Intelligence Squared U.S.: Google Violates Its' 'Don't be Evil' Motto

Sat, 01/03/2009 - 3:00pm

Moderator John Donvan


Recently in the U.S. it seems as if partisan rancor has replaced reasoned debate; mainstream media has become contentious and ideological; and discussions of important issues are being dominated by emotion rather than by facts and analysis. The debate series Intelligence Squared U.S. (IQ2US) attempts to change this trend and raise the level of public discourse on the key issues of our day. Intelligence Squared U.S.: Google Violates Its 'Don't be Evil' Motto airs Saturday, January 3 at 3 p.m. on AM 1370 and WXXI-FM HD 91.5-2.

Moderator John Donvan is a correspondent for ABC News Nightline. He has served over a career of more than two decades in the following capacities for ABC News: chief White House correspondent, chief Moscow correspondent, Amman bureau chief, Jerusalem correspondent, and correspondent for the ABC News magazine Turning Point. Donvan's most recent major assignment was covering the war in Iraq as a unilateral reporter, for which the Chicago Sun Times named him one of the ten war stars.

Panelists for the motion:

Harry Lewis, former Dean of Harvard College, is Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at Harvard. In 2003 he was honored with the title of Harvard College Professor in honor of his teaching excellence. Over more than thirty years of teaching, Lewis has helped launch thousands of Harvard undergraduates into careers in computer science. He is the author of five books on computer science and co-author of Blown to Bits: Your Life, Liberty, and Happiness after the Digital Explosion (2008).

Randal C. Picker is the Paul H. and Theo Leffmann Professor of Commercial Law at the University of Chicago Law School. He is also a senior fellow at The Computation Institute of the University of Chicago and Argonne National Laboratory and has for a number of years taught a class at the Graduate School of Business of the University of Chicago. Picker’s recent research has focused on questions relating to copyright, antitrust and network industries. He is co-author of the book, Game Theory and the Law, as well as a textbook on secured transactions.

Siva Vaidhyanathan
is a cultural historian and media scholar, and is currently an associate professor of media studies and law at the University of Virginia.  The Chronicle of Higher Education has called Vaidhyanathan “one of academe’s best-known scholars of intellectual property and its role in contemporary culture.” His blog, is a book in progress, dedicated to exploring the process of writing a critical interpretation of the actions and intentions behind the cultural behemoth that is Google, Inc.

Panelists against the motion

Esther Dyson is well qualified to opine on Google. In 1997, she wrote Release 2.0: A Design for Living in the Digital Age, about the impact of the Internet on individuals and society. She has followed Google almost from its inception, and had (and sold) pre-IPO shares (through Kleiner Perkins). She is an investor in and director of two relevant companies: 23andMe, co-founded by Sergey Brin's wife, and Yandex, Russia's leading search engine, with approximately 60-percent market share to Google's 20.

Jim Harper
is director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute. A nationally recognized privacy, Internet, and technology policy expert, Jim has testified in Congress a half-dozen times and in state legislatures nationwide. He advises the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on privacy issues, and his book Identity Crisis: How Identification is Overused and Misunderstood made him a leading fighter against a U.S. national identity system. Jim's legislation tracking site sometimes rakes in more than ten dollars a day using Google AdSense.

Jeff Jarvis
is writing a book, WWGD? - What Would Google Do?, that reverse-engineers the company's success and applies those lessons and laws to other industries. He writes about media and technology on his blog, and for the Guardian. Jarvis is director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He was creator and founding editor of Entertainment Weekly and Sunday editor and associate publisher of the New York Daily News.

Modeled on the British program Intelligence Squared, IQ2US is an Oxford-style debate that is provocative, intellectually rich, humorous, and dramatic. For each debate a motion is proposed. Then, three panelists argue for the motion, and three argue against it, with a moderator controlling the proceedings. After the formal arguments, the debate is thrown open to the floor for questions, triggering a lively interchange among the speakers and audience members. Each side attempts to persuade the audience to vote their way. This adversarial context is electric, adding drama and excitement to the proceedings. The live audience will vote on the motion both before and after hearing the arguments, so there is a clear measure of how far people have actually been swayed. Those votes are tallied during the evening and announced at the end with a clear side winning.