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Outraged about the Google diversity memo? (backreaction.blogspot.com)
571 points by rice_otaku 162 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 800 comments



An interesting anecdote regarding gender bias and tech.

In the very early stage of my company, we wanted to outsource some UX work. After an exhausting review of applicants on one of the freelance sites out there, we finally settled on a Pakistani woman who had the best balance of portfolio vs cost.

At the initial Skype call, there was no video. And it turned out to be a guy speaking in a very high voice. We didn't really care and just went along with it (after a call or two he dropped his octave significantly, but everything continued with the original female name). But it was curious that this enterprising individual decided that the best way to stand out from the countless other developers with similar demographics he was competing against was to pretend to be a woman.

I do suspect that the presumed bias that women aren't actually as skilled and got where they are because of gender preference, while an uncomfortable bias for women, does make it so that a woman with equal skill to a male candidate is perceived as a greater rarity/find because "oh wow, this one is legit." (Not saying women are actually less likely to be legit, just saying the perception that is true can work to board in the opposite direction). I'd be extremely curious to see the classic "attach picture to resume/work sample" experiment done for tech with actual hiring managers. I'd be very surprised if the work with the female photo has a lower net score than the male photo across the experimental groups.


That experiment was done in STEM academia recently, and showed a 2:1 hiring advantage for women.

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/17/5360.abstract

It should also be noted that the earlier study, which showed a smaller effect and only if the resumes were calibrated to be (a) mediocre and (b) precisely calibrated to be the same, was done in Psychology. Which is, of course, a field dominated by women and maybe not the typical "STEM" that we think about when we talk about the underrepresentation of women in tech.

Those two findings in turn gel with a recent French study that showed bias in grading in favor of the underrepresented gender in a particular field (though the bias was stronger in favor of women than in favor of men).

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/46681/...

And of course there was the recent trial (not an experiment AFAICT) in Australia to reduce gender bias:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-30/bilnd-recruitment-tria...

"The trial found assigning a male name to a candidate made them 3.2 per cent less likely to get a job interview. Adding a woman's name to a CV made the candidate 2.9 per cent more likely to get a foot in the door."

UPDATE: I was looking for one more thing, and finally found it. Despite the fact that the study showing bias against women is much weaker, it has been cited several times more often than the study showing bias for women (table near the bottom). https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rabble-rouser/201707/wh...


>That experiment was done in STEM academia recently, and showed a 2:1 hiring advantage for women.

Back when I was still at university I was on a hiring panel for a new prof.

In a first step we ranked all the applicants using qualitative and quantitative metrics (the rankings across qualitative/quantitative and people on the panel was very similar when we compared rankings at the end) and then we handed in a shortlist with the best male applicant and best female applicant. We did this to make the Gleichstellungsbeauftragte (="diversity officer") shut up and thought that since the ability gap was really noticeable it'd be a no contest. How wrong we were. Despite being in the upper part of the bottom half of our ranking, she got the job.

That was the day I found out that I wasn't at a meritocratic institution as I had previously thought and left a few months later. That sort of thing really isn't good for your self confidence.


When you say the ranking was quantitative, what sort of quantities did you measure? Did you ever evaluate the quality of your metrics, and how predictive they were for future success?

IIRC, Google did the same thing and concluded their hiring metrics had very little predictive value beyond setting a certain bar. Once you rose to that level, most discriminatory power of the metric evaporated.

If that was the case where you were, then is probably very little predictive value between "top scores" and "median scores".


The Internet: where men are men, women are men, and children are FBI agents


hate when that happens.


When I applied to colleges, I put that I was Native American, because, you know, I was born here.


There is a very probable & simple explanation you have missed.

It is common to use a "competent" person to impersonate the actual candidate for remote and/or contract positions, especially in H1B scenarios. I used to insist on a video with a whiteboard or a follow up in-person interview.

In this case they just couldn't find a female in quick time.


Great perspective. As a Northern European having dealt with American company ownership I don't think the main problem in Google's case was political correctness but rather a general American problem with how free speech is defined in the US. Freedom in America is always about government NOT doing something, while in Europe government is defined as a protector of these freedoms. This shows up clearly with respect to stating an opinion at a US company. There is no protection of free speech on private property in the US. I first encountered this when out company got bought by an American one and they i sisted that religion and politics should not be discussed at work. It surprised them that such a demand was illegal in Norway. Private property does not trumph everything else as it often seems to do in the US.

While americans are free to utter quite inflamatory speech in the public, I find that American culture seems to discourage any sort of controversial topic in polite company.

That applies to conservatives and liberals alike in the US. Discussing religion among conservatives in the US seems taboo. While liberals are not very open to having PC opinions challenged.


I agree with you. I'm from India, living in the US, for quite some time I thoroughly enjoyed the FoS and FoE concepts exercised in the public (IMO, India is nowhere close to such freedom), but the levels of political correctness among peers seems to be a little too suffocating, which is exactly the thing I miss from my Indian experience.

It's like the moment you try to have a conversation about some serious topic, you feel like you are receiving youtube comments in person.

Only recently, I realized this requirement for PC is why most social talking in the US tend to be about sport (NFL, NHL, NBA), TV (Game of Thrones or some reality shows) or podcasts.

Dare to speak about a social issue or challenge a solution that's supposed to be addressing the issue, you'll be at the receiving end of a verbal lynch mob.


The cynic in me feels like it's an engineered phenomenon to promote effective political apathy in the population while Balkanizing the exhausted general public with elite-approved wedge issues to make them feel like they're engaging politically even though actual political topics like war, class inequality, education etc are out of bound and the incumbent political elite and media conglomerates are beneficiaries.


From speaking with Indian colleagues I got the impression that talking about politics is the most common water cooler topic, is that true everywhere? In the end I got bored hearing about Modi all the time.


I believe whatever your political belief is, you'll feel much freer to talk about it at work in India, than in US.

If you hear only Modi idolization, it can be boring. But if it is critiques of his policies (good/bad) you may feel it's a paradigm shift in progress in the worlds largest democracy.

Nothing wrong in you finding it boring.


As much as I think the standard of living in Europe is better than in the US (having lived both places for a significant amount of time), I still prefer a constitution that limits the powers of the government instead of a constitution that gives the government more powers "to protect". As long as the government is not interfering with my freedom of speech, I am happy to deal with individuals or companies myself without the government protecting my "free speech". It's called human interaction and there are zero guarantees that someone will like what you are saying or have to listen to you or even honor your right to say something.


> Freedom in America is always about government NOT doing something, while in Europe government is defined as a protector of these freedoms.

Not to be adversarial, but this isn't true. Some positive rights, like contract enforcement, are implied/expressed in the US Constitution. Other positive rights (the right to public education, for example) are varyingly guaranteed by individual states in the union, in their constitutions and otherwise.


To be clear, a private company in the US cannot stop you from discussing anything at work but reserves the right to fire you at will, including for discussions it deems unproductive. Discussing politics in polite company in the US is indeed discouraged by culture. I personally think that's a good thing as people on opposite sides of the spectrum often can't agree on a basic set of facts, which makes discussions pointless. Do supporters of far right parties in Scandinavian countries often discuss politics with supporters of left wing parties at dinner ?


Sometimes the point of the conversations is reminding each other that we're decent and intelligent humans. Giving up on engaging because you haven't converted people is giving up too soon. Sometimes the changed mind is in how we value political opponents, not whether we agree with them.


Yes, but you can't have a political discussion that is productive if there is a fundamental disagreement about the facts


Sure you can. Sometimes it's essential so you can agree to disagree properly.


Not all countries have two-party systems.


Not sure I understand what that has to do with my original comment


> To be clear, a private company in the US cannot stop you from discussing anything at work but reserves the right to fire you at will, including for discussions it deems unproductive.

There is zero difference in practice. If I'm fired and can't come to work anymore, the discussion has been stopped, no? Happy to be corrected if I'm missing something.


You are missing the fact that private workplace is not a free speech forum. It's just a private place of business. You can do what you want but employment is at will. By all means, you should be free to discuss whatever you like, but a company is perfectly free to fire you so you have more time to continue your discussions elsewhere


> You are missing the fact that private workplace is not a free speech forum

I am? I never claimed any such thing.

My question is clear, no? Is there any practical difference between employers (supposedly) not being able to restrict your speech at work, but being able to fire you for whatever they want?


They can't restrict your speech in general,but at work they can and should do whatever they want. Practically, there is a difference. Unless they are willing to fire you, they can't stop you - get the difference ? For example, if you are so valuable that they are not willing to fire you, then they can't stop you. And if you are not, perhaps you should concentrate on work at work


I get your point now. Thanks. I was thinking about this in terms of the average employee. If the boss says you shouldn't talk about something and you want to keep your job, most people will begrudgingly do what they think they need to.


I understand that in the USA you are usually either "left" or "right", but in the EU there are a many "center" parties. Would this not make a substantial difference?

If you put two opposite extremists of moderate intelligence together to talk, you will probably not hear a great conversation. (This is not only true for politics.)


Democratic Party and Republican Party in the US are coalitions of different types of people. We are talking about discussing politics when people strongly disagree being pointless. Presumably, supporters of different center parties in Europe don't disagree that much


Speaking of Norway... An interesting documentary about gender differences and affirmative action. (40 min)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E577jhf25t4


In America, we are protected from free speech restrictions by the government. The First Amendment is Constitutional law. Google as a corporation is free to fire an employee based on his speech.


May I ask you about which regulation forbids the behavior You have described? Are you sure it was a directly constitution, not some employment regulations?


IMO the best comment from there:

Giulio Prisco said... The results of this incident are easy to predict.

Now everyone at Google (and everyone in large tech companies, and everyone in academy) knows that they can be fired for expressing opinions that dissent from the party line.

Of course they'll shut up for fear of losing their job and the means to support their family.

But they won't change their position. If anything, their position will be radicalized. For example, from classical liberal to alt-right.

Yes, they'll stop expressing their opinion in public. But they'll express their opinion, with a vengeance, in the only place where one can do so in secrecy without fear of witch-hunting mobs: the voting booth.

Yes, that explains Trump.


And when the consequences become obvious, the media will continue to complain about how shitty Western men are and how we need to crack down on them hard and fast.

And it'll just keep snowballing, unless people realize we need to stop and try talking with people we disagree with, instead of doing our best to crush their every outlet to express themselves before they grow bitter and reactionary.

The media can't stop talking about how the internet is "dangerous" because men are being radicalized on it and we don't know why. It's more of a "no shit" situation due them having to hide their every against-the-grain opinion in real life. But yeah, let's start sending the police in on dumb shit that people say on Twitter. [1] That'll really make people reconsider their opinions and not further rationalize their anger.

[1] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/arrests-for-offensive-f...


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Your statement would be more fair and accurate with qualification, such as "some parts of the left". For example, would you agree that classical liberals are still on the left?


When I say left I do it through the eyes of an Eastern European that has been through communist dictatorship. I know how left looks like and what it means to be ruled by double think.

It baffles me to see people in US basically jumping with both feet in this postmodernist social engineering ideology.

I've lived it and you don't want to do it. You'll be reduced to cattle.


Classical liberals are not "on the left." They lean left, maybe, but I would never consider them leftist.


And the people on the wrong side of history want to talk and talk and talk. They want to stall for time. And every individual who doesn't get a shot to talk and shape the culture feels like they've been robbed and their ideas and beliefs suppressed. They're just ignorant of the fact that these issues have been talked about, at length, ad nauseam, for decades, centuries even. And they don't understand that they don't have anything new to offer, they only have their ignorance. There's no particular reason to tolerate it forever.

And when folks who are apparently ignorant of the subject history get pissy because no one has the time to entertain their ignorant BS, that's a personal problem. Rail against it all you want, it's a losing battle.


Would you please stop posting ideological rants to HN? It reliably leads to tedious flamewars, and we're hoping for something better than that here.

https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

https://news.ycombinator.com/newswelcome.html


I'm all for something better. Can you detail some more what you have in mind? Especially since you seem to be the one making decisions on what is appropriate. Thought police much?!

Plus, you seem to have a leftist ideological bent, moderating off even mild stuff that might not fit your personal preferences.


> There's no particular reason to tolerate it forever.

> Rail against it all you want, it's a losing battle.

All moral argument aside, this is only true while you're winning. "I don't have to try to persuade you, so suck it up" can enforce ideas, but doesn't spread them. So if there ever comes a day where 51% and rising of people disagree with you, the reason to 'tolerate it' is that you don't have a choice and you've burned all the bridges that could have gotten you somewhere.

I'm not even saying that to condemn using the tactic. More than 99% of Americans accept that the Holocaust happened. I am fully content to leave the <1% of deniers on the wrong side of history, and hope never to deal with them. (Though even there, we ought to be mindful of vigilance and outreach. Without communication, without teaching, that number might well rise.)

My point is only that it's incredibly common for people to find ideological bubbles where they mistake who is going to lose the battle. There were plenty of communists and Confederates and fascists who trusted that their opponents just had "a personal problem" and would lose in the end. If an idea has been discussed "for decades, centuries even", are you really so sure that the arc of history has finally settled matters in your favor right now? Are you convinced that you're guessing better than the people who considered the matter settled 50 years ago? 100?

Burning goodwill to root out dissent in your strongholds is a thing to do after you win the larger battle. After November 2016, it is absolutely baffling to me when people on the left say "they're history, they lose, the time for talking is past". That was not the result, that is not who is in power. And so I do not want the time for talking to be past! I think that might go very, very poorly for a lot of people I quite like!


:) Your comment must be something that came out of an AI bot: right down the middle, ambiguous to the max.

Saying nothing with so many words :) and with the right amount of righteous indignation.

Love it! It proves my point actually.


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It is obvious that you guys on the left share the same manuals, since you also come up with the "history's dustbin" and "trash opinions". You learn your words and hammer them consistently. At least you get props for that. :)

No pressure to exhibit coherent and consistent argumentation.


Would you please stop using HN primarily for political and ideological battle? Doing that not only goes against HN's mandate—intellectual curiosity and thoughtful discussion—it actively destroys those things. We have to protect HN against this, and for that we have the 'primarily' test I just described, i.e. when accounts use HN primarily for this, we ban them.


There is no argument, racism and sexism are bad ideas that were entertained widely in the past and are not up for debate anymore as potentially positive influences or the correct way to consider the world.

I could have been referencing chattel slavery and your words would be currently for it.

You can take whatever you like from my statement (and clearly are) but you calling me "the left" and pretending I was indoctrinated by some entity indicates your mind is as closed as you intimate mine is.


Please don't post this sort of tit-for-tat, even when someone else is (or seems to be) wrong and posting bad comments. It only makes the thread worse.


It's mysterious to me how literally every action a feminist takes is somehow directly responsibile for all problems that befall them, with every action that might possibly hurt a man being somehow a catastrophe in the making.

Not 3 weeks ago we had a thread here where a woman spoke up about harassment and people said it was exactly the wrong thing. Mad someone for touching your bum? Speak up. You spoke up? Now you're ruining the work environment and being unfair.

In this memo's case, perhaps you're mad at someone for saying you're genetically predisposed to be less capable of individual action (e.g., don't worry I am sure if we set up pair programming that will make it fair for you social women types)? Well it's your fault for not arguing against it. Oh you spoke up and that person got fired for violating some pretty basic corproate policy? Well congrats now it's your fault they're radicalized. Now Trump is inevitable, thanks for putting him in power, I hope North Korea nukes your house!

The only solution that ever seems to be okay is stand there and smile as people say, do, and justify unfair things. Or maybe sit there and "debate" with them as they spout tired 1970s-debunked rhetoric about communication skills and and meticulisly avoid the idea that benefits might take any shape or form beyond what they themselves want this year.

As for that "memo", I still don't get why the underlying premise that Google's level of technical competitiveness was hurt by these policies is taken without a critical eye. That's a pretty big assertion for a company who's essentially leading numerous areas in the world's tech markets and research fields.


He didn't say it the fault of feminists, only that this was probably going to be the result.

And It's exactly why public debate should be had. To come to a better solution in the middle, rather than create fringes on the sides.

Your reaction here is just more of the 'Shock and Awe' and hurt feelings that doesn't really help push the agenda.


Problem is most of this subject has been in public debate for decades, centuries even. The people trying to maintain the status quo are never going to give it up willingly. They're always going to cry when change comes and they aren't ready for it (IE when they're dead). At some point the debate has to be reasonably over and action expected.

And some subjects don't have middle ground. Women being treated less than equal isn't a middle ground sort of issue.

There are already sides, there have been sides forever. People being pushed or pulled one way or another isn't a new phenomena. And there's no amount of public debate and middle ground treading you can do to prevent people who are going to be polarized as of the result of any backlash of their already fringe beliefs. That's inevitable. And the gymnastics required to keep them in the middle just aren't worth it. The actual goal is the thing of value for the people pushing for it. Not appeasing ignorance and bigotry just enough to keep them pacified.


> And some subjects don't have middle ground. Women being treated less than equal isn't a middle ground sort of issue.

Which is why you need to have ongoing discussion, to determine if people are or are not being treated less equally. People who believe they are "right" but are unable or unwilling to defend that position with words ("the debate is over") should not be trusted, ever.


> People who believe they are "right" but are unable or unwilling to defend that position with words ("the debate is over") should not be trusted, ever.

So what you're saying is the debate is over about the intentions of people saying the debate is over?


Haha, that's a nice turn of words.

Well, assuming you're serious, what's your thoughts on that? Can we have any absolutes? Or is everything indeterminate? If nothing is knowable and communication is not possible shall we stop sending our children to school and go back to living in caves?


> He didn't say it the fault of feminists, only that this was probably going to be the result.

So what we all should do is forgive these men their outrageously outdated and somewhat dehumanizing viewpoints and calmly explain to them that currently they are benefitting from a system called patriarchy that has normalized male dominance. We should then calmly suggest that btw, people who are not visually and immediately white suffer a lot under this system too. And I know he benefits but could he please stop?

These folks already hold radical views. He wasn't "radicalized" by being forced to own it. He isn't forced to "vote Trump" because his views are known. He already had them, and they're for the most part outdated, impropable or insulting already.

Why then is the right decision to give him a pass on violating corporate HR policy?


The irony is that all the things you argue against him for, his small worldview, not willing to come to his senses, are what you are doing yourself.

You are kicking and screaming against anything that upsets your viewpoint on this issue.

And we actually agree on the most important facet (as do most people) that any discrimination based on age, gender, or race is absolutely not tolerated.

But how to achieve this in the real world is not a walk in the park. For example, positive discrimination is not a fair system in my opinion. I would think focusing on making the interview process blind is better. So can we argue on these specifics or am I just a bully and a bigot for holding a different opinion?


> You are kicking and screaming against anything that upsets your viewpoint on this issue.

Interesting. So in this case I shouldn't debate anyone here. Because somehow that makes me wrong because... By not agreeing my worldview is small?

> that any discrimination based on age, gender, or race is absolutely not tolerated.

Honestly, I genuinely do not believe that many people here believe this. I think they find excuses for men at every turn or rationalize marginalizing women need (e.g., as I write this: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14980201) That is part of _my_ larger point about how the natural response on HN is to say, "Well if you had handled this correctly we wouldn't be in a situation where it looks like sexual harassment."

> So can we argue on these specifics or am I just a bully and a bigot for holding a different opinion?

I want you to re-read this paragraph and ask yourself what the premise here is. This thread starts by saying, "We should debate." I point out how dismissive this often I'd on HN and your response is, "You're kicking and screaming and just as guilty as James. Now, agree with me in total OR call me names."

I don't know if you're a bigot, but this is a poor tactic to adopt when coupled with the ultimatum: "Or am I a bully?"


> Interesting. So in this case I shouldn't debate anyone here. Because somehow that makes me wrong because... By not agreeing my worldview is small?

"forgive these men their outrageously outdated and somewhat dehumanizing viewpoints and calmly explain to them that currently they are benefitting from a system called patriarchy that has normalized male dominance" doesn't sound like you're open to a debate, it sounds like you are highly certain that your opinion is correct, full stop.


So what you're saying is you don't appreciate my tone?

You can nose around my comments. While I'm somewhat acidic with people who suggest it is the feminist responsibility to endure every negative opinion in perpetuity, I'm engaging in most conversations honestly.

I am quite confident in the core components of these observations, but I was more skeptical of it some time ago. If you genuinely believe I cannot be swayed, why do YOU bother talking to me?


Not sure really, I guess it is a bit of a hobby, observing the psychological behavior of humans. To me, it is absolutely fascinating how widespread the affliction is where when you find yourself in a disagreement with a person, you can ask them if they think their position is right, they say yes, are you confident, they say yes (or, perhaps by this time they may already instinctively sense danger and leave the conversation), and then if you say ok, let's make a deal, I will ask you a question, and you must answer the question, the one I asked not a modified version of it, and you cannot change the subject....and then after that you can ask me a question....and so on.

In my experiences, this experiment "fails" 90%+ of the time, either by the person refusing to participate, or refusing to hold up their end of the bargain. Yet, they continue to believe absolutely that they are "right"!

I mean to me, this is very fascinating to observe in action.


I read the thread you linked and I'm not sure what you want us to see. It looks like Sacho is being completely reasonable and you two are having a rational, honest discussion.

I don't see anyone "rationalizing marginalizing women"

It looked like the other poster was trying to evaluate the arguments rationally, that's not the same as rationalizing.


You should really read the article. It didn't say anything negative like you're suggesting.


You should read my origin post, I wasn't talking about the top article, I was talking about the character of the discourse on HN.


There can be no discussion when you start with a bad premise. What can you argue with someone that says the other sex is inferior?


There can be no discussion when people attack a straw man instead of read the article. Nobody said anyone is inferior, at all.


That is obviously not at all clear, given the multi-national debate around this issue.


How does one knows that the premise is bad when you're not even allowed to disciss it? Furthermore, how come the discussion itself is viewed as harmful? If you claim that the premise is wrong shouldn't it be very easy to prove so? What if the other person is open minded and actually willing to consider your arguments, as long as you're willing to do the same?


>Mad at someone for saying you're genetically predisposed to be less capable of individual action?

He never said that. Could you cite the portion where he literally says women are less capable?


Do the last two bullet points of his tl;dr count?:

* Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership.

* Discrimination to reach equal representation is [...] bad for business.

Which I read as, "woman aren't as good, that's why they don't already work here, if we hire more of them, they'll not be able to do the job as well as men so the business will suffer"

Is that an unreasonable reading?


I really didn't want to comment on this topic, but who can pass up a chance at self-immolation ?

Being left-leaning, I've been doing a lot of looking into some of the ideas floating around amongst the right-leaning crowd since the election. Based upon that, I would say that yes, that is an unreasonable reading.

My understanding (subject to being completely off-base, of course) is that the argument is about biological differences related to interests and aspirations, not intelligence and capabilities. In other words, the early developmental stages cause differences in the brain among men and women that affect, in very general terms, what both may end up aspiring to in terms of career choices and hobbies/interests.

Women (again, speaking generally) could easily do any knowledge-based job performed by men, but you're going to have problems finding the numbers that you need if you want to hit a solid 50/50 distribution in certain types of fields. I think this is why certain fields have had very little trouble reaching either parity or female dominance after the women's equality movement started, while other fields struggle to this day. For example, I've read that SV has no problem with the distribution amongst the non-tech fields and that they slightly favor women, but in terms of engineering and tech, the distribution still lags by quite a bit. This would imply that SV is doing everything in its power to hire and promote women, and that there is something else going on that is the cause of what we're seeing. However, it could also imply that tech and engineering are all filled with men that are actively hostile to women to such a degree that women, even women extremely interested in such fields, simply avoid them. I suspect that, like all things in life, it's a mix of both.


I think it's a bit of a popular straw man that a 50/50 split is desired. It's more along the lines of, "There are no obvious artificial disadvantages for people in these groups, and if that happens then the resulting distribution will almost certainly change."

If you look at the published #s right now, they're... very striking. It makes the hypothesis that it's just the preference of women and people of various minorities quite an aggressive hypothesis, in a bayesian sense.


I'm having a hard time making sense of your first paragraph.

As for the second, which published numbers are you referring to ?


Google's published diversity report.


That can be a reasonable reading, but I don't see what's so controversial about it.

Would you agree that women are naturally physically weaker than men, and this makes for a convincing argument why you would expect more men doing physically demanding jobs? Is this a controversial statement to make?

A difference in traits does not even have to produce a difference in ability to produce a difference in representation. Some of the traits Damore listed allegedly lead women to value a better work/life balance, to focus more on family, etc, which naturally means they would have a lower representation in highly competitive, career-based environments. None of the traits Damore listed seem to discuss "engineering ability", but they do affect all the other skills you need to thrive in the environment.

(This is assuming that the science Damore laid out is sound, which I can't really vouch for, as I am a layman in those fields. However, most of the arguments against Damore seem to be focused on his logical conclusions, rather than the factual basis behind them - e.g. KirinDave seemed to focus on how unfair Damore's conclusions were, rather than how wrong his quoted research was).


> Would you agree that women are naturally physically weaker than men, and this makes for a convincing argument why you would expect more men doing physically demanding jobs? Is this a controversial statement to make?

There is a big difference between agreeing that some differences might exist and arguing that any token gestures for the women who DO qualify under the identical standard are unfair.

That's where this argument breaks down even if we pretend that it's not based on a leaning tower of broscience observations and dated dualist notions of "intellect".

Providing opportunities for minorities in the workplace substantially improves the lot of folks in those categories.

If we could point to the current diversity numbers and say, "Women who do qualify are rarer in the population than men, but tend to equal outcomes once we select for this population? Your argument would make more sense.

But wages are imbalanced, harassment is more prevalent, and turnover is higher. So I'm not as inclined to shrug and walk away just yet.


I don't disagree with what you're saying. I want to point out you are employing a classic motte-and-bailey tactic. In your initial post, you said:

> In this memo's case, perhaps you're mad at someone for saying you're genetically predisposed to be less capable of individual action

Getting mad at the memo seems like an unreasonable reaction to me, especially for the stated reason. Now you've moved to:

> There is a big difference between agreeing that some differences might exist and arguing that any token gestures for the women who DO qualify under the identical standard are unfair.

This seems wholly agreeable. I don't know what Google's policies are and I don't think Damore really managed to explain them well, to describe the negative effects of them, and to adequately argument why his propositions were better. I don't see why this is a fireable offense, but I can also support the argument that once the outrage broke out, Google's decision was logical and reasonable. But notice we've moved away from being outraged at his assertions, to just finding his conclusions questionable. Is this worth getting mad over? We are in the motte, in agreement that you should not just take what he said as gospel, throw your hands up and say "well let's dismantle all of Google's efforts", that's the essence of discussion! You can present a reasonable counter-argument to what he said, and I can certainly find many points to agree on it!

What I'm worried about though, is that once we stop talking, you will charge down to the bailey, and decry Damore as a sexist who should never have opened his mouth, because he caused people to get mad. That the science he quoted is "broscience observations" and thus he is stupid(and dangerous!) to even believe it. That somehow him making an argument precluded others from challenging him, from finding his argument unpersuasive, or presenting a counter-argument that may sway him, or others who feel like him. The discussion is already poisoned by this tactic. I believe that's what the author in this thread was trying to get at.


> What I'm worried about though, is that once we stop talking, you will charge down to the bailey, and decry Damore as a sexist who should never have opened his mouth,

You're wrong. I've met him in passing, he didn't strike me as worth considering, then or now. I deliberately avoided prior conversations precisely because of how clear it was that he was going to be fired for this. He had to know it would happen. There's only one outcome that COULD have come of writing that memo.

Is he a sexist? I think he holds some sexist notions. This is an unsurprising outcome if you believe that historically society has been quite sexist. Is he a card-carrying MRA of the school of Roosh? I do not think so.

> That the science he quoted is "broscience observations"

This is a misunderstanding I can clear up. I don't really have a problem with observations of behavior based on gender. I'm sure observable differences exist and I suspect mechanisms for these differences are at play in my personal experience of gender.

What's "broscience observation" is attempting to use these studies to suggest (as he absolutely did) that the current crop of googlers has a problem and this problem is caused by the proposed proclivities as a way to shape the experiences of women at Google. Almost by definition, women at Google are precisely the people who wouldn't fall into this category and therefore are mostly asking for simple consideration for their unique needs in the services provided. James's complaint is that any special treatment is "discriminatory" towards him, but that's a somewhat absurd claim that when reduced to its elements actually somewhat deflates his own points.

I'm not sure what "practices" he's specifically talking about, but he alludes to leadership and mentorship programs that are primarily focused on specific groups. Giving him access to those would probably be about as valuable to him as putting a sanitary napkin dispenser in his cubicle, but he seems to take great offense at the idea that of the many leadership and mentorship opportunities afforded to him, one a small handful are not targeted specifically at him.

Biological essentialialism is a very difficult subject to discuss because it's so easy to become prescriptive with it and such prescriptions often greatly damage even modest outliers in the population. And for what? I'm fairly certain google saves money in the long run by attempting to improve employee retention and increase the supply of technical talent they can hire.


No rebuttals to your arguments here, just an observation. You seem like the exact kind of person that I would never want to interact with in person. Perhaps modulating your rhetoric just a tad would make people more inclined to have a reasonable debate with you.


It's an unreasonable reading. If you read past the tl;dr you see that none of the differences in traits he talks about are about ability, just interest, so interpreting it as "women aren't as good" is wrong.


Can you explain why hiring women who are just as good as, if not better than, men at the job, but who would prefer (on average) to work elsewhere, perhaps somewhere with more women employees, would make the business do worse?

And can we note that I replied to someone saying "he didn't say that", suggested a place where he did and got replies from different people saying "yes he did say that, and he's correct" and replies saying "no, you're misreading what he said as it's explained in more detail later".

So it appears at the very least (and I feel I'm being generous here), that his words can be misread by people on both sides of the issue, which might be worth bearing in mind for those trying to paint his detractors as a hysterical mob who haven't even read the memo.


Can you explain why hiring women who are just as good as, if not better than, men at the job, but who would prefer (on average) to work elsewhere, perhaps somewhere with more women employees, would make the business do worse?

In the section you quoted, he doesn't say that hiring more women is bad for business, he said that doing so via discriminatory hiring practices, and if you hadn't ellipsized that line, there would have been an explanation for why right there. The full bullet point reads "Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business." So he says that unequal representation is partially explained by gender differences in interests, and then that trying to eliminate the differences, specifically via the method of discriminatory hiring, is bad for business because it's unfair and divisive.

To be clear, the reason I'm interpreting the "differences" he refers to as differences in interest as opposed to competence is because of the content in the "Personality differences" section of the memo, which is the only place he addresses specific gender differences. In that section he says that women are less interested on average in tasks which focus mainly on systemizing, and are less interested in high-stress jobs, as well as that they are less likely to advocate for their own promotions.

I replied to someone saying "he didn't say that", suggested a place where he did

No, you replied to someone saying "he didn't say that" and suggested a place where he said something ambiguous — the tl;dr, which is necessarily ambiguous.

So it appears at the very least (and I feel I'm being generous here), that his words can be misread by people on both sides of the issue

Who do you think is misinterpreting what? I've pointed out what I think you're misinterpreting and offered an alternative interpretation. You don't get to simply assert that other people are misinterpreting the memo, you've got to offer some evidence of that.


He didn't say "unfair and divisive, and therefore bad for business", he said "unfair, divisive and bad for business". My ellipsis doesn't change the meaning, unless we are, once again, falling back on him presenting his ideas in an ambiguous manner. Which, even if true, makes misinterpretations his responsibility.

In the memo he literally asks for changes to make Google more welcoming for conservatives. He even claims this will be good for business. How do you square this with your contention that any kind of discrimination, even for positive purposes, will lead to negative outcomes due to it being unfair and divisive.

Does it make sense for him to be claiming both these things? I'm not sure that he is even saying that (though it seems tone deaf at the least to present both ideas in the same document).

Also, I'm really not sure that saying women score higher on neuroticism and therefore can't handle stressful jobs as well, or are introverts and so have trouble leading is purely about interest. I'm not sure where this defence about "only talking about interests" comes from, I don't get that from the document. It's certainly not explicitly spelled out.

I'm coming to the conclusion that people aren't just misinterpreting but have actually invented a totally fictitious memo that they find easier to defend than the real one.


You cannot forcibly hire someone who would prefer to work elsewhere (if that someone can really work elsewhere, e.g. not be worried with matters of survival and quality of life). This is probably a reason that in a lot of developing countries (e.g. India) gender gap in IT is much smaller than in developed ones (e.g. Norway, #1 gender equal country)- salary is choosen over comfort.

