My favorite blogger, Joel Johnson, took a supervised trip to Foxconn’s factories in Shenzhen, China last year and has finally gathered his reporting into an excellent piece in this month’s wired. His mission?
Still, after years of writing what is (at best) buyers’ guidance and (at worst) marching hymns for an army of consumers, I was burdened by what felt like an outsize provision of guilt—an existential buyer’s remorse for civilization itself. I am here because I want to know: Did my iPhone kill 17 people?
While the number of suicides in a million-strong factory could be written off as statistical fluke, the real question is whether the conditions inside the factory are causing despair and the associated deaths.
The question is this: is Foxconn a shining light of modernity in a benighted market or is its still too horrible for human habitation. As Joel points out, the campus is posh and full of canteens, entertainment, and dorms. “It rings as unalloyed munificence—until a man puts his foot on the edge of a roof, looks across the campus full of trees and swimming pools and coffee shops, and steps off into nothing.”
If anyone can write about the dark side of our gadget obsession it’s Joel and I recommend the read.