Monday, February 05, 2007

Duh! No Evil!

If the great philosopher John Rawls had offered the exhortation "Write no bad code!" to the programmers of the world, I imagine a large proportion of the responses would have included the word "Duh!" Likewise, I imagine the philosophers of the world offering "Duh!" in response to Google's "Do no evil." In both cases, however, the maxims are essentially useless because they leave all the difficult questions of good and bad unanswered. What is good and bad code? What is good and bad behavior?

Nicholas Carr discusses Google's tax break negotiations in North Carolina:

"Even if you look beyond the ethics of demanding that public officials sign nondisclosure agreements, you have to wonder about the business rationale of this kind of corporate bullying. Google, after all, is extremely conscious of its public image and has gone out of its way to portray itself as a company with a pristine moral character, presenting itself as the anti-Microsoft. Did it really think that its pressure tactics, documented in emails to public officials, would remain under wraps?"



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