Shunning Corporations That Innovate to Make the World Worse for a Quick Buck

Shunning Corporations That Innovate to Make the World Worse for a Quick Buck

Shunning Corporations That Innovate to Make the World Worse for a Quick Buck

Innovation should be good, but all too often it's progress toward the unhealthy. A stupid new smartphone is a perfect case in point.

   

Shunning Corporations That Innovate to Make the World Worse for a Quick Buck

image by: John Karakatsanis

Corporate corruption comes in a variety of flavors: the predatory lending practices that precipitated the recent Wall Street crisis, the science-suppressing activity of Big Oil, Big Pharma's maneuvers to keep the sick paying premium prices for their lifeblood, the garden-variety greed that rewards execs at unprofitable companies with seven-figure bonuses.

But there's an even more commonplace corruption that may be that much more insidious for its subtlety: the design and marketing of products that play in to the self-detrimental tendencies of the populace.

I know what you're thinking: cigarettes. You're right, of course, but with Surgeon General's warnings, advertising restrictions, and anti-smoking PSA's aplenty, in today's world—or United States, at least—it's hard to light up in ignorance. No, I'm looking at commodities that appear to be the frarket working in all its glory but that are actually sowing seeds of destruction.

As you undoubtedly know if you're head isn't shoved so far up your touchscreen that there's no coming back, smartphones are a very mixed blessing. There's no denying the tremendous technological benefits and convenience, but in society-wide practice it's come at the cost of engagement with and even the expense of one's immediate environment. It's not that the technology forces you to reduce the massive spectacle that is The Wall in concert to the size of your smartphone screen (as Roger Waters complained when he took the show on the road earlier this decade) or to divert your attention from the companion in front of you—or far more gravely, from the road—to check a text of no particular import; it's simply that most people seem too weak-willed to keep the technology in its proper place. There's no excuse for such behavior, but habit is human nature, so avoiding bad habits is easier said than done.

It's all the harder, though, when product design and marketing departments are doing their damnedest to hook you, to play into your worst tendencies. That's exactly what Samsung is doing with their latest creation, the Galaxy S6.

Marketed as an alternative to Apple's iPhone 6, the Galaxy S6—otherwise known as "the edge"—is a smartphone with a difference: its sides have skinny little screens, which scroll messages that alert you to news updates (because you simply have to have ten-word news blurbs at all times), weather reports (because when your phone is face-down is exactly when you're dying to know about tomorrow's daytime high), and of course your latest texts (because you're too stupid simply to lay the phone face-up when you want to see them as they come in).

It would seem that the people at Samsung see the world as a better place when the virtual world is never out of your sightline. They want us constantly engaged with the not-here.

Of course, the Samsung team responsible for the abomination that is the S6 may not really feel that way at all. They might even recognize the bane that is continual exposure to the textosphere. The point is, they don't care. Profit is their overriding motivation. If Samsung can profit from debasing the world, then debased world here we come!

That Samsung is only one of an unholy host of companies that behave this way is beside the point. Bad behavior shouldn't be seen as more forgivable just because it's practiced en masse.

The argument in favor of Samsung here appeals to freedom. In a truly free market (and I will be the first to say that in a free society you probably can't avoid a free market, even if you feel justified imposing some restrictions, e.g., against insider trading) you can't get caught up in dictating to consumers and companies what they can buy and sell, even when those commodities aren't healthy.

But if you don't want to be a hypocrite on that score, then you should welcome Heroin House, because there's plenty of supply and demand there, too. If the goods, services, and prices should be based on what the free market will bear, let the smack flow and leave the market to sort itself out.

As much as I discourage heroin use, that's pretty much how I feel. I don't favor dictating to consenting adults what they put in their bodies any more than I do what they put in their minds with their little screens. What I do advocate is education, along with decrying the bad wherever it's for sale. There's probably something right on about our treatment of Big Tobacco: punish them for misinformation, tax the hell out of them, restrict them up the wazoo, but ultimately allow them to do business, all the while doing your part, by wallet and by mouth, to create market conditions in which societally harmful commodities prove unprofitable.

Samsung has just made my shit list, and whenever I'm in the market for something they make, my dollars will go to their competitors (at least the ones who aren't also on my shit list). If you want to join me in my Samsung shunning, spread the word.


About the Author:

Except for a four-month sojourn in Comoros (a small island nation near the northwest of Madagascar), Greggory Moore has lived his entire life in Southern California.  Currently he resides in Long Beach, CA, where he engages in a variety of activities, including playing in the band MOVE, performing as a member of RIOTstage, and, of course, writing. 

His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, OC Weekly, Daily Kos, the Long Beach Post, Random Lengths News, The District Weekly, GreaterLongBeach.com, and a variety of academic and literary journals.  HIs first novel, The Use of Regret, was published in 2011, and he is currently at work on his follow-up.  For more information:  greggorymoore.com

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Last Updated : Monday, September 12, 2022