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Corporate fallout detecter
July 25, 2003 12:40 PM   Subscribe

From MIT's Media Lab: "The Corporate Fallout Detector reads barcodes off of consumer products, and makes a noise similar to a gieger counter of varying intensity based on the social or environmental record of the company that produces the product"
posted by sharksandwich (18 comments total)

 
Oh crap, forgot to mention the Quicktime movie.
posted by sharksandwich at 12:45 PM on July 25, 2003


and via Gizmodo.
posted by agregoli at 1:16 PM on July 25, 2003


Interesting idea and nice implementation, but I'd hate to see what kind of reception you'd actually recieve using this thing in a store.

An interesting variant on this would be to replace the Geiger counter warning system with a voluntary donation-tax. Buy a product from a company with a bad record and a percentage gets automatically added on and later automatically donated to organizations dealing with those problems.

Of course, the technology to make this easy enough in real life for mass adaption won't be here for a while, but if it was widely used, it would put put economic pressure on companies.
posted by dragoon at 1:44 PM on July 25, 2003


I'd *love* to use this thing in a store, and explain to everyone what the noise was about. cool.
posted by dabitch at 1:53 PM on July 25, 2003


Adbusters has been working on a project exactly like this for a while. I wonder if this was inspired by them.

Plus: Me want!
posted by majcher at 2:41 PM on July 25, 2003


Buy a product from a company with a bad record and a percentage gets automatically added on and later automatically donated to organizations dealing with those problems.

Surely someone who's interested enough in those issues to buy one of these gadgets wouldn't need the gadget to make such donations for them. The "lazy activist" is, or at least should be, a contradiction in terms.

Let me program it to make Geiger noises based on what I am interested in knowing about the products I buy. Like, for example, is this luggage set going to fall apart the first time it sees a baggage carousel? Now that would be useful information to have.
posted by kindall at 2:54 PM on July 25, 2003


The "lazy activist" is, or at least should be, a contradiction in terms.

Indeed? In other words it's wrong to make a moral act easier? What a strangely puritanical notion. What's your rationale for it? Should they purify themselves with a riding crop as well, to purge the soul with suffering?

Let me program it to make Geiger noises based on what I am interested in knowing about the products I buy

No. You may not. The lazy "careful shopper" is, or at least should be, a contradiction in terms.
posted by George_Spiggott at 4:29 PM on July 25, 2003


Let me program it to make Geiger noises based on what I am interested in knowing about the products I buy.

Once rfids become common, it should be pretty straightforward to implement a scanner that checks a consumer reports-like database to give you product recommendations.
posted by eddydamascene at 5:01 PM on July 25, 2003


I have a symbol Palm III.

Do they have code to make that work like that?
posted by rough ashlar at 7:13 PM on July 25, 2003


My BS-detector is making noise, too...I wonder if this is some sort of gag...?

But even if it really is true - phhhhfffttt. It is supposed to base ratings on "the social or environmental record" of any given company. And pray tell - WHO, exactly, do they deem to be worthy of assigning ratings for each given company and product?

And forget about the "eco-impact" that they're aiming for -- how about the social impact of a company that *creates jobs* for people? Will this device make warm, fuzzy noises for uber-capitalist companies that don't give a damn about the spotted owl, but just happen to sell products and services that people need and enjoy? Riiiiight...
posted by davidmsc at 7:45 PM on July 25, 2003


So davidmsc, you don't believe in the free market or consumer choice? You feel a consumer shouldn't have the information that allows them to make informed buying decisions and choose one product over another?

Why not? You say "jobs". How does buying one product instead of another functionally equivalent one affect jobs overall? Do ecologically sensitive companies create fewer jobs per retail dollar than non ecologically sensitive companies?

And would these be American jobs? Because you might be interested to know that domestic producers are much more likely to be ecologically senstive than ones who move manufacturing to places like Asia -- for the simple reason that the latter do it specifically to avoid North American regulations, including environmental ones. So buying eco often means buying American and supporting American jobs.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:45 PM on July 25, 2003


Aren't the kind of people who try to buy 'ecologically friendly' and 'socially responsible' products the same people who say that we shouldn't define ourselves by the things we buy and own?

Don't things like the fallout detector just foster a kind of granola consumerism?
posted by tino at 10:12 PM on July 25, 2003


Are they the same people who say that? I don't know, you'd have to ask them all.

But if you have to buy something, you can buy it from a company that poisons people and weasels out of the consequences, or you can buy it from someone else. Given the choice, which do you choose? This isn't about pretentious lifestyle choices, it's about what kind of behavior you want to fund.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:36 PM on July 25, 2003


Can I get one of these things that makes its sounds when I scan a Metafilter username? Now that I could use.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:40 PM on July 25, 2003


But if you have to buy something, you can buy it from a company that poisons people and weasels out of the consequences, or you can buy it from someone else. Given the choice, which do you choose?

All other things being equal, the latter. But all other things are so rarely equal.

Besides, this is such a slippery slope. If you decline to buy, say Nike shoes (and I'm picking them because they're a common target of the anti-corporate left, not because I know anything specific about their environmental record), then to avoid being a hypocrite you should boycott any store that sells them, because after all, if the store didn't sell them, Nike would be unable to stay in business, or at the very least they wouldn't be as successful. Surely it's the store's moral duty to not sell products made by companies like, say, Nike. And you shouldn't go to any sporting events that include athletes wearing Nike shoes, because without the advertising provided by the athletes, Nike would, again, be unable to stay in business, or at least they wouldn't be so spectacularly successful. Surely it's the athlete's moral duty to be a good role model. And you shouldn't read any magazine or watch any TV program that accepts advertising from Nike, if not for them etc., surely they have a moral duty etc. You shouldn't work for any company in the retail or advertising business because any participation at all makes it more possible for Nike to do their dastardly deeds. After all, if you work in IT, and everybody who was in IT refused to work, Nike would come to a grinding halt (along with all evil companies) -- and by not refusing to work, you are tacitly allowing companies like Nike to continue operating. And you shouldn't associate with people who buy Nike products, since if you support them in any way you are indirectly supporting Nike.

Expand that to every possible "bad" product and pretty soon you have locked yourself in a closet where you will spend the rest of your life gibbering for lack of simple human contact. Fortunately, the rest of your life will be brief, because you can't buy anything to eat, since you're boycotting all the stores and don't have a job anyway.
posted by kindall at 11:44 PM on July 25, 2003


TOUCHE, kindall - very good follow-through on the initial concept.
posted by davidmsc at 7:21 AM on July 26, 2003


you're right kindall, the linked article's suggestion that we should boycott everything would be disastrous. Oh, wait a second...
posted by Ignatius J. Reilly at 8:06 AM on July 26, 2003


What noise would it make for the MIT Media Lab itself I wonder?
posted by kerplunk at 1:17 PM on July 26, 2003


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