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Talent Is Everywhere, Opportunity Is Not (threadreaderapp.com)
339 points by kebede 42 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 273 comments



> Talent is everywhere. Opportunity is not.

The Valley is so disconnected from the "real" America. I hate using that term, but to anyone that's lived in more rural non-coastal areas will quickly realize that the issue is not racism or sexism (although these do play a part). Rather, it's a purely economic stratification. I'm a 1.5-generation American (moved here when I was 11) and attended HS in Georgia at a mediocre high school -- underfunded, understaffed, etc. Our valedictorian is the only one from my graduating class that went to an Ivy League school (and he could "only" manage to get accepted by Cornell). Just about everyone else went to a local school: either UGA (barely breaks the top-50), GSU (terribly ranked, like top-200; I went here my freshman year), or GA Tech (which was extremely competitive and hard to get into). Compare this to my sister's high school (which she graduated from after my family and I moved to Southern California): about 20% attended Ivy League schools, and a significant portion attended highly-ranked California institutions: Stanford, CalTech, UCLA, Berkeley, Harvey Mudd, etc.

It's hard to argue that these Californian students were that much smarter than my Georgia cohort, and yet fate threw these two different sets of youngsters on widely different life trajectories. Race, gender, religion all play a role -- but more importantly, it's economic segregation we need to watch out for.


I'm from the bottom of the barrel, socio-economically speaking. But I'm white and male, and I can point to multiple moments in my life where people gave me the benefit of the doubt and I honestly do not believe they would have done so if I didn't pattern match for them to "nerdy white boy, probably really smart."

Of course I had to take advantage of those opportunities, but I'm fairly sure they wouldn't have even been on offer to people who didn't have my racial/gender advantages.


How much of this is just selection bias? I’m a white male who probably pattern matches the same way. A few months ago I was traveling and as a completely innocent mistake forgot to pay rent by a day. I was not given the benefit of the doubt at all — I was blocked from online payments and was given three days to vacate before a formal eviction suit would be filed against me, as if I were a criminal who couldn’t have just had a momentary lapse. The notice was unconditional, meaning the landlord could choose to continue eviction proceedings even if I paid — the most extreme option available to them, usually reserved for someone they want out no matter what.

In this case, I went in the next morning with a cashier’s check and they dropped it. But moments like this have led me to wonder if the common narrative of privilege actually applies to me in practice as much as is assumed.


I am a sample of one. And I've had a few bad experiences too, sometimes involving things like late payment (in my case because I was genuinely unable to pay). I've noticed a bit of a pattern: your landlord could be sued for discrimination if someone could show a pattern of enforcing the rules on protected individuals and not on others. If a paper trail is being created, it's not surprising to find that rules are rules. But as an example, I was homeless at one point and should have been arrested for shop-lifting (food) and the cop gave me a break. If I'd been black in that part of the city, I guarantee I would have been in jail. In other cases, I've had multiple examples of people listening to me and not listening to more-qualified women in the same meeting, often if I simply repeat what they said 30s later.


It can go both ways. I am being stalked and experiencing a pattern of targeted harassment, assault (both attempted and succeeded) and other crime. It's left me in dire straits.

I just recently saw on the news a woman talking about this happening to women, saying: "women experience harassment and assault and are unable to continue their careers and have been driven from their homes."

While that's exactly what has happened to me, I dont find any advocates. Especially on the news. In fact, people assume these things cant happen to white, nerdy guys.

It's really overwhelming. It must have obviously been even more hopeless for people when these kinds of things happened to people within a society of not just targeted hate, but institutionalized prejudice as well. It's good that's changed for the better for those people.

But here I am and I'm not really sure what the best way to get help is.


Please consult with authorities and record all instances of stalking/harassment. Protect yourself by all legal means possible and educate yourself on self defense strategies that can protect your life and keep you out of jail.

Post on the subreddit r/legaladvice for some actionable advice.

Sorry you are going through this, I hope our justice system can help you.


If anyone has connections to media or any civil rights groups and is interested in my story I will add a way to contact me in my profile.

I had to move across the world and a couple weeks after arrival, people started telling me there was a man who was claiming to be my father that was looking for me (his description was very far from my father's).

That was not an isolated incident. There's a very long list of unjust and crazy things happening to me.

Everyone asks, what would be the motive? This is why for so long I didnt recognize this was happening to me. Because there was no rational reason for it to.

It's hard to explain, but starting when I was a minor, I experienced a series of outrageous injustices from wealthy individuals. I think the motives developed out of these liabilities and it grew from there into a collection of people, ideas, and institutions which had wronged me. I'm guessing.

Some events may be entirely unrelated to each other. But even a literal nazi like Richard Spencer went, what, years before someone punched him? It would be extroardinarily strange that without motive or liability for anyone to have this much obsession with what a normal person.

I dont have many friends and most people dont want to associate with Thomas Paines, let alone someone with lifetime bullying problems without even an apparent virtuous cause or source of prejudice. And unfortunately, a lot of people are inclined to think that if such negativity afflicts you then you must have done something to deserve it.

Once I started publishing my self-recordings of aggresses the attacks basically went from common occurences to zero. Suggesting some orchestration, or an extroardinary coincidence.

I'm fearful of seeking help because it could potentially instigate an escalated retaliatory response.

What else to do? Living my life on the run is obviously just a dead end. I'm lucky to have the physical and mental capability to survive thus far both physically and financially, but in both senses I'm already pushing the limits.


Please post your story on the subreddit r/legaladvice for some actionable advice.

www.reddit.com/r/legaladvice

There are legal professionals there that will anonymously give you their advice on what to do to better your situation. If you want to be private, post from a public place like Starbucks.


Who in God's name would downvote this? It went from several + to 0.


Probably people who don't believe men can experience these things allied with people who believe men can experience them but see it as un-manning them. Humans are weird.

Have an upvote.


Here's a good community for you: https://www.reddit.com/r/MensLib/

It avoids the rabid anti-feminism of way too many male-centric spaces, while also avoiding the de-centering of men that tends to happen in more moderate spaces (remember The Good Men Project?).


Not knowing where you are, but generally it is difficult to evict people. They are probably using scare tactics to get you to pay. I find it unlikely they would be able to evict you for paying a day late. Unless you know the landlord personally, I'm sure this was all just automatic, and it quotient matter who you were, they would have done the same thing


Many landlording books and courses recommend posting the 3-day notice-to-quit immediately when the rent is due. It's probably 10-20% asserting/protecting the landlord's rights under the law and 80-90% "training the tenants to hold up their end of the contract as they signed it."


Wouldn't it be more normal to post a "pay or quit" notice? The significance of this is the landlord is legally obligated to drop eviction proceedings if you pay within 3 days. I don't think jumping straight to an unconditional notice to quit is normal or even legal in many states. Indeed, many states require repeated violations before a landlord is allowed to post an unconditional notice: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/state-laws-unconditi...

I happen to be in Texas where any degree of nonpayment of rent, no matter how minor, innocent, or unintentional, can be used to justify an unconditional notice. But a "pay or quit" notice would have still been a less aggressive option available to them that would have achieved the same goal unless they had some ulterior motive (e.g., decide whether to proceed based on my skin color when I walked into the office with the cashier's check).


It is commonly understood in property management that you absolutely cannot appear to give breaks on paying the rent late, otherwise your tenants will prioritize making their car payment, cell phone payment, credit card payment, etc before paying rent. Obviously, if you have a long term renter who has always shown responsibility in the past, property managers will make exceptions.


My grandparents-in-law used to be slum lords and this was absolutely their policy. It can take a very long time to evict someone, so you immediately begin the proceedings in case they actually don’t end up paying.


Can a landlord write a 3 day rule into a lease agreement and have it override California eviction laws?


I believe the general principle is that you can't contract outside the law, so no. Open to being set straight, obviously.


So you've now experienced something that lots of people who don't look like you experience far more than you do. The fact that you had a bad thing happen to you once doesn't mean you aren't privileged in 99% of your interactions.


"...usually reserved for someone they want out no matter what."

And I'd suggest they make the decision when you arrive in person. Before that, I read your anecdote as having taken place all online without in-person contact. I'd further surmise that the entire process was automated.

The wrong person walks in that following day with the same cashier's check and it's 'thanks for the payment, we're proceeding with the eviction.'


It’s possible, but where’s the evidence of that? It sort of seems like you’re trying to suggest my experience doesn’t “count” because it could have been even worse. Is the above really what most people picture when they hear “white privilege”? I don’t think it is. To be clear I’m not questioning the existence of white privilege, but rather its magnitude or extent.

This wasn’t automated, at least not entirely — the notice was signed and hand delivered to my partner at home while I was at work, who then almost cried thinking we were going to be kicked out.


Asking for proof of white privilege in a single instance where we don't have all the facts is to misunderstand the topic.

Shitty things happen to people all the time. But for historical reasons, they happen at different rates to different groups of people. That's how our country started; e.g., only well-off white men could vote. We are slowly reducing that. Maybe in another hundred years we'll have it all sorted.

Your experience counts because it's your experience. But it doesn't say beans about privilege as a system. Your attitude, does, though. You're shocked and angry that a minor slip-up might end up with you out on the street. That's great! You're correct that it's unjust. But there are an awful lot of people for whom that isn't a surprise at all. They expect injustice, because they have experienced a lot more of it.


> Your experience counts because it's your experience. But it doesn't say beans about privilege as a system. Your attitude, does, though. You're shocked and angry that a minor slip-up might end up with you out on the street. That's great! You're correct that it's unjust. But there are an awful lot of people for whom that isn't a surprise at all

So if I as a non-white minority would have a similar reaction as the person you're responding to, in a similar situation, does that mean I'd have "white privilege" as well, because of my "attitude"? If you were tying this explanation strictly to economic status I would understand (even though I myself come from a low economic status anyway), but I cannot fathom what this has to do with race. Defining a psychological response as some kind of racial trait like that almost makes it sound like you're implying that I can't/shouldn't empathize with white people when they get dealt a raw deal, which is such a dehumanizing notion I don't even have words to describe it. Nevermind the other implication that I'm apparently expected to have low expectations and all kinds of troubles just because I'm a minority. But then again, I'd still have that "attitude" of a 'privileged' white person, so maybe that's the loophole that lets me have higher standards?

Back in my home country, everyone knew these sorts of disparities were due to money, nepotism, and/or corruption. But here in America where everyone's much better educated, it seems like everything gets tied to race somehow, as if correlation == causation. Like it wouldn't even surprise me at this point to wake up one morning and suddenly be informed that I'm eating a "white" brand of breakfast cereal, and that I should opt to have more 'racially appropriate' meals. My home country has many flaws, but I've certainly grown to appreciate it's simplicity and lack of convoluted social dynamics the longer I've lived here.


If you are a non-white person, no, I would not say you have had your expectations set by experiencing white privilege.

You are welcome to empathize with white people. I often do. I am one. I empathize with that guy. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't acknowledge privilege.

If you can't fathom what this has to do with race, I'd suggest you haven't studied the topic enough. There is an ocean of history and rivers of current evidence that in America race drives a lot of this.

For example, you could go read Loewen's Sundown Towns, [1] which demonstrates that America had a major period of violent ethnic cleansing circa 1890-1930 known as the Nadir. That peaked with white people destroying America's most prosperous black district, firebombing it from the air and burning 35 blocks to the ground. [2]

You could go back from there and read about slavery and the civil war. You could read the various declarations of secession, where white people make clear they're willing to go to war because they believe black people are so inferior that they must forever be property. You could read the reports of the Freedmen's Bureau, and how even after the civil war there was endless violent aggression against black people.

Or you could go forward from the Nadir and read about Jim Crow. About white flight. About redlining. About racial exclusion covenants. Heck, right here in the Bay Area after WW II there was public debate over whether the peninsula should be declared whites only in its entirety.

From there you might read about the present. There too there's a ton of material. E.g., the classic resume study showing discrimination against black people. [3] And there are plenty of evocative books. E.g., Julie Lythcott-Haims's memoir Real American about growing up biracial. [4] Or Ijeoma Oluo's So You Want to Talk About Race. [5] And I don't think an understanding of American racial dynamics is complete without a look at white fragility. DiAngelo recently did a talk about her excellent book that's a good intro. [6]

I agree that America could be unique in the extent to which race matters historically and currently. But it's not like other countries don't have major issues with racial discrimination. Wikipedia has a very long list of ethnic cleansing campaigns, for example. [7] Congrats if your home country never had any of that, but that's not where you are now.

I also get why you might think discrimination was due to some correlative factor, like money. I used to think that too. But over time I came around. What changed was studying the history, looking at the evidence, and really listening to non-white people with empathy and an open mind.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/Sundown-Towns-Hidden-Dimension-Americ...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tulsa_race_riot

[3] https://www.nber.org/papers/w9873

[4] https://www.amazon.com/You-Want-Talk-About-Race/dp/158005677...

[5] https://www.amazon.com/You-Want-Talk-About-Race/dp/158005677...

