This is nothing new.
But I doubt it’s just about ethics. I remember when Facebook dethroned Google too.
What's stopping them?
In my experience, the people who actually want to work at startups tend to be either (a) very young engineers, who have more risk tolerance and perhaps more naiveté, or (b) people who worked at a successful company (e.g., FANG) and set aside a comfortable nest egg, and therefore also have high risk tolerance.
At 5 years of experience, the gap was even wider. A friend just took a 400% pay raise to move from Google to a fintech firm. He shopped around at other tech companies, but no one was above a 20-30% increase.
My gut feeling here is that the 'I don't do what they're testing for in interviews' feeling pervades FAANG management as well as engineers. They probably don't actually see much value in programmer intelligence above a certain bar.
On the fintech side, they are approaching recruiting as they always have and probably won't even schedule an interview if you don't have a recommendation and a top 5 university on your resume.
Maybe the reason has changed though... why did they say this back then?
Google’s “Don’t be evil” really was in stark contrast to all that. (Whether lived or not is a separate thing. )
Engineers who behave unethically without asking questions aren't good engineers--at least, they're not the sort of engineers we want to be creating.
Ethical behaviour is - or should be - learned and refined over a lifetime, via parents, peers, all levels of education, employers, wider society and one's own contemplation.
I'm suspicious of the inclusion of ethics classes in MBA courses, given the kind of work many MBAs end up doing. I suspect it can create a mindset in which anything you convince yourself is OK according to what you learned in your ethics class is acceptable, which is a very weak and inconsistent standard.
To be clear, I'm fully supportive of the idea that engineers and everyone else in tech companies should behave ethically. I'm just not sure ethics classes will achieve that outcome.
If engineers, or any employees, are behaving unethically, it's because there's a misalignment between the employee's own short-term incentives (i.e., keeping their job, getting a promotion/raise), and societally-beneficial objectives. It'll take more than an ethics class to fix that.
College is about not only learning deliberately but allowing serendipity to open your mind to the unexpected. In my experience, budding engineers are among the last of us to become aware of social costs vs benefits and alternative perspectives. Without a required course to open their eyes, it's likely that many young techies will leap into life's choices before they look.
IMO, college is exactly the right time for all students to confront the cost of living an unexamined life.
Absolutely. But, what if someone's parents, peers, etc have never really introduced the foundational ideas? I mean, most people are taught ethical rules, but they're often taught as rules and not ideology that should be applied broadly. Also, most parents aren't equipped to teach some of the ethical dilemmas that we face with social media and big data. Having a course on some of these things should be another building block for many, but also a backstop for those who have never given it any thought at all.
For example, I used to contract to the US military in the DC area. That work invited many of the same concerns that SV does -- privacy, security, freedom of speech, acting preserve and defend the Constitution's principles. Today I work for a big pharmaceutical. Comparable concerns apply here too -- honesty, doing no harm, serving people in need, improving and extending their lives.
Ethics are universal, no matter where you live or what you do.
An ethics curriculum would help you with that task.
To understand this you have to also take on board that ethics is difficult. The media often gives us simplified versions of situations after the fact and we can't help but feel the "right" choice was always obvious. But in reality, as an ethical conflict develops those involved often feel helpless as the problem continues to grow. No one risks stopping it precisely because they don't have the intellectual framework to deal with or understand the developing complex ethical dilemma until it is too large for a single individual to take on.
I get where you are coming from though. I'm just saying that some people aren't lucky enough to have come from that place. Education does often make the difference for well meaning people not otherwise exposed to a good moral foundation.
BUT, I bet if you look at the data, things like DARE and driver's ed and sex ed v abstinance education have measurable, statistical impacts on what people believe and how they act.
ALSO, there are plenty of jobs out there for technical work. Each of us decides what people and organizations we are comfortable supporting with our labor. It's not a perfectly free decision, and there are plenty of individual trade-offs to make, but we're hardly passive players.
The content of the ethics class is different than you may think though. There isn't really an engineering version of the Hippocratic Oath, and the instructor normally realizes that he or she isn't going to instill a sense of ethics into a bunch of bored 20-somethings in three months if they haven't developed one already. Instead, the class tends to focus on choices you might face as an engineer, why they are hard, and the outcomes for both you and society at large.
In my experience - the overwhelming majority of students just wanted to pass the module, had no intention of contributing. I asked a friend in the same class what he thought of it, and he responded:
"What does it matter? I'm going to be working for a company, and they'll have rich lawyers. Any problem can be made to go away with enough money. All I need to care about is my pay cheque."
