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‘I Don’t Really Want to Work for Facebook.’ Say Some Computer Science Students (nytimes.com)
630 points by JumpCrisscross 4 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 533 comments



> Ms. Brown said a lot of students criticize Facebook and talk about how they would not work there, but ultimately join. “Everyone cares about ethics in tech before they get a contract,” she said.

This describes my what I've observed perfectly. There are very few companies that make new grad offers comparable to Facebook's, and career advancement opportunities and working conditions at Facebook tend to be better than the other 'Big-n companies'. So it's hard for a new grad to say no to a Facebook offer, even if they're morally opposed to its products.


I loved this quote:

> “Employees are wising up to the fact that you can have a mission statement on your website, but when you’re looking at how the company creates new products or makes decisions, the correlation between the two is not so tightly aligned,” said David Chie, the head of Palo Alto Staffing, a tech job placement service in Silicon Valley. “Everyone’s having this conversation.”

I call these anodyne mission statements, false mission. Mission that feels good, but that doesn't have teeth in incentives — or selectively ignores inconvenient facts.

Beware False Mission

https://www.nemil.com/snippets/beware-false-mission.html


My assumption with mission statements was that they were always bullshit made up by a marketing team or some exec and I wouldn't expect them to have much relation to reality. Was I in the minority?


Ironically I think Facebook is one example that (at least in the early days) had values that actually had teeth.

"Move fast and break things" isn't just a feel-good truism like most values that companies come up with are. It's something that at least some people are going to disagree with, and it's something that can actually be instructive when making a decision at that company.

I don't personally agree with it, but I respect that at least in the past Facebook was willing to take a stance on how they developed products that wasn't some saccharine feel-good BS that values usually are.


"Break things" like democracy, I guess.


It might actually be that things like election interference came up so quickly that their problem was not moving fast enough to stop it before it was a problem. If their motto was "observe the problem for a year and have at least thirty-three planning meetings before making a decision", would they have addressed the problem better? Probably not. The problem was that they didn't move fast enough and break enough things.


Move fast and say oops, we'll try to do better.


Move fast and hurt people


That was their motto, but didn't they also have a mission statement that was about connecting people?


That was just TED talk style marketing fluff.


So every company mission statement ever?


"Move fast and break things" sounds more like humanity's approach to global warming than a wise and sustainable business approach.


That's the point of the parent : at least the motto has a point and mean something that you can debate, a nice change from marketing meaningless bullshit like "Imagination at work" (GE) or "Energy lives here" (Exxon)


That's more of an operating mode than a purpose.


It unofficially changed a couple years ago to: "Move fast and break things. And fix your shit."

(source: my brother, who worked there for a few years following acquisition)


Think of them as the "objective" section on a resume, something you really only tend to have early on in your career... as you get more experienced, you dont have an "objective" section any longer - and you realize that the only true objective-statement on a resume is "to get a paying job"...


Tech is generally worse. Mostly because there's no check on hyperbole.

Most businesses have an official mission statement to the effect of: "Help people do {x} at a competitive price."

Only a 23 year old CEO says things like "Changing the world by connecting people."


Amusingly enough, I’d argue Zuckerberg nailed that mission.


We grew up wondering how we'd change the world but never stopped and thought about whether or not what we had in mind was all that good of an idea...


There's a Jurassic Park quote in here somewhere...


"Hold onto your butts"


"Clever girl"


That's a cynical position, and tends to be correct!

A real one does have a _huge_ effect on the culture of the organisation, above and beyond what is achievable otherwise. I've seen one be transformative at a former workplace. I hope you have the opportunity as part of your career.

That outlier quality is why they are seen as important, even if they get cargo-culted in most instances.

Maybe it's the flip side of the hustle mentality that the mission statement is used to manipulate rather than a genuine expression of shared values and goals?


>My assumption with mission statements was that they were always bullshit made up by a marketing team or some exec

In my experience they are concocted by a dozen people from across the company sitting in a room all day filling white boards with feel good, businessy words that only vaguely relate to their employer.

Agreement on the mission statement has to be unanimous within this group as well as being signed off on by several execs who will not be present during its drafting. The requirement for consensus ensures that only something incredibly tepid can get over the line.


Amazon has "Leadership Principles". Lots of them. And they (we? I work there) do seem to take them seriously.

Hiring? Every interviewer is trying to gain insight into one or two of those specific leadership principles. Promotions? Better have demonstrated them and have documentation to prove it.

It's not perfect, but the company tries really hard to make them not be bullshit.


Not at all, but it's important to know that they're not universally bullshit. The last two companies I've worked for (both <1k people) have genuinely valued their mission statements, and finally incentivise results that exemplify it.


I work in Google and the mission statement seems to be followed.


Show the ads to the most users with the highest bid price ?

What is Google's mission nowadays? I don't see them following a lot of "Organize the world's information and make it open". There's a ton of closed walls, they even acquired companies like freebase and then their stuff went behind closed doors.


If I remember right from when I worked there (years ago), the wording is "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." I can definitely see interpretations of that which require direct and open access to the raw data and others which just require universal and useful access to an assistive/suggestive product or service that leverages the data.

To be clear, I prefer the first interpretation, but I realize open data geeks (and those who would use the raw data if granted access) are far fewer than ML geeks (and those who enjoy the automagic suggestions) and the gap is only widening.


If I’m interpreting you correctly, both those approaches involve Google housing (owning?) the data.

In the early days of Google, I assumed that to organize and make accessible meant to index and link to information presented by others - and not to ‘own’ the data.

It saddens me that that interpretation is no longer correct - and perhaps never was?


I wouldn't know what the early interpretation was - I was there in 2006 as an intern plus 2011-2015 as a full-timer.

But the wording is certainly neutral on who houses and owns the data.

I'm guessing that you're right as to the early interpretation, since that's what makes sense for web search.

But other interpretations are the logical thing to think of first for some of their more recent ML-powered assist/suggest products, and the wording of the mission statement leaves product managers and architects/designers free to apply whatever interpretation makes natural sense in context.


I'm a very big user of Google Books. They've digitized a large chunk of the world's libraries and made them freely available. Despite the thousand and one ways in which they have betrayed their original principles, I am personally very grateful for this one offering of theirs.


Don't be evil...

...except when helping the Chinese government oppress and spy on its citizens.


That is not the mission statement.


Mostly, but not always. Patagonia seems to genuinely follow their mission statement:

"Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis."

https://www.patagonia.com/company-info.html


By making clothes out of plastic?


They make clothes out of plastic in order to recycle. It is a conscious choice they make. (I read the book by the founder.) Patagonia may be the only company I trust.


This was the book, I suspect:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22155.Let_My_People_Go_S...

Powerful read that also happens to be interesting.

Recommended.


They probably also contribute to microplastics pollution when the clothes slowly break down during washing. Intentions don't matter anywhere near as much as results. In the real world, you get rewarded only for achieving results, not for trying.


I'll take intentions over wilful ignorance any day


Ignorant/mistaken good intentions can do great harm. The difference comes when someone is told that they are doing harm. Do they stop or carry on?


Well when they’ve been told then it ceases to be good intentions no?

At least the well intentioned can be reasoned with.


You must be fun in the real world.


Don't let perfect be the enemy of good. They acknowledge there are always trade offs and costs. Their goal is to find the option that does the least harm.

Plus they're actively working on the microplastics problem: https://www.patagonia.com/blog/2017/02/an-update-on-microfib...

In regards to their product, they make high quality clothing that lasts longer (reducing consumption) and sheds less.


Mission statements are always bullshit. The reason being that I have never seen a case where, when push comes to shove, that a company would forgo needed revenue if it contradicted their mission statement. Instead what happens is that leaders go through mental gymnastics trying to show "No, it still aligns with our mission statement, you just have to twist the meaning of the words in the mission statement beyond any reasonable recognition."


I am not going to argue that mission statements are not bullshit, but I don't think your argument is persuasive. Just because you will compromise some values when push comes to shove doesn't mean those values were completely meaningless... it just means they were not as important as another value that they came into conflict with.

For example, I value pacifism. I think non-violence is almost always the right choice, and feel we should work towards a world of peace.

However, if I saw someone attacking my daughter, I might use violence to stop them if I felt it was the only way to protect her.

This doesn't mean that I don't value non-violence, or that my non-violence stance is meaningless. It just means that my value of keeping my daughter safe is more important to me than non-violence.


If the mission statement is superceded by other implicit values, like creating shareholder value, it's not much of a mission statement. The whole point of a mission statement is to make your primary values explicit.


I mean, you might think that is what mission statements SHOULD be, but that doesn't mean that is the definition everyone agrees on. I think a more reasonable definition is "what our company stands for besides the things that every company stands for"


Then the mission statement should just be "Our goal is to make as much money as possible." That's what the goal always ends up being, at least once a company becomes public.


Categorically denying any role for these statements (or rather what they represent) seems slightly silly. We all have values and goals besides money, and when they inevitably come into conflict, we make decisions.

Google sees "organising information" as its mission. My desk would currently make an excellent opportunity to organise some information. Are they going to pay someone to sort all these papers? Probably not. Does that mean they have sold out their values? Unlikely...

You're hiding some of that range in the phrase:

> push comes to shove,..

...which makes the idea rather meaningless. I've shown one side above, the other is equally trivial: When Google has few billion dollars it can invest either into wearable sensors for health tech, or opening a Pizza chain, they are more likely to go with the former, even if they have similar expected returns.

If "push coming to shove" is intended to mean a situation where the very existence of Google is at stake, then they'll choose to live another day, even if they have to scale back their ambitions. I doubt anybody would expect them to behave differently.

As for examples: it seems that Apple is forgoing some profits by not participating in the big data grab. Yes, it might also be a good business decision. But it takes some commitment to values to be motivated enough, and to have the courage, to make a decision so markedly different than what the competition does.

Google leaving China is another example. Yes, they may soon return. But in the meantime they left a few billion on the table.


> Categorically denying any role for these statements (or rather what they represent) seems slightly silly. We all have values and goals besides money, and when they inevitably come into conflict, we make decisions.

Anthropomorphizing publicly held companies is quite a bit more silly. Just because I have values and goals besides money doesn't mean that companies do; I also go to the restroom and breathe oxygen.

It's often impossible to say conclusively whether money is being left on the table in the cases that you've mentioned, because there's a PR hit taken when certain things are done that could ultimately reduce revenue. In the case of Apple, the fact that the flipside of fairly tyrannical possessiveness over their customers is a vigorous defense of their customers from outside entities makes the lock-in and intentional incompatibility and obfuscation seem almost like a hug. Without that defense, it would just feel like a snare - being known to give anyone access to anything willingly would definitely affect Apple's sales in a big way. Courage in that case would be to exploit that data, figure out a way to sell that idea to the users or to conceal it from the users, and risk a lot of users abandoning the platform.

Also, Google doing what it takes to make it in China might endanger their increasing integration in the US government. The brave thing would be to try to work both at the same time.


>Categorically denying any role for these statements (or rather what they represent) seems slightly silly. We all have values and goals besides money, and when they inevitably come into conflict, we make decisions.