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45ey4jgoxeU


> If you can't fathom what this has to do with race, I'd suggest you haven't studied the topic enough

Unfortunately I have studied it a fair amount, and I still don't see it. What I do see is a lot of opinionated history pieces (because history is written by the victors), prompting white people to harbor a lot of needless guilt and negativity towards themselves over the actions of their ancestors as if they were personally responsible somehow, or as if nothing about the culture has changed since then. I certainly don't feel indebted to the world in $CURRENT_YEAR because of violence and warfare my indigenous tribal ancestors committed ages ago, because times change and people change.

It's one thing to remember history, but it's a whole other thing to continually reenact it in an endless loop as if the questionable actors of the past were still alive today. I see no better way for this country to end up having Jim Crow Laws 2.0, than by continuing to reduce everyone to their racial identities in a way that people find "socially acceptable". If most of the people in power begin to view whites as less than [other types of] human, it will only be a matter of time before such sentiments get established into law (again), and that's a scary road to go down. Instead of using history as a means of learning about past mistakes to avoid, I see people using it like a kind of bible/handbook which they use to justify repetitive traditions. And instead of aiming towards a harmonious future of forgiveness, I see everyone scrambling to further their own myopic interests and building a divisive future.

> What changed was studying the history, looking at the evidence, and really listening to non-white people with empathy and an open mind.

Humans, unfortunately, have the tendency to reliably find evidence for whatever beliefs they orient their minds to, so that's neither here nor there. In the words of C. G. Jung: "People don't have ideas. Ideas have people." So anything that isn't a hard science or mathematics might as well be a theological discussion that that point.

I would also wager that many of the non-white people you've spoken to are probably culturally American/Western as well, which would naturally predispose them to similar ideas anyway. Not that this would be your fault in any way, as simply speaking English already brings a lot of selection bias into play. But in my own personal dealings with people who were still culturally rooted in Eastern Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and even some from parts of northern/eastern Africa, none of them shared this peculiar Western outlook that an entire race should somehow be expected to atone for their sins indefinitely.

You suggest I immerse myself in the minutia of Amrican political history to reach enlightenment, but my concern is a much more global and philosophical one, that likely won't be answered by mere history books. Also, being lectured about the utmost importance of American history after living in the country for decades doesn't help the stereotype that Americans are self-centered and oblivious about anything beyond their borders. Not that I'm one to buy into stereotypes, but this trope of ignoring the forest for the American trees is fairly common in my experience.


If you have studied America's history of race, you give very little indication.

You then shift your objection to modern activism. I think you're also wrong about its aims and methods. Since offering you resources on the previous topic didn't seem to prompt much but a change of topic, so I won't bother here.

I suggested you immerse yourself in America's history and present of race to understand America's present situation because you said you couldn't fathom that situation. That you now disdain the details as "minutia" [sic] goes a long way to explaining not only why you can't fathom it, but why you probably never will. Your choice, of course, but you shouldn't expect anybody to take your wilful ignorance as somehow meaningful.

I'll again suggest you read DiAngelo's book on white fragility, though, as she covers a lot of the points you explicitly raise here.


Forgot to respond to this particular point:

> I think you're also wrong about its aims and methods.

I once again very well might be, but I should highlight the fact that "good intentions" alone are not enough to produce beneficial results, and my statements about peoples' aims were to reflect the mismatch between many of these peoples' intentions and the practical outcomes of their actions.

I recommend looking into the work of Paul Bloom to see the arguments for why such endeavors tend not to work out, and to get an idea of the possible implications of relying too heavily on methods/ideologies whose central goals tend to revolve around empathy and good intentions.


> That you now disdain the details as "minutia" [sic] goes a long way to explaining not only why you can't fathom it, but why you probably never will.

It could be that, or it could be that I simply disagree philosophically with the entire premise, and opt instead to take a broader scale look at the dynamics involved. Surely you can acknowledge that would lead to the same outcome, and you wouldn't necessarily be able to tell the difference without looking for it; just as surely as you wouldn't be able to immediately deduce the cause of a fire simply from observing the fact that something is on fire.

If these theories were simply lenses for literary analyses of history that resulted in something akin to movie reviews, then it wouldn't be a big problem, but people like yourself seem to be holding up these philosophically unsound theories as "truths". And all this simply because these ideas are promoted by academics, despite them originating from questionable fields of social science that have suffered the most from the ongoing replication crisis and publication bias. Racial politics have always been justified by "credible" sources in the past, whether it be from biologists or theologians, so I don't see why modern sociologists would be any different.

There's a relevant saying that goes "the map is not the territory", and it implies that there are serious consequences when you start believing that your map is literally an accurate description of reality. Similarly, the saying "all models suck, but some are more useful than others" also applies here, except I'm failing to see the use of this particular model of 'white fragility' and the 'progressive stack', because if anything, it seems to have mostly served to drive racial tensions in this country to an all-time high, and most of it only within the last decade.

If we start finding "white fragility" an acceptable concept, what's to stop anyone from claiming "black/hispanic/asian/etc fragility" later? The problem is that the whole idea is founded upon things that aren't philosophically rigorous enough to prevent it from devolving into a slippery slope, and history has shown that murphy's law is very applicable in these cases. For example, what if I were to frame what's happening here as you "whitesplaining" to an oppressed minority, and that in reality you just can't handle the idea of being wrong because of your own "white fragility"? Would that not simply foment strong feelings of resentment in you, because it implies that you're simply belittling my views because you unconsciously view me as being part of an inferior race? If everything else I've read here goes, I'd think that interpretation would actually be perfectly valid. And if that pattern happened enough times, soon enough my own race would be labeled as "fragile", because that would be a perfectly natural human response to feeling attacked. Luckily, I don't feel inclined to label you a racist here, but realize that this is a power that's completely and arbitrarily under my control, and has been granted to me in this country simply because of the way I was born.

> I'll again suggest you read DiAngelo's book on white fragility, though, as she covers a lot of the points you explicitly raise here.

I watched the talk you linked from her originally, and I found it completely lacking in rigorous explanations. I'm a personality psychology researcher myself, so from my perspective, the whole argument hand-waves away too many individual psychological phenomena/dynamics (actually, worse, she doesn't even cite/reference any to build up her theory), and doesn't seem to propose any falsifiable claims, nor did it even seem to make any cases for its explanatory power at all either. It rather reminded me a lot of astrology: a lot of speculation and projection of ambiguous grand theories onto observable entities, to "explain"/predict various mysterious phenomena in the world. Instead of elaborating about why or how the worldview is derived, she just plainly asserted "this is how the world works" with no justification or possible alternative explanations whatsoever. If that kind of research doesn't scream "replication crisis", I'm not sure what does. As a "scientist of color", this strikes me as pure pseudoscience.

And this isn't even getting into the fact that she seemingly can't help but speak for the views of us "people of color" in completely warped terms. Not everyone that isn't white thinks about (or wants to think about) white people in racial terms, nor attribute all their flaws to their skin color. She literally promotes viewing minorities as harboring resentment, and prejudiced, bigoted thoughts, like it's just our natural state because we're non-white, as if it's some kind of casual fact. Yet she simultaneously claims to "not speak for all of humanity". That is incredibly disgusting.

I'll check out her book anyway, if only to try and understand it the same way I tried to understand Mein Kampf, but my expectations are even lower now after having watched that talk.


It could be all sorts of things. But given your absurdly voluble dodging of points, and give that you're now on to "the anti-racists are the real Nazis", I think stick with my previous understanding.


A followup: I just came across a study of the extent to which Americans radically underestimate black/white economic difference: https://insights.som.yale.edu/insights/how-fair-is-american-...

A particularly striking example is around perceptions of wealth. In asking about wealth, they ask how much the average black household has if for every $100 the average white household has. The average answer was $85; the reality, $5.

It's easy to think white privilege doesn't exist if one focuses, as here, only on the white experience. But both currently and historically, there are huge differences that aren't much talked about. For those up for a read, I recommend Loewen's Sundown Towns: https://www.amazon.com/Sundown-Towns-Hidden-Dimension-Americ...

It covered a lot of history I was unaware of.


> A particularly striking example is around perceptions of wealth. In asking about wealth, they ask how much the average black household has if for every $100 the average white household has. The average answer was $85; the reality, $5.

I don't think this was for the average wealth, but for the richest 20%, by race.


The survey question from the study: “For every $100 in wealth accumulated by an average White family, how much wealth has the average Black family accumulated in 1983/2010?”

From here, in the "Methods and Measures" section: https://www.pnas.org/content/114/39/10324

The median net worth of


The problem I have with the narrative you advance is that you, like so many others I've seen in the past few years, seem to just ignore the existence of poor white people. This country has entire towns and cities of poor white people who are facing the same sorts of situations I described, but you make statements that suggest that it's only nonwhite people who experience this sort of thing regularly. Do you think harsh treatment from a landlord would have been a surprise to all the white people I grew up around as a kid who were on food stamps living in rented trailers? These folks had to move around every few years because they got kicked out or couldn't make rent. A sympathetic landlord would have been the surprise to them.

This is exactly the viewpoint I was trying to deconstruct with my original story -- that having all the white privilege in the world does not stop these things from happening to you, no matter what the narrative is, and that these experiences are simply not exclusive in any way to nonwhite people. You are either unaware of a huge demographic of people in the US, or you willingly ignore their presence.

None of this is to say that white privilege just flat-out doesn't exist, but it does explain why your manner of discussing it is highly unlikely to connect with white people who have regularly experienced all the things you seem to suggest only happen to minorities with high frequency. You appear to be discussing an alternate reality that does not exist for them.


FWIW, the same thing happened to me (had been paying consistently on time for two years and forgot to pay before going on a short vacation). It's just a standard practice thing for landlords to do for a variety of reasons, especially in places where it's difficult to evict people.


[flagged]


Only white males can have money in the bank and get a cashiers check?


I don’t really follow. You just have to go to your bank to get a cashier’s check. I couldn’t even do that when I first got the notice, which is why I had to pay another day late. I was lucky in that I didn’t work the next day, so I was able to go in the morning.


How hard is it to get a cashiers check? Can you prove the threat of eviction is not also recinded when someone non-white-male pays the rent? If you don’t have the money, obviously that’s harder, but do we have any data that non-white-males who pay the rent a day late get evicted more frequently than others? Landlords don’t care about any color other than on-time-green.


> Landlords don’t care about any color other than on-time-green.

This is obviously not a universal truth (and there have been many well-known cases of individual and systemic housing discrimination in the USA). Here's a Wikipedia bit that has more links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Housing_discrimination_(United...


You are very very naive if you believe that it's not very common that landlords do care, very much, about color.


I used to be really active online on some programming forums. After years on those sites, some of us posted photos of ourselves.

Apparently people thought all the well spoken nerdy types were all skinny and pale. I was brown with hairy arms. Another guy was black with a heavy sheriff mustache.

Everyone seemed to find it really surprising, which I guess makes me wonder how deep stereotypes cut.


Same story. I’m from a rural area in the South. Attended a terrible high school. No one in my small graduating class attended an elite university. Most attended universities ranked outside the top 100. I only know of a few graduates from my high school that attended the flagship state school ranked in the top 30-40, but they were exceptions.

No one in the history of my high school attended an Ivy League school.

Those in the more well-funded areas of the state send a large percentage of their graduates to Ivy League institutions on a yearly basis.

The smartest people from my high school weren’t that different intelligence wise from those more well-funded high school graduates.

The difference is our school offered a limited number of upper division college ready classes and had terrible teachers.

I think the assumption in my high school were students would graduate and go into a trade. Not many were expected to do anything big in college.


Did those students simply not have any initiative? It's sad to see such a reliance on others. I'm also from the rural South from a high school where most of my classmates stayed within the same small town, but I took initiative and got accepted to MIT and other top universities.


This is a cute argument, but I don't think you can successfully counter "No one in the history of my high school attended an Ivy League school" where California (and Massachusetts, and Connecticut) high schools routinely send 10%+ of their graduating classes to Ivy League institutions.


Your claim is cute that high schools "send" their graduates to Ivy League schools. It denigrates their efforts. They applied, and they earned admission.


If you seriously don't think elite high schools make concerted efforts to send their students to good universities, you're naïve.


Name-calling is indicative of a weak argument


The smartest people from my high school went to the flagship state school. The State school was essentially the ceiling of where our high school graduates went.

High school graduates from my school were simply not competitive (on paper) against the students applying to elite institutions.

One student had scored a 1600 out of a 1600 on their SAT, but was denied admissions to one of the ivies. They instead went to one of our state schools.

My high school is quite terrible and I don’t think any parent that has money would send their children to such places.

As mentioned, in the more well-funded schools, they regularly send their graduates to the most elite colleges including HYPS.

The ability level between the smartest person from high school and the students graduating from the well-funded high school isn’t anything huge. They’re probably of equal ability, yet one sends their graduates to elite places and the other doesn’t.


