision to seek professional help and satisfied knowing that such kind-hearted people were the ones doing the job.

The very next day, I received a phone call from the computer repair shop whilst I was at a local library researching computer viruses. I had stumbled upon a piece of software that appeared to be very promising, and I was about to do more research on it, but seeing as how I required my computer as soon as possible, I decided to put the matter on hold. Upon answering the phone and cheerfully greeting the person on the other end, I was greeted with a high-pitched shriek. Startled, I asked what was wrong. A few moments passed where nothing was said, and suddenly, the person on the other end said to me, in a low voice oozing with paranoia, "Come pick up your computer." They hung up immediately after saying that, and I couldn't help but notice that they sounded as if they were on the verge of tears. I briefly wondered if it was due to stress from work, and then drove to the computer repair shop to acquire my computer.

I was positively dismayed upon entering the building. The inside of the computer repair shop looked nothing like the image from my memories. There were broken computer parts scattered throughout the room, ceiling tiles all over the floor, blood splattered in every direction I looked, and even a human toe on the ground. After processing this disturbing information, I began panicking and frantically looking around for my computer. I spotted an employee covered in blood sitting up against the wall, and noticed that his wrists had been slashed open. Thinking quickly, I ran up to him, grabbed him by the collar of his shirt, shook him around, and began screaming, "Where is it!? Where is my computer!?" After a moment of silence, he passed away, completely shattering my expectations. "What a meaningless individual," I thought.

Enraged, I tore the building up even further than it already had been in my desperate search for my computer. Eventually I discovered a door leading to an area that was normally only accessible to employees. I entered without hesitation and was met with a long, skinny hallway that a single person would have trouble moving about freely in. I proceeded down the dark hallway and bumped into the body of an employee hanging from a rope tied to something on the ceiling. I screamed, "Not only do you people have the gall to allow my computer to be endangered, but even in death you intend to block my path!?" After finally managing to push aside the worthless obstacle, I traveled down the hallway and came to a small black door. I entered without a moment's notice, and in the middle of the dark and dreary room, I spotted my computer; it was completely unharmed. With a sigh of relief, I picked it up, left the building, and drove home as if nothing of importance had occurred there.

Upon returning home and hooking up the computer (whilst wearing a cheerful expression the entire time), I, to my horror, discovered that the computer hadn't been repaired. There was nothing in the world that could have contained my fiery anger at that point. I broke almost every single one of my possessions, smashed all the windows on my house, physically abused my family, and then drove back to the computer repair shop to defile the dead lumps of meat that had failed to carry out the task I had given them. After realizing that I shouldn't be meaninglessly wasting my time with such worthless pieces of trash, I remembered the piece of software that I'd discovered earlier. With renewed confidence, I blissfully visited the local library, downloaded the software, and took it home to install on my computer.

I knew. I knew, even before installing it, that MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] would be my salvation. MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] would come through with flying colors where no one else could. MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] would completely, totally, and utterly eradicate the virus in the most merciless, efficient way possible. MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] was not a piece of software that could fail to meet my exceedingly high expectations. MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] would not fail me like all the other imbeciles had. At that point, it could be said that I could genuinely see into the future and be accurate in my predictions. I gleefully began installing MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] and laughed like a child at the thought of finally being able to attain revenge upon the virus that had shamed me so.

I was absolutely in awe of MyCleanPC's [mycleanpc.com] wonderfully efficient performance. Without a single issue, MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] utterly annihilated in moments the virus that many others had failed to remove after hours of attempts. I let out a victory cry and swore to never turn to any "professionals" to fix my computer ever again. Once again, I was able to predict the future. I knew that I would never need any worthless "professionals" again as long as I had MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] by my side.

MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] is outstanding! My computer is running faster than ever! MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] came through with flying colors where no one else could! MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] totally cleaned up my system, and increased my speed! I couldn't believe how much overclocking my gigabits and speed were doing! Even restructuring the BIOS wouldn't allow for the miraculously high degrees of efficiency that MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] allowed me to attain.

I highly and wholeheartedly recommend that you use MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] if you're having any computer troubles whatsoever. In fact, even if you're not having any visible problems, I still recommend that you use MyCleanPC. [mycleanpc.com] There could be dormant or hidden viruses on your system, or problems that MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] could easily and efficiently resolve. Just by using MyCleanPC, [mycleanpc.com] your gigabits will be running at maximum efficiency, and at last, you'll be overclocking with the rest of us! What are you waiting for!? Get MyCleanPC [mycleanpc.com] today!

MyCleanPC: For a Cleaner, Safer PC. [mycleanpc.com]

I'm fine with that (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121365)

I'm sure laborers in Asia prefer low wage over no wage.

Re:I'm fine with that (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121471)

I think the idea is that if one Asia corp paid high wages and we all bought from it, then that company would grow and engulf the competition, or otherwise convince the competition to raise their wages to join the buyer's whitelist and prevent extinction.

Re:I'm fine with that (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121625)

But we wouldn't all buy from it. Because it'd be more expensive.

Re:I'm fine with that (4, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | about 2 years ago | (#40121523)

"I'm sure laborers in Asia prefer low wage over no wage."

That's how the West built its industry and we'd do well to remember that.

When goods cost too much to buy people can't afford to buy them so the people who make them can't SELL them and therefore can't CONTINUE making them.