Last time I looked at LinkedIn he was working at one of the FAANG companies.
I also do know that people have been discussing AI, ethics and consequences in that same class now as I know the teacher. I don't now the outcome but I think people at least recognize the potential problems.
Point of my comment: you can teach this all you like, but it won't do any good unless you can break people out of the "I only care about the size of my pay cheque" mindset.
The money-chasing mentality is probably partly to blame for the mess we're in...
US government was afraid to break up Microsoft. They were afraid to fine Facebook higher as well.
However, code of ethics do exist in software and other engineering:
But once again the problem was in the customers. They should have said optimize for a, while keeping discrimination in check, not just optimize for a
Ethics is the study of what one ought to do. It purports to lift some values over other and define morality, meanings, and legitimate goals.
These two - positive versus normative - are fundamentally different types of discussion and knowledge.
Just consider: A physics course in Nazi Germany or Communist Russia would likely teach the same thing as a physics course in Stanford. An ethics course absolutely would not. Consider why and what that means.
Deutsche Physik rejected relativity and quantum mechanics, aka “Jewish physics”:
Lyshenkoism killed millions through famine by espousing nonsense biology and ignoring genetics:
Philosophy, including ethics, is foundational to everything we do, and unfamiliarity with the rules of the normative allows the unscrupulous to corrupt the positive.
"unfamiliarity with the rules of the normative allows the unscrupulous to corrupt the positive. "
Which rules of the positive are you talking about? Your rules? My rules? Trump's rules? Hitler's rules? Confucius' rules? Jesus' rules? Mohammed's rules?
The point is that the normative doesn't have rules in the same way as the positive. You can do a science experiment to objectively show Lysenkoism is wrong. You can't do a science experiment to objectively show that slavery is wrong.
Given that there are so many systems of rules of the positive, there's no way you can teach one as the rules the way you can teach physics.
My fear with such courses is that they just end up as moral propaganda for whoever is in power - empowering the powerful.
I'm talking about the ones that explain how to think about concepts, how point-of-view and experience affect what we perceive, how discourse can be used to further or detract from truth, etc. Basically, epistemology. Otherwise, how do you even presume to tell me that your physics is right? Because rockets fly? I think they fly because if you put fuel and make an offering of electricity to the gods of the ether, they will send it upwards—on what basis do you convince me, when I can rephrase everything you say to me as "the gods of the ether will it so"?
What has happened is that the Western world has created a shared epistemology and has done a very good job of laying it down and universally teaching it. So most of the time, we don't need to worry about right and wrong because the decision has been made for us long ago (and what does that say about us?)
Now, though, new questions are coming up—ethics in software engineering, bias in machine learning, etc.— where the universal model hasn't yet caught up and been agreed on, or where it is being challenged. And if we are not familiar with the process by which such things are agreed on, we are essentially letting other people make the decisions for us.
I totally understand the reluctance to empower the powerful, but I think education doesn't have to be brainwashing.
This is a superficial understanding. Once you start digging deeply, the difference between the hard and moral sciences is more tenuous, and less "fundamental". Sure, "calculus, physics" etc largely attempt to describe what "is", but these fields are motivated by the belief that nature "ought" to make sense. There would be no calculus or physics without a desire to make sense of the world, an "ought".
And "ought" does not just motivate hard science, it's an integral part of it. When following the scientific method, the first thing you do is form a hypothesis. A hypothesis, but its very definition, is not necessarily true, i.e., it's an "ought" not an "is". Scientists therefore have to embrace and believe in "normative" knowledge to advance just like other endeavors. The types of hypothesis and endeavors hard scientists engage in are subject to the prevailing social norms.
To reference your example, Nazi Germany did all sorts of ghastly experiments on twins and other prisoners, all in the name of science. Something that would not be done elsewhere. Even today, research on areas like stem cells and global warming are largely influenced by social norms and "ought".
Accordingly, while I agree there is a fundamental difference between "is" and "ought", that difference does not so clearly differentiate hard and soft sciences.
You know, this sounds like a good topic for an ethics course.
Even if the spec specifies unethical behavior? Sounds like passing the buck.
Or what if the spec itself isn't well defined, and leaves many undefined states and holes that the developer has to fill in themselves?
If a lawyer submitted a brilliant and conforming but racist or unethical argument to a court, the lawyer can still be found to be unethical. Just because you're following the rules, doesn't mean that you're doing the ethical thing.
Get the job done, get the money, get out.
If you want to waste precious time of your life wondering whether something is wrong - be my guest. But don't impose it on people with better things to do.