Couldn't one ask then, if the problem isn't (only) with schools (American schools, unlike its colleges, are generally unimpressive, including California ones, really) but with elite colleges as well? It's no secret already that they are choosing students for "culture fit" (e.g. see the Harvard lawsuit), so could it be possible that they just don't want "them hicks" regardless of how well-prepared they might have been?


In my city, there’s one Ivy League “feeder” school, it’s a private school that’s $20,000 a year or so for tuition. I went to a public school and also knew a guy who got a 1600 on his SAT, but couldn’t get accepted to Ivy League.

In 2017, only 5 kids got accepted to Ivy League schools in the best private school where I live, out of 100 or so in the graduating class? I’m not sure what that means, but maybe it’ll be of interest to someone.

https://www.pembrokehill.org/news/news-page/~post/phs-2017-g...


I'd be very surprised if the actual academic performance were anywhere near the top of acceptance criteria.


Right, I have no idea, I’m simply saying that in terms of opportunities in a midwestern metropolitan with 1-2 million people, even what’s considered the best schooling option at any price has very few Ivy League bound students.


Well, one of SV's founders (and YC graduate at that) said that Middle America is a shithole full of stupid people. With the donations from, and revolving door between Ivies and SV elite (I guess Wall Street as well, but people there tend to be a bit more practical), why would either want to admit those stupid people from those shithole places into their rarefied circles?


It's more or less no opportunity for initiative. If most of the time you see others going into the state university system and think that the top universities are out of your range you most likely never gain that initiative. At least until later in life or at all even. The reliance comes from people who would usually give you advice are out of their element.


I grew up in a very rural area and we had a similar ceiling. State schools for the top 5% of students, community college for the next 20%, and farming for the rest. I did well in high school and I applied to a few high caliber schools and was not accepted. I think you have it right, I had no perception of what the bar for entry at elite schools was or how to get there because not a single person within 100 miles had ever attended one.


I don't think you're blaming them for not getting into any, but I still want to say that i think one can't expect such an initiaitive from (essentially) childen. Taking initiaitve is also very character-dependend, I know some very smart and able, but shy people. They wouldn't really try something like this, they just don't have the courage.

It's a remarkable archievement to get into top universities on your own, but I don't think the skill (i don't mean your archievements in high-school, but doing this on your own) correlates too well the academic ability.

I think a realiance on others/your enviroment is just not something that you can change, especially during your young years.


A big part of that is the result of choices that Californians have made. We choose to be a high tax state, and we chose to invest heavily in higher education via the UC and CSU system. This has paid off, and California is reaping the benefits of a highly educated workforce.

I feel bad for Georgians, but they have chosen to have lower taxes and fewer services.


Don’t forget our community colleges, which are perhaps even more impactful. Even an average student can go to school and later transfer to a CSU or a UC. Beyond a standard 4 year degree, they also help with getting younger students ahead and older ones continuing their education.


Of course! My mom was a transfer director at a community college for many years... I saw how many people transformed their lives through community college.


It's not clear how the parent post blames this on "economic stratification" when siblings in highschool have the same economic status because of their parents.

His sister just went to a different better school.


He was making a broader observation of how the classes did so much different when it came down to simply where the people were at.


And his sister may also have worked harder or simply been smarter than him.


Good point, and one which is seldom mentioned. States like Georgia could learn a lot from states like California


Economic stratification is not simply a natural phenomenon. Especially at the current global levels of inequality. Policies and institutions had to be built to create and sustain this level of inequality. I'm not surprised that California in your opinion has done a better job of providing opportunities for it's high schoolers to get a better education compared to Georgia. For all of California's flaws I think if you look at the data you can see that it's clear that they invest more in providing equal opportunity for their residents than Georgia does.


> For all of California's flaws I think if you look at the data you can see that it's clear that they invest more in providing equal opportunity for their residents than Georgia does.

I'm not sure I'd blame the state. It's pretty obvious that admissions committees don't take socioeconomic factors in mind. Some states are always going to be wealthier than others -- that's just a fact of life -- but why are universities punishing (poor) students by culling opportunity? After all, a poor black kid has more in common with a poor white kid than a black one-per-center.


The parent is praising California not because of their superior admissions policies, but due to the sheer number of Universities and opportunities available to students in California because of the State investing in education/Universities.


I would assume a lot of that is due to California's initiative process allowing its residents to put more school bonds on ballots, both locally and statewide. Georgia's initiative process only allows amendments and repeals for existing laws, and only for cities and counties.


Indeed economic stratification like that is profoundly unnatural. What’s natural is either universal poverty, if you look at the world before ~5,000 years ago, or nigh on universal poverty, if you look at the world before modern economic growth began in the -1800’s. There were places and periods that were better off before that but it never lasted. The population increased until the average person was on the brink of starvation and every 5-20 years over 10% of the population would die in a famine. And there was always a small class of patricians or tradespeople and an even smaller oligarchy or aristocracy who thought themselves rich but had no medicine worth the name, lived by candlelight when it was dark and travelled by horse, cart or ship.

You’re quite right that economic stratification is not a natural phenomenon. Economic growth is profoundly unnatural. In nature we’re a slightly more successful kind of ape.


The true story of civilization was the story increasing carrying capacity, so population needn't be managed through warfare, famine or infanticide. Which through contraception, TV and the internet has now become a different story of population management.


It wouldn't look the same, but I suspect economic stratification would still happen even without the institutions that reinforce it, because small advantages compound and power laws are a thing.

I'm reminded of how scientists have elaborate protocols for eliminating bias in experiments, because just wanting to do it right isn't enough. Fairness (however you define it) doesn't happen by default.


Understanding power law distributions is a real eye opener. They're everywhere in nature.

I don't know about how other people feel, but after learning about power law distributions and then seeing them everywhere I now just think "well, thats just how nature works." That and the normal distribution.

I often meditate on people's obsession over fairness. The best I can come up with is that it is a hardball negotiating tactic to get more than you otherwise would through creating leverage by making others feeling uncomfortable and betting that they're not going to be able to tolerate the uncomfortable state. That comes from watching both Frans De Waal's Capuchin monkey experiment below and from observing my toddler.

https://youtu.be/meiU6TxysCg

Then you consider all of the power Laws in the universe. Almost nothing is fair. Unfairness seems to be the default. Consider the animal kingdom is full of homicidal behavior. Life is very rough. Yet we expect "everything should be fair and everyone should be nice." At some level that just isn't commensurate with reality.

I also find there is an extreme intolerance, at least if feels that way to me, maybe it's just an extreme frustration, of inefficiencies in nature. An article pointing out that some talent is being underutilized and this is a travesty! Ok, I'm in agreement it would be nice if it could be maximized, I guess. But I think it's ludicrous to expect a system that has optimize for the whole to optimize for local cases too. Imagine you have to design a system that can handle anything and work well enough under almost any circumstance. That necessarily requires some trade-offs that have kind of crappy results in a variety of conditions. The best way I have come up with describing it is "constraint-based optimization is the root of all evil"


If we expect "everything should be fair and everyone should be nice," it's because parents and schools teach this. It doesn't happen by accident.

Then when people discover ways that our society doesn't live up to that, they try to fix it.


Partly. Though where did the parents and schools learn it from? Arguably Marxist and Postmodern philosophy. But where did those philosophers get it from? We know from Frans De Waal's research (original paper linked below) that the concept of fairness is present in non-human primates. He mentions in his TED talk that the experiment has also been replicated in other animals, though I haven't confirmed that.

https://www.nature.com/articles/nature01963


Well, yes, and to go further, most of the famous philosophers had things to say about justice, and so do most religions. (So why single out Marxism and and Postmodernism?)

Do any of them say "power laws, what can you do?" That seems like confusing what is and what ought to be.


Only because they're some of the most recent philosophies that have had a very widespread impact and also due to them emphasizing Collectivism as opposed to Individualism. Postmodernism is born out of Marxism and Marxism pushes the equality theme hence fairness. I'd say that's a fairly valid reason to cite them?

Matthew 13:12 "For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath."

One could take that to be in reference to the general dynamics of power laws.

But, to reiterate my actual point, you find the same behavior related to 'fairness' in the animal kingdom, so it's not a uniquely human thing. That also makes Marx and Postmodernism irrelevant. They're almost a natural consequence that arises from some deeper, pre-existing thing.

The Is-Ought problem is relevant. If we accept that the distribution of power in society and the distribution of individual contribution follow power laws (they certainly seem to) then in response to "what is" as a society we have to make a decision about "what ought to be" in terms of how we run our society. You have to make that choice but the David Hume points out with his Is-Ought problem that you cannot link the morality of what you think "ought to be" with what is.

This means that whether Marx is saying well it seems that Capitalism has some problems that eventually result in it eating itself with all this power and wealth going to the top, the middle being stripped out and the rest winding up dirt poor on the bottom, so we "ought" not to do things that way OR You say something along the lines of supporting the current capatilist paradigm, you can't compute whether or not you are making the "right" choice from a moral standpoint in either case.

My line of thinking for what "ought" to be is that if nature really does seem hell bent on organizing things a certain way, how likely is it we can do anything about that? And if going against the grain seems to produce perverse results without much benefit, than why not just go with the grain and take the good with the bad?


Going against the natural way of things is what I'd call civilization. Giving up on this is sort like saying that justice is an awful lot of work, so why bother with having police and a court system? This would be unpopular even with libertarians.

But in the end, this is all about costs versus benefit, which deserves more than a one-bit answer. There are many possible civilizations.


If you think my position is the nihilistic option of "we can't do anything,so let's throw the whole thing out" then you have gravely misunderstood.

My point isn't about the cost/benefit analysis. It's about finding and understanding the boundary conditions of the system and not trying to get to some delusional Utopia.

I'll state it another way. Freedom of Speech. Widely considered a good thing. Except for those who don't like what you're saying and want to shut you down.

Ok, so we have a lever that we can slide to different settings. Either, you're allowed to say absolutely anything with zero restrictions, or you're not allowed to criticize the regime in the slightest or the lever is set somewhere in between. The question is "where is the optimal place to set the lever?". It seems setting it to North Korean setting where everything is completely restricted doesn't produce good results. Ok, so we set it in the other direction? You can say anything. This seems to be much better. Except it has this consequence that since people can say anything they can say ridiculous things that you wish they wouldn't. And you just have to accept that. There isn't a setting where you can say whatever you like and so can everyone else and no one ever says anything you wish they wouldn't. That setting doesn't exist. This leaves you with the reality of "there's always a small amount of shittiness even in the optimal system."

That's what I mean when I say you have to go with the grain and take the good with the bad. It means learning to live with the parts you don't like, not pretending they don't exist or advocating for the levers to get set to some impossible, magical Utopia setting that isn't commensurate with reality on a fundamental level.


Unfairness is everywhere in the natural world, but cooperative structures exists throughout nature too when they provide a competitive evolutionary advantage.

Humans are deeply social animals. Fairness, altruism, and morality have allowed us to thrive as a species.


Absolutely.

I wish my mental models in Ecology were a bit more fleshed out. It's on the list of things to dive into. Regardless, it seems that things that cooperate often cooperate in order to compete against other things and that competion is often life and death in nature hence my nature is pretty brutal comment.

Though I fundamentally agree with you. I think really tricky part is that people view things as zero-sum competion with regards to human competion. And it sort of is. But if you zoom way out you realize it's actually non-zero-sum. So, my view on things is human competion is zero-sum in the short-term and non-zero sum in the long-term under a system that permits it.

The deeper idea is "what's the maximum viable amount of fairness?"

We know from medieval times and before that that most people as powerless serfs and an absolute ruler at the top isn't the optimal distribution. We're on pretty solid ground saying that. We know, though sadly it's contested by some, that the communist model pushes the lever too far in the other direction and that winds up pretty suboptimal too. So the maximum viable amount of fairness lies somewhere in the middle... and what if that is where the lever is set to right now or shortly in the future?

That's problematic because it leaves you with a lot of disaffected people and a "sorry, this is as good as it gets" which doesn't feel good. So it's like... what do you do? Well what can you do?

But things aren't static. We are on a trajectory. The last couple of hundred years have seen massive improvements globally, at least according to the late Dr Hans Rosling's book Factfulness. So, it seems to me there isn't something you can do today or tomorrow to "fix" everything. It's not even obvious the system goes into the shape that some people want to see it squished into, but it does seem that if we let the current machine run its course then eventually everyone has drinking water, electricity, schooling, health care and improving opportunities.

I guess my point is... maybe the system is in the right configuration to maximize the outcome for everyone but the timescale that plays out on is another 200 ~ 300 years?

Could be.

Also side-note: anyone who wants to support Charity Water they do pretty rad work helping chip away at the problem of getting drinkable water to the remaining ~600m that dont have it.


I think increasing economic stratification is very natural and happens often in history. It's just that historically when it gets too extreme, the poor kill the rich and start it all over again.