Almost all Asian industry is YOUNG (and I'm not talking from a Gary Glitter perspective!). China is advancing MUCH faster than did the US over the same amount of time.

Re:I'm fine with that (5, Interesting)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#40121661)

Oh bullcrap. The west built it's industry through the industrial revolution - machines increasing productivity.

Yes the industrial revolution gave them the economic power to build empires, but if your society doesn't have a competitive economic system, well it's going to be a backwater.

Japan got smart and bought into the new ways, and China is moving along that path now.

It's a choice people have to make if they want it.

Re:I'm fine with that (4, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 years ago | (#40121843)

Oh bullcrap. The west built it's industry through the industrial revolution - machines increasing productivity.

You might want to check the history of the industrial revolution a bit more carefully. Worker conditions in Foxconn factories look like paradise in comparison to conditions in England back then.

Re:I'm fine with that (5, Insightful)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#40121665)

True, they have 'part 1' of that process down, but it is questionable if China will be able to make the transition from 'fast growing with essentially slave labor' to 'stable well rounded economy'. We managed to transition because of labor unions and public outrage... but we also have a system of elections (so public outrage can effect who gets elected) and, while there were abuses, we have pretty strict rules about retaliation against dissidents.

China, on the other hand, has no elections (the vast majority of the wealth generated so far is in the hands of party officials and their family) and the country has a history of brutally cracking down on dissident voices.

So in the US we had a good incremental mechanism for transitioning. In China it would require the dismantling of their government, probably via violent revolution, which has a way of undoing economic gains.

Re:I'm fine with that (1)

vakuona (788200) | about 2 years ago | (#40121875)

China is growing old fast. Which means workers are going to be in short supply soon. Which is good for workers.

China has had a surfeit of workers, and thus workers were competing for jobs. It's likely to be the other way soon.

Re:I'm fine with that (2)

poity (465672) | about 2 years ago | (#40121779)

But do those in the West reflect on their industrial past and tell themselves that it was a necessary step or that it was an era of shame? Because the issues here are issues of morality, consistency is vital. If when Westerners of today look on their past, and accept the sweatshops, union-busting, child labor, and hazardous conditions as unavoidable and necessary events in the course of progress, then accepting what is happening in China today is consistent with their morality. But if when Westerners of today look on their past with shame and disgust, then accepting what is happening in China today is inconsistent with their morality. Every person has to ask himself/herself: which sort of person am I?

But this is what I'm not fine with... (5, Insightful)

poity (465672) | about 2 years ago | (#40121565)

When /. discusses labor and wage issues in the US (unions, living wage, income inequality), the common sentiment is that executives/owners/investors can afford to give up more of their profits to help ensure a more livable life for their workers.

When /. discusses labor and wage issues in China (again, labor rights, wages, inequality), we rarely if ever touch on the above line of reasoning, and the common sentiment is that it's better for them to be paid meagerly than to be out of a job.

There is a palpable moral double standard.

Re:But this is what I'm not fine with... (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#40121717)

>the common sentiment is that executives/owners/investors can afford to give up more of their profits to help ensure a more livable life for their workers.

The problem with that statement is that it isn't necessarily true. Look at what Eton Musk is doing with his profits. Are you sure that letting him keep more of his profits wouldn't be better in the long run?

Re:But this is what I'm not fine with... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121735)

in the US ... executives/owners/investors can afford to give up more of their profits to help ensure a more livable life for their workers.
in China ... it's better for them to be paid meagerly than to be out of a job.

I don't think the double standard is as palpable as you think. The difference is that US labor market has deteriorated to change the ratio of worker/executive compensation from a difference of 50-100X a few decades ago to 1000X. Hence reversing the trend would be good. In China, however, the measly wages paid by Apple, etc. constitute an improvement of worker life.
This is not to say that all is well, but the two situations are different, IMHO, in that US has gone from good to bad and China is going from very bad to somewhat bad (and I've heard arguments that you can't simply go from very bad to good in a large country without taking at least a decade or two).

Re:But this is what I'm not fine with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121787)

/. isn't one person.

Re:But this is what I'm not fine with... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121835)

Unless you or your loved one was in that labor pool / neighbouring area then I welcome the opinion. I remember asking an RIAA lawyer once about piracy, torrents and proxy servers run as corporations / laws, used to steal from individuals from other countries and wanted to know what the policy would be in fining / confiscating such systems. He kind of smiled a 99cent smile and walked away...

Re:I'm fine with that (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121697)

They may also prefer losing one leg over losing two but that isn't really useful information.

Re:I'm fine with that (5, Insightful)

The Good Reverend (84440) | about 2 years ago | (#40121807)

The exact same argument was used to justify continuing slavery - "slaves are better off with the food and housing their masters provide them - setting them free would be cruel".

Yes. (1)

jesseck (942036) | about 2 years ago | (#40121373)

And I do.

Re:Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121473)

"SURVEY SAYS"

Yes...the survey says yes.

Re:Yes. (1, Insightful)

Intrepid imaginaut (1970940) | about 2 years ago | (#40121505)

The summary's grasp on ethics seems a little shakey to me. Those low paid workers in Asia are damn glad to have the job, and what they do get paid goes a lot further than in the west. This is a process of enrichment, whereby poor countries in the far east get wealthier, develop a middle class, and start demanding democracy, resulting in not only a greatly enhanced standard of living but new markets for western countries as well as fresh innovations and freedom of choice.

