“Don’t be evil” is an amazing phrase to be associated with a brand as important as Google. Even if it is not ‘official’, some claim that this is a central pillar of Google’s identity.
Well, I have some thoughts!
One of the first lessons in linguistics a hypnotist learns is the power of “don’t” as a suggestion. I can demonstrate this immediately: “Don’t think about magic mushrooms!” OK, it’s time for you to be honest, what was the first thing you thought of? Parents regularly learn this lesson by the time their children have grown up and left home. After years of saying, “Careful! Don’t drop that!” or “Careful! You’ll hurt yourself!” they finally get the message that saying, “Don’t!” is a great way to create the very result they don’t want.
The Google employee who coined the catch-phrase was unlikely to be a hypnotist. It was an innocent and well-intentioned choice. But Google is not stupid – it has a collective brain – probably the best resourced on the Planet. Someone at Google understands this and their voice is not being heard.
Google and Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa was once asked to march in protest against one of the World’s conflicts. She refused. Confused, the protesters in this noble cause asked her, “Why?” She explained that she would never march against anything – but she would march for peace. Mother Teresa understood the power of moving towards more of what you want, and how much more powerful this is than moving away from what you don’t want. “What you resist, persists!” (Ed).
Don’t Walk on the Grass
“Don’t Walk on the Grass” is one of my favourite signs. Every time I see it, I only want to do one thing… and I know you know what I mean. Anyway, there might be magic mushrooms growing there…
And talking of Magic Mushrooms…
Google and God
Of course, controversially, Google and God go back a long way on this.
Exodus 20 has interesting suggestions for the hypnotically-minded:
3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them…
7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain…
13 Thou shalt not kill.
14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.
15 Thou shalt not steal.
16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.
Verse 8 on the Sabbath starts promisingly: “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy…” but then it goes on to talk about not doing any work…hmmm. The imperative: “Remember!” is a great imperative! Its results contrast highly with the doomed imperative: “Don’t forget!” since this is almost guaranteed to cause you to forget. Derren Brown uses this to great effect.
So, given the linguistic structure of the ten commandments, it is no wonder that the World is in trouble. Moses has just hypnotically suggested we go and kill, steal, covet, lie, and work ourselves to the bone… or has he?
Moses and Google Revisited
I guess, by now, I’ve upset half the world’s population, but Google may have forgiven me. The rest of you whom I’ve upset, hold your peace for a minute – I might just yet redeem myself.
Let’s just suppose Moses has a writer-in-the-know on his script-writing team… The key question to pose is: “What would you rather have?” So here are some of the 10 Commandments rewritten in the light of modern linguistics:
3 Put Me first out of all the gods (and put even better, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…’)
4 Make images just for art’s sake! It’s a block of wood, of clay, of stone, for god’s sake!
7 Keep the name of the LORD thy God special, sacred… there are plenty of other words you can use to punctuate your sentences if you really aren’t very articulate.
13 Let everyone live. Possibly, even, let everything live (nice one for the Vegans).
14 Be faithful to your partner. (You hear that, NLPers? Rapport is important!)
15 If you want something, save up for it, buy it, or ask for it! If you really have to, get it on credit.
16 Only tell the truth about your neighbour. Actually, just tell the truth… it’s easier in the long-run.
17 Be happy with your own house (if you’ve got one), be happy with your own wife (if you want one – I guess that means ‘husband’ too, but it’s not mentioned in Exodus), be happy with your own manservant (OK, I’ve got problems with that one in any format), be happy with your own maidservant (ditto though the uniform is fetching), be content with your own ox (well, I live in Dorset, so I get that), be satisfied with your own ass (tempting, but ‘no comment’), just be content with your own stuff, OK?”
“And as for the Sabbath, just chill out, OK, and keep it special – you’ve got six days to work in – enough already!”
So did God get it wrong (if Moses really was God’s Scribe?) No, of course, not! We need to explain “Don’t” in many situations because otherwise people will be stupid and do stupid things. Both sides of the Do/Don’t coin need to be spelled out. What I’m suggesting is that there is a powerful role for the answers to the question, “What would you rather have?” after you have spelled out what is not acceptable.
For Google, I’d challenge the “Don’t do Evil” by asking that self-same question: “What would you rather have us do then?” And then the answer is crystal clear: Do Good! Make a positive difference in the World. Make the World a better place. Amen? Amen!
The alternative is grim. If you say, “Don’t do Evil” – multitudes of people will have no neurological choice other than to begin running Google-like searches through their mental database for what ‘Evil’ looks like, sounds like, smells like, tastes like, and does… like! And these seeds of meditation often then lead to the fruit of action. Good stuff in your heart… good fruit from your lips and actions. Bad stuff in your heart and mind? Watch out, ‘cos you can tell what a tree is feeding on by its fruit.
The Conclusion of the Matter
Do Good… (and as for the medical creed of, “Do no harm…” just read the blog, OK?)
And as for me, my last words are: “Don’t send me £100 thank you for writing this blog! Not even £500, or £1000, OK?”