That's because we are people, not organizations.

>Google leaving China is another example. Yes, they may soon return. But in the meantime they left a few billion on the table.

Just because of bad PR/backslash. They were perfectly OK to work there.


Usually mission statements are crafted to align incentives between employees and customers (or users, if the product you sell to customers is users' attention). The company's mission should focus on what the customer is trying to achieve with the company's product. As the company works toward that mission, customers accomplish their goals, they become dependent upon the product, they fork over lots of money, and the company's revenues rise naturally.

Where this fails is when a company actually achieves its mission. At that point, its original mission is taken for granted, but all of the negative consequences of that mission are suddenly on everyone's mind.

For example, Microsoft's original mission was "A computer on every desk, all running Microsoft software." Throughout the 80s and early 90s, that meant making MS-DOS and Windows easier to use, making Office handle more of the tasks needed for a modern office, and getting distribution deals so that all of these came pre-loaded. Customers benefitted from the increasing computerization, they forked over lots of money, Bill Gates became the richest man on earth. But after around 1998, Microsoft basically succeeded in that, people already had a computer on their desk running Microsoft software, and the biggest problem on their minds was that Microsoft had a stranglehold on PC software and was unfairly killing off new innovations in software.

Google's initial mission statement was "Organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." When search sucked, email sucked, online maps weren't a thing, finding a book meant going to a library, finding an academic paper meant forking over hundreds to Elsevier, and "web browser" meant IE6, this was a huge service to humanity. But then around 2010, they succeeded at all of these, the baseline became "I can find anything I want now", and the huge questions were what kind of information does Google have on us and what sort of nefarious purposes could they use it for?

Facebook's mission was "Make the world a more open and connected place." The world is now a more open and connected place. The result is that people are routinely put in contact with folks whose views they find abhorrent, and that you can influence an election from the other side of the world, and that Facebook has all our personal data. While the world was still cut off from each other, everyone was happy to sign up; now that we're all on one big social network, they're miserable.

Once the mission statement is no longer a problem that needs solving, then the bullshit starts. Without an actual reason for the company to exist or for anyone to do the work they're ostensibly doing, people fall back on "Well, might as well make as much money as we can."


In short, "you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain"


this is spot on

when these huge companies have succeeded what they set out to achieve, they are ultimately left without direction

in theory, that means the company would disband. mission accomplished, let's all go home -- right?

however, large organizations and all those who depend on them for pay cannot disappear overnight -- which leads to the type of ethically gray decisionmaking that creates this issue


This Weird Al song captures this perfectly - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyV_UG60dD4


Fun fact: Nike's mission is to do everything possible to expand human potential.

https://www.economist.com/business/2018/08/02/mission-implau...


My friend was contracted to do some marketing for Frito-Lay and according to the team that hired them, Frito Lay's mission was to capture the 30% of non-prepackaged food eaten by Americans.

Their public mission statement is a bit more innocuous: At Frito-Lay, delighting our consumers is job No. 1. To us, that means putting consumers first in every decision we make - from the quality and care that goes into making our snacks to the ways in which we give back to the community and care for our environment.


What? Don't they exclusively make prepackaged food?


This is like something a stoned frat boy would come up with as their first attempt at a mission statement.


Sure, but is it wrong?


Insofar as it's absolutely not what Nike does at all, I suppose you could call it "wrong", yes.


I dunno about wrong, but it's too vague to be useful.


Does that mean nike are in favor of performance enhancing drugs?


In their sweatshops?


It's basic marketing. Draw in the followers under false pretense, then all you have to do is worry about maintaining them which is much easier than bringing them in under honest terms.

This can be seen in politics as well. How often do electees follow what they were promising constituents while in the running. Then they'll do the same thing again and make a big fuss for the week or 2 prior to reelection, then go back to business as normal.

Likewise with products. Get the customer to come into the store, visit your website, or call a number. Then by the time they see it, or in some cases have already made a purchase, and find out thing aren't as advertised it's either already too late with s purchase made or they've "come too far" and the shortfalls are close enough to where they shrug and purchase anyways.


Chomsky talks about this.


Any chance you know the pieces where he most focuses on this?


Here's a summary post:

https://medium.com/@wtfmitchel/the-political-nature-of-indus...

I guess I would read some of his books: Profit over People and the one on Media. He has a 1997 talk at northeastern on youtube where he addresses it a bit during question time.


There are some good thoughts and complaints in there about propaganda and nepotism, but isn't this old news? Isn't it also pervasive throughout society? I mean, there are even blatant industry-wide propaganda agendas such as Harvard scientsts lying about sugar, MIT scientists lying about climate change, and scientists lying before courts about leaded gasoline... Of course always after payments from profit-seeking industry.

There are countless examples. Of course Walmart is known for both nepotism, and brainwashing their employees about union membership. And of course they are also close with the top-echelon of politicians at state and federal levels.

Like the article mentions, companies say they are progressive, and for an example, promote gender equality, but their engineering divisions tell a completely different story. And then if you really take a moment to stop and look around the world we live in, we are in a society full of propaganda. Of course the War on Drugs, War on Terror, and War on Poverty all increased poverty, poor outcomes related to drugs, and removal of liberties and prosperity that terrorists sought for.

Over the last year, MSNBC covered Stormy Daniels on average >1/day. War in Yemen? 0 times. Or, here is Wolf Blitzer saying that arms sales to Saudis is a "moral issue" because defense contractors will "lose jobs."

Propaganda is part of our daily lives. My favorite Einstein quote is: "Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions."


I think if you read Chomsky you will find that we've been lead this way for a long time. It is modus operandi.. aka meet the new boss same as the old boss. It's useful to understand the world and why it is the way it is. And in fact the more interesting idea is that we the people can actually exercise our democratic rights to change the situation.


An aside. Chomsky made a sizable contribution to intellectual criticism of the modern imperialism. I wonder who will pick up the reins when he's gone?


Matt Taibbi in collaboration with Chomsky is writing a sequel to Manufacturing Consent, discussing history and the media environment since its publication. I'm not suggesting he is an heir, only that interested readers might check out.


Obligatory link: https://taibbi.substack.com/p/introduction-the-fairway

This was very insightful for me. I enjoyed how he interpreted Manufacturing Consent and pointed out that the obvious interpretation is mistaken i.e. that the media peddles lies. The thesis is more subtle than that.


PR mission


My theory is that pay and working conditions at Facebook are as good as they are precisely because of people feeling like this. They are having to pay a premium to attract engineers as a result of the moral opposition.


This is called a "compensating differential" (see, e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compensating_differential).

There's a decent body of literature in economics on this. This falls under labor economics.


Interesting. In the same vein, video game companies have a negative compensating differential. Lots of kids want to grow up to program video games, so they don't have to pay them as much under worse work environments.


I've seen postdocs work for zero pay for months and in one case over a year to get into prestigious labs.


Yes that is precisely why video game companies can, on average, get away with lower pay, worse crunch, worse job security, etc.


WAY worse job security. It seems like every month there's a big Twitter thread about which developer laid off dozens as soon as they finished a project, with no warning or severance.


After taking graphics programming in college, I don't ever want to work in video games.


I'm the opposite really. The only reason I want to work in video games is graphics programming seemed fun.

Different strokes for different folks and all that.


It's very similar to when you hear people say "I love my job but they don't pay a living wage!"

It's because you love your job, you have to pay for that.


This kind of post-facto justification for poor working conditions or wages needs a name, so it can be dismissed out of hand. It seems to assume that the market is “fair” and getting poor pay must be justified by some other factor about the job.

In reality, there are plenty of jobs that have garbage pay and suck. As well as jobs that are both lucrative and “easy”. Consider the average CEO: not the exceptional visionaries but the type that loses the shareholders money for years and then exits on a golden parachute. These jobs are hard only in the sense that you have to know the right people, (being born to the right people helps) to even be considered.

On the other side of the ledger, you have immigrants with medical degrees, who are driving cabs for minimum wage (or now, Uber, for below minimum wage).

The free market is not fair, and it is not a meritocracy. It is subject to all the same tribal impulses and inequalities that have persisted in humans throughout history. In western societies, no job should pay less than a living wage, no matter how enjoyable it is. That’s just an excuse for exploitation.


> In western societies, no job should pay less than a living wage...

Pay is determined chiefly by supply and demand in the labor market. Jobs that are more fun pay less because the supply of workers is higher. Fairness is literally not part of this equation.

> On the other side of the ledger, you have immigrants with medical degrees, who are driving cabs for minimum wage.

Medical licenses are controlled by the government, not the free market.

> [The free market] is subject to all the same tribal impulses and inequalities that have persisted in humans throughout history.

... and also the Civil Rights Act of 1964. All snark aside, why should we pay a high school paperboy a living wage? What does a living wage even mean - the ability to live in a single bedroom apartment? That runs ~3K/month in SF which is roughly commensurate to $50/hour.


> What does a living wage even mean..

The definition of living wage is fairly established. It is the minimum income necessary for a worker to meet their basic needs. Needs are defined to include food, housing, and other essentials such as clothing. This definition is why, in the United States, at least, every few years Minimum Wage (used interchangeably here with Living Wage) would be raised, to keep up with inflation. It allowed the average American to start saving for a down-payment for a house even if all they had was a high school education and nothing else (so, the paperboy you mention). Until, for some reason, we stopped doing that as much.

Instead of looking at one of the most inflated rental markets in the country (SF), let's look at somewhere like Idaho - you'll find that inflation has still affected that place, but minimum wage (living wage) to be able to provide those basic needs has not kept up. This is why, countrywide, 40% of non-elderly adults report difficulty meeting basic needs such as food, housing, health care and utilities [1].

But let's consider that paperboy, for a minute. Do you really believe that the only people who deserve the most basic income to be able to live (living wage) are those that are capable of getting a higher education? What about all the other members of a functional society that we rely on?

[1] - https://www.urban.org/research/publication/well-being-and-ba...


Maybe a functional society doesn't necessarily rely on jobs with below-living wages? Point is, the question of whether you should pay living wages to every worker is basically equivalent to whether you should provide living income to every person, employed or not. When you enforce a living wage, some jobs would disappear and you have to answer question 2 to people who lost their jobs. I don't have an answer for question 2 but I think recognizing the theoretical equivalency here would make the discussion much more straightforward.


I am quite on the left I would say (not from or in the US), so

>why should we pay a high school paperboy a living wage?

My opinion is that it is everyone responsibility to create a society were were abject poverty and marginalization is minimized. There are many tools to our disposal, paying a living wage is one.

The point is do you have a problem of people working as paperboy and not being able to live properly? Then you either pay them more or try to make other jobs possible for them. We should be careful not to do it immorally, we should not just "give" to the poor, but we should make sure that they have always a chance to rise.