Now, imagine a situation: 100 persons (80 men, 20 women - ratio observed by actual HR) are looking for a job in Google, which has 10 open positions for them. Google wants to hire the best possible candidate - and hires 8 men and 2 women; both genders are choosed from top 10% of candidates of a same gender (Assuming their skill does not correlate with their gender). That hiring policy does not reduces observed gender gap between candidates at all. So let's introduce positive discrimination (so called affirmative action), and say, that Google wants to hire 5 men and 5 women (1:1 ratio, but even 7:3 will suffice to show worsening effect, albeit in weaker proportions). Now men are choosed from top 6.25%, and women - just from top 25%. The is no gender gap anymore, but now there is a considerable skill gap - top 6.25% men are having considerable advantage over 25% women. More to that: men are not happy because they think they have struggled much more for the same position than women; women are not happy because they think they were hired not for their skills, but for their gender. Also,both men and women being paid based on their performance alone will result if considerable wage gap.

The original memo stated the same, albeit in less transparent form: personal skills cannot be measured with 100% accuracy, so there is always a chance to hire underperforming person (false-positive) or not to hire well performing person (false-negative). Positive discrimination radically reduces false-negatives, which inevitabely magnifies number of false-positives (see Type I and Type II errors in statistics and Neyman-Pearson criterion). Author proposed not to fight on-enter gender gap with discrimination, which would result in negative effect for company's performance, but to make company's environment to be a more attractive (which may reduce on-enter gender gap, reduce number or women leaving industry permanently and won't compromise performance)


>Can you explain why hiring women who are just as good as, if not better than, men at the job, but who would prefer (on average) to work elsewhere, perhaps somewhere with more women employees, would make the business do worse?

The issue is in the act of finding them. This is where statistics and discrimination comes into play. Lets say that ratio of women vs men that are interested in working at google (and capable of being hired) is 20% to 80%. Then if your goal is to reach gender parity, you must do one of three things: (1) test significantly more women vs men to find those 20% at a higher rate (which involves active discrimination against men), (2) lower the standards specifically for women so that the pass rate for women is higher, or (3) active intervention along gender lines to increase the percentage of women that are interested and capable of passing a google screening. It should be obvious that 1&2 leads to worse outcomes for Google. (3) doesn't directly lead to worse outcomes, but it could be seen as divisive to discriminate against men in these outreach programs, which could indirectly lead to worse outcomes for Google. Now, one could argue that these gender-based outreach programs are just to counter cultural sexism that have kept women from being more interested in engineering jobs at Google. But if the stats in the memo are accurate, at least some portion of the disparity is not due to external factors but individual choices based on inherent (dis)interest. If this is true then such outreach will largely be unsuccessful for the cost in money and resentment.


Definitely unreasonable reading. Could you explain how you got from the two quoted propositions to your interpretation?

The first bullet point exemplified: Let's say there's a job that requires trait openness / empathy to a certain degree (e.g. early education). Now, some given statistics show that e.g. 40% of the female population and 20% of the male population have this manifestation of the trait to the required degree. Would you still expect a 50/50 male/female representation in the field? The author makes the argument that, if the statistics he found are correct, he wouldn't expect a 50/50 split.

The second bullet point just says that discrimination for the sole sake of said equal representation is bad for business, because given the above it would have to be necessarily unmeritocratic. I would contest this point in a sense that individual merit is not the sole factor at which to look, because it is only a single factor in group success, where the availability of diverse ways of thinking and social compatibility also play major roles.


Very unreasonable. It doesn't say that at all. There are simply far fewer women in the candidate pool.


If google showed that their retention of women in tech was similar to men (it isn't), that their pay scales isolated for grade tended to equal outcomes for men and women (ongoing lawsuit says it doesn't in all cases), and that their proportion of women employed was close to the candidate pool?

I think that'd be a fantastic outcome. Then we really could think about "the pipeline problem."


> This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading.

That is, he's saying explicitly that women find leadership roles more difficult. Generally if somebody finds something more difficult they're not as good at it as people who find it easier. As a result I'm not sure how this could be taken any other way than stating that men are better managers simply because they're men.


He says women will benefit from making coding more social. Pair programming.

Remember?


Whether we agree with the memo or not, there was a very good point that guy made and that we should keep in mind, it's the paragraph with the two overlapping distributions.

Even if you admit that all genders, races, any way you want to segment the population, do not have the same distribution, that doesn't mean anything to a person as an individual.

For instance I think it's fair to say that black people are better at athleticism/running than white people (a disproportionate number olympic champions are black), i.e. the tail of the distribution is fatter for black people than white people. It doesn't mean anything to a random individual in that group. I am white, I shouldn't feel offended that another category of the population has a different distribution than my category. And it doesn't mean that no white people can become an olympic athlete either. Just that there will be a natural race imbalance among athletes. And it doesn't mean that a random black man will be better than a random white man at athletism.

So I don't agree with the way you read this memo: In this memo's case, perhaps you're mad at someone for saying you're genetically predisposed to be less capable of individual action. The memo doesn't say that an individual woman will be less capable. What it claims instead is that women have a different distribution for certain skills than men, which you might agree with or not. But it's a very different point.


This ignores the fact that countries like Jamaica recruit their best athletes into track and field, whereas Australia or China would push those kids into something else. A more accurate statement would be black countries have better track and field coaching infrastructure considering Usain Bolt routinely washed out of race finals until he was picked up by pro coaching staff. It's the same reason Canada usually wins the winter Olympics in Hockey, it's not because Canadians are genetically better at skating and handling sticks, it's because of the coaching, infrastructure to get kids into the national program, funding priorities, ect. Same reason why Germany wins the world cup, it's a financial priority for that country to ensure they do so they can build a national infrastructure of success, they don't have genetically superior athletics for Soccer.


For certain sports, it is in fact mostly genetics:

https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2016/08/14/kenyans-sweep-...

It's interesting how introducing certain attributes into a conversation can disable parts of the human brain, I wonder if a study has ever been done on this.


An important difference is that in the olympics, a fair and objective qualification system exists. Kenyans are disproportionate in the RANKINGS but not the POPULATION.

In Google's case, women fare poorly in botrh (with rankings expressed in the axis of pay or leadership positions). That's a significant difference.


My point was moreso about how prevalent the phenomenon of ignoring obvious objective reality is when certain topics are involved, the key ones off the top of my head being: race, gender, sexuality.

Threads such as this are chock full of examples of people who are normally very logical and scientific, but once the subject turns to one of the above, suddenly everything's different, nothing can be determined, observed, or measured, the entire world is completely random with no patterns whatsoever, etc.

I wonder if all cultures are like this or only us in the west.


> My point was moreso about how prevalent the phenomenon of ignoring obvious objective reality is when certain topics are involved, the key ones off the top of my head being: race, gender, sexuality.

Fair. I just wanted to add that it's not terribly applicable to the specifics of the memo and article. People are upset about systemic total representation and undervaluation rather than a lack of singular genius.

But I agree that there are people who find any conversation about statistics as it regards this subject as a form of heresy.


> I just wanted to add that it's not terribly applicable to the specifics of the memo and article. People are upset about systemic total representation and undervaluation rather than a lack of singular genius.

It's applicable in that (in my opinion) the majority of the people aren't - rather they are interested in a fantasy version of the situation that exists only in their imagination. This is why even on forums like HN where people are far more logical than the average person, there is no shortage of bickering over obvious misinterpretations, moving of goalposts, etc. For example, how many of the outraged people here are angry about things that literally aren't even in the article, and even when this is pointed out to them, still they aren't able to wake up and realize how their brain is playing tricks on them.

The older I get, and the longer I see the very same arguments over and over again over decades, the more I am coming around to the idea that a massive portion of the human population possibly can't even see reality. Maybe I am one of them!


> The older I get, and the longer I see the very same arguments over and over again over decades, the more I am coming around to the idea that a massive portion of the human population possibly can't even see reality. Maybe I am one of them!

All we can do is dedicate ourselves to following the evidence where we can and avoiding judgement when possible.


> I've met him in passing, he didn't strike me as worth considering, then or now.

That seems fairly judgemental to me.

Edit: To clarify, you are making a value judgement of a person based on some unspecified happening when you met then in passing. That seems to indicate you didn't give much chance in the way to understand that person or the reasoning behind their thoughts.


If Jamaica does better than USA in track and field they must be doing something right, but what do you mean by generalizing to "black countries"?

There might be a bias towards track and field programs and careers in poor/small countries, thanks to cheap infrastructure and sustainability with very few athletes, and expensive sports that are practically reserved for relatively privileged people, e.g. swimming and horse riding, but confusing an athlete's race and their available opportunities is silly.


> fair to say that black people are better at athleticism/running

Is it fair though? Is it supported by metrics of muscle strength and length etc? And does it take into account the differences between blacks (Africans?), west vs south vs central (pygmies!).

Also, there's the possibility that whites of equivalent athleticism find better options for their life than being a professional sportsmen, the bottom 80% [1] of whom end their career at 30 with little to show for it but lifelong injuries.

[1] made up statistic.


It seems to be supported by the results at the Olympics and many other sporting events that can be viewed publicly.

And I think that's probably what the OP meant by "better at running". The vast majority of people can run to some extent, so the assumption is that someone is "better" at it usually means "faster". And the obvious place to look for evidence of that would be in sporting competitions, rather than trying to look up metrics that you have described. Obviously its a simplification, but if you don't do that then life would be far to complicated and detailed to navigate.


Right, it "seems to be supported." There's a lot of just-so storytelling going on here. Take a look at American football in 1940. No black players! Hm. Black people must be bad at football, perhaps more suited to being airmen (pilots). Seems to have held up perfectly over the last 77 years, eh?

Do people have no sense of history here? The internet lets you look up all sorts of things, like how the racial composition of US track and field has changed over the 20th century, or how Paavo Nurmi (a poor guy from an underdeveloped country) dominated distance running in the 1920s, challenged only by another couple poor guys from underdeveloped Scandinavian countries. It was clear from publicly viewable sporting events in the 1920s that Scandinavians are really the best at running; east Africans really didn't figure into the competition.


Yes, it's all well supported by genetics and biology.


That argument applies to the general population maybe, but that doesn't mean it also applies to the population of Google employees. Everyone there passed their hiring standards, so everyone has proved their individual merit already.


The population of Google technical employees is I think the equivalent to the population of Olympic athletes in my example. If the general population has a different distribution (again whether you agree or not with that assumption), then there should be a natural imbalance among the cream of the top that made it to Google. And as you said, those who made it are all "Olympic athletes" (in theory, they should have been recruited based on individual merit) so these distributions do not mean that a female google employee would be more or less capable than a male, but it will result in less female google employees than male employees.


> If the general population has a different distribution (again whether you agree or not with that assumption), then there should be a natural imbalance among the cream of the top that made it to Google.

Your conclusion does not follow from the premise. It's not hard to come up with a distribution that is identical for the top x% but differs for the general population. Or one where the difference in top x% is in the opposite direction of the general population (e.g. two normal distributions where mu1 < mu2, and sigma1 > sigma2).


> but it will result in less female google employees than male employees.

Well, again, the Google memo started by arguing Google's technical standard was being hurt so James doesn't seem to believe his colleagues all got the same interviews he did.

I'd be more inclicned to this sort of argument for racial and gender diveristy if Google & others didn't have such abysmly skewed distributions towards white men. Go look at Google's diveristy report and then do some Bayes Rule hacking with it.


Well, is Google's diversity profile really different from the diversity profile of the computer science departments it recruits from?


Incorrect question: you want the graduate rates. Not the staff rates.

Google's diversity rates are worse than the graduate rates for most schools I've checked. I have not found a composite data source to compare a larger average to.


It actually beats them.


No.

First, the section is "Non-discrimnatory ways to reduce the gender gap".

You cannot reduce the "gap" by aiming at the women who are already at Google. This should be obvious. They are already there. To make a dent in the gap, you need to attract more women who currently do not choose to work in tech or not at Google. So nothing he writes is about his colleagues at Google, or by extension women who are already in or interested in tech. It is about potentially attracting those who are not currently interested in that career.

Second, this is about subtle differences in the distribution of preferences in populations with huge overlaps. So when you have an individual in front of you, you simply cannot tell whether they will exhibit this trait more or less by inference from the population statistic. And you certainly can't say "all X have more of this property than all Y". He even has a nice graph for this.

Third, it's not about ability, but about preference. "Women on average show a higher interest in people..." How do you get from "preference" to "ability"?

Fourth, you are assuming a symmetry where "higher X" implies "lower Y that's complementary to X". This would probably be true for interests (if I a am more interested in working alone, I am probably less interested in working in groups). But it does not translate to abilities.

In fact, one of the documented areas where gender differences in ability do show up is exactly a case of this lack of symmetry: you've probably heard that tend to score higher on the math SATs and women higher on the verbals. This is apparently not the whole story: men with high math scores do tend to not also have high verbal scores (and therefore prefer STEM). However, for women the two are correlated, not anti-correlated: those with high math scores tend to also have high verbal scores, so they have more options. And people with more options tend to prefer non-STEM options, regardless of gender.

Fifth, I thought pair programming was a Good Thing™?


> You cannot reduce the "gap" by aiming at the women who are already at Google. This should be obvious.

That is far from obvious. Everything else being equal, you would increase the proportion of women if you reduced their turnover.


Only if you reduce their turnover to be below turnover for men. Which at first thought seems to be worse than discriminating only during the hiring phase.


Can we agree that it is obvious as long as we're not talking about retention/turnover?

Well, maybe not "obvious", but "clear that it can't be any other way once you think about it".


Sure, if you explicitly exclude any way that the "gap" could be reduced by aiming at the women who are already at Google it is clear that you can not reduce the "gap" by aiming at the women who are already at Google.


> You cannot reduce the "gap" by aiming at the women who are already at Google. This should be obvious. They are already there. To make a dent in the gap, you need to attract more women who currently do not choose to work in tech or not at Google. So nothing he writes is about his colleagues at Google, or by extension women who are already in or interested in tech. It is about potentially attracting those who are not currently interested in that career.

If that were the case then he would not lead his essay implying that the current hiring policies were hurting Google. He seems to imply standards have somehow been damaged, but right now that's not what Google does.

> Third, it's not about ability, but about preference.

There are so many potential sources of preference, from negative experience to personal ability. It seems very suspect to point to gender stereotypes that a large number of women have been arguing against for decades are in fact the root cause here.

> you've probably heard that tend to score higher on the math SATs and women higher on the verbals. This is apparently not the whole story: men with high math scores do tend to not also have high verbal scores (and therefore prefer STEM). However, for women the two are correlated, not anti-correlated: those with high math scores tend to also have high verbal scores, so they have more options

Sources, please.

> Fifth, I thought pair programming was a Good Thing™?

That depends. If I told you the only way you're going to be competitive and not drag down the standard of my organization is by pairing up with another person, should you take that as a compliment?


> That depends. If I told you the only way you're going to be competitive and not drag down the standard of my organization is by pairing up with another person, should you take that as a compliment?

This is factualy not what was said in the memo.

https://diversitymemo.com/#reduce-gender-gap

> Women on average show a higher interest in people and men in things

> We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration.

That was literally the only mention of pair programming the the entire memo and it was as a suggestion to make positions more appealing to women who were more interested in people and more social. Not once does he equate pair programming as some remedial for your perceived statement of lower quality ability. The guy was trying to suggest ways to attract more women and you flip it around to demonize him. Do you not see that you are large part of the problem? Instead of trying to engage and explain to him why his points are perhaps wrong or misguided, you instead twist his words to simply eviscerate him instead.


> current hiring policies

And he made it clear that he didn't think they were producing "false positives", so every woman hired was qualified.

> There are so many potential sources of preference

Yes. Biology is one.

> gender stereotypes

http://www.spsp.org/blog/stereotype-accuracy-response

[Stereotype Accuracy Is One Of The Largest And Most Replicable Effects In All Of Social Psychology]

> [verbal/math scores correlate for women] Sources

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rabble-rouser/201707/wh...

> the only way you're going to be competitive

> and not drag down the standard of my organization

> is by pairing up with another person

Huh??? Where did you get that from? Pleaaze.


Please excuse the delay. I'll get to breaking your links down shortly. You're asking me to source papers during my commute hour and on mobile it's difficult to grab and source the resources I'll cite.


At this point I would like to see an itemised list of James Damore's points on gender and women's interpretations of them.

This is the pair programming text in full:

> Below I'll go over some of the differences in distribution of traits between men and women that I

> outlined in the previous section and suggest ways to address them to increase women's

> representation in tech without resorting to discrimination. Google is already making strides in

> many of these areas, but I think it's still instructive to list them

>> Women on average show a higher interest in people and men in things

>>> We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming

>>> and more collaboration. Unfortunately, there may be limits to how

>>> people-oriented certain roles at Google can be and we shouldn't deceive

>>> ourselves or students into thinking otherwise (some of our programs to get

>>> female students into coding might be doing this)

My understanding is: if we increase pair programming to make it more of a team activity, more women will enjoy programming, and more women will become programmers.

We don't have to agree with the suggestion. But you've just shown us that our interpretations are wildly different. So, why?

Edit: formatting


Pair Programming is not a technique to improve social contact in software. It's a technique to improve product reliability and give more practical mentorship opportunities.

We might argue James says women are asking for good mentorship opportunities herr. So why do women benefit from this specifically (and that's okay) but other mentorship program are considered unfair in this rubric?

You say "we need pair programming" when reliability is difficult to gaurantee. Not because you're feeling lonely. It seems an awful lot like he's suggesting that women are especially in need of experienced minders.


That's a wholly uncharitable reading of what he's saying. A way more good faith interpretation would be the very simple equation of "working with just computer - more thing oriented, working with computer + partner - more people oriented".

This may be wrong(I don't have any evidence to back it up, and neither did Damore), but it is wholly different from the sinister undertones you are seeing.

(In fact, taking your "mentorship" interpretation, it is entirely possible that the women would be the one doing the mentoring, if their skill at engineering was hampered by a disinterest towards purely thing-oriented pursuits).


> That's a wholly uncharitable reading of what he's saying.

I'm sorry, what?

> A way more good faith interpretation would be the very simple equation of "working with just computer - more thing oriented, working with computer + partner - more people oriented".

Except that women entering the field now have no such expectations but he is still complaining about special treatment.


If you impose social contact, people are going to practice social contact and improve at social contact. It might not be what some relatively antisocial people want, but it seems like an important improvement for the whole team.


I'm not sure why "pair programming" is the go-to tool here. It certainly implies something different to a lot of people, myself included.

Pair programming is not a "social" outlet. It's collaborative, but "social?" That's quite a stretch of the word from where I think James used it.


Like I said, I am not seeking agreement on the merit of his idea.

You specifically said that the suggestion of Pair Programming, was due to James thinking that women are "less capable of individual action".

But you also said "It's a technique to improve product reliability and give more practical mentorship opportunities." Which is also my understanding. I know at least one shop where everybody pair programs. It has nothing to do with programmers being inferior. I also agree that paring is more sociable since every day I will have to greet my team mate, talk about stuff, have a coffee, then get to work.

I'm just trying to understand how "Pair Programming" changes meaning so much just because some dude wrote a manifesto. We can't even have a discussion if our understanding of the same document is so wildly different.


Schoolteachers are trained to provide just this type of variety for just this type of reason. For example, they're supposed to have competitive classes because boys are generally more motivated by competition than cooperation. It's uncontroversially seen as a good and wholesome thing for teachers to do it. Why is it demon spawn for programmers?


So now sociability is a negative trait? I for one would be delighted to find an efficient way to make coding more social. Many a reason why software design is so hard is exactly because most programmers are autistic nerds that tend to produce opinionated, hard to maintain code. Pair programming with someone that tends to think more in breadth than in depth sounds like one way of improving that situation.


That's not the same thing as telling an individual they're less capable.


Why?

What positive connotation could be drawn from it?


the context of that suggestion was to make the activity more appealing in order to entice more candidates, not to compensate for a skill deficiency.

My interpretation of this point should not be taken as an endorsement of it or the document as a whole


> My interpretation of this point should not be taken as an endorsement of it or the document as a whole

I was hoping not to discuss the document as a whole myself. I largely avoided the last pseudoscientific cesspool of a thread.


Women are better at pair programming?


Evidence, please.


> He says women will benefit from making coding more social. Pair programming.

> What positive connotation could be drawn from it?

I'm not claiming that women are better at pair programming, but that is a positive connotation that can be drawn.


You: Suggesting pair programming is an insult because you think I'm less capable.

Author: Pair programming may be one possible way to bring more social women into programming by appealing to their interest in people vs. things

He wrote one thing, your read another. Who's the one with a problem here exactly? The author or the reader?


> What positive connotation could be drawn from it?

IMHO that is the wrong question. Connotations aren't something anyone can argue for or against - one can have bad connotations for all sorts of words. Actual example: my ex hated the word "negotiate" in any personal discussion as she saw negotiations as something where you tried to screw the other person over (she was a lawyer). This was to the point where she refused to negotiate anything - including where we would have dinner. How can anyone live without negotiating? Hence, ex :)

I think a better question than one about connotations would be:

If we accept that women have a preference for people over things, what would encourage women to want to do a "things" job? The memo's answer: more peer programming i.e. adding a people element to a things/systems job. That is internally consistent, I think, with the evidence presented on average female preference.

Honestly, I find all this inferior/superior talk really troubling. Different != inferior, or superior, it is just DIFFERENT. Is a hammer a better tool than a saw? Depends what I want to do... I find it even more troubling that people against labelling others superior/inferior see everything that way. Personally, I think vive la difference!


The "different = inferior argument" is strongly implied.

If you accept the premise that there's such a thing as a male-dominated work culture with stereotypically male values, then attitudes and actions that match those values are considered better ("normative") by default.

Anyone who has different requirements or interests will always be considered an outsider who will to have allowances made for them while receiving special treatment.

This would also be true of hypothetical female-dominated cultures with stereotypical female values where men would be considered the inferior outsiders who need special treatment. (Do such cultures exist? At work - sometimes, but not often. Outside of work - perhaps.)

The topic is an unholy mess because there are so many implications and assumptions on both sides, and so much outright ranting and bullying too, that useful debate is practically impossible.

My view is that corporate culture isn't stereotypically "male" so much as stereotypically totalitarian. More women won't change that. It might rein in some of the more obvious abuses, while running the risk of replacing them with some new ones.

But real economic and political freedom could only come from equal opportunity at a scale that most (tacitly neoliberal) feminists seem uninterested in.


> The "different = inferior argument" is strongly implied.

Is it?

For the average person working at a big company it is much more important to have a good fun team than a productive team.

After all a fun happy team benefits me on a day to day level whereas if company profit jumps 20% I'm unlikely to see any benefit.

The exceptions are a few tech giants who hand out lots of stock.


> Is it?

Yes. In the memo, at least.


Where? How? In what words?


Implication means not explicit. Thus it's up to your interpretation. The context also can affect the implications, including the author's actions after the publication (his interviews on YouTube).


So I should prefer your interpretation over my own because...?


I wouldn't expect you to. Inference of tone and context is often quite subjective. I won't bother arguing it beyond pointing out that there can be reasonable differences if opinion.


> If you accept the premise that there's such a thing as a male-dominated work culture with stereotypically male values, then attitudes and actions that match those values are considered better ("normative") by default.

You've just said that if you accept male-dominated work culture exists, males are considered better by default.

Ergo either males are considered better by default or such a culture doesn't exist. You deny the latter, so clearly you are claiming the former.

You just made that claim, not the guy who was fired.


> It's mysterious to me how literally every action a feminist takes is somehow directly responsibile for all problems that befall them, with every action that might possibly hurt a man being somehow a catastrophe in the making.

As I read it, the grandparent's sole argument was one of unintended consequences, specifically that censorship only intensifies certain problems instead of alleviating them.

I don't see how this can be interpreted as to hold feminists responsible for something -- I don't even see the relationship to feminists at all. Could you please expand on that?


>Mad at someone for touching your bum? Speak up.

Where is this being said? People will not take your position seriously if you're not using context, because you're misrepresenting what is happening. This is something thats done in other places, but as far as I know, has nothing to do with the memo, and nothing to do with the parent post you're responding to. Therefore, you're using a strawman.


I'm referring to a Hacker News thread not even 3 weeks old.

In that specific paragraph I'm commenting on Hacker News, not the memo.


A random HN thread from possibly several weeks ago to which you don't provide a link.

Are you surprised that some (most?) people couldn't make a connection?


I did without even having read that particular thread. But I know all too well the types of arguments getting thrown around.

I think it is a question of awareness and beliefs. If you firmly don't think there is an issue then you simply don't notice. I've been at the other side of the fence so I know what it is like ;-)


So it's a myth.

"I saw the topic a week ago, I will not link to it, I didn't even read it, but I'm sure of what was in it"

insert snarky wink face


If you ask nicely, I'll provide a link.


"Not 3 weeks ago we had a thread here where a woman spoke up about harassment and people said it was exactly the wrong thing."

Not sure I can follow,

so the guy is wrong that he spoke up but the feminist is right? Or is the guy right and the feminist wrong? Or are both wrong? Or people who speak up against the guy are right and the guy speaking up is wrong? Or HN is wrong because we discuss this?

Can't follow your argument in the slightest.


> You spoke up?

There's more than one way to "speak up", so there's isn't just two options. In any case, who's opinion are you talking about? A specific subset of HN that sticks in your mind?

> pretty basic corporate policy

by basic, do you mean "vague and unevenly applied"?

> is taken without a critical eye

It isn't, but the conversation was cut short, suggesting that the opposite happened; it was assumed to be false/incorrect.


Is the brain exempt from being affected by genetics? All humans are genetically pre-disposed to be less capable of being racecar drivers or olympic athletes or physicists. Inherrantly what is it about being a programmer, that necessitates we assume that biology plays no part whatsoever? Note the use of the word biology as opposed to gender, because limiting the context to gender needlessly pits people against each other.


I made the grave mistake of trying to express that point on Twitter. Twitter seems to be a poor vehicle for nuanced debate at the best of time, but it's a dumpster fire right now full of raging people who don't understand what you've just said.

I was in SV last year for a couple of months during the election, and everyone I met were all paid up members of the church of political correctness up front, but when you spoke to these people in private there were a lot of people who were secretly conservative, but "It's Silicon Valley and you can't be a Republican out here".

I'm reminded of Chomsky's words in his book, The Common Good:

"The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum"

Where things have gone drastically wrong here are that the spectrum is now so tiny that any debate within that spectrum is now impossible. It becomes almost impossible to depolarize the situation and widen that spectrum, and that's going to lead to everything you more eloquently put above, if not more.


>I made the grave mistake of trying to express that point on Twitter. Twitter seems to be a poor vehicle for nuanced debate at the best of time, but it's a dumpster fire right now full of raging people who don't understand what you've just said.

It's worse. They don't care for what you've said, and they don't particularly care about the issues they talk about either.

Some (media people, etc.) use the issues to have a career or an audience. At best, they convince themselves they care, but they don't in any real capacity.

Others use the issues to vent their frustrations from their lives (as a religion substitute and group signifier) and as an excuse to fight with people.

Others are just repeating what is in fashion in their circle (progressive or conservative) and use the issues as a tribal thing.

(And I'm talking about people on both sides of the spectrum here).


Extreme leftism is literally a religion, so much so that you can't even present scientific evidence that is contrary to their decided narrative.

Born Again/Woke

Transgression/Microagression

Heresy/Dissent

Sinner/(Racist, Misogynist, Bigot, Sexist)

EDIT: Original Sin/(Privilege, Unconscious Bias)

They even follow the same behavior pattern. First they declare you a Sinner. If you've done research they question the motive of your research and claim it is invalid, regardless of its content. Like the Church burning those who tried to prove the Earth wasn't flat or the center of the solar system, when presented with evidence the extreme left says, "Heresy!"

Then they want to be protected from the sinners. The sinners make them feel unsafe. They have to be taken care of.

Seriously I thought humanity got past all this religious nonsense.

We have strides to make in better treatment of women and minorities, but adopting this kind of religious attitude is ridiculous and not the way forward.

Thank God that the US is a place where for whatever reason people inherently seem to not like following the rules.


When we ask users to take care to post civilly and substantively, this is what we want to avoid. The ratio of insight to inflammation doesn't meet the bar for the kind of thoughtful discussion we're after here.


I agree that this comment wasn't _quite_ as substance based as many others in this thread, but I think it made an interesting comparison that I hadn't seen elsewhere. I've read the same thing said a hundred different ways in other comments and this one said something different. It's possible that this could be interpreted as uncivil, but It seemed _relatively_ politely put and I think the fact that it's a different perspective is reason enough for its existence.


I will concede the post could have been more civil and I apologize.

However, it is extremely substantive, an entire doctoral thesis could be written on secular religions/orthodoxies and their illiberal and authoritarian nature and is directly relevant to the discussion of the reaction to the Google memo.


Substantiveness and civility aren't unrelated: a lack of the latter undermines the former. A doctoral thesis would be expressed quite differently, for example.


Yes substantiveness and civility are related. However, making a point in 500 characters vs. 20,000+ characters lends itself to some brusqueness.

I agree however, that lack of civility can undermine your argument. See the very uncivil comments below from Damore's fellow Google employees, including managers. They undermine their argument and literally create a toxic and scary work environment.

I abbreviated the names, but these were all public statements. I just don't want to run afoul of any HN rules regarding naming names.

CB: "You know there are certain "alternative views, including different political views" which I do not want people to feel safe to share here... You can believe women or minorities are unqualified all you like — I can't stop you — but if you say it out loud, then you deserve what's coming to you. Yes, this is "silencing". I intend to silence these views... Take your false equivalence and your fake symmetry, and shove them hard up where the sun doesn't shine."

KB: "I am considering creating a public-inside-google document of "people who make diversity difficult"...which calls out those googlers who repeatedly made public statements that are unsupportive of diversity... Things I'm still pondering: should inclusion on the list require something resembling a trial? should people be removed after some period of time if they start behaving better?

CW: "One of the great things about Google's internal communication mechanism... is that, as a manager, I can easily go find out if I really want to work with you."

KE: "Your reply...ignores the many women Googlers who have expressed the frustration they feel as a result of this. F* off. Thanks for using your real name here, though. Makes it easier to update my spreadsheet."


What's more scary someday people like Larry and Sundar will step down. Then these people will have all the Google's power.


This is quite humorous. Can I use this?


Of course. Just be careful where you post it, you might get added to a naughty list somewhere.


Don't forget that they recently created a concept of original sin: unconscious bias.

Thanks to the Implicit Association Test, it can now be demonstrated that everyone has racial bias. If you point out that follow up studies have shown poor test-retest reliability and that there are all sorts of other flaws in this field of research, you'll simply be dismissed as a denier.

So now, implicit bias takes the place of original sin, with white European (even the ones from Eastern Europe that had nothing to do with slavery) slaveholders standing in for Eve. You can never get rid of original sin, you can only ask for Jesus to forgive you. So who or what will be the new secular left wing Jesus?


The mob.


> "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum"

"What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation? They’re totalitarian institutions – you take orders from above and maybe give them to people below you. There’s about as much freedom as under Stalinism."

Amen to that.


There is the freedom to negotiate, and the freedom to leave. Comparing it to Stalinism is silly, and surely disrespects the millions of people who genuinely suffered and died under Stalin.


OP's quotation is not speaking of freedom generally, which you are; it is speaking of freedom within the corporation, i.e., you are there and you do not leave.

>Comparing it to Stalinism is silly, and surely disrespects

No, making a comparison of abstract forms of government is not in any way disrespectful to people who lived under a regime. It can only be construed as disrespectful if you are looking for an emotional tangent to distract people reading from the argument at hand (which, incidentally, indicates that you know your argument is bad!)


By exercising your freedom to negotiate and threatening to use your freedom to leave, you can attempt to cause changes in the corporation.

Please don't attempt to tell me that I know my argument is bad.


>Please don't attempt to tell me that I know my argument is bad.

I didn't attempt to tell you that, I did tell you that.


The freedom to leave gives you leverage within the company, even if you don't leave. Imagine how it would be within companies if the government forced people to stay.


Effectively this is what Utah's new non-compete laws achieve. You won't leave if you can't work at another company in your field.


[flagged]


> So we'll see what we see in every other company now also at Google. No mixed teams.

Do folks really believe that's what gender-balanced work places are like? I used to work at a large New York law firm where 40% of the lawyers were women. All of my teams were mixed, and out of happenstance I spent the bulk of my time working for women partners. Nobody was "terrified" because everyone knew how to act like a professional adult.


I don't dispute your conclusion, but for the sake of argument, how can you be sure nobody was "terrified", given the claim from GP that people would hide their opinions on the matter very carefully?


I guess I don't know if people were secretly terrified of the mixed-gender situation. But the recruiting process at a big firm involves 12 weeks of alcohol-fueled social events, and I saw pretty much everyone participate. People socialized and made friends with people of the opposite gender, as if we were in a first world country where that was okay. And when I started full time, I never saw any friction in the exclusively mixed-gender teams I worked on.


That's a pretty unrealistic black and white picture you're painting. Cultures and groups within a company that are already diverse and are truly merit based aren't going to be bothered by these sorts of events. They're already got their house in order, so to speak.

