Google – defining 'evil'

Written by Mark Evans

Google used to have the corporate motto ‘don't be evil’, the problem is that evil can be subjective. For example, if you were to help create better targeting for drone strikes, reducing the ‘collateral’ damage and helping eliminate terrorists is that good or bad?

The current motto of Alphabet, ‘do the right thing’ which doesn’t really clear matters up much. However, several thousand Google employees have decided where the line needs to be drawn, and have now signed an open letter telling the company that it must stop helping the US military on its ‘Project Maven’.

Maven indeed does use artificial intelligence to increase the precision of drone strikes.

The employees state that "we believe that Google should not be in the business of war” which is fairly straightforward. Bizarrely the letter then cites that continuing to work on the project will “irreparably damage Google’s brand and its ability to compete for talent” which is a bit, well, weaselly and self-centred by comparison to trying to stop munitions from landing on people, but one supposes that it was written to wake up the investors and management.

After the scandals at Facebook, this latest issue places the technology giants under greater public scrutiny, and it will be interesting to see which way the company jumps.