Google’s motto: Don’t be evil. (9)

In the final minutes of a Google Authors talk by Slavoj Zizek, professor and philosopher, one of Google’s employees asks Zizek what he thinks about Google’s informal motto: “Don’t be evil.” In essence, what are Google’s unknown knowns, or as Freud would say, unconscious elements?

Is Google aware of its potential for abusive power?

Is Google aware of its potential for abusive power?

As discussed in the previous post, Google’s ownership of Youtube has led to increased detection of copyright infringement and the removal of videos that contravene its pornography and obscenity guidelines.

Zizek responds by wondering why Google is worried about being evil, and which model of evil they subscribe to. Perhaps being the most powerful search engine, they could be open to manipulating what the public sees when they search for a term like “McDonalds” versus “McDonalds food poisoning.”

Zizek defines evil as something which “brutally interrupts the normal running of things, evil is a cut, which is why for certain pagan religions, Jesus Christ is evil embodied. And in a way they are right,” because he signalled an end to obeying Karma and believing in reincarnation.

Zizek interprets Google’s motto as “we are doing something terribly great lets not do it too fast.”

Google does fit Zizek’s simplified model of evil, in that they have broken ground (from a software perspective), and changed the way a new generation watches video and finds its information. This affects, according to Zizek, normal community life and a small part of what it means to be human.

Published in: on February 4, 2009 at 4:09 pm  Comments (3)