Spread your own personal opinions and downvote anyone who disagrees with them.
What makes the comparison somewhat interesting, I think, is that we are still a military group, in military installations. We just happen to be hunting cancer because people in the military also get cancer.
(1) We're mainly talking STEM BS to PhD, mostly under 40.
If you see people refusing to consider information given to them, it's a signal, and it's implications may be less altruistic than they want you to believe. Perhaps more than they want to believe themselves.
One of the most compelling examples of this I've seen was in a selection board procedure where there were simply no black applicants (from a field of potential applicants roughly 5-7% black). This was at a service academy, the board was selecting for student leadership positions. The board members were senior officers of the military (hate the military all you like, but considered opinions have generally held the military up as a model of integrative practices done right).
After selections were made, the demographics of the selectees and the pool were compared. The glaring absence of blacks was deemed a problem by everyone on the board. In prior boards, the white people on the board would have immediately moved to revote with the explicit intent of elevating more blacks into leadership positions. This was simply not possible, there were no black applicants. A black woman who happened to be on the board (who was highly accomplished) was deeply concerned and moved to reconvene after she could review the entire field of potential black applicants.
A week later the board reconvened and she said she simply could not find a black student she would recommend. The anguish in her face stays with me 15 years later. She felt that the black students who might qualify on other grounds were on shaky academic ground and she felt it was her duty to make sure they had the best possible chance of graduating.
To some extent it is surely a tale of small numbers (higher variance in smaller populations leads to sad stories like this) but if there is a person capable of understanding the problem, I would think a black female computer scientist with a lifetime in government would understand. And she was clearly troubled.
You can easily imagine the other version of this story, where one or a few black students had applied and not been selected. The white majority would have quickly added one or more of them to the student leadership coalition, and the black woman's minority opinion would have been drowned out in a simple majority vote.
What I see now, I think, some years removed, is the routine, callous use of blacks by whites to avoid confronting their racist tendencies in the usual board setting. Indeed, out of the many boards I participated it, it was this one instance where the absence of black students forced everyone to acknowledge the black leader's opinion carried weight.
I had no wlb for quite a while after school, by choice. Some people just like to do what they do.
This was a bit of time ago and I am no longer employed by said company.
I applaud these students for standing up for what they believe in.
I'd say also, I currently perceive Google/Facebook as a place to "slow down". They're big enough and have enough resources to do anything they want, so it seems like there's gonna be a lot of people just hanging out and going the slow route.
Having worked in a startup and midsize environment and now at Google my experience has been the opposite. Getting to focus intensely on one or two projects at a time allowed me to push the needle on velocity. I don't push as many LOC, sure, but that isn't how I measure impact or progress. At Google I can make measurable, verifiable impact using a development cycle the loops over a few days. It's very hard to do that even at midsize companies.
These stats are important for disseminating competitive information about the job market to job seekers and small companies. If Google et al own all the salary and resume data, then they have an unfairly outsized effect on the market.
I don't know where you've gotten that impression. Neither of those two companies got to where they are by having a culture of slowness.
Any team you're on doesn't have all of the company's financial resources at its whim -- rather the team has a set budget and quarterly objectives and everyone's breaking their back to meet them like in any other company. And if your team doesn't deliver, then your promotion won't happen... and most people are working towards that promotion.
There is absolutely nothing slow about it.
My visibility is limited (don't work at FB/Google), but I have several friends and ex-colleagues who do and I have to say, I have the same impression that it's a company for people to slow down.
They're already at the top of their game and I think assuming everybody there is an A-player is misguided. It's more likely you become another cog in a giant machine with limited reach for better or worse.
There's a lot of politics and while it's true everybody wants a promotion, it's clear to me (at least from my sources) that promotions are more about learning to play a game according to their rules rather than being a fast, high-achiever.
Not everybody wants to have financial resources at their whim. But some people are happy getting to the office 11am, moving a button 1px to the right then 1px to the left once in a while, and then leaving at 4pom. From what I heard, if you're ok with that, a place like Facebook or Google is great.
Again, I don't assume it's the norm, but I heard enough to make me think "slowing down" is very doable.
You can get around it by having multiple changes going in parallel, but it's still a lot of overhead. I don't think it was just me either. This seemed to be a common complaint. Maybe it's fixed by now?
This is going to vary a lot depending on the team and where you are working in the stack. Lumping Google and Facebook together and saying "there is absolutely nothing slow about it" seems too strong, though.
