Don’t Be Evil

I will readily admit that change can be scary. There are about half a dozen meals I enjoy on a regular basis, and when someone offers me food that they think I might enjoy that is not on this short list I am almost always apprehensive. This fear often presents itself today as a reaction to the warp speeds of technological progress. On any given day this feeling can give rise to ones inner Luddite. Technology is often seen as inherently evil or corrupting. There are certainly outliers that fit this description, but there are counterexamples of technology being used for very positive projects. Google recognizes this with their motto “don’t be evil”.

I will leave what is to be considered good and evil up to the reader. I don’t see it as my place to try to dictate that to anyone. Like any other tool modern technologies such as computers can do good or evil things. Try to think of something you could do with a hammer that would benefit you and your local community. Now, think of something you could do with that hammer that would be detrimental to yourself and those around you. Can’t a computer be used in similar ways? A computer makes no judgment calls. It simply does what the user asks of it just as a hammer does what it’s user has provided the momentum for.

On the other hand, technologies are not built valueless. The primary point of a handgun is to shoot at people (justified or not). If we built baseball bats with rusty nails hanging off of the outside of the top of the bat we would have different expectations for its use. It is clear that the way in which we produce technologies has the ability to influence the uses of it. This is why building a giant red doomsday button is a very bad idea.

So, as engineers, developers, hackers, etc what can we do to make technologies that benefit society? Using well crafted design decisions we can produce tools that encourage positive consequences. We must make users feel secure, but not imprisoned. With every use of our creations not only should the user feel better, but so should everyone else that interacts with whatever results from the products use. If we do this perhaps we can create a better world for all. Isn’t that a good thing?

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