Update (3/22/2012): This American Life has pulled the episode because Mike Daisey’s story contained a lot of fabrications. The facts of FoxConn weren’t fabricated, but a lot of his personal stories and encounters were. Any statement that starts with “I have seen” is probably suspect and untrue. This original post is left below, because it was a point in time writing based on the impact the episode had on me.
How often do we wish more things were hand made. Oh we talk about that all the time, don’t we. “I wish it was like the old days. I wish things had that human touch.”
But that’s not true. There are more hand made things now then there have ever been in the history of the world.
Everything is hand made. I know, I have been there, I have seen the workers laying in parts thinner than a human hair, one after another, after another.
Everything is hand made.
This American Life has an incredible show this past week, an adaptation of Mike Daisey’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” for the radio. It’s the story of his trip to Shenzhen, to find the origin of his iPhone.
The story is amazing. The story telling is amazing. And the questions it raises about what it means to be a part of the global economy, are interesting and thought provoking.
If you’ve ever owned anything that has “Made in China” stamped on it, you should listen to Mr Daisey and The Apple Factory.
From This American Life’s latest show:
In early July, the bankrupt tech company Nortel put its 6,000 patents up for auction as part of a liquidation. A bidding war broke out among Silicon Valley powerhouses. Google said it wanted the patents purely to defend against lawsuits and it was willing to spend over $3 billion to get them. That wasn’t enough, though.
The portfolio eventually sold to Apple and a consortium of other tech companies including Microsoft and Ericsson. The price tag: $4.5 billion dollars. Five times the opening bid. More than double what most people involved were expecting. The largest patent auction in history.
That’s $4.5 billion on patents that these companies almost certainly don’t want for their technical secrets. That $4.5 billion won’t build anything new, won’t bring new products to the shelves, won’t open up new factories that can hire people who need jobs. That’s $4.5 billion dollars that adds to the price of every product these companies sell you. That’s $4.5 billion dollars buying arms for an ongoing patent war.
The big companies — Google, Apple, Microsoft — will probably survive. The likely casualties are the companies out there now that no one’s ever heard of that could one day take their place.
This American Life did a bang up job taking Intellectual Ventures to task this weekend for basically being in the mafia business. It’s a pretty amazing story, especially when they try to find one of the “protected inventors” that IV claims it helped out. Well worth listening to.