The rich could avoid this by getting rid of the poor, but they need the poor: historically to do the work, currently to buy the stuff that makes them rich.

Perhaps autonomous robots changes this? Even, the need for private armies, via autonomous killer drones?

Fortunately, collaboration between equals remains the greatest source of wealth creation, so anyone who doesn't do this is poorer, weaker and left behind.


Currently, also to do the work.


I don’t think anyone really disagrees that the core problem is socioeconomic, it’s just that there seems to be a connection between only getting basic civil rights within living memory, and economic segregation. It’s hard to blame people who want to draw the connection between them. It’s bad enough that redlining maps from years ago still mostly describes current situations. It’s bad enough that zip code is a useful indicator of race for an insurance company.


Are you implying that US ethnic groups that were prohibited from participating in the capital markets, the civil court systems, insurance coverage, housing markets, mortgage lending markets and higher education and the specialized workforce until the late 1960s before then being allowed to start from $0 have a difficult time being uncorrelated from lower socioeconomic classes?


Similar.

I want to suggest that perhaps those students in CA really were that much better. Not in terms of raw talent, but in terms of the previous 10+ years of their life.

I learned a lot in PhD school, but the most important thing I learned was that others' high school experiences really did prepare them for academic rigor and business success in ways that mine decidedly didn't.


Let's add some real numbers to this discussion.

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/3/21/17139300/e...

"White children whose parents are in the top fifth of the income distribution have a 41.1 percent chance of staying there as adults... But for black children, it’s only 18 percent.

Among children who grew up in the bottom fifth of the distribution, 10.6 percent of whites make it into the top fifth ... and a tiny 2.5 percent of black children"

Ie, your odds of being in the upper middle class if you grew up:

White and rich: 40%

Black and rich: 20%

White and poor: 10%

Black and poor: 2.5%

Clearly parental income plays a big role, but so does race. We can crunch numbers all day and argue over who has it worse. But it seems far more productive to just acknowledge that they are both pretty bad, and to focus on fixing both problems.


Is that not a difference in Opportunity? Californians are spoiled for choice, with 250-some in-state four year colleges to choose from. Georgia has 85. And, as you describe, Georgia does not have a lot of world-famous institutions. Out-of-state students pay much higher fees, so where you live can be a real influence on where you can afford to go to college.

I mean, I'd call it opportunity. Maybe economic opportunity, if you want.


> Is that not a difference in Opportunity?

Definitely. I'm agreeing with the article, although I believe that race and gender are red herrings. The real problem is socioeconomic in nature (fwiw, I say this as a staunch capitalist).


The data seem to indicate the opposite. An example:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/3/21/17139300/e...


>it's economic segregation we need to watch out for.

Absolutely. And if wages rose faster than returns on capital, every employee would benefit.

But note: race, gender, religious bigotry etc are wedges that prevents cooperation for reform among wage earners. And now there's a bit of inter generation hatred added to that wedge.

And the mechanisms are immensely complicated. Sometimes it is overt[0] but most of the time it's subtle broadcast choices, feed algorithms that select the most shocking story or subconscious habits that span generations. Somehow things like "merry Christmas" vs "happy holidays" far out play any discussion of wage theft or unlawful evictions. If we could just chill, understand that minorities are not taking over the country and move on to economic issues we'd all be far better off.

[0]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lee_Atwater#%22Southern_strate...


This is true, but one of the important inputs to socioeconomic asymmetry is race and gender.

It's hard for your parents to escape poverty if the police profile and arrest them. Or if your mom could have been promoted faster than your dad, but wasn't because of a bad company culture.


If you’re interested in addressing this problem, you need to look at economics.

The reasons are not simple, but the bottom line is race and gender focuse equality efforts _always_ fail to help the lower class. Always. Statistically, gender and race gaps in economic equality have only grown since the 1970s.


And you know, if we framed it as economic segregation it could absolutely fix the racial/gender issues. I mean if we, say, ensured everyone had an equal starting point (more or less) at 18, we would dramatically have had to reduce down those other issues. But what’s better is we will not have left opposite <race/gender> out of our consideration.

Race and gender are a problem but it seems like those two things get way too much attention given other paradigms that demonstrate a more wholistic approach to social fairness.


Now start thinking on people living on rural areas outside first world countries... Lot of wasted talents...


I always wonder how much there actually is out there. It’s hard to say there’s such a thing as “raw potential” considering how much being successful depends on having parents who groom you for society.

I grew up around a lot of kids I personally believe were very smart or driven. But when your parents don’t instill a sense of working in a certain way or creating a career path with certain abstract goals - you just aren’t going to get optimal use for your potential.


Some of that may be just from people preferring to go to a school that isn't that far from home, or to attend the school of their favorite college football team. UGA and GA Tech are solidly ranked schools and a lot of graduates from there have very good outcomes.


> Some of that may be just from people preferring to go to a school that isn't that far from home

I would argue this is the reason for most people. My cousin and my wife's sister were both accepted to Harvard for undergrad, but they turned it down because they thought it was too far away. Personally, I don't understand this at all (I would happily move wherever for a good opportunity), but it wouldn't surprise me if most people refused a 2-3x salary increase if it required moving from a rural area to a big city a few hours away by plane.


Well there’s all sorts of issues with a big move. For example I live in the Midwest and live in a 2100 square foot house that I bought for $250,000. Average developer salary around here is 80-100k or so, but even if I got an offer for $300k from Google I doubt me and my stay at home wife with our two kids could move there and replicate our lives at all.

Quick Zillow search says it’d be 10x as much for a house the size of where I am now, for 3x the salary? No thanks.


barely breaks the top-50

And then of course there is the stupid attitude that going to a mere top 50 school somehow isn't an accomplishment.


I wouldn't call Georgia realer than California, but people do seem to have some severe blinders to regional inequalities that don't map neatly onto a strictly demographic category.


OP seems to be using "real" as code for "white"


Dude, you are way off, not to mention offensive. Georgia (particularly the Metro Atlanta area where I grew up in) is so much more diverse than Santa Monica (where I live now) or the lily-white Bay Area, or my classes at UCLA, it's actually not even close.


Lily white? The bay is majority minority. http://www.bayareacensus.ca.gov/counties/SantaClaraCounty.ht...


As is common nowadays, I think he's using "white" as code for "not black".

For those coming from the South, it must be something of a shift to assuming that you can have a proportional, diverse environment in which black people are, as in the country as a whole, 13% of the population.


You still haven't explained what your usage of "real" means.


More representative of the opportunity space (or lack of) in the USA that the majority face.

Keep in mind Georgia isn't any whiter than California (the prototypical 'not really America's Boogeyman)


"Real" usually means "genuine" or "authentic", rather than "representative of the average". (I realize you are someone other than the OP)

Also, America is the land of _lack_ of opportunity? I certainly hope that's not the case.


Hopes are completely orthogonal to reality.


Thought for the day: Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment.


Not sure what your comment adds to the discussion


People in the Bay Area have a different view of diversity than people who grew up in the Southeast. What we notice in the Bay Area is that there aren't any black folk.


Err.. gatech college of computing is a top 10 institute, afaik.


GA Tech is ranked 35th nationally for undergraduate institutions[1]. Compare that with Stanford (#7), CalTech (#12), UCLA (#19), or Berkeley (#22).

[1] https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/georgia-institute-of-te...


It looks like it is a top 10 public university, right after ucsb and uc-irvine on https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-unive.... 35th overall


Right, I was looking at engineering only - https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges/georgia-institute-of-te... . Top 10 in many undergrad engineering programs. 4th overall in undergrad engineering. But yes, being an engineer, everything is about engineering for me. :)


That ranking is terrible. It was biased from the start, and has since been severely gamed by schools.

I'd put the order more like: CalTech (best), GA Tech, Stanford, UCLA, Berkeley.


About colleges... this was posted some days ago:

https://www.conradbastable.com/essays/the-uncharity-of-colle...


That situation exists on the coasts too, where most of our cities are. The thing about race and gender is that you see the phenomenon play out in wealthy communities too.


(Georgia is a coastal state)


Well, that's what extreme capitalism brings you. I'm not holding a hammer and a sickle here, but I'm convinced that the right to access a good education is more important than the right to sell it. Same goes for health services.

My personal experience: I went to a public University in my country. My parents paid around $800 per year (I had a 50% discount, because I have 3 younger siblings). I don't know how high it's ranked. It is honestly not something people ask. Most public schools are simply good enough.

We have some private schools, but a lot of students end up there because they don't want to put a lot of effort so their daddies pay them a title. And since the schools don't want to lose them they give them a pass, or dumb subjects down. So a lot of private schools are worse (in the sense that they require less effort) than public ones. To the point where some job offers started including the clause: "Any Student with the so-and-so degree, except those from this Particular Private School".


Not having a hierarchy of good and bad universities is a deliberate policy decision. Before ~1968 Germany had elite universities, like Göttingen, Tübingen and Heidelberg among others, equivalent to the position of HYPS or Oxbridge, with other excellent universities in the rank below, like Columbia and Cal Tech or LSE and Imperial. After 1968 there was a deliberate effort to make that irrelevant. Now there are good departments and there are better and worse universities but the range is so small that which university you went to isn’t worth mentioning. Germany is still a research powerhouse but it’s all about different branches of the Max Planck Institute, not universities.

You think the US can deliberately reduce the funding and prestige of universities like that? They don’t even have a federal education system.


I think they must change something. I think "the Magic Hand will fix it" is not working.


I have a guy who’s worked on my assembly line for 3 years now. He can dismantle and rebuild anything, he can understand how complex mechanical things work with a quick glance and a short tinker, he knows the internal workings of a car engine as well as any formally trained mechanic and he has a wealth of practical electronics assembly that surprises me regularly. He should be a lead engineer at his age given his aptitude, not working on an assembly line for a fraction above minimum wage.

In his younger years someone should have given him some guidance, realised his ability and set him towards that path, instead he was missed by the school, his family were in no position to help him realize his potential and a couple of bad choices in his 20s has left him with a chaotic home life and unfulfilled potential that I don’t even think he realised he had.

I worked hard to do well in school but I had a supportive family, teachers to guide me and ultimately a personality (and background) that suited the education system in the 1990s and early 2000s. One size does not fit all and when I find myself surprised at another insight from this employee I wonder how many other people out there who fell through the cracks of the education system, through no fault of their own and how poorer our society is for it.


In his younger years someone should have given him some guidance

I've had many jobs and these are all software development jobs. Even in a relatively privileged field like software, I never had any kind of mentorship, ever. The days of older folks mentoring and helping younger folks are gone, because most older folks themselves are struggling with their own careers/lives. Unless young people specifically seek and forge good relations, put effort into finding mentors - it isn't going to happen. By the time most young people (me included) realize this, it is too late. Some people get lucky with good teachers and parents, but many don't.

This is what happens in a system where profit is put above everything else, no-one has the time or interest to think about anything else other than this quarter's profits.


> the days of older folks mentoring and helping younger folks

I’m one of the older folks (mid-40’s) and I find myself increasingly surrounded by younger folks (20’s or so) who are looking for guidance and help - the problem with that is that the dominant corporate “prove you still deserve to have a job by closing as many tickets as possible and increasing your velocity and meeting impossible deadlines” ensures that any older folk (who, remember, are held to an even higher standard than the younger folk because they’re more expensive) who spend any amount of time trying to mentor younger folk will find themselves out of a job after a few months.


That seems odd to never gotten mentorship. I was at one time a very good coder. I obviously wasn't born that way, but became that after many years of working alongside [often much] better coders and, in one case, quitting a job when I was ~4 years out of school and realized I wasn't going to get any better at that particular job.

Did you never work with better coders? Did they never talk to you or never do a code review? If they did, that's mentorship.


Mentorship is hard to come by or even give when the common advice for ambitious people is to job hop every year or so basically - what kind of a professional relationship can develop within maybe just a year that is of substance? This is easy enough to do in an area with a lot of good tech companies and community to develop a stronger professional network but is really unlikely to happen in a lot of places with maybe a handful of employers with any decent size (software) engineering organization. I lived in Asheville, NC (about as isolated as any rural area in the US) for a bit and I was a little surprised to see I got more LinkedIn job recommendations for mechanical, chemical, or other “hard sciences” type of engineering jobs because Greenville, SC was the closest metro area evidently and even the Google and Apple datacenters were pretty darn sparsely staffed. Most of the software community there worked remotely as can be expected, but I was glad to see how talented and passionate everyone I met was. Thing is, almost everyone there had developed their careers before moving - staying put in an area that can’t reward you is obviously not good for a career but this begs the question of why decently talented people do not move to better opportunities.

But really, moving makes it super hard to build a good professional network and you have fewer opportunities as a result which causes a downward spiral of lack of improvement in skills. I’m really not that much better at anything besides rote memorization of some trivial technical facts than I had 10 years ago because I never have been challenged technically in that time period. This causes atrophy no different than lack of physical exercise. And unless you work another 20-30 hours / week outside of work you’re not going to catch up with those that do spend their time at jobs that appropriately challenge them and help them realize their full potential. Hence, location is among the more important factors as someone early in a career I’ll stress and is precisely why moving to some high cost area is worthwhile... if you can make use of what they have to offer.