I do not think of this as a moral obligation to help other, it is simply my answer to the question: Do you want an entire demographic to be hopeless and disillusioned? I do not and I believe sorta high living wages are a good tool often.

ps: this is not meant to be an argumentation for anything, there are no proof or facts in this comments, just heartfelt personal opinions. I find those pretty useful sometimes and hope mines can help too.

edit: the parent was referring to non-adults paperboy, my answer completely ignores the very important concept of families which are particularly important for non-adults


"Pay is determined chiefly by supply and demand in the labor market. Jobs that are more fun pay less because the supply of workers is higher. Fairness is literally not part of this equation."

I think the implication is that society and technology have advanced to the point where, ostensibly, work that can't be automated away should be work that would demand a living wage. If it's tenable for my job to still exist, it's tenable for it to pay me enough to live. If it doesn't... well, that would be less a function of higher level characterizations of the economy or any individual job and more a function of the basic availability of food and housing, anyway. If there isn't enough food and housing, people start dying, but since there does seem to be enough of those, what is happening?

I work retail full-time. It's definitely not "fun," and I definitely can't afford to carry my own weight; I have to rely on family to make ends meet, and I know people who rely on welfare. In regards to the time and opportunity cost of working that job in relation to compensation, it is unfair (imbalanced), but the situation emerges from a context defined by labor's complete lack of leverage, juxtaposed with the, perhaps, overcompensation of the people who support us, encompassed by our mutual desire for society to not collapse.

I think it's funny that you mention $50/hr for delivering papers as if we should be aghast at the mere thought. If it's a job that needs to be done to secure the solvency of the overall business, and that's what it costs to live in the area where whoever holds that job must live, then... that's the going rate. If someone can live on less, they get the job and are paid less. If the business can't afford to pay a full time wage for a full-time paperboy (or a commensurate wage for a part-time one), maybe we don't need or can't afford paperboys. But as a society, at some point it would be prudent to look around and see whether the way people are living is sustainable, or if, say, the inopportune removal of a welfare or familial wealth Jenga brick would cause the entire tower to collapse into, like, tent cities or whatever.


> I think it's funny that you mention $50/hr for delivering papers as if we should be aghast at the mere thought.

$50/hr for delivering papers would most likely cause the prompt and total collapse of the local economy. If you think otherwise, why stop at merely $50/hour? I'm only aghast that the proposed cure is actually much worse than the disease!

> But as a society, at some point it would be prudent to look around and see whether the way people are living is sustainable, or if, say, the inopportune removal of a welfare or familial wealth Jenga brick would cause the entire tower to collapse into, like, tent cities or whatever.

I agree wholeheartedly, but I'd guess we probably disagree on the remedy. I'd defer to the market which would of course require a free market to exist in the first place for things like housing.


>$50/hr for delivering papers would most likely cause the prompt and total collapse of the local economy.

I imagine it would merely cause the prompt and total collapse of the paperboy position, until efficiencies were created to support it (e.x., there's only one paperboy for n square miles, they oversee a swarm of paper-delivering drones, and the number of papers they deliver justifies a $50/hr salary); people simply decided that physical paper delivery wasn't worth the cost; or they decided that it was worth it, and had their pay and expenses adjusted commensurately.

>I'm only aghast that the proposed cure is actually much worse than the disease!

I'm not sure you've proven that.

>I agree wholeheartedly, but I'd guess we probably disagree on the remedy. I'd defer to the market which would of course require a free market to exist in the first place for things like housing.

The laissez-faire approach to market management is what "innovated" tent cities into existence in the first place, man.


So it's okay for banks and large corporations to collapse the national economy, but not for paperboys to collapse the local economy?

Can you expand further on the logical basis for that belief?


What's the "logical basis" for concluding that they think it's good for anyone to collapse economies?

I don't think this weak "gotcha" rhetoric is conducive to good discussion. You're trying to disarm their point by putting words in their mouth. And you're taking it off topic.

For example, since you only mention banks and large corporations, can we assume you're okay with every other possible way economies can be collapsed? No, that would have no "logical basis."


All snark aside, why should we pay a high school paperboy a living wage?

Because we, as a society, are paying that paperboy* a living wage one way or another. The alternative is to let him starve to freeze to death. So, we build robust safety nets to catch these people - food stamps, housing assistance, etc.

Wouldn't it be more efficient to simply pay the person a living wage vs pumping the money through government programs?

* I'm assuming we're talking about an adult employee here, and not a literal paperboy as in the video game. I haven't seen one of those in decades.


Truthfully, they're probably not an employee unless there's a union involved. Independent contractor, most likely.


“Medical licenses are controlled by the government, not the free market.”

Yes. Thankfully. Somewhat irrelevant though.


> This kind of post-facto justification for poor working conditions or wages needs a name, so it can be dismissed out of hand.

This seems to capture the current intellectual zeitgeist very well. Once we name something, we can dismiss it without engaging it.

I was going to read the rest of your comment, but I decided it was "Jacobin whinging" so I realized I didn't have to.


> This seems to capture the current intellectual zeitgeist very well. Once we name something, we can dismiss it without engaging it.

In the internet age, this is a necessity because the other pattern is the same claims repeated over and over again with the expectation that a comprehensive rebuttal must be provided each time. At some point you have to name the thing so it can be added as an entry to Wikipedia and move on. See also: how global warming denialists have an evergreen grab bag of false claims to pull from and expect a thesis-length answer to each one.

Also, this is nothing new. Commonly referenced fallacies like tu quoque are a way of saying that the other person is arguing from shaky ground, and their argument does not need a complete rebuttal until they refine it a bit. In fact, the comment I was replying to can be considered a derivative of the just-world fallacy[1], substituting the hand of the free market for the kind of ephemeral karma that the original just-world fallacy implies.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Just-world_hypothesis


Your arguments are examples of the false equivalence fallacy. [1] Sorry but I don't have time to provide any more comprehensive of a rebuttal.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_equivalence

(This is why I don't think labeling is a rebuttal.)


I mean, I see what you're doing here, haha, but AlexanderB brings up a good point about asymmetrical debate, where one side says something sloppy, vague and poorly sourced and then expects you to "write a thesis" to rebut. Personally, I think this phenomena really does need a name, less to dismiss it, more to get lazy arguers to stop demanding high quality rebuttals (and at the very least to make the debate easier to walk away from). Fundamentally it's a kind of hypocrisy, but it needs a lyrical name. I like the pattern of naming a fallacy and then opting out that you're demonstrating, but a name could actually be useful. Indeed you could even term it a fallacy, the "vice demanding virtue" fallacy, or something like that.


> ...and at the very least to make the debate easier to walk away from...

I find simply reminding myself that duty doesn't actually call[0] to be a very easy way to walk away from any debate that isn't going anywhere productive

[0] https://xkcd.com/386/


People aren’t understanding what you’re doing, apparently. But I appreciate it.


If you are going this way, someone could very well "adjectivize" your comment with the label "fallacy of fallacies" it fits very well: The fact that the comment you criticize uses a fallacy, doesn't make that comment wrong! Duckduckgo that! edit: ok, i saw now Haberman has already provided a even better explanation about your superficial use of the word "fallacy" in your argument. Check his link, and learn something.


> I was going to read the rest of your comment, but I decided it was "Jacobin whinging" so I realized I didn't have to.

But the rest of the comment supports the first part, which you seem to agree with.

Plus, "Jacobin whinging", seriously? Advocating for a living wage is "Jacobin" now?


I regret that my point may not have come across. I don't actually believe in pejoratively labeling any good-faith argument, and I would not actually use a label like "Jacobin whinging" in earnest. My point is: labeling something is not the same as refuting it.


Apologies, my irony meter is malfunctioning today. I read it twice but I'm so used to reading this serious comments similar to your sarcastic critique online these days, it didn't read as sarcasm.


I like to say, the best thing about the Internet is the reasonable debate, and the accurate detection of sarcasm.


You have an absolutely terrible assessment of the Internet.


Oh the irony :)


You know, I built an irony detector once...but it detected everything BUT irony.


whoosh


I've personally worked for less pay to work on fun projects. I've also taken on unenjoyable projects for more money.

If it weren't for the money you'd have a heck of a time recruiting VPs


When discussing deals, jobs etc, an old boss of mine used to ask "is the juice worth the squeeze?". A job that you are morally against requires more squeeze, so you expect more juice.


>The free market is not fair, and it is not a meritocracy.

It's fair, but not based on effort like people mistakenly think it should be. It's silly to think "I should be paid X because it was really hard work" or to try to interfere with the market to force that price.

A big part of the issue is ignorance of economics among most of the population. People don't realize they are always participating in markets, even when it's a regulated market.

>Consider the average CEO: not the exceptional visionaries but the type that loses the shareholders money for years and then exits on a golden parachute.

I don't think you know what the word "average" means, because that's very far from the truth. There are hundreds of thousands of people with the title "CEO". Only a tiny fraction are of companies with publicly traded shares and only a fraction of those get large golden parachute deals (<1000).

There are more professional football players becoming millionaires for playing a game than there are CEOs who lose companies tons of money and get a golden parachute.

>On the other side of the ledger, you have immigrants with medical degrees, who are driving cabs for minimum wage (or now, Uber, for below minimum wage).

So what? Their medical degree obvious isn't qualifying them to be a doctor in the new country.


>So what? Their medical degree obvious isn't qualifying them to be a doctor in the new country.

I never understood this, even while in the medical industry myself. Perhaps this might be a little true for an immigrant from Venezuela with a medical degree. But for an immigrant from England, Why not?


Lobbying from the AMA to limit available labour & maintain high wages


You can't even do a tiny lateral transfer in the US medical industry without reschooling, so how would it work with foreign degrees?


That's analogous to switching from being a data-base administrator to a systems ops engineer. Sure, fundamental knowledge of logic is transferable (compare: knowledge of human anatomy on a general scale, courtesy of medical school), but the intricacies and applications of that knowledge are different. Some re-schooling from one extremely specialized medical post to another makes sense.

I'm talking about, for instance: being an orthopedic surgeon in England (or even France, or Russia). I operate on human bodies. Those human bodies work the same way in the United States, do they not?

Maybe there are some discrepancies in established best practices, country to country. But there is no necessity to go through the entirety of relearning fundamental medical knowledge just to demonstrate you didn't go to a "worse" medical school. Even if you did - what should be looked at is your medical practice, not school, and your patient track record.


The market isn't really fair or unfair. It's more like "a-fair", where fairness doesn't really factor into it.


For many jobs, the pay and working conditions really are a product of market forces. For other jobs, not so much.

For software jobs, and for jobs with garbage pay and which also suck, it's mostly true. People who can competently write software aren't that common, and there's tons of jobs and demand for them, so the pay goes up, and companies compete with each other for them by offering better pay, better perks, etc. Jobs which both suck and have horrible pay are that way because there's desperate people willing to do them, and because those jobs generally have a very low barrier to entry.

CEO jobs aren't very common, and are largely a factor of "who you know". Going to the right fraternity in college is more important than how competently you can run a company, so obviously it's not a merit-based job.

As for immigrants with medical degrees, here again there's a barrier to entry: you can't just immigrate here and get a medical license by taking a test; the industry actively limits how many licenses they allow.

>In western societies, no job should pay less than a living wage, no matter how enjoyable it is.

