Can Technology Truly Pay for Its’ Sins?


I found this article by Rana Foroohar in my inbox this morning, and while normally I am ripping the business world and the obtuseness of their whole perspective apart, I was so glad to finally see a major business publication acknowledge the oft ignored downsides of the technical world and how it affects regular users and small business owners, aka you and me.

Whether it’s letting the NSA snoop on our email accounts and direct messages, or the classic white collar crime of tax evasion, the tech world has been able to get away with an awful lot in the past, most likely when the technology was less understood by many. Now, however, people are taking interest in things like Apple and Google’s backroom dealings, if only because these companies are now a part of many people’s daily lives, and they are sharply in their focus.

What’s frustrating about this new focus on the big bad guys is how central to North American life this gaze is, and how it ignores how powerless we have made ourselves, here at the supposed top of the world.  We’ve all known for some time now that Apple’s labour contracts tend to end in the death of Chinese workers, but that we have accepted this as a simple fact of technological and first world life will never not be disturbing for me. Between this very American acceptance of unjust labour and the way that technology developed for Americans has essentially taken over the world, (And I’m not the only one who thinks this) I have to wonder how critical we are first world fat cats are actually capable of being, despite all our bluster. I mean, I suspect Google of everything all the time, but I’m typing this on a chromebook, and my boyfriend and I both use iPhones. I am reliant on the technology I find objectionable, but I probably won’t stop buying it, even though I think it’s terrible what is happening to workers in China, and I’m incredibly irritated on how Google is funding some real creepy, backwards organizations.

I guess what I’m saying is how meaningful is our criticism if we can essentially do nothing beyond write about it?  Sure there are governmental meetings that attempt to get something out of Apple’s tax evasion, but like many, I am skeptical about how that will play out and doubtful it will result in anything meaningful. We simply aren’t able to effectively hold these companies accountable, and even if we were able to, I’m not sure what we’d do once we got there. We’ve already given up our money, technology and time to these devils that we barely know. And now that they have fully integrated their ways into our lives, we’re totally unable to function without them. We’re trapped without many other options, which means most of our criticism is meaningless.

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