Google's Eric Schmidt: "Don't Be Evil" was Stupid
May 14, 2013 11:00 AM
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Schmidt admits that he thought the "don't be evil" slogan was stupid when he first came to Google
In a recent interview with NPR, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said that he used to think his company's famous slogan -- "don't be evil" -- was stupid.
NPR host Peter Sagal
recently on a segment called "Not My Job," which humorously speaks with important leaders and includes a game of some sort.
Sagal asked Schmidt how Google came up with the slogan, "don't be evil."
"Well, it was invented by Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin]," said Schmidt. "And the idea was that we don't quite know what evil is, but if we have a rule that says don't be evil, then employees can say, I think that's evil. Now, when I showed up, I thought this was the stupidest rule ever, because there's no book about evil except maybe, you know, the Bible or something.
"So what happens is, I'm sitting in this meeting, and we're having this debate about an advertising product. And one of the engineers pounds his fists on the table and says, that's evil. And then the whole conversation stops, everyone goes into conniptions, and eventually we stopped the project. So it did work."
Sagal then humorously accused Schmidt of being the "businessman" type out of the group (among Page and Brin) who felt that an American business couldn't be evil.
"You're coming in, like, you're a businessman who's been successful in all kinds of Silicon Valley business," said Sagal. "And you come in, and you're like this thing about not being evil, that'll never work in American business. What, are you crazy, kids?"
Sagal and Schmidt discussed a few other topics as well, such as
. Sagal asked Schmidt what the glasses are used for exactly.
"Well, we don't quite know yet," said Schmidt. "We have maybe 2,000 of these. We've shipped them out to developers, and we're seeing what they develop. There's obviously issues, shall we say, of appropriateness of how people are going to use these things. There's a right time to have Google Glass on, and there's a right time to have it off, if you take my drift.
"So kind of watch and see what people do with it and then decide what to do."
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5/14/2013 8:36:26 PM
Wow, that's a disappointing way to sell out and back away from a high water mark in the realm of Internet-based firms. I had always given Google a wide latitude because at least their corporate mantra was there to steer them away from the sort of mortally/ethically ambiguous greed-motivated actions so many (a la facebook) have succumbed to.
If their executive chairman believes not being evil is stupid, they just severely alienated me. Evil is not something you need a moral authority to identify, evil is self-evidently wrong, probably could have been written more colloquially as "do no harm." Because, yeah, you wouldn't want your employees to have and nurture a social conscious.
Bye, google. Don't let the door hit you on the ass.
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