Most of the advice I give to my juniors isn’t about code itself as much as larger design and architectural patterns that can cause years and years of effort to go down the tubes or require millions of dollars of human effort to correct. These are the decisions that cause major rifts even for architects. Heck, some older programmers I’ve worked with refused to write tests because they thought they’re a waste of time / crutches - does this mean I am a bad student or something? Not necessarily.


Good points. I liked how you put "job hopping" which is #1 advise on HN for improving your wages against "lack of mentorship" which people here often complaint about.

Maybe it's high time we realize that the problem doesn't exist outside of us and maybe we are part or significant part of the problem.


You say he's working on "your" assembly line- what are you doing to help him get the opportunity he missed earlier in life?


After a series of conversations and false starts on upskilling and broadening his skill set he said that the best thing I can do is be a refuge from his home life. He is a hard worker and he cares about what we do but getting to work on time more than 5 days in a row is an achievement with what he has going on, we have a long way to go.


In the military, leaders deal with this all the time, but in the corporate world, managers dance around the issue and ignore it like it’s not relevant to the success of the business. Leading your people means being the one person that they can trust in their life. If you want to suck every bit of creativity and value out of your people, you have to rescue their energy from the other parts of their life that are draining your profits. Hire a psychologist or life coach, maybe confront the issues yourself if you have to. Your business is your people. Manager talk is not enough. You have to fight for them. You seem like one of the good ones. Do what you know is right.


Funnily enough I went to a military sixth form college (16-18) and had a place secured at Sandhurst after graduation (turned it down after some long reflection) - I think my management style (if you can call it that) is influenced in part from the leadership training we received at that college.


> Do what you know is right.

Exploit him for financial gain?


This is actually something I have been thinking about a lot recently because I was considering switching jobs and it led me to reflect on my position in life.

My dad was very similar to the person described. Smart as all get out, just never presented with the right opportunities, and ended up working an assembly line for his entire working life.

The difference between a factory job and a more professional field like software is that in a professional field, your employers benefit from you growing. It is worthwhile for them to invest in you because it makes business sense.

In a factory, you're a cog in a machine. Often the management goes out of their way to ensure you know your place. A lifetime of being put down like that leaves scars that are hard to get past.

"What you know is right" means working to get past that baggage and the other baggage in his life, because the person has the potential to be more than he currently is but has been conditioned their whole life not to see it.


Your dad should've been presented with help because he needed it, not because there was some un-mined surplus value.


If we're going to help people based only on need, there's probably a long queue of folks who need help more than he did.


At least part of the way people manage people is that they perceive that the less they know the better they can be certain they cannot discriminate. Everyone is afraid of being case #1 of firing a guy while his wife is pregnant.

You can sit back and give someone time to improve and mentor them but what if during that time you find out they’re pregnant. Now you can’t fire them without going through an entire process.

Now I’m not saying this is a legitimate fear, but I’m sure at least some people believe this to be one. For my sake, I wish I were able to waive many of the protections employee rights give me so I can guarantee interactions desirable to me.


Those doing manufacturing work should be celebrated, as should those providing manufacturing jobs!

Not everyone with potential wants to fulfil their potential and it is not anyone else's responsibility to push them down a path. We should however keep such paths open, and encourage employees when they do want to grow.

It is pretty cool that you and your company (Radfan) are creating manufacturing jobs in the UK.


You sound like a really good boss, we need more bosses with the personal touch.


Thanks, I try my best.


Fantastic thread. Identity politics flavored social justice warfare peeves me because it misses this grand overarching point: there is untapped potential here. When I hire an unorthodox candidate that is typically given short shrift for not matching a given profile, I am not hiring in order to foster diversity and inclusion. No, it's the other way around.

Building a diverse and inclusive team full of highly competent people is actually _how_ I successfully compete against firms with larger pockets than me. It lets us not just outrace them but out-strategize them. I'm getting not just an underpriced call option, but an underpriced put option as well. Along with a lack of bureaucracy, it's one of the few (but powerful) advantages I have over a larger firm. More than anything else (for me), at an early stage startup, hiring is arbitrage. If you find a passed over gem with an unorthodox background that don't fit the typical "pattern matching" that many tech companies use to build a monoculture and yet executes well, you can easily generate six to seven figures of alpha for your company. Of course, the employee gets the opportunity to advance their career, but in order to do so, they generate value for your company first. It's a win-win.

I've seen this so many times during my career. It's the hungry person with the unorthodox background that laps the Ivy educated wonder kid who by all external indicators and pedigrees should not have been outproduced. And yet, not only did it happen, but when it did, those folks became absolute superstars. I've been that person before, and I've seen (and help coached) others to become that person. It's one of the most magical things I've experienced career-wise.

Hiring is about risks and rewards. If you find a risk with an asymmetric reward profile, you can build an organization that is seriously ahead of the curve -- in part because the competing opportunities are not, by definition.


> Fantastic thread. Identity politics flavored social justice warfare peeves me because it misses this grand overarching point: there is untapped potential here.

I feel like you're just taking a shot at "SJWs" without realizing that your untapped potential comment is exactly what is at the core of most of these movements.

All politics is identity politics, and it's the identity politics of the past that has repressed millions in America and wasted potential. Potential was wasted when folks were slaves instead of being able to exercise their freedom and pursue their individual talents, potential was wasted when Black soldiers returning from home were denied the benefits of the GI bill. Affirmative Action is explicitly a mechanism to provide more opportunity, so is the modern D&I movement in corporate America. An untold amount of potential is being wasted right now due to America's inability and inaction when it comes to eliminating poverty and providing equal opportunity for all.


It's not really at the core of these movements, in part because there isn't really a core of these movements. They're loose confederations full of warring factions that don't agree with each other -- it's why purity spiraling is sadly so common. You'll find identitarians as much as you'll find eager acolytes of realpolitik, and everyone in between. But it's the radicals that are most effective at branding, perhaps in part because their most able to summon the punk rock, contrarian flavor and associate it with themselves. Sometimes, they really do walk the walk. But sometimes, it's talk.


I'm gonna be honest here: it sounds like you're mainly getting your perspective on these issues from internet forums rather than non-internet sources.

However you want to describe these movements, one thing is clear: if America had a more equal distribution of opportunity among demographics these movements would have no reason to exist. There are definitely extremes to the movement, and that's what most criticism (especially online) likes to focus on. But as someone who has been in the trenches working with the D&I organization at my company I can assure you most people are not there with a "kill all white men" or "destroy capitalism" mindset. It's about finding ways to equally distribute opportunity.


I agree that we have a long way to go to get to a true meritocracy. That said, even if we ever achieved that, "these movements" would still exist, because someone's going to have more grapes than someone else and that's going to be considered unfair by the group who didn't get as much money/power as some other people did, regardless of whether or not that outcome is "deserved". (That's probably not you, but I think it's a mistake to think that they'd vanish once equality of opportunity was achieved.)


You do't need identity politics to provide more equal distribution of opportunities. Why not just assess every person as an individual, and dole out help according to their specific situation? For example, a kid from a dysfunctional (or even just very poor in money and culture) family needs extra help and skin color or gender are not relevant.


Now imagine instead a black kid from an area where gang violence is rampant and schooling opportunities are poor. You would have to give that kid extra aid to counter the issues he faces which are a result of years of white flight and systemic racism.

When you assess each person as an individual, the whole result would be that minority families would need more aid than white families. But if you chose to implement policies that recognize this problem, you get accused of playing 'identity politics' and people demand you ignore race/gender.

Which then the end result is that by attempting to be color blind, you're effectively denying minorities the aid they need. You've circled all the way back around to racist policies that ignore the problems at hand.


> When you assess each person as an individual, the whole result would be that minority families would need more aid than white families. But if you chose to implement policies that recognize this problem, you get accused of playing 'identity politics' and people demand you ignore race/gender.

Do people really accuse color blind social policies of that? Under color blind policies, a child of a black middle upper class family would get no help, so it's hard to see how it implements identity politics.


(Replying to myself as I can't edit anymore).

One way I could see how someone would oppose to such policies is, they could say that these policies are set up in a way which, in practice, gives money goes to minorities - but such claim itself is a form of identity politics (i.e. seeing people through the lens of the group they belong to and not seeing the individuals), so someone would have to be stupid to use that argument.


If equal opportunity means removing one groups opportunity to prop up that of another, then you are most likely incorrect to say that that will be an overall benefit of harvesting untapped potential.

The world doesn’t function off raw potential, sadly. You can’t just be smart or driven and magically become a functioning ceo of a major company. You pretty much have to have a certain groomed background to be successful in that role.

This is an extreme, but the same logic applies throughout the workforce hierarchy. Equality movements have demonstrated that they intend to actualize policies which disregard this fact for the sake of an ideology. That is more than enough reason to criticize these movements.


I think you're off base by saying I'm getting my perspective on these issues from internet forums, and I think you're illustrating my point and proving my fears. The people who work at D&I organizations are often the same level of callous and see any fundamental criticism of their labor as something that could be hand waved away by association with "those" online alt-right idiots.

In actuality, nothing could be further from the truth. I find it interesting to observe the far-right, far-left and center, but I form my opinions independently of that. Most damningly, your insinuation that this different opinion from yours on your labor is an opinion "from an internet forum" shows the standard of care you'll have for carrying on with your work.

In fact, I don't disagree with you that "if America had a more equal distribution of opportunity among demographics these movements would have no reason to exist" but I also think that painfully, ironically, these movements become ouroboros of their former selves because the door is opened for people to perform their politics rather than labor towards them. They become co-opted by opportunists looking for fame, in part because the image of doing social justice becomes a social cachet in and of itself, and this perverts the true, altruistic labor of actually achieving it. And this fundamental duality really unnerves me, and I don't have an answer on how to solve it.

But judging by your dismissiveness, you are probably guilty of exactly what I am worried about. And you too do not have the answers.


This is a good reply and I particularly like the point you make in your fourth paragraph. I note that 40acres made the ideological statement "All politics is identity politics" in their first reply to you. There is a good essay [1] that explicitly rejects this statement and which makes a similar point to yours:

> In practice, contemporary identity politics does little to challenge the roots of oppression. What it does do is empower certain people within those putative identities to police the borders of ‘their’ communities or peoples by establishing themselves as gatekeepers. It has allowed self-nominated authentic voices or community leaders to consolidate and protect their power. As solidarity has become redefined in terms of ethnicity or culture, so those who demand to be the voices of those ethnicities or cultures are afforded new privileges.

[1] https://kenanmalik.com/2017/07/23/not-all-politics-is-identi...


Economic arguments (“treat people better so you can make more money”) are disgusting and morally bankrupt to a large chunk of the social justice community, particularly those who see all capitalist business and employment relationships as fundamentally exploitative. There’s a strong undercurrent of hatred for the corporate D&I ideology.

Viewing the world primarily through the lens of a struggle between oppressed and oppressor demographic groups isn’t uncommon, but other politics do exist.


I'm pro-"economic arguments", but if you're a victim of being undervalued, especially for some immutable part of your identity (such as race), I can see how it'd be enraging that the primary defense of you relies on your economic value to an employer rather than a more innate sense of worth.

Of course, it's ineffective and self-sabotaging to try to avoid the economic side (mainly because the issues /are/ significantly economic, in addition to cultural), but I think at least sympathy is warranted for the social justice community's view on it.


> Economic arguments (“treat people better so you can make more money”) are disgusting and morally bankrupt to a large chunk of the social justice community, particularly those who see all capitalist business and employment relationships as fundamentally exploitative. There’s a strong undercurrent of hatred for the corporate D&I ideology.

I'm tempted to ask for sources, but I recognize that's not really possible or fair with this kind of statement.

Suffice to say, I fundamentally disagree with your assessment, and I think you're painting a large group with a very broad brush.


The Facebook walls of my leftist-activist classmates are long gone, but here’s an example: https://jacobinmag.com/2011/01/let-them-eat-diversity


The opinions of a few people in a very large population—or even the opinions of five, ten, or twenty people—do not allow you to ascribe those views to everyone in the group. I know I could find examples of right-wing nuts saying women are inherently poor engineers, or something like that.

Now, if you're aware of a gallop poll that randomly sampled self-identified "leftist-activists" and asked "Agree or disagree, is most capitalist business morally bankrupt?", that would get us somewhere. Since I'm pretty sure it doesn't exist, this discussion is a bit difficult.

Maybe I shouldn't be posting this comment, since I clearly don't have much useful to add. I don't know. I guess I primarily want to say, I'd really encourage actively listening to (a diverse set of people in) the groups you describe, if you're not doing so already. I suspect, based on my own imperfect and unprovable anecdotal evidence, that you will find a much broader set of viewpoints than what you're describing.


