I bought my MacBook Air today and it really is a great little machine. This is my third Apple purchase (phone, pad, air), though I’ve received three iPods as gifts from my parents over the years. For someone who has read a bit and pays attention to the technology he uses, buying into an Apple product means buying into all the criticism of production processes, Foxconn abuses, leaderly bullying and abuse by the late Jobs, etc, etc. Yes, there aren’t a lot of options for ethical electronics purchases, and the competition might be as bay or worse than Apple and it’s suppliers, but that’s a pretty lame excuse.
I got started thinking about the morality of these purchases from the perspective of someone in the future. What are our great-grandchildren going to think about our present habits, about what’s presently permissible? It’s not hard to imagine there will be things that seem barbaric and downright mad to them (Slavery was once acceptable). I heard a story about an actress in Hollywood in the 20s whose name escapes me – she was an early feminist, expected equality in pay, treatment, etc, and never received it from the studios or from the rest of society. In the end, she went mad, but the truth was (to us) everyone else was mad. She was just ahead of her time.
While it’s pretty clear one source of condemnation for our generation will be the treatment of animals. But my great new apple things got me thinking about whether we will be condemned for our purchases and habits of consumption.
In 100 years time school children will likely learn all about how the early 21st Century burned fossil fuels, mined the earth barren, all the while knowing that one day it would all run out… And kept on using them anyway. We even used fossil fuels for transport, they will be told and they may well be incredulous. “You mean they wasted precious oil just going places? What a luxury!” Perhaps they won’t all even be in the same room, but commuting via high speed Internet.
They will also be incredulous that anyone could be so ignorant and uncaring as to buy gadgets knowing full well they were causing wars in other parts of the world… but they kept doing it anyway. Perhaps out present condition will be given a catchy name – distributed denial of responsibility, where everyone knows but no one believes they can do anything about it…
And it’s hard to argue they won’t be right. It is bizarre that we do many of the things we do. It is also horribly unfair that we are delivering a for our children’s children that has the potential to be horrid.
I have no excuse! But I still need a laptop…