Capitalism. It works.

Re:Yes. (3, Insightful)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 2 years ago | (#40121537)

The summary's grasp on ethics seems a little shakey to me. Those low paid workers in Asia are damn glad to have the job, and what they do get paid goes a lot further than in the west. This is a process of enrichment, whereby poor countries in the far east get wealthier, develop a middle class, and start demanding democracy, resulting in not only a greatly enhanced standard of living but new markets for western countries as well as fresh innovations and freedom of choice.

Capitalism. It works.

Your argument is a bit like the slave owners who stated that their slaves were damn glad to have their job and get fed, too. Exploitation is exploitation, regardless if one can find some good to come from it or not.

Re:Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121681)

Your argument is a bit like the slave owners who stated that their slaves were damn glad to have their job and get fed, too. Exploitation is exploitation, regardless if one can find some good to come from it or not.

Yes. A bit. Quite a small bit.

Slaves were forced via kidnap, chains and violence to keep doing their job. A low-paid laborer in Asia can quit his job and go do something else.

Re:Yes. (2)

jythie (914043) | about 2 years ago | (#40121707)

They are unlikely to start 'demanding democracy'. The people actually getting rich are already party members (anyone who develops wealth outside the party is either invited in, or taken down), and unlike here protest is illegal there so demonstrations get cracked down on. So there is no incremental mechanism.

The whole theory you are running off of was something developed by neocon think tanks in the US to justify a position of non interference and economic interaction with China... if you talk to actual economists, political scientists, and historians they will tell you it is complete BS.. but it doesn't matter because it was designed to sound reasonable to people without significant knowledge in that domain. It is about on par with that antivaxx stuff.. it sounds logical and fits a narrative, but it doesn't actually hold up.

Re:Yes. (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | about 2 years ago | (#40121763)

Seriously. I may be privileged because of where I was born(first world and all that nonsense), but it is what it is. I live my life to be happy. I don't live my life to worry about everyone else's happiness.

flint knives (1)

RichMan (8097) | about 2 years ago | (#40121375)

We are still finding flakes from the first flint knives made. So it is not really tech. It is anything a creature does creates waste. It is almost like it was a law of thermodynamics or something like that. The problem is when there are to many of us creating to much waste.

Re:flint knives (2)

plopez (54068) | about 2 years ago | (#40121425)

And what type of waste. Flint is innocuous. Heavy metals from discarded electronics isn't. Personally I try, I am dependent on tech for my livelihood, by hanging on to gear as long as it will work and then try to find an ethical recycler.

Re:flint knives (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121699)

Umm... even if you think of the hazardous substance imaginable, its still a NATURAL product.

Oil, even though libtards will say otherwise and spout off how EVIL it is, is still a 100% naturally occurring compound. Even when refined. The pollution is also 100% organic in nature.

Ditto for coal and nuclear.

Plastic may have a very long half life, but it will still go away. Just because it doesn't fit your timeline means nothing. You are on this planet for very, very, short amount of time.

Ignore the Chain (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about 2 years ago | (#40121387)

The first step of the chain is most likely in 98.9% of cases under paid labour and children in Asia. So how can I buy it with a clean conscience, well I just ignore where it comes from! I'm buying an end product not then supply chain. I know it's unethical and unmoral to just ignore the issue, but if I thought about it I would own no tech gear.

Not all companies are created equal (4, Insightful)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#40121597)

You could buy from some no-name branded Chinese knock off assembled with second rate parts. Or you could purchase from Apple, a corporation that has made serious efforts toward improving the supply chain. The same is true for any product. There are companies out there who are indeed more ethical than others.

Yup, I don't care (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121403)

I really couldn't care less.

Try doing anything with a clean consciousness (1)

JamesP (688957) | about 2 years ago | (#40121407)

You'll probably end up in cabin (oh but a cabin made of wood? that's deforestation) eating what you're trying to plant and raise (trying, because fertilizers come from cattle raising: bad or petroleum: bad and no herbicides)

Re:Try doing anything with a clean consciousness (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121435)

or a compost pile

Everything (5, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | about 2 years ago | (#40121409)

Tell me, what can you do with a clean conscience? Can you eat meat you buy from the store? Or even produce for that matter? Can you flip on the light switch in your home and consume electricity? Start your car? Wax philosophical all you want, but life is inherently unfair, whether within a species, or amongst species. Sure, many things can be improved, but you'll be afraid to take a step lest you kill an ant if you delve too deep here.

To use your examples... (3, Insightful)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#40121629)

Can you eat meat from a store? I can buy locally produced organic meat. I can also eat meat two times a week, instead of every day.

Produce? I can have a garden, or again, buy local.

Flip on a light switch? I can buy energy efficient light bulbs that use a fraction of the electricity and last for decades.

Electricity? I can install solar panels, or even buy more energy efficient appliances and electric monitors to lessen electric use.

Start your car? This one is easy, I can use a bicycle, live closer to work, use public transport, car pooling, or even invest in a more sustainable form of transport

Lesson? Everything can be improved.

Re:To use your examples... (2)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | about 2 years ago | (#40121803)

Flip on a light switch? I can buy energy efficient light bulbs that use a fraction of the electricity and last for decades.