The parent did not back their assertions about “what is at the core of those movements” with any polling. If my claim is inappropriate, than so is the one it’s responding to.

There is sort of a semantic game here: I would call those with more moderate/mainstream stances “liberal” and not include their views in a characterization of what “social justice warrior” means. The same way you draw a distinction between anyone right of center and a “right-wing nut.”


> The same way you draw a distinction between anyone right of center and a “right-wing nut.”

Just to be clear on the one point, I don't do this and if I implied as much, it was unintentional.


Employment relationships are fundamentally exploitative though. While it's absolutely true that smaller companies can do a lot better in treating their employees right, the fact of the matter is that there is an asymmetrical relationship between an employee and the company due to a large power gap between the two.

And the issue can be worse with people that are working doubly hard to escape poverty or just to survive. Those are the people that cannot afford to lose the single opportunity they've received, which means they are often further exploited through lower wages, fewer benefits and so forth.

Considering I've been in that position myself, there were times when I had a deep fear of losing absolutely everything.


> “Employment relationships are fundamentally exploitative though.”

that you a priori assume this makes me sad. a company has no fundamental right to a power differential over an employee.

an employment agreement is between two equal parties looking for a fair value exchange. with that said, of course power differentials often exist in those situations (unfortunately), but it doesn’t always have to. that’s one of the reasons everyone should always apply to multiple jobs at once, and hopefully get multiple offers, so you have leverage in the employment negotiations.

and the best managed organizations consider managers to be support staff with decision-coalescing responsibilities rather than overlords.


an employment agreement is between two equal parties looking for a fair value exchange.

That you can believe and type that with a straight face, makes me boggle. Ideally, maybe. Employee-owned cooperatives, maybe.

One side is a non-human entity, a multi-multi-millionaire with on-tap access to an economy full of high spec legal, financial, and any other kind of consultant. Working on decades of procedures and organizational habits buit from the experiences of hundreds of humans, with many human brains and many years of time-horizon to research any given topic, fronted by the humans selected for being good at "playing the selction game" - convincing, manipulating, looking the part, extracting as much as possible from employees.

The other side is a person, who can spare a small fraction of one human brain, with very limited money and access to resources, who has a Hobson's choice of "work or die of starvation".

It isn't two equal parties. It's barely even two /comparable/ parties.

and when was the last time you talked to someone who felt their employement was "fair value exchange"? Someone at the pub who felt their employer paid them enough, didn't ask too much of them - and wasn't boasting about having an unusually good situation?

In fact, when was the last time you talked to someone who /didn't/ dream of getting enough money to never work again? Would that be such a popular meme if people generally felt fairly treated, equal partners, in value-creating systems they participated in by choice?


A great example of the power vacuum however is non-competes and how prevalent they are in our industry. It's not just one person negotiating with another, it's one person negotiating with a company and an entire industry. An entire system designed to swing the balance in the favor of the company.

With my work experience the balance shifted a bit to me, giving me options to find companies without non-competes. When I first got started however, I didn't have an option to negotiate nor did I have the financial backing to challenge a non-compete if it ever became an issue. Ultimately this is where unions should come into play, but I highly doubt we'll ever see the tech industry unionize.


> Employment relationships are fundamentally exploitative though.

Not necessarily. There's a whole world of employee owned companies, partnerships, and the like which are not fundamentally exploitative.


That's a whole 'nother can of worms though; employee-owned companies can still treat new employees badly depending on how their system is set up. Plus they're an incredibly small fraction of the overall working world we participate in and at most would be an exception to the rule and not the norm.

Though I would say that non-profits and things like you mentioned are generally more inclined to treat their employees fair.


There are no free lunches. None of those examples work as well as pure employer employee relationship companies, otherwise there would be many, many more of them. A works with more cöops and partnerships would be poorer because they’re just less efficient.


> Employment relationships are fundamentally exploitative though. While it's absolutely true that smaller companies can do a lot better in treating their employees right, the fact of the matter is that there is an asymmetrical relationship between an employee and the company due to a large power gap between the two.

Yes and no. I don't think our society does enough to protect and help the people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder, for the reasons you state. But, I also think if it weren't for our capitalist system, these same people likely wouldn't have any jobs at all, and that a lousy job is usually better than none.

I'm absolutely not in favor of tearing down the entire capitalist system, as your parent comment implies. And I certainly don't think it's immoral to look at diversity hiring as a competitive advantage—quite the contrary, in fact.


There are many ways to skin this cat: people characterized online as SJWs are mostly persuaded by the push for equal opportunity, neo-liberals will be persuaded by the untapped economic potential that is covered up by discrimination. There's an argument to be made to libertarians, etc. etc.

The fact of the matter is that our society is based on western liberal ideas, core to that idea is the freedom, liberty, and equality. You simply can't square America's past with that idea and if you believe in the western liberal philosophy then in my view you can be persuaded to see the value in these movements.


Much of your comment I agree with but I do take issue with the concept of "identity politics flavored social justice warfare".

If you put yourself in the shoes of underrepresented people and our allies, you might understand that it's impossible to predict exactly what sort of political expression will jolt folks wielding power into doing right by us without making them feel like we're being too loud.

People very much thought of Dr. King as a social justice warrior in his time. He was deeply unpopular most of his life. And even he had difficulty making progress without having more aggressive folks as the alternative to dealing with him.

The fact is, very little gets done without the social justice warriors, and certainly not at scale.


The thought of having to confront inequality or having to recognize that minorities are treated differently solely on the basis of their skin color, sexual orientation or gender is one that is unfortunately still deeply uncomfortable it seems. MLK's understanding of the white moderate still remains as pertinent today as it did when he wrote that letter.


Thank you for that comment, I think you definitely do have a point. It's true that Dr. King was far more radical than people remember him being, and that's part of what I admired about him. But I don't think it's true that "even he had difficulty making progress without having more aggressive folks as the alternative to dealing with him." I used to think this was the case, but now I'm not so sure.

This may be naive of me, but I think what he was most successful for was not warfare but persuasion and oratorship. He was a cogent, persuasive speaker, and he won hearts. That's not warfare. That's diplomacy. Yes, he had radical views, and he had things to get done. But although he rightly criticized the white moderate, he did not demonize them. There are analogies to be drawn here. Lots of folks are laboring to build diversity, but there are just as many folks who are more interested in the warfare side of it than the achieving diversity side.

People just love a good spectacle, sadly.


Being a woman or black is not unorthodox, though. And priding yourself for hiring somebody black or female seems odd. It should be a normal thing - if the skills (or whatever unorthodox aspects you fancy) are a match.


I agree with everything you said. I don't pride myself for hiring anybody based on their appearance. However, I dispassionately acknowledge that it is because other firms do not do the normal thing that if I do it, I'm at an advantage to them. It doesn't mean I'm a better person, or I have something to be proud of. It only means that I am more competent than folks who are incompetent.


That just seems like business as usual to me. Companies have always competed over talent. Nevertheless, if you are good at it, I am happy for you :-)


They never said that. They said unorthodox background that doesn’t fit the pattern matching at a big company. i.e. resume is a bit off but they have potential.


Maybe they meant the actual "diversity" of ideas and personalities. It is just that these days if you say "diversity", it has become synonymous with more women, different racial backgrounds, and for some reason also sexual orientation.


It should be normal but unfortunately it is not. I don't see the problem with applauding people who actually make a difference here. In the future it will be nothing noteworthy but right now, again unfortunately, it is.


I'm not convinced that it is not normal. Disproportionate numbers of females and black people in certain professions are more likely because of different proportions in applications. And perhaps also in different distributions of skills and education.


Indeed. I don’t see anyone wringing their hands over most nurses, K-12 teachers, and child care professionals being female, that a majority of the trades are male (construction, welding, electricians, plumbers, pipe fitters), nor that a majority of professional athletes are people of color. I’ve only seen it in tech (disproportionate gender and race composition) described as a “crisis”.


> Identity politics flavored social justice warfare peeves me because it misses this grand overarching point: there is untapped potential here.

?

That’s one of the points that gets repeated over and over as far as benefits of including people with diverse and/or unorthodox backgrounds. But you should also consider hiring for diversity simply because different sorts of people with different backgrounds and experiences likely have different world-views and approaches to thinking about and solving problems. A diverse culture will simply have more ideas on the table to work with than a monoculture.


The problem is that most companies boasting about diversity don't actually do that. They hire individuals from similar backgrounds based on surface level features. No, having more women from MIT or Harvard isn't really making the company more 'diverse' in any real way, since many of them have the same backgrounds and experiences as your male employees. It's tokenism. If X% of employees are female/from some minority but they're all educated in Ivy League/Oxbridge schools, all from fairly wealthy backgrounds, share political leanings and grew up in similar situations, does it really matter or make any real 'difference'?

Economic differences are basically ignored in a lot of modern 'identity politics'


An apple HR director said as much and was canned for suggesting that diversity is more than skin deep.


> does it really matter or make any real 'difference'?

the answer from the various underrepresented identity groups themselves is abundantly clear. it's yes.

they insist that, yes, absolutely it definitely does make a critically important difference to have an actual person from the actual underrepresented identity group in those jobs.

they say that only such a person could have fully experienced the kind of opportunity denial, the kind of repression, the kind of discrimination that such corporate measures are supposed to address.

they say that such a person and only such a person can truly and faithfully represent the perspectives and needs of that identity group within the corporate setting.

they say that only such a person in that job can truly open the door so that other young people, other potential future employees, from that group have the confidence to pursue such a job in the future. (could an openly gay man ever lead a Fortune 500 US corporation? in theory, yes, but it was still an important step for Tim Cook to step out into the open https://www.cultofmac.com/585278/tim-cook-interview-gay-priv...)


It gets repeated at face value, but it's at a surface level. That's parroting. It's not often utilized as a process and as a tool to achieve other goals. That's when it becomes application.

You're entirely correct that a diverse culture will simply have more ideas on the table than a monoculture -- and that's exactly why it's an advantage.


It's my experience that "hiring for diversity" advocates are very much in favor of a monoculture. For example, devout Christians are severely underrepresented in most professional fields, and I've never seen a diversity program targeted towards obtaining their wildly different worldviews.


What do you look for to find these people? Also on the other side, what did you do to stand out and get the chance?


Identity politics flavored social justice activists literally make the exact same claims as you.


This quote within the article really drives the point home:

"The goal of inclusion work is not "More black folk!" Or "More women!" The lack of black folk and women is a symptom of the root cause: opportunity to succeed and thrive is not evenly distributed."

I agree entirely with this statement, and I have seen it happen in both poor white and latino communities that I have lived in during the course of my life. There's a lot of intelligent and capable people out there who aren't going to get their foot in the door: they're never even going to know where the door is.


Well, I'd argue that "the lack of ... women is a symptom of the root cause: opportunity to succeed ... is not evenly distributed" is jumping the gun. The author assumes that this outcome will change when "opportunity" is more "evenly distributed". If you look to cultures which are further along the trail of extending opportunities to women, but without the exact same types of ideological baggage, you'll generally find that there are fewer women in positions where the author would expect more.

I figure the moral legwork is to be done only in terms of "opportunity", whereas the outcome should be trusted as long as the opportunity is equal; and it is clear that the outcome (in a univariate, or primitive multivariate analysis) is a bad indicator of the opportunity.


I found this article to be an enlightening analysis of the "Gender Equality Paradox".

https://www.thejournal.ie/gender-equality-countries-stem-gir...

In particular,

“Broader economic factors appear to contribute to the higher participation of women in STEM in countries with low gender equality and the lower participation in gender-equal countries.”

I agree that outcome as an indicator is not entirely reliable.

Most likely many factors, including cultural, genetic, and economic, also play large roles in these outcomes.

However, I think it is a reasonable policy to try and reduce differences in outcomes if a group has been historically denied opportunities, at least for some period of time.


> However, I think it is a reasonable policy to try and reduce differences in outcomes if a group has been historically denied opportunities, at least for some period of time.

Honestly, at some point the corrupting effect of history (especially in sex discrimination, where the effect is not generational [everyone is the descendant of a woman]) is less severe than the corrupting effect of accepting discrimination today as some sort of "balance" to that perception of history.

You could make a credible case that Gen Z (my generation, by a hair) North American girls have had considerably more encouragement and opportunity to enter TEM fields (the S is more evenly split) than the boys who grew up with them; so will we still discriminate in their favour when it comes to hiring?

Well, to some companies it seems the answer is still no. That first company I worked at is still today pouring resources into a free training program only for women and girls.


> Honestly, at some point the corrupting effect of history (especially in sex discrimination, where the effect is not generational [everyone is the descendant of a woman]) is less severe than the corrupting effect of accepting discrimination today as some sort of "balance" to that perception of history.

Agree, which is why I stated that these policies should only last a limited time. The tough question is how long should these policies last.

> You could make a credible case that Gen Z (my generation, by a hair) North American girls have had considerably more encouragement and opportunity to enter TEM fields (the S is more evenly split) than the boys who grew up with them; so will we still discriminate in their favour when it comes to hiring?