Software jobs that pay poorly DO pay "living wages"; they surely pay far better than any random horrible minimum-wage job. You're not going to get any sympathy from me about not getting paid "enough" for some software job that doesn't pay median pay, but is more "fun". If you want more money, go find a big-corporate job that's boring as hell but pays well. Nothing is stopping you.

For actual shitty jobs, this sounds good, but how do we enforce it, besides simply raising the minimum wage? And there is an argument to be made that raising the minimum wage will simply cause many of these jobs to go away (increasing unemployment), and also cause the prices of products and services to raise, increasing inflation so that poor peoples' purchasing power isn't any better than it was before.

IMO, what we really need is more automation, plus a Basic Income so that people forced out of work by the automation can still enjoy the fruits of society's success without having to toil in some pointless bullshit job, and perhaps use their free time and efforts to do something more productive (like start an innovative new business, write a best-selling book like Harry Potter's author, etc.). Automation is going to put more and more people out of work by rendering so many jobs obsolete, as machines can do them faster and more efficiently, and as a society we need to prepare for that. Remember, a century ago people thought that in the 2000s, we'd all be working 10 hours a week.


> IMO, what we really need is more automation, plus a Basic Income so that people forced out of work by the automation can still enjoy the fruits of society's success without having to toil in some pointless bullshit job, and perhaps use their free time and efforts to do something more productive (like start an innovative new business, write a best-selling book like Harry Potter's author, etc.).

How do you decide what is a pointless bullshit job? How do you decide what it means to be productive? How much of the success of a business relies on its innovation, or the success of a book on how well written it is? How many people have the drive and self-discipline for self employment?

On the face of it, what it sounds like you're contrasting isn't "pointless bullshit" and innovative productivity, but "what bores me" and "what excites me" or "what fulfills me."

It's easy to confuse the good-in-itself of work with the goods-in-themselves that work facilitates (paying the bills, feeding a family, giving to the less fortunate, et c). If we prioritize the former over the latter, we're going to have a crummy society in whatever regime we use to try to solve the thorny issues of automation and living wages.


>How do you decide what is a pointless bullshit job?

Market forces: if you have a universal basic income in place (so people don't have to work to avoid starvation), coupled with ever-increasing automation, then there's going to be fewer and fewer pointless bullshit jobs. Businesses aren't going to be able to afford to employ people to do bullshit when they have to pay enough to make them want to come to work, and when they can get a computer/robot to do it instead for next to nothing.

Non-"pointless bullshit" jobs aren't necessarily exciting or fulfilling either. They're jobs that provide real value to the employer, and which they can't just automate away.


> Market forces: if you have a universal basic income in place (so people don't have to work to avoid starvation), coupled with ever-increasing automation, then there's going to be fewer and fewer pointless bullshit jobs.

"Pointless" and "bullshit" seem like value judgments, not economic judgments. Why not simply say they are "cheaper to automate than to pay a human for"?

Suppose, though, that they are economic judgments. If the market were persuaded that working was a good whose value outweighed the cost savings of automation, then wouldn't said jobs be perforce, uh, "pointful" and smell better?

> They're jobs that provide real value to the employer, and which they can't just automate away.

In that vein, why should it be that employers should determine the value of a job? I'm genuinely curious in your opinion here, not trying to beg the question.


The free market is not fair. It's just fairer than anything else we know of. It's not a meritocracy, just more meritorious than anything else we know of. If you think things are bad when greedy people are pitted against each other, wait until greedy people are pitted against the average man, as they are in nearly every other economic system.


I wouldn't say it's the fairest thing we know, but it scales the best. A centralized market system could be extremely fair, if there's only 7 participants. With 7 billion, there's just no way. At a national or global level, we need decentralization.

At smaller scales, we do use other systems. Within a company, essentially nobody uses a free market system.


There is something to note here, the "free market" is a pretty wide term, goes from corporate anarchy to heavy regulations with everything in between.

I agree that it is the right pattern to organize into as in "freedom for private enterprise to provide goods and services" but it not necessarily the right way to handle retirements funds. Overall I am quite far on the side of regulations, claiming that free market needs to be constantly beaten into shape to keep it a meritocracy.

you could say that this is the free market greatest strength: private enterprise and public government can have a dynamic dialogue trough regulations often with an almost symmetric power structure (when things run smoothly).


> The free market is not fair, and it is not a meritocracy. It is subject to all the same tribal impulses and inequalities that have persisted in humans throughout history.

Based on context, I suspect you mean merit as in moral merit. Economic merit is defined as the economic value add in a free market, so free markets are tautologically a meritocracy, because success in a free market is basically a definition of economic merit.

It certainly isn't fair, but nearly nothing is. Life is profoundly unfair.

> In western societies, no job should pay less than a living wage, no matter how enjoyable it is. That’s just an excuse for exploitation.

A debatable point - it is easy to justify making it as easy as possible for a worker to leave a job that isn't paying a living wage and find something else. However there are a lot of people out there and not all of them are working to live. Eg, maybe someone has a stead source of income (spouse, parents or investment money) and wants to get involved in something worthwhile but low value add. It isn't at all obvious why we should prevent that as a society because nobody thinks it is worth a living wage worth of money per hour.

A minimum wage is basically a declaration that work with less value add than some number is not worth doing. From an incentives point of view, it is really weird and there are probably better ways of helping people with nothing to offer their community.


>This kind of post-facto justification for poor working conditions or wages needs a name, so it can be dismissed out of hand. It seems to assume that the market is “fair” and getting poor pay must be justified by some other factor about the job.

Maybe this is true when you consider not just the job itself, but acquiring the job. How many minimum wage jobs offer minimum entry requirements? How many offer secondary benefits that are worth a lot, but only to a very small percent of the population (such as internships offering access to important people).

Of courses, none of this means fair. Some people are unfairly born with advantages or disadvantages, many of which have no solution that I've ever seen.


I'd agree; welders is beginning to pay nicely due to their demand. You won't enjoy the time away from home or the work conditions, but you'll be paid reasonably well.


> It's because you love your job, you have to pay for that.

I don't buy that. I don't think enjoying your job and being paid well need to be mutually exclusive. I think it's in an employer's best interest that their employees enjoy their job. Part of that is that an employee has to not feel the stress of being underpaid or overworked.


> I don't think enjoying your job and being paid well need to be mutually exclusive

If there is a job, say museum docent, that the majority of qualified people would love to do then the salary of that job will approach $0. Museum docents are usually volunteers, but the chance for an art history major to practice their craft is valuable to the worker even at $0


> If there is a job, say museum docent, that the majority of qualified people would love to do then the salary of that job will approach $0.

Sure. But then you are assuming that what I love is what other people love.

If there's only very few people who want to do those job, and I'm one of them. Should the pay be less only because I happen to love the job?


No. In capitalism its a question of supply and demand. Usually the jobs that most people love, are in low demand, and high supply, so they can pay less.

If you love a job that only very few people love, you can still make demands and request a high salary.


They're not mutually exclusive, but they are negatively correlated.

The more enjoyable a job is, the lower the salary the boss can offer before people balk at taking it. It isn't something you can suss out in individual cases, but statistically speaking it holds up.

When I sysadminned in the turn of the millenium, I could definitely see the pay gap between running systems for corporate America and doing it for scientists in academia.


"The more enjoyable a job is, the lower the salary the boss can offer before people balk at taking it. "

This is not in line what I saw when I worked as a contractor. The higher the pay was, the better people got treated. The worst places were non-profits where people took really low salaries. They not only didn't make money but were also treated like sh.t.


I may be misreading, but it seems you're looking for an antonym of balk.

Balk:

Hesitate or be unwilling to accept an idea or proposal.


I don't think so. Let's substitute balk:

> The more enjoyable a job is, the lower the salary the boss can offer before people [hesitate to] take it.


I just mean that "enjoying your job" has a monetary value. The employer can recognize that or not, but the employee always does.


Another way you could put it is that employers offer a premium for unpleasant jobs.


Why do you think working conditions are good at Facebook. Facebook’s style of open-plan office & surveillance culture is one of the unhealthiest, anti-human work environments around. Even if the company had ethical self-awareness, I’d stillstay away just due to the physical health degradation that results from that type of open-plan office, and to help reduce the cargo-cult copying that leads other companies to mistakenly adopt that type of open-plan layout just because Facebook does.


Came here to mention the Open Plan Hell that being a FB dev would mean, which is just a layer on top of the primary evil they create with product.

Or do the kids just think that's how it is/has to be these days?

The data against open plans is abundant and solid, but firms just won't abandon a clearly failed design experiment <beats head against desk ... in our new open office>.


> Or do the kids just think that's how it is/has to be these days?

I just don't think that's the defining feature of a job for most people, and most people don't care so much. All of my schooling happened in "open office" plans, like studying at the uni library. I also learned to cope with an eight hour workday. Why are more people not demanding four hour workdays?

Open plans are less stifling/depressing to me than cubicles, and I don't watch enough Mad Men to be fixated on having my own office.

To me, it's like being fixated on any office perk. You could die on the hill of demanding catered food. And that may be worthwhile to you. But I think I'd be at a worse position in life if I suddenly needed catered food to tolerate my job.

If we're ranking job perks, floor plan just isn't in my top 5, and I reckon it's the same for most people. Pay, how interesting the day-to-day, how cool are my coworkers, how long is my commute, is it slave labor, is there a culture of people interrupting me regardless of floor plan, etc.

Finding a good job just isn't Build-a-Bear workshop, so you have to pick your battles. Keep that in mind when you look around and assume "I guess other people aren't up in arms over $thing because they know no better."


You’re just using anecdotes to argue against evidence here. Nobody cares who has mere preferences for what. No part of the open plan office debate is about that. It’s just about demonstrable losses of productivity, morale and workplace health.


Adam Smith:

The five following are the principal circumstances which, so far as I have been able to observe, make up for a small pecuniary gain in some employments, and counterbalance a great one in others: first, the agreeableness or disagreeableness of the employments themselves; secondly, the easiness and cheapness, or the difficulty and expense of learning them; thirdly, the constancy or inconstancy of employment in them; fourthly, the small or great trust which must be reposed in those who exercise them; and, fifthly, the probability or improbability of success in them.

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Wealth_of_Nations/Book_I/...


Facebook also has a comparatively small number of employees compared to the other big players and as a result significantly more net income / per employee.

https://www.recode.net/2017/8/4/16090758/facebook-google-pro...

Income per employee (as of 2017 according to the article) is about three times as high as it is for Microsoft.


that isn't really a fair comparison considering microsoft makes a significant chunk of money from enterprise and that requires a lot of salesmen instead of engineers.


I doubt it, it's probably just a factor of the West coast talent wars. FB understands that talent is the life blood of any tech companies and is willing to go above and beyond to secure it. No company wants to pay a cent more than it feels it has to.


Except there are companies at the other end of the spectrum that don't seem to care. Apple was almost legendary for its long hours (not sure if that has changed post-Jobs), and perhaps as a more extreme example, the games companies are especially notorious for treating junior devs like garbage. They get away with it because people want to work in the industry for reasons unconnected with pay or work-life balance.