The people you're describing of being so terrified by these events or adopting unofficial policies against women already had a misogynistic bent. They were already a problem. Them using an event like this to justify their anti-social behavior is typical, but it is not the cause. They weren't accepting bastions of equality until they were frightened into sexism. Putting them on notice isn't the end of the world for anyone.

Whether we appease bigots or confront them, some people are going to be assholes until they die. I'd rather confront them and leave no question about which way the world is going.


Make sure no women passes any interview. Obstruct women and generally get them out of the team, or at least don't work with them when avoidable.

Why are you so scared of women?

We all know this is how Directors and VPs and the like think, we just don't say it.

It's really not.


Yes, the top calls all the cards. Yet, it is still a human organization, with all the features of a human organization.

As to answer. Inside a corporation, there is as much freedom as the top allows. With the consequences of that emanating from all the levels, so it is wise to not make it entirely freedom-less.


> Twitter seems to be a poor vehicle for nuanced debate at the best of time

Understatement of the century. How on earth can you expect to have "nuanced debate" with only 140 characters?


Plus the fact that the 140 characters are done from a soapbox with possibly tens of thousands of people ready to pounce on it.


This is like complaining that our mouths can only make 1 word sound at a time.

How can you have a nuanced debate with a serial device? It just won't work.


> How on earth can you expect to have "nuanced debate" with only 140 characters?

Oh come now, it seems to work fine for Trump! /s


Made me laugh


Sad!


I was downvoted! Sad!


Whenever you have a discussion about a topic in which people feel personally invested, their reasoning skills drop and their sentiment analysis ability goes up.


I've noticed that. But it does appear that for a lot of normally rational people this personal investment is at least amplified, if not manufactured almost entirely through the media.


A "normally rational person" is a person that is emotional at least 50% of the time but convinces themselves otherwise. Facts that seem to go against a person's beliefs provoke cognitive dissonance - it doesn't matter how technical they are or how logical they need to be to do their jobs.


It goes beyond that, Sabine Hossenfelder is better than a "normally rational person", she is seriously very smart it is in her bones to make a decent rational case for whatever she is saying. And here I am talking about her blog posts, not her job -- I have never read any of her papers.

But in this case though, she is does repeat some interweb fallacies about the memo, even though she has certainly read it herself and thought about it for herself.

But she does get the important thing right: which is that even if the memo is as bad as she says it is, it's still no reason for a sacking.

[Disclamer: I am a Googler, but quite obviously I am not speaking for the company here.]


Is that what the PC police told you to put at the bottom of all your online posts? ;)


Explains the sloppy reasoning of the Google Memo perfectly.


> I was in SV last year for a couple of months during the election, and everyone I met were all paid up members of the church of political correctness up front, but when you spoke to these people in private there were a lot of people who were secretly conservative, but "It's Silicon Valley and you can't be a Republican out here".

I guess they did not consider the voting booth to be private, as SV is one of the areas that swung towards Clinton?


Hard to say what the actual numbers are, but from the anecdotal evidence, a percentage of people felt that they had to pretend to be politically correct / leftist liberals. If you multiply any percentage, times the 80 million people in California, that's a lot of mental anguish and repression.

As long as there's food and shelter for most, things will continue as they are. First little bit of suffering, and it will explode into revolution. Normal way of things.


> "The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum"

For further reading on this topic:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overton_window


You realize his paper was posted to a list at google called "pc-considered-harmful"?


Can you indulge me in a thought experiment. You seem like a reasonable human being but I think your question shows that you may have fallen into a moral trap.

Can you explain to me the point I've made that you're arguing for or against with your question. Show me how your question has any impact on that point.

If you're taking a side and saying "But did you know this person was literally Hitler" then you may have fallen prey to the manufactured outrage surrounding the issue. Take a step back and ask yourself if it matters if the list was called pc-considered-harmful, woodchipping-kittens or fluffy-bunnies? What is the impact on the list's name on the situation?

If you're associating any questioning of the situation with the other side then it's worth spending a moment to see if you might have tied your beliefs to identity. When we tie our beliefs to our identity, we associate questioning of those beliefs with attacks on our identity. This is being exploited at the cost of completely polarizing your view.

The next step would be to see how upset you are. If you're very upset or wound up, or maybe you're not but you've commented a zillion times about this elsewhere, why are you doing so about this matter and not other things? What is it about this issue that gets you so riled up and why? Why would you care about some guy you don't know getting fired more than the President's involvement with Russia, or the killing of innocent civilians in the Yemen? What is it about this subject that gets to you in a way other's don't, and why?

You might find some serious answers, but probably more questions here: https://medium.com/the-mission/the-enemy-in-our-feeds-e86511...


> Can you explain to me the point I've made that you're arguing for or against with your question.

The idea in your comment is that you can't, or at least are dissuaded, to express certain opinions. Most the things I hear about Google, including the existence of a list talking about the harms of political correctness, that the author felt free to write such a report and many other reported freedoms at work indicate that this isn't the case. That in fact people at Google are more free to express themselves in these types of issues than at other companies.

You're the one who seems to be upset. I wrote one line and you jump to conclusions, question my motives, dig into my comment history and even managed to bring up Hitler. I try to argue the facts. Maybe you should question yourself as you question others.


They might not be feeling so free to express themselves since this guy got fired.


You make excellent points and are, logically speaking, correct. We are emotional creatures and we usually respond emotionally. If the list was called "hitler is my hero" there would be a visceral reaction. The framing, the contextual anchoring of a comment does matter and it should matter since we are social creatures that respond emotionally.

I very much agree with the top comment made by Const-me and the overall points you made. Unfortunately fear and anger are what drives political discourse and media feeds that fire.


I like the downvote I got. It reinforces the point I made about humans being emotional creatures!


There's a lot of questions here

- did he create the group?

- how long had the group existed before he posted the memo?

- was Google as an organisation ok with that group existing?

- is there anything wrong with there being discussion surrounding the value of PC viewpoints?

- What other sorts of lists exist at Google, and what sorts of viewpoints to they cover?


Any group like that is surely an HR honeypot, either by design or ex post facto.


It's fascinating to me that Google even has places to express opinions. When I was in my 20s and 30s, the workplace was just the place where you did work. There was no room for self-expression. You worked, you got paid, you went home. Seems like it opens the door for trouble - a false sense of individual rights when there are very few.


Google and the like greatly benefit from creating an environment where work and the workplace can be all consuming.


So, what are the odds that Damore read this thread and immediately turned around and wrote his essay? Note the Chomsky quote and use of "heresy".

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/why-fired-google-195400805.ht... (Non-paywall version)


> Now everyone at Google (and everyone in large tech companies, and everyone in academy) knows that they can be fired for expressing opinions that dissent from the party line.

This is an example of people taking exactly the wrong lesson from this situation. The guy wasn't fired for having a 'dissenting opinion'. He was fired because he basically said women are underrepresented in IT because they are biologically unsuited for it. If someone's 'opinion' is that phrenology explains why black people are underrepresented in tech they'd meet with a similar fate

There are a lot of situations these days where people are expressing opinions at work that are insensitive to or outright disparage another group of people, then getting shocked when they're fired.

The problem is that tolerance in the workplace of bigotry towards any group is rapidly eroding and some people don't know where the line of appropriateness is. They've never had to think much about the impact of their opinions on minorities and women so they're almost blind about what is over the line.

The thing is that many people who get into these situations have at least some idea that what they're gonna say is offensive. They'll preface things with, "I'm not racist but..." but continue right on saying it. Like they know on some level it's offensive but they don't consider that 'hey, maybe I'm in the wrong and I shouldn't go there'. 'No, it must be that liberals are out to censor me and destroy free speech'.

It's funny that some people point to a situation like this and say, "This is why we have Trump." If people voted for someone who routinely espoused racist and misogynist attitudes as a reaction to being criticized, that pretty much means they actually are bigots on some level. If you're not a bigot, the reasons to vote for him would be his policies, not his crude and prejudiced 'political incorrectness'


> He was fired because he basically said women are underrepresented in IT because they are biologically unsuited for it.

I don't understand why people keep repeating that statement. He said that biological differences explain the different ratios of men and women, NOT that women are not suited for tech jobs. He explicitely did not say (nor mean) that a woman can't be a good software engineer. Just that on average, more men than women will show the features needed for software engineers.

That is a huge difference. It doesn't disqualify any woman working at Google. It just means that the goal to reach 50% women could lead to a worse outcome.

Disclaimer: I don't necessarily support his claims, nor do I support his memo as such. I just think that it's worth thinking about and that there should be more scientific studies to explore this. Diversity campaigns should be based on science, not on populism.


I think it has to do with low knowledge of statistics.

The funny thing is that all the following sentences can be true at the same time:

1. Across the whole population, fewer women than men have the biological/psychological traits needed to become software engineers.

2. Female engineers are underrepresented in Silicon Valley and face many different forms of discrimination.

3. Female engineers at Google are on average better than their male colleagues.

I'm not suggesting any of these sentences are necessarily true, just that they can be. This is not intuitive, unless you know a bit of statistics.


> I don't understand why people keep repeating that statement. He said that biological differences explain the different ratios of men and women, NOT that women are not suited for tech jobs. He explicitely did not say (nor mean) that a woman can't be a good software engineer. Just that on average, more men than women will show the features needed for software engineers.

The problem is that his whole argument is based around biological determinism and those are the same arguments that true misogynists often use to discriminate against women. He even stated 'Neuroticism' as a trait women are predisposed to, which could've been pulled right out of an argument for why women shouldn't be allowed to vote.

Damore devotes zero attention to the impact of culture on what fields women go into. And in a nutshell, that's a major reason this manifesto is problematic and got him fired. Women in IT sometimes have to contend with attitudes that 'women are bad at math' or 'women are irrational' or 'women only care about aesthetics'. These are the attitudes that make some technical fields unwelcoming to women.

He hedges a little bit by saying 'distribution in traits between genders may be a part of why the gender gap exists' but then he proceeds to discuss that as the only reason the gender gap exists.


> The problem is that his whole argument is based around biological determinism

It's not based on biological determinism, he provides references to the current state of psychological research and simply wants a discussion about the policy

> this manifesto

it's not a manifesto by any means unless you want to call everything a manifesto including your post.

> Women in IT sometimes have to contend with attitudes that 'women are bad at math' or 'women are irrational' or 'women only care about aesthetics'.

There were no such things in his text, not even remotely close

> then he proceeds to discuss that as the only reason the gender gap exists.

He explicitly questions those causes, please stop projecting your ideology on things you read


The term "neuroticism" stems from the five factor model of psychological traits. The memo author doesn't really mention this too much, but if you know about the model, he uses the other factors throughout his work, which means he has read and understood the model.

There have been several studies showing that women scores higher in the agreeableness and neuroticism factors, on average (and with a quite large variance and a rather small effect I might add). The memo author makes it clear by writing "in part" in multiple places: a moderate effect can't explain the whole story: either there is another factor which truly dominates, or we are just looking at one piece of the puzzle as a whole.

Neuroticism has a very specific meaning in this case and it pertains to "negative emotion" in the sense that extremely high scores make you more likely to be stressed, anxious and so on. Likewise, extremely low scores make you overconfident and so stable you are unlikely to venture out into new ideas.

From an evolutionary phsych. standpoint, any score which exist tend to serve a purpose some way or the other. There are no desirable or undesirable traits, because too much or too little of a trait will be challenging in some situations, but a great advantage in others. So the question to ask is: if women scores higher in neuroticism, what advantage does that buy them in what situations? More anxiety could for instance have you second-guessing yourself in more situations, and that could lead to you finding more bugs in programs up front, which is an excellent trait to have in software development.

The other factor where there is a measurable gender difference, agreeableness, is a two-edged sword: High agreeableness scores are highly desirable for building coherent and working team/group structures. Low agreeableness allows people to pick an individualist/isolationist path when needed and make something great by ignoring the group consensus. Good group dynamic requires both traits to some extent.

My hunch is that if you scored the women at Google on the five factor model, they'd be likely to fall somewhat outside the gender norms. There is a considerable selection bias if you only consider tech people who work for Google. You are easily looking at a small fraction of the population as a whole, and the hiring selection process is likely to skew the scores quite a lot from the average norm.


The thing about pointing at the 5 factor psych model then applying it to something like gender disparity in tech, is that it's a pretty big leap to take scores from research studies to then draw conclusions about gender disparities in a given profession. Especially because at the core, it's very difficult to disentangle gender differences in psychological traits from learned social behaviors.

You bring up a lot of questions about what effects predispositions have in this case and that is exactly why it creates problems when people take findings on predispositions and run with them.


I think the key point the author is trying to make is: "Does biology play a role in what choices women make when it comes to selecting a career path?"

Clearly, this is not attributable to a single argument or factor. Rather, you have to look at several different reasons. Some are likely cultural, some are likely genetic and the interplay is going to be vastly complex (see e.g., epigenetics).

To make the argument, you have to survey a larger number of areas and show that they all point in the same direction, which is what the author is trying to do in the first place. And in particular, you have to demonstrate how the areas contribute to women making a choice against tech in general.

Hence, the studies showing how men are more often systemizing than women and so on are far better markers/arguments from a pure biological standpoint, than a difference in the 5 factor model.

Personally, I think most diversity programs fail to achieve any kind of success in improving the gender balance. In two prongs, you have to retain women who are already in tech, and you have to get more women into tech. The latter of those two is a hard sell if women simply don't want to be in the tech world, no matter how much you try to seduce and coerce them. And I think it would be too authoritarian to force them into a role they don't want to belong in.

I think the author is spot on with the observation that more competitive fields are more likely to have men employed over women. And more cooperative fields are better at retaining women. E.g., Law in Denmark has an almost 50/50 gender split, but women are far more likely to be employed in the public sector as lawyers. The law firms, where 80+ work weeks are the norm, are usually employing men. Jordan B. Peterson, whether you like him or not, posed the question as to why men are willing to fucking do that, and I happen to find that question quite interesting.

I also think tech in general would benefit from having some ventures which are more cooperative, but this is not likely to come from a highly competitive venture capitalist private sector, I'm afraid. Nor do I think Google can pull that one off.


> Some are likely cultural, some are likely genetic and the interplay is going to be vastly complex (see e.g., epigenetics).

OK, let's say that some segment of it is cultural. Now what?

Let's say that I'm female, and I have some talent for engineering/programming, but I'm raised in a culture that says "Women don't do that. Women marry, stay at home, and raise children." And I look at my mother, who is doing exactly that, and I see how trapped she feels, how stifling it is, and I really don't want to wind up in the same place, but because my culture is what it is, I don't think I have any other choice. Clearly, that's bad.

But let's say instead I look at my mother, and see that she's fairly content and happy, and I think, "That looks pretty good." It's still the same cultural constraint, but now I am willingly assenting to it. Now, is that still bad? (Yes, it's still bad as for the general culture, because it's still constraining others who don't want that. Is it bad for me specifically?)

If you say "Yes, it's still bad", you're saying that you know better than I am what decisions I ought to make. (This presumes that I genuinely understand the alternative. But don't say that, if I really understood, I wouldn't want to choose that. That's cheating. It's also insulting.)

Note that, in my example, the differences are neither genetic nor cultural. The difference is in the example that I see growing up, whether or not people are happy fitting into their culturally-assigned place.


It's no greater than the leap required to attribute gender disparity to internalised misogyny.


Except we do have direct evidence that gender bias leads to worse callback rates, worse initial evaluation of qualifications, worse promotion results, greater punishment for negotiating salaries, and expectations that are outside of job requirements.


But we also have direct evidence that the distribution of genders across the disciplines increases as opportunities between the genders become more equal. That strongly implies that biology does have an affect on life choices.

It also has to be said that not all evidence is equal.

I was reading an article about this just today, as it happens, complete with citations: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rabble-rouser/201707/wh...


> He even stated 'Neuroticism' as a trait women are predisposed to, which could've been pulled right out of an argument for why women shouldn't be allowed to vote.

Did you read this article? Or references linked by the original memo? Even this article clearly points out that "neuroticism" thing is pretty much established, accepted, and uncontroversial science.


No, I don't think it is. Not even the definition of neuroticism is uncontroversial.


> He explicitely did not say (nor mean) that a woman can't be a good software engineer.

> Just that on average, more men than women will show the features needed for software engineers.

Read those two sentences you wrote again. You'll be shocked when you see it.


I took the liberty of labeling one of the diagrams in the document with two points labeled A and B. How would you interpret the relationship of these points if A was a man and B was a woman?

http://imgur.com/a/kWyTi


I would definitely agree that A was to the left of B. I would also concede that B is to the right of A. But since the only label on the graph is an unidentified "Trait", I couldn't really comment any further.

What point are you trying to make?


The point he's making is that, on that graph, it is clear that many women are better at software engineering than many men. The women closer to the tip of their graph will easily beat men at the tail of theirs. Women can be very competent software engineers. That is clear to all (Sandy Metz is a great example).

But if, in general women prefer different roles, is that unimportant to you?


Why does it matter which trait this describes? Surely this demonstrates that averages don't matter for how a trait is expressed in individuals, no matter how it's distributed in different groups?


That the value on the y axis, for those two points taken from presented distributions, is the fucking same...

It's hard to make that point even more obvious.


What? It's a normal distribution graph. The height of the curve denotes how many of a particular group (group is denoted by the blue and green curves) score with regard to some trait x. The y-values for A and B on the graph are irrelevant.


You are right, of course. A dumb mistake of mine.


It's pretty clear from the totality of this person's comments that they are here to obfuscate and troll. Not sure why this is allowed on HN.


Would you care to revise your statement given https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14981300 ?


Does anyone know if this graph is to scale?

Seems to me it would have radically different interpretations depending on scale, and I'm not sure if it's just illustrating the concept of overlap or if it's claiming to represent "software engineer ability" or any other real measurement.


I'm not seeing it. Help me out? It's not a contradiction, if that's what you're implying. Have you ever taken a statistics class?


Oh, throwaway257157, if I thought you were posting in good faith, I'd certainly engage with you but using a newly created account means you aren't.


They are publically defending an argument that got someone fired, so using a throwaway account is totally reasonable here.


The point the throwaway raises is valid, though.

Where is the contradiction?


If you can't see it already, I doubt anything I could say to you would help that.


What I see is that you don't understand statistics. And, rather than offer a snide comment, I will try to show you why. Here are the two statements you quoted:

> He explicitely did not say (nor mean) that a woman can't be a good software engineer. > Just that on average, more men than women will show the features needed for software engineers.

Rephrased:

a) a woman can be a good software engineer b) on average, more men possess the skill set required for a software engineer

There is no contradiction between a) and b) whatsoever, since a) is about an individual and b) is about average features of different groups.

Of course, one may argue about the veracity of either a) or b). But, regardless of their factual accuracy, you did not make the point you think you did.


No.

Assuming someone is posting in bad faith for this reason is an act of bad faith.

Your statement reveals hypocrisy.


A throwaway account created specifically to post one comment is a sign of bad faith. It's entirely possible that I am wrong but the lack of subsequent engagement suggests otherwise.


"using a newly created account means you aren't."

This is wrong. Using a newly created account does not mean the communicator is approaching this in bad faith. That's a complete non sequitor.

"lack of subsequent engagement suggests otherwise."

Not at all. There are numerous reason they might not engage further within this time frame - or ever.


> Using a newly created account does not mean [...] bad faith

Specifically to post one (1) comment strongly implies it though. You disagree, fine; we'll agree to differ on this.


>This is an example of people taking exactly the wrong lesson from this situation. The guy wasn't fired for having a 'dissenting opinion'. He was fired because he basically said women are underrepresented in IT because they are biologically unsuited for it.

He never said that women are "biologically unsuited" for IT. Here's what he sead in full: https://medium.com/@Cernovich/full-james-damore-memo-uncenso...

In short, he said that biological differences (with citations) can explain in the aggregate (not in the total absolute of the population) different preferences, job options, etc., and even suggested ways to change the working environment to alleviate those issues and make it welcome to more personality traits associated statistically with women (as described in citations and statistics he gave).

What kind of person misattributes another with straw-man arguments they didn't say and gloats on their misfortune of being fired?

What he said might or might not be true, but in any case it's no basis for firing someone (as it's not related to their job performance), and it's something that absolutely should be allowed to be debated and studied.

The assumption "all sexes/cultures etc are equally predisposed to everything or even if they are not they should be considered as such and nobody should talk about it again" is not a way to have any kind of dialogue.

>There are a lot of situations these days where people are expressing opinions at work that are insensitive to or outright disparage another group of people, then getting shocked when they're fired.

If the tide turns, or you live in a country where the reverse tenets are held (e.g. Saudi Arabia), don't be surprised and don't complain if you are fired for saying what you believe then...

It's all par for the course and well as long as the majority or those in control of your job believe that you should have a specific sensitivity, right?


> In short, he said that biological differences (with citations) can explain in the aggregate (not in the total absolute of the population) different preferences, job options, etc., and even suggested ways to change the working environment to alleviate those issues and make it welcome to more personality traits associated statistically with women (as described in citations and statistics he gave).

He is extrapolating from a few pieces of evidence to form the basis of an entire argument about why women are underrepresented while devoting zero time to the role of culture or bias. I think he tried hard to be even-handed but then there's things like, 'Women have higher neuroticism'. He hedges his language a bit by saying biological differences "may in part" explain the gender gap, but then goes on to talk exclusively about biological differences as the cause.

> What kind of person misattributes another with straw-man arguments they didn't say and gloats on their misfortune of being fired?

Who's gloating? I am neither happy or unhappy he got fired. If Google chose not to fire him and instead used this as a teachable moment I wouldn't really have any criticism.

> What he said might or might not be true, but in any case it's no basis for firing someone (as it's not related to their job performance), and it's something that absolutely should be allowed to be debated and studied.

If you say or do something that contravenes the values of your company, it usually is a fireable offense, regardless of job performance. Some people may disagree with Google firing him but ultimately they decide what their culture is. Maybe in this case they've run afoul of California employment laws, but in most at-will employment states people can be fired for any reason or no reason at all.

> The assumption "all sexes/cultures etc are equally predisposed to everything or even if they are not they should be considered as such and nobody should talk about it again" is not a way to have any kind of dialogue.

Eh no. Predispositions is one thing, but when people extrapolate that to say, "This group's abilities or outcomes are different because of biological differences," you're always walking into a minefield. Most serious studies about that stuff stop faarrrr short of making conclusions about career/life outcomes based on genetic behavioral predispositions.

It's not that people can't talk about this stuff, it's that it is very easy to get it wrong. And a lot of people have trouble recognizing that it is easy to get it wrong.

> If the tide turns, or you live in a country where the reverse tenets are held (e.g. Saudi Arabia), don't be surprised and don't complain if you are fired for saying what you believe then...

A. I choose not to live in a monarchy that has capital punishment for minor offenses. B. If what I believe doesn't match the values of a company, I'm either not going to join that company or I'm going to refrain from publishing manifestos on the corporate intranet.

> It's all par for the course and well as long as the majority or those in control of your job believe that you should have a specific sensitivity, right?

It's their company, they can do what they want with it. People are free to not work for them and customers are free to choose another search engine.

Either way, Damore chose to publish this document internally, because he wanted his manifest to have impact. This is not a case of someone minding their own business and getting terminated for expressing an unpopular opinion. He created a real problem internally and Google chose to cut him lose for that. And we don't even know if there were other factors to his firing.


>He is extrapolating from a few pieces of evidence to form the basis of an entire argument about why women are underrepresented while devoting zero time to the role of culture or bias

Well should everybody making an under-representing argument be fired then? Because that's almost everybody, everywhere. How careful should one be? Isn't this a pointer that it's more about the "no touch" subject than about him under-representing in his case?

>I think he tried hard to be even-handed but then there's things like, 'Women have higher neuroticism'

If that's supported by research, should he just push it under the rag because it's inconvenient? (E.g.: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/22/women-men-me... ).

>It's not that people can't talk about this stuff, it's that it is very easy to get it wrong. And a lot of people have trouble recognizing that it is easy to get it wrong.

Well, the ability to talk about something also includes the freedom to "get it wrong". They call you for it, give their arguments, and the conversation moves on. If you have to tiptoe on eggshells lest you be fired or beaten up or whatever, then it's just as if you can't talk about this stuff.

The idea about "freedom of speech" as only meaning freedom from persecution from the government is extremely limited, allowing for any powerful employee, media mogul, the dictatorship of the majority, vocal minorities, etc to bully anyone who says something they don't like. Speak should be met with counter-speak and opinions with counter-opinions. Not with firing people, beating them up, hate correspondence, threats and so on.

>B. If what I believe doesn't match the values of a company, I'm either not going to join that company or I'm going to refrain from publishing manifestos on the corporate intranet.

Well, there are people who want to be able to work in a company AND speak their minds. I don't find it inconceivable. And this climate affects both men and women in many aspects.


"You can say anything you want, unless you're saying something that I choose to define as unacceptable."


When has that ever not been the case in the workplace? Every workplace has norms and values where someone who runs afoul of them may be fired.

Norms change over time. There was a time when it would've been okay to use the 'n' word to insult black people in many work places, now it's not okay. There was a time when lewd and demeaning talk about women was ok in the workplace, now it's not.

The people who sign the checks have always been able to define what is and is not acceptable in the workplace. Some people are feeling caught out because the line has moved, but it has always been there.


Completely agree. The point here is that the situation isn't static: many people don't like what is now ok in the workplace, and are trying to shift it back.

Simply calling them "racist" or "sexist" as if that ends the discussion completely misses the point.


Yeah and maybe what needs to happen is people need to talk more about how 'the line' is moving so people can understand better where people are coming from.

I agree that labeling people as racist or sexist for being caught out by shifting norms is not productive, but at the same time people need to put effort into empathizing with others and educating themselves.

There are jokes I would've made 10 years ago I wouldn't make now. There are comments from others that might not have set off any alarms before, but now I know more about why they might be exclusionary or hurtful. Ultimately it's a process.

Which is why maybe a guy like Damore shouldn't be made to run the internet pitchfork and torch gauntlet for what he did. Maybe it could've been a teachable moment instead of a firing. But the other side of that is that I don't know if there were other components to his firing that we haven't heard yet.


    I agree that labeling people as racist or sexist for being 
    caught out by shifting norms is not productive, but at the
    same time people need to put effort into empathizing with
    others and educating themselves.
Maybe that cuts both ways


The difference is senior leadership lying through their teeth about valuing diversity of opinion.


But surely not all opinions are welcome in the workplace. If someone spread a document that said, 'we shouldn't hire muslims because we can't trust their loyalties', surely expressing that opinion would merit firing.

And there's also the question of how opinions are expressed. When you post something publicly for wide distribution, there's much less room to walk things back or to discreetly talk through things. Damore intended for his document to have impact, which it did. But that also means that if the impact is negative it's more likely to lead to his dismissal.

I'm not sure he should have been fired in this case but I can see why it was done.


> If someone spread a document that said, 'we shouldn't hire muslims because we can't trust their loyalties'

That escalated quickly!

I think a closer example is someone saying "I support the trump immigration ban".

With the far left crowd who have been hyped up by the media this causes the same feelings as saying "I want to ban Muslims" and "I hate Muslims".

> And there's also the question of how opinions are expressed.

That's true. I'm not suprised he was fired.

From reading some of the leaked internal posts it looks like there is significant bullying of conservatives.

It doesn't look good for Google. Wage fixing, being investigated for pay gap issues, clearly bully conservatives, etc.

Hopefully a court case can reveal the truth.


When you have quotes from key people like Giuliani saying on national TV: “So when [Trump] first announced it, he said, 'Muslim ban.' He called me up. He said, 'Put a commission together. Show me the right way to do it legally.'"

There is strong evidence the immigration ban is targeted at Muslims. If it weren't for quotes like that Trump wouldn't have had an issue with the courts.


> When has that ever not been the case in the workplace

In progressive companies like google.

> There was a time when

And it changed because the public became outraged over it, and individuals concerned fought back with social and legal options. Same may happen here too.


As I understand it, this is a misrepresentation. He did not say they were biologically unsuited for it. If I could rephrase in my own words, I'd say that the evidence shows that people who tend to be good at both language and the sciences will lean towards more social career paths. Women are unlike men in that they tend to be good at both where men tend to be lopsided: e.g. much better at math than English, say. This is not saying that women are unsuited for science. Quite the opposite. It is saying that women who are suited for STEM are more likely to also be well suited to more social endeavors, and thus less likely to choose STEM than the typical man who is well suited for STEM. The memo, I think, was essentially saying: "Thus if we want to attract more women to engineering, we need to appeal to the non-STEM side of the spectrum."


Of course they'll shut up for fear of losing their job and the means to support their family.

Totally agree, but it was like this. Religion and politics never mixed while working, outside a small circle of friends. Even then, if one was "offended" and complained, you'd be screwed.

But Google did the right thing--if you ask 100 top corp lawyers, advisors and politicians. Better to fire a guy than having to deal with the wrath of the side currently winning the debate. In the end Google is there to make money for its shareholders: not to advance workplace free speech or to deliver the most useful results for its users.

Google will probable spend a few million to fight and then settle this case. It will feel like losing a dime to the average person.


Suppression of free speech is the most dangerous - Eventually people reach a breaking point and then they snap all at once. I think that is a cause of extremely violent events like WW2 and most revolutions. Oppressed people start quietly labelling who their enemies are (often without proper justification) and wait for consensus to build.

After this, although I disagree with the engineer, I don't think that Google is the kind of company I would want to work for.

This event is eerily reminiscent of a comment I made on HN 2 months ago about big corporations and suppression of free speech (see last line): https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14527934

I think that if these companies get too big and keep suppressing free speech, eventually they will get mutinied from the inside.


I'm not sure any mutiny will have a chance of survival, for one simple reason - too many people want to work for those companies, even if only to have that company on their resume.

If a mutiny did occur, all the company would need to do is fire the loudest voices in the name of diversity, let the rest quit quietly, and replace them with the millions still banging at the doors to get in. You'd need someone at a C level solidly on your side for a mutiny to succeed, and you don't usually get to a career C level by having strong ideological stances (aside from, perhaps, a strong love of capitalism and how it lines your pockets).


That's a gross oversimplification of the issue.

Would the same outcome have happened if this guy had posted his manifesto on a blog outside the office, rather than distributing it to colleagues at work?

Would the same outcome have happened if the various arguments in the manifesto had been individual articles on a personal blog over a period of time?

Would the same outcome have happened if the manifesto hadn't been explicitly critical about diversity hiring at Google, and rather had been generally critical about EEO law at the state and federal level?

There are so many ways this situation could have been different, but the lesson you choose to take from it is "don't express your opinion in public"? That's what really explains Trump.


> Would the same outcome have happened if this guy had posted his manifesto on a blog outside the office, rather than distributing it to colleagues at work?

Yes.

The only thing that could have prevented his firing was to have never published it under his real name (and this is not completely safe).

Since it's an internal issue, I think he did the right thing in this aspect: he published it in the internal forum, instead of dragging the dirty laundry for the world to see.

Most codes of conduct explictly apply all their conditions to venues that are not related to the project itself, so I doubt the outrage would be different if he published it elsewhere, under a pseudonym, and was IDed later.


> That's a gross oversimplification of the issue.

It is the way most people think. The only way of thinking available for them. So this conclusions is exactly what they draw from the story.

> the lesson you choose to take from it is "don't express your opinion in public"? That's what really explains Trump.

I'm not sure that Const-me took _this_ lesson, but the point is: the most people took this lesson. The reality works this way. Therefore this lesson is the true one, it is like self-fulfilling prophecy. If enough people belive in it, than it is true.


Didn't read his memo, am not interested in the debate, and am not saying he should be fired or kept.

That said, I'd think that he was fired not because of his opinions, but because he seems to have done an irreparable damage to Google's image: for good or bad reasons, people will react strongly and negatively to the publication of his memo, and whatever Google does -- keeps him or lets him go -- this negative impact will stick.

EDIT: many, many people will react negatively.


> ...he seems to have done an irreparable damage to Google's image...

1. From my perspective, the firing was more damaging to Google's reputation than anything in the article. People still remember the Eich incident with bad feelings for Mozilla. This one is actually worse because there's no "CEOs are PR officers" reasoning to fall back on. If there's still damage when the dust settles here, it will be due to blowback originating from people who misunderstood the text or don't care that it's basically misunderstood. That's my next point.

2. It's becoming more apparent to me that a large portion of the outrage is due to a misunderstanding of the text. I suspect that people haven't actually read the text, not really. The concrete objection I notice the most ("he said that female engineers are inferior") is not true and directly addressed in the text. There are comments in this thread that are misunderstanding or uninformed about what he wrote about overlapping distribution curves.

3. With that in mind, I can't tell if Google leadership is having a reading comprehension issue, a problem understanding statistics, or if they are making a purely political/PR decision here. None of those situations should make a Google engineer confident in their leadership.


