Information & The Common Good

Information is power. But power tends to corrupt whether in revered individuals or in authoritarian institutions. One need only reflect on the sordid history of the Papacy, or the recent transgressions swirling around the cult of football coach Joe Paterno at Pennsylvania State University.

Power can be a very noxious Kool-Aid.

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
~ John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton

Don’t Be Evil

Many software professionals revere the information giant Google. Pundits marvel at Google’s ability to increase its relevance and reach year after year. Software developers put Google on a pedestal.

Google’s informal Don’t Be Evil motto has been adopted as a guiding philosophy by many professionals inside and outside the Google family.

We can all be thankful that the gods of search, Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, are progressive thinkers. Still, I wonder about the practical limits Don’t Be Evil.

Common Good

I will be following an organization called CommonCrawl with interest. CommonCrawl launched a free, open, web search crawler and index.

We strive to be transparent in all of our operations
~ CommonCrawl

Recognizing the power of the largest and most diverse collection of information in human history is indeed heady stuff. CommonCrawl is non-profit foundation with the motto “dedicated to the open web” and a website introduction that explains their mission:

As the largest and most diverse collection of information in human history, the web grants us tremendous insight if we can only understand it better. For example, web crawl data can be used to spot trends and identify patterns in politics, economics, health, popular culture and many other aspects of life. It provides an immensely rich corpus for scientific research, technological advancement, and innovative new businesses. It is crucial for our information-based society that the web be openly accessible to anyone who desires to utilize it.
~ CommonCrawl

The need to nurture and maintain equal access to unbiased information has never seemed more critical. With the control of information, it is imperative that individuals, organizations, and states thoughtfully weigh the fruits of laissez-faire market forces with the common good.

If corruptible power is an oft repeated pattern, then CommonCrawl might some day be the anti-dote for Don’t Be Evil gone bad.

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