Right off the bat, This American Life host Ira Glass had me very intrigued in his podcast “Mr. Daisey and Apple”. Holding a new iPhone 4S, Glass simply asked Siri, “Where were you manufactured?” It seems to be a simple question, one that a software with the power of Siri should certainly be able to answer. Hell, I feel like Siri could find me the nearest McDonalds in Antarctica if she had to. Siri is unlike any technology I’ve ever seen before, which makes her response that much more intriguing. She says, “I am not allowed to say”. It is a blunt, simple response, yet one that carries an incredible amount of meaning behind it. Soon after his experience with Siri, Glass introduces Mike Daisey as the main feature of the podcast. Daisey spends the next hour investigating further into all the practices of Apple that the public has a tendency to overlook.
I was very interested in Daisey’s anecdote about his approach and experiences regarding the Foxconn plant in Shenzhen, China. I had never even heard of Foxconn before, which I find unbelievable now that I know Foxconn has over 430,000 workers and manufactures technology products for Apple, Samsung, Panasonic, and more. Daisey’s description of Foxconn and the industrial Chinese city of Shenzhen blew me away. I read George Orwell’s 1984 my senior year of high school, and I personally consider it one of my favorite novels of all time. Therefore, you can see why the similarities between Foxconn and 1984 resonated with me loud and clear. Daisey speaks of armed guards at Foxconn, 13 year old workers, and nets installed on the side of buildings to stop the recent rash of suicides from employees.
After the story about his investigation of Foxconn, Daisey drops the million dollar question. The question that the whole podcast and the discussion of Apple is centered around. “Do you really think Apple doesn’t know?” Or, “do they only see what they want to see?” Daisey talks about Foxconn and Shenzhen (I’m also blown away I had never heard of this city) and the labor situation there as though it is the United States during the 1800s’ Industrial Revolution. He refers to 15 hour days, workers dying from exhaustion, chemical exposure, and cramped living conditions. On top of that, camera’s are everywhere, which makes Shenzhen a perfect storm of 1984 and Industrial Revolution combined. A laborers’ worst nightmare.
On a larger scale, through this podcast my eyes were definitely opened to the cruelty of the working conditions in China. I always knew Apple and other major technology companies employed some questionable tactics regarding the manufacturing of their products overseas. However, my awareness was raised immensely after hearing Mike Daisey’s stories from Foxconn. I was especially struck since I listened to the podcast and typed this blog post on my Apple MacBook Pro. It makes you wonder who produced and manufactured my laptop, and what kind of conditions they manufactured it in. It is clear that Apple knows about the problems taking place in China at factories where Apple products are produced. Apple claims to be transparent, and seems to be taking steps to improve the conditions overseas. However, I agree with Daisey in that I question how much effort Apple is really putting into solving these problems. They still are withholding lots of information from the public about the issues. Moving forward, I will definitely remember what I heard in this podcast, and I will keep my ears open for any public news regarding more changes Apple may finally be attempting to make.