The memo wasn't published. It was leaked. Whoever leaked it is the one who damaged Google's reputation. They then damaged it more when they claimed they respect diversity and then fired the guy in response to mob outrage.

The damage to Google's reputation here is on them. Almost by definition.


You are correct, but letting this outside is only the first item on the list of consequences. Next comes -- many, many people inside Google probably stopped working productively and are still absorbing-the-shock/digesting/battling/persuading/discussing/ruminating-alone -- again, for good or bad reasons, but many of them. The leaker didn't do that.


>> but because he seems to have done an irreparable damage to Google's image

The same can be said for the firing, it is also doing irreparable damage to Google's image, likely more so than the publication of the memo


Google could have published a letter that addresses the issues mentioned in the leaked memo in a diplomatic way without firing anyone. Google's immature reaction damaged the perception of the diversity ideology instead of defending it.


I totally agree, this will add tons of ammunition to all kinds of sexists, racists and extremists. Damore made several well sourced arguments that you are welcome to disagree with. But instead of discussion, counter arguments and "embracing diversity" he was silenced and probably illegally sacked. This will strengthen the position of all kind of haters and populists and if you think it's not a big deal, yes, go and check who is your president.


We'll see how the trend moves going forward, but even after capturing (by rhetoric if not act) the white house, the alt-right continues to be a radical fringe, and suffers from serious internal contradictions that make any serious movement building doomed. The movement has attracted the attention of a lot of white nationalists, anti-semites and hardline fascists (amren, natall, kss), while also attracting a new wave of online-prominent trolls and shit-stirrers.

But what happens when the 4chan poster with the anime pillow who denies the holocaust just to get a rise out of the libcucks crosses paths with an actual hardline anti-semite who is interested in building an even-more-final solution?

To use a colloquialism, what happens when the rubber meets the road? Do the fascists tolerate what they would consider to be total degeneracy for the sake of finally building a mass movement? Does the online troll recognize that what was an ironic joke for him is a hard reality for others, and move to push their real-life activism away from those types of groups?

This is what I mean by internal contradictions, the kind that can kill a mass movement before it even starts.

So while there is a common refrain of "this is why Trump won, and the movement of contrarians, devils advocates, trolls, anti-pc crusaders, people who tweet about white genocide, stormfront regulars and conspiracy theorists is only going to grow if you being offensive towards them", the reality is much, much more complicated.

Trust in Trump has plummeted, even amongst his core. The vote is very quickly slipping out of the grasp of the Right, and was always a race against time demographically to begin with. And if you're in a position where you can't win through democratic means, you have to use other means (boycotts, protests, organizing, etc). And the alt-right is utterly lamed by it's own hand before that race has even started.


> Trust in Trump has plummeted, even amongst his core. The vote is very quickly slipping out of the grasp of the Right

This is certainly the message being broadcast into every home on the planet for the last 6 moths. In reality it seems a bit optimistic when we consider the Democrats are coming from a decade-long losing streak (http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2015/jan/25/...), a monumentally embarrassing, record cost $1.2B failed 2016 Presidential campaign (http://nypost.com/2016/12/09/hillary-clintons-losing-campaig...), and following these up by going 0-6 in federal elections (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/06/21/georgia-special-e...) leaving them with their lowest representation in American government since the 1920's (http://www.npr.org/2016/03/04/469052020/the-democratic-party...).

I think it's pretty safe to say that the American leftist revolution is _not_ right around the corner.


Indeed but I think a lot of leftists would be very happy just to get rid of Trump. A right-wing government with a President who displays any kind of understanding of diplomacy, international politics and everyday reality would be an improvement.


I fear what Trump would be replaced with if the establishment GOP and Democrats actually managed to oust him.

The environment that catalyzed Trump's rise to power has not changed - if anything, it has intensified.


Right now, we have two indicators: The way the swings on the special elections are going, which are all violently swinging away from the Republicans, even if Republicans end up winning, it's barely by single digits in double digit districts.

And the polling, which in aggregate, across all demographics, has been continually moving more and more negative each passing month. Even polls like Rasmussen, which have a traditional right-wing bias, have shown a consistent drop in support.

Metrics like the ones you mentioned aren't useful as predictors. Yes, the Democrats spent a lot of money. So did the Republicans. Big money elections are the norm now, and each election has a loser.

Your reference to losing special elections only tells half the story. These are races that should have been as safe as safe can be. That's why they're special elections, because when Presidents make appointments, they only tend to choose people from their party who are in such safe districts that they can easily be replaced. Often-times, the national party doesn't even send monetary support to these special elections, because they're re-won so handily.

Take Ossoff's challenge in Georgia. He lost by 4 points in a district that went for Trump by 19 points. Moreover, the Republicans were required to spend $25 million in order to defend a seat that they had most likely budgeted around $0 for. That's what's called a weathervane. Or a canary in a coal mine.

Even further down this rabbit hole, the 0-6 loss article is from June. Since then, we've had Phil Miller win by 9 points in a district that Trump won by 21 points, which means that's a 30 point swing! We also have Kevin Cavanaugh winning by 23.4 points in a district that Clinton only won by 0.1 points. There's also been sweeps of state legislatures in traditionally VERY deep red states such as Oklahoma.

Every single trend points to a very difficult 2018 for the Republicans, and an especially difficult 2020.


This is a nice debate topic, because we'll have a clear cut answer next year. If you truly believe there is at least a 50% chance of Democrats controlling the house or 20% chance in the senate, you can make some easy money:

house: https://www.predictit.org/Market/2704/Which-party-will-contr...

senate: https://www.predictit.org/Market/2703/Which-party-will-contr...


Here is something that will explain what happened. Though it may disappoint you.

Ossoff got 125,517 votes Handel got 134,799 votes.

Compare

Dem - 124,917 Rep - 201,088

As you see there was no swing in Dem's favour.


The second stat is from 2016 elections.


You know, people think elections are about convincing one side to switch over to the other. That's actually not how swings occur. They happen by people deciding to stay home or come out.

A special election is a hard sell. Democrats sold it. Republicans didn't.

Mid-term elections are also hard sells. We'll see who can sell it.


> Take Ossoff's challenge in Georgia. He lost by 4 points in a district that went for Trump by 19 points. Moreover, the Republicans were required to spend $25 million in order to defend a seat that they had most likely budgeted around $0 for. That's what's called a weathervane. Or a canary in a coal mine.

Isn't that normal? In Australia these sorts of elections usually swing heavily against the government of the day but are very poor predictions of what will happen at a general election. Is this not the norm in America?


For mid-term elections, yes, they usually swing against the party in power. The extent to which they swing varies wildly, though, so all we know is that there likes will be a traditional anti-establishment swing, but the magnitude of it is unknown.

However, a special election within the months after a Presidential election should follow the same results, since there hasn't been the time to build the resentment necessary for a significant change in voting patterns. That, however, has not been the case with the Trump presidency.


That mirrors our experience after the 2013 federal election, the fell hard and fast but changed the leader and still snuck through at the last general election.

We've also seen the trend at state level for the last few years, it seems swings are coming harder and faster.


I think this this is the talking points for the Democrats but its not very convincing.

> The way the swings on the special elections are going, which are all violently swinging away from the Republicans.

The Republicans won all 6 special elections.

> Take Ossoff's challenge in Georgia. He lost by 4 points > the Republicans were required to spend $25 million

He lost. And it was the Democrats who spent $23 Million (the most ever spent) on the election not the Republicans. The republicans spent like $3 Million dollars.


> The Republicans won all 6 special elections.

By slim margins in what should have been extremely safe districts.

Then they lost the next 2, one of which by way a 30 point swing.

The swing is not something you can hand-wave away. It's one of the best metrics we have as a predictor for 2018.

> The republicans spent like $3 Million dollars.

Estimates on how much was spent on the election range from $40-$60 million.

$23 million is the amount of fundraising that was done by Ossoff's campaign, independent of the DCCC or traditional DNC PACs, which means none of it came from their "warchest". The DCCC provided an additional $5 million of TV ad spends in Ossoff's favor.

On the Republican side, they spent way more than $3 million. The NRCC spent about $6.7 million on TV ad spends. Paul Ryan's SuperPAC spent about $5 million on airtime and $2 million on additional costs. Two other conservative PACs raised an additional $1 million.

https://www.issueone.org/money-behind-expensive-u-s-house-ra...

The breakdown is very complicated, because money can come in from dozens of different types of sources, and the numbers aren't usually finalized until long after the election ends.

The $23 million figure, however, was mostly crowd-sourced in small donations. So to be very clear, you can say that came from citizens who identify as Democrats and be generally right, but to say it came from Democrats as an organization or a political entity, that is not correct.


Democrats spent a lot more money on these races and were still not able to win. This is clearly a problem for them. The swing in margins can be explained by the fact that the President's party mostly always loses some points


> the President's party mostly always loses some points

Not in the double digits, they don't. And not in special elections shortly into the first year of the Presidency, especially.


Very likely you’re right about the current state of alt right movement (I live in Europe and haven’t been monitoring the subject).

But GP only mentioned alt-rights as an example of where might the voters turn their preferences.

Even at Google where James worked, many employees agree with his memo (36%), and the majority, 54% of them think the memo is harmless and was OK to share: https://basicgestalt.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/press-f-for-ja...

After Google fired him, these 54% will inevitably think about what other ideas they think are harmless might cause them to be fired. Not exactly comforting thoughts.


For the life of me, I cannot find a legitimate source for that poll. I see the image popping up on a lot of less-than-reputable websites (wordpress blogs, tweets, businessinsider, etc) but no actual source for it, let alone any idea of its methodology.


Since it's allegedly Google internal poll, you probably won't find more information on it beyond screenshot. After what happened to Damore and calls for his supporters to be fired as well, most people are probably clamming up now.


I can't say that inspires confidence that the poll is even legitimate. Do we at least have proof that it actually was an internal Google poll and not someone's 15 minutes in photoshop?


Assuming it was legitimate, 282 self-selected responses from a company with tens of thousands of employees wouldn't pass even the most basic "is this poll statistically valid?" test.


> wouldn't pass even the most basic "is this poll statistically valid?" test

It totally would. Statistically, a sample size of 282 out of a population of 60000 is pretty good.

If this test was authentic, we would be 95% sure that the true percentage of the population who think that the memo is harmless is between 47% and 60%.


Presumably that would require a population-representative sample of 282 though, not a self-selected (and therefore potentially biased) sample.

Otherwise you could run a poll "Who thinks [minority] should leave the USA?", get a high "yes" response, say "THE POPULACE AGREE!" but then discover only racists/whatever have replied because Breitbart/4chan dogpiled the poll - which would make it 100% invalid, no?


No, we don’t have that proof.

However, the design matches the defaults of google forms, exact colors and their sequence, too: http://imgur.com/WPC0ogZ

Also the header says "gd-jpeg v1.0", it’s a cross platform open source C library with bindings for all modern programming languages including Go and Python: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GD_Graphics_Library

Even if that’s a fake, it’s a good one.


I mean, GD has been around for over 20 years. It's not obscure. It's extremely popular. Most coders have used it at some point.

I could whip upa similar graph without breaking a sweat that says whatever I'd like, and it would have all the same hallmarks of this one. I could even do it in PHP using ImageMagick (if I felt masochistic) and fake the file header to say it was created using GD. Or build it in photoshop, and pull it into a binary editor.

So I think unless there's someone who can point to greater evidence that this is an internal graph, there's just no reason to believe it is.


> So I think unless there's someone who can point to greater evidence that this is an internal graph, there's just no reason to believe it is.

So I think unless there's someone who can point to the actual internal graph, there's just no reason to believe this is fake.

The distribution this poll shows is not so outlandish as to be unbelievable, and importantly it does not lend itself to overwhelmingly support one side over the other. Why would anyone spend time and effort to fake it?


> Why would anyone spend time and effort to fake it?

It's a heated argument on the internet. There'd be plenty of incentive to fake a graph in order to bolster one's opinion.


My point is that if you are going to fake a graph to bolster your opinion, you might as well fake one that actually bolsters your opinion, instead of just mildly suggesting that not everyone disagrees with you.


I'm really disappointed we're even having this conversation on Hacker News. A graph with no source, no methodology, no context is useless. We're computer programmers, we should know enough about data to recognize this and dismiss it until we have those things.


I am not sure I get your objection. It's like saying that Clinton couldn't win the election because she had far-left/communist sympathisers. I am sure she did. And I am also sure these were a marginal portion of her electoral base. I don't see how these extremists would stand in the way of a broader movement.

I am not bullish on Trump long term, but not because some extremists also support him, but because of his own randomness and inability to get things done in Washington.


It might be important I clarify that I'm not talking about the right, I'm talking about the far right (re-branded as the "alt-right"). This does not include most people who vote Republican or consider themselves traditional conservatives.

The traditional conservative movement is dying out. Quite literally, it has a demographic problem that it is not sure how to resolve. In it's place, you have the alt-right, which does tend to be more youthful, but which acts as an umbrella for a wide variety of extremist viewpoints, everything from extreme libertarianism to conspiracy theorists to white nationalism to single-issue anti-islamic advocates and a whole host of others. And within that milieu, a large proportion of people are not singularly committed to those hard-right ideologies as much as they define themselves solely in their rejection of liberalism, the left, or social justice. The result is a whole host of confusion. The alt-right is constantly infighting about cultural issues such as traditional masculinity or gay rights, to the difference between opposition to illegal immigration (a viewpoint which can claim to be more centrist) or opposing immigration altogether, including legal (which is held by the nationalist wing of the movement).

As the voting base disappears, these groups will have to figure out how to grow their movement, make political demands, maintain a presence without burning out, etc. Just like all movements do. But that's exactly where those intense internal divisions come in and wreak havoc.


I don't think so.

The alt-right is not constantly infighting.

The left are more likely to devolve into infighting.

This google guy was moderate left wing and the hard line social justice response from Google and the media will alienate a lot more of the intellectual left.

Hispanics and African Americans often lean socially conservative.

Gay men are a lot more fiscally conservative than you might think.

None of those groups identify with single white woman.

Etc etc.


"This google guy" was a self-declared conservative, and mentioned cultural marxism, an alt-right touchstone, in the very memo that is being discussed.

His first interviews were with alt-right Youtube channels.

I agree with your points about lots of minority groups being socially (and/or fiscally) conservative. It's lucky for the left that the white social conservatives have been driving them away consistently for decades.


Certainly a conservative compared to his coworkers.

I'd argue he is still left of center.

He is just interviewing with the groups who will give him a fair go.


Jordan Peterson is alt-right?


I'd never heard of him till yesterday, when I read a comment where he replied to one of his fans who wanted to form a breakaway state so his children could be raised only among their own ethnicity, and his reply was (paraphrasing from memory, but it was a weird enough answer that it kind of stuck) "Strengthen your soul to achieve your political goals".

So yeah he's definitely in that general area.


Ok, but agreeing with the infamous memo doesn't make someone a far right extremist. The parent comment suggested it will push them to vote for a harder-line movement but there is a big margin between being opposed to affirmative action and white supremacists.


I absolutely agree that agreeing with the memo doesn't make someone a far right extremist, and I don't believe I ever stated or insinuated that. That's a bit of a non-sequitur, though. This is the exact point I was referring to:

they won't change their position. If anything, their position will be radicalized. For example, from classical liberal to alt-right.

This is been a common sort of mantra since Trump won the presidency. Whenever we have a controversial event like this, people make a statement that any actions by those on the left will only further radicalize people in the other direction. I don't think it's true, but most of all, I don't think that other direction really leads anywhere useful. For the reasons I outlined previously.


Do you think the author will be radicalized? When I try to empathize with Damore the alt-right looks welcoming while liberals look very unwelcoming. I could see myself being drawn towards the group that accepts me (or doesn't attack me). That's the process that I assumed from the radicalization idea. Have I missed the mark?


> the alt-right looks welcoming

Superficially at most. When you go to some of the most popular alt-right facebook pages, and you see caricatures of Jews and whole racial groups consistently disparaged and stereotyped, and when you see just how many people posting in them have cross-interests with white supremacist and misogynist movements, you realize that "welcoming" is a very, very narrow term.


He was alt-right to begin with.


> But what happens when the 4chan poster with the anime pillow who denies the holocaust just to get a rise out of the libcucks crosses paths with an actual hardline anti-semite who is interested in building an even-more-final solution?

Sounds like an amazing sit-com. Stay tuned, folks!


Honest question, do you really think that their opinions weren't already extreme in light of the fact that the science on the differences between the sexes (and the races, tangentially) aren't significant enough to define hiring practices? I ask because I think we're seeing not a backlash from corporations because they're anti-science but because they're anti-scientism. We've had two centuries of science being misused to excuse unscientific policies in law and even corporate policy (and to some extent we still do this). Google, in my opinion, is right to ignore the science on the differences between groups of people because the science at this point speaks very broad terms and worse still it doesn't define social and moral goods. Science is good at describing a thing but not describing what should be done with the thing it describes, that's for philosophers, law makers, and preachers to do. And folks like Damore fall into the tar pit of scientism where they try to describe concepts of morality and philosophy in disguise when they claim they describe things in terms of a science. There's nothing scientific about fairness. It's just something we feel is fair in a given era. A century ago giving women an equal say in society whether by vote or employment would've been seen as unfair. Today? It's totally fair and expected. How that changed I won't go into but the fact is the change occurred independent of science (as it should). Science works best when it attempts to be as value free as possible. But hiring practices aren't in the sphere of science and Damore should have known this well before he wrote his letter. He should've focused on fairness and defined fairness in scope of being an employee (potential and actual). That way his point might've been accepted because at the end of his letter he spells it out as a matter of judging people on individual ability. So the rest of his letter is actually useless and hides that important point he made. All because he got caught in the trap of scientism.


I find it disturbing that somebody would even consider switching to the alt-right over this. Do people not have deeply-held beliefs anymore? Personally, that is a line that I would never, under any circumstance, cross, even if I was the one who got fired and blacklisted. It is a non-negotiable position.


You are right to find it disturbing. It is disturbing. Once it becomes dangerous to express your ideas, then people with contrary ideas will either be crushed or rebellious.

There is a stupendously thin line between a sane person and an insane one. It is possible to break minds, and the vitriol that can be poured out from the depths of the internet is quite sufficient to break the typical human being. Some people start off closer to the edge than others.

I'm glad I do not know the true extent of the outrage that this subject has unleashed, but I'll wager it includes credible death threats considering the size of the audience that it has reached.

If you pour hate over something long enough, it will bear fruit.


It’s not that someone would switch to the alt-right, it’s that the definition of belief is moving the line so others are defining you as alt-right. As an example, Ben Shapiro is by statements and beliefs not alt-right. He was attacked by them quite a bit. Yet, people have started calling him alt-right in media and forums.

I too would never cross that line, but I believe others will be happy to redraw that line regardless of my actual beliefs. This is what happens when others can slap labels on you and there is no real debate.


I feel like this happened because it seems he accidentally presented himself to the outside world as alt-right. You'd only know he was a right libertarian (my impression at least) if you regularly listened to him.

For example, Look at his Wikipedia article vs his /r/politics AMA. His Wikipedia article paints him as alt-right, because all of his major accomplishments that reach outside the audience are hyper-focused on culture wars and academia influence on politics. His support of Israel was mentioned, but he did flip to an alt-right acceptable view. The only thing suggesting on the wiki page he's not alt right is not supporting Trump, but it doesn't help that its implied they mostly attacked him for being Jewish.

From that alone I would think it was a Milo situation, where they are alt-right that are unaccepted by the "alt-reich" because of a specific character trait.

The AMA however gave me the idea he's right libertarian. A lot of his answers seem to circle back to the free market. His pro-life opinion is even a slight extension of that, where he believes life needs to be guaranteed to at least participate in the market. This, however, required direct drilling of the guy to actually get.

So TLDR, He talks libertarian, but his noticeable acts are alt-right. I think this is a bit his fault, considering he didn't think to advertise his libertarian ideas at all in books or speeches even though he started his career before he even graduated college.


> I feel like this happened because it seems he accidentally presented himself to the outside world as alt-right.

I would love for you to find one place Ben Shapiro presents as alt-right.

> His Wikipedia article paints him as alt-right

of course it does, Conservatives of all stripes have been complaining about the bias of Wikipedia for some time. It paints anyone who is sorta conservative as alt-right.

If you believe he acts "alt-right" then pretty much every libertarian is alt-right, and that's just wrong.


You can complain about Wikipedia, but you missed the point of me mentioning it. Here's a question I want answered because otherwise he might as well present as such:

Do you think the Wikipedia page is missing anything important he's done? Specifically anything of note that has to do with the free market.

Otherwise, its basically a "just one goat" situation, except he done like 7 goats. the day to day things are just not gonna stick out as much as the big things so what he says on his podcast isn't enough to change that perception.


I am trying to figure out what exactly he has done to make him alt-right since they attack him constantly.

From the Wikipedia page: > n May 2016 New York Magazine reported: "Shapiro...has increasingly found himself targeted by the so-called alt-right movement, a loose conglomeration of online personalities—many if not most of them anonymous—currently devoted to tweeting and posting their support for Donald Trump and attacking those who disagree, often in racist and anti-Semitic ways. They have been denigrating Shapiro as a 'pussy', a 'cuck', a 'Jew' and a 'kike'."[54]

He supports Israel which actually isn't an alt-right thing.

I'm trying to find what in that article makes him alt-right.


Welp, I made a mistake. He's had multiple opinions on Israel, and he's currently pro-Israel at the moment, this was the offending quote:

"A decade later, however, Shapiro reversed his position. In an article published on March 13, 2013, Shapiro wrote, "Some on the right have proposed population transfer from the Gaza Strip or West Bank as a solution. This is both inhumane and impractical. Moving millions of Palestinians out of areas they have known for their entire lives will certainly not pave the way to peace" and while "both right and left agree that a population separation is necessary," he proposes that Israel "has no choice but to weather [the anti-Israeli propaganda]" until a realistic solution comes to light.[37]"

This however was followed by the UCLA section which I misunderstood. Either way, I don't think there's much point on focusing on Israel. The Don himself is probably more pro-Israel than he is. Opinions like that are less identifying of alt right and more as weapons to be used when the alt reich feel betrayed.

That mistake is also why I'm forgiving you on the whole being attacked by the alt right. I've already said why that doesn't matter, it was also in the paragraph right after that one: "I've experienced more pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism since coming out against Trump's candidacy than at any other time in my political career". If he was alt-right he wouldn't be the first to be turned on like with Milo and the Daily Stormer.

I think there's something I need to clarify here. Another poster here posted how alt right means Nazi now. I DONT believe that, and if you may notice I prefer to say Reich for the Nazi side. I see the alt right as someone who has taken to the right socially, possibly being opposites with libertarians with left economics, but are not evangelicals because they're a revolt on social justice (not against it, but specifically a "what about us?") and, most important here, the reaction to such opinions by colleges, news, and businesses. Also, please remember my second comment before you bring up Wikipedia's own article on the alt right.

Which makes the whole discussion a bit funny but confusing. The guy is definitely alt right, despite what everyone's saying here. A bunch of people here are alt right too but, again, don't want to say so. What happened is history has repeated itself as alt right is to alt reich/Nazi as liberal was to socialism/communism.

It doesn't actually matter in the end how I separate them in the end. Much like the mere mention of redistribution was likened to communism, The fact that alt right can be fiscally left has been taken advantage of to frame everything they believe as Nazi under a simplistic understanding of it. The end result is people seeing a thing as alt right, even if they define it differently somehow.

I'd recommend not replying to this comment as quickly as the last, it had to be long to clarify myself and I won't read the reply till tomorrow anyway.


I'm not bringing up Wikipedia or anything else. I am going to one of the main alt-right people to define their beliefs and membership[0].

Vox Day is alt-right. That probably is not a controversial statement to anyone. I would assume that he knows who is alt-right and who is not. Given that he wrote an article[2] that declares Ben Shapiro and enemy of the alt-right and later tries to classify Mr. Shapiro[3], I am given to believe being someones enemy is a pretty good sign that you are not that same someone.

I think you desperately want to classify Ben Shapiro as alt-right for some weird reason. I would assume so you can ignore any argument he puts forward with a cheap label.

0) having to read some of this stuff to actually reply is truly painful and frankly its bad enough I have to read far left stuff, reading alt-right stuff is just as painful.

1) https://infogalactic.com/info/Vox_Day

2) http://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/03/an-enemy-of-alt-right.htm...

3) https://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/04/does-ben-shapiro-belong-...


I think you completely misunderstand me. A bit my fault cause I usually plan out how I argue and I honestly did not expect this type of questioning. I'll reiterate my first comment in that I know the guy's libertarian (I think, definitely not alt right)?

I mean shit, this whole argument has nothing to do with whether I want to listen to his arguments. It was an explanation of how silly things like this happen in the first place where a libertarian gets confused for an alt right person.

Maybe the goat metaphor wasn't the best thing to go for, since the goat lover is an actual goat lover regardless of the other things he does. Maybe framed 7 times with a goat makes more sense? Maybe plain words are better: He's advertised the things people consider alt right, but not the things about him that prove he isn't. The actual alt right notice these discrepancies regardless and correctly identify him.


I'll point out how you started this thread:

> I feel like this happened because it seems he accidentally presented himself to the outside world as alt-right.

Through all this, I still don't understand what you think he did to "present" himself as alt-right? I really hate when people put labels on others just to be able to dismiss them and calling someone alt-right should be backed up with a little bit of evidence.


I hinted it earlier, but if you insist:

The books except the one about presidents (which seems to be just history) and the Iraq war piece (which was in the tail end of being career-ending if you criticized), the organization he co-founded, and the speeches he's done that aren't about Israel.


So, nothing actually specific just a list without any examples.


"Alt-right" means "Nazi" now. It didn't always. Somebody dragged Richard Spencer out from whatever rock he lives under and into the public eye, specifically for the purpose of changing that meaning - or, as you have it, moving that line.


Really? From Wikipedia:

"Spencer and others have said that he created the term 'alt-right', which he considers a movement about white identity. Breitbart News described Spencer's website AlternativeRight.com as 'a center of alt-right thought.'"

This matches with what I know. White supremacy was also featured prominently in the sidebar of /r/altright before it was banned.


Really.

I mean, Spencer says a lot of things. Do you believe all of them, or only the ones you find convenient? And the same Breitbart article [1] quoted there also devotes an entire section to disposing of the three dozen or so legit would-be Nazis on the fringe.

Of course, that Breitbart article also dates from March 2016. Spencer didn't hit the big time for quite a few months after that - not, in fact, until just after the election [2], whereas "alt-right" in general had never really left the zeitgeist after its first big splash in August. But that changed when the media made Spencer its darling, because of course it did - the man is eminently hateable, which is precisely why he was made so notorious so fast.

[1] http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/03/29/an-establishment-co...

[2] https://trends.google.com/trends/explore?date=2015-01-01%202...


This one I can reply:

I am someone that don't like feminism (but I won't discuss that now).

My political position is kinda anti-authoritarian, and I don't trust corporations, early on my life it was considered left, people would call me anarquist or socialist.

After a while people started to call me liberal, libertarian and minarquist, and call me "right"

And now with the popularity of the term alt-right, I get called alt-right too.

-----

That was one way to 'become' alt-right, I know another one, sadly a really bad way...

I visit sometimes some anti-feminist forums and whatnot, and I see there LOTS of seething rage, people that have a deep raging hatred against feminism and women. (and if you visit 8chan for example, or voat, you see open racism, anti-religion, etc...)

One day someone made the brilliant decision to create in one such forum a thread where people ended discussing their personal lives... Every single "raging" person were deeply screwed in the past, for example one guy that hated all women were raped when he was a teenager, and when he sought help, people refused, when he sought help from a women shelter, he got raped again. Another guy was being forced to pay for child support for a child that wasn't his, another one had the opposite problem: his ex-wife was a drug addict that cheated on him with a lawyer, the couple took custody of his kids, and made a motion prohibiting both visits and child support, all that he wanted was pay for child support and for his kids to know he cares about them, so that they don't believe he was the one that fled the marriage. Another guy there was in prison for several years due to a false rape accusation, when people found out the accusation was false, he was released, but he still can't find any jobs, and the accuser wasn't punished. And the list goes and goes and goes on... lots of extremely sad stories, it became clear why you can't reason with those people, they had traumas that in a way 'prove' that moderate points of view were wrong, and that only their extremist views (for example raped guy defended that all women should be literally enslaved and used by the state only for breeding and nothing else), can protect them and others from the same fate.


I believe there are two important reasons two to listen to people with opposing or extreme positions.

1 - Those oppinions _may_ have a single grain of truth. And, as reasonable beings, we cannot allow that truth to be buried or silenced.

2 - Regardless os the validity or truthfullness of that opinion, we should try to understand _why_ that person holds those opinions. This helps us understand why and how some ideas and opinions still persist to this day.


Re 2: And maybe how to explain it to them in a way that can make them actually reconsider.


> I find it disturbing that somebody would even consider switching to the alt-right over this.

It's logic too cynical for me, but it's basically:

1. OK. They decide this culture war out there is serious and nobody is looking out for them.

2. They find "their" camp and support it.

3 (sometimes). After switching/limiting media sources to match new political assumptions, opposing views seem more malicious and more unhinged.

It's worth noting that a lot of the blowback from this incident is due to #3 happening for a different group of people.


I notice that there appears to be a competing definition of "alt-right". One is the age-old white supremacist groups that pre-existed Trump et al. The other is Milo and right-leaning you-tubers etc. I think there might be some confusion over this.


> But they won't change their position. If anything, their position will be radicalized. For example, from classical liberal to alt-right.

You make an excellent point. I am a lifelong feminist, anti-racist, pro-LBTQ atheist who passionately desires a fair, just, egalitarian world.

In the last three years I've discovered: Many conservatives actually share my fundamental values, and do so with more integrity than most liberals I have known.

I seek out honest, rational, factual people to listen to - only to have the media and my liberal friends try, absurdly, to defame them as "alt right"

What does "alt right" even mean, any more? I understand its racist origins, but going by actual usage, it appears to include "good people, with good intentions, who also value reason and evidence"

Edit: To clarify the relevance of this to your comment - I would never have been exposed to so many views on the right if it hadn't been for the irrational, hateful, totalitarian intolerance that I've experienced in recent years from some parts of the left. Not all, obviously!


I see another problem: If you can't be openly sexist (or whatever you call it), you will still be in secret.


I see yet another problem: if you're a rational person who happens to hold wrong beliefs on the topic, you will have less chance to discover and correct your mistake, because the only way the others are willing to engage with you is with stupidity and violence.

This low standard of discourse hurts everyone.


Except... wait for it... the employer: Google.

Employees at work: shouldn't be discussing issues that distract them; shouldn't be socializing with each other because work and personal life should obviously be separate; they should just keep their heads down and keep working.

There's no doubting that all recent controvertial topics have led to the ideas that: divide up society into individuals afraid to express their opinions; human expression is not an important goal and that the workspace where you spend most of your time is ONLY to do the job like a machine.


Recent discussions have unearthed this plot twist: Google soliticed employees' opinion on the topic. They asked people what they think, then sacked an employee who did what they asked.


Nobody cares if you have sexist thoughts and opinions if you keep them to yourself and treat women with the respect and dignity they deserve. So I would say this is a step in the right direction.


It's weird how many people are eager to blame the left for Trump. Can we not blame the people who actually voted for him? They weren't forced to choose the asshole con-man to be our leader. And this is the "party of personal responsibility."


Anecdote to support this comment:

I feel as if could be called slightly right of center. That being said, I use logic to evaluate different issues then rank them in importance to me. In November, I voted for a third party candidate because I had serious issues with both main party candidates. That said, I seriously considered tossing aside my moral issues with Clinton and voting for her as a vote against Trump because I saw a scenario (which ended up happening) where Trump could win.

Nine months later, my position has completely flipped. If Trump runs in three years, I am seriously considering voting for him as a "fuck you" vote due to the reaction to his election and Presidency over the last 9 months. I grew up and live in a rust belt city that used to be a manufacturing center. The complete slander, and misunderstanding, of the people I grew up and live with is incredibly difficult for me to swallow. I'm sure that everyone would love a former President who is campaigning for his wife coming into their back yard and disgustedly refer to them as "coal people," while expecting their vote. [1] When it is repeatedly espoused that we don't understand what we voted for, or when a SF elite tells a us that we need to be fixed to attract people with the right ideas [2], or that we should simply move to a place where there are jobs (friends, family, and community be damned) it gets harder and harder to explain that it isn't that simple. And when we try to explain what we feel or we believe we are told that someone else has it worse and to just adjust so that we can be accepted. I'm tired of being labeled as a racist or homophobic and being told my opinions are so obviously wrong, they are not even worth discussing.

So, yes. There are definitely people who aren't going to speak out, who are going to toe the line, and then they will cast a giant "fuck you" vote come November 2020. I might be one of them, but I will probably end up voting 3rd party again instead of letting my emotions get the best of me.

