“Companies Like Google Actually Embody A Particular Notion Of Progress Rather Than Populism”

In “What Is ‘Evil’ to Google?” Ian Bogost of the Atlantic tries to decipher the slippery moral code of the search giant that aspires to be so much more:

“All moral codes are grounded in something: a religious tradition, a philosophical doctrine, a cultural practice. Google’s take on virtue doesn’t reject such grounds so much as create a new one: the process of googlization itself. If anything, Google’s motto seems to have largely succeeded at reframing ‘evil’ to exclude all actions performed by Google.

There is a persistent idea that Internet technology companies embody an innocent populism. That the rational engineer is an earnest problem-solver, his fists striking tables instead of noses. But there’s something treacherous in believing that virtue and vice can be negotiated in the engineering of an email client or the creation of a spreadsheet—that evil is just another problem to overcome, like usability or scalability.

Companies like Google actually embody a particular notion of progress rather than populism, one that involves advancing their technology solutions as universal ones. Evil is vicious because it inhibits this progress. If Google has made a contribution to moral philosophy, it amounts to a devout faith in its own ability to preside over virtue and vice through engineering. The unwitting result: We’ve not only outsourced our email hosting and office suite provisioning to Google, but also our information ethics. Practically speaking, isn’t it just easier to let Google manage right and wrong?”