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This is a level of douchiness I cannot fathom. What possesses these people to act in this fashion and how do they sleep at night? How is this not seen as clearly unethical behavior? A clear violation of Wheaton's Law, here.

I mean... I could easily take that lollipop from that naïve baby in that baby carriage... but I don't, simply because I'm Not A Dick™.

Did all of Silicon Valley get the wrong takeaway from the Apple/Xerox thing, or something?




Why do people carry out muggings? Because they gain from it. Morality and legality aren't just divergent - they're orthogonal. Just like one can perform moral and immoral actions in physical space, one can perform moral or immoral actions using the legal system. Despite the goal of the legal system being to punish immoral behavior, being able to actually formalize that is up against the limit of complexity - as soon as rules are made to discourage bad behavior, the lawful bad actors move on to using those very laws to carry out attacks.

A major meta problem in the current system is that even when bad behavior is able to be formally judged and is called out, there is still little downside for getting caught. Under a functioning legal system, Google would have to make OP whole for their time/stress/legalfees/etc incurred, and would therefore be discouraged from attacking again. Alas.

The individuals have no problem sleeping at night because there is no shortage of narratives to pick from to justify their actions - then further normalized by their peer group engaging in similar business. Nobody sees themselves as a bad person.


Great comment. Is this a fundamental limit? The justice system itself pricing most people out of justice. A reasonable judge could make the the OP whole, and discourage attacks. But access to that judge is far, far too expensive.

In the absence of a working justice system, are we helpless? Mostly, yes. But Google's reputation will take a big hit here, rightly so. Ideally, the individuals involved at Google would also take a big reputation hit. In an ideal world when they apply for a job, these individuals will be rejected for their immoral, unethical behavior.


>Ideally, the individuals involved at Google would also take a big reputation hit.

Ideally yes, in reality? the problem of a system that rewards trickery and deceit is that eventually the opposite (truth, honor, respect, etc) becomes worthless. You even have countries like mine that are so down this rabbit hole that being called a "good guy" is almost an insult because it just means you're simpleton who gets scammed.

Public reputation is only good in an environment where (public)reputation matters and in this situation the (private)reputation of that google employee within the corporation as a guy who makes money for the company matters more than if a limited portion of the public (us here) knows he outright steals things from other people through deceit. In general the average consumer couldn't care less about the actual individuals behind the products they are using or the controversies behind their creation. The vast, vast majority of computer users don't know that Xerox actually created the GUI and not Apple or Microsoft, and they don't care. So expecting them to provide justice in lieu of the system its a tall order to say the least.


Why do elite decision makers, CEO's, boards of directors, make decisions that will certainly have adverse effects, that will literally kill people (eg. Trafigura), just to make more profit? Despite the fact that they are all already individually multi-millionaires and could not really materially improve their lives with more money?

I've ruminated on this.

I think the only reason that could explain such excess is competitiveness. To them, it is like a game. Its not about getting another yacht, its about beating the other guy. I think its the same mechanism that will drive someone to grind for many hours in an MMO or suchlike.


I've tended to think that a lot of it is about different social circles. If everyone you know makes $50-100k/yr, you feel fine making that yourself, and may not even be sure what you'd do with a million dollars. If your social circle is full of millionaires and multi-millionaries, all of the sudden making a million feels like barely getting by and you think about all of the cool stuff you see people around you getting that you could get if you had tens of millions.


I think it's different past ~$150k salary too (probably more like $200k-$300k in the valley). At that point there's this weird net worth dick measuring contest that becomes a lot of people at that level's xbox gamer score. As in it's this number that they've attached a whole lot of identity to to be able to compare to their peers. It has very little to about what they can actually do with that number and more that they just want a bigger one than their friends.


>To them, it is like a game. Its not about getting another yacht, its about beating the other guy.

This is presumably what might inspire a billionaire to sue Forbes over their position in Forbes published rich list - https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-saudi-billionaire...

Money is entirely ego-points for people like that.


"its about beating the other guy. I think its the same mechanism that will drive someone to grind for many hours in an MMO or suchlike."

I think their sense of identity is tied to their performance. I noticed the same thing in sports or even in school were students compare exam scores.


> that will literally kill people (eg. Trafigura)

I had to google that. Shocking story.

> To them, it is like a game.

I think you're right. I also think Trump (ahem) once said something along these lines: "At some point, all this stops being money and is just numbers that you want to keep going up." That would support your competitiveness assertion. (It might also explain why men tend to make more than women, but I digress.)

