You may have heard in recent days about Foxconn, a company that owns factories in China that assemble electronics for such companies as Apple, Dell, and HP. You didn't think your iPhone was put together in Cupertino, did you? Of course not. Unfortunately, people working at Foxconn's gigantic Shenzen factory, which makes iPhones and iPads, keep killing themselves, presumably because of the psychological effects of poor working conditions and low pay. In response to the bad publicity, the company announced that it was raising wages 30 percent, which is good to hear. In any case, the story is a reminder that every product we use involves a bunch of people's effort, and most of the time we have no idea what goes into it (and, let's face it, we'd rather not think about it).
The video below, from the 2006 film "Manufactured Landscapes," gives a sense of what working in a huge Chinese electronics factory is like. I have no idea if conditions at the one shown in the film (which is not named) are worse or better than at Foxconn - all that you really get a sense of is the combination of repetitive work and epic scale - but either way, it's something to see:
-- Paul Waldman