Unfortunately, I don't know if those new grads realize, when they work in a "sexy" industry, that they are basically paying, with either salary or working conditions, for the privilege. It seems like many don't realize this until a couple of years in, when the shine wears off...

At least at Facebook, you're starting out with your eyes open and know what you're getting into.


I’d argue that most people are aware of the working environment at Apple (which has changed, by the way-I know many people who 9-5, though many of those close to deadlines still do work more) and the gaming industry, just as they know what it’s like to work at Facebook.


Anecdotally, FB's work/life balance is apparently pretty poor compared to other 'tier 1' tech companies. 50-60hrs+ is required to get above 'meets most expectations'.


It feels like Facebook would be a great place to start a unionization effort. Fix the working conditions and use their collective power to fix Facebook's ethical problems.


Well, if the expectation is that you work a standard 40 hours, then 'meets most expectations' sounds like a typical and expected outcome from working 40 hours.


'Meets most expectations' is the lowest performance rating before they PIP you. 40hrs just to be on the precipice of unemployment is dumb.


Ha, that sounds like average IT company. I wonder what 1000s of FB engineers typically do. Writing some big data processing system? or mostly just wrangling with javascript, react native etc.


If busy'ness is a metric they want to measure, it's always possible to cook up projects to do that.


I think that's unlikely. As a moderator of r/cscareerquestions, I've heard way more people talk about moral qualms when it comes to working at defense contractors than Facebook/Google, but the working conditions and pay at the former are substantially worse than at the latter.


I disagree. facebook pays a premium because they make a ton of money. Facebook has been a place people have wanted to work for a long time, and its only until January 2016 (which would contradict your theory) the media hate machine turned on them. I am not pro-facebook, but I do call it how I see it.


Some media coverage from 2014, Myanmar: https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/06/facebook-...

But yes, 2016 is when it hit home.


FB paid well above market long before the general opinion of it was anything worse than, "God, people sure do waste a lot of time on Facebook."


FB broke the anti-poaching agreement between all other Silicon Valley companies and at one point made Google give everyone a 20% raise.


Jobs in the defense industry are probably like this for this reason as well.


Are you kidding? The worst pay, worst perks, and worst working environment I ever had was at a large defense contractor, and I didn't see any of our competitors offering anything better. Almost any established tech company can beat them easily.


What are you talking about? Defense jobs, at least on the east coast, have 1) regular working hours (no unpaid overtime), 2) generally very high pay, depending on exactly what you're doing, because not that many people can acquire and hang onto a clearance. Also, 3) lots of vacation, including all the Federal holidays, and never any trouble actually using that vacation unlike so many other companies. All the stuff I read about "established tech companies" like Google and Apple is pretty horrific by comparison (like Apple's new "panopticon" HQ). I think Silicon Valley people have some pretty severe myopia when it comes to jobs outside the valley.


> All the stuff I read about "established tech companies" like Google

What did you read about Google? I have never seen an article stating that they overwork their employees, but I have seen articles saying that they encourage people to work less.


yes, I think this is because defense contractors want (or feel obligated) to be like DoD which is in the unique position of being able to prevent its 'employees' from quitting.


I could see debt-laden recent grads compromising their ethics to work at FB.

I don't see myself (not debt-laden, have a great job) compromising mine just to work for them.

What's the long term effect of that trend? Will FB be chock full of juniors with an ever depleting number of seniors?


> Will FB be chock full of juniors with an ever depleting number of seniors?

Doubtless some of those junior devs will be willing to stick around. In for a penny, in for a pound — very few people want to suddenly take a pay cut; your lifestyle has a way of keeping you hooked on a paycheck of a certain amount, once you get used to it.

And assuming the organization follows a standard "pyramid" model, you don't need that many people to stick around to give a good balance of junior to senior people, and have opportunities for promotion for high-performing/interested junior folks. Lots of companies have to create that attrition artificially; if they get it naturally as a result of people parting ways when their school loans are paid, it's probably solving a problem for them.


> Will FB be chock full of juniors with an ever depleting number of seniors?

Only if everyone that has an opportunity to work there shares your moral compass. This industry is really good at marketing, and not just to customers but employees too.

I mean, look at how popular facebook still is among the public even after all of these scandals. There doesn't appear to be any serious attempt by the shareholders to demand change, and Zuck always seems to escape responsibility. I don't remember the exact number, but someone posted data on HN showing that a high percentage of current employees at FB (far more than 50%) see the company as still providing a net positive impact on the world.


FB is the MS windows of the social media world.

1999,MS Windows was de facto, but everyone hated it. Linux/Unix/MacOS was for the cool kids.

But all business folk loved MS, still do, from shareholders to 401k holders.

FB is no different.


In my experience, there's no shortage of people who have no moral issue working for Facebook and other similar companies.


And I don’t blame them.

Developers are largely undercompensated for the utility they provide for firms, both across companies and within (compared to other roles).

In the Bay, it’s the difference between living comfortably+saving for their future and just making ends meet.

It’s a bit like blaming the scientists of the Manhattan Project for dropping the atomic bomb.


> It’s a bit like blaming the scientists of the Manhattan Project for dropping the atomic bomb.

Consider Joseph Rotblat. He worked on the Manhattan Project because believed that it was needed as a deterrent against a German nuclear weapon. After he learned that Germany had given up on the bomb, he left the Manhattan Project - the only one to do so - and felt betrayed by its use in Japan.

"Rotblat believed that scientists should always be concerned with the ethical consequences of their work.[39] He became one of the most prominent critics of the nuclear arms race ... Rotblat shared, with the Pugwash Conferences, the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize for efforts toward nuclear disarmament." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Rotblat .

There's a movie about him, "The Strangest Dream", at https://www.nfb.ca/film/strangest_dream/ .


The difference is the nuclear arms race was inevitable. The soviets would have made it eventually anyway, and then what would we (the US) have done?

Facebook on the other hand is not inevitable.


Should scientists always be concerned with the ethical consequences of their work?

Should Facebook employees always be concerned with the ethical consequences of their work?

I think your argument is that the ethics means we really needed enough nuclear weapons to destroy the planet several times over?

And we really needed to let the government sell the lie that there was a 'missile gap' to the US population? Or was that lie in order to hide that there were U-2 overflights? Who were we hiding the knowledge of U-2s from? The Soviets, who could see them on radar and were developing ways to shoot them down? Or the US public?

It's all very odd ethics. I'm sure the Rand Corporation has some game theorists who would clear everything up.


> And we really needed to let the government sell the lie that there was a 'missile gap' to the US population? Or was that lie in order to hide that there were U-2 overflights? Who were we hiding the knowledge of U-2s from? The Soviets, who could see them on radar and were developing ways to shoot them down? Or the US public?

From memory the "missile gap" wasn't a government lie to hide anything but an election campaign lie by Kennedy to attack the govt and appear tougher on the "commies".


Eisenhower could have made the information public. A lie of omission is still a lie.

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

> According to Robert McNamara, Kennedy was leaked the inflated US Air Force estimates by Senator Stuart Symington, the former Secretary of the Air Force. Unaware that the report was misleading, Kennedy used the numbers in the document and based some of his 1960 election campaign platform on the Republicans being "weak on defense."[5] The missile gap was a common theme.

> Eisenhower refused to refute the claims publicly for fear that public disclosure would jeopardize the secret U-2 flights. Consequently, Eisenhower was frustrated by what he conclusively knew to be Kennedy's erroneous claims that the United States was behind the USSR in its number of missiles.[6]

> In an attempt to defuse the situation, Eisenhower arranged for Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson to be apprised of the information, first with a meeting by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, then Strategic Air Command, and finally with the Director of the CIA, Allen Dulles, in July 1960. Still, Kennedy continued to use the same rhetoric, which modern historians have debated as likely being so useful to the campaign that he was willing to ignore the truth.

If you want an explicit lie, the Eisenhower administration lied to the US public saying that the U-2 was for high-altitude weather research. When Powers was shot down, the official US lie was that a high-altitude research flight was missing, and may have 'drifted with an incapacitated pilot across the Soviet border' - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_U-2 .


I see what you meant about hiding the U2 now, ie by not refuting the missile gap 'lie' rather than by creating/spreading it. Makes sense. Cheers


If Facebook hadn't succeeded another, similar network would have


Sure, but would they have committed the same ethical disasters?


There's some evidence that the use in Japan was partly an attempt to deter the Soviet Union from future aggression.


I don't think I explained my point well enough.

If the Manhattan Project is a useful comparison, then we have to take the totality of the people working on project, including the one person who quit, for moral reasons.

He 'believed that scientists should always be concerned with the ethical consequences of their work'.

In other words, yes, we should apportion some blame to 'the scientists of the Manhattan Project for dropping the atomic bomb'.

(For that matter, Philip Morrison was one of those scientists. He helped load the atomic bombs onto the planes that made the two bomb runs. Certainly there's direct blame there, if blame is to be placed.)

Certainly the rest of the scientific staff did not have the same views, or at least, didn't place the same weight on the different aspects of the ethics.

Even then, remember that Oppenheimer remarked that he felt he had "blood on my hands" because he and others of the scientific staff thought the bombing of Nagasaki was unnecessary. Truman later told Acheson "I don't want to see that son-of-a-bitch in this office ever again."

Regarding your point, and quoting from the WP page on Rotblat: "Rotblat continued to have strong reservations about the use of science to develop such a devastating weapon. In 1985, he related that at a private dinner at the Chadwicks' house at Los Alamos in March 1944, he was shocked to hear the director of the Manhattan Project, Major General Leslie R. Groves, Jr., say words to the effect that the real purpose in making the bomb was to subdue the Soviets."

I interpret that to mean that Rotblat would have considered using the bomb against the Soviets in the way you summarized it as being sufficiently unethical that he would not work on it.


This is profound because I would be surprised if the early employees at Facebook didn’t feel a bit betrayed at the direction they later went.


did the early employees at facebook believe in anything more than making money?


> It’s a bit like blaming the scientists of the Manhattan Project for dropping the atomic bomb.

I'm the last one to defend Facebook here but I don't see how designing an atomic bomb is comparable to working for Facebook, regardless of what you think about the morality of each.


It is an extreme example to illustrate the point, not a direct comparison of FB to atomic bombs.

However, one might argue that FB is actually worse. It is hard to quantify widespread societal effects and determine if they would have occurred through other channels. The massive privacy violations across the world through FB is another item that is hard to quantify yet 100% morally wrong.


I don't think it would be a very persuasive argument. Atomic bombs have some easily quantifiable negatives, for example $5+ trillion spent on nuclear arms in the US alone, and ~200,000 mostly civilians killed.

https://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/costs-us-nuclear-weapo...

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


The atomic bombs were dropped as a result of a dangerous political movement gaining power in Germany. That's the sort of thing people are upset about Facebook enabling now.


Just because something can’t be tied to “people died” does not make it a positive for society. Things like censorship and tracking don’t have clear and immediate negative externalities, but they are clearly wrong and they can enable other, worse things.


