Don’t be evil sounds like the type of moral lesson you’d find in a bargain basement bible. It is basic, is delivered without panache, and contains no deeper meaning beyond its slap you in the face bluntness. Rather than being the words of a second-rate preacher, Don’t be evil has for a long time been the Code of Conduct for Google, the company that effectively owns the internet.
Now Don’t be evil sounds good, but it is subjective. It is open to interpretation. It is up to whoever is reading it to decide what is evil and then avoid acting in such a manner. If Google doesn’t think acting like a monopoly is evil, then Google is free to act like a Monopoly and follow unfair business practices, as it has done many times since its inception.
Coming from this angle, maybe we shouldn’t be too alarmed that Google has decided to remove Don’t be evil from its code of conduct. Does it mean that Google is going to start being evil or does it simply mean that it was never meant to be more than marketing? An empty phrase designed to let us know that Google is the good guys. The new code of conduct wants to be more than mere fluff:
“The Google Code of Conduct is one of the ways we put Google’s values into practice. It’s built around the recognition that everything we do in connection with our work at Google will be, and should be, measured against the highest possible standards of ethical business conduct. We set the bar that high for practical as well as aspirational reasons: Our commitment to the highest standards helps us hire great people, build great products, and attract loyal users. Respect for our users, for the opportunity, and for each other are foundational to our success, and are something we need to support every day.”
It is a bit beefier and explicitly mentions respect for users, which could be a good thing. The lack of Don’t evil, however, could also provide the wiggle room needed for Google to continue working on dark and sinister projects like US government sponsored AI- weaponization or the unsettling project we’ll talk about shortly…