July 2009

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On capitalism, consumerism, and Fake Steve Jobs

I am appalled that I 100% agree with something Fake Steve Jobs said today.

We all know that there’s no fucking way in the world we should have microwave ovens and refrigerators and TV sets and everything else at the prices we’re paying for them. There’s no way we get all this stuff and everything is done fair and square and everyone gets treated right. No way. And don’t be confused — what we’re talking about here is our way of life. Our standard of living. You want to “fix things in China,” well, it’s gonna cost you. Because everything you own, it’s all done on the backs of millions of poor people whose lives are so awful you can’t even begin to imagine them, people who will do anything to get a life that is a tiny bit better than the shitty one they were born into, people who get exploited and treated like shit and, in the worst of all cases, pay with their lives.

I believe in capitalism. Sometimes, I even believe in free market capitalism. I believe people should be able to buy what luxury they can afford.

I also believe that consumption is only a sustainable lifestyle choice for the West because everyone else is locked out of it.

It is a very useful exercise to ask yourself, “What if everyone lived like I do?” Does what you contribute balance what you consume? I own several computers and an iPod. I like things and I like travel. I do not have any answers.

My lifestyle is more sustainable today because I do not live in the States. I am convinced that it is still not sustainable enough.

I do not know how to fix this.

OMG it’s true, Google’s announced an operating system!

GoogleOS excites me in a way that that Google usually doesn’t, and here’s why: Google Gears works. And it works really well in Google Chrome.

What? You didn’t notice? That’s probably because you never have to use it. Here in Cotonou where power and internet connections cut all the time, it’s quite useful. And with internet connections that only work (well) at night, I’d even call it necessary.

Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Reader all work offline. They work offline really well in Google Chrome. Syncing back up with the cloud once connected is fast. Westerners might worry about security and reliability in the cloud, but let’s be honest, for its price, the cloud beats anything we’ve got on the ground in Benin.

Imagine the following: You’re a young entrepreneur. You don’t have the funds to buy a “real” laptop, but you can afford a small netbook. The netbooks with GoogleOS are cheaper, so that’s what you buy. You discover that you can use web apps as well offline as online, which means no more pirated (or expensively ought legal) copies of Windows or MS Office. Because all of your documents are saved off AND online, reformatting due to viruses is no longer a big deal. GoogleOS has already backed up everything for you.

Netbooks are never going to entirely replace laptops or smartphones, but what they can do is bring the portability and productivity increases that come with computers and connectivity to a larger audience. An African audience.

And that’s pretty cool.