When A Mac Cultist Traveled To The Apple Factory

You may have idly wondered where it is that your favorite gadgets come from…for a few seconds, and then gone right back to your game of Fruit Ninja. But writer and performer Mike Daisey took that curiosity to a whole other level. He traveled to the “special economic zone” of Shenzhen, China, to see where it is that all of our crap comes from. UPDATE, 3/16/12: This American Life has issued a retraction of this story after reporters tracked down Daisey’s interpreter and learned that much of the material presented in the show was made up.

He stood outside the gates of electronics mega-manufacturer Foxconn to see whether anyone would like to chat with him–not as a reporter, but as a regular end-user. Then he posed as a businessman looking to buy large quantities of products. And then he wrote a one-man show about the experience, excerpts of which aired on public radio show “This American Life” this weekend.

It’s easy–and more comfortable–to imagine our gadgets being put together by a series of tiny robots, but that’s not so. It’s the opposite, actually–with China’s low cost of labor, Daisey explains, anything that possibly can be done by hand is.

How often do we wish more things were handmade? We talk about that all the time, don’t we? “I wish it was like the old days….I wish things had that human touch.” But that’s not true. There are more handmade things now than there have ever been in the history of the world. Everything is handmade. I know. I have been there. I have seen the workers laying in parts thinner than a human hair, one after another after another. Everything is handmade.

Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory [This American Life] (direct MP3 download here)
The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs [New York Public Theater]
Supplier Responsibility [Apple]