> I think its the same mechanism that will drive someone to grind for many hours in an MMO or suchlike.

nah, that's just the variable-ratio reinforcement schedule :) https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-a-variable-ratio-schedu...


Selection bias? You need to have a certain amount of ruthlessness to become a CEO or a serious director.


>>What possesses these people to act in this fashion and how do they sleep at night?

It is very simple, they only care about themselves. Everything else is irrelevant.


It is greed and a hefty bonus.. and if they have to walk over 50 corpses, it doesn't really matter. There is no point trying to discuss ethics with a snake. Those people have a distorted sense of honor (or not at all).


One word: greed!

”For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” ‭‭I Timothy‬ ‭6:10‬


Money. And money. And pathological drive to win.


It's sneaky and underhanded and shady and evil.

Let's use a different real-world example. An acquaintance shows me an "attic treasure" that I know is worth at least $20k on the open market. Do I offer them $100 and not tell them what it might really be worth? Does it depend on how well I know them?

In my case, even if I did not know the person at all and never expected to interact with them again (basically, the recipe for non-cooperation, according to Axelrod's https://smile.amazon.com/Evolution-Cooperation-Revised-Rober...), I'd offer them about $5k (given some reselling risk and effort on my part, which I believe is worth at least some of the difference). If they were smart then they'd refuse and do their own homework. If they simply wanted to accept the price, they could.

I would NOT offer to take it off their hands for free. "More space in your attic!"

I'm sure that Google didn't owe this woman anything and didn't know her from a hole in the wall but... This is just machiavellian ruthlessness.

Don't be greedy, people. Make mutually-beneficial deals. It's not zero-sum (even though the particulars on how it's possible to not be zero-sum still escape me and hurt my head).


The analogy breaks down, though - in Google's disfavour and in OP's favour.

OP knew that she had something valuable. But she also thought of it as a free good (libre, not gratis). As I interpret it this is because she knew that her work builds on the work of others.

At Google, they probably knew about the intellectual background of OP's innovation, too. And yet, they tried to patent it. So much about their intellectual honesty.


> (even though the particulars on how it's possible to not be zero-sum still escape me and hurt my head).

If I have a hamburger patty and a hot dog bun, and you have a hot dog bun and a hamburger patty, we both win if we trade (it's not zero-sum).

You can generalize this across more than one party and more than two goods pretty easily.


Assuming no caloric difference between the buns and between the meats, the perceived increase in value is purely aesthetic/intangible though!


The analogy wasn't really about hot dogs and hamburgers, but about complementarity.

Assume that you have something that has a complementary relationship with something I have, but doesn't have a complementary relationship with anything you have. Assume that I'm in the same situation in relation to you. If we trade objects, we both benefit. Hot dog buns and hamburger buns are designed to be complements of certain respective forms of ground meats, hence the naming scheme.


> the perceived increase in value is purely aesthetic

Aesthetic value is still value. Most people would prefer not to eat Nutraloaf three meals a day.


Eating a hamburger in a hot dog bun would be messier than eating a hot dog in a hamburger bun, so the person with the hamburger and hot dog bun has a stronger incentive to trade.


>(even though the particulars on how it's possible to not be zero-sum still escape me and hurt my head)

The earth isn't a closed thermodynamic system ;)


Seeing that Apple didn’t steal anything from Xerox. It was very much a negotiation so what lesson would that be?

https://zurb.com/blog/steve-jobs-and-xerox-the-truth-about-i...


Sure, but the popular recollection is not that story, it's "good artists borrow; great artists steal"


They get big and go public. Only a matter of time before the bad behavior starts to happen. Gotta keep that stock price up.

Not saying private companies can't engage in heinous shenanigans either, they sure can.


White collar sociopathy. These guys at the top lack an empathetic intuition.

https://www.ribbonfarm.com/2009/10/07/the-gervais-principle-...


You are a Nice Guy (TM) but business is business

it's actually not a bad thing that it's one of the few places you can actually be an asshole without feeling bad for it though


Business can be respectful, honorable and still successful, so that phrase is mostly a lame blanket excuse to not put in effort towards such goals.

And, sorry, but it's hard to escape the indicative aspect of liking the oportunity to be "an asshole without feeling bad about it"...


Well the point is that its nice to see the world how you would like it to be instead of what it is. In practice some people are asshole, egoistical and take pleasure in it and i would argue life tend to reward that kind of behaviour (more money, more power and more girls). And they make fun of you.




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