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Adam Trachtenberg is the Director of the LinkedIn Developer Network, where he oversees developer relations and marketing for the LinkedIn Platform. Before LinkedIn, Adam worked at eBay in platform product management and marketing. Even earlier, he co-founded Student.Com and TVGrid.com. Adam is the author of PHP Cookbook and Upgrading to PHP 5. He lives in San Francisco.

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“Don’t be bad.” vs. “Don’t be evil.”

From today’s New York Times article, Time Warner to Sell 5% AOL Stake to Google for $1 Billion:

If a user searches on Google for a topic for which AOL has content – like information about Madonna – there will be a special section on the bottom right corner of the search results page with links to AOL.com.

Google will also provide technical assistance so AOL can create Web pages that will appear more prominently in the search results list.

Time Warner asked Microsoft to give AOL similar preferred placement in advertising and in its Web index and… Microsoft refused, calling the request unethical.

Nietzsche distinguishes between good/bad and good/evil. The first is a question of merit; the second a question of morals.

I guess Google believes exchanging preferred placement and teaching one selected partner how to manipulate your objective ranking system in exchange for money is “bad,” but not “evil.” Therefore, it doesn’t break their promise of “don’t be evil.”

In comparison, Microsoft, by using the term “unethical,” clearly sees this as both “bad” and “evil.” It’s interesting how the DOJ can help you find God.

There Is 1 Response So Far. »

  1. Your citation of Nietzsche’s distinction is puzzling. Nietzsche’s distinction is a stipulative one (rather than being lexical or etymological). For Nietzsche ‘bad’ is the master morality term for a negative morality and and ‘evil’ is the slave morality term for a negative morality. Nietzsche argued for a “transvaluation of values” by which I take him to be saying something like “my (master-will based) values are better than your (supposedly transcendent slave) values” Nietzsche does not approve of the term ‘evil’ so its ironic that you would use Nietzsche’s moral system to decipher Google’s actions as bad but not evil. Google’s leaders probably qualify as the kind supermen Nietzsche admired, in which case he believes its ok for them to create their own values, and hence their own definitions of evil.