Google will always do evil
But its employees won't.
One day in late April or early May, Google removed the phrase "don't be evil" from its code of conduct. After 18 years as the company's motto, those three words and chunks of their accompanying corporate clauses were unceremoniously deleted from the record, save for a solitary, uncontextualized mention in the document's final sentence.
Google didn't advertise this change. In fact, the code of conduct states it was last updated April 5th. The "don't be evil" exorcism clearly took place well after that date.
Google has chosen to actively distance itself from the uncontroversial, totally accepted tenet of not being evil, and it's doing so in a shady (and therefore completely fitting) way. After nearly two decades of trying to live up to its motto, it looks like Google is ready to face reality.
In order for Google to be Google, it has to do evil.
This is true for every major technology company. Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla, Microsoft, Sony, Twitter, Samsung, Nintendo, Dell, HP, Toshiba -- every one of these organizations can't compete in the market without engaging in unethical, inhumane and invasive practices. It's a sliding scale: The larger the company, the more integrated it is in our everyday lives, the more evil it can be.
Take Facebook, for example. CEO Mark Zuckerberg will stand onstage at F8 and wax poetic about the beauty of connecting billions of people across the globe, while at the same time patenting technologies to determine users' social classes and enable discrimination in the lending process, and allowing housing advertisers to exclude racial and ethnic groups or families with women and children from their listings.Regarding Foxconn, here's 2012's "What May Happen When the Foxconn Robots Become Self-Aware"
That's not even mentioning the Cambridge Analytica scandal and the 85 million Facebook users whose personal information ended up, without permission, in the hands of an overseas political group during the contentious 2016 presidential election.
And then there's Apple, the largest public company in the world. It's also one of the most secretive, but even so, it's been caught engaging in evil. Apple is one of the most notorious tech names when it comes to child labor and inhumane working conditions. It's been tied to child labor in Africa, and the Chinese factories where its phones are assembled are frequently cited over illegal and lethal practices. At least nine workers at Apple's key factory partner, Foxconn Technology Group, committed suicide in 2010, prompting international outrage. Yet just this year, Bloomberg found iPhone assembly workers in the Catcher Technology Co. factory were required to stand for up to 10 hours a day in heinous conditions, handling chemicals, dealing with loud machines and being exposed to minuscule metal particles without proper masks, gloves, goggles or earplugs. After their shifts, employees lived in dirty dorms without showers or hot water.
Apple isn't the only tech company to work with Foxconn or Catcher, and it isn't the only one accused of encouraging inhumane assembly lines. In 2016, the AP reported more than 200 workers from a single Samsung production line had died or fallen seriously ill, many being diagnosed with leukemia, lymphoma and MS, despite being relatively young -- in their 20s and early 30s. Samsung has denied any involvement in the lethal trend.
There's a simple reason major tech companies often look the other way after these scandals, brushing concerns aside as they continue to work with factories known for employing children and operating in barbaric ways. It's necessity. In order to remain competitive, Apple needs 200 million new iPhones with each updated model, and the most profitable way to make that happen is to partner with Foxconn or Catcher. In Apple's math, the bottom line outweighs the well-being of workers on the assembly line.
The people who actually work at Apple or any major tech company are not monsters. Ask any Apple employee about child labor in iPhone factories and they'll assuredly express disgust and outrage -- but the company itself is far more powerful than its individualized workforce.
Which brings us back to Google....MORE
In 2010 when 18 Foxconn employees attempted suicide and 14 succeeded there was a worldwide outcry.Re: calumny, I learned the word from Machiavelli. And as noted in a 2016 post where the Financial Times' Izabella Kaminska somehow got me riffing on reputation as an outro from her piece on algorithmic discrimination:
This outcry stemmed from a number of factors including an ignorance of statistics and a profound ignorance of suicide in human populations.
At the time Foxconn had 930,000 employees (now 1.2mil.) resulting in a suicide rate of 0.001505376% or 1.505 per 100,000.* According to the all-knowing one, Wikipedia, the rate for China as a whole was 22.23 per 100,000.
The Foxconn rate was lower than that of 99 countries including every country in Europe, the U.S. (12.0) and the rest of the G20.
As a general rule, if you aren't feeling too chipper stay out of Eastern Europe and the Western U.S.
*Half of the workforce is in the gigantic Shenzhen complex of facilities. 14/450,000 only gets you to 3.1 per 100,000 or about the rate of Malta and less than a third of the worldwide rate of 10.07 per 100K.
...Well, what she's pointing out is such a threat to representative government that Machiavelli in his discourses on the first ten books of Livy's history of the Roman Republic mentions calumny (The making of false and defamatory statements about someone in order to damage their reputation; slander...O.E.D.) at least a hundred times and in fact dedicates a chapter (XIII of book I) to making the distinction between accusation as a tool for finding the truth and calumny as a method of destruction:Regarding evil we'll leave that for the ethicists and theologians to figure out.
XIII In proportion as accusations are useful in a republic, so are calumnies pernicious
Or Saints. Cage Match!
Saint Isidore of Seville: Patron Saint of the Internet
Saint Genesius of Rome: Patron Saint of Comedians