Author Archives: nolan


Foxconn, or Hon Hai Precision Industry Co, is a multinational manufacturing company based out of Taiwan which accounts for about 40% of all assembled electronic products.  Though Foxconn has factories throuhgout  Asia, Europe, Mexico and South America, its largest operation takes place in China, where the majority of the controversy surrounding the company has stemmed from.  Foxconn has 13 factories throughout China, the largest of which is in Longhua, and with potentially 450,000 workers that live, eat, and work within the walled compound, has been dubbed “Foxconn City”.

Many of the confirmed documented complaints about the conditions in the factory stem around questionable demands and working conditions.  A 2012 audit by the Fair Labor Association uncovered some unethical workplace issues.  Many workers reported working in excess of 60 hours a week, but received unfair overtime compensation, and the majority of workers complained that they were not paid enough to afford basic needs.  When a factory like “Foxconn City” houses, feeds, and employs these people, it would appear to be by design that these workers are trapped in a slave-like situation.  In addition to issues over hours and pay, many concerns have been raised over the amount of workplace accidents and lack of safety precautions that exist in these factories.

Arguably the largest emphasis of the media in recent years has been the issue of suicide at the Foxconn factories.  After a spat of 14 suicides in 2010, Foxconn factories installed the infamous “suicide nets” that are pictured above.  However, since then the amount of employee suicides has been negligible, and interestingly enough, the rate of suicides among Foxconn employees has always been lower than the average rate of both Chinese and American citizens.

All in all, there is no doubt that Foxconn has engaged in some ethically questionable practices as an employer.  However, it is up for debate whether their factories truly represent modern day labor camps, or if they are in reality the best opportunity for Chinese workers to make a living.  Perhaps both cases are simultaneously true, which speaks about the basic plight of the Chinese lower class.  What do others think about the ethical issues surrounding Foxconn and other similar companies?

Drone Strikes Expanded

The previous post raised the issue of US drone strikes, and I wanted to offer a more complete post rather than just a comment.

The US use of predator drones is a topic which has caught my interest for quite some time now. While their use is intended to be used delicately and deliberately, there are many assertions from independent sources that these strikes are not as precise as the military’s narrative suggests. The military acknowledges the possibility of civilian casualties, but they regularly (and from their perspective, understandably) downplay the size of the issue. Since it is inherently difficult to get exact figures, there are only varied estimates of the civilian death count. However, this independent journalism group gives what they believe to be the true statistics on the issue. If one tallies only the conservative estimates, it results in around ~450 confirmed strikes throughout Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, with a death toll of around 2,600. Of these 2,600, at least 446 are civilians, and a minimum of 175 being children.

When analyzing the burden of responsibility, it is important to understand a few factors at play in each individual drone strike. While a large team is required to run and service a predator drone, in the end there is a kill order that comes from the upper echelon of the CIA or Air Force, and then there is a single pilot that executes this order. These pilots often report being indoctrinated into the culture by being promised that they will never be faced with killing innocents. However, when it comes time to execute an order, the pilot is often aware that he/she will be taking the lives of civilians or children. While this weighs heavily on their mind afterwards, more often than not they make the decision to follow through in the moment.

Based on this information, it would seem that current US drone policy needs revised if it wants to be held to any ethical standard. Statistically speaking, for every confirmed strike there is at least one death of an innocent, and roughly half of which have resulted in the death of a child. While some of the more extreme proponents of the strikes argue that these innocent casualties are, in a sense, “guilty by association” because they live in close ties with known terrorists, this characterization lacks prospective. Hypothetically, if you are a child who lives in a rural tribal village in Pakistan, and your entire family is in poverty and lives in one house or compound, how are you expected to have the means to separate yourself from your “terrorist uncle”? However, he may very well be the target of a strike, which could have an immense impact on your entire family or even cause you to lose your life.

While Predator drones have a place in modern military operations, their use thus far has been non-transparent and much messier than promised. I personally feel that their current standard procedure is wholly unethical and needs revised. Anyone who has an HBO account and wishes to know more of the effects of these strikes on the people of Pakistan can watch this episode from season 2 of Vice.  What do others think of the ethics surrounding this issue?

Flappy Bird and Unhappy Dong


To many aspiring programmers, creating a game whose popularity spreads like wildfire would seem to be a great stroke of luck.  However, as the simple-yet-infuriatingly hard game known as “Flappy Bird” rose to the top of the Apple App Store and Google Play, its creator, Dong Nguyen, demonstrated increasing amounts of stress and disappointment over his twitter account.  Eventually, he made the decision to pull the game off the App Store and Google Play, despite speculation that he was generating as much as $50,000 per day in ad revenue.  In his first interview since taking down the game, Dong acknowledges that the game is wildly profitable, yet still elaborates on why he felt it was right to take it down.  In short, Dong stated that Flappy Bird “was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed”, but that it turned into “an addictive product”.

While analyzing the moral implications of a game creator taking down his own free game may seem trivial, there are still some interesting questions to be raised.  Was what Dong did the right thing to do?  From an act utilitarian standpoint, it would seem that the small amount of relief Dong can now experience is much less important than the millions of people who enjoy the game, making Dong’s choice wrong.  Or perhaps these players are subconsciously unhappy, but are too addicted to the game to realize its toll.  Furthermore, the moral rights theory approach would likely say that Dong has complete control to do what he wants with the game, seeing as it is a product of his own skill and creativity.  Does anyone else think removing Flappy Bird was or was not justified?