The following clip is from the film Manufactured Landscapes, filmed by two folks who apparently don’t mind filming children in piles of heap. Have a look and I’ll continue with some thoughts below (fast forward to 2 minutes in to skip the boring stuff).
I’m sure there are a number of blogs who will go on decrying this condition as a human rights violation, but I won’t. Not because this doesn’t sicken me, rather because I enjoy solving problems more than complaining about them. The first thing I’d like to know is why don’t we automate this the way many heavy industries are automated in the west? Is it not financially feasible? technologically feasible? Both?
Metallurgic auto-extraction appears to be commonplace according to a google search done by a guy who knows jack about this (that would be me). A quick search turned up a company named Innovxsys who handles this. There are patents on this stuff in fact. If it’s not a lack of technology, then we have cheap labor invalidating an an incentive to mechanize.
So how do we reach cost parity so that we can make the machines do the hazardous stuff instead of the Chinese villagers? (Note to Milton Friedmanites – yeah markets eventually adjust etc, not before lots of kids die from lead poisoning, jackass). I’m sure when medical costs and cleanup costs are factored into the equation, the cost of manual separation is orders of magnitude higher. So how do we properly allocate these costs? Lucky for us this is China, where high profile officials like to “save face”. Let’s be honest, the business owners can simply run and set up shop elsewhere when things turn ugly. But a highly visible political official who stands to be jailed or better yet beheaded – now there’s a deterent money can’t buy. When the cost of greasing palms becomes prohibitively high, technology becomes the only feasible option.
How would you reach cost parity? Lend me your thoughts below..