When I use the term evil I always explain why because it carries a lot of cultural and religious connotations, none of which capture why I use it. I do not believe people can be evil - people can be misguided, psychotic, ignorant, well meaning, mentally ill and more, but not evil. Actions and structures and items we create - things that are singular in their existence and don’t carry the depth of complexity and the potential for change that humans do - can be evil. That is what I mean when I say that I truly believe Google, and by extension Google Stadia, is evil.
Now I’d also like to state Google isn’t the only evil corporation. Many corporations ride a fine line between too small to be truly evil and just big enough to start really damaging society, and certainly many video game and media corporations fall into the latter of the two. My singling out of Google is simply due to the announcement of Stadia and many of my critiques could easily apply to other technology giants.
The Google Stadia presentation was full of lies either by simply not telling the truth or lies of omission. Many questions ran through my head while watching it the primary of which was, “How did Project Stream actually do?” and the answer, if you look anywhere, is not great. Some people absolutely had an incredible experience and I don’t doubt that, but many did not - graphical quality, internet connection, etc. all being problems.
Google, however, made no mention of this and simply stated that Google Stadia works because of their experience from Project Stream. Since nothing has change about the quality of internet infrastructure around the world since Project Stream we have to assume Google is simply lying. Of course, maybe I (and many others) will be proven wrong and Google will have some secret weapon that greatly improves the internet for the 1+ billion people Stadia will release to this year. But that seems unlikely.
The More Evil
Google presents itself consistently as bringing people together through the internet. They state over and over they are improving the world, believe in connecting humans, building bridges, other buzzwords, etc. Google’s original slogan was “Don’t be evil” which is also partially why I chose the title of this post.
The reality behind this is that Google is bringing people together UNDER GOOGLE. That is not democracy, that is not equality, that is not freedom. Google is a megacorporation that controls and evaluates the personal data it collects to control what we see and experience online. Google works with the military to perfect how to murder people. Google influences culture and, because it lacks oversight since it is a private corporation, directly and indirectly supports the growth of terrorism, white nationalism, pedophilia, human trafficking, and a slew of other things that make up the absolute worst humanity has to offer.
Google doesn’t want to improve humanity - it wants humanity to live in a Google world and it perceives itself as the answer to humanity’s problems. The only answer to the problems of the world has always been and will forever be people - any private entity whether it be a political party, a religion, a corporation, etc. that presents only itself as the answer to the ills of society should be met with deep skepticism and concern.
Nothing I’ve written has not been discussed before online and presented as a critique of Google and other corporate giants. This last part, though, I find to be the most evil actions taken by corporations and the least talked about: the actual day to day human cost of these companies.
Computers are not grown on trees. Servers, infrastructure cables, USB sticks, DVDs, drones, smart TVs, graphics cards, the list is endless - all these items are built using raw materials around the world collected and organized by human hands. Feel free to start reading about conflict minerals here. But conflict minerals are not the only minerals mined inhumanely - mining has been an international problems for centuries and when laborers in wealthy countries starting demanding safer conditions, better pay, health insurance, etc. the corporations in those counties simply shifted the labor to other nations. All over Asia, Africa, and Latin America, corporations exploit humans to mine minerals for electronics. Physical and sexual violence, murder, and forced labor are the worst of the exploitation and dangerous working conditions and poverty is the best. Additionally, mining can absolutely destroy the environment. El Salvador faced this when they realized that mining was effectively poisoning the water supply of the entire country and became the first nation to completely ban metal mining in the world.
So what do we do about Google being evil?
The world has improved a lot over the last few centuries - life span, health, education, literacy, labor and civil rights, etc. have all improved worldwide through the sacrifices of activists, organizers, and revolutionaries who died to give us many of the things we take for granted today, however we still live in a fairly barbaric world. We need to continue their fight.
One of the biggest pitfalls of the modern world is that, because production and economics are so global, we no longer know where anything comes from. Whereas even just a hundred years ago you might personally know the farmer who grows your produce and the tailor who makes your clothes, that is rarely the case today. Google takes advantage of this - they present an enticing new product that grants all our gaming desires and more as if it grew on a Google tree and they simply plucked it and placed it front of our dazzled eyes.
When a group as powerful as Google presents anything that sounds amazing just remember to ask these three questions:
1) Is this product being truthfully represented?
2) How does this product benefit the entity producing it?
and most importantly
3) Who are the actual people working each day to build the product in front of me? What is the real human cost of the labor that goes into it?
It isn’t cynical to care about how things are made, to question the motives of corporate entities, to think about others before your own personal desire. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It’s cynical to take a product at face value and to not even think about how it is made and what those people’s lives are like. I love video games, they are one of my favorite things in life, but I love people more.