Electricity? I can install solar panels, or even buy more energy efficient appliances and electric monitors to lessen electric use.


Yes, those 'help', but the hardware comes out of the same factories, with the same ethics, as most other electronics. So the problem is reduced, but not eliminated.

Re:To use your examples... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121893)

All these things cost. Some cost money, some cost time, most cost both. Morals are expensive and are not affordable to the poor, which is largely why they get so uppity when people like you say 'Everything can be improved' or 'I can have a garden'. You keep using that word: 'can', as if to say, yeah sure I can improve things but just don't feel like it.

Your message would be more provable with, you know, proof.

Re:Everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121635)

Tell me, what can you do with a clean conscience?

It obviously depends on what matters to you. Yes, in a greater scheme of things, maybe you can't
But there are certain things that would be nice to have. Like if it was possible to buy items that were made outside of China, even at a premium. Sometimes this option simply doesn't exist.
2 of my 3 laptops bought in the last 8 years were made in Japan. That makes my conscience slightly clearer than it would normally be.

Re:Everything (5, Insightful)

R.Mo_Robert (737913) | about 2 years ago | (#40121655)

Tell me, what can you do with a clean conscience? Can you eat meat you buy from the store? Or even produce for that matter? Can you flip on the light switch in your home and consume electricity? Start your car? Wax philosophical all you want, but life is inherently unfair...

Actually, when I go to the store, I can buy produce (or meat) from local farmers--or I can go to the farmers market, subscribe to a CSA, grow it myself, or use any of various alternatives that will allow me to know more about the product. At the very least, I can buy according to some legislated standards (e.g., USDA Organic) that I am OK with. Similarly, instead of starting my car (which I definitely do NOT do with a clean conscience), I can walk or bike. I can use renewable energy instead of coal for the lights, and I can use LEDs or other efficient illuminators.

I think you have a point, but I think tech is different because, short of not buying it at all, you don't really have these alternatives--at least according to this article.

Re:Everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121675)

When I step, I aim for the ants.

Re:Everything (1)

smpoole7 (1467717) | about 2 years ago | (#40121693)

> Tell me, what can you do with a clean conscience?

Precisely. There is no cut and dried, absolute way to know for sure if what you're buying came from a "righteous" source. Not that many years ago, if you bought vegetables, many were harvested by badly-abused migrant workers. Before that, if you bought anything made of iron or steel, it was produced by people who were forced to work in horrible conditions where many died. The coal that was mined to create the steel resulted in the deaths of countless miners because of unsafe working conditions. Going back before that, it goes on and on and on.

Where possible, do good and do no evil. If I can help it, I buy what I need from sources that aren't overtly exploitative. But it's not quite as cut and dried as some might make it out to be. And I do agree that "being exploited" is a matter of opinion. If my family was starving and was going to die anyway, I just might take an otherwise-dangerous job at low pay to feed them.

Doesn't mean we shouldn't work to improve conditions for everyone. But to answer the submitter's question and headline, yes, unless I know for a fact that someone was sacrificed to build something, I WILL buy it with a clean conscience.

Re:Everything (1)

eclectro (227083) | about 2 years ago | (#40121833)

Can you eat meat you buy from the store?

Both grass fed beef and free range chicken are available in many areas.

Can you flip on the light switch in your home and consume electricity?

Many electric companies are offering sustainable options, wind power is gaining prominence, and solar cell panels are reaching a price parity with liquid fossil fuels.

All these things show what can be done with consumer and society pressure. While the solutions are not perfect (e.g. cost) an increasing awareness is clearly apparent. The point of this story is that consumer electronics is a black hole that no one really cares about.

That said, there are mentions of supply chain problems in the trade publications, and there will be increasing public awareness in light of the recent problems with widespread electronic part counterfeiting. [foxnews.com]

There has been news stories about working conditions at the large manufacturer Foxconn.

So while electronics may be escaping scrutiny for the moment, awareness does lead to alternatives, if not change in order to remain competitive.

As a suggestion to somewhat mitigate these problems, a consumer can find information about some electronics (e.g. things made in South Korea and Taiwan might be a better choice might than China). Also, buying something used locally will partially displace the effects of a possible new purchase.

And finally, no matter what you think about current politics, write your representatives about these problems.

nothing is ethical (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 2 years ago | (#40121429)

If you look far enough down the line, nothing is "ethical". Fair trade coffee means farmers aren't growing food to feed their own starving communities, organic means we need to use more land and cut down more forests. The local farmers at the market drive trucks filled with oil from the middle east and use the money you spend to buy African blood diamonds for their wives. If you want to be ethical, the best thing to do is to stop buying so much stuff in the first place. No you don't need a new phone every year and you will probably do just fine without a 70 inch television, and that car probably can last another year or two.

Re:nothing is ethical (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about 2 years ago | (#40121531)

But even that runs into problems. The modern world is built on spending - that's how the economy works. It must always grow, or else it falls apart. If enough people lived as you suggested, and stopped throwing money away on unneeded luxuries, what happens to all those who work in the factories that produce those luxuries, and those who mine the resources to feed those factories, and the workers in retail who sell them? All unemployed, which means they have no money to buy even essentials, which leads to more unemployment in a positive feedback loop that will destroy civilization. The economy depends upon wasteful spending, and civilization depends upon the economy. So you can't even advise people not to spend at all.

