Reading Response to Cobalt Pipeline

The conditions that were exposed in this article were absolutely horrendous. 100,000 people dig in these mines with only hand tools and they work for strenuous periods of time. Death and injury in mines is common, but exposure to dangerous chemicals and elements is near guaranteed. It’s so bizarre how materials (specifically cobalt in this case) go from such an impoverished and intensively labored area like the Congo to the most well off, luxurious living people in other countries like the United States.

The Congo is exploited for many other reasons than cobalt. Its rubber tusks and elephant tusks made a good reason for other countries to go over and see what they can pocket. In more recent years, the minerals available in the country have attracted other nations. The odd thing about the Congo is that it remains a third-world, lesser developed country despite its abundance of resources. If the people of the Congo were given the opportunity to establish their own businesses and use their own resources instead of being taken advantage of by other nations, then the Congo could undergo a grand development.

The accessibility and advancements in technology that lithium has granted the world makes it difficult to simply give up on having cobalt mined, even if it does happen under horrible conditions. Despite this difficulty, the footage from the mine at Kawama makes it clear that this is an issue of human rights. The miners (or creuseurs) work such extreme hours in terribly poor environments, pushing themselves so hard that at times they even sleep in the tunnels, despite the fact that their bodies are being ruined by the dangerous gases building up in their systems as they leave themselves vulnerable. After all this, along with the fact that at least 2 tons of cobalt are mined every day, each miner only earns 1 or 2 dollars a day. Child labor is normalized because they don’t have any schools to go to, so they have nothing else to do but work, and in places like this, people (even children) function as either a worker or a burden.

Fixing this problem will be a great problem in itself. Cutting the Congo out of the chain will leave them floundering and without people to sell to, but clearly things can’t continue the way they’re going already.

Reading Response to “Fab” by Neil Gershenfeld

I think it’s astounding and amazing that the devices usually captured by sci-fi media are already available at our fingertips in this time period and are on their way to becoming more available. Also interesting was the creative process documented by the MIT students as they worked with these personal fabricators, and how they left enough behind so other people could build on their work in new and innovative ways. The comparison between a simple printer creating an image and this revolutionary new machinery creating entire objects was shocking to me, but it’s important to remember that it’s not that far in the past that the printer would have seemed shocking too.

It was inspiring to hear of all the different uses from across the globe that came to the surface when “fab labs” were established at the different locations. Later on, when the writer noted the difference between kids receiving knowledge and actually applying it, I began getting even more excited about the future of technology and how it truly is beginning to revolutionize education more than it ever has.

I really liked seeing the applications and examples of what different people did with the personal fabricators, and even more the variety of their projects based on personal need. Another thing I think is great was seeing the amount of female producers. It’s well known that the STEM field is heavily male-dominated, and this goes to show that the gender divide is on its way to changing.