2010 February 17 Wednesday
Secret Cities And Apple Computer Products
Apple suppliers create the equivalent of company towns to wall off their employees from people who might try to get them to leak secrets of Apple products.
Inside the walled city -- one of several compounds run by Foxconn International, a major supplier for Apple Inc -- employees are provided with most of their daily needs. There are dormitories, canteens, recreation facilities, even banks, post offices and bakeries.
The rank-and-file within the compound have little reason to venture outside. That reduces the likelihood of leaks, which in turn lessens the risk of incurring the wrath of Apple and its chief executive, Steve Jobs, whose product launches have turned into long-running, tightly controlled media spectacles.
Didn't Neal Stephenson or Bruce Sterling (or someone else?) write a novel where engineers and scientists left jobs in corporations by being extracted by military-style specialized extraction teams? Anyone remember the science fiction novel I'm thinking of?
From wiki:"Oath of Fealty is a 1982 novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Set in the near future, it involves an arcology, a large inhabited structure, called Todos Santos, which rises above a crime-ridden Los Angeles, California, but has little beyond casual contact with the city. The novel popularized the phrase "think of it as evolution in action," which occurs elsewhere in Niven's books. The novel anticipated the building of the Los Angeles Subway."
I believe this is the book your referring to.
Books by William Gibson, esp. some of the short stories in 'Burning Chrome'.
The specific career change scenario that involved the paramilitary extraction team was in William Gibson's "Count Zero".
From the photos (first one especially) it would appear that the over-whelming majority of the workers in the factory are male. If this is the case I suspect that the compound isn't entirely impervious and to run with the spying analogy suggests a "Mata Hari" type opportunity.
One of the quotes in the article tries to make mileage out of the fact that the worker won't even discuss his work with his wife. Clearly Apple takes things to extremes but this practice (of not discussing things with your spouse) is fairly common throughout a lot of lines of work (eg most lawyers don't - or atleast shouldn't - discuss certain confidential client matters with their spouse).
As science becomes more advanced and as social stratification increases, there will be more segregation of scientists and engineers. Recall that during Cold War I, the Soviet Union had secret closed cities where tens of thousands of scientists were segregated to work on military projects. Because these closed cities were so isolated, these Soviet scientists were given privileges that were unheard by the standards of their country at the time: refrigerators, washing machines, and even nice apartments.
But it was Robert Heinlein who said that "Secrecy is the beginning of tyranny."
"Apple suppliers create the equivalent of company towns to wall off their employees from
people who might try to get them to leak secrets of Apple products."
No surprise here.
In addition to zealously guarding company secrets, Apple is also interested in its workers interests. Apple was an early pioneer of filtering employees and contractors email, web browsing, and blog commenting. Those who frequented human biodiversity websites or commented on HBD blogs (Sailer) using Apple's facilities were eased out through unexpected layoffs or quickly fired.
I often wondered whether Steve Jobs is actually aware this is happening or its the peculiar tastes of his chief of security.