Covid-80

Dan O'Heirity

A Short Treatise on a Degree of Academic Stupidity

This is a story about my general stupidity in trying to purchase a phone not made in China. The reason that I wanted to make this purchase was that I had some degree of concern, albeit it not significant, about whether Chinese companies might be installing spyware on their phones. Whilst I’m not doing anything on my phone that would really be of interest to the Chinese, I still don’t like the idea of my data being stolen and sent through to a Chinese server. There is also a point about the way in which I generally run my computers and my phone. In both cases I try to set them up so that I am, as far as possible, operating in a secure environment. For example, I run a Virtual Private Network on my computers and my phone. I also run security suites on all of my devices and I have range of browser plugins to try to ensure the security of my personal details and the security of my data. Given how security conscious I am, buying a phone manufactured outside of China just made sense.

It was easy enough to find a site with a list of phones made in South Korea, India, Taiwan, and Japan. These phones range from high end models like the Sony Experia through to budget phones such as the Motorola Moto G family of phones. At this point my choice of phone seemed relatively straightforward because I just needed something basic. The reason. My phone plays a very minor role in my life. I have no friends and so I make no phone calls and I send no texts. I don’t use the camera or the video function and I don’t play games on my phone. All I really do is check news stories in the morning and use an app to log my sleep patterns. I use another app to monitor my diet as this is also important in terms of ensuring that I remain well. My phone also syncs with my Sunto watch to track my exercise, something else that is of importance in keeping myself well. With these points in mind I chose to look at the Motorola Moto G family of phones.

These phones are at the budget end of the market. For example, the Moto G8 which is the latest model comes in at around AU$450 which is incredibly inexpensive by any standards. However, the Moto G7 range comes in at around AU$250 for the obvious reason that it has recently been superseded by the G8 range. The only real difference between the G8 and the G7 series is that the G8 series has a better camera but, as I said, I don’t take pictures and so the quality of the camera does not bother me. At this point I decided to buy the Motorola G7 Power which has a super fast charging time and a very long battery life. My choice of the G7 Power was based on the fact that it was the only phone in the G7 range that seemed to be readily available in Australia at the AU$250 price. Having made the purchase, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. I’d found a cheap and more than adequate phone manufactured in India rather than China.

However, I then had a thought that revealed the flaw in my reasoning. I had no idea which company owned Motorola. I Googled Motorola and came across the Motorola U.S. website which states that Motorola Mobility LLC, marketed as Motorola, is owned by Lenovo and Lenovo is a Chinese company. At this point I was thinking that not all was lost because I’d used a website that said that Motorola G7 phones are manufactured in India. However, I did some more research and matters got complicated. Google once owned Motorola Mobility but sold the company to Lenovo in 2014. Motorola launched the G7 series in 2019, five years after purchasing Motorola Mobility from Google. It was looking increasingly likely that my newly purchased phone was in fact manufactured in China. This was all but confirmed when I discovered that it is only Motorola phones sold in India that are assembled in India. Really poor research on my part and, sure enough, my phone arrived with the box proudly declaring “Made in China”.

Rural Living May Recommend Itself in the Future

Since I am basically talking about me in this post, I’m going to mention an article that suggests that in the post Covid-19 world, more Australians may decide to live in the country and work from home. I wrote some time ago about my general intention to explore the possibility of finding a rural retreat although not with the intention of living there and working from home because, let’s face it, most employers are going to require that one has some presence at one’s place of work. That said, “a stated priority for Australian infrastructure is connecting major cities and regional centres” and so the argument is that “extreme commutes” may be possible. Even so, if I do buy a rural property, it will be so that I can stay there on occasional weekends. It also occurs to me that I would have somewhere to hide out when the world finally goes into a complete global meltdown either because of another pandemic of the sort that might wipe out half the world’s population or because China finally goes to war with one or more countries around the world.

Another advantage of owning a rural property is that I could live there should I find myself “let go” from my position as a Senior Lecturer at one of Australia’s Universities. The division in which I work has just survived the first round of job cuts at the University but one never knows as a second round of cuts is scheduled and it is impossible to tell what these will involve. I have reported data relating to the dependence of Australian universities on international students many times but this study goes into more of an in depth analysis of multiple forms of data to conclude that, “This analysis and associated modelling demonstrate that both in the short term and the longer term under both benign and more lasting impact scenarios of COVID-19 several Australian universities appear to have little funding capacity, in terms of readily available current assets, to be able to absorb the likely loss in revenue as a result of a significant decline in international student enrolments.” Hence, these universities will sack a lot of staff.

So it remains possible that I might be let go from the university where I work and a home well away from metropolitan Melbourne would be a necessity because of the financial cost of living in Melbourne and because it would likely be at least a year, if not more, before I could secure another university position. Let’s take the financial cost of living in Melbourne. My rent is over AU$2,000 per month. Thus, I’d be spending AU$24,000 just on rent if I were unemployed for a year. If I owned somewhere in the country there would be no rent to pay. However, I have little in the way of savings and so I would need to find an incredibly inexpensive dwelling to ensure that I could cover my living expenses. Taking the second point on the duration of my likely unemployment, universities are sacking staff to save money and whilst predictions are difficult to make, I doubt that 2021 will see universities hiring staff because 2020 has been all about cutting staffing costs. Even if some universities are hiring, there will be a disproportionate number of applicants due to the high numbers of university staff who have been let go.

First Published June 2nd, 2020

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