January 27, 2006

Silicon Valley thinking...

I haven't blogged about Google, because everybody else has already covered the subject...

But what I find particularly interesting is their "don't be evil" motto. It is SO typical of liberals, including Silicon Valley liberals. I see this kind of thinking all the time around here, and WHAT'S MISSING? How could the very people who claim to not be "evil" become so easily enmeshed in what looks like evil?

The thing that's missing are core principles. If you are going to plunge into a thicket like China, you need to have already sorted out your beliefs, and have a pretty good idea of how much you are willing to compromise them for practical needs. blithely saying "Don't be evil" won't cut it--you need to know exactly what it is you think is bad. And what you believe is good.

And the issues Google is struggling with don't all point one way. Google is a publicly held corporation. They have taken money from investors in return for a promise to seek profits and growth. "A promise made is a debt unpaid." If they forwent profits in order to "not be evil," they would have been doing another kind of evil: Defrauding their investors, who own the company. If they pass up a market of a billion people, then anyone who owns Google stock could say, "Hold on there, pals. I own part of this company. I'm one of your bosses, and "oil for the lamps of China" sounds pretty good to me."

They should have thought out what their motto means, and informed investors before they took their money. But that's what liberals never do---think it out. Just being liberal tells them that they are the "good guys."

Experience shows that if you lack a coherent set of beliefs and principles, you will flounder. You must know already what you want, and why, and broadly how best to attain it, if you are ever to deal effectively with the thousand-and-one crises that face you in government."
--Margaret Thatcher

Listen to that wise woman. She knew!

Which leads to another point: Because of her and other mentors, especially Peter Drucker, I know. Little me. Those Google guys are very very smart. Probably ten times smarter than I am. So why do they look dim-witted to me? Because I have philosophical power tools! They are John Henry with his hammer, and I'm the guy with the steam drill. In fact I first encountered that "don't be evil" thing last year, and instantly suspected that it was a sign of dangerously muddled thinking.

Here's some ugly stuff about Google. I think those guys are Hip-Deep in the Big Muddy, and the utter mushiness of Silicon Valley culture leaves them CLUELESS about how to extricate themselves.

And the mess could be important in a purely dollars-and-cents way. Google is trying to use the enthusiasm and creativity and energy and spirit of it's employees to build things that are new and very difficult to pull off. Spirit matters, just as much as money. And it could well depress people's spirits, if their friends start suggesting that they Google terms like: "laogai."

Posted by John Weidner at January 27, 2006 11:01 AM
Weblog by John Weidner