As an aside, follow Chris Arnade [3/4] on twitter. He does great work covering the Rust Belt and similar areas in a balanced perspective.

[1] http://pittsburgh.cbslocal.com/2016/09/09/hundreds-gather-in...

[2] https://ethicsalarms.files.wordpress.com/2017/01/melinda_bye...

[3] https://mobile.twitter.com/Chris_arnade

[4] https://www.theguardian.com/profile/chris-arnade


Are you saying that Trump was only elected because he was appealing to the alt-right? Surely that was part of it, but why is everyone so eager to "blame" it on the marginalized alt-right? Is it a scare tactic for 2020 /r


I’m not saying that, and the GP mentions alt right just as one possible outcome.

But I think Trump is definitely more right than left, at least compared to Clinton. This might have contributed to his victory.


'More right' Clinton is a neo-liberal and Trump is a lunatic.

It's pretty hard to put that into a left-right economic spectrum.


So, I've done some work in finance, and I just, don't see it. At the major banks you've got literal hours of training about the things you can and cannot say with association with the firm and with its image. Fuck whatever you think about diversity and playing nice with the feelings of everyone, the brand damage alone would (and did in Google's case) have gotten James fired if he was working in the "real world".

Freedom of speech is not freedom from consequence. You want to cost your company thousands, if not millions, in bad PR maybe don't expect to have a job when you come in monday morning. There's nothing to be gained in appeasing bad science and faulty logic just because you're scared of populists.


It'll be interesting to see whether any of the leakers that caused that bad PR are actually fired. Seems doubtful.


EDIT: Removed comment. See better response below.


That's a really weird conclusion to draw based on that statistic. Another way to say the same thing would be "Donald Trump performed more poorly in California than any other Republican candidate since 1936."

(I see he removed his comment. For posterity, he argued that Donald Trump got "almost a third" of the votes in California and, therefore, liberals were on the decline).


My point was more that it was surprising to me that someone as vilified as Trump still got almost a third of the votes in CA, but I agree that your point makes that look substantially weaker, so I retract it.


The difference spin makes.


It's funny how some companies now literally enforce a "don't ask don't tell" policy when it comes to some points of view. In the academia it is probably even worse than in the industry. Except this time, it's the left that is "promoting" hiding your true self.

You may say that for the army it was the government doing it, which makes it worse. In a sense I agree. However, in the case of private employers it touches on a more consequential right for us as a society: the right to free speech.

Maybe people should be more accepting of somebody's views on controversial topics as diversity, gun rights and abortion, as they are to gay people in the military.


Does that explain how Trump won the Republican primary?

The alternative explanation of large parts of the population being heavily divorced from reality seems to fit better.

That is the respectable right-wing position on the memo, correct? That it's just science facts that the left can't handle?

Like Obama being a secret muslim that wasn't born in America. Like him trying to destroy American industry by going along with a Chinese Hoax about climate change. That trade wars with Canada and Mexico are good for American jobs? That you can't even wish people Merry Christmas anymore. That Hillary Clinton and Obama literally smell of sulphur. That one third of the population doesn't believe in evolution. That there was "no racism before Obama".

To me, that explains Trump far better. Whatever tiny sliver of people were going to vote Democrat but got upset about being called sexists and so actually became fascists is only marginal at best. But apparently everyone is too "Politically Correct" to talk about this large group of people who've abandoned reality and instead we need to listen to their concerns (which apparently translates into giving tax cuts to billionaires and dumping pollution into the air and water). The memo writer was calling for people with these kind of "conservative" viewpoints to be given affirmative action at Google after all.


Sexism is not free speech.


If a person is engaging in reasonable dissent then why is this true: "If anything, their position will be radicalized."?

The (true) implication is that their reasonable dissent actually is a bland cover for a position that is much more radical once it is reduced to its core propositions.


Nonsense.

If you treat me with respect I will treat you with respect. We can have a civil disagreement and the next day I'll happily help you out.

Being able to disagree is healthy. I disagree with my wife and with my children on some pretty important issues.

On the other hand if you try and ruin my career, or if I think you will try and ruin my career, then I will knock you down at every opportunity.


Just because someone attacks you doesn't mean your hypothesis or arguments should change. If you believe what you say is reasonable then it is not rooted in a personal animus. That is all I am pointing out.

Often, however, our arguments have a strong unacknowledged bias. When we're challenged the bias becomes more visible.


There is a difference between challenging someone by exposing the flaws in their argument and challenging them by campaigning to have them fired.


I agree, but that difference would not itself make me change my position.


> I agree, but that difference would not itself make me change my position.

You're considering things from a formal perspective rather than a practical one.

In theory the fact that someone unjustly attacked you should not change your positions on anything, but it may reasonably cause you to stop associating with them.

And associating with different people will cause you to hear different arguments, which is likely to change your positions because it changes the ratio of convincing arguments you hear from each side.


> Just because someone attacks you doesn't mean your hypothesis or arguments should change

In practice that is just not true.

Many of my positions are self-moderated by the understanding that smart, kind, and reasonable people have opposing views.


> Many of my positions are self-moderated by the understanding that smart, kind, and reasonable people have opposing views.

A great example of this revolves around religion. Many smart, reasonable people are religious. I think a lot of the atheist crowd comes across as complete assholes, which does not help one win in any argument.


> If a person is engaging in reasonable dissent then why is this true: "If anything, their position will be radicalized."?

Uhmmmm.... because they get fired for deviating from the party line, not for being unreasonable. How can you skip that "detail"?

In this case, it seems to be even lamer than that, seems like he was not fired for the memo, but the reaction to it: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14977750

> Damore said he initially shared the memo a month ago, but "no one high up ever came to me and said, 'No, don't do this,' even though there were many people who looked at it," Damore told Bloomberg. "It was only after it got viral that upper management started shaming me and eventually firing me."

So, what's hiding under this leaving out crucial parts and misrepresenting in the context of destroying people while paying lip service to being for people being unafraid? Anyone else seeing this?

> The (true) implication is that their reasonable dissent actually is a bland cover for a position that is much more radical once it is reduced to its core propositions.

This is so incredibly sinister and you don't even know it. Here's an example: a kid has a legitimate grievance, or at least legitimately thinks it does, but when it brings it up modestly, non-radically, it gets hit in the face. Now it will do something "bad", like cuss or somehow act out, because it is not allowed to place the grievance where it should be -- and then that is used to excuse that initial oppression or however you want to call it. Another example is SS officers despising people in concentration camps for being the diseased husks they turned them into, seeing this as a confirmation for their inferiority. Roll your eyes how much you want at that, chose whatever example you want, but that is the mechanism, that is an apt analogy just as much as bad parenting. Heck, get hung up on me somehow equating the Holocaust with a kid getting hit, I really don't care because people who don't want to understand always find something.

Granted, even being fired is no excuse to be radicalized. He's not a little kid, and he's not being made physically sick. But he also has a mob against him, plus the support of many he actually might not want want to be a martyr for (I mean, does anyone even allow for the fact that he is not some kind of closeted alt-right monster?), and that's more pressure than someone who was not on the receiving end of stuff like this can imagine, so I'll call that a wash. The point isn't (to me) "would he be justified to go loopy now", but "was this an okay reaction by the stronger party, and should this be normalized". My answer is no, and no. But not because it might lead to things I don't want, because it itself is already something I don't want either. Kinda of like I don't think corporations shouldn't turn street kids into sausage "because it would lead to a backlash and therefore make bad financial sense", but because it'd be evil. And I might not even want to sit with people who want the right thing for the wrong reason, because this is some very fundamental and serious stuff IMO.

If the memo caused a shit storm or went viral amongst assholes or both, but the memo itself was not grounds for termination or even internal criticism, then the spineful thing to do for Google would have been to have the discussion, not fire the guy, drop him like a hot potato, and then patting themselves on the shoulder for it. That's disgusting. They have just proven in action what a human life is worth to them, the rest is lip service, plus a whole lot of distortions which are the main hard data points so far.


I don't understand your point. Mine is that being attacked should not change one's ideas. Getting fired is bad, but it isn't new information pertinent to the original debate. It may inform your ideas about the climate in which the debate is occurring, which may radicalize you personally. It shouldn't radicalize your position.


"Getting fired" is a bit of an euphemism though, there is a lot more going on here than just that. Just start with Gizmodo leaving out some stuff at first and so on. The claim is that he is being treated unfairly, at the least.

> It shouldn't radicalize your position.

In some fantasy world, where marijuana being illegal didn't make a single person try harder drugs because shady types were the only ones they could get weed from, and so on. Where a person is somehow separate from a position they hold.

I think people shouldn't steal. Reasonable, yes? Hacking off the hand of someone who stole some bubble gum is not so reasonable and much more radical. If you can somehow treat someone so badly for suggesting stealing is not okay that they harbor murderous thoughts about thieves, does that now mean the original idea of stealing being bad is not reasonable? I don't know who is to judge a person for their reaction to mistreatment, but never the ones doing or excusing the mistreatment, that is for super fucking sure.

But even granting that this is no excuse to go off the deep end, which I did; to focus on that, instead of the original action without which the debate about the reaction to it would be completely moot is not okay, and that is my point. There can be only bad results from this, that is the takeaway. If people downstream from this could alleviate this a bit by being saints is besides the point.


Well I didn't mean to imply "you" - I meant "one's" position. Hopefully it didn't come across in any way personal.


No worries, I did get that, I also find "your position" much easier to write (and read) than "one's position".


FWIW, I totally disagree with this comment being downvoted. It's a fair response made in good faith, very polite even seeing that I did come on kinda strong. So thanks for being a good sport about me ranting.


People can express any opinion they want in public. Inside a company isn't public. Also while you do have a right to an opinion you don't have a right to it going unchallenged and questioned.

Also how can you be so sure he wasn't alt-right already. "Classic liberal" is essentially the closest you are allowed to get in public.


> People can express any opinion they want in public. Inside a company isn't public. Also while you do have a right to an opinion you don't have a right to it going unchallenged and questioned.

It's grossly misrepresenting the response to the memo to imply it was just a matter of challenging and questioning. A quick read of any of the forums where it's being discussed makes that clear, and remember how the author was fired?

A lot of the issue people have with the response is precisely that it wasn't making a substantive attempt to actually question or challenge the memo's content.


I'm sorry you didn't feel any of the challenges had substance. They were still challenged.


You're misrepresenting what I said


Then the goal is making him understand that he got fired for how he expressed those opinions. He didn't just talk to HR or his manager, he published a rant for all the world to see making it the CEO's problem.

Anyone who publishes an incoherent 10 page manifesto insulting their coworkers and trashing their company's policies can reasonably expect to get fired. It doesn't matter if any of the bosses agree or disagree with the opinions expressed; it's just an unprofessional thing to do.

To be honest, he was the bully in this situation. I have more concern for the women at Google who could fear losing their jobs and the means to support their families. If a coworker of mine started publicly saying that I'm not genetically qualified for the work I do, I would be worried for my job. However, I don't think those women would become radicalized over this. Why? Because intelligent professional people don't become radicalized when other people disagree with their opinions.

A note about Trump: I grew up in a red state and lived and worked in two others. I never spent more than a few months in a blue state so I don't know how it is there, but in Trump country people openly and aggressively express all sorts of opinions without fear of recrimination. There may be a few voices of dissent, but there are no "witch-hunting mobs" forcing them to keep their views a secret.

I think this scenario Giulio describes fits better to Brendan Eich who was essentially forced out of Mozilla over his views. But Brendan didn't become radicalized. He picked himself up and founded a new company, because that's what professionals do.


Publishing something on an internal board that's aimed at discussing diversity is hardly 'publishing the rant for all the world to see'. I just don't get how people who're obviously upset about this memo and must therefore have spent some time reading up about it (right? Right?!) still get this basic fact wrong.

This guy expressed his opinions, and a witch hunting mob, because that's what it was, descended on him from all over the internet to rip his reputation to shreds for things he didn't do or write (most of the outrage was about 'perceived' slights).

It's just sad... The worst part was that it validated a lot of what he said, and people somehow just don't see the irony in that.


Let's not pretend he didn't know what he was doing. There are textbook examples about people who blast off a rant to the entire company and then are somehow surprised when it becomes public (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/1...).


It wasn't even meant for the entire company. He gave it to a small community of people within Google who later distributed it across the company AFAIU from his interview with Jordan Peterson (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEDuVF7kiPU).


Again he didn't share it with the entire company.


He shared it in a forum that any and everyone in the company can access, and is intended to be able to access. That's essentially the same thing. This wasn't a private email chain that was leaked but an intentional dissemination by the engineer to google's employees at large.


> If a coworker of mine started publicly saying that I'm not genetically qualified for the work I do

Why are you changing the meaning of what he wrote? He didn't say that at all. He was very clear that he was talking about the group not any individuals.

If you choose to misunderstand what someone said, when they did a good job of explaining it clearly, then I think you shouldn't spread that misunderstanding around in a way that will hurt people, as it hurt this guy.


> He was very clear

But, see, it's equally clear to other people that he was dogwhistling like crazy. This is the problem with this "discussion" - one side is doing the "only exact literal words count for meaning" dance (which, for me, is complete bullshit) whilst the other is saying "that's not how the real world works, context and implication is important".

The two sides are never going to agree - which is ok - but one side is going to struggle with this kind of issue forever until they accept how reality works.


It seems that “dog whistling” is a non contextual argument. If you don’t like someone, you can imply that what they’re writing has all manner of hidden meanings.

Kinda like an awful high school literature teacher.


> If you don’t like someone, you can imply that what they’re writing has all manner of hidden meanings.

Of course but when many people agree on the same hidden meanings, you surely have to consider that they might be there.


"Only exact literal words count for meaning" is the only fair way of interpreting any given nonfictional writing. Without that, you have nothing to stop yourself from falling into mass hysteria, conspiracy theories, witch burnings and the like, based on nothing more than a bunch of preconceived ideas about people you happen to have in your head.


> "Only exact literal words count for meaning" is the only fair way of interpreting any given nonfictional writing.

We'll have to disagree on that - subtext is an important factor to consider, especially in political / charged contexts.


> He was very clear that he was talking about the group not any individuals.

Since when does that excuse anything? If he'd written "Jews are, in general, hateful monsters. Not the Jews who work here, they're great, but most of the rest" does that statement become acceptable?

More importantly, Mr Damore does not know all the women at Google personally. He cannot. So when he says "In general, women are less suited to/interested in programming careers", he cannot possibly implicitly mean "but clearly that does not apply to every woman currently employed at Google, who were all hired because they are the best in the world at their jobs". Damore asserts that Google practices discriminatory hiring practices. For this to be true, Google must have at least once hired a woman where a better male candidate was available, and more importantly must do so more often than they do the reverse.

If you are going to make general statements about a group of people, then you should not be surprised when individuals in that group assume you mean that statement to apply to them.


I say: black people are more suited to be NBA players. This is obvious looking at black players % in the league in comparison to the total population as well as the fact that black people are poorer on average and get less opportunities (or even chances for proper nutrition, let alone training).

Should white NBA players be offended by that statement? The answer is obvious: they shouldn't as that only means they were the ones on the tail of the genetic distribution and made it anyway or maybe even they overcome disadvantages to get there.

Now I say: women are in general less likely to be interested in tech and less likely to become good programmers because they are, on average, less competitive and less likely to devote themselves to solitude practice which is often necessary to become a very good coder.

Should women, who already made it to Google be offended? Of course they shouldn't for the same reasons as above. We can however do something with this information: we can try changing tech world to be more welcoming to women. This way we can avoid sexist hiring practices (gender quotas are clear discrimination) while still achieving more diverse environment.

Those are the points of the manifesto. Being offended by that is the problem of those taking offence as it doesn't speak well about their ability to reason about distributions of traits in a population.


> Should white NBA players be offended by that statement? The answer is obvious: they shouldn't as that only means they were the ones on the tail of the genetic distribution and made it anyway or maybe even they overcome disadvantages to get there.

I don't know: I'm not an NBA player and have no idea what the experience of becoming one is like. But there is a difference in kind here. He didn't say "Men are better suited to be Google employees", he said "Men are better suited to be programmers". The closer analogy here is to say that "Black people are better basketball players than white people", and here it might well be fair for white NBA players to be offended. There is a distinction between saying "More of X are good enough to pass this bar", and "X is better than Y". People who can pass the bar are unlikely to be offended for themselves (though they may be offended for others who don't attempt to cross that bar), but they may be offended for themselves if the suggestion is that they are worse than their colleagues.

But if you said, in addition, "The NBA currently employs discriminatory hiring practices that favour white athletes at the expense of black ones", then they should be offended. At that point you are saying "I believe that group X is better than group Y, and many of group Y are here despite there being better members of group X". That is offensive.

> We can however do something with this information: we can try changing tech world to be more welcoming to women.

I have a suggestion as to how to do that: stop saying that women are worse at coding. Just don't even bring it up. This goes doubly because there is no evidence for that at all.

You can make the tech world more welcoming to women by welcoming more women, and then give them the opportunity to succeed. Writing think pieces about how women are so ill-suited to coding doesn't just display a stunning lack of understanding about how the industry got started, it also makes it clear that right now you think women don't belong.

But if the view is that "software work as it is today is just not women's work, so we should make it more like women's work", then I'm sorry but you've already lost.


Have you read the memo? By saying "stop saying that women are worse at coding" you are putting words in his mouth, as the memo states a very, very different thing i.e. that women are less likely to choose coding for various reasons, including biological ones. There's a world of difference between these two arguments.

And there is solid evidence for that difference, and it should be brought up, and asking to stop the discussion is, frankly, ridiculous - we can all see that there is an important open problem with different viewpoints and thus it should be discussed, and expressing all kinds of possible viewpoints should be facilitated.


> Have you read the memo? By saying "stop saying that women are worse at coding" you are putting words in his mouth, as the memo states a very, very different thing i.e. that women are less likely to choose coding for various reasons, including biological ones. There's a world of difference between these two arguments.

I wasn't replying to the memo, I was replying to bluecalm, and bluecalm said this:

> Now I say: women are in general less likely to be interested in tech and less likely to become good programmers because they are, on average, less competitive and less likely to devote themselves to solitude practice which is often necessary to become a very good coder.

Note "less likely to become good programmers". I feel pretty comfortable with my response given that.

> and expressing all kinds of possible viewpoints should be facilitated.

I disagree. Many kinds of possible viewpoints construct hostile work environments, and should be forbidden. It is simply not necessary to allow a workplace to tolerate all views. We don't allow people to cover their cube in swastikas, walk around greeting all their colleagues with "heil hitler", and to push for the dismissal of all their Jewish colleagues in an attempt to reduce the influence of the hidden Jewish conspiracy running the world.

If Mr Google had wanted to write this on his personal blog I wouldn't have cared at all. But he didn't do that: he wrote it at work, in his professional capacity, and posted it for his co-workers to see. Guess what: speech at work is something that can get you fired. See Colin Kaepernick for evidence.


The funny thing is, you might be wrong about black guys and NBA suitability. The reason is, black people hit puberty earlier, and that might cause them to be selected for and receive extra attention and training because of a temporary athletic advantage, in much the same way that hockey players born in a certain part of the year (the oldest among their cohort) tend to be.


> he cannot possibly implicitly mean "but clearly that does not apply to every woman currently employed at Google, who were all hired because they are the best in the world at their jobs"

He clearly can, were it not for affirmative actions - if you assume perfect recruitment based on merit, you can expect everyone accepted to be suitable for the role. But in this case you'll also find, as the memo author explained quite sensibly, that the gender ratio might not be 1:1 due to distribution of interest in the population, which affects the distribution of the candidate pool.

I mean, come on, this is a pretty obvious point - and I'm starting to believe that it takes intent to misread it like you did.

> Damore asserts that Google practices discriminatory hiring practices.

Yes, that's the definition of affirmative action. It's literally discriminating in order to counter perceived discrimination in the opposite direction.


> I mean, come on, this is a pretty obvious point - and I'm starting to believe that it takes intent to misread it like you did.

I...don't think I did misread it? I said "he cannot mean this", and you appear to agree with me: due to the facts on the ground, he cannot have intended to mean that. Therefore, I have to assume he did not mean that.

So if he believes that Google employs discriminatory hiring practices, then he presumably believes that some of his colleagues are not the best possible choice for their role, and do not deserve to be there. That seems like a straightforward reading of his text. Am I wrong?


How do you make any business decisions when taking things this personally?


I think that the media and Google itself did a horrible disservice to the memo author in mis-representing his words, and I'm fairly certain they did so on purpose and will continue to do so. However, to be charitable to googlers offended by the memo:

If the author asserted in the memo that Google practices discriminatory hiring practices ("Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate" is the only relevant language I encountered), wouldn't that imply that some members of Group X currently employed at Google are less qualified than the members of Group Y who were discriminated against? Otherwise it would seem we are discussing a situation where tiebreaks tend to be decided in favor of the current minority group, or recruitment efforts for underrepresented groups are more intensive. The "lower the bar" phrase would seem to imply that he believes there are different standards in effect for selecting current employees.

The memo author's point about differing interest distributions does not necessarily imply anything about ability differences in the current Google employee pool, but claiming discriminatory hiring practices might.


>>he published a rant for all the world to see making it the CEO's problem.

Except he did not publish it, My understanding it put it on a internal system shared with a few people, other people inside google shared it more and more people inside of google until another Google Employee sent it to Motherboard or Gizmodo who published it for the world to see.

So then would you support Google firing who ever sent internal communications to a "news" organization which is likely in violation of company policy?


Would he have been fired if he had instead expressed these views to his manager in a room with closed door?

I'm not aware of any executives of large institutions that are perfectly happy with leaks. They just usually aren't dumb enough to pretend that a rant like this wouldn't get leaked.


You have a vastly different definition of rant than I do, aside from that why do you believe this should only be discussed behind closed doors, that is infact one of the points the author was attempting to explorer the idea that with in google anyone that did not have left political leaning felt they were not allowed to express those positions with in the company.

You seem to agree


In one of the previous discussions, it was said that it was published in an internal social network, in a group that was specifically dedicated to diversity hiring at Google. Is that incorrect?


Moreover, as it was uncovered in previous discussions, it was a response to Google soliticing opinion of employees about their diversity programs.


"Anyone who publishes an incoherent 10 page manifesto insulting their coworkers and trashing their company's policies can reasonably expect to get fired. It doesn't matter if any of the bosses agree or disagree with the opinions expressed; it's just an unprofessional thing to do."

I agree completely. Just like these guys: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charter_77

Very unprofessional!


Ale mluvim cesky a to znam dobre. You're actually going to compare Google's hiring policies to the oppression of a eastern bloc state? Do prdel.


Yes, because it is the same argument.

The GP didn't talk about about hiring policies, he talked about institutional criticism. The subject of the criticism is irrelevant.


That's an insult to Jan Palach. I doubt any of the critics of Google have the same level of conviction.


> And let us be clear that, yes, such policies mean every once in a while you will not hire the most skilled person for a job. Therefore, a value judgement must be made here, not a logical deduction from data. Is diversity important enough for you to temporarily tolerate an increased risk of not hiring the most qualified person? That’s the trade-off nobody seems willing to spell out.

Perhaps because it's not a necessary trade off of diversity policies per se, only a trade-off of the one specific type of diversity policy with which the author happens to be familiar.

For an historical example that does not feature such a trade-off:

1. I put up a curtain between the judges and the musician auditioning for the orchestra.

2. I hire whoever the judges say sounded the best.

3. The number of women in orchestras grows.

In no case where this diversity policy is used does the policy cause a less skilled player get chosen because that player was female.


When the Australian public service experimented with blinding demographic data on resumes, fewer women and minorities were hired:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-30/bilnd-recruitment-tria...

A blind recruiting process only increases diversity if there exists significant bias against diverse candidates. I wouldn't be surprised if Silicon Valley has a bias in favor of diverse candidates, like Australia's public service.


And I think that this is the bind that Google and others are finding themselves in: the assumption is prejudice so they make honest and effective efforts to combat prejudice and don't get the desired result in terms of outcomes.

See the example of the GitHub-sponsored conference whose trial of blind reviewing resulted in zero women speakers.

So Google is getting hammered from two sides, on the one hand they're getting sued because the outcomes are not what they're supposed to be, on the other hand they are already doing diversity programs that at least skirt or already dip into illegal practices. (In his interviews, James Damore has mentioned secretive diversity session that were not recorded, unlike everything else at Google, and that told of practices such as quotas that to him seemed extremely sketchy or downright illegal)

Of course this goes back to Pinker's comment in his debate with Elizabeth Spelke that we must distinguish the moral proposition that people should not be discriminated against on account of their sex from the empirical claim that males and females are (biologically) indistinguishable, because distinguishing them is actually essential to protecting the core of feminism. Because if you don't distinguish and it turns out that your empirical proposition is false, you must then either (a) discriminate or (b) distort/suppress the truth, or both. And that appears to be exactly what is happening.

https://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/debate05/debate05_index.htm...

UPDATE: Google's Diversity Efforts Fall Flat -- https://www.axios.com/googles-diversity-efforts-are-making-l...


You have an excellent point, but your use of the phrase "diverse candidates" misses the concern that the most important diversity is in thought and culture, not just predetermined demographics. A "diverse candidate" in reality may not look like an official "diversity candidate".


Another question is what makes you think that all whites think the same and therefore it will narrow the spectrum of ideas?

This assumption is never discussed and always accepted as true.

Why is that? Why are all the whites (or white males) identical in their thinking?


It's clearly not true. Hiring a Slavic man would, in abstract, be an increase in diversity in a lot of shops. They're likely Caucasian, though. One response is that it's important to officially value historically disadvantaged groups, but many Slavic groups are historically disadvantaged.

So, in a weird way, diversity initiatives come from a very ethnocentric (American) perspective.


Note that men and women typically present themselves differently on CVs and in selection criteria, with men typically giving themselves credit for work done in teams while women typically talk about the teams they were part of.

This would easily explain why blind resumes resulted in a larger proportion of men being selected.

edit: to contrast with the orchestra scenario, a resume is not a skill test, while an audition for an orchestra is a skill test for exactly the type of skill that the candidate is being chosen for.


Interesting hypothesis, but apparently not what happened:

"The trial found assigning a male name to a candidate made them 3.2 per cent less likely to get a job interview.

Adding a woman's name to a CV made the candidate 2.9 per cent more likely to get a foot in the door."

http://abc.net.au/news/2017-06-30/bilnd-recruitment-trial-to...


It's an interesting result, but is it accurate to call this "blinding"?

I feel like hiding demographics and actively deceiving people about demographics are different processes and should have different names?


Calling it "blinding" might not be accurate but, if anything, using deception, the study showed that men were discriminated against, not women -- contrary to what the initial hypothesis suggested.


Given "men typically giving themselves credit for work done in teams while women typically talk about the teams they were part of", then if you see a female CV it's more likely to be understated than if you see a male one. Which predicts two things:

* People aware of this will prefer otherwise identical CVs with female names (expectation is the underlying candidate is stronger, just more modest)

* Blind hiring will get you more men (because hiring managers can't correct for the male/female difference in self promotion anymore)


See, that is what is known as "sexism".


In no company in the world is this a "diversity policy." Diversity policies are the exact opposite of this. If they were as you describe, I'm sure the the author of the memo, and everyone who agrees with it, would be completely in support of them.


There are companies that strip personally identifying information from the resume in the first few phases and iirc diversitiy did go up. Been a while since I read about it so I don't recall thr complete details but there is a radio lab episode about it.


This year, GitHub did that for a conference, letting people submit talks and compete for selection completely stripped of identifying info.

The only people selected were men.

That conference was canceled because it didn’t stand with Github’s stance on diversity, etc.

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=14480868

Companies actively do the exact opposite because they need/want more diversity. It’s absolutely not like the music world where a large amount of women play instruments... the number of women in CS professionally is low. The number of female CS graduates is and has been low.

Simply stripping info doesn’t mean anything if at the end of the day a diversity agenda has to be met.


That also depends on how many submitted talks.

It would be a farce and ridiculous if 100 talks were submitted, and 99 of them were <gasp> males, and then they shut down and complain because no females were chosen.

It's called statistics.


This is why in the face of that kind of odds, a diverse conference has to look very hard for female speakers.

Even if there are factors that mean there will never be 50% female submitters, a proper diversity policy means the organizer sees this as a symptom of a problem they can help solve. Perhaps if a conference can keep at least 1/3 female speakers every year then 25% of submissions will be from women in 10 years? And perhaps if 1/3 speakers are women, more women will visit the conference, widening the audience?

The whole point of active diversity policy is that the status quo is to be changed by active means.


One of the big issues here is whether "active means" includes firing people who earnestly question the "active means".


I have no idea if that's true of tech companies. Regardless, you are confusing the part-- tech companies-- with the whole-- the set of all companies (of which orchestras are included).

I was responding to a non-expert's cost-benefit analysis that confused the part-- a specific type of diversity policy-- with the whole-- the set of possible diversity policies. She generalized a set of trade-offs and claimed unasked/unanswered questions around the field based off that part. I referred to a well-known historical diversity policy for which her proposed trade-off does not exist.

That ought to arouse skepticism that a non-expert who isn't genre-literate in the field is able to find the best solution to the problem.


The curtain has been tried. It didn't get the desired results so was retired.

http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-30/bilnd-recruitment-t...


What if you do that and the number of women in the orchestra shrinks?


Or even if the number of women just stays the same. Is the effort to level the playing field then deemed a 'failure' if the results don't change in the way they're expected to?

That's the important question here, especially since there have now been preliminary experiments in tech interviews suggesting such an outcome is not implausible:

http://blog.interviewing.io/we-built-voice-modulation-to-mas...


If you've removed possible bias from your hiring process, then you have to accept an imbalance is either a result of uneven retention inclusive-or something operating earlier in the process of training your candidates.

The point is to remove as many obstacles as possible. We want the best to get the jobs, but if the are barriers based on gender or race or religion that's potentially denying us a brilliant woman, or black man, or Muslim.

It doesn't necessarily mean you end up at 50/50, I'm quite willing to accept that the sexes might be biologically different in brain structure and that this might mean one sex might have different average aptitudes, but I won't accept a societal construct on top of that.

You should never hear that someone shouldn't try to do something because of their sex. Never.

Well unless it involves the more obvious anatomical differences. The average man is going to have some difficulty becoming an effective wet nurse.


I wonder, though, how companies' hiring processes alone are supposed to fix the societal biases. Isn't it a false choice when given only the two explanations: A) We fix biases in the workplace/hiring process and get a 50/50 distribution in the workplace or B) There must be biological differences.

I'm personally rather convinced of a third alternative: There is some bias and even outright discrimination in some workplaces, but gender norms in society as a whole create such a big difference in the distribution of applicants/talent pool that it becomes impossible to correct as late in life as the hiring process. I think the gender norms are very deeply rooted and entwined through most aspects of life and that if we truly want to fix the problem, as opposed to get good PR and pay lip service, we need to change gender roles drastically. And that starts pretty much from pregnancy and goes way beyond recruiting.


I had to scroll down too far to find this comment. Diversity hiring is treating the symptom, not the disease of segregation at birth into distinct gender roles.


I think it's bad to write "woman, or black man, or muslim'. Being a woman or a black man is something that is determined before birth. Your religious views are adopted after birth. That's why I think it is bad to speak of muslim people, as if that defined them the most. That leads to seperation and distrust, we-against-them. Your sex and skin colour is given, your religion can change.


> That's why I think it is bad to speak of muslim people, as if that defined them the most.

Lots of people primarily identify by their religious affiliations. I think that's fair.

> Your sex and skin colour is given, your religion can change.

Ask a Muslim which will change first: their gender, their skin color, or whether Mohammed was Allah's prophet.

All that being said, your point about religion and race being separate categories is fair and well taken.


> Ask a Muslim which will change first: their gender, their skin color, or whether Mohammed was Allah's prophet.

You are generalizing in a way that will create animosity. There are liberal people which identify as muslims.

Even though most religious people identify themselves by their religious affiliations, not all do, and not everbody is religious.

I think religion is a cancerous meme, that we shouldn't pay respect to. I don't even want to be asked whether I am religious, nor what religion.

My name allows a funny pun in that regard: I'm Christian, but I'm not.


> You are generalizing in a way that will create animosity

> I think religion is a cancerous meme

My underlying point was that people with faith don't see their faith as a choice about the existence and character of their god (or other non-deist beliefs). It's not objective or accurate to say religion is different because it's a choice.

If anyone is offended by my point, I would challenge them to rethink their assumptions about how tolerant and accepting they are.


I wouldn't say that your point necessarily offends anybody. My point is that it might be not clever to present it like that. One way to get rid of enemies is to befriend them.


If 50/50 isn't the target, how will we know when we get there?


Do you have to know the target? Correct for bias you have, then question what it is upstream that is creating that bias.


How do we correct for the bias if we don't know what the unbiased state would look like?


> How do we correct for the bias if we don't know what the unbiased state would look like?

