Google Glass: The Price of American Luxuries (Part 2 of 2)

Click here to read Part 1 of Google Glass.
Google Glass

After last week’s demonstration of Google Glass, members in the audience asked questions. Most of their questions and comments were about its functionality and the benefits it could bring to technology and education.  A lady’s comment about the glasses has been on my mind ever since. She asked, “What about the people in countries such as India who are paid below minimum wage and work enormous hours a day in factories to create such products? This is an American luxury. Should America be held responsible or play a greater role in the communities where these products are made?” She went on to explain that in many instances, the workers  in American factories that are overseas live with less than the bare essentials. It is her belief that these people are used at the expense of wealthy Americans. Her comment inspired me to search a bit more about the product. The glasses are being assembled by Foxconn, the same company that assembles Apple products. The company is based in China and has recently caught attention for its harsh working conditions and suicide rates among workers. However, these glasses will be assembled by a Foxxcon subunit based in America. I also found out that a group of engineers disassembled the glasses and priced each of the components. They estimated that it costs no more than $86 to make a pair of the hi-tech glasses. So why the $1500 price tag?

I mentioned the glasses and the lady’s comment to my Dad.  (My dad is one of my philosophical sounding boards). I told him that the lady’s comment struck a chord with me. He took a long puff of his cigarette and said three words that left me even more mentally boggled. “They can refuse.” Sensing my confusion, he elaborated, “They can refuse. They can choose not to work there.” What he said was so simple yet so profound. People constantly complain about American factories in third world countries because of the working conditions and the pay. As my dad suggested, can’t they refuse to work there? Is anyone forcing them to work at such jobs? As little as those jobs may pay, I am led to believe that the benefits of working there outweigh that of other job options in their country. If the workers truly saw American factories as degrading, wouldn’t they protest and choose not to work there? As a result, factory owners would be forced to either relocate where there is an available workforce or improve the working conditions.

After a few days of contemplating the situation, I am still not sure what the best solution might be. However, I am left with two questions: (1) Is the solution actually as simple as refusing to work at such places?  (2) Should Americans feel guilty or slightly responsible for the luxury products we buy at outrageous prices that provide meager work for others?

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