Re:nothing is ethical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121623)

Fine. I'll still advise people to not spend. I'd rather have our dysfunctional civilization collapse now than later and have us go extinct.

Re:nothing is ethical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121709)

If people stopped spending wastefully then there wouldn't be any money in the economy to buy wasteful things, sure.
But people would still, presumably, be motivated to do useful tasks. The farms would still produce enough food, et cetera, and the economy would adapt to make sure people still got fed, and given healthcare, education, et cetera.
Perhaps painfully :( But if the system forces people to run around doing wasteful, pointless tasks changing it will hopefully be less painful in the long run.

Re:nothing is ethical (2)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#40121587)

So if I stop buying stuff the third world wage slaves are out of work and can't buy food.

Read Paul Krugman's article, cited above. He's right. Being a wage slave sucks, but the alternative is much, much worse.

My conscious is clear (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121455)

"Low paid labour"

read: paid labour

Low-Paid Labor is High for the area (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121461)

The low-paid labor in china for most of these companies is relatively high wages for the area. There are people fighting for the privilege of working on one of these supply chains to earn what you consider a low wage. If you buy fewer items from these sources, then there is less need for their labor and they then get paid less. It seems like the ethical thing to do would be to buy their stuff so they can have better living and working conditions.

Re:Low-Paid Labor is High for the area (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121771)

Yeah, and if we the privileged continue to promote low wages by purchasing unethically manufactured quasi-disposable technology, we'll eventually earn the privilege of fighting for underpaid jobs too. Let's change the way the system works.

Did you buy your shoes with a clean conscience? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121463)

Why are you singling out technology? We have chosen to live in a capitalist society, people are going to be exploited, that's just the way it is.

Re:Did you buy your shoes with a clean conscience? (1)

doston (2372830) | about 2 years ago | (#40121509)

Why are you singling out technology? We have chosen to live in a capitalist society, people are going to be exploited, that's just the way it is.

We've chosen? I don't remember a vote on that.

Re:Did you buy your shoes with a clean conscience? (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 2 years ago | (#40121557)

Well Americans have one that seems to come down to it every 4 years.

More importantly though, that's got pretty much nothing to do with "capitalism" and seeing as how Ayn Rand couldn't but help contradict her own half-baked philosophy within the very text in which she instantiated, it should tell you something about it's connections to any serious theory of economics.

Re:Did you buy your shoes with a clean conscience? (2)

Truekaiser (724672) | about 2 years ago | (#40121617)

exactly. the reason why most things are so cheap that you as a non-rich person. can buy them is that somewhere along the line of it's manufacture is either a slave wage paid person working 16 hour days, actual slave labor, etc. if you don't want to participate in this process there is basically only a single option. join the amish or similarly minded groups.

the current civilization, as in what's generally called 'western' or 'European' is based solely on exploitation. if not of people through actual slave labor or slave wages. then through exploitation and destruction of land for natural resources. oil, natural gas, coal, diamonds, ore mining.

it used to be in the 1800's the people portion was here at home, the labor conditions in china right now strangely mirror the ones in the united states during this time. 12+ hour days. company towns/complexes where your in perpetual debt to the company(i sold my soul at the company store), payed so little you could barely eat etc. all so the richer people here could enjoy a very similar lifestyle to what you and i do now(they did not have the advanced electronics but a lot of modern gadgets were around back then at least in the later 1800's in one form or another.)

the people then had enough, through years of violent labor strikes and other means people here won better wages, shorter work days, rights and protections. but this also came about because technology improved and a lot of the labor that was done by people could be replaced with machines. the labor that could not would be pushed elsewhere.

to make a long explanation short. the reason your here right now, able to have time to worry about the 'ethical implications' of buying widget A instead of widget B is that you knowingly or unknowingly live in a society that has exported it's exploitation in it's majority to countries 'far away' for stuff that machines can't do, and replaced human workers with machines when they can. exploitation is in the nature of the machine and is the only reason why you have the free time to worry about these things in the first place.

With Western countries exploiting Asian... (1)

zarlino (985890) | about 2 years ago | (#40121485)

...industrial growth for half a century, I can't even imagine what the introduction of any kind of ethic would imply for our societies.

Ethics (2)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#40121653)

Ethics is just another word for efficiency and standards. As standards and efficiency increase so do the ethical ramifications. As populations in Asia become more prosperous and knowledgeable, they too will demand better standards for pollution control and quality of life.

It's the same problem as the food supply (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | about 2 years ago | (#40121499)

How can you eat meat in good conscience and I don't mean vegetarianism. Most animals are raised in conditions worse than concentration camps. Do you have a choice? Even "free range" can mean a somewhat larger cage as in one they can turn around in. I remember when Organic vegetables first hit the factory farms were asking how much pesticide can they use and still call it organic. The point is we aren't allowed to choose. We can't all live in caves, there aren't enough caves. Sitting in your living room tonight just try to point to something you bought in the last 5 years that didn't at least in part come from Southeast Asia. How do you single out electronics? Yes the level of toxic chemicals used and the amount of energy used for every pound of electronics is huge, even the water usage is massive. Something like an iPad would take hundreds of gallons of water used in the factory for things like cleaning parts. Keep up the pressure for better conditions, even with food conditions have improved on some farms due to pressure. Simply doing a one person embargo will have zero affect and you'd be living in a fool's paradise because you'd still be surrounded with items nearly as bad. Where do you think blue jeans come from? Your food is picked by people making less than minimum wage and some kid in India sewed up your jeans. It's the world we live in. Ultimately as bad as the jobs are they still feed their families with them so the ones harmed by not buying the product are the very ones you think you are helping.

