Thursday, 17 March 2011

More on Johnny Ball's message

Whatever else we may think about Johnny Ball's message, (see Monday's blog) at least we have to admit that he's positive and optimistic, both about the world as it is now and about the future. That's maybe not such a bad thing. "Every aspect of the technology we use to improve our lives and to lessen our impact on the world is improving commendably, and the future for our children is brighter than we can yet imagine", he says, "and that is the message we should be delivering to every child. Take communications for example. Everything, from mobile phones to iPads, gets better and better and cheaper. Why? Because it's consumer-led and it is what people want."

It would be nice if everything really was this rosy. However, while it is true that these things get faster and easier to use and cheaper, "cheaper" generally means that they get assembled in China by people who get paid next to nothing. And all these faster and better devices mean that older devices get scrapped by being shipped to China or to third world countries where their toxic components pollute landfill or are burned polluting the air. See e.g.

"Investigators who visited the waste sites in Guiyu, China, in December witnessed men, women and children pulling wires from computers and burning them at night, fouling the air with carcinogenic smoke. Other laborers, making $1.50 a day and working with little or no protection, burned plastics and circuit boards or poured acid on electronic parts to extract silver and gold."

This is an aspect of technology which does not improve so much over time, because most consumers are not aware of it, and if Johnny Ball had his way there'd be a lot less awareness. Everything gets better and better all the time, except for the vast swathes of destruction which are conveniently swept under the carpet. Instead of pretending that the world is ideal as it is now, we should consider the bigger picture.

Change the world

No comments:

Post a Comment