I would not find such an argument credible. Clearly males are not being prevented from entering these fields as the ratios of males to females is still greatly skewed.

So it would be far fetched to claim that the effect of these programs that encourage women to participate has denied a significant number of men to enter into these fields.

I would be interested in some concrete facts on just how many of these programs even exist and the monetary expenditure of such programs. As someone from generation X, I know that no such programs existed at that time.


> I would not find such an argument credible. Clearly males are not being prevented from entering these fields as the ratios of males to females is still greatly skewed.

Part of my point is that you can not know that by looking at the outcome. That is, it is not clear that the ratio of males to females says that either is being excluded.

> So it would be far fetched to claim that the effect of these programs that encourage women to participate has denied a significant number of men to enter into these fields.

This is a claim that nobody is making. The claim that can be made is that no equivalent effort is made to include men. That is, there is more opportunity for women, but still fewer women ultimately participate.

> I would be interested in some concrete facts on just how many of these programs even exist and the monetary expenditure of such programs. As someone from generation X, I know that no such programs existed at that time.

If you have had any connection to an HR department at a typical North American company in the 2010s, you would know that programs to specifically recruit men are effectively nonexistent; so it doesn't much matter what the specific measurements for the female recruitment programs are, because no matter how much or how little the investment, it is infinitely more than no investment whatsoever.


> This is a claim that nobody is making. The claim that can be made is that no equivalent effort is made to include men. That is, there is more opportunity for women, but still fewer women ultimately participate.

I think we are at an impasse here. Our definitions of what it means to be denied opportunity in a field are divergent.

I was imagining systemic hurdles to participation. I don't think outreach to a community or even specific scholarships qualify as such.

> If you have had any connection to an HR department at a typical North American company in the 2010s, you would know that programs to specifically recruit men are effectively nonexistent; so it doesn't much matter what the specific measurements for the female recruitment programs are, because no matter how much or how little the investment, it is infinitely more than no investment whatsoever.

I would also posit that focusing on any particular program and claiming since it isn't accessible by all that there is unequal opportunity.

Do you object to the myriad of scholarships that are only available to specific ethnicities?


> I think we are at an impasse here. Our definitions of what it means to be denied opportunity in a field are divergent.

I haven't talked about anyone being "denied" opportunity. The vast majority of all people have some opportunity. The unequal part is that more opportunity is extended to some, not that all opportunity is denied to others.

The inequity would not be so much my problem if it didn't mess with the priorities of a functioning business or other organization. If I send my money to a non-profit, I want them to be effective; if they spend resources on discriminatory programs, they will inevitably be less effective than if they had run those programs without arbitrary discrimination.

> Do you object to the myriad of scholarships that are only available to specific ethnicities?

Yes, and those are under tremendous scrutiny over the last couple years, particularly Harvard's treatment of East Asian applicants. I think MLK had the right general premise with his "multiracial army of the poor".


Many of those who claim to want only equality of opportunity are also committed to a rather extreme “blank slate” theory of individual potential. For these people, the only acceptable proof of equality of opportunity is equality of outcome.


From a statistical perspective, equality of outcome is a good indicator of inequality of opportunity.


I disagree - in a certain context.

When it comes to the programming context in particular, opportunity is just about as "everywhere" as it can be.

Anyone who can afford a computer and a connection to the Internet can learn to program, can contribute to global projects, can self-educate in programming and can do amazing things.

All you need is a computer, and Internet connection and commitment. It does not even take privilege - although it used to (Bill Gates for example was from a privileged family in Seattle and went to a school that bought a computer incredibly early - that was a direct outcome of the money of his family).

I always recommend against careers that "require the grace of others to practice your art/craft/career". What I mean by this is that to do your chosen job, you need someone else to give you the opportunity/permission/resources to do the work you want to do. Consider a guy I knew when I was much younger. He REALLY wanted to be a movie director, but back then you needed money, a crew/team, equipment and a whole bunch of other people helping - and to really succeed in that career you need high level industry connections. That's a huge barrier to being able to actually do the thing you want to do. You're much better to choose a career that does not require anyone else's permission/money/approval - such as programming, or drawing.


I disagree with your disagreement in two ways.

First (anecdotal, and adjusted to regional variety, but stands to common sense) - all people who I personally know to have gotten rich off of software were all bar none rich to have access to top of the line hardware/software/services to begin with:

1. accounting software in early 90s (there were literally three or four PCs around in my city there at all. Even software they just cloned locally from some experience they acquired studying abroad in USA)

2. internet/security in mid 90s (guy had T1 while most of us didn't even know internet existed or were dreaming of owning US Robotics modem sometime in the next century)

3. games in late 90s/early 00s (when we all fappped to pictures of VoodooFX and Riva TNT, they had them)

4. web in early 00s (most of us just begged for some limited shared hosting account to even see what it's about)

5. iPhone gold rush (price of iPhone was about my yearly non-disposable income back then)

Secondly, and this is part where I partly agree - software development really is one of the more democratized areas - but when field is so approachable that anyone can make money, anyone does. And that means goalpost has shifted to other things - social network, privileged experiences, marketing investment, time allocated to project, being able to fail enough times to succeed, etc.


I will say that your anecdote is largely only applicable to obtaining a first-mover advantage on a whole platform, and specifically one which has not become a commodity yet. Today, commodity computers profit software developers the most, and the tools are more available and cheaper than ever before. A person with a second hand Chromebook and some library internet can research, build, test, market, and sell an Android application, if they know to try.

It is incomparably easier to become a useful professional software developer than a licensed electrician (provided you're of a sufficiently-suitable mindset), at least where I've been (though, the one time I was flown out to interview at a company in Silicon Valley, I was straight-up told by one of the interviewers that “Here in the valley, we place a high premium on education”, so maybe it's different there and probably some other places).

Now, I will say I was very lucky to be able to fail a little bit later, and very lucky to have met somebody in grade school who would basically win me my first full time job while I was still a teenager, I was not in any particular luck when it came to access to computers or really much else.


It'd be really interesting to see the results of an income survey of 30 to 40-somethings with a simple question: Did you have the ability to play Doom in your house?


But here's the rub: Where does the commitment come from? I could be the person you're describing, since I learned to program on my own, except for three tiny details:

1. My brother, four years older than me, was studying programming in college, and talking about it when he came home on breaks

2. My mom, realizing her teaching job was in jeopardy due to layoffs, learned programming, and a couple years later was teaching it for an adult education program organized by a nearby university

3. I did take one high school course in programming, which forced me to get past the familiar conceptual hurdles faced by beginners

From these relatively minor circumstances: I knew enough about what programming was, its value, the fact that it could be learned by a mere mortal like myself, how long it would take to bring myself up to an employable level, and where to find decent learning resources. I had a supply of motivation and encouragement to get past obstacles that might have seemed insurmountable to someone who is under social pressure to undervalue their own potential.

I had a ready supply of mental energy thanks to living under comfortable circumstances. In fact, an oversupply. Learning to program was not at the expense of other necessary activities such as earning money, supporting other family members, etc.

If a person comes from an underprivileged background, everything they lack in the list of things I just described, is equivalent to an obstacle, and the obstacles are multiplicative effects. If this is an exaggeration, I don't think it's all that much of one.


Yeah, not quite, there's a reason that most of the big software cos are in the US, clustered in certain areas, and not in Kiev were so many geniuses are.

Networks, locality, these are important.

Elon Musk attended Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and I was going to Uni at the same time in Kingston. He transferred to the US. The Canadians in his cohort mostly did not. There is very little 'game' in Canada - though there are decent jobs, there are very few high flying startups, and very few leading big-corps to make all the necessary acquisitions to keep the system going. If Elon were to have remained in Canada, we'd have never heard of him.

So even in a relatively affluent country like Canada, there is a massive dearth of special, great opportunity: the ecosystems are mostly not in place for it.

There are very major and affluent US cities with tons of talent where one could say the same as well.

There's a reason people move to the Valley and it's not just the weather.

This is changing a bit, but not existentially.


> This is changing a bit, but not existentially.

Clusters exist in all fields because they have major advantages. This is particularly true for startups but opportunity exists in other areas as well.

The software industry is still more spread out than others and companies headquartered in the Valley have major operations in many other places (including the likes of Kiev).


Yes, it definitely makes sense for companies HQ'd in the Valley to have 'other offices' in such places.

This is the de-facto Canadian strategy, when the outgoing Ontario Minister of Economic Development was adamant that 'Canadian developers were top-notch, and go for 60 cents on the US dollar, and we intend to keep it that way' i.e. basically indicating that he wanted to keep Canadians (or at least Ontarians) poorer for the opportunity to work for Cisco et. al.

It's definitely a rational strategy in a way, but it's also self defeating because it precludes a competitive options. Imagine trying to hire talent to Toronto when said talent can 2x their income by going to the US? (I understand cost of living is different, but aside from housing, stuff is cheaper in the US, and many young people especially have a hard time seeing past the dollar signs).

This would be an optimal strategy for a country in difficult situation, trying to lever their top talent into the 'beginning' of an industrial landscape (i.e. Ukraine, who haven't had a proper economic footing, basically ever). But it's sad positioning for countries with already advanced economies supposedly trying to be competitive.

Canada's situation next door to the US, with a flexible immigrant population, a shorter history and weaker cultural ties vis-a-vis the US (i.e. it's not a big jump from Toronto to Chicago as it is from Berlin to Chicago, in cultural terms) ... creates kind of a specific situation.

The clustering analogy is very good, but it's also very hard to do. They are trying here in Montreal with AI, but I'm not so sure it will fare very well. Hopefully it will work out.


There's still a huge difference between living in a rural area and being in a large city as far as job opportunities, funding or meetups go.


There's still a huge difference between being in the rural area and being in a large city as far as job opportunities or meetups go.


He REALLY wanted to be a movie director

Like half of Hollywood.


This is one of the best reads I've seen on HN in a long while. The D&I presented in a way that is the true spirit of it.

I grew up poor, white, male, and in a mountain community in SoCal. I honestly had no clue how to achieve success as an adult. I had literally zero role models for success, just a series of examples of what not to do. The only thing I could lean on was "do good in school, go to a decent college, get a job." Add to that that I became a parent at 15.

I got a near full ride due to grades plus economic status to a decent university. But I could not be part of that community; I had a kid to raise and that meant my wife and I had work (and she skipped college entirely). I never learned that I was supposed to be networking at that time. Today, I don't know one person from college.

I got a business degree because a friend's dad said it was the way to go. I minored in CS because I liked it and it was an easy A. At the time, programmers made like $30k usd if they could get a job (and there were no jobs like that within two hours of home). So I went for an insurance gig. Did slightly better than the $30k. Tried investments advisor; that was a bad choice for me. Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach. So I did construction and substitute teaching while I got my teaching credential in math. Did that for a few years.

All the while, I tinkered with programming. Built a few projects for folks. When it was time to leave teaching (man, inner city schools are hard), I had enough of a portfolio for programming that a recruiter reached out. I went on a few interviews and landed a real programming job! $70k a year! Nearly double what I made as a teacher! From there, I worked with really talented folks. I learned so much. I finally had access nto real advice and real role models. I quickly became mid level, then senior, now a principal developer at a unicorn. It took about a decade to reach the same level of success that some kids get right out of school. I don't really regret it. My journey makes me "me." It would have been nice to have earned better for that decade.

I really understand the value of opportunity and how it is unfairly distributed. I appreciate the story the article presents and it resonates with me deeply. Crafting more access to opportunity is so vital.


What exactly do you mean by "those who can do, those who can't teach"?

Assuming you mean teachers are failures at other fields, I fundamentally disagree. There are plenty of people who go into teaching to help others. To help underprivileged people like yourself. You had a CS minor, no? Do you consider your CS teachers to have been "those who can't"? At the very least they gave you a foundation and an interest in something that elevated your career.


It is a saying, usually given as as a disparaging joke. It is not to be taken literally.


Tom Mueller is a good example to pick and has had a great career path. The author I think is right that more focus should be put on hard working talent than on celebrity CEOs in culture. It might help more people from remote places to move up in the world.

That said it also is depressing how concentrated and closed up networking circles are, how important signalling from prestigious schools still is, and how little diversity there is in where capital goes. I can't remember the exact number, but almost all VC in the US goes to just a handful of counties.

It should be the task of all institutions, from government to business and think tanks, to open up these spaces to talent from all over the place.


> I can't remember the exact number, but almost all VC in the US goes to just a handful of counties.

Fair enough, but to play devil's advocate people from all over the world flock to these counties, and places like YC exist specifically as an entryway to this otherwise closed network. Musk himself has spoken at length of why he came to the US, and the Stripe cofounders have a similar story.


The word "celebrity" has negative connotations but Elon is famous for very good reasons: he gets results and he helps other people get results.