Re:It's the same problem as the food supply (1)

scarboni888 (1122993) | about 2 years ago | (#40121711)

The fact of the matter is that the nature of the universe has culminated in creatures which require vast amounts of energy to accomodate their oversized brains capacity for being easily bored so I say it deserves whatever it gets. If trashing the planet wasn't part of the plan then I say go for it and waste away man!

Re:It's the same problem as the food supply (1)

scarboni888 (1122993) | about 2 years ago | (#40121739)

CORRECTION: If trashing the planet wasn't part of the plan then we wouldn't have evolved the capacity to do so I say go for it and waste away man!

Providing a job is not unethical (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121507)

Yes. They are not slaves. They choose to take the job. A low paying job is better than being unemployed, so why would I feel bad about helping to provide a job that they choose to accept?

Made in USA (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121511)

Or European countries have good standards too :)

China (1)

unixisc (2429386) | about 2 years ago | (#40121513)

Ever since Tienanmen Square, I've wanted to avoid buying anything Chinese. Also b'cos I support independence for Tibet. However, since that's a non starter worldwide, w/ every company of note having manufacturing there, and the few that ain't being unaffordable, I pretty much leave my conscience in the car whenever I go out shopping. Be it for tech or other items.

I'm just waiting for the Chinese economy to crash, just like Japan's did years ago, and the US did. As they say, the higher they rise, the harder they fall

Re:China (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121775)

Chinese economy has always been the largest and most prosperous through the majority of human history so in waiting for them to "crash" you do not have history on your side. Historically Japan and The United States always had small and decrepit economies wracked by constant warfare. Things are just returning to equilibrium now with China at the top and Japan and the USA on the edges.

Also you do realize the reports of deaths at Tiananmen Square were willfully exaggerated by the Western media for propaganda purposes? Check out the documents relating to Tiananmen that surfaced on Wikileaks in the last few years. They knew there was no "massacre" there and that the protestors killed dozens of police. If anyone was being "massacred" it was the police sent in to restore order. Can you imagine if the protestors at Zucotti Park started killing cops when their encampment was moved? You need to stop your anti-Chinese racism. Also you may want to free Hawaii first before worrying about Chinese provinces like Tibet and Taiwan so you don't look like such a hypocrite.

China's government is far, far worse than that. (1)

JOrgePeixoto (853808) | about 2 years ago | (#40121811)

Ever since Tienanmen Square, I've wanted to avoid buying anything Chinese.

If you think the PRC's government was evil in its handling of the Tienanmen Square affair, then check out
the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.
It involves deaths by the dozens of millions. It includes Marxist ideologues brainwashing children into spying
in their own homes and reporting their parents to the authorities for not being Marxist enough.
And while people focus on China's current growth, they forget the decades of economic disaster (including
catastrophic famines) that followed the Marxist Coup d'état in 1949. They also forget that Taiwan has 7 times the
GDP percapita of the PRC. If the Coup d'etat had never happened, the Chinese people would be today enormously
better, both in material terms but most importantly in human rights terms.

And the evil continues.

The PRC's government applies the death penalty for crimes as mild as
tax evasion, and keeps the executions as a state secret. It is estimated
that 5,000 people were executed in the PRC in 2009 (while the US executed
43 people in 2011).
See http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hFQaRjQMjW42oMtQteJRcaFeor4Q [google.com] [google.com]
It censors democratic ideologies, criticism to their government,
and religion. It uses very heavy-handed tactics (including throwing women into
vans and aborting their babies against their will) to dictate how many children
a couple can have. It protects some of the most evil governments in human History,
such as North Korea.

PRC is not Pinochet-style of evil. It is Pol Pot-style of evil.

What angers me the most? Left-wing psychopaths praising China
for "lifting people from poverty", and capitalist morons (useful idiots)
praising China for attracting investment.

I'm from a low income country (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121525)

I'm from a low income country and many ppl here WANT to work in these export oriented factories such as textiles and agri processing because it pays MUCH MUCH better than the other locally available options.. Yes these jobs might not be upto western standards but they are much better than what's locally available..

Over the past 10 years we have seen the work situation and salary rise a lot (over 200%) as there is a demand for labour now due to 100's of new factories opening up. Even the local employers have been forced to now offer better deals due to the shortage of manpower and I'm sure overall the standard of living has improved as well.. If you in western countries stop buying these goods and these factories close, many of these ppl will have to return to conditions that are worse and it will be to the delight of local employers who will be free to exploit the workforce..

Why limit the question (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 2 years ago | (#40121527)

Why limit the question? The same could be asked about clothing and most household and business items, too.

D0n't botherz me wit dat! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121535)

Man, what a downer you are. Instead, I'm here to bitch and moan about songs costing 99 cents from The Man. Don't give me any shit about people who are slaves in China. It's my right to use slave labor to justify downloading Led Zeppelin's Zoso. That's what really counts; my rights. The **IA mafia is repressing my culture by not allowing me to download Iron Man 2? Fuck that. I shouldn't have to pay for a movie. If they don't make money they should have made better career decisions.... just like the bitches in China.