"Just because something can’t be tied to “people died” does not make it a positive for society."

I never asserted that Facebook was a positive for society, neither here nor ever in my life. I'm just saying it's a very steep uphill climb to make a convincing argument that it's worse than something that directly caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and cost trillions of dollars.


Facebook basically fueled a genocide in Myanmar and extreme violence in other places. The whole fake news thing we went through in 2016 was pioneered by Russia to annex Ukraine. Facebook was warned about these behaviors repeatedly by government and watchdog organizations and apparently did nothing to curtail them. So Facebook is this great tool to stay connected to people but at the same time it has been hijacked to cause real harm.


Facebook basically fueled a genocide in Myanmar and extreme violence in other places.

If we widen the definition slightly to include other social media firms then the most recent phase of chaos in the Middle East (post "Arab Spring") and the rise of ISIS can directly be blamed on FB and Twitter.


> Developers are largely undercompensated for the utility they provide for firms

Perhaps, though I tend to think that developers are largely overcompensated for the benefit they provide to society as a whole. (Yes, I'm one of them.)


Hey,(side note) Jaron Lanier has some interesting things to say about “value-added” to society!

I can’t disagree with what you’re saying, but that would also mean other roles are also overcompensated, if not even more (heh, executives)


I mean, I don't see the Manhattan Project guys as monsters, but weapon designers absolutely bear some responsibility for the weapons they design.


In that same vein, social media, especially facebook, has largely been used by malactors and state-sponsored trolls as a weapon itself.

Hello, “Internet Research Agency”!


> Developers are largely undercompensated for the utility they provide for firms

I disagree, we just have a favourable job market. We're a privileged slice of the population, my salary is way higher than anyone in my family, than my partner or most of my school mates. Am I smarter than them? Am I working harder than them? I don't think so.

It's sheer luck. It's not to dismiss any of the effort/creativity/perseverance it takes to get into that class of work, but devs are anything but "undercompensated". There's just not enough of us around.

Now the bay area might be a special case where the reliance on our industry completely distorted everything else.

Regarding your point about blaming students working for Facebook, I agree, I don't think they should be blamed. Everyone has their own situation to deal with.


I'd have a lot more understanding for the people working on the atomic bomb. From their perspective they were in the midst of a world war with an enemy that was trying to do the same thing. That's just a matter of preserving your own existence.


Aaaaaaand gone is the moral.

Great.


New grads don't have the liberty of filtering out 85+% of companies that have shitty morals. The ones that are too small to be newsworthy likely wish they could do what facebook does and more.


It really depends. You can be selective to where you apply and still a job, even as a new graduate. It’s not like it’s impossible to get offers if you’re talented.


It doesn’t mean grads are excited about working at Facebook, it means they accept an offer for the sake of common sense.

This will most likely work to Facebooks disadvantage long term however; Facebooks workforce can’t only be motivated by money.

There was certainly a time that people would’ve took way less money to be part of FB because they believed in the product and mission, which is now a joke.


Agreed. Also, now if any other Big-N company is willing to offer about the same compensation as fb, people will be more inclined to leave fb because of the joke their product and mission have become.


There are a lot of people who interview at the big tech companies + a couple small impact oriented startups, but it's very rare for them to take the small impact oriented startups offer. It's hard to turn down 250k a year.


I actually don't think this is true. Many computer science students are not only looking for morality in companies but also excitement. Also it's not 250K. Big Tech might give advantage of like +15K. Also, the work is not nearly as exciting. It's safe and cushy, but as a person in their 20s out of college, safe and cushy isn't fun.


As a new grad out of college with friends at FB, I can attest that it can actually be 250k (base + equity + returning intern signing bonus). At least for year 1.


15k? Maybe it widens as you gain experience, but my last job search (at ~3.5 years of experience) resulted in a 90k difference between the highest startup offer and lowest non-startup offer.


And that's exactly why your colleagues at Facebook are likely to care less about ethics. Another reason to not work there.


It's like Tyson always said: Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

Everyone is moral and principled until they have to choose between morals/principles and temptations. That's the true test.


This is true of anything, just a bunch of talk. It's easy to be opposed to X when X does not offer you anything. As soon as X is good for you, many (most?) people don't stick to their guns.


It’s always a compromise. Facebook offering you an extra $10K but you have to work on increasing engagement? Probably a pass. Facebook offering an extra $500K to work on public research that doesn’t help their bottom line? Maybe something worth looking at. Currently, I don’t see any jobs at Facebook that tip the scale for me personally.


Well, exactly; it's easy to take the moral highground when, well... it's easy. When there's a real choice at hand most people do what's best for them.


“What’s best for them” often also includes a vague notion of “feeling good by helping humanity” of similar, which often doesn’t show up when just looking at salaries.


"often"? I don't know how often altruism beats out personal gain.


Facebook doesn't just come out and offer students contracts. They have to apply and do a phone screen and travel to the office and spend a whole day interviewing. There are so many steps where it's still easy to be opposed but they're doing it anyway.



Where did I say "no one"? Putting words in my mouth and then finding a single example which refutes something I never said I a complete waste of energy.



Right, as long as there is still prestige associated with the company name, people will still try and work there. We as a society encourage it. You can get social clout from working at Exxon-Mobil or any of the big banks -- likewise the social capital you get from working at Facebook/Google/etc. is large, regardless of the privacy and ethics implications in working there.


>>Everyone cares about ethics in tech before they get a contract

Another way of saying, everyone has a price.


That's fine. You can't expect 100% of the taskforce to have the same morals. Thing is, there are enough out there so that immoral companies need to pay more or offer better conditions to have people who would work for less for an ethical competitor.

And actually it probably also means that some people competent enough to gain a salary they consider enough in ethical venues will just say no to Facebook whichever salary they are proposed.


perfect summary of Silicon Valley. Everyone pretends to be on the morale high ground, until they see their paycheck.


If you can't change the incentives, change the game: either cap salaries and stock grants, or provide a universal basic income. The point being is, you want to make it easier for people to make the ethical choice.


Yup. +1 to this.

Ethics are cheap when you've got nothing to lose...


So true!! I really wonder how some of the folks that live there sleep at night. Like some of the things they do, do in fact change the world, but many more do harm it!


Why would you even interview in the first place with a company you didn't want to work for?


It's not unusual for people to compromise their morals for pay. Actions speak louder than words.


Actually, we know from the Milgram Experiment[1] that most people just compromise their morals for authority figures regardless of pay.

Most people aren't bad inherently they just do what they are told and then alter their world view to justify what they've done because internally we generally don't think of ourselves as bad people.

So if you do nasty things to someone because someone else in authority tells you to, you tend to dehumanise them after the fact not before. Next time you have to do something nasty you'll find it easier because you've dehumanised the victim previously.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment


This is a good point, however, I think this would apply more to workers who have already been employed for awhile. Anyone joining should have the sense they'll be subjected to dubious practices.


You'd think that but that isn't what the experiment showed.

None of the subjects had been through the experiment before.

They were all commanded by an authority figer (man in a white coat with a clipboard) to shock an unseen but heard fellow subject with increasingly large voltages. The "victim" was an actor who begs for mercy with each shock and then suddenly goes quiet. The experiment goes on with the subject shocking the "dead" actor when it finishes.

Most did what they were told with no complaints.

Some complained that what they were doing was wrong but still did it anyway.

Only a very few said "no I won't do that, it's wrong" and left the experiment.

There's no reason to think that the people working for Facebook or Google are any different to those test subjects. They'll spread fake news, dodge taxes or compile massive amounts of data on people just because they're told to by their boss. Just like most other people would.


Everyone wants to make the world a better place... For themselves... At the expense of everyone else.


I get that we don’t like Facebook, but isn’t this a bit much? Are they worse than google or amazon? What about people who work for Coca-Cola? What about the people who make mobile games and loot boxes for Blizzard?

Where is it ethical to work?

I mean, I’ve been in public service for decades, so I know a thing or two about choosing idealism over money, but that’s not for everyone and I frankly don’t think Facebook is really that more evil than around 90% of the hundreds of software companies we deal with.

Like we recently ordered a system for abused children journals. A nationwide bidding landing in a 120 million danish or deal, for a piece of software that 30 municipalities build an equivalent of on their own for 2 million danish kr a few years back.

So some company is making 118 million because the world is rotten. That company is the most popular tech destination for newly educated CS grads in my country by the way.


From my experience, most of this negativity just appears on HN or on channels who have some strong bias (usually business related) against Facebook.

All my acquaintances working in tech, which includes people from very wide sociodemographics ranges, consider Facebook an absolutely prestigious employer, with top talent, top challenges, top compensation and top name for building a personal brand.

Hell, I interviewed at FB about a year ago and was _thrilled_ to get an offer (which I ultimately didn't accept for other reasons) and I loved the technical challenges that they are working and how they are advancing the state of the art on some really cool scalability problems.

I'll be downvoted, but when it comes to Facebook, HN is a broken record.


As a Googler, Facebook would certainly be a place I would consider if I wasn’t at google. You’re right, of course, that it is a better than fine employer.


That doesn't prove anything though: employee at biggest surveillance machine in the world considers working at the 2nd biggest surveillance machine in the world.

A lot of us software engineering types lack integrity and are perfectly happy to work on socially harmful projects as long as the pay's right and there's opportunity to grow one's skills.


> A lot of us software engineering types lack integrity

This is pretty insulting, working at Facebook doesn't necessarily mean you don't have integrity. The majority of the company is engaged in development efforts that aren't related to the odious part of the business to do with brokering personal data.

Additionally, I'm sure Facebook would move away from that if there was a viable way to get people to pay directly for social media. It's not like they're selling data because they're moustache twirling villains, they're doing it because it's the only business model anyone can make work for social media.

Further, it's interesting how Google is in exactly the same business at Facebook, yet receives a small fraction of public hatred for it.


Working at the company which is responsible for making election manipulation easier, facilitating murders and manipulating billions of people into giving up their private information is not ok, even if one actually works on some cool JavaScript library and not the evil bits themselves.


By this definition, anyone working for any platform that facilitates communication could be responsible for this unless they're policing literally every message, in which case they're grossly violating the privacy of users. This is a ridiculous standard to hold engineering staff against.


No it's not ridiculous. If Facebook is paying you to work on anything, they are getting more value out of you than your salary in their tracking endeavors.

Would you justify working for the Nazis if it was on open source libraries to better enable tracking people?


>employee at biggest surveillance machine in the world considers working at the 2nd biggest surveillance machine

Thats the most typical HN look at it


I've been visiting this website for almost 10 years.

Firstly, only in the past year have Google's or Facebook's reputations taken a turn for the worse. There are critics but there are many more cheerleaders, excuse-finders and whataboutists.

Secondly, this is not an HN bubble thing. Major publications in both the EU and US have written about the damage companies like Google and Facebook do to democracy, society and individuals. And even if it were an HN bubble, it's about time HN woke up to the malignancy of these corporations.


I don’t work on anything I consider socially harmful, FWIW. Before you ask, I don’t think most people would consider what I do socially harmful either, if they knew what it was.