Tom Mueller and Gwynne Shotwell could have worked at other more traditional companies but it is thanks to Elon's leadership and aggressive business tactics that they achieved far more at SpaceX. This is not just Elon being rich: space history has plenty of well-capitalized failures.

The article presents a story of very successful vertical mobility from people who received relatively little outside help, it's not clear how this makes a case for various forms of affirmative action. If anything it shows the system works reasonably fine.


>The word "celebrity" has negative connotations but Elon is famous for very good reasons: he gets results and he helps other people get results.

I didn't want to deny that Elon is an exceptionally hard working individual as well, but I honestly think it would help both Elon and people like Tom Mueller if the attention was more evenly distributed.

We have seen the downsides of the media attention, drama and inflated egos that are produced by the focus on founders or CEOs.


A big part of the problem is the belief that talent always gets noticed and is rewarded. This is very far from reality.

Talent very rarely gets noticed (especially in complex and innovative fields; managers simply don't have the necessary knowledge to be able to identify real talent). Even when noticed, talent is rarely rewarded because office politics get in the way.


Most people don't obsess about rockets. I would find the story more convincing if there were also examples of "talents" who didn't go anywhere. I find it rather likely that people with his talents would always find a way.

Of course there is always untapped potential, for the time being. That is why there are still startups and entrepreneurs, who try to release that potential. But it is not as simple as hiring diverse genders and races.

It is simply a hard problem to enable people to make the most out of their talents and potentials.

The Tom Mueller case seems to illustrate that well. What if there had been no SpaceX during his lifetime. Who would have been to blame? What would there have to be done? Perhaps Tom Mueller would have started his own Space company? Or maybe not. But whose duty would it supposedly be to provide a space company for people like him to work at?

Most people are not even sure how to enable their own children to make the most of their talents (or to develop some talents to begin with) - let alone some strangers. I think that also shows that it is not primarily an issue of diversity. We simply don't know enough about developing talents and making the most out of life yet. So we experiment - sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn't.

What exactly made Tom Mueller obsessed with rockets? If I want my kids to become rocket scientists, should I send them to lumber jack camps in the summer?


There's a contradiction between your two statements:

> I would find the story more convincing if there were also examples of "talents" who didn't go anywhere.

> I find it rather likely that people with his talents would always find a way.

The latter is basically the just world fallacy. [1] It assumes that the outcomes are correct. If you were offered examples of people who the writer said were talented but didn't go anywhere, I think you'd just just bring the just world fallacy to bear, believing that their bad outcome was proof that they weren't really talented.

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


I am not the one who wrote an article making claims, so why should the burden of proof be on me? I dnn't think your criticism of my comment is fair at all.

The author made a claim, so they should support it. That has nothing to do with just world hypothesis. Also, he actually provided an example of somebody prevailing against the odds.

The only evidence that talent might be wasted is our feelings that it may be so. That's not enough.

As for contradicting statements, it seems to me my statements both say the same thing. Both are a request for providing evidence of (unfairly) wasted talents.


It wasn't an article. It especially wasn't a scientific study. They were offering a viewpoint and an example.

But if you're right, and people should always offer ironclad proof of claims, please show me the studies that back your claim that "The author made a claim, so they should support it." I will only accept high-n, double-blind studies published in major journals. Thanks in advance.


They are not obliged to provide examples or proofs, but I am also not obliged to believe their claims. If you want, I "offered" my "viewpoint" that the support of their argument was insufficient.

Moreover, I am ENTITLED to having doubts. Isn't that what the modern world (and also the article here) is all about? Entitlement?

In general, more double-blind studies would be a good thing, so what is your point?


My point is that you're bringing up an absurd, inapplicable standard to further justify your application of the just-world fallacy.


All I did was ask for some examples. That's not an absurd, inapplicable standard.

And I am not applying the just-world fallacy. I think it is a completely misguided way to think about the world to begin with.

Of course not everybody reaches the optimal outcome in life. That doesn't make it unfair or an injustice.

Why did nobody inspire me to buy Google stock when I was a teenager? Then I would be a millionaire by now. Other people became millionaires because they bought Google stock.

So unfair! It is such an injustice! Obviously I am entitled to be bestowed millions by society now, because the only reason I am not a millionaire is because society didn't point me towards buying stock as a youth.

Also, I think I am entitled to at least 1000 Bitcoin. Can I send you my address? It is not my fault that society didn't encourage me to become a computer geek who would then experiment with Bitcoin mining in 2009.

So obviously I don't believe in a "just world", because I myself am a living example of it not being just!

While you can frame your view of the world that way, and not rest until everybody in the world is EXACTLY the same (you may also look into genetic engineering, because it won't do that some people are more beautiful than others), I think it is a completely silly approach.


Cognitive biases don't work like that. Yes, you may believe in some fashion that the world isn't just. But that doesn't mean you won't apply the fallacy when it backs some previously held view.


Uh, I think the point is that we need to build fair systems that reward high-performers. This answers all of your questions.

>> What if there had been no SpaceX during his lifetime.

We need a fair and level capitalist system that reduces barriers-to-entry for innovative companies and stops monopolistic practices. This will ensure that good ideas are profitable and make it in investors self-interest to build companies around the Muellers of the world.

>> We simply don't know enough about developing talents and making the most out of life yet.

The point is, we need to build systems that enables geniuses to be discovered regardless of races, resume, age, skintone, college. By-and-large the software industry is already incredibly efficient at this relative to other industries.

Other industries (e.g. healthcare) should adapt or be eaten. Software should double-down on talent speaking for itself (e.g. blind interviews, open coding competitions for all)


"The point is, we need to build systems that enables geniuses to be discovered regardless of races, resume, age, skintone, college."

I was referring to that. It is a hard problem, not simply a matter of hiring more ethnically diverse people. If you just say "we need a better system", frankly I consider it a fluff article. There is no actionable information in it. It would be like saying "we need to create better cancer treatments" - yeah, sure, but HOW?

"We need a fair and level capitalist system that reduces barriers-to-entry for innovative companies and stops monopolistic practices."

I am not convinced our current system is unfair. At least the article doesn't provide any evidence for it, as I said. It seems to me all sorts of companies are trying to improve opportunities for everyone (YCombinator Startup School, MOOCs come to mind). The lack of opportunities for some people is not because of unfairness, but because we don't know how to do it better yet.

But who is "unfair" here? Again - if nobody would have created a space agency for Tom Mueller to work for, would it have been unfair? And who would have been to blame? I really don't think fairness is the dominant issue here.


"The point is, we need to build systems that enables geniuses to be discovered regardless of races, resume, age, skintone, college."

Which the US did in the 1960s, out of fear that the USSR was gaining. Heavy IQ testing and attempts to identify gifted students. Now it's all about "no child left behind", trying to do something for the losers.


How did that turn out? My impression is we simply don't know enough about creating prodigies yet.

There is the Polgar/Ericsson approach, but it may be too narrow. It may enable us to create, say, chess prodigies - but how do we pick the fields for people to become prodigies in? Also, it might not be economically feasible. I think Polgar educated his kids as a full time job. Can't do that with everybody.


Most people don't obsess about rockets.

Not any more. That was back in the Space Age, 1956-1973.


That Tom Mueller guy is building rockets right now, though.

The point is, there may simply not be that many people obsessing about some things to the point of becoming geniuses in their field.


I agree, too many talented people not reaching their potential, and not even having it nurtured. How many potential African engineers grew up to be illiterate cowherds because of a lack of education?

Also, why is Elon regarded as genius inventor, when it's clearly the people who work for him how are the geniuses. Why aren't they the multi-millionaires?


Elon Musk's greatest talent may be as a talent scout. It's hard to think of a better core competence for a CEO.


I worked a few times for a guy like that. Unfortunately his talent for building great teams was only matched by his ineptitude at picking business partners.


Maybe they should risk everything and start their own companies.


Risking other people's money now counts as risking everything?


So, we should teach them how to apply for government grants.


This article is dead on in my opinion. I feel that there is so much talent wasted because of social repression. I think in many cases it is just because of lack of awareness. The lower and middle layers of most bureaucracies are made up of people who are not looking for ways to boost the few highly talented new people who show up.


"not looking for ways to boost the few highly talented new people who show up."

But isn't that incredibly hard to do? I totally agree with the article and you, but at the same time, aren't the middle layers of most bureaucracies super stretched already? Most of those people just don't have the time/energy/motivation to do that, do they? Their bosses probably don't care, so how could they? It seems like only the very best of them do that.

I so wish that wasn't true, but it may be.


I agree with the article's main points about the requirement for opportunity and for positive inspiration and nudges along the way. Absolutely.

But another thing strikes me as very mysterious: where does a Tom Mueller (or any high performing individual of any identity group in any field) get that drive, that energy, that interest in the first place? How and why do they keep on going? What inner mechanism fuels their passion? Why do they even have a passion?


Not sure why you are down voted. I think not is a fantastic question. I've seen raw intelligence in some high schoolers and near zero motivation. What about their lives and environment prevents them from stretching and self-motivating?

I think part of it is environment: they don't see others who they can emulate that they can relate to or others that support them in their peer group. Part of it is innate - and this is the part I relate to. For me, I did not know what I was going to do after, but I knew that school/university was the only way I would get there. I put my efforts towards that. My passion was to not be in the situation(s) my parents were in. That meant waking up at 4am in highschool to do homework or study to help get the eventual near-fullride scholarship to a university. Some of my cohort would rather just play videogames or do other things to escape their reality.


I believe some folks get that drive to dive deep because they are not "included". When someone doesn't fit in well, perhaps they take refuge in working with things instead of people. Building stuff, learning to code, etc. Just a thought. They'd be hard to find for the same reasons they're good.


Talent is everywhere.

Tom Mueller is a great Engineer, no doubt. But SpaceX would probably have existed without Tom Mueller.

Opportunity is not.

The opportunity to build a rocket company is rare. For it to exist, you need someone to bet Billions on a crazy idea.

Tom Mueller is poor. He can't bet that kind of money.

Elon Musk is rich. He's willing to make the bet, but in return he wants to feel important.

It seem like a pretty good trade, in my eyes.

As for diversity and inclusion - sure, that's a good thing.


Every talent unrealized is a failure of society to provide opportunity.

The fact that nine billion of us can produce one billionaire investor to found one successful private rocket company in half a century of space travel is a mark against the species.

We would all be immortal digital consciousnesses traversing the stars at fractions of C by now if we had managed to capture an order of magnitude more talent in previous generations.


It does not need to be "made a crazy company, or is a major player in that company" to be opportunity. For a rural or inner-city kid, opportunity could mean securing a career where they can save for retirement and raise a family. There are so many kinds of jobs out there, but many disadvantaged folks will never even realize they can do better than being a local lumberjack or working at a local retailer. They don't know the opportunity even exists.

I skipped out on about a decade of software development because it was not something someone did for real money in my locality, and the income it could command was very low the year I had briefly looked into it, and the rent in those areas where you could do programming was too high. I seriously considered working for the local lumberyard because I had trouble wrapping my head around other opportunities. You can find my path to software in another comment here. I think schools could do better than "career day" to expose kids to the opportunities out there.


This is an universal truth. It is an individual's choice to do what he/she wants. This is one instance of where a person was guided and he took the advice. There will 100's of youth who won't accept advice, they will just be happy with what they are doing. If at all a person will listen more to his peer's words than a teacher's. I grew up in a small town in India, I had asked my friends to move to bigger city for college - many of them didn't want to move..I did. And i would say my career has so far been better than theirs. There will also other factors which affect a person's decision on career location - family pressure/bonding- most often to pursue a career of your choice you will have to travel long distance/relocate, many people wouldn't want to do that..People who go that extra length do succeed.


Speaking of SpaceX -- Musk himself is African. He had to go to America in order to have a chance to do this.


Can someone define D&I? I guess diversity and... I got nothing. It's too short to Google effectively!


Diversity and Inclusion.


Thanks, seems awfully intuitive in retrospect!


I think it's diversity and inclusion.


The teachers or other sets of people who recognize talent must in themselves have a certain ability or “talent” for spotting talents in others. So if talent was abundantly everywhere why aren’t there enough of these talented teachers/mentors/parents who can nudge all the other talents so they can reach their potential?

The answer could be that talent is not well distributed over life time. For instance it would be safe to assume the bulk of the best teachers/mentors do not voluntarily work in places which pay them bad wages (usually poor areas) and so often opt to move to richer areas. And thus many of those talented kids from rural places grow up with much less chance of getting noticed and more importantly good “nudges” as a result.

If this is true and if society wanted to maximize utliziation of talent there’s perhaps no clear simple way, but a strategy might be to artificially redistribute this kind of talent for instance by giving poorer areas more funding for education.


In school, usually the only talent noticed is "they do well in (some part of) my class." And the only real advice most teachers can give at that point is "you should go to college (and most likely study this same subject)." Most teachers are not aware of even a fraction of the opportunities that would transcend that kid to a better life. Given the adversities some kids face, the advice to even go to college could fall on deaf ears.

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