The goal isn't to choose some specific gender balance and then take whatever steps necessary to produce it, it's to eliminate unfair bias. The way to do that is to find it, not indirectly by looking at ratios, but directly by actually finding it.

High school teachers who say things like "women are no good at computers" to young women should be reprimanded etc. Poll women who didn't go into tech and ask them why not, and if any of the reasons are unjust then change them.

If no one can find anything like that then the gender balance at that point is what it's supposed to be. We're obviously not there yet, but the way we know is because we keep finding things like that, not because the gender balance is uneven.


I agree. But I notice that most discussions on sexism in technology companies focus on the outcomes; gender ratios and pay gaps. It would be interesting to try to measure the bias directly. Hide a bunch of microphones in offices and see if the number of sexist comments is larger at Google than it is at a law firm or a hospital.

Perhaps somebody has already done this. What would be the correct search terms?


> But I notice that most discussions on sexism in technology companies focus on the outcomes; gender ratios and pay gaps.

It's a specific instance of the more general manage-by-metrics disease. The thing you actually want is hard to measure, but it correlates with something that is easy to measure. So instead of doing the hard work to understand what is actually happening in detail, they measure the easy thing and optimize for that instead. Even though doing that frequently breaks the original correlation.

The result is the bureaucracy edition of a paperclip maximizer. You get what you measure instead of what you really want. Or bang your head against the wall, if the thing you measured is actually stickier than the real problem.

> t would be interesting to try to measure the bias directly. Hide a bunch of microphones in offices and see if the number of sexist comments is larger at Google than it is at a law firm or a hospital.

To some extent this is just the same disease. Is sexism supposed to be alright if it turns out there are equally large amounts in both places? Should we be satisfied that it's the root of the problem if there is very little at Google but even less somewhere else?

Stop trying to measure things against other things and just consider them in their own right. Sexism is bad regardless of how common it is. You don't fight it because there is more of it over here than over there, you fight it everywhere because it exists when it shouldn't exist.


Sure, but knowing where it was most prevalent might give us information about how to promote a better culture.


Frankly I do not see how 50/50, or any fixed number, can be a representation of the unbiased state. The unbiased state is unknown.

If you look at what the orchestra did and remove factors you know are irrelevant for the applicants then you should move towards a more unbiased state independent of what the number actually is. The problem is to find out what bias you have. One way is to compare the people who apply with the people you hire. You can see what traits you select on, then you can decide if you think those traits are good or bad.


You ensure a fair process (without attempting to overcompensate/correct for other processes out of your control), and whatever comes out is the unbiased state.

You can't escape the fact that (assuming any innate differences whatsoever) equality of opportunity will mean unequal outcomes, and equality of outcomes requires unequal opportunities.


> We want the best to get the jobs

I think it's important to remember that this might not be the case. We want the best team (or orchestra, or whatever).


These are perhaps best seen as two different things. Anonymizing applications will prevent discrimination/prejudice. This is objectively a good thing. It's not controversial in any way.

An active diversity goal in hiring must go one step further and mean you see diversity of the group as a goal in itself - which, as he says, often means you some times hire a less strong individual.

This is the controversial part. But let's remember that the goal of recruiting is not to hire the strongest candidate but to make the company successful. If you buy into the argument that diversity has a value, such as that a diverse company is better at making products for a diverse audience, or that diversity creates a better work environment and therefore higher productivity - then hiring a female candidate over a better make one can make sense.


Google are countering an existing bias by hiring people contrary to the bias. The orchestra is removing the bias.

Is it possible for Google to remove bias? Isn't the real problem further upstream? I bet that if you look at all applicants applying for jobs at Google you will see the same skew as Google have in their offices already.


But that is the exact opposite of what is happening with positive discrimination and probably something the initial author would prefer.


There was an argument made about it some time ago, that in 19th century playing music was an excellent education for a lady, so thousands if not hundreds of thousands of women had to take piano/violin/flute lessons and become skilled at playing music. Yet that time period has yielded close to zero great women musicians/composers, even though the society has pushed them at a disproportional rate to pursue music playing. Obviously there are other factors here, like the expectation that a woman is a housewife first even if she can play music really well. It's an interesting debate I think.


The equivalent of your example in tech industry leads to number of men in software growing - which is precisely what diversity policies try to counter.


There is also the study where they changed peoples voices in phone interviews, and the women with male voice were suddenly less likely to be hired (although the effect was small, iirc).


This article also has a few problems

> I believe for example if it wasn’t for biases and unequal opportunities, then the higher ranks in science and politics would be dominated by women. Hence, aiming at a 50-50 representation gives men an unfair advantage. I challenge you to provide any evidence to the contrary.

Claim bearers are burdened with proof. Otherwise I can say 'I claim it is not so and if you believe otherwise you provide evidence to the contrary' and we would be a bunch of children shouting nonsense

> I’m not remotely surprised, however, that Damore naturally assumes the differences between typically female and male traits mean that men are more skilled.

He didn't say that

> The biggest problem with Damore’s memo however is that he doesn’t understand what makes a company successful. If a significant fraction of employees think that diversity is important, then it is important. No further justification is needed for this.

No, what makes a company successful is the positive impact it has on employees, customers, the communities it operates in and shareholders

> Biases and unequal opportunities are real. (If you doubt that, you are a problem and should do some reading.)

Why assume your readers can only reach conclusions if they are dumb ? Why not point out the specific readings that you have done ?

> And let us be clear that, yes, such policies mean every once in a while you will not hire the most skilled person for a job. Therefore, a value judgement must be made here, not a logical deduction from data

Value judgements should also be subject to logical deductions


> Claim bearers are burdened with proof.

I think that was her point...


But the point of the original "manifesto" was that google makes the claim that uneven distribution of men and women is due to discrimination, and the "manifesto" explains how a 100% fair and non-discriminatory selection process may result in uneven results.

In that case, there's no reason to assume discrimination unless it's proved.


> there's no reason to assume discrimination unless it's proved.

Yes there is. Cultural sexism is already widely known to be a massive problem, and active discrimination is only a small part of that. Discrimination is known to exist as well. At the same time there is no known, no proven connection between sex and capacity for engineering, that doesn't even exist as as far as we know.

The number of women in tech is changing over time, faster than evolution, the number of women starting computer science degrees is changing over time, faster than evolution, and many companies employ a larger percentage of women than Google. So, there definitely are reasons to assume cultural sexism and discrimination are involved, and there are more reasons to do so than not.

Burden of proof is on Damore. He has made vague and blanket generalizations about some of the differences between men and women to jump to very specific conclusions that there is no proof of. The burden of proof absolutely rests on him to back up his claims. What he's done so far is spread some FUD, he used sophomoric logic to invent a theory that rationalizes his own desire to discriminate. By claiming that women aren't innately as good- something for which is there no evidence- that frees him up (and anyone who believes the same) to openly not hire women, or to pay them less, for example.

Active discrimination is only one part of the wider issue. Cultural stereotypes, and fear and self-selection by women and men are part of the larger cultural sexism issue too, among other things. There are fewer women studying computer science now than 10 years ago. There are more women studying computer science now than 40 years go. If the primary differences in the capacity for engineering are innate, then how do you explain that? Evolution of human capacity for engineering is not taking place on a yearly basis, so obviously innate biology is not the primary force at play here.

The number of women in the workforce has gone up over the last decade at the same time the number of women in tech has declined, yet all the male-female differences Damore commented on would affect all men and women in business. Remember, he only claimed that women are more open, more agreeable, and more neurotic, and that men are more driven for status. If this explains the gender gap in tech, then it should also explain the same gender gap in business globally, and it fails to do that by miles.

The same arguments that Damore is putting forward were used to discriminate against women in tech have been used in the paste to discriminate against women in the workforce in general, and against women in the military as well. Maybe read a little more history. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_the_workforce https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_the_military http://www.computerscience.org/resources/women-in-computer-s...


Disagreeing with Damore’s arguments is perfectly ok.

Not liking the style of his memo is perfectly ok.

Calling Damore young and clueless is useless ad hominem. Chances are he is smarter than you and me and the memo is actually well sourced.

Calling him a WHITE MAN is an essentialism that reveals the author's bias.


This.

To respond to that manifesto, to argue, talk, discuss, write a similarly well organised response.


Please try doing that to every internet troll out there, if you have the time.

Most of the population don't, and at some point just have to dismiss some ridiculous arguments instead of discussing every single badly researched wall of text.

I suggest you start with all the articles on /r/the_donald.


Like many online echo chambers, /r/the_donald bans people who dissent in any way. It is not a place where it is possible to engage in discussion. In fact, reddit is a horrible place to engage in meaningful discussion, as users can downvote any opinion they disagree with and make it disappear, and mods can ban any users they disagree with. It's easy to label people as trolls, but I have been banned from multiple subreddits when attempting to participate in discussions in good faith.


> In fact, reddit is a horrible place to engage in meaningful discussion, as users can downvote any opinion they disagree with and make it disappear, and mods can ban any users they disagree with.

That's a funny response to a comment that was so heavily downvoted it's completely hidden for users unless they specifically change their HN settings.


Yea, downvote buttons are a massive detriment to discussion on social media. The comment isn't hidden for me, and it wasn't light grey when I replied. HN is a little better in that they are more sparsely used, but it can still be abused. Same with mass reports on Facebook, same with downvotes on Youtube. That button makes bubbles.


> Calling him a WHITE MAN is an essentialism that reveals the author's bias.

I admit that I guessed the same, it's often when you're not in an apparent minority that you don't seem to take these issues at heart (and that you end up hurting a lot of people in the way). Which is an easy way to conclude that the author is a white male in his thirties working at a decent job.


I'd happily agree he's a better engineer than me. That doesn't make him smarter, and his engineering acumen certainly doesn't give him any specific ability to do any kind of psychology or neuroscience lit review.

Know how we get up in arms when someone with expertise one field starts going on about some totally unrelated field and makes a lot of leaps of reasoning?

Expertise in one field doesn't make you an expert in everything. Nothing tells me this guy can write authoritatively on this subject matter, or that the memo is well-sourced, just cause he's smarter at writing software than me.


Nice strawman you've build there ;). "Expertise in one field doesn't make you an expert in everything", sure! But not being an expert in given filed does not make you clueless. And that was my argument.


There were a few psychologists who have publicly commented on this, saying that that what he quoted was reasonably accurate.


> Calling Damore young and clueless is useless ad hominem. Chances are he is smarter than you and me and the memo is actually well sourced.

> Chances are he is smarter than you and me

Did you read the memo? And hear his interview? Your assumptions are way off-base.


Let me present a walmart associate opinion on the person that was fired.

Tldr - sometimes really smart people do the dumbest things. Where was his common sense?

For the average associate i know the overarching Question would be did he not know he could be fired?

"I would have loved to go to college. I couldn't afford it. Id love to have a job at Google. He probably makes over one hundred thousand dollars. All those years spent in college to get a good job and to then lose it. Didn't he think saying something bad about your employer can get you fired? I cant go on Facebook and write sh#! about walmart and not expect to get fired or at least reprimanded. I just dont understand how people who are supposed to be so smart can be so dumb."

-- I am fortunate to have straddled upper and lower classes in my life. I learn new things working with adults who have never known a family member who attended college. Managers who never flew in a plane. The ground level view of living where you work to get by. The joy of life (imo, more joy with less wealth)

I have no outrage personally.


There is a big difference between going on Facebook to talk shit about your employer and what happened here. The memo writer asked for feedback on his memo and was ignored. He tried again and again to get feedback on his opinion internally until turning to the Google internal 'skeptic' community. The skeptics doesn't quite like what he wrote so they strung him up and made an example of him. He was encouraged to give feedback like this so that the company could react to internal problems and self correct before they became worse. In a collective sense Google is acting like a child by refusing to address this problem and their reaction will alienate employees more than this memo ever could.

On a personal rant, I've contracted for Google doing software architecture on a few projects. They do have practices which mildly disgust me. Stuff like flagging people as 'diverse' and making sure the correct number of diverse people are in attendance.


> I've contracted for Google doing software architecture on a few projects. They do have practices which mildly disgust me. Stuff like flagging people as 'diverse' and making sure the correct number of diverse people are in attendance.

If you're willing to help get this practice out in the open, please contact me. I can protect your identity if you want to be an anonymous source.

smann@inc.com

https://keybase.io/sonyaellenmann


<He was encouraged to give feedback like this so that the company could react to internal problems and self correct before they became worse.

I never got that. Ty. But isnt one of the mechanisms to get feedback making input anonymous? Did they ask for authored input? Really? About diversity?


From what I gathered, yes. Unquestionably! In a message board with the name "pc-considered-harmful"

What did they think was going to get posted onto that board, if not this memo?


For the record, "go/pc-considered-harmful" is not a message board but is rather an internal URL convenience link that the author (or someone else) created specifically for this document. Anyone can create one of these for anything they like (as long as it's not already taken) but these links only resolve inside the corporate network.


Oh! That answers a lot of questions. What was the board it was posted to called, though? I've heard about this board where people are encouraged to talk about topics that are potentially controversial, but I haven't been following this story too very closely (as you've just proven.)


In retrospect, it almost seems like they were fishing for people who have 'unsavory opinions' so they can force them to attend diversity training (even the name is Orwellian) and fire them if it doesn't work out.


Do i have this right?

Google: "we want to hear how you think? It's safe."

Googler: "you suck."

Google: "just kidding. It's not safe. Bye bye."

Seems like dirty pool.

Is that what occurred?


I can really feel for people who were offended by this memo. Who were the target of this memo, or the "butt" of it. I'm really sorry that this is where we are at. But the parts of the memo that I read were hard to paint as non-factual if read with a clear head and objective mind.

Every one claim I read that pointed at a specific part and said the writing here was putting forward a horrible opinion that nobody should hold, let alone express in company of others; those clauses were cited with sources and facts to show that the author's expression was of fact, or of research that justified policies and not of a personal opinion. It is vitriol and easy to read "wrong," and as I read and re-read the parts that are most quoted, I can understand how people are so offended. But it is text, not violence, and it is through text and honest discourses that progress can be made! "You don't have to apologise for your feelings," I want to tell them, "but put those down for a second so we can get something done alright?"

The part I read that in isolation, I will agree wholeheartedly is a terrible sentiment, I was able to step back and read factually instead and see where he was saying, in not so many words, "it's not my idea, this is what the research says, and that fact plus inequality is why we got these also sexist policies, a new kind of the old kind of discrimination."

You can't simply punish a man for living in the time he was born, and call it fair; expect that nobody should address the facts on paper, a discriminatory policy, the elephant in the room, or whatever. "Don't piss on my back and tell me it's raining." Please note I did not read the whole memo, but that was the gist of it that I got.

We will never get to a time where we can talk about how "now we are in perfect equality, and there's no more injustice, though it was not always so;" if we can't freely talk about the ways in which we are not, equals, including honest and full discussion of programs and policies that enforce and perpetuate that inequality.

That being said, it seems that lines are being drawn and certain justifications or arguments are on that side of the line. I can fully understand how one on the receiving end of this kind of fire and vitriol might rightly react.

I do think he has a case for slander at least against the leadership. He has been smeared, I have no doubt of that from just reading the CEOs statement, but with the caveat that I don't know him personally and he could really be all those things. I'm just going off the document.


> I just dont understand how people who are supposed to be so smart can be so dumb.

Aspergers or something similar. Watch the Jordan Peterson interview. He's not well-spoken and he's not even that passionate. It's a joke the mainstream media is calling his memo a "manifesto" when it was just his attempt to analyze gender and diversity in his own socially awkward way. This really is about outrage culture.


He definitely has that arrogance and entitlement complex that some Really Smart developers tend to have. I kind of got this impression from his email, especially when he postulates that competitiveness and self-reliance are traits of excellent developers while being collaborative and people-oriented are traits that bad developers have.

Once I saw him in this video, it became pretty clear that he's one of those entitled developers that you really don't want to be stuck on a team with.


Who is Jordan Peterson and whom did he interview?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEDuVF7kiPU

Here's the video of the interview.


Jordan Peterson is great. He's a thoughtful, honest person who is delightfully transparent in his efforts to make sense of the universe. He publicly spoke up in support of free speech, and therefore become a target to be intimidated and harassed by - well, the usual suspects. When he refused to back down, he became a minor celebrity among those who value free speech and who are concerned by the recent rise of totalitarian ideology on the left.


Except he blatantly misconstrued what Bill C-16 was.


Which totalitarian ideology is on the rise, on the left?


That's underestimating his common sense:

- The guy just maximized his chances of being hired at a company that selects for skills, hereby surrounding himself with the most competent.

- He was obviously discriminated at Google (otherwise he wouldn't discuss diversity), so Google had already destroyed his career. That's the problem with discrimination: Victims have nothing to lose.

- He just became the leader for millions of males who are currently struggling with discrimination.


I do not agree with a lot of points of that diversity memo but that means that it's a topic that needs to be discussed instead of being censored and the author fired.

Discussion is how people change their opinion. It's by being free to discuss and say what you think that you can exchange ideas with other people you disagree with and maybe change your mind once you understand their view point.

If you close discussion, then those opinions will be more radicalized and will tend to be discussed in echo chambers where people are not afraid of being shamed by their writings.

As Voltaire once said[1] "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it " and I think, forgetting this, is what leads to Trump and to an increase of misogyny.

[1] It's actually apocryphal, he never actually wrote or said that but it does illustrate his philosophy so wouldn't have been out of character for him.


> that means that it's a topic that needs to be discussed instead of being censored and the author fired.

Here is what CEO said on the about it in his response [1]:

"many points raised in the memo—such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all—are important topics. The author had a right to express their views on those topics—we encourage an environment in which people can do this and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions."

The author of the original memo wasn't fired because of trying to discuss the topic. He was fired because he violated Google's code of conduct, which expects:

"each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination."

If you intimidate enough employees via a widespread memo, you will get fired. I see no problem with that. The freedom to discuss a topic also comes with responsibilities.

As an example, would anyone expect to keep their job if they published a memo with "Blacks on average are [insert negative here]." at any big company anywhere in the world? Regardless of scientific basis? It's an absurd expectation, unless you work at a company doing scientific research on that specific subject.

[1] https://www.blog.google/topics/diversity/note-employees-ceo-...


The main problem I see with that is that poll that says that a third of the employees didn't disagree with the memo. If there's such a large percentage that agree with it then it's time for discussion. It's not a minority opinion and that memo shows what a lot of people think but will not be afraid to express.

So, instead of having open discussion on the topic which would help changing ideas, those opinions are being suppressed and the people holding them will be further radicalized.


In my comment I quoted the CEO saying many parts of the memo are open to discussion. Discussion and debate comes with responsibilities, and one of the responsibilities per the CoC is that you do not intimidate or harass other employees.

Is it unreasonable to say you are not allowed to intimidate or harass other employees?

> be afraid to express.

They should be afraid to express an opinion that violates the code of conduct. The code of conduct values some things over others, and a workplace free of harassment and intimidation is more important to Google than making sure no one is ever afraid of expressing an opinion. It might well be the opinion of some engineer in Google that all blacks should be called niggers. That engineer should rightly be afraid of expressing that opinion no matter how deeply held that opinion is, and no matter how many other employees share that opinion.

> the people holding them will be further radicalized.

Source?


Ok, where is the intimidation or harassment? He expressed unpopular opinion and unenlightened points of view but is there harassment?

In another comment, you say it's the mention that women tend to have on average more neuroticism although you seem to acknowledge in that comment that it has basis in research [1]. If, as you say, it's a fact, then how can it be harassment?

You cannot have reasonable discussions, if you dismiss what you consider to be true facts because you consider them to be harassment. There could be factors that could cause a statistical difference between genders due to physiology or due to culture (I disagree with the memo's author in his dismissal of cultural and parenting influences on gender behaviors) and any discussion of diversity would need to take those into account.

Now, the author claims that his memo had notes to supporting evidence but the leaked copies do not have that.

[1] For the record, I haven't found the research on that and I'm rather skeptical of that result.


There is a leaked copy with the links intact: https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3914586/Googles-I...

The citation for higher neuroticism is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_psychology#..., this in turn cites http://psycnet.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2F0022-3514.81..., which confirms the claims.

> ... gender differences are small relative to individual variation within genders; differences are replicated across cultures for both college-age and adult samples, and differences are broadly consistent with gender stereotypes: Women reported themselves to be higher in Neuroticism, Agreeableness, Warmth, and Openness to Feelings, whereas men were higher in Assertiveness and Openness to Ideas.


> where is the intimidation or harassment?

Many employees felt intimidated and that they now had to prove in a work setting that they are not "more neurotic on average than men". This is about human relationships. If enough people say they felt intimidated, how can anyone dispute that? Can you prove they didn't feel intimidated? Can I prove they did feel intimidated? No to both questions. It's not in the domain of science or facts. It's in the domain of human relationships and emotions.

> If, as you say, it's a fact,

I said it was a fact? Where? I actually don't care if it's a fact or not. It just doesn't mean a lot to me either way.

> then how can it be harassment?

Easy. There is zero relationship between facts and harassment. I can tell the truth and harass you. I can also lie and harass you.

If I pass your workspace every day and say "You have a smaller penis than the average man and some people here are better at programming than you" does it matter whether both of those are facts? It's still clearly harassment. Unless we have an inside joke.... human relationships are far more complex than science. No wonder so many of us would like to shoehorn everything into black and white scientific facts!

> You cannot have reasonable discussions, if you dismiss what you consider to be true facts because you consider them to be harassment.

Of course you can. A reasonable discussion around your penis size at work wouldn't include facts about your penis size. The reasonable discussion would be "that's inappropriate and if you don't leave me alone I'll report you to HR for harassment."

You are confusing "facts" with "appropriateness". One is a scientific concept, the other is a social concept. The two have almost nothing to do with each other.

> the author claims that his memo had notes to supporting evidence

It might be interesting, but it doesn't matter in the least in this case. The domain isn't science. Per the Google code of conduct, it expects "each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination."

Do you see anything about science in the code of conduct? Or is it talking about culture and human relationships?


> Many employees felt intimidated and that they now had to prove in a work setting that they are not "more neurotic on average than men".

Since we can't read minds, we don't know how they felt. We only know that they said they felt that way. When you believe it is for a higher cause - like fighting the patriarchy - lying about your feelings is a minor consideration.

Witness how many of these identity activists lie about being pushed, lie about having their space invaded to accomplish their ends:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRlRAyulN4o

Not a single one of them says "Hey, no, lying isn't right." The collective values of that massive group of identity activists has no regard for truth, on this level.

We can't deny that there is cultural overlap between the identity activists in this video, and the identity activists currently working at Google.


You're basically saying what I'm saying: harassment isn't something that can be objectively determined. Googlers might be lying about it, they might be telling the truth.

If you don't want to get fired for harassing folks, and you don't have great people skills, you should probably keep your controversial opinions at home. YMMV.


> In my comment I quoted the CEO saying many parts of the memo are open to discussion.

It's open, but you'll be fired.

> Is it unreasonable to say you are not allowed to intimidate or harass other employees?

If talking about something is considered intimidation or harassment, which is the reality of the situation in USA 2017, then yes I consider it unreasonable.

All these do-gooders are going to reap what they sow in the long run, and it sure as heck isn't what they think it is.


Exactly my point of view. I'm pretty much aligned with the left when it comes to moral values but political correctness drives me crazy.

If talking about something is considered intimidation or harassment then people will not talk about it and the 30% or so who agree with that memo will continue agreeing with it in private and maybe talk about it in echo chambers like redpill on reddit but will not talk about it publicly.

So, they will not be able to see the other side point of view, they will not be able to evolve their thinking.

The problem is that this phenomena is not limited to Google, it's also in campuses and it means that while Americans have "free speech", they need to self-censor if they do not want to compromise their careers. And I don't believe that people who are hiding their opinion can be convinced and can change their mind. This, I believe is why Trump ended up winning (which to me is a catastrophe for all of the things I care about).


> It's open, but you'll be fired.

A gross mischaracterization. Open never means anyone can just say whatever comes to mind.

"Open discussion??? Oh goody!!! Kike, kike, kike, kike, the bosses are cheap Jews! Wait, what??? You're firing me? Whaaaaaaa, look at me tears, you promised open discussion!!! I'm suing, all woe is me!"

I'm confident you're not that naive, and I hope you can see the point of my exaggeration. Everything, even open discussion, has limits.

The CEO made it clear which parts of the memo were ok (almost every part of it). And which parts violated the code of conduct.

Violate the code of conduct, and you're fired. Sed lex, dura lex. Everything has limits. So the discussion then is about what those limits should be.

> If talking about something is considered intimidation or harassment,

It's not. There are almost endless things you can talk about at work that aren't considered harassment or intimidation. There isn't a little rule book to guide you. It's up to you as an adult to to have adult relationships with your co-workers and to figure out for yourself what other people are comfortable hearing and what they consider harassment. I'm sure you already know that you can't tell a female employee she has bigger than average tits, no matter how factual it is or even if it's just "talking about something". But the more subtle points are up to you to work out with your co-workers. Be enough of an jerk to enough people by just "talking about something", and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

This has been the reality since humans have had emotions. Every adult with an ounce of understanding about human relationships knows that there is a lot of stuff you can't talk about at work.

> which is the reality of the situation in USA 2017

Where did you get this idea that you ever had some kind of right at some point in history to talk about whatever you want to talk about at work - with no care towards how it makes your fellow employees feel? For most of America's business history you could get your butt thrown out the door just for saying something the boss doesn't like. You're actually slightly more protected in USA 2017, but a smart boss will find a way if he doesn't like what you say. So will your co-workers.

I guess at one point in USA history you could more easily get away with sexually harassing female employees. Safe to say that's not the point in history you're trying to return to? If I'm right, can you describe the point in history you are trying to return to and why it was better? What was ok then that isn't ok now? Specific examples please?

> All these do-gooders are going to reap what they sow in the long run, and it sure as heck isn't what they think it is.

I guess we should be afraid... of.... something? Your revenge? Back up your vague threat with what you predict will actually happen or with what you plan on doing.


Well, how does one tell the difference between:

"many points raised in the memo—such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all—are important topics. The author had a right to express their views on those topics—we encourage an environment in which people can do this and it remains our policy to not take action against anyone for prompting these discussions."

and:

"each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination."

Is there a definition for what constitutes "harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination"?

I think anyone interested in not having a note placed into their HR file now knows it is perhaps not a good idea to ask such questions.

> Everything, even open discussion, has limits.

Exactly - the author of the manifesto is free to discuss these concerns with his manager and have them ignored, or leave. They shall not be discussed publicly, or else.

Anyone that said "Kike, kike, kike, kike, the bosses are cheap Jews!" wouldn't be taken seriously, because such ideas are obviously false. The content of this manifesto cannot be dismissed so easily, if it could I suspect someone would have done it and intellectually humiliated this person using superior ideas. The problem is, that's not possible in this case. Hence, in the spirit of equality and harmony, there's really only one practical approach, the one that was taken.

I'd rebut some of your other specific points, but as much fun as these arguments are, they don't really serve any purpose.

For me, it comes down to whether we want to live in a society where we acknowledge reality, or not. Where people debate ideas, or not.


> how does one tell the difference between...

By talking to people and using your people skills.

> Is there a definition for what constitutes "harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination"?

Yes. It's not a written definition. It's a living and changing definition created by the people who work there and how YOU make them feel. You need to use your people skills in order to extract the definition from your co-workers.

> wouldn't be taken seriously, because such ideas are obviously false.

This is the core of your misunderstanding. The scientific merit of ideas has zero relationship to whether or not you are harassing someone. Anyone who said the offensive things I wrote wouldn't be taken seriously and would be fired because they are offensive. True or not. Obviously true or not. And for all you know, whoever said the above does work for cheap Jews (my apologies if I've offended anyone with this language - I love Jews like everyone else and I hope you can understand I'm using this for illustration purposes only).

> For me, it comes down to whether we want to live in a society where we acknowledge reality, or not. Where people debate ideas, or not.

Look Mom! We are freely debating something right here, right in society!

Don't confuse "Google" (an employer) with "society". No one is forcing you to work at Google nor for your employment status to be determined by their code of conduct.

Even HN has a code of conduct, and yet you seem to be ok debating things here.


> Yes. It's not a written definition. It's a living and changing definition created by the people who work there and how YOU make them feel. You need to use your people skills in order to extract the definition from your co-workers.

Agreed, but that's my very complaint! As they say, the pendulum has swung too far! (In my opinion, of course.)

> Look Mom! We are freely debating something right here, right in society! Don't confuse "Google" (an employer) with "society". No one is forcing you to work at Google nor for your employment status to be determined by their code of conduct.

What bothers me is the trajectory we are on. You can debate things "in society", but "freely"? Have you not read news articles on the increasing suppression of free speech on campuses, or people being physically attacked for what they believe in? And of course, Google is free to do whatever it wants, that is true, but please don't simultaneously say that it is indisputable that they have a culture of free speech, or that their messaging is somewhat out of line with their actions.

I'm not unsympathetic to the other side of this debate, how people (myself included) perceive the world makes it extremely difficult to appreciate different points of view, and I often think people are far off the mark, for example the commentary on the intentions of the author of this manifesto.

These conversations agitate me because it can seem like people think you are completely wrong, even though I doubt (or hope not) that is your intent or belief.

EDIT:

I imagine you've seen this: http://huyenchip.com/2017/08/09/sexism-in-silicon-valley.htm...

"We need to be careful when encouraging affirmative action in tech to ensure it doesn’t reinforce the philosophy of treating women differently."

This is one of the things I had in mind when I said "All these do-gooders are going to reap what they sow in the long run, and it sure as heck isn't what they think it is." Yes, women may be getting hired, but for what reason matters.


> Agreed, but that's my very complaint! As they say, the pendulum has swung too far! (In my opinion, of course.)

I'm glad we're finally getting to some sort of consensus that this is firmly in the realm of human relationships and has little to do with facts and more to do with opinions. Your co-workers' opinions of you are very important. Like it or not, fair or not, that is never going away. Fortunately you have some freedom in where you choose to work and can try to find a good cultural fit to your own values.

> What bothers me is the trajectory we are on.

Newspapers need clickable headlines to stay in business. I'm not worried. There was never a guarantee in the USA that you will have a public forum for whatever nonsense (or genius) you want to spew. It has always been up to the public, or your co-workers, if they want to give you a forum. As long as the government isn't interfering with my speech, I can handle company policy, co-workers, friends and family, and the general public, all with just by using my people skills.

> please don't simultaneously say that it is indisputable that they have a culture of free speech, or that their messaging is somewhat out of line with their actions.

No one, not me, not even Google, is claiming their primary goal is free speech. Per their CoC, a primary goal is a workplace free of harassment. Which by definition limits your speech. In fact they fired someone for what he said, no apologies. So I don't see any inconsistency. Your speech is indeed limited at work if you work for Google or any big company in the world.

Now if conservatives at Google, as a minority, are being harassed or silenced just because of their political views, then I do agree that is a problem, and one I hope they fix. Not in the name of free speech, but in the name of another stated goal they have: diversity.

> I imagine you've seen this

She also admits that sometime the best way to have women feel comfortable in tech is to just first get a lot of women into tech. Chicken and egg problem. I encourage aggressive affirmative action once you've already identified existing bias against any minority. Sexism and racism are problems in the tech world. When they aren't problems anymore, the affirmative action will go away due to market forces. No company will bear the cost of affirmative action if there is no risk of lawsuits from minorities currently being excluded.


I continue to disagree with much of what you say, not just for the sake of disagreeing but because I think it is material to society working towards a maximally harmonious, successful/competitive, and "fair" position, but I don't think it's possible to make any progress. To me, this conversation seems like a fairly representative example of what is one of the underlying causes of our failure to communicate in society. But, life goes on.


Yes, if you deny the reasonable conversation then the extremists will claim it as validating their ridiculous standpoints.

You can see this in action if you read the response to this on any extremist online gathering spot. A lot of people didn't fully read or comprehend the memo and use it as proof of their nonsense world view.


> If you intimidate enough employees via a widespread memo, you will get fired.

Which part of the memo was intimidating, harassing, or illegal? Which part promoted biases?

> As an example, would anyone expect to keep their job if they published a memo with "Blacks on average are [insert negative here]."

No, but that's because of my low expectation of fairness from corporate leadership and middle management, not because I think that opinion is harassing, intimidating, or illegal. I suppose you could argue that it promotes bias, but then you'd have to make the case that it wasn't true. Otherwise it would be reality with the bias, right?


> Which part of the memo was intimidating, harassing,

"Women on average have more neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance)." is one example.

Just because something is true or a fact does not give some magical guarantee that people will not feel intimidated or harassed if that fact is presented in a certain way or in a certain context. And perhaps people who have lived an entire life of being discriminated against might not even care about the context.

In order to make sure people don't feel intimidated, you need to use people skills, not science skills. You need to listen, you need to empathize, and ask questions. You need to be able to feel what someone else is feeling. Almost always this means in person. The opposite of blasting out a memo (which happens to insert some scientific facts) from behind your computer screen.

