The Hive-Mind and Steve Jobs
My reaction on the death of Steve Jobs, ex-CEO of Apple, was the same as those expressed over and over in the online hive-mind of Twitter, and surprisingly strong.
Thinking about this, I copied and pasted a couple of hundred tweets about Steve Jobs into 'Wordle', which aggregates the most common words and formats them according to frequency of occurrence. Here is the unsurprising result:
What doesn't show up in the graphic is a small number of comments made on Twitter regarding the working conditions in the factories where Apple products are made. If you're not up to speed, a huge number of digital devices sold in the west are manufactured by Foxconn, that operates in various developing nations. From Wikipedia:
"Hon Hai's first manufacturing plant in Mainland China opened in Longhua,Shenzhen in 1988. Now the company's largest operation, 300,000 to 450,000 workers are employed in Shenzhen at the Longhua Science & Technology Park, a cramped, walled campus sometimes referred to as "Foxconn City" or "iPod City". Covering about 1.16 square miles (3 square km), it includes 15 factories, worker dormitories, a swimming pool, a fire brigade, and a downtown complete with a grocery store, bank, restaurants, bookstore, and hospital. While some workers live in surrounding towns and villages, others live and work inside the complex, which broadcasts its own television network, Foxconn TV."
There has been plenty of criticism of the living conditions in these factory-cities.
450,000 workers in three square kilometers; it is another hive, a work-hive, creating the devices by which we connect to each other on the hive-mind social media.
It's the same broad issue that rich people like us face with many manufactured products that we love: the grunt work goes to poor people and we are left to do the fun stuff, the ideas-work.
The ideas-work: the inspirational stuff you can do on an iPad. Whence my admiration for Jobs, whose clarity of mind and insight shaped the devices whose elegance assists us gain clarity of mind and insight. It's a precious prize in a world characterised by information overload and noise.
In the west we navigate an information landscape. At the top of Mount Maslow, my life is in the shape of creativity, not survival, until I die like Steve Jobs.
When we upgrade our devices, the old ones are liable to be shipped back to a poor country. Journalist Giovanna Vitola blogs about her experiences in the e-Waste dump in Ghana, where shipments from Australia were arriving. Children fossick through the waste and it gets burned and toxic fumes float through a local market.
My mind is drawn to both these worlds at the sad news of the death of Steve Jobs.