The great news: I’m getting an iPad! The terrible news: I’m getting an iPad.

Right on the heels of the whole Bangladesh situation, I’m having my own moral dilemma.

I asked Mr. B for an iPad for my birthday, because I want to be able to share large online pictures with my grandpa, cook by an online recipe without printing it, read The Economist everywhere, read books on my commute, and send those “Sent from my iDevice” smug little emails to everyone, because I have too many friends right now.   He was happy to oblige because, as I have a feeling, it will become the family iPad.  Also, I totally need it as an investment into working on my novel. Yes.

He IMed me yesterday to let me know that it is on its way, and I tracked the shipping:

which made me sad.  I mean, I know that Apple products are manufactured in China, but somehow the fact that it’s being shipped directly from China reminds me that Apple products are manufactured by a sweatshop where people kill themselves because of the work of assembling electronics but have no real choice because they are getting paid. Plus, not only are people committing suicides, there was an explosion at the place my iPad is being shipped from not too long ago.

However, not to worry, because all the workers are being replaced by robots soon!

So, my question is this.  By buying an iPad, am I voting with my money and letting Foxconn know that it’s ok to continue treating their workers as such? But wouldn’t the iPad be made anyway, therefore it doesn’t matter whether I or someone else bought it?  Is it ok that I’m sending money to China, which contributes to overall economic growth and a gradual increase in living conditions for all, or is it worse because my actions directly pressure peoples’ lives?  Are the robots better?  From an economic standpoint, it doesn’t matter.  As long as the work is more efficient, that’s the way the markets will swing.  But what are the moral implications? Especially since this evil, I know.  But what about the rest of the things I consume that come from nameless factories in Southeast Asia?

I’m very conscious that boycotts are not effective, simply because we sometimes don’t know everything that’s going on.  For example, boycotts often don’t go the way they intend to (PDF) (Israel, Iran, Cuba, etc.)

I’m not going to start asking for Colin’s papers anytime soon, but I want to know how other people think about this.

I know, this is such a first-world problem.  But as someone from a country whose fate was very similar to China’s under communism, I’m conscious that people elsewhere live like crap, and maybe something I do can change it.

Edit: A friend on Facebook just sent me this story, so throwing it in there for discussion.