Review of The Fisherman

The Fisherman by Brigid Malloy is a children’s book that is remarkably fun, contains some really amazing art, and also teaches a lesson. Our society is based on the concept that winning is everything and that failure is always awful. I’ve talked about this issue before in my Defining the Benefits of Failure post. However, this book takes an entirely different twist on the topic by viewing a failure as a success. I thought it was a pretty amazing lesson to teach younger people who are used to hearing that they must be first in absolutely everything. In fact, I’d recommend more than a few adults read this book too.

I read this story to my 9 year old grandniece and she was quite taken with it. She thought the fisherman was quite funny and kept pointing out various elements of the art that weren’t immediately apparent to me (mostly because I was reading the text). She remained engaged for the entire story, which says a lot for a child that is sometimes distracted by absolutely everything. Most important of all, she got it! The story helped her understand that success isn’t everything and she liked the idea that the fisherman was happy and comfortable at the end.

Is this a good book? Yes, it’s a great book! This is one of the few times I find myself at a loss to say anything whatsoever negative about a book except that it’s not available for sale on Amazon. You must currently go to the author/illustrator’s website to buy a copy (see link in the first paragraph).

Technology and Child Safety

I recently read an article on ComputerWorld, Children mine cobalt used in smartphones, other electronics, that had me thinking yet again about how people in rich countries tend to ignore the needs of those in poor countries. The picture at the beginning of the article says it all, but the details will have you wondering whether a smartphone really is worth some child’s life. That’s right, any smartphone you buy may be killing someone and in a truly horrid manner. Children as young as 7 years old are mining the cobalt needed for the batteries (and other components) in the smartphones that people seem to feel are so necessary for life (they aren’t you know).

The problem doesn’t stop when someone gets the smartphone. Other children end up dismantling the devices sent for recycling. That’s right, a rich country’s efforts to keep electronics out of their landfills is also killing children because countries like India put these children to work taking them apart in unsafe conditions. Recycled wastes go from rich countries to poor countries because the poor countries need the money for necessities, like food. Often, these children are incapable of working by the time they reach 35 or 40 due to health issues induced by their forced labor. In short, the quality of their lives is made horribly low so that it’s possible for people in rich countries to enjoy something that truly isn’t necessary for life.

I’ve written other blog posts about the issues of technology pollution. One of the most recent is More People Noticing that Green Technology Really Isn’t. However, the emphasis of these previous articles has been on the pollution itself. Taking personal responsibility for the pollution you create is important, but we really need to do more. Robotic (autonomous) mining is one way to keep children out of the mines and projects such as The Utah Robotic Mining Project show that it’s entirely possible to use robots in place of people today. The weird thing is that autonomous mining would save up to 80% of the mining costs of today, so you have to wonder why manufacturers aren’t rushing to employ this solution. In addition, off world mining would keep the pollution in space, rather than on planet earth. Of course, off world mining also requires a heavy investment in robots, but it promises to provide a huge financial payback in addition to keeping earth a bit cleaner (some companies are already investing in off world mining, but we need more). The point is that there are alternatives that we’re not using. Robotics presents an opportunity to make things right with technology and I’m excited to be part of that answer in writing books such as Python for Data Science for Dummies and Machine Learning for Dummies (see the posts for this book).

Unfortunately, companies like Apple, Samsung, and many others simply thumb their noses at laws that are in place to protect the children in these countries because they know you’ll buy their products. Yes, they make official statements, but read their statements in that first article and you’ll quickly figure out that they’re excuses and poorly made excuses at that. They don’t have to care because no one is holding them to account. People in rich countries don’t care because their own backyards aren’t sullied and their own children remain safe. So, the next time you think about buying electronics, consider the real price for that product. Let me know what you think about polluting other countries to keep your country clean at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.