The “selfish elite” own iPads

New technology from Apple always seems to stir up a lot of attention. MyType, a consumer research company, studied both the owners of iPads and the new gadget’s critics (20,000 people total):

iPad owners tend to be wealthy, sophisticated, highly educated and disproportionately interested in business and finance, while they scored terribly in the areas of altruism and kindness. In other words, “selfish elites.”

They are six times more likely to be “wealthy, well-educated, power-hungry, over-achieving, sophisticated, unkind and non-altruistic 30-50 year olds,” MyType’s Tim Koelkebeck told

96 percent those most likely to criticize the iPad, on the other hand, don’t even own one, although as geeks, they were slightly more likely to do so than the average population — and far more likely to have an opinion about the device one way or the other (updated). This group tends to be “self-directed young people who look down on conformity and are interested in videogames, computers, electronics, science and the internet,” said Koelkebeck.

A strong reminder that technology is not just a tool; it is often a status symbol. I remember having a discussion with some students about what it meant to have and display an Apple laptop in class. Students were quite aware that they were sending some sort of message about themselves in their computer choice.

It is also worth remembering that Apple once held its own non-comformist identity as they took on big, bad Microsoft. Today, Apple’s products such as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad are the height of cool but those who have them may be considered comformist.

Blood gadgets

Many consumers don’t ask, and presumably often don’t care, how their newly purchased products came to be. Certain products have drawn attention, such as “blood diamonds” (accompanied by a preachy Hollywood film by the same name) or Nike shoes made by sweatshop laborers.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof draws attention to another set of consumer goods: high-tech gadgets including cell phones. These devices often include hard to obtain minerals, such as tantalum which is found in Congo. There are some activists who are planning to bring attention to this by taking their argument to tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, and Intel:

A humorous new video taunting Apple and PC computers alike goes online this weekend on YouTube, with hopes that it will go viral. Put together by a group of Hollywood actors, it’s a spoof on the famous “I’m a Mac”/”I’m a PC” ad and suggests that both are sometimes built from conflict minerals.

“Guess we have some things in common after all,” Mac admits.

Stay tuned. A strong-enough consumer/activist push will likely lead to these companies pledging to use responsible materials.

Also: one wonders how this decades-long situation in mineral-rich Congo might inform decision-making regarding recent finds of vast amounts of valuable minerals in Afghanistan.