Whatever you're working on, you're helping Google maintain their dominance and continue their abuse, otherwise you can be pretty sure they wouldn't be paying you for it.


I dont accept the premise that a large fraction of Google’s actions are abuse.


I seriously don't get why Google and Facebook got that brand name. 95% of engineers there are part of the pack and do mainly mindless jobs with very little impact. They are the mot "Sheep-ish" people I know, convinced that working for Google/Facebook give them something to brag at dinner parties.

The top 5 rockstars % (the ones they really want to attract with big money) are the ones taking all decisions.


I don’t know if I’m a sheep or a rock star but I do know I enjoy my work and probably get paid more than I could get anywhere else.


What do you think of Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple? Are they worthy of your talents as well?


They're good companies, but not as nice to work for as Google and Facebook.


Would you think less of me as an employee of Apple instead of an employee of Facebook?


??? You seem like you’re trying to find a fight here for reasons I cannot fathom. All I think of you as an employee of one of these companies is that you’re probably less well compensated than you could be.


Of course, although all to a lesser extent, since they are widely believed to pay less.


Clearly it can't be that prestigious since they declined me :).

But seriously, while they probably are prestigious and cool right now, I do feel that there's enough hostility towards FB in the hacker community (and thus their supply of employees) that it might start forcing them to hire average-at-best engineers.


> Facebook an absolutely prestigious employer

Anecdotally, I’m helping several friends, who are each exceptionally capable, employed at Facebook with new jobs. They reached out before this revelation, to their credit, though this threw fuel on the fire. I suspect Facebook will be known for having hired mediocre sell-outs a few years from now.


From your profile:

> I trade private equity stakes in technology companies. Former aerospace investment banker and before that, algorithmic equity derivatives trader.

You're also the one who submitted this article. Somehow I doubt you are actually helping friends at FB find new jobs. I think it's much more likely that you are short FB. There's a lot of your type out there spreading articles like this as much as possible.

Maybe you should spend some time thinking about what contributions you investment banker types are making to society, if there is any. Good riddance...


I graduated six years ago, have worked at Microsoft and Dropbox, and anecdotally around a quarter of my friends at either of them wouldn't work at Facebook now. Parent comment is not obviously wrong, and you shouldn't assume bad faith.

Your last submission was titled "We're lucky Mark Zuckerberg is in charge" and around half your comment history is devoted to defending Facebook. At least if you're going to question someones motives, you should state yours.


Lol I can still remember when Microsoft was the big Bogeyman.


Most epic burn of HN history.


Did you actually do a poll of your coworkers on this topic? :)

I think it's pretty reasonable to assume an investment banker isn't going to be much help to FB employees in finding a new job. Claiming that "Facebook will be known for having hired mediocre sell-outs a few years from now." is at best a baseless slander. How in the world is that not in bad faith?

Spreading misinformation to aid one's short position is a much worse case of bias, in my mind, than what I've said in defense of the company.


1. No, it's not reasonable to assume a technology-sector investor isn't going to be able to help techie friends find jobs.

2. The "slander" was supported by an anecdote. And this is a comment section -- opinionated statements will be found.

3. What might be closer to slander is the fantastic assumption that the other commenter is shilling for a short position in Facebook. That's a mind-boggling assumption to make on the flimsiest of evidence. Even setting aside that trying to promote your short in a random HN comment is laughable

4. You're curiously silent on your own bias, well noted by pantaloons


I'm not "curiously silent" on my own bias. What do you want me to say exactly? You're trying really hard to paint the same picture you're criticizing, namely that I'm some sort of shill.

I think the idea that everyone at FB who doesn't leave immediately is a "mediocre sell-out" is very far from the truth, and contrary to my own experience. Thus I'm suspicious of people who claim such.

There's already enough people on HN that will type out a borderline vitriolic four point list of why anyone who defends FB is wrong.

Why don't you look at JumpCrisscross' post history? This isn't the only anti-FB article he's submitted. Or are you a bit biased here? :) He has even commented on FB's stock price and predicted it will go down more in the future.

My bias is that I think there's another side to the story.


> I think the idea that everyone at FB who doesn't leave immediately is a "mediocre sell-out" is very far from the truth, and contrary to my own experience. Thus I'm suspicious of people who claim such.

You are so self-assured about your position that you immediately take the contrary assertion to be in _bad faith_? This seems silly to me, but perhaps we'll have to agree to disagree.


But seriously, what are your motives in defending Facebook so much?


Why wouldn’t an investment banker be able to help? I work at a large investment bank, and we hire from the same pool of top engineers as the FAANGs.


> I doubt you are actually helping friends at FB find new jobs

I did.

> it's much more likely that you are short FB

I don’t own a single share, nor am I short a single share, of any public company. I play in private companies’ equities and debts. That’s my day job, and it (along with super-safe bonds) are where I put my money. You may be confusing bankers with fund managers.

> you should spend some time thinking about what contributions you investment banker types are making to society

I think about this frequently. Many bankers waste their oxygen. But I don’t think I do.

At best, someone at Facebook might do something I strive to—help bring something new to the world that is good and wouldn’t have otherwise existed. At worst, I lose money. (Never fun, but by legal requirement I can only lose the money of those with very much of it.) At worst, Facebook prompts violent atrocities.


Excuse me, I disagree with the parent and think their views of FB are completely wrong...

But that's absolutely not reason enough to blatantly impugn someone's motives, and suggest outright that they are doing something illegal.


Hey what are the top challenges that Facebook offer? I dont work in tech and follow HN as I find the less technical posts interesting, and I can’t grasp why people want to work in many of these companies, like where is the buzz from working at Facebook now?


Downvotes but no responses... But seriously, its already built to a huge scale, its core product that people actually use (newsfeed / apps) havn’t changed in years(functionally - I’m sure the code base has..). is it the appeal of working on a product used by a significant proportion of the worlds population or just working at a huge company?


Downvotes because to be honest your response sounds either incredibly clueless, or incredibly arrogant/condescending (I wasn't the one who downvoted FWIW).

Here for a preview of something that is completely led by Facebook due to their scalability needs, and that most small/mid/large employers would never have the resources to fund, or the need to pursue: https://code.fb.com/open-source/linux/

All these projects have had major contributions during 2018, so not everything has been "figured out" yet.


Hi, thanks for the information, I did not mean to be condescending, definitely completely clueless! The interesting thing is building the tools that lets you run a platform the size of Facebook. Cool.


>All my acquaintances working in tech [...]

Of course they do. I too, when in polite professional company, don't rip into facebook and make myself look like the tinfoil hat nutter.


Yea, I know what you mean. It's unfortunate too since FB does hav some pretty cool things that are worth talking about!


but when you shit where you eat, it all looks like shit.


What other companies do your acquaintances working in tech consider “prestigious”?


Generally it's FAANG (minus Amazon, plus some unicorns), for the reasons mentioned above: a very good balance of excellent compensation, talented peers to work with, and interesting work.

Joining these companies in the right teams is literally what makes it possible to have an exciting technical career AND the guarantee of being able to retire (or more generally, gain financial freedom) in your early/mid 40s, if one decides to stay on an individual contributor technical track. Seriously, it's the only decision that makes sense if one has the chops to get into one of those places. Always pay yourself first, with interesting works that keeps you marketable and with liquid cash to put into your retirement savings!

I would have jumped ship myself but, as I said in a few other previous comments, I had crazy luck to join a "very mediocre" startup who is growing a lot, so my appreciated equity prevents me from leaving, otherwise I'd for sure be in FB right now, since the offer they extended me was very generous and the specific work was something I wouldn't be able to do anywhere else.

A close friend of mine was hired for their network traffic team a few months ago. I spoke to him recently and he said: "boy, I thought I knew many things about handling large traffic at scale, but the things I'm seeing here are simply unprecedented". So, to all the people who say FB will go down in history for hiring mediocre people, please recognize how ridiculous your statements are.


> Seriously, it's the only decision that makes sense if one has the chops to get into one of those places.

For you, sure.

There are better ways I can think of spending my 20s and 30s than just setting up for retirement in my 40s, because when you're in your 40s, you're not in your 20s or 30s anymore.


I never said "than _just_ setting up for retirement". I am in my early 30s and early retirement has always been a major goal for me (grew up dirt poor and suffered because of it), and yet I don't feel I will ever regret working very hard during this past decade, since it allowed me to accomplish some things I'm pretty proud of:

- It allowed me to immigrate to the US and become a citizen in 8 years, coming from a poor European country, thanks to my engineering background I obtained by getting a BS + MS in computer engineering while other acquaintances were going down an easier path (e.g. "I don't want to waste my early 20s studying").

- It allowed me to live in San Francisco, an absolutely amazing city where I am having the time of my life, cultivating relationships with my diverse group of friends, exploring nature, ...

- It allowed me to work on very interesting projects and technical work.

- It allowed me to travel without worrying about budgeting, I take a month of international travel every year and in between jobs I took a 4 months break to explore more deeply SE Asia.

- All that hard work allowed me to be incredibly well compensated, and in my very early 30s my liquid net worth is in the 7 figures now (started from exactly 0 out of school), which gives me an immense freedom for the rest of my life.

So, I didn't "_just_ set up for retirement", and had I been in FAANG I would have likely done exactly the same (since that's what my friends working there do), just being paid more so right now my net worth would be even higher.

I'll certainly agree to disagree since my statement was perhaps too strong, but I just wanted to bring the perspective that one can work hard with an early retirement goal without giving up on the things that one could "otherwise enjoy" if pursuing a different goal.


Interesting. Out of curiosity, why don't they think Microsoft or Amazon are prestigious? Which one of those parameters do they fail?


Amazon is known to pay less and have a brutal work life balance.

Microsoft is known for paying less and being too big and too political to the point where making an impact is really difficult.

Mind you, this is on average: there are stellar teams at both of those companies that work on incredible stuff, and I would consider an honor and privilege to be in that situation, if the opportunity was given to me. Likewise, there are many teams in Google maintaining internal legacy applications with no challenges to solve, and you would have to pay me 7 figures to force me to work on those.


Weird. Are you saying the average Amazon or MS engineer has less prestige and that they are worse, if the companies are worse on average?

I personally couldn't get into Facebook or Google. What does that make me?


According to my experience, the average Amazon/Microsoft engineer would jump in a heartbeat to Google/Facebook, given the opportunity and assuming the logistics are feasible. The opposite is much less common. If you download the Blind app and start reading threads, you’ll quickly realize this trend yourself, and it matches what I’ve heard from acquaintances. Based on these observations, yes, I conclude those engineers have less prestige until they stay with those employers (relative obviously, they are still at a top tech company, so probably in the very top percentiles of the market).

Once again, this is on average, it depends on the specific team. There are insanely talented people at both MS and Amazon!

As far as you not getting accepted, not passing an interview there doesn’t mean you are not talented, but passing the interview very likely means you are talented, and for them this high false negative rate is good enough at this time.