Sincerely

-NeckBeard, the Pirrrate

Try not to be a consumerist muppet (1)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#40121555)

That is to say, stop buying into the notion of constant consumption. Take gadgets. Why are you buying a given gadget? Is it to fulfill a specific task or set of tasks? Or is it merely a transient status symbol? If the gadget serves a specific function, such as saving time, or making one more efficient, then it is creating value. Furthermore, the longer you use the gadget, the more efficiency it produces in the life of the user. We all know that rare earth metals are mined in horrible conditions, promote war lords, slavery, and worse. What we can do on an individual basis is make the logical choice of minimizing the influence we have over inadvertent promotion of such horrible practices.

Knowledge is power to the 'consumer'. If enough of us stop buying into the notion of conspicuous consumption, the corporations will be forced to adapt. They might even make better quality products! Additionally, with the current precarious economic times in the world, using what little funds we have to save for the future (for retirement, housing, a business, or child education) further helps promote a sustainable society. Thinking globally, acting locally is more relevant than ever n the globalized world we have today.

Just do what Apple customers do (-1, Flamebait)

TopSpin (753) | about 2 years ago | (#40121571)

Perhaps the following can help those dealing with the more general issue of buying products manufactured in China, et. al. These are the collected rationalizations that typically appear when discussing Apple and Foxconn.

Why I'm ok with my Chinese manufactured iPhone/Pad

- or -

Apple/Foxconn worker and environmental exploitation rationalization worksheet

Check all that apply

[ ] Making iPhones in a Chinese factory is better than being a Chinese peasant
[ ] iPhones/Pads would cost too much if I had to pay my fellow citizens to make them
[ ] iPhones/Pads would cost too much given environmental regulations I vehemently insist on for myself
[ ] All the other manufacturers are doing it too
[ ] Some/Many/Most Chinese workers appreciate 70 hour weeks and breathing my aluminum dust
[ ] It's not Apple, it's Foxconn
[ ] It's not Apple, it's the Chinese government
[ ] It's just capitalism at work
[ ] It's just communism at work
[ ] Apple's disposable workers are paid better than non-Apple disposable workers
[ ] Apple's auditors didn't find any serious issues
[ ] Some day the Chinese will be too wealthy to exploit
[ ] Your Android is Foxconn too
[ ] You're an Apple hater using Apple as a scapegoat
[ ] I also work 60/80/100/120 hour weeks at my IT job
[ ] Apple designers are in the US
[ ] The US did the same thing to the British
[ ] The US had slaves once too
[ ] The US has prison labor today
[ ] It's up to the Chinese to stand up to their oppressive government
[ ] There are lines of willing workers outside Foxconn factories
[ ] If any company were to stop the exploitation, I really think it'll be Apple
[ ] Your free Linux runs on Chinese hardware too
[ ] Foxconn workers think they have it great, so it's ok!
[ ] Foxconn worker suicides are lower than Chicago's murder rate
[ ] We can't pollute the whole world!
[ ] Half of all US households have an Apple product
[ ] If we don't exploit them they'll never develop

Re:Just do what Apple customers do (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121679)

I took the test and checked them all. Do I get a prize?

Sincerely, iDouche

Taking this to its logical conclusion: (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 years ago | (#40121577)

Reduce Atmospheric Use!

All that oxygen you're greedily sucking down when you go jogging just to make yourself look thinner and trimmer could be use by someone in the third world or animals. Ditto the food calories you burn up. And you exploited thir world labor for those
running shorts to be made.

How can you bear to keep existing and keeping others under the thumbs of your use of resources. Your existence prevents other more worthy beings like microbes from existing.

Commit suicide today in an environmentally friendly way, but make sure you put your body somewhere it can be reused. Like a compost heap. Or, at least sit around and do nothing so you use less.

(The rest of us will follow along right after you. We promise!)

I'm all for improving worldwide quality of life, increasing efficiency and righting wrongs, but IMHO, much of the motivation for this sort of silliness is not making it better, but assuaging guilt. Instead, you buy the same bloody thing from a company that greenwashes it. That way you can go right along with your life but get to think "I'm better than those people who didn't get a fair trade coltan sticker (or whatnot) for their cellphone.

I know you're kidding but... (1)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#40121671)

If everyone PERSONALLY reduced their CO2 emissions, the world would be a better place.

What is wrong with you people? (3, Insightful)

the_B0fh (208483) | about 2 years ago | (#40121583)

Who the fuck says the factory workers are low paid? The people who work on iPads get paid *MORE* than engineers and computer programmers, on par with pilots. HOW IS THAT LOW PAID?

As for the other parts of your question, Apple seems to be the most ethical of them all, having invited audits of the factories and requirements that flow on down to subcontracting factories.

Re:What is wrong with you people? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121761)

Apple seems to be the most ethical of them all,

Only if you completely ignore the fact that they are turning personal computing into some Orwellian nightmare version of itself, where a central authority must approve everything you see or do with your device.

Low-paid labour is not the worst problem (1)

JOrgePeixoto (853808) | about 2 years ago | (#40121585)

IMAO the worst problem is funding a totalitarian Marxist dictatorship.