Edit: seems the downvoters don’t like what I have to say, but that doesn’t make it less true. Compare the graduation requirements for CS at Stanford from a few years ago to now - no compilers or os, no multivariable calculus, no pointers. They literally eliminated all the hard classes. As a result, the degree has become more liberal arts focused and the makeup of the class has changed in sync. I’d guess more than 50% of cs majors at Stanford we’re asian and foreign born just a few years ago - folks who you generally don’t see leading direct action protests.
Except that it isn't true. A quick look at https://cs.stanford.edu/degrees/ug/Requirements.shtml paints a completely diffrent picture.
I think it's a bit crude to say it's been "dumbed down" but it is not entirely untrue. Also I don't think this has anything to do with "SJWs", these changes were directly prompted by staffing shortages.
Stanford still requires cs students to take classes that cover the material above (except compilers which can be taken as a specialization)
OS is 140. Not required. Multi var calculus is math 51. Not required. As you note, compilers is not required. They also removed the EE hardware class in favor of a mishmash of core cs classes that are easier.
If you do want to do science, there are still masters and phd programs. Undergrad is job prep for most people and colleges are doing a disservice by pretending it's not.
I am no math whiz but I would say yes. Having the basics down at least at one point in you life is pretty helpful.
I am not the type to develop new lock-in functions for encryption and I do not use LaPlace tables to create models of control loops to configure pid controllers. But the understanding helps me to know about important stuff I have to look out for.
That said, you can still design amazing software without that knowledge, but the foundation certainly helps. Even if this knowledge might not be directly applicable to your day-to-day job.
In theory you dig heavy into algorithms and probabilistic running time, and other things.
In the systems track operating systems is a required course as is compilers.
I TAed for the undergrad compilers course when I was a grad student there. My PhD is in the field. I really don't see compilers as a reasonable mandatory course for engineers today.
This is a completely inverted way to frame it. Higher education shouldn't be perverted by the whims of the labor market. Universities don't need to change their curriculums. Companies need to change their hiring standards.
What should not change, however, is the fundamental nature of academia. That model is inviolate and has propelled much progress in our species' collective knowledge. In fact, I think the hijacking of higher education as an assembly line to furnish credentials wholesale is an unforgivable adulteration of that institution.
Ten years ago, I might have agreed with you, but with data mining and machine learning coming to dominate the practice of software development, calculus is more relevant than ever. I took undergraduate calculus about 30 years ago, and I’ve forgotten so much that I recently dug out my old textbook (that I still have for some reason) and started to re-read it just to make better sense of a lot of the machine learning documentation I’m coming across these days.
That isn't just about chugging two beers and talking about the state of the world. Arguments are carefully crafted and (logical) consistency is valued that could for one help you with in your field and additionally allows you to look beyond the horizon on a lot of issues.
In fact, I'd argue the opposite: The median student slated to graduate in 2023 is likely smarter and harder-working than median student who graduated in 2003.
It's been a good University for a while, but I think it's reputation as an institution on par with Harvard or Princeton, or OxBridge is maybe 10-15 years old.
People are different and complicated, assuming a blank slate of tech people following certain ideology is ignorant at its best, stupid at its worst.
Smart people won't go to Google/Facebook? Think twice. Maybe they want to spend more time in exciting/shiny stuff when they still can afford to make mistakes. The difference here being they CAN join Facebook or Google at the right time.
Money definitely talks, let alone the problem/scope company like Facebook or Google could offer, that certain startup couldn't even dream about.
Not that I necessarily know what my peers' moral integrity and political positions are like...
Attributing this to politics seems like a premature conclusion. Another possibility is that there are an increased number of competitors that compensate well. Uber, AirBnb, and others.
Also, it looks like the drop is only across 1 specific year so it's heavily subject to noise:
> the acceptance rate for full-time positions at Facebook from recent graduates of top-tier schools had fallen between 35 and 55 percent as of last December, down from an 85 percent acceptance rate for the 2017–18 school year.
If this were measured as as sliding window and showed consistent decline it'd be more convincing.
But really being able to be proud of the work you do in your life is its own reward.
Just as one example, some of us would never build an unconstitutional mass-surveillance system, and it has nothing to do with "wokeness."
It's a position that makes total sense and seems unassailably true to...well, people that are tuned in politically. People that don't care or don't connect the dots between politics and their actual life are pretty dang apolitical.
But the point is, they don't care. Which makes this position apolitical, an absence of political opinion. The fact that they aren't spurred into political actions due to personal suffering does not mean that there's no such thing as being apolitical.
