Wired: It's About the Guilt, Not the Suicides


The March issue of Wired has the bold cover lines: "1 Million Workers. 90 million iPhones. 17 Suicides. This is Where your Gadgets Come From. Should You Care?"

The suicides are the hook, center on the cover, for this profile of a visit to the Foxconn factory complex in Shenzhen, China. The most interesting actual news in it is the fact that Shenzhen is apparently in the process of losing its prominence as China's cutting-edge industrial center.

But the suicide part, well, you learn prett

y early in the article that "American college students kill themselves at four times that rate," and much later in the article discover that "the suicide rate at Foxconn's Shenzhen plant remains below the national averages for both rural and urban China."

That was just the hook, not the point, which is toward the end of the article by Joel Johnson, an editor at gizmodo:

To be soaked in materialism, to directly and indirectly champion it, has also brought guilt. I don't know if I have a right to the vast quantities of materials and energy I consume in my daily life. Even if I thought I did, I know the planet cannot bear my lifestyle multiplied by 7 billion individuals. I believe this understanding is shared, if only subconsciously, by almost everyone in the Western world.

Every last trifle we touch and consume, right down to the paper on which this magazine is printed or the screen on which it's displayed, is not only ephemeral but in a real sense irreplaceable. Every consumer good has a cost not borne out by its price but instead falsely bolstered by a vanishing resource economy. We squander millions of years' worth of stored energy, stored life, from our planet to make not only things that are critical to our survival and comfort but also things that simply satisfy our innate primate desire to possess.

Past blogging from me on Shenzhen's dynamic business models, from 2007. Jesse Walker blogged on the innovations that can arise from Shenzhen's industrial knockoffs in 2009.