The PRC's government applies the death penalty for crimes as mild as
tax evasion, and keeps the executions as a state secret. It is estimated
that 5,000 people were executed in the PRC in 2009 (while the US executed
43 people in 2011).
See http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5hFQaRjQMjW42oMtQteJRcaFeor4Q [google.com]
It censors democratic ideologies, criticism to their government,
and religion. It uses very heavy-handed tactics (including throwing women into
vans and aborting their babies against their will) to dictate how many children
a couple can have. It protects some of the most evil governments in human History,
such as North Korea.

The PRC is, by far, the most evil government among big countries.

Re:Low-paid labour is not the worst problem (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#40121659)

It is estimated that 5,000 people were executed in the PRC in 2009...

Eh.. Sounds like a good way to reduce the prison population.

...(while the US executed 43 people in 2011).

On the other hand you get damn near free labor from live prisoners.

Capitalism wins!

Can you write an ethical article? (1)

danmart1 (1839394) | about 2 years ago | (#40121613)

I wonder how the person who wrote this can do so with a clean conscience? It just give people yet another thing to stress over when they can't really do anything about it. We have two options. 1) Use technology 2) Don't use technology While option one MAY cause people to fret, after this article, there is not much anyone can do about it. Option 2 is definitely viable, but uncomfortable for many many people. I swear to the Tech Gods that if ANYONE comes out with "organic technology" I will personally use my homeopathic c-clamp to crush their testicles.

Re:Can you write an ethical article? (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about 2 years ago | (#40121733)

..."organic technology"...

Here [wired.com] you see them slicing wafers with the most basic tools..

And it tastes delicious!

Your real problem here.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121631)

...is that you are not deciding for yourselves what's 'ethical'.

You are simply taking directions from various activist organisations about what is 'ethical', and which companies meet that standard. And it is in the interests of those activist organisations to find 'unethical activity' - they would have no purpose if they didn't find some....

Wrong question! (1)

longk (2637033) | about 2 years ago | (#40121689)

Can you in good conscience stop buying tech and put these people out of a job? Send them back to the country side where conditions are even worse?

The question is not whether to buy or not to buy tech. The question is which brands try hardest to do the right thing so you can support those and encourage change.

Tech? Why not Shoes or Food? (1)

Flipstylee (1932884) | about 2 years ago | (#40121783)

If you have the funding to make this choice, then you probably shouldn't be worried about it.
Where i live, and many surrounding cities, about 99% of us can't make that choice, and this is where this
discussion always goes.

We can't just point out a small part of the problem and run with it, this bad, little or no structure gives way to nothing but bias...
have we forgotton that we buy this shit by the cargo ship?

meh, mod me foolish but it seems improper that these
articles and news stories are the only push we have against said practices.

No Kids (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121817)

No Kids, done my bit so really don't give a damn.

Clean water is.an example (1)

Invisible Now (525401) | about 2 years ago | (#40121839)

I work for a clean-tech company that generates and reuses the ultra-pure water wet lines need for the manufacture of semiconductors, solar, disk drives and other high tech items. As importantly, not only the water is recycled, but as an integral part of our patented processes, production chemicals are recycled,and never leave the four walls of the fab. Fabs can use more than one thousand gallons of water per MINUTE. Water resources are growing scarce and have become a major constraint on available sites for new plants. Even worse, the toxic chemicals that get discharged can screw up everything for people downstream.. The irony is our point of use solutions can reduce costs compared to conventional technologies by 70%. We are growing fast, but the word needs to get out that there are better, more ethical ways, to produce the high tech goodies we all enjoy.

Wrong premise in the article (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#40121851)

The article assumes that the most cost for companies creating these gadgets come from the labor costs. This is simply not correct.

It is way more expensive to make errors in the production chain. Trying to keep the production running from other side of the world
is such difficult task that any small labor cost is irrelevant compared to the number of problems this will cause. Losing opportunity to sell
your product is considerably bigger problem than trivial labor costs.

Those are the good jobs (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 2 years ago | (#40121871)

If you were a person in one of those countries, you'd be very lucky to get many of those jobs. Those are the good jobs.

Consider what labor meant during the industrial revolution. It meant the difference between your children starving or not. Literally. And often to make that happen you'd have to put the children to work as well.

These people are pulling themselves through hundreds of years of Western economic history in no time. It isn't literally over night but what took us hundreds of years is taking them decades because they're just copying us verbatim.

You shouldn't feel bad about it. They're slaves. They show up to work because those are the good jobs.

I might avoid Foxconn (between the suicides and forced internships... basically slavery... I have issues with them.) and anyone that uses them. But other then that I see no reason to avoid any of them.

Have they fogotten about oil? (3, Insightful)

JOrgePeixoto (853808) | about 2 years ago | (#40121891)

Why focusing only on low-paid labour from China?

Another product that should awake peoples consciences is oil.

Oil comes from very oppressive and aggressive places - Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran. By buying oil we fund a future Jewish genocide. We engage Israel's enemies militarily (thus enlarging the already excessive US military, and feeding anti-Americanism) with our right hand and throw bags of money at them with our left hand. This is *extremely* counter-productive; it would be very funny if it wasn't so tragic. The government should overtax gas-guzzlers (including SUVs!), subsidise economic cars and lift the barriers on Brazilian ethanol.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Sign up for Slashdot Newsletters
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...