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THE INC. LIFE

A Former Google Executive Just Revealed the 1 Startling Untold Truth About the Company. It’s Not Pretty

It’s a time of reckoning for Google and other Silicon Valley companies.

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BY Chris Matyszczyk - 07 Oct 2018

A Former Google Executive Just Revealed the 1 Startling Untold Truth About the Company. It's Not Pretty

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.

 

When a squirrel knocked a flower pot off the wall at my house, my wife said, quite reasonably: "Squirrels make mistakes."

Sadly, for many years, the same didn't seem to be true of those who worked for Google.

These emperors of intellect were positively, definitely making the world a better place.

And when mere peans expressed doubt, Google's answer was always: "Trust us."

Which, in hindsight, sounded just like every used car salesperson you've ever met.

The realities of Google's shortcomings are only now dribbling into the atmosphere.

Last week, the company's former head of PR, Jessica Powell, wrote an essay and published a satirical novel.

Together, these might be seen as a searing indictment of so much that Google -- and other Valley companies -- stand for. (Powell tries not to mention Google by name.)

Powell explained how, for the Valley's big brains, data leads everything. Never mind that the actions of a minority could wreck not only other people's lives, but elements of democracy itself.

She praised how frightfully clever the people she worked with truly were, before tempering it with:

You can't really claim that you're building for everyone in the world when your own workforce doesn't remotely resemble the outside world.

How, indeed, could these (mostly) men, many of whom have the personal skills of a mold-ridden table leg, understand the emotional triggers of real, non-nerdy humans?

But the really painful, ugly aspect unveiled by Powell is one that now seems obvious, but, for so long, was something Google, Facebook and the rest were desperate to conceal:

You can't go about telling your advertisers that you can target users down to the tiniest pixel, but then throw your hands up in front of the politicians and say your machines can't figure out if bad actors are using your platform.

Every time Valley companies protested that they were powerless to do something -- or prevent something -- it was merely a sleight of tongue.

The truth was that they tried to follow every actions of every human being. Everywhere, at all times. How, then, could they not be able to intervene or even anticipate?

Or were they a little too busy growing, achieving scale and pandering to the diktats of data, rather than respecting human realities?

It's all very well, of course, for Powell to say these things now.

She, like so many other executives who have left Google, Facebook and the rest, has likely made her money and can rise above the mess she's left behind.

She's merely following in the footsteps of former Facebook executives such as Sean Parker and Chamath Palihapitiya who lament that children's minds might now be permanently warped because of the Valley's finest works.

The true sadness is that no one on these executive teams seems to have said anything at the time.

If they had, that might truly have made the world a better place.

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