Having good people skills often has little to do with science or even the truth.

> not because I think that opinion is harassing, intimidating,

If you can't see why a sweeping generalization about blacks (or any other group) can be harassing or intimidating, may I respectfully suggest you could use some education in the area of people skills? I'm saying that having come myself from a place where I had little respect for the soft skills involved in sales, marketing, diplomacy, charisma, leadership, and so on. You seem to have a great deal of respect for the truth and reality. Reality and truth also include feelings, and it's very rare that scientific truth helps anyone navigate how to make others feel like they are not being harassed or intimidated.

> my low expectation of fairness from corporate leadership and middle management

Why would you have any expectation of fairness from them? It's nowhere in their job description, and they don't get paid to be fair. At place like Google, very often they are being paid because they have a smidgen of people skills the tech folks below them are so sorely lacking in.


This entire post is incredibly dangerous.

> Having good people skills often has little to do with science or even the truth.

I can only assume you're liberal based on your stance, but you do an enormous amount of damage to progressive values and true diversity when you state things like this. Establishing harassment as something independent and impervious to truth creates the ultimate echo chamber that enables a post-fact world. So anyone who comes to you with a fact or a quantum of reality you don't like should be considered a harasser? How does this apply when you write your own positions? Truth is what allows us to move forward as a society, and to ignore it is to doom us to follow what makes us feel better, not what's right. There are numerous examples through out history where I'm sure the majority would have liked to ignore facts in order to make themselves feel better and maintain the status quo. Good people skills has everything to do with leading us to better and positive understanding of objective truth.

You create a strawman diverting from the document in question by talking about "sweeping generalization about blacks," when the previous poster was clearly addressing the document, not your flimsy hypothetical. And yet, you then proceed to paint tech folks below management as completely lacking in the people skills to understand management and your enlightened position.

To be clear, I thought the conclusions of the document were dumb, but your handling of controversial topics strikes me as equally dangerous, if not more so. I think your heart is in the right place, but strive to be like John Milton in how you digest the arguments of others: "I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed..."

edit: sp & truth


> Establishing harassment as something independent and impervious to truth creates the ultimate echo chamber that enables a post-fact world.

Why is harassment determined by humans in a court of law, very often using their gut instincts, if it has some ultimate test tube truth that can be used to decide whether or not it occurred? What's the lab test I'm not aware of? Ok, I'm being a little facetious, but still, can you even guide me to an written objective source of truth that describes exactly what harassment is and isn't? I can provide tons of concrete examples and we all know it when we see it, but I think it's incredibly hard to give an objective description. It's certainly never about words. One person's "nigger" is friendly, the other person's "nigger" is harassment and how it was intended and how it was received both have to do with what each person was feeling. Is there a way to to objectively determine truth about how people felt when they said or heard something?

> So anyone who comes to you with a fact or a quantum of reality you don't like should be considered a harasser?

I never said that. I did say that harassment is about human relationships and people skills and not in the domain of facts. You can lie to someone and harass them. You can tell them the truth and harass them. You can lie to someone and make their day better. You can tell the truth to someone and make their day better. There is very little relationship between objective truth and people skills.

> You create a strawman

No, it's an analogy. And a very very close one. The original document made sweeping generalizations about women. I simply replaced "women" with "blacks" so it's easier to see the pattern of how offensive it is to make sweeping generalizations. True generalizations, or false one, folks don't like being put in a bucket of "you tend to act this way because you are an _fill in the blank_".

> Truth is what allows us to move forward as a society,

Agreed. Scientific truth and emotional truth are two very different things. Relationships don't really have a "what's right" or an objective truth do they? It's always very objective.

> Good people skills has everything to do with leading us to better and positive understanding of objective truth.

And understanding of the objective truth is a goal for some people. Other people have zero interest in the objective truth and are more interested in their emotional life and relationships with others. Or something else. Maybe art. Or sales. Both of which have little to do with objective truth. Don't assign your personal values to others.

> but strive to be like John Milton

I don't know Milton. I'll check him out. Thanks for the recommendation.


Hey, I'd like to challenge your view about advice to "learn people skills" which seems to push responsibility to one group, those who aren't already people skilled enough.

There are more extroverts than introverts in the world. The first group is happy with social contact, talking with people and generally score better in empathy. Introverts are the other way around: they prefer to use text, do not like to give in to emotions and score worse in people skills. That's according to the book "Quiet: The Power of Introverts" but I guess it's not a controversial point to make anyway, and while you can find many outliers as in any discipline, I think it's a fairly good generalization.

Now, it may depend on the company or group, so two scenarios:

1) Introverts are a majority, extroverts a minority - maybe that's a tech company: shouldn't extroverts use their people skills and be able to figure out that introverts mean no harm and just prefer to communicate by sending long pieces of text with many scientific sources cited instead of talking with even one person? They might have even been doing this for many years, in the introvertive bubble of their fellow colleagues who shy away from emotions. Of course, extroverts could still feel emotionally touched and maybe even attacked as the minority - but then, been empathetic and knowing the style of introverts, shouldn't they try to teach them people skills? Are we sure firing this person is going to be an actual lesson to him? Or maybe there is no way to teach introverts people skills, as Google with a load of money and staff cannot even challenge beliefs of one employee? How come then we can ask single introverts to learn it on their own? Does it mean we're all doomed as more and more tech companies change from big groups of introverted engineers to cross-disciplinary team with a mix of characters?

2) Extroverts are a majority, introverts are a minority - again, using their people skills extroverts would surely recognize that introverts are not comfortable with people skills... so if introverts are a minority, is firing them for miss-following the code of conduct, written most likely by the majority i.e. extroverts, a form of discrimination? For the sake of diversity, shouldn't they all learn about more scientific, less emotional approach? Or should you be schooled only if you're in the minority without those skills?

IMO author of the memo made a decent attempt at using his people skills on this paper - what the post from Sabine acutally acknowledged, although you could generalize based on her background she's an introvert as well. It just looks like that other people have higher expectations of people skills but the question is have they done enough to learn the science skills themselves or just assume that everyone should have people skills at the exact level they want because they dictate so as a majority.

(Cheers, sorry for all the mistakes, English is not my native language.)


Agreed. Those are all very good points.

If this guy has any defense at all, it could be that he's a minority somewhere on the spectrum of Asperger's, and that a diverse company also needs to somehow accommodate his inability to understand how his statements could have made others feel.

On the other hand, it's quite possible he's just an angry white male who feels like he's being left out but got it off his chest when empowered behind his computer screen, and with his weapons of scientific fact. Jabs of harassment are often delivered buried within a harmless context.

Perhaps a bit of both. It will be for the courts to decide.

Long term, you gave me some ideas. If my company ever gets big enough to have a mix of introverts and extroverts I wonder if it would be a good idea to pair introverts and extroverts so they can "protect" each other? Extroverts can help introverts from saying really insensitive stuff, and introverts could help train the extroverts about when to leave the introverts alone, and to stop harassing them about "being more social". Just a thought...


Then perhaps google should not solicit opinions on the matter, as they did in this case?


Does soliciting employees' opinions on a matter absolve the employees from continuing to follow the code of conduct?


They didn't solicit opinions on the matter, don't be dishonest.


Yes they did. The post was on an internal board which, if I understand right, was in response to a question by Google management about their diversity practices.


Are you dreaming? That's not how this went down at all.


[flagged]


> Wasn't this memo a reply to survey about diversity within Google?

I don't know. Does anyone have a reliable source on this?

> "On average we don't get much productivity return from pursuing black candidates specifically and here's why" is probably more acceptable,

Just as bad. This has nothing to do with scientific truth or even how to better word scientific truth, although it's not surprising many HN readers like us tend favor answers that come from science.

The problem domain here is mostly human relationships. There is just some shit you can't say in a workplace without making some employees feel intimidated or harassed. Right or wrong, most humans are emotional creatures more than they are rational creatures. Even the most scientific of us have far more built in cognitive biases than are useful for a purely rational view of reality.

As an aside, choosing skin color as a grouping factor is almost always going to be wrong scientifically. If you want to talk about melanin, it might be a good grouping. But if you are trying to correlate skin color with a genetic or innate characteristic, you're firmly outside of biology and heading towards racism. If you can't find the the less obvious groupings that point towards actual causation, it's still not an excuse for resorting to correlation. If you can't group without resorting to correlation, don't group yet.

> or would you not talk about this at all as well?

If you find yourself leaning heavily on the scientific facts of other experts in order to support a controversial opinion in your workplace, you might do a favor to your future career to run your ideas past the touchy-feely people and get their reaction. Human resources, the sales people, marketing, etc. They'll give you excellent guidance that has nothing to do with scientific fact. And chances are it won't be "that's quite a bad title, here's how to re-phrase". In a case like this, the advice will often be "I would never say this at work, some people will be very offended." People and their feelings are pretty important.

The shame here is that even the CEO of Google said that large parts of the memo were great talking points. If the guy had really cared about his ideas, he might have bothered to run them by some touchy-feely experts to delete the 5% offensive parts and he would still be around to move his agenda forward.


I agree that grouping by skin colour is statistically insignificant, just trying to re-phrase your title. Although, I still think that if the content underneath that question was about even more diverse workforce: in additional to blacks hiring Mexicans, Asians, Arabs etc. it would be acceptable if a company was targeting only blacks at the time.

> There is just some shit you can't say in a workplace without making some employees feel intimidated or harassed.

I get intimidated everyone tells me I should speak more with clients or be more social during lunches. I feel it's way more acceptable to demand "people skills" than "science skills" nowadays, the extrovert's regime - for that see my other comment.

I'm trying to actively learn people skills myself from some time (happy to receive recommendations) but it bugs me how often people with people skills tend not to have enough people skills to understand I don't have enough people skills and sometimes prefer to be alone or to text instead of speak, write a blog post instead of doing presentation, work from home instead from open space etc.


> I get intimidated everyone tells me I should speak more with clients or be more social during lunches.

Talk to HR about it! If they are good at what they do, they will find a way of letting other people know to lay off a bit on the introvert employees, without mentioning you specifically.

> it bugs me how often people with people skills tend not to have enough people skills to understand I don't have enough people skills and sometimes prefer to be alone or to text instead of speak

Well said. And it's hard for people without people skills to stand up and take action for themselves too.


> (happy to receive recommendations)

One of the best books that helped me early in my programming career was "Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In". Some other books helped to varying degrees.

But the tough news is that, in my experience, the best way to learn people skills is in a very "public" way: by interacting with people. I wish I had understood this earlier and tried to learn less from books. Learning a foreign language is not much different. You make far quicker progress by speaking with other people than from any other method.

I did attend a people skills seminar that work paid for and found that to be super helpful. That's where I had the genuis realization that you have to actually practice interacting with people to get better at interacting with people! Duh! I would highly recommend any one or two day seminar where they include practice time with the other participants. It's a safe place to make mistakes and learn - that's what everyone is there for. Accidentally walking into the women's bathroom was not one of the mistakes I planned on making there, but hey, it was possibly the best place ever I could have made that awkward mistake. Ha!

In any case, lots of progress is attainable. I went from being (sometimes) nervous if I had to speak to a room full of three (!) people, to now having made dozens of public presentations in front of audiences as large as two hundred people. I've taught many classes. I have even done sucessful sales pitches, when there is no one better around. It took me decades, and a lot of mistakes to get where I am. Am I a super star at people skills? I don't think so. But I am way better than where I started and I look forward to and enjoy situtations that usually would have made me nervous in the past.

So if you really want to improve your people skills, you'll have to put yourself in social situations. Small doses are best at first. Like anything you want to learn, you should have a specific objective for what you are trying to learn each "practice session", and a way to measure success. Like learning a musical instrument or foreign language, if you practice fifteen minutes a day, you'll see very steady progress. If you practice once a month for a few hours, you probably won't progress much at all.

I hinted at a problem with this before: when you fail at learning people skills it's in a public way. Social mistakes can have social consequences. The point here is that you might want to avoid doing much of your practicing or "experiments" in social groups that are important to you: work for example. That doesn't mean you can't learn some things at work. Study your co-workers who are great a people skills. Spend as much time with them as you can (or can bear to) and pay careful attention to how they interact with others.

But try to find other places for the really difficult learning. Does everyone who joins a wood working club do so because they want to make a table? Or is it possible some of the folks there are hoping to meet their future wood working wife? Who cares? Same for you if you joined a club that has a minor interest to you, but you want to use it to improve your social skills. And I don't mean at all to imply that you can just do social experiments on people in the club with no regard to their feelings and to just use them. Of course not. But if you make a really embarassing mistake, and just cannot bring yourself to face those people again, well, it's certainly not going to effect your ability to pay rent, is it? It's far more likely you'll make some new friends there. Casual friends, permanent friends, temporary friends, your best friends, or even if you make no friends, it's just a club. People move on and forget.

Finally, I would also say to only do what you really want. There's plenty of room in the world for people who are good at something other than people skills. But if you do manage to make improvements, I think you will see it improve your life in every area in ways you can hardly imagine now. Hope some of that helps! Best of luck.


> Does anyone have a reliable source on this?

Initially, he submitted the document as a feedback for a “diversity summit” he attended. Here's the source:

https://youtu.be/agU-mHFcXdw?t=9m15s


I'm not convinced by this. Respectful discourse is good, but I'm not sure disrespectful discourse is. I feel sometime that does more harm, because it sends an underlying message, that our moral values allow us to be hateful to others.

By encouraging and allowing hateful discourse, I don't think people are able to follow reasonable arguments and think about things fairly. So I see these things turning more so into propaganda speech.


Really great post, and I had what I thought were some great observations about the article I wanted to share. But then in the article's comments I read this by Outer M.:

"By the way, in science and technology, conservatism is a minority ideology (he says so himself in his letter). How would he feel if we start saying that conservative people aren't apt for science and technology? That if he doesn't feel welcome he should find a different profession? It's ironic he complains about it even though, in a way, he understands the struggle."

After I read that, I went back and re-read the memo, but I swapped all gender references for politics, and vice-versa, and it was awesome.

At Google, we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and political orientation, but we rarely discuss our moral biases. Gender is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean male, we should critically examine these prejudices.

...

Possible non-bias causes of the political gap in tech

...

In highly progressive environments, women are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility. We should empower those with different genders to be able to express themselves.

Alienating women is both non-inclusive and generally bad business because women tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is required for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company.


Politics, favorite foods, religion, dress sense and other ideas aren't innate.

Gender, age, ethnicity and sexuality are.

Hence swapping gender for politics doesn't work.

Additionally Damore argued for assessing individuals as individuals rather than as tribe members and assuming discrepancy is down to bias - even if you did sub someone's chosen politics for their gender, Damore's proposed fix would still require you to assess the individual.


It doesn't matter whether a characteristic is innate or not; if it isn't relevant to the job, then nobody should be judged based on it. Even if you disregard that people can choose to change their gender or that politics can be inherited from the parents, gender and politics are interchangeable as far as social treatment is concerned.

If you (dis)agree with the arguments of the memo in the gender/politics-swapped version, then you should also (dis)agree with the original. Of course the cited references won't make sense anymore, but if that is your only remaining sticking point, you might have to reevaluate your opinion.


First and more important things: nobody is suggesting judging individuals by their gender. Damore's post was explicitly about not doing that.

Of course an individual's suitability for a job should not be affected by anything irrelevant. However individual choices may be relevant: for example, you might not be suitable to work in the fitness industry if you're shy about showing your body. Hence distinguishing choices from innate characteristics.

This is a bit of a side track though. Basically just saying that gender and political persuasion aren't as interchangeable with each other as gender and other innate characteristics would be.


It seems my point was a bit muddled by trying to keep it opinion-symmetric. Maybe using a veiled analogy helps?

After reading this woman's opinion on Google's programs to increase their share of politically conservative workers, I realized that political bias, although indubitably present, might not fully explain the observed distribution of political alignments. To evaluate "affirmative action" efforts, the effect of bias would have to be quantified in relation to other phenomena incidentally correlating with political affiliation. However, I was disappointed that she didn't to that in her memo itself, arguing qualitatively instead of rigorously computing the expected distribution her suggested explanations would predict. The resulting number can easily make or break her case. Regardless of my opinion on her choice of presentation, I am appalled by the strong backlash from a group of vocal men within Google, some of which went so far as to threaten her with physical violence. Although the subject and manner of this discussion might not have been within Google's business interests, firing her for expressing her opinion (apparently in a forum where it was explicitly solicited) was definitely an unreasonably harsh response.

I think that gender and politics are plenty interchangeable in this case, provided you can suspend disbelief about Google actively trying to hire more conservative engineers and the media reaction surrounding this case.


I understand what you're trying to say, I just don't agree that the analogy works for the reasons I've mentioned. Saying you believe they're plenty interchangable is fine, but that doesn't really respond or advance the conversation.


> Politics, favorite foods, religion, dress sense and other ideas aren't innate. Gender, age, ethnicity and sexuality are. Hence swapping gender for politics doesn't work.

That is incorrect. The word "gender" is defined as the social and cultural differences between male and female, as opposed to the biological ones.

You also meant to say "sex" and not "sexuality". Sex is the innate biology of males & females. Sexuality refers to things like sexual preferences of partners, sexual feelings, and sexual activity, all of which are not innate.

I wasn't arguing against Damore and I don't care whether he argued for individuals. Except that he obviously didn't just argue for individuals, because he complained about the plight of the conservatives at Google, and suggested that women as a group are innately less capable technologists.

I just find it really funny that he took opposite stances on two minority groups in tech, and with a straight face argued against sensitivity toward one group and argued in favor of more sensitivity for the other. You can swap them, and I did, and what you get is more or less the exact same, equally wrong argument. It's very sad if what it takes is swapping them to see how wrong it is.


Your statement that "he complained about the plight of the conservatives at Google, and suggested that women as a group are innately less capable technologists," is not a fair recounting of his arguments. He claims that Google's internal cultural dynamic is hostile towards conservatives, and that Google's hiring policy towards women is inappropriately favorable. There is nothing innately contradictory about these beliefs.

Damore never argues against using groups to make big picture, strategic decision. Quite the opposite. What Damore is arguing is that Google's strategic decisions are rooted in ideology, not research, and the consequences of those decisions are discriminatory at the individual level. Worst of all is that because those decisions are rooted in ideology, they can't be questioned.

Of course, Damore makes several other arguments. Damore suggests that Google's minority retention practices are discriminatory and ineffective, while agreeing that Google's corporate environment is likely a poor fit for women.

Damore does make recommendations on how to show sensitivity towards women in order to boost retention of women and he bases these recommendations of his understanding of current, replicable research in psychology. What's important to note about Damore's recommendations is that while strategically they favor women, on an individual basis they do not. The practices that Damore suggests would be as open to men as they are to women.


Maybe you misread or misunderstood Damore's letter.

[Damore] "I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership."

He did exactly what I said - he complained about the plight of conservatives at Google, and he suggested that women as a group are innately less capable technologists. That's not just fair, it is, without judgement, completely factually accurate.

I didn't claim these two things are contradictory, that's your own straw man. I claim that one of them is wrong, and that if you swap them, one of them is still wrong.

I'm a little surprised how many people are defending him. He's got no expertise in these matters at all. Why are you so sure this is a good argument overall? What makes you confident in his interpretation of modern psychology and social issues?

His letter is specious - it sounds good for a bunch of reasons, and he has many valid points, but it's wrong overall. Programmers love arguments that favor consistency, and they're convinced it's always and forever more fair, but that's very often not true in reality. If society were already fair and if cultural sexism didn't exist, then not being extra sensitive to women might be the right thing to do. But the prevalence of cultural sexism is a fact, it exists just like racism does. We have to actively get rid of it before we can be consistent. Because it's there, suggesting that it's more fair to pay less attention to it is actually rationalizing sexism. What you're arguing for indirectly is to keep our level of sexism at the status quo, rather than fix it before we treat everyone exactly the same. Treating everyone exactly the same right now assumes there's no problem right now, but there is a problem right now.

> Damore never argues against using groups to make big picture, strategic decision.

Then I think your beef is with @nailer's comment above mine, and you can argue that with him. He said "Additionally Damore argued for assessing individuals as individuals rather than as tribe members and assuming discrepancy is down to bias - even if you did sub someone's chosen politics for their gender, Damore's proposed fix would still require you to assess the individual."

You are contradicting what he said.


I didn't say your characterization of Damore's arguments was wrong, I said it was unfair. What I meant by that was that you stripped statements of context and nuance and represented them with negative connotations that are not warranted based on the original context. My understanding of your statement was that you were suggesting that Damore made definitive statements that are muddled and contradictory. If that was an unfair interpretation of your comment, then I apologize.

I consider your statement "he suggested that women as a group are innately less capable technologists" to be unfair because it could be interpreted in multiple ways. The danger of misinterpreting this statement is so great, that the underlying idea can't be expressed in this manner. Damore uses the phrase "these differences MAY explain.."(emphasis mine) to indicate that evidence suggest, but does not prove, his hypothesis. You make Damore sound more definitive than he actually is (or at least how I understand him to be).

The most dangerous word in your statement is "innately". If I remove it from your statement, than it becomes incontrovertibly true. Women as a group are less capable technologist, by simple nature of the fact that there are fewer of them. Why is the big question, and the word "innately" is the attempted explanation.

If "innately" means that "women are generally to stupid to grasp computes, than that's codswhallop. There's no evidence to suggest that the mean IQ of women is any different than the mean IQ of men.

If by "innately" you mean "men are biologically compelled to be assholes to women, and women are biologically compelled to flee this treatment", then that's a scary fucking problem that I hope we can solve in some manner other than the obliteration of the male sex.

If "innately" means that "women generally don't give a shit about computers", then there is evidence to suggest that it might be true, though of course the evidence is far from conclusive .

If "innately" means that "Men are more represented at the extremes at of most distributions, and since being a google engineer is an extreme position, men should be more represented there", then that is another possibility that is suggested, though obviously not proven, from current evidence.

For me, the word "innately" is too fuzzy in its meaning and it makes me uncomfortable to use it in this context.

As for your concerns about his expertise, his interpretations of current research concerning the cognitive differences between men and women are not out of line with current research and the interpretation of that research by well regarded members of the psychology community. Steven Pinker is a name that has come up frequently in the past few days, whose own views overlap Damore's to some degree.

I find your interpretation of my motives to be uncharitable. My intention is not to argue that we should keep the status quo of sexism. I think we all agree that judging the capabilities of an individual based on their biological sex is bullshit. My concern (And it seems Damore shares this concern) is that we're replacing one kind of sexism with a different kind of sexism. That's not progress.

I think you should ask yourself how comfortable you are with the following statement: "There are differences in the distribution of cognitive traits in the populations of males and females based on biological sex." (I use the word cognitive here to mainly refer to emotional differences though of course it can have other meanings. I apologize for using such broad language here but I felt that it was suited to this context)

Note that this statement is one of pure fact. Either there are differences in the populations at large, or there aren't. Of course, it's a fact that will be incredibly difficult to discern, but at some point in the future, we could conceivably answer this question. Are you comfortable with this statement being disproven? Are you comfortable with it being proven? If you answered no to either of those questions, than you have an ideology that will be difficult to update with facts.

Please note that these questions are all rhetorical. I'm not trying to attack you personally and I appreciate the time you've taken to respond to my post. I'm not an asshole, I just write like one.


I appreciate your response too, and I'm not impugning your motives, nor judging you. I have no doubt you believe your motives to be good and in the interest of fairness and equality. Many men who are siding with Damore believe that. What I do think is that you're not fully prepared for this discussion and not aware of the history and causes of discrimination and systematic bias. Do you know about the book "The Bell Curve" and the controversy it caused in the 90's? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bell_Curve Don't skip the "criticisms" section.

> I think we all agree that judging the capabilities of an individual based on their biological sex is bullshit.

You're further demonstrating a misreading of Damore's letter. Yes I do agree, judging engineers according to biological sex is bullshit. If you agree with that, then you didn't understand what Damore said. The memo says explicitly "the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership.

I think you actually don't agree with Damore, and you just don't know it yet.

Talking about how he hedged with a "may" and didn't state it as fact is a huge cop-out. He stated as fact that abilities are different (for which there's no evidence.) What he proposed is that the imbalance in current distribution might be caused by a proportional imbalance of ability (for which there exists mountains of contrary evidence). The entire point behind his statement is to establish that biological sex could be responsible for the distribution imbalance, and it's possible there's no sexism or discrimination against women going on, and thus nothing to fix. This is FUD. It doesn't matter whether he's claiming it's a fact, what he's doing is casting doubt.

The problem with denying that discrimination exists and asserting there are other causes is obvious: it's hypocritical, it's a way of discriminating.

> The most dangerous word in your statement is "innately".

I am using 'innate' as synonymous with biological, meaning hard-wired and unchangeable, a trait that comes with the package. Let me re-phrase, Damore suggested that woman as a group are biologically less capable technologists than men. This is the same sense that other people in this thread used 'innate'. It may help you to lookup the definition, e.g. "adj. Possessed at birth; inborn. adj. Possessed as an essential characteristic; inherent."

> If I remove it [innately] from your statement, than it becomes incontrovertibly true. Women as a group are less capable technologist, by simple nature of the fact that there are fewer of them.

I know you don't mean to sound as bad as you do, but that sounds really, really bad. The capability of any individual has nothing to do with how many others there are. In this specific case, it's quite possible that the few women in tech are more capable than the average man. Damore was not suggesting that women are less capable as a group because there are fewer of them, he suggested that it's possible that women can't do tech as well as men because they're women.

> I think you should ask yourself how comfortable you are with the following statement: "There are differences in the distribution of cognitive traits in the populations of males and females based on biological sex." (I use the word cognitive here to mainly refer to emotional differences though of course it can have other meanings. I apologize for using such broad language here but I felt that it was suited to this context)

You might also want to look up the word 'cognitive'. It doesn't mean what you think it does, and you just misused it pretty badly. Taken at face value, that statement would suggest to most people that the mean IQ of women is different than the mean IQ of men, which I already know you don't believe.


Thanks for your reply. I regret that hacker news is not a great format for engaging in these sorts of long running (and long winded!) discussion, but's it's what we've got and so I'd like to continue if it's alright with you.

I think there are a lot of small disagreements we may have about this issue, but there's a big elephant in the room that I would like to focus on. Namely, my statement that women as a group are less technical capable than men, and your reaction to that statement.

I want to focus here because it's the point where we disagree the most, and I think it offers the best opportunity to highlight the differences in our thinking and, most importantly, to highlight the different ways we each use language.

'I know you don't mean to sound as bad as you do, but that sounds really, really bad.'

First off, I agree with you. This statement could be taken in some very terrible ways which is why I chose to bury it deep in an obscure comment thread, surrounded by lots qualifying statements, while pleading with my audience that my comments be interpreted charitably. I understand that you want to interpret each statement within the context of human history but for the time being, I would ask that we try to engage in a conversation free of that context. From my point of view, we are hypothesizing, not proposing policy (I think one of the flaws of Damore's memo was that he did not cleanly separate hypothesizing from policy proposals, and so he was not able to cleanly discuss what evidence may or may not say). To me, trying to discuss the evidence for trait distribution in human populations while worrying about the sad history of human bigotry is like trying to write a recipe for spaghetti and interjecting a discussion on the weather and soil best required to raise tomatoes. Technically the subjects are related, but I think we can all appreciate how that could make the spaghetti recipe difficult to understand if we don't carefully partition out all the concerns at this stage.

Do you have any objections to the statement that "Men as a group (compared to women as a group) are less capable knitters by simple nature of the fact that there are fewer of them"?

From my personal experience, this statement seems incontrovertibly true. If I needed a group of highly skilled knitters to accomplish a large project, I have no doubt that the vast majority of the people I would end up recruiting would be women. Does this mean that men can't be good knitters? Absolutely not. Stephen West is a male knitter who travels the world drawing (small) audiences wherever he goes. There are knitting groups in Finland and Amsterdam that are mostly male, which love to get together, drink beer, and knit. Nevertheless, I am confident in my original statement that men as a group are less capable knitters. From my perspective, this is ultimately a matter of skill not talent. Skill by it's very definition requires time and practice, and generally people people don't spend time and practice on things they don't have an interest in.

Now let's assume that men as a group are biologically less interested in knitting (obviously I'm pretty deep into the hypothetical here), from the definition of innate we could say that men as a group are innately less interested in knitting. If men as a group are innately less interested in knitting, I would claim that men are less likely to acquire knitting skills. If men as a group are innately less likely to acquire knitting skills that I would comfortable saying that men as a group are innately less capable knitters. 'Capable' mean competent, and if you don't have skills, you're not competent.

With all that in mind, let's look at Damore's statement that "the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership".

One reading of this statement is as you have read it. Ability refers to talent, IQ, mathematical, and technical talent. Thus the reference to biology means that Damore believes women tend to have a lower IQ that that makes them unsuitable to be engineers except in exceptional cases.

However, there is another way to read the statement, and from my conversations with friends, my spouse, and reading of various articles and blogs, it is a very common reading. Let me paraphrase Damore: "The distribution of preferences and acquired skills of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership." Ability means "the means or skill to do something", thus I believe that this paraphrasing is fair.

I would argue that Damore intends the second interpretation of his statement. He never tries to cite evidence that claims women are stupid. All his citations revolve around the possible differences in the perceptions and interests of men and women. He then argues that differences in interests may result in a difference in acquired skills, which results in a large difference in the populations of men and women who are suitable to apply to Google.

P.S. I did want to address the definition of 'Cognitive'. Ripped straight from Google,'Cognitive' means 'the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses'. To me, innate preferences absolutely effect how someone acquires knowledge and how they reason about their experiences. Other definitions refer to perception and intuition, as well as IQ and working memory. I understand 'Cognitive' to be a grab bag word that can refer to any mental trait that effects the way you think. I asked my question to try and understand if you were comfortable with the idea that there are any statistically significant differences between the populations of men and women in how they tend to view, perceive, think about, or respond to their environment.


You define gender that way. I and many others use it the same way you do 'sex', distinguishing XX or XY vs 'sex' which is copulation. If you live in any western country you're already aware of how commonplace this is - please don't tell me what I meant to say, it's passive aggressive and rude.


> Politics, favorite foods, religion, dress sense and other ideas aren't innate.

Actually, food choice and political disposition are heritable. Look at this and the Minnesota Twins Experiment.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01DKUL32K


"Politics [isn't] innate."

That isn't at all clear. Jonathan Haidt has some very interesting research on those lines, showing evidence human moral sense may be genetically based. Our moral sense informs our politics. Having said that, innate does not mean unmalleable.


> By the way, in science and technology, conservatism is a minority ideology (he says so himself in his letter). How would he feel if we start saying that conservative people aren't apt for science and technology?

Nice find. As someone who doesn't identify as either liberal or conservative, if my ideology made me unsuited for tech, that should definitely be acknowledged. Pretending isn't helpful to anyone.

And I bet the author of the memo would agree with me in terms of his ideology (classical liberalism).


Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers being fired in 2006 showed that there could be no rational discussion of this topic. Sad to see it unchanged in 2017.

Doubly sad because if the anonymous survey linked in the post is true, 1/3 of Googlers agree with the memo. Only 1/3 "strongly disagree", and the people who wanted him fired should be a further fraction of that 1/3.

https://basicgestalt.wordpress.com/2017/08/06/press-f-for-ja...

EDIT: fixed link to alternative site.


I wish this Larry Summers martyr mythology would be revisited with scrutiny. Summers was already unpopular with the faculty for his changes to the core curriculum (it was argued that they reduced rigor in some tracks), endowment strategy, and a very strange scandal involving financial wrongdoing in Russia and a massive Harvard payout. He made his comments to a group including top female faculty during a time when they had made specific complaints concerning - among other things - severely family-unfriendly campus policies that disparately impact women. The faculty, many of whom were completely on board with the concept of sex differences in personality, saw his inartful "mama truck, daddy truck" comments as an attempted rebuttal. His comments - in this context - were pure toxoplasma, so of course they are what the media seized upon.


For example, one of the specific complaints of the faculty at the time was that the advertised perk of on-site daycare was an extremely small number of places in the basement of a trailer on land not owned by the University (and so possibly subject to return to Cambridge). The environment at the time was tense, and the faculty appear to have opportunistically seized on the brouhaha to weaken a disliked leader. Many female faculty publicly supported the topic of the comments themselves (as I recall, the most vocal were an economist in favor and a very famous biologist against - the biologist appeared to interpret to the comments as a direct comment on the ability of the Harvard faculty)


I mean, you linked to a white supremacist's blog to prove your point. Is that a good case for your argument?


OK, OK. I noticed that the parent link has the same image, so fixed.


Definitely not better man... There are nazi memes and misoginistic memes on the new link.


Have you read the parent article?

It is the same link that the parent article is using, at the 3rd to last paragraph with text "and a poll conducted at Google confirms" .


