Keen On… Mike Daisey: Why America Has Nothing To Learn From Silicon Valley (TCTV)

Editor’s Note: In March 2012, the national radio show “This American Life”, which ran a long excerpt from Mike Daisey’s play “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”, retracted its story saying it contains significant fabrications. Daisey responded saying the play “uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story.” TechCrunch has interviewed Daisey several times about his acclaimed play and he repeated to us some of the stories he has now admitted he didn’t actually witness. For more, see John Biggs’ TechCrunch post on “The Agony and Ecstasy of Mike Daisey“, and other posts about the retraction and Daisey’s response.

Last week, Intuit co-founder Scott Cook appeared on my show and extolled the virtues of the Chinese economic development model. Cook used the example of Deng Xiaoping’s establishment of “Special Economic Zones” such as in Shenzhen that, he said, has resulted in 300 million Chinese people being liberated from “grinding poverty”. Today, the acclaimed monologist Mike Daisey responds to Scott Cook’s argument, describing the defense of Special Economic Zones as “absolutely sickening” and claiming that Cook needed to “wake up” to the appallingly cruel realities of working conditions in Shenzhen.

Daisey extended his criticism of Cook at all of Silicon Valley, arguing that its tradition of outsourcing the production of hardware to companies like Foxconn in China has created what he calls a “vaporized” economy. So whereas some high tech supporters of Occupy Wall Street, like Roger McNamee, think that the American political and banking system can learn much from Silicon Valley, Daisey believes that its reliance on outsourcing the production of its hardware to China is actually a moral warning about how not to behave in today’s globalized economy.

This is the second part of a two part conversation with Daisey whose live show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” continues to play to rave reviews in New York City. Yesterday, he told me why technology journalists are all cowards.