- The world is too complicated for me to know who is correct
- Both options on the table suck
- My voice doesn't matter
- I trust others do better than I would
Not taking a stance between essentially two choices for how things should be done is not the same as saying things are being done okay.
Examples of apolitical people who doesn't fit your description: Illegal immigrants who try to keep theirs heads down and just work, women who adopt a conservative role instead of fighting it, slaves who picked cotton instead of making a fuzz, Gays who pretended to be straight and even married etc.
If you think a bit, being political is almost always more work than not being political. So it is mostly very privileged people who engage in it. The rest are just trying to get by, they don't have the time or energy to spare being political.
However this is a hostile approach. If you can't get results through the usual political channels, trying to inconvenience the neutrals into compliance is a dodgy way of proceeding. I'll accept that nobody in politics plays fairly, but the people being harassed by an organised protest are completely reasonable in claiming that they were apolitical and the protestors are forcing politics upon them.
We have a word, 'apolitical', because it is a possible state someone's opinions can be in.
Americans have a completely impotent understanding of protest. Protest and asking nicely are NOT the same thing. You do the former when the latter doesn’t work.
No. This is the kind of misguided logic that protesters use to do things like block freeways, stand on caltrain tracks, and trespass on private property.
When protest causes extreme inconvenience, more often than not it inspires ire for the protesters. None of my friends that were stuck in traffic when BLM protesters blocked highways in Oakland came away from that experience with an improved opinion of BLM.
One has to understand that the inconvenience you feel by being inconvenienced by a protest is truly a tiny fraction of the "inconvenience" that motivated the protestors to protest. You know, have some empathy.
Empathy works both ways. Protestors that lack empathy for the people they're disrupting aren't going to get good reactions from most people because most people don't like to be disrupted.
I don't see any hypocrisy. I want what I want, and I don't want my enemies to get what they want. We can't both get what we want if our views are incompatible.
> I don't see any hypocrisy. I want what I want, and I don't want my enemies to get what they want. We can't both get what we want if our views are incompatible.
You're essentially saying, "it's good when I do it, it's bad when people I disagree with like do it." This is hypocrisy, justifying actions for oneself but criticizing others for doing the same. And not to mention, I frequently find that this mentality fosters enmity between people with different views - you even referred to protestors espousing views you don't approve of as "enemies".
- Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail
Extreme inconvenience for who/what you are protesting, inconveniencing the average Joe is counter productive and will turn them against you.
You're right though, apart from in some mythologized version of the Indian independence movement peaceful protest has never done jack. You need to throw your body on the gears and the levers etc.
There are a lot of political movements that achieve a huge amount without getting serious about protests. Any modern democracy gives people the option to get involved with shaping how the government works.
Waving the broad brush of generalisations, usually the people protesting are doing so because is because they have no chance of getting the numbers to effect change - because the majority simply doesn't care about whatever their special interest it, or will actively resist it because it is secretly a fringe issue. If they have a chance of capturing majority opinion, they'd be too busy using effective channels rather than protesting.
Do you consider baldness a hairstyle?
Gather 'round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun
A man whose allegiance
Is ruled by expedience
Call him a Nazi, he won't even frown
"Nazi, Schmazi!" says Wernher von Braun
Don't say that he's hypocritical
Say rather that he's apolitical
"Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
That's not my department" says Wernher von Braun
Some have harsh words for this man of renown
But some think our attitude
Should be one of gratitude
Like the widows and cripples in old London town
Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun
You too may be a big hero
Once you've learned to count backwards to zero
"In German, und Englisch, I know how to count down
Und I'm learning Chinese" says Wernher von Braun
His amazing wit is just as biting today as it was when he originally composed most of his songs over half a century ago.
Any company whose business is to help federal and local police surveil the public while hiding these practices from public scrutiny and oversight worries me, and I think, should worry everyone in light of Snowden's revelations.
New graduates are less interested in these companies because they don't represent their generation. When I was a kid, the idea of working for these companies was cool not only because they had cool products but because they were relatively new and were something relevant to be a part of.
Today, these companies aren't so cool to graduates because they're old school in tech years. Facebook and Google are massive companies where your impact will probably be a drop in the ocean. In a lot of ways, they're the IBM and Xerox of today; why would a kid in the 70s or the 80s want to work for those stuffy and slow-moving corporations when they could work for Apple or Microsoft? Maybe millennial still view these companies the way they did in their youth, but I doubt that Gen Z see them as the exciting new thing. Young people naturally want to do something new and don't want to exist merely to be the Atlas of the same world their elders built.