Conscious Consumerism

Dumb As A Smart Phone

environment, Supply chainNick OgdenComment

I have to admit, I get caught up in the wave after wave of glamorous new tech that hits the market month after month, and I find myself having to restrain from falling into this insidious trap. Tech manufacturers create devices that are no longer about standing the test of time and weathering until they physically stop working. All tech seems to now have an internal clock set for an 18 month window of operation, then when the clock strikes they slowly degrade forcing us to buy the latest gadget from our chosen manufacturer. This may be from new software updates that are meant for the operating systems of the new tech but are to advanced for our current outdated devices. It may be faulty hardware inside our devices that physically aren't meant to last. Most likely it is is our perception of our "old" tech compared to that of its newer, better, faster, sleeker successor: Technology Acceptance Model

The Technology Acceptance Model is a bases of calculating a users perceived usefulness and perceived ease of use of a piece of tech. This measure can gives a basic understanding of a subjects perception of how their current tech compares to that of the latest model. Humans are prone to the "ooh a piece of candy" ideology, best shown in the popular TV show Family GuyWhat this demonstrates is our constant thirst for something new and sweet even though we have something that could satisfy this craving already. I fall down this rabbit whole all the time but I catch myself and ask, "do I really need this?".

This can be seen with the ongoing cycle of new smartphone releases and pandemic symbiosis to tech companies, like Apple. Apple has been at the forefront of innovative technology ever sense their inception, with the switch to 5 and 1/4 inch floppy disk in 1978 and their most recent switch to IPhones without headphone jackets as well as many others. This introduction of the Iphone 7 using the lightening bolt adapter and no headphone jack created market anger towards Apple because Apple was being Apple, innovative but annoying. Now with their latest innovation in the IPhone X with face recognition technology, VR capabilities and many other new advances they are throwing fistfuls of candy at consumers. 

With all this innovation comes massive amounts of waste and ecological degradation that Apple and other tech companies try not to let the mass market know about. May it be metal mining,  toxic chemicals or the immense dependants on plastic and petroleum products: all having massive implications on global ecosystem degradation. Sense the introduction of smart phones in 2007 we have seen 7.1 billion phones pass through our market. This has resulted in massive amounts of e-waste, much of which is not recyclable. Not only have we created a sea of waste we are also putting children to work mining minerals like gold, cobalt and aluminium. These children work night and day ripped from their parents, slaving to find trace amounts of these precious metals in such places like the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

In the Congo the mining of metals, primarily cobalt for smartphone batteries, is not only creating an environment of child slavery but also one of great violence and hostility. Due to the high demand for smart phones and intern cobalt for their batteries, mine owners are increasing hostility between one another over mineable land and available workers. This is not a suitable environment for anyone, much less children. Most of the worlds smart phones are consumed by the developed world, who often have strict laws around working conditions and environments for organizations. However, it is only recently that global leaders for human rights are starting to crack down on these clear violations of basic human rights. The UN, UNICEF and other human rights organizations do not have the person power to enforce laws and restrictions in all mining camps and other supply chain material sources violating human rights. It must come from the global consumer market to demand that the basic human rights of all those working not only in tech supply chains but all supply chains to have their rights fought for and protected.

Consumers are producers closest friends and worst enemies. If more people stand up and demand that all tech firms are transparent with their supply chains and material sourcing then producers will be forced to switch their unsustainable ways to those of sustainability and viability. If consumers demand that products last more than 18 months and the hardware recycled and replaceable, then producers will have to comply. 

At the end of the day its up to consumers to shape the future of our planet. It's up to you. 

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