I’ve been lucky enough to get offers at Google, Netflix and Facebook and the interviews were definitely hard, I can’t imagine a weak candidate passing those interviews by mistake, but I can very well imagine a smart candidate not passing them. Preparation is key: I played the game for a few months and prepared according to their interview style. It’s tedious and time consuming work.


>> Seriously, it's the only decision that makes sense if one has the chops to get into one of those places.

I don't apparently

> I conclude those engineers have less prestige until they stay with those employers

Well, I appreciate your honesty - when I tell most people about how I make ~$150k at one of those companies they usually claim they don't look down on me when I've always maintained they secretly do. Thanks for clearing it up.

I hope my life isn't forever ruined by my inability to get into FB/G/top startups out of undergrad. I prepared for years but never got past the onsites. Hopefully someday I'll be able to gain the respect of people like you.


The point is that these peoples in the article have leverage. Companies are competing for them not the other way around, so it's natural for them to consider ethics because it will not affect their standard of living.

If I have the choice between working for Palantir or Facebook, I choose Facebook. If have to choose to between Facebook and Apple I choose Apple. Whatever I choose I will still live extremely comfortably. And yes not all those companies have an equally bad impact on society.

In both of your examples it's fair to say that you (or CS grads in Denmark) probably don't have that kind of leverage, because this is not the Silicon Valley. If you have to choose between working for FB at 150k$/year or public service for a third of that, then yes, choosing ethics has a big negative impacts on your life and it's hard to blame anyone for choosing FB.

They don't have this problem.


Danish CS degrees are in high regard, and we’re all fairly good at English.

There are a lot of Danes in Silicon Valley, I mean, C++, C# and Ruby were made by Danes, so it’s not like Murica isn’t open for us.

You can make a lot of money in IT anywhere though. I manage 70 people, in a muniplacity that is well paid. I’ve been headhunted for much higher salaries throughout my career though, but I’ve always preferred public service.

The fact that I could be home at 15:00 on a Friday, with my kids picked up and the groceries done helped a lot in my younger years as well of course.


Yukihiro Matsumoto is Danish?


Oh, it was just Ruby on Rails, well, the more you know.

My bad.


"Danish CS degrees are in high regard, and we’re all fairly good at English. There are a lot of Danes in Silicon Valley, I mean, C++, C# and Ruby were made by Danes, so it’s not like Murica isn’t open for us."

That is my point. Many of them move to the SV because they can get better conditions (caused by more leverage) there than if they stay in Denmark because there is a magnitude more tech companies there than in DK. I'm pretty sure they don't just move to avoid the rain :)


Where is it ethical to work?

I'm coming to the conclusion, pretty much nowhere is inscrutable and free from scandal in one form or another.

However that doesn't give us a pass to be glib and just throw our hands up and say, it's all bad who cares, get money. Nothing positive comes from cynicism.

It's especially important to call this out when companies are talking about "making the world better" or otherwise making broad statements about them being a positive force in the world. It's incongruous between reality and their public relations, and that needs to be talked about.


Totally agree. I think a good example is the tobacco industry.


Yes, it is a lot worse.

I live in Brazil, where a Facebook company, was used in a plot to spread fake news to elect a far right president. They are really against doing anything that may affect their bottom line.

No other tech company is this bad.


Can you elaborate? What was Facebook's role in this? Do you blame Facebook for not filtering out any potential fake news or did they take an active position in the matter?


The winner candidate created a well funded structure to disseminate fake news through WhatsApp. There were demands to limit the ability for a individual to spread fake news, but WhatsApp/Facebook had deaf ears.

Here are a bunch of links from reputable sourcers:

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-latin-america-45769992/fig...

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/17/opinion/brazil-election-f...

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/oct/18/brazil-jair-bo...

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/brazil-ele...

http://nymag.com/developing/2018/10/whatsapp-too-late-fake-n...

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/10/18/jair-bolsonaro-a...


It was a Conspiracy Theory created by a journalist who wrote that non-media companies were sending fake news, with no evidence to show for it. Whatsapp, which is supposed to be E2E encrypted, is the most popular app in Brazil and the government wanted Facebook to censor information, but they said no. Obviously there were false messages about every candidate in the election, not just the one the above guy didn't like. There was even a deepfake video. I can't stress how dangerous it is to ask the government to classify what is true and what is not. This is totally different from the facebook case in America because there it involved ads. Here it was messages from individuals. But sadly the left was advocating for censorship while calling the others fascists.


Neither Amazon nor Google hired a PR team to push alt-right narratives about how "George Soros is out to get you." Facebook has.


> Are they worse than google or amazon? What about people who work for Coca-Cola? What about the people who make mobile games and loot boxes for Blizzard?

The recent Times article indicates that they are dirtier than Google and Apple, so yes.


When I was in college and looking for an intern job I declined to interview with RJ Reynolds and several local alcohol producers on moral grounds. I wouldn't have accepted a job there no matter what they offered me. So, I can understand why people wouldn't want to work for a company and believe that there are people in the world that won't compromise their morals for a paycheck.


> where is it ethical to work?

Possibly these companies: https://bcorporation.net/directory


I still like Facebook, but I get all the hate. It is an annoying product and can be addictive. And it used to be less annoying, more about persons and not products, and they don't care about not being addictive. They seems to be trying to cope with thinks like fake news, though. It is part of being a totally new product.

But yes, the reaction is exaggerated.


> Where is it ethical to work?

Working at Netflix, Apple, Salesforce, Oracle, or Microsoft seems to be a category more ethical than Facebook/Google, wouldn't you say? Isn't that a good place to start? At worst, those companies are mainly just screwing over other companies (though depends on if Netflix is up to something behind the scenes)


Oracle? With their approach to IP? No, I don’t think so. I don’t think they care about anything but money in the least.


No I mean for sure they are pieces of shit to other companies and only care about money, but "who cares" compared to google/facebook level evilness.


> At worst, those companies are mainly just screwing over other companies (though depends on if Netflix is up to something behind the scenes)

Or, you know, profiting from human rights abuses: https://www.newsweek.com/iphone-x-release-human-cost-apples-...


I’ve been in public service for decades, so I know a thing or two about choosing idealism over money

Even here, different people in different situations might see this as either choosing idealism over money or the opposite.

I hear the Danish public service is good. Here though (ireland) the public service has a name for meaningless jobs with good conditions. This may be a self fullfiling prophecy.

Sometimes the differences can get abstract.

I watched an interview while back with coalition soldiers and mercenaries. Soldiers are generally seen as self sacrificing patriots. Mercenaries as greedy assholes. But, both are being paid and they do the same job in the same war and take orders from the same place.

Ultimately, a lot of this comes down to perspective.


They aren't worse. They are different. People want to work on products they relate to, especially when they are young and without dependents. Young people don't relate to facebook anymore, but they relate to google and amazon because they use those services in their home life and career life.


There are plenty of ethical places to work. You just need to not look only at the richest companies with the most generous compensation, because they tend to be the ones that aren't.

It's a simple question you have to ask yourself. Do you value money more than your principles?


It is their personal moral decision, you can't make it for them. I encourage everybody to try to align their values with their work. Capitalism is wrong that we are all just replaceable cogs that can be put to work on any capitalist's dreams.


> Where is it ethical to work?

Oh I don't know, maybe one of those companies that isn't building software that's used to incite genocide?

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/15/technology/myanmar-facebo...


> Like we recently ordered a system for abused children journals. A nationwide bidding landing in a 120 million danish or deal, for a piece of software that 30 municipalities build an equivalent of on their own for 2 million danish kr a few years back.

Can you give the name of this company / case? I can't find anything in English news of Denmark.


The system that won the bidding is called DUBU. https://www.kombit.dk/dubu

The system that does the same thing DUBU does today, and the next DUBU will, good enough is called sbsys.

It’s not a secret, the 120 million might be 128 million though, but it’s not completely unreasonable for what it’s meant to do, the politics involved and so on. It’s just hilarious that communal co-ownership of software did it for 2 million. I mean you could argue that it’s illustrating how silly enterprise software companies are in general, but it is what it is.


> I mean you could argue that it’s illustrating how silly enterprise software companies are in general, but it is what it is.

Enterprise software companies know exactly what they're doing - fleecing the government for every single dime they can.

You can't blame them - they're just acting on their natural capitalist instinct to maximize their return to shareholders.

Blame the government for its ridiculously bloated procurement process, uncompetitive career opportunities and a broken management system.

Government waste is utterly gobsmacking.


I’d say the same thing for enterprise companies though. It’s not like they bank that money.

They use it on project management, sales management, key account management, four layers of testing setup that still lets bugs slip into production, and a whole lot of other useless stuff.

I mean, the budget is transparent, they spend less than 20% on actual development and makes less than 10% out as profits, so that’s 70% inefficiency, and they only won the contracts because all the big companies are like that.

You’re not wrong though, turning it political isn’t really great for building software. My point is just that a big company is almost as political as the public sector, and sometimes they are less adaptive because their political leadership and vision changes slower and has smaller range.

The equivalent system sbsys was also build by private sector developers you know, but here the political side handled the project management and codebase leadership, and apparently we’re just a lot better at that.


Oh yeah, companies of substantial size have large/meaningless overheads too. That's the unfortunate consequence of having a lot of people work together with varying opinions/motivations.

They also have to spend a lot on warm bodies/lobbying to get those contracts in the first place.

I'm not letting the enterprise providers off the hook. Just pointing out (as you note) that true responsibility lies with the project managers. Ineffectual project managers mean overblown budgets and undercooked results.


> You can't blame them - they're just acting on their natural capitalist instinct to maximize their return to shareholders.

Yeah don't blame the exploiter, blame the victim!

I am sickened by this philosophy. Why do we let people get away with doing horrible things because "they're just doing their job". This sort of thinking breeds more immoral actions that are easily excused.


If you can link the fall of democracy to misinformation being spread on their platform, genocide and mob murders, yes I’d say not all tech companies are that bad.


I think poor education, stagnation of living standards and rising inequality is a lot worse in that area than Facebook.

Granted, I think angrymob-media would be a much more fitting description than social-media, but it’s not like humanity wasn’t perfectly capable of making really shitty decisions long before the internet.


yes, they are worse than all those. Perhaps loot box companies are close and only less so because of current scale and not because of less sinister intent.

Google is not fbook, (not that I am a fan of big G - it's evil in other ways more so than fbook) -

Where is ethical in my mind is more shades of grey rather than place A is and Place B is not..

I think many people do not understand the immense power the fbook wields to truly get how damaging it is and can be. Some of us may not get sucked in by our evolving news feed, but that does not mean that it is not indeed sucking people in and keeping them hooked for it's benefit and to the detriment of other's lives.


there are so many ethical things you can use your brain on. first of all, you can start by not investing your talent/intelligence on advertisement. everybody knows ads are bad and they make making people suffer in many ways. we know so well that facebook, google et.al have no good intentions for the planet and are harvesting massive profits. ultra capitalist, maybe? we have many choices as humans, we can choose to organize, work for honest people and take a big shit on evil companies destroying our environment!


Whataboutism [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whataboutism] is not really a good defence of Facebook I think.


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