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You should read Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast and Slow". It's not possible to make all the right policy decisions that are right in hindsight and before a sentinal event occurs. Hindsight bias is always 20/20. Anyone making real decisions of consequence will eventually curse hindsight.

Well Google is now framing this as a moral issue, so did morality change significantly between when they accepted this project and today?

Do you think regret is morally valid?


But Google has no intention of doing the right thing anymore than Microsoft or Disney does. These are corporations and their executives HAVE to do what they think will be best for the corporation. Not what they think is best for mankind.

This is how for profit businesses currently work. And PR saying anything to the contrary is simply not true.

This is a gross generalization that people trot out as if it were unassailable but never back it up with any support.

Corporations are run by people with a complex set of motivations and constraints in which they make decisions. Some of them make decisions with intent to harm. Some make decisions with intent to help.

No one person is automatically turned into a ruthless amoral person just be being employed at a corporation.

... and most make decisions in a space where (local) zero-sum games mean there is no option available that uniformly helps or harms.

It gets complicated but it's more about the employees responsibility to shareholders. Not their personal morals.


And do you know what can happen when a person's own morals or ethics come in to conflict with their responsibility to shareholders?

They can quit. They can speak out. They can organize. They can petition for change. They could join the more ethical competition (if one exists), or start their own.

This is especially easy to do for employees of a company like Google, with excellent job prospects and often enough "fuck you money" to do whatever they want without serious financial hardship.

They are not hopelessly chained to the corporate profit machine. They can revolt -- that is, if their morals are important enough to them. Otherwise they can stay on and try not to rock the boat, or pretend they don't know or are helpless to act.

A handful of Google employees chose to act and publicly express their objections. This action got results. More employees in companies which act unethically should follow their lead.

I used to work at google about 5 years ago. While I was there it was clear that Google employed some of the most morally conscience people I've ever worked with. It's why I still trust them to this day with data that I would never trust anyone else with. As long as Google employees continue to have a voice in the company I'll continue to trust them.

Google public shareholders do not have control of the company. Larry, Sergey, and Eric are the only shareholders who matter. So executives are responsible to them first and foremost.

Even if this is true, they can make the subjective decision that doing certain things will make the company look bad in the eyes of employees (which not only can cause employees to resign, but can disadvantage a company in negotiations to hire new employees) and users of the product, and can ultimately be worse for their bottom line than things that don't bring the same short-term financial benefits.

Ultimately, though, I agree with zaphar that you are overgeneralizing, since corporations are controlled by humans -- executives, other employees, and shareholders -- and human motivations can be complex.

This sort of thing gets said a lot. It's not a valid excuse and it's not true in the black and white sense that people constantly present it.

Otoh Google tries to claim much more moral highground than they actually have. Insincerity does rub people in the wrong way.

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