This poll only had about 400 self-selected participants. That doesn't make for reliable numbers at all.


> Doubly sad because if the anonymous survey linked in the post is true

There were multiple revisions of the document (yay online text editors where this is possible). I understand that the leaked/published version is of a somewhat later date.

That might explain both the amount of outrage compared to a text that many think is rather tame (the earlier version supposedly was more strongly worded), and it allows the interpretation that the survey mostly measured at which point in time the respondents (btw: who is represented in the sample?) read the text for their first, and probably last, time.


Does this online text editor support viewing older revisions and changesets? (I have never used Google Docs, which I assume is used within Google.) If this is the case, I'd like to see a copy of this rumored earlier version. The one I have read obviously had a response added to it, but if things have been cut without indication, that would change my opinion much more dramatically.


This is an excellent discussion.

I especially love this comment:

> I believe for example if it wasn’t for biases and unequal opportunities, then the higher ranks in science and politics would be dominated by women. Hence, aiming at a 50-50 representation gives men an unfair advantage. I challenge you to provide any evidence to the contrary.

Because arguably that's where gender differences highlighted in Damore's memo point :)

I'm reminded of Richard Morgan's Black Man aka 13. He argues that men basically don't play well in groups ;)


I'll take up that challenge with https://www.edge.org/response-detail/10670 which provides quantitative data indicating that male abilities vary more than female ones, and this fact is sufficient to explain why men should be overrepresented in CEO boardrooms and prisons.


Mother nature does seem to roll the dice more when it comes to men. People then look at the outliers to the right and scream sexism while completely ignoring all the outliers to the left. There are many more profoundly stupid men than women. Men are incarcerated at a higher rate. Men kill themselves at 3x the rate of women. Yet this is quietly accepted.


Women have a much higher level of attempted suicide, possibly 3x as often as men. [1] I once heard a theory that women don't die from suicide as often because they tend to use less violent means of suicide. For example, if you swallow a bottle of pills you could survive or change your mind a few minutes later and get your stomach pumped, but this rarely applies to shooting yourself in the head.

1. https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/


I suspect that many "suicide attempts" are more like emphatic communication ("See! I really care about this!") than intention to die.

When I've felt suicidal, it's always helped to imagine how one does it reliably. Then I've thought about how irreversible that would be. And then I've realized that I don't really want to die.


"While males are 4 times more likely than females to die by suicide, females attempt suicide 3 times as often as males."

So a suicide attempt by a man is 12x more likely to succeed than one by a woman.


That is sexist! Are you suggesting that women are less skilled than men ??!!??

(/s, obviously. Sorry I have to point it out.)


I get /s :) And maybe they're more skilled. In that they get the message across without actually dying.


This implies suicide and homicide are done primarily by stupid people by rhetoric?


Alternative reading: being stupid, getting incarcerated and committing suicide are all consequences of being an outlier at the negative end of the bell curve, where men are overrepresented due to higher variance of the respective trait.


Yes. Committing homicide is an irrational and maladaptive (i.e. stupid) thing to do in a peaceful 21st century society. Committing suicide is an irrational and maladaptive thing to do in almost all situations in history.


Maybe one has a temporary problem (depression) that pushes them to commit suicide. That doesn't mean they're stupid. Robin Williams was definitely not stupid, yet he commited suicide. Terry Pratchett was also diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and had contemplated the idea of assisted suicide in a country where this is legal (Switzerland).


Robin Williams had Lewy body dementia [0], which almost certainly contributed to his choice.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dementia_with_Lewy_bodies


I think this is related with the XY chromosome. Because you have the Y instead of the X you have a part where you don't have 2 genes to encode a feature. So there is not gen dominant and recessive. This leads a more variation when the Y is passed to the offspring. This is the example I read when I was reading about this: if the parents are X5X7 X6Y (where the number represents a feature that is not in the Y chromosome). The offspring could be X5Y X5X6 X7Y X7X6, but the feature is expressed as the average of the numbers: X5Y=5 X5X6=5,5 X7Y=7 X7X6=6,5. The women are more close to the average (6) than the men.

Why is the feature expressed as the average? If one gene is recessive and another dominant only one matters. So it could be expressed like this: X5Y=5 X5X6=5 X7Y=7 X7X6= 7 where there are no differences between genders.


funny, I have no idea if this is true, but this was the "common knowledge" among hunting/truffle dogs breeders when I was a kid.

Something like "if you want a good nosed dog get a female pup, if you get a male it might be a champion, or terrible". It would be fun if this was true, and also applied to people.


If it based on the genes because of the chromosome X and Y then I think there is no reason why it wouldn't apply to any specie with chromosomes X Y.


Birds have the opposite arrangement of sex chromosomes - in birds the sex chromosome is carried by the female. I guess if we were all ostriches it would be the females that would be the CEO's.


That might explain the situation if board/C-suite presence was due to performance, merit, or other individual characteristic rather than a couple of centuries worth of old boys' clubs.

How do you get on a board? By being known to people on the board. They know who you are, what your history is, how you think.


Well, some would argue that many CEOs ought to be in prison ;)


I'm actually curious because I would think that even at higher levels, assuming the majority of women are stable performers and a minority of men are top producers there should only be a slight bump in the male representation in areas where "female" skills are paramount like CEO boardrooms, with the few men being he outlier performances. It would be the reverse problem of why it's unreasonable to say "we should go for 50/50 when the population representation is 20/80".


How much of a bump there should be will depend on how elite a slice you are carving. If you're carving a large slightly above average slice, then the mean matters more. If you're slicing off a thin slice from the very top, then variation matters more.

An example of a large slice is recent college graduates. Women in fact dominate this slice. But CEOs are presumably a thin slice of very capable people. So it would be no surprise for their ranks to be dominated by men.


Feel free to work towards changing "bias" towards the distribution you think is more proper and see if it indeed proves the point of "the higher ranks in science and politics would be dominated by women". You'll need a concrete way to measure and quantify "bias". No, workforce representation is not a measure of "bias". That is the unproven hypothesis and using it is merely circular reasoning.

Meanwhile, consider that "diversity" programs are institutionalized discrimination.


Institutional discrimination programs aimed at countering the effects of institutionalized discrimination.


* institutionalized discrimination: Policies that explicitly favor one group over another based on phenotype differences. For example, Jim Crow laws or "diversity" hiring policies.

* "institutionalized discrimination": The hypothesis that society is skewed by the vast conspiracy of "bias". For example, for the past 10 years, computer science graduation rates skew under 20% / 80% for female / male graduates [0]. Presumably females are kept down by "bias".

[0] http://www.randalolson.com/2014/06/14/percentage-of-bachelor.... Does anyone have more recent data than 2012? I've remember skimming a link recently...


We're talking "institutionalized discrimination" in the sense of the past few millennia.


This seems overly broad. many societies aren't even a millennia old and derive from events that would indicate some quantity of disdain for their previous governors. Unless the argument is that people, regardless of culture, are behaviorally the same then there isn't much to gain by simply going by such a large time frame.


OK, what societies have been fundamentally gender neutral?


I'm not seeing the relevance of your rhetorical question here. My point was that it's weird to measure institutional discrimination over millennia since most institutions that matter in the modern era aren't that old. So you're either mashing multiple institutions together and ignoring their cultural differences or the premise needs to be refined more.


Well, "institutional" isn't limited to a particular institution. Here, it's extremely pervasive, reflected in virtually all institutions of virtually all known cultures, going back millennia. Based on archeological evidence, it's possible that gender roles and constraints were weaker maybe 20-30 kyr ago.


But that definition isn't particularly helpful unless I'm missing something you're getting at. Sure, a lot of ancient societies had men as hunters and women/meak as gatherers. None of the major world powers are hunter/gatherer societies though. And similar statements could be made about medieval homestead configurations. This is why I was pointing out that most modern institutions aren't a millennia old. Sure, thousands of years ago there were sexist policies, just like there are today. But if those policies were based on ideologies and environments that don't exist anymore then it doesn't seem like that's a particularly useful acknowledgement for correcting inequality as it exists today.


Cultures come and go, but sexism seems to stay the same. It could be biological. I suspect that it's mainly a game theoretical implication of the biology of human sexual reproduction. It's all about whether men want to know which kids are theirs, or not. And if they do, what systems get set up to make that possible. So there are two attractors aka stable states. One is what's typical historically: Men dominate women, manage access of other men to them, and so on. The other is where men don't care about knowing paternity. So women don't need to be controlled so much. Maybe some form of polyandry. Or maybe just less emphasis on family vs larger social group.


But those cultures come and go alongside there systems. And those systems that come and go each had unique points of equality and inequality. Just because modern American/European society produces sexist outcomes doesn't mean that the legal systems which govern those societies are fundamentally sexist in the way that ancient Rome could be considered sexist for example. I realize there's a certain amount of pedantry in my rebuttal but, at the same time, your argument reads to me like you feel as though equality hasn't progressed at all since in ancient times. Of course it hasn't progressed at all since ancient times if you're using such a broad, bordering on boolean, definition of sexist.


Here is a chart of the gender balance of over a hundred different professions. Few of them are near a 50/50 balance. Could you tell me which ones are suffering from institutionalized discrimination?

https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/03/06/chart-the-perce...


I have no idea what the cultures of other fields are like. I work in technology, so I can only speak for that.


>I believe for example if it wasn’t for biases and unequal opportunities, then the higher ranks in science and politics would be dominated by women. Hence, aiming at a 50-50 representation gives men an unfair advantage.

This makes zero sense considering the reality that women are underrepresented. "Aiming at 50-50 representation" could at best lift the disadvantaged group closer to 50% representation. It could in no way cause an underrepresented group to dominate a field.


What if, hypothetically (I wouldn't want to get fired), the most qualified split was 55% male - 45% female. Wouldn't aiming for 50-50 be discriminatory towards males?

Since we have no way of knowing what the actual qualified split is, aiming at anything is discriminatory towards everyone.


She means that aiming to 50-50 doesn't represent the skills set. As women are more skilled for that job they should have more representation (based on the biological theory). If it is a 50-50 you are promoting men in the positions when you shouldn't. (the disadvantaged group here are the men)


You're missing my point. If women would naturally have more representation and were disadvantaged by this policy, and the policy was 100% effective (unheard of), their representation would drop from >50% to 50% - it wouldn't somehow switch to women being significantly underrepresented. This assertion doesn't make sense based on the actual situation we have today.


I don't know if I understand you. We have the situation we have today because "biases and unequal opportunities".


I think the person you're responding to is assuming that we are already at a decently fair equilibrium, and that diversity and other concepts and goals are disrupting that equilibrium. I think the biggest failure of communication around these issues is that a lot of people arguing against these programs are coming at it from the just world hypothesis.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis


> I believe for example if it wasn’t for biases and unequal opportunities, then the higher ranks in science and politics would be dominated by women. Hence, aiming at a 50-50 representation gives men an unfair advantage. I challenge you to provide any evidence to the contrary.

The burden of proof is on him. You can't make a claim and then ask the other party to provide evidence against it.


> I'm reminded of Richard Morgan's Black Man aka 13. He argues that men basically don't play well in groups ;)

Damore would be a perfect example of that. There is a time and a place for your beliefs, but the workplace isn't that. ;)


Right. His 13s are basically super males. Engineered for combat. But too much blowback. Not all black, however.


Not even when the employer has asked?

I understand this was written in response to a request from someone else, probably HR.


The only time I was ever asked about politics by a potential employer I noped out of that situation.

Workplace = Professional, Personal Shit Stays Home.

Rest of Life = Do whatever the fuck you want as long as its legal and you don't mention your day job.

I'm not sure why this separation isn't standard practice for everyone.


It was, then the social justice movement decided that companies should be political and that they should take an active role in promoting their political positions. Some on the other side did as well (what sort of cakes they had to make). This is the obvious and predictable blowback that has come from companies becoming political.


> It was, then the social justice movement decided that companies should be political and that they should take an active role in promoting their political positions. Some on the other side did as well (what sort of cakes they had to make). This is the obvious and predictable blowback that has come from companies becoming political.

It isn't just the SJWs. Conservatives have called for being fired for offending them ever since talk radio was a thing. We got bought by a company HQ'd in the bible belt and the opposite chilling effect was pretty obvious as people who spoke their mind about a few issues that were politically sensitive got fired.

We are just more polarized now and people are less tolerant of any kind of difference.


Fair enough,I live in a pretty secular country so I haven't witnessed that personally, only the SJWs.


That's my practice, for sure. Enforced through compartmentalization and online anonymity.


Yup. Its not perfect tho, I'm sure I have enough cracks in my setup that people can find out if they really try but its enough people should understand its not related to my job and leave it alone I'd hope.


Yeah, that was my initial driver for getting into privacy/anonymity stuff decades ago. But then it became a hobby, and then a side career. That's been a typical pattern for me. And for many others here, I'm sure.


With 13s, it would have been much more dramatic :)


> That leaked internal memo from James Damore at Google? The one that says one shouldn’t expect employees in all professions to reflect the demographics of the whole population?

I don't see how this is an unreasonable argument to make. There is a dearth of male kindergarten teachers, for instance. This doesn't mean the school is being "sexist". It might just mean that certain genders tend to be attracted to certain types of professions.


> I don't see how this is an unreasonable argument to make. There is a dearth of male kindergarten teachers, for instance. This doesn't mean the school is being "sexist". It might just mean that certain genders tend to be attracted to certain types of professions.

If that's all the manifesto said, this wouldn't be a story. I am a minority in tech and I certainly didn't see a lot of people like me in my Computer Science program so naturally there is under-representation in the work force, it happens.

But when you start wading into the, 'Women are biologically less well-suited for this work...' is where you get into problems. No different than arguments that used to be made against black people before de-segregation.


> But when you start wading into the, 'Women are biologically less well-suited for this work...' is where you get into problems.

But women ARE biologically less suited for certain types of work. Women, for instance, are weaker than men (yes, there are exceptions. . .). Which would make them less efficient for, say, construction work.

From what I understand, the guy used scientifically valid sources to make his claim. I'm not saying that what he's saying is true, but it's sourced well enough for it should be discussed without him getting fired.


Was he making a statement or trying to find an answer?


I don't know how much he was trying to find an answer but he does leave a good amount of qualifiers in there like, 'this may be the cause' or 'this could explain'. I could be wrong, but it seems like he was trying to put forth a argument in good faith that was not divisive, yet he got into dodgy territory with how he constructed and executed his argument.


Or it might mean that certain genders tend to be dissuaded from pursuing certain career paths.


It might, but it does not - that's kind of the whole point, the gender differences appear even in societies/areas where there's opposite social pressure. Preferences matter, preferences differ between gender, and even in a hypothetical ideal world with perfectly equal opportunity and noone being dissuaded from pursuing certain career paths the gender distribution of quite a few professions would be far from 50/50 due to the preferences.

For an example more detailed/sourced argument, http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exagger... might be a start.


[flagged]


It's an abuse of HN to use it primarily for political or ideological battle. Since this account has been doing this, and also has broken the HN guidelines by being uncivil, we've banned it.


>There are some barriers, implicit and explicit, that are perfectly appropriate. Some of them serve a higher purpose, like reinforcing gender archetypes and standards of behavior that are productive in the long run in their own ways.

This argument is interesting -- you're not saying discrimination doesn't exist, just that it's... good?


What would be appropriate about a barrier that discourages men from becoming teachers, or discourages women from STEM fields?

Where is the productivity gain in pushing a young girl away from STEM?

If exceptional people really have something to offer in areas where they are shunned for other reasons...

Many exceptional people won't even discover their talent if they are actively dissuaded from pursuing the education and career they have the aptitude for, all in the name of "reinforcing gender archetypes".

Tearing down the entire social structure

Tearing down a social structure that's weighted against certain genders in certain career paths sounds exactly like the right solution. Let people choose their path on their own desires and aptitude, don't choose it for them based on some historical standards of behavior.


No, it definitely means there are fields that are biased against men. These include any field in which nurturing and compassion are considered vital traits.


Since when are men inherently not nurturing or compassionate?


Playing the devil's advocate...it could mean the school is being "sexist"


It does indicate that there is some mechanism that affects different genders differently, but that alone is not enough to assume sexism, you need additional evidence to single out that explanation.

I think the gender differences are driven by a combination of genetics, stereotypes, personal preferences, and yes, sexism, acting in a feedback loop. Genetics cause a slight natural difference; this gets summarized as a stereotype; people comparing themselves with the stereotype develop their preferences based on that; and if they don't conform, they are seen as abnormal (e.g. male kindergarten teachers get suspected of pedophilia) and are correspondingly discriminated against.


In the latter parts of that paragraph, the author agrees with you.


Or look at the NBA, coal miners, oil rig workers, chess teams, math clubs, computer gaming tournaments, etc.

There are gender disparities all over the place. There are racial disparities all over the place.

As long as these disparities aren't enforced intentionally by sexist/racist laws, I fail to see what the problem is.

If truly there is discrimination against talented women in the tech industry, then another company would hire all of these underpaid talented women and take over the tech industry.

Why did Larry Page, Jerry Yang, Bill Gate, Zuckerburg, etc all hire mostly males in their startups? Because they wanted to overpay underqualified males because they were sexist against women?

The argument doesn't make sense. If they did that, then another startup would have taken those underpaid overqualified women and destroyed their competitors.


Indeed, to focus on certain industries to force "diversity" and to ignore the many, many others that you mentioned that are even less diverse seems wildly hypocritical to me. Why are certain industries cherry picked to be obsessed over and others ignored? If they're going to demand equal representation of skin color and gender across professions, they should be consistent about it.


I like the discussion. I think the point about software being significantly "people centric" is a bit off base and betrays the authors lack of experience in the field. Working with people is certainly part of the job and in some roles maybe a large portion of the work. Being a good communicator is an important part of being a good developer, but it doesn't make you a good developer. Being a talented and experienced programmer is the foundation on which the rest is built.


Being a talented and experienced programmer may be the foundation, but the ability to communicate complex ideas in accessible ways, to read the room and respond to non-verbal cues, to put aside ego, to collaborate and coordinate, to sense frustration or unhappiness in your team, without those, you don't get past the first few stories of a skyscraper.

The longer I'm in the field, the more I work with different teams, the more I realize that writing code is a much easier skill for people who don't know to learn than reading people is for those who can't seem to.


Most of the skills that you listed only start to really matter if you try to move into a management position.

No company or project wants rank and file programmers (which is the vast majority of any project) who think there also managers and act as such. Even if you have those skill your job is to focus on your tasks and solve your very specific problems, not the big picture and what everyone else is doing.


I emphatically disagree. All of those skills are necessary to be a strong team member, and thinking that only management requires them is to move into territory where programming as a trade is in need of micro-management and social babysitting by a managerial class.

I've been in plenty of teams that were extremely flat exactly because the programmers in those teams were all highly skilled in those areas.


I have just joined the workforce after uni, and it has never been more clear to me that what you're saying about communication and "people skills" is correct. Almost all of the issues that the company that I work for have are based on lack of communication skills, lack of empathy, too much ego etc.

It reminds me of what a coed wrote to me once about the difference between a good developer, and two ok ones.

"2 < 1+1"

Basically, even if you're higher ranked intellectually speaking and do more work than the average worker alone, two people that can perform adequately and that work together will outperform you.

Cooperation is key, and people need to be trained to do better handle that part of the job. Not just produce code.

</end-rant>


This claim is entirely unsubstantiated. In fact it is pretty much the opposite of the theses in Fred Brooks' "Mythical man month".

I'm not saying Brooks is 100% correct, but his observations are close to what I am seeing in the field.


I wouldn't consider my claim any more unsubstantiated than other observations made by a developer, for instance you. I haven't read the book that you refer to, but it seems like Brooks's law (which according to Wikipedia is the central theme of the book) is talking about already late projects. For those, or any already ongoing project, I agree that adding more people will require ramp up time, but I am not talking about late projects alone. I think that for development in general, using something like pair programming instead of the lone, rock star developer, will lead to better code in the end (https://collaboration.csc.ncsu.edu/laurie/Papers/XPSardinia....).

Further, his second point about communication issues is to some extent proving my, and michaelchisari's point. Communication is a skill that is essential, but not stressed enough. If people were better at "communicate complex ideas in accessible ways", as michaelchisari originally put it, then I think it's likely that Brooks' wouldn't have the second argument to support his law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brooks%27s_law).

Essentially, I think it comes down to where we work, what we assume about a project, and how the issues in these projects are best tackled.

At my work, better communication would have lead to less work in the long run. This because team leads couldn't clearly state their requirements, the different parties thought they agreed, and work was made that wasn't originally intended by team leads. Moreover, no one that holds a senior position is willing to acknowledge that these communication issues often are two way streets and that they are equally responsible for the miscommunications that happen. They also talk badly about others and have a serious case of hubris, which means that other peoples opinions are looked down upon or sometimes not even listened to. Basically lacking a lot of the skills that michaelchisari originally listed.

I hope that this clears out any "unsubstantiated" parts of my original rant for you.


Your observations are correct, and the more you can nurture those skills in yourself and others right alongside the ability to optimize algorithms and learn new frameworks, the faster you will leave the programmers who don't think these "soft" skills are useful very quickly behind.


Its a question of degree. Yes you have to have 'some' people skills to be a programmer in a team but its a small amount of skill. In a group of people that probably has more in common with you than any other group you have to interact with in life.

But its much less people skills then a manager, in meetings most of the day resolving issues that are much higher level that involve different departments etc.

So your average programming job is well within the social skills of the vast majority of Men. When your evaluating a pool of potential hires its going to be 95% finding the best programmer and then the last 5% is making sure there not crazy or a drug addict etc.

Its never going to be the case that you start out with a pool of resumes from people with really nice personal bios and try and find out which ones can program a computer.


>Being a talented and experienced programmer is the foundation on which the rest is built.

I think that is sometimes true, sometimes not. Certainly there are mediocre developers thriving because they are good communicators. I see this often in niche spaces like "POS software for Pet Stores". They thrive because they can communicate well with the customers and create something that does what the customer wants. Even if the internals are a horrid spaghetti mess that's inefficient, took longer to write than it should have, is hard to maintain, etc.


That's a nice theory, but I fail to see any evidence of it. I see lots of people cap out at senior engineer, cause that's how far you can get without having strong technical skills. Staff engineers, tech leads, and managers all get there because they're good communicators, and tbh, in those roles, their engineering skills are secondary.


I see lots of people cap out at senior engineer

What's wrong with that? The majority of software engineers are senior engineer or below, any skill you only need to make it past that level clearly can't be considered core to the job.


If middling engineers end up in senior development positions I wonder where all the top performers go... certainly not 100% into management.


Surely you meant strong people skills?


Being a talented and experienced developer means interacting with people, though. Knowing how to program is half the battle; knowing why is the other half, and that's hard to do if you don't understand the perspectives of your users/customers/coworkers/etc.


Knowing how to program is most of the battle. Being a good communicator helps. If your predominant skill was dealing with people you would be working as a BA, PM, or other similar role. Most businesses aren't stupid enough to pay a developer salary to somebody not actually doing development.


Developing is communicating, especially at a large company like Google. Anytime you're building a new feature, you have to reach out to stakeholders, write docs, and build consensus. I've been working as an engineer for years, and I've progressively spent less time coding and more time consensus building. The staff engineers I know spend even more of their time doing that, not to mention mentoring other teams, reviewing technical designs, etc.


The confusion comes in the lack of distinction between software programming and software design in these discussions. The former values mathematical thinking, the latter values understanding how much the user will fuck things up for everyone.


"one also doesn’t solve a problem by yelling “harassment” each time someone asks to discuss whether a diversity effort is indeed effective."

Google simply didn't, and neither did Google employees. The letter from CEO Sundar Pichai makes this clear:

"many points raised in the memo—such as the portions criticizing Google’s trainings, questioning the role of ideology in the workplace, and debating whether programs for women and underserved groups are sufficiently open to all—are important topics. The author had a right to express their views on those topics"

I don't understand why there is so much discussion around whether or not what the fired employee said was scientifically true or not.

"Blacks on average are more [insert negative here]"

"Jews on average are more [insert negative here]"

"Men on average are more [insert negative here]"

How would I get away with any of the above statements in widely published memo at any big company, regardless of basis in fact?

It's a PR disaster that costs the company money to manage, and it also violates Google's code of conduct by having made a significant portion of employees feel harassed or intimidated.

Here is an excerpt from the Google employee code of conduct which expects:

"each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination."

The fired employee didn't do that, and that's why he was fired.

I suspect the reason so many people have trouble with the firing, and the responsibility stated in employee CoC is that it puts a lot of power in other people's hands. You can no longer sit behind your screen and insist that it's a scientific fact and therefor you are right. Respecting the CoC requires empathy, people skills, listening, perhaps sometimes even submissiveness - all things that "technical people on average are bad at."


> "I suspect the reason so many people have trouble with the firing, and the responsibility stated in employee CoC is that it puts a lot of power in other people's hands."

I disagree. I think people are upset, at least conservatives within Google, because they see this "against the CoC" idea selectively applied. I can tell you first hand that there were a lot of things said by those on the left, especially after the election, about conservatives that many felt violated the CoC, the issue is just that its a minority at Google that are conservative. I mean, after the election at the TGIF, a member of management basically told everyone to stand up and hug the person next to you and "it's going to be alright." If this isn't alienating, lacking in empathy, and downright rude toward the conservative Googlers, I don't know what is...


I'm sure it's a little of both of what we said, and other reasons as well.

One has to ask: did the conservative Googlers who felt intimidated or harassed by the hug session report that to HR or management?

If the the CoC is selectively applied then people have to prove it, not just have a hunch about it and moan about it. They need do what every minority group in the past has done: collect stats, show the evidence, and take action.

If this is in fact happening, then I wish them luck, even if I disagree with some of their politics.


People are making way too big a deal of genetic predisposition. Yes, there are genetic predispositions, like how musical talent may run through some families, but what matters way more is how we are brought up, and how we choose to act. If someone is a musical virtuoso, they became that way not because of the talent they were born with, but because of the encouragement of their parents and environment and long hours of practice they chose to put in.

Young minds are impressionable, and if you tell a young person they're probably less capable of something, they probably will be. Even as the stereotypical nerdy white male programmer I can see how people look differently at a young girl who is interested in computers. It is considered odd, if not improper. Boys never have to contend with this bias (although they have similar yet opposite biases in different fields, like child care). Inevitably this societal pressure will cause fewer girls to go into programming, and in turn fewer women to end up at google. That's not a consequence of some genetic predisposition, it is a consequence of being brought up in a world where not everyone is treated equally.

How do you flip that around? You stop thinking in terms of averages and you start thinking in terms of individual opportunity. We treat every child as deserving of the same chances as any other child, and we stop trying to steer them into directions based on their birth. That requires a modal shift in thinking where gender is just not a factor anymore, for any profession or any talent.

The diversity memo's failing is not the statistics it cites, it is that it furthers the notion that diversity is a set of statistics to control for. True diversity is about ignoring statistics and instead giving every single person the same chances, regardless of where they came from. I want my daughter to have the same chance of becoming a programmer as my son, and my son to have the same chance of becoming a kindergarten teacher as my daughter, and for no one to tell them either choice is odd or improper.


"The diversity memo's failing is not the statistics it cites, it is that it furthers the notion that diversity is a set of statistics to control for. True diversity is about ignoring statistics and instead giving every single person the same chances, regardless of where they came from."

Your point is the memo failed because it makes exactly your point - that people should be treated like individuals rather than their group's statistical means.

I'm curious if you've even read it.


I didn't read it that way. To me it was strongly making the case for statistical differences between women and men that matter, which is what I disagree with. I guess everyone reads into that memo what they want.


I don't understand how you could read it that way. In the memo's suggestions sections he clearly states that people should be treated as individuals. Is there some other way to read that section? Bold is my own.

> I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).


No he CLAIMED he wanted to treat people like individuals, but that's literally, completely negated by the rest of his memo. He cites statistics with some sources that aren't even reputable and others than haven't been touched in a quarter of a century, and when there is credible science he attempts to create detached conclusions that implied that these certain psychological traits across various populations were somehow applicable to the professions those populations are in -- with absolutely NO substantive data on the subject. He literally just winged it and went "Obviously these traits, that are barely statistically significant across the general population, SURELY negatively affects being an engineer or a manager. Just believe it. Moving on here are my totally worthless solutions at solving my totally made up, detached conclusions."

And people are trying to treat it as scientific, and some still want to pretend he wasn't shoe horning a political point in while masking it with feel good language. Despite the fact that he uses all of his data to separate populations by sex and treat them differently. My mind is being blown this morning.


Yeah, there's no evidence for gender preferences at all, except for the tons of evidence for gender preferences. This evidence is certainly up for debate, but don't go preaching on your high horse about how it is settled and no one has ever studied this, and how dare he even make an argument.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/rabble-rouser/201707/wh...


Err, where did I say there's no evidence for gender preferences? Where did I say it's settled? Why are you characterizing my statement as "preaching on a high horse" simply because I recognize that forming conclusions based on disparate sets of data (some of which is continually contradicted) is not a rational thing to do?

>This evidence is certainly up for debate

Well thankfully you had the cognition to see that.

I'm advocating for discussion, but pretending that you can start setting up solutions based on the data we have around how psychological traits affect professional outcomes, attempting to shoe horn those "solutions" into a political framework that treats everyone else that rationally disagrees with it as being in an "echo chamber", especially when you are essentially characterizing an entire population of professionals, is pretty foolish and toxic.

Did you even read the article you linked? How is that even remotely relevant to anything I said or what the memo's goal was?


> if you tell a young person they're probably less capable of something, they probably will be.

Purely anecdotal, but when I was told I would get a low mark in my undergrad degree, it made me work harder to prove them wrong.


Quite refreshing to hear a European voice in this debate (not suggesting that she represents all Europeans -- but it definitely strikes a chord with me).

She's wrong about one thing though:

Damore was fired, basically, for making a well-meant, if amateurish, attempt at institutional design, ... , he was fired, in short, for thinking on his own.

No, he was fired because Google is already neck-deep into being investigated by the DoL for gender pay discrimination [1] and they have a class action lawsuit coming up about the same issue [2]. He was fired for the same reason that they recently hired a chief diversity officer [3].

Believe me, at that point they would do almost anything to avoid those cases turning south (and what that would mean for the corporate public image), and giving voice to someone who has even the slightest doubt about diversity in the workplace is a big fat political No-Go.

James Damore made the mistake of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, that's all.

[1]https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/apr/07/google-pa...

[2]https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/aug/08/google-wo...

[3]https://techcrunch.com/2017/06/29/google-hires-intels-former...


I am sorry if I come across as a liberal who gets offended, but I completely support the decision of Google to fire him. In fact, I think that Google had no other choice than to fire him, and that's mostly because the engineer shot himself in the foot.

Memos are not meant to express debatable personal arguments, memos are meant to express a company position. By widely spreading a personal view, the author impersonated the company in a way that the company does not endorse. As a culture manager, you just cannot let this kind of things happen.

Regarding the content of the "manifesto", the author should have known better. Even if it was genuinely true that women's biology explains the gender gap in technology, it is not provable - as in, there is simply no way to quantify the effect, if any. And using unprovable causes to justify a societal bias is not acceptable. The problem is that you can use unprovable statements to justify anything.

The debate regarding whether it is good or not to intervene at company level to try and change an industry culture is a perfectly healthy debate. Widely sharing one's view which uses unprovable arguments and that will offense some people is simply a dumb thing to do.


> The problem is that you can use unprovable statements to justify anything.

This is exactly why we can't shut down conversations the way Google did. Saying line employees are unqualified but Google executives are qualified to judge truth is very stifling to rational thinking and, yes, diversity that actually means something.

But nobody really believe that Google leadership is the best arbiter of diversity. Otherwise, everyone would be telling those class action discrimination lawsuits to pack up and go home.

So what do you think? Does Google leadership have a monopoly on public thought? Do the employees release all expectations of fair treatment when they sign an employment agreements?


Do we want the Google execs to sit there and make line-by-line technical decisions? Would you want the head of HR to tell this guy what kind of sort algorithm he should be using, or get into arguments about Go's lack of generics? Or do we expect them to defer to the smart engineers they hire?

This guy is probably a very smart software writing dude, but why would that make us want to listen to what he has to say on any other subject, whether it's biology, evolutionary psychology, running a business, or hiring practices?


Should employees be allowed to raise concerns about practices that appear to waste resources or lower morale? (I'm thinking of things like compulsory diversity / bias training)


As I understand the situation, it was an internal memo to try and open up a debate within the organisation. It was never intended to impersonate the company or be externally distributed.

It contained nothing extreme or explicitly hateful.And even if his arguments are flawed, they should have been discussed and countered.


If it's forbidden to even propose a possible explanation, how can anyone ever seriously discuss the question of why engineering isn't 50/50 male/female?

But then, I suppose that's the point. No competition for the equally unprovable, unquantifiable theory that's currently dominant.