The Cost of Technological Progress……

15 May

‘We all love our mobiles, iPads and laptops and most of us would feel lost without them. We also care about our planet, support eco-friendly products and would use them if they met our needs. Everybody loves a bargain, so when the price of technology keeps on falling we upgrade, even if our device is perfectly adequate. It sounds like a panacea; cheap, accessible and green. But as the old saying goes, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is……’


We all know that global industries are not in business for pleasure. They have one goal and that is to return the maximum possible profits. So a penny saved by the consumer is a penny recouped from somewhere else and that usually involves a human cost along the way……


I am writing and administering this blog from a seven year old laptop and, with good housekeeping, it continues to function perfectly. In fact I cannot think of anything I can’t do that a new computer would make possible. The truth of the matter is that we suffer from ‘technology envy’ and the sleek new laptops and phones are more cosmetically satisfying than they are functionally better; but we want one anyway. This applies to TVs, fridges, coffee machines, cars and almost any gadget we own. To supply goods at discount prices savings have to be made……


Human Resources, and a ‘resource’ is what we are in the eyes of global industries, is one of the first lines of cost cutting which is why your technology is almost always made in a country with no public healthcare, dilapidated infrastructure, chronic poverty and corrupt officials. For it is in those countries that humans can be bought at the least cost. They work 16 hour days and the concept of health and safety doesn’t appear in the equation. There is no sick pay or paid holidays and the employees dare not challenge the bosses because they are replaceable by the next desperate person……


Many companies claim to monitor standards at their far eastern supplier but the reality is that they will be shown a specially set up part of a factory; clean, safe and air conditioned. If they interview employees they are too frightened to speak up. This was brought into sharp focus by the recent collapse of a factory that made clothing for many well known high street brands……


The second issue is caused by the technology itself. To make batteries that last longer, motors with more power and the materials that aid miniaturisation we often use what are known as ‘rare earth elements’ such as Boron and Neodymium. By an accident of geology rare earth elements are most common in third world economies. Extracting them requires yet more cheap manpower and extracting them can leave behind toxic chemicals; chemicals that developed nations have strict regulations regarding their disposal. Unscrupulous third world companies simply dump them on the ground or into rivers. Another unfortunate consequence of rare earth elements is their rarity. Hundreds of tons of earth may contain only a tiny amount of the desired element, therefore, extracting them causes the destruction of vast areas of important ecosystems……


So, the next time you’re thinking of upgrading to the latest sleek, brushed aluminium mobile phone or laptop, ask yourself if you really need it, because your new phone may be helping to shorten someone’s life, contributing to the extinction of plants and animals, and ultimately halting development of third world countries.


And all because multi-national global companies need to pay huge bonuses and increase profits. ‘Sustainable growth’ has to be one of histories most damaging and unrealistic oxymoron ever to have come from a comfortable, air conditioned, over staffed and detached boardroom since ‘think tanks’ came into existence……


One Response to “The Cost of Technological Progress……”

  1. Steve Walker May 28, 2014 at 8:53 am #

    Hi, I found your request for some help with Anglian Water. Who am I talking to and how can i help?

    I can be reached @ (Private email please do not share)

    The Dripping Tap

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