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Pattern Matching, Racial Diversity and the Hypocrisy of Big Tech Media (oonwoye.com)
136 points by OoTheNigerian on July 7, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 95 comments

It’s all signaling and not really doing anything. (That dog don’t hunt, to turn a phrase). They’re also afraid of the the same hypocritical media will denounce them for not being woke, while the media get a pass while it itself ignores the long arc this requires. You don’t just snap fingers and things happen.

It’s easy to say so and so is bad because they are not voicing in unison the clamor for fairness etc. but in reality all most are doing is buying time and buying forgiveness.

Real change does not happen overnight. It takes years of hard work. You have to start young and follow through for a couple of decades.

Employers barely want to train people they have vetted and hired, so I don’t expect them to put money where their mouths are in terms of building and sustaining the systems necessary to bring disadvantaged populations into the same opportunities afforded others.

It’s like the Chinese bots castigating the US for civil liberties issues while they have re-education camps with millions. It’s a sideshow.

That's what a lot of us have been saying in industry for awhile now but tech media has been pretty relentless in implications without clarification of the underlying difficulty (the pipeline we have to work with). It's good to highlight the hypocrisy.

I think the pipeline argument is a little biased, it implies that only certain kinds of people can learn "the skills". This thinking back propagates down the line from what the ideal resume looks like, to where someone went to school, down to something like gender or class.

I think this is patently untrue and encouraging training and taking chances on different types of applicants would do a lot to improve this.

As someone with a bit of an odd background and a bit scattered of a resume. I've experienced this stonewalling first hand.

> I think the pipeline argument is a little biased, it implies that only certain kinds of people can learn "the skills".

Not at all. It only implies that certain groups of people actually do learn “the skills” at different proportions than their overall share of the population. “Can” and “actually do, in the context of society”, are two very different concepts.

The pipeline argument is basically, “you can’t have a society that fundamentally fails certain groups of people throughout their entire childhood and early adult education and then expect them to magically develop the same skills and qualifications as people who didn’t have those barriers”.

It’s crazy that people see pipeline arguments as excuses for social injustice because the most damaging aspects of social injustice manifest themselves as pipeline problems. For instance, the risk of childhood lead exposure has a huge correlation with race in the United States. That’s a horrifying and disgusting fact and it needs to be fixed. But if childhood lead exposure was the only fundamental racial disparity left, you’d still see other statistical disparities arise from that.

> I think the pipeline argument is a little biased, it implies that only certain kinds of people can learn "the skills".

I don't think so. I truly believe that a lot more people from disadvantaged populations can learn "the skills" than the numbers we currently have, to the point where it would equal out to be the same as people from other demographics. They have the inherent ability to get good good at it just like anyone else. The issue comes with those career paths and opportunities not being as often encouraged and "advertised" to them when growing up. And that's the part that needs to change.

We need more supplementary coding opportunities for children in disadvantaged communities. They need to be exposed to those opportunities. Those opportunities need to be presented as viable paths for them, and not something like "you need to learn tons of math and you will be sitting all day at a computer like a drone". If you don't already have great math skills (which most people don't) and don't have role models that encourage this (e.g., an uncle who is a software engineer), then no wonder that this pitch won't convince you to seriously consider a career in software engineering, no matter how actually capable you are.

Of course, a lot of people would scoff at this approach, as it takes time to come to fruition and deliver the results. And it isn't a flashy "bandaid" solution you can put on this issue and proclaim a loud victory, without actually making a systemic change. But big systemic changes like this take lots of time and effort, and we should be focusing on that, rather than giving it up in favor of more "bandaid"-tier solutions.

"and you will be sitting all day at a computer like a drone"

Um, this one is kind of true of many programming jobs. Also true of many non-programming jobs today, too.

Sure, but that's not how it should be presented to children. You can paint almost any modern job this way, as you said. So programming needs to be presented as a viable alternative, just like all the other jobs.

No one gives a classroom speech to kids on how being a doctor means doing many years of medschool after finishing college, getting into debt, and then doing 24-36 hour shifts in residency while being paid peanuts, before you can actually start working as a doctor. And I don't think that presenting programming to kids should be done this way either.

It should be presented in a similar manner to how it got many of us into the field due to the love of programming. It is all about solving intricate problems, puzzles, automating things, and doing all sorts of cool stuff with it. In fact, I believe that it is especially shameful how it is usually presented to kids as a menial/robotic job, given that programming has a lot of potential for showing kids cool applications of it, way more than most other fields. Programming robots, computer systems on board of space shuttles, soccer balls that have systems tracking performance, programmable music instruments, etc. The potential for making it entertaining and captivating for kids is gigantic.

I think the sibling comments are going a bit more "big picture" than GP and GGP are referring to, which has nothing to do with ability to learn skills, just time involved.

The pipeline problem has nothing to do with ability, it's all about the hiring pool and the time it takes to change the hiring pool. Companies can't hire people that don't exist, so focusing solely on hiring practices won't get the desired outcome at anywhere near the speed the activists want (if at all). The activists are focused on completely the wrong area; it's going to take years-to-decades fixing problems much earlier in life before companies would even be able to do such hiring.

>The activists are focused on completely the wrong area; it's going to take years-to-decades fixing problems much earlier in life before companies would even be able to do such hiring.

And this is the breakdown of the argument, it's a way to sideline a huge ask into the argument and stall it out. It's designed to lead the question of "well it will take decades, nothing we can do now".

I don't disagree there are some decades of change needed, but still there should be some introspection into where and who is making this argument.

Often they are the ones who've already made it.

> And this is the breakdown of the argument, it's a way to sideline a huge ask into the argument and stall it out. It's designed to lead the question of "well it will take decades, nothing we can do now".

It will take decades so we have to start now - since we can't start yesterday - so vote and donate money to organizations working on those things appropriately.

Without that "do something" then yes, it's a stalling tactic, a "don't make me think about it" response. But there are actions we can ask for that will encourage those changes.

If the pipeline were not an issue and you could train people, then we’d have no need to import workers. They’d take kids (whatever race or background) off the street and get them up and running. But they already have a hard time accepting people from boot camps (of course some are diploma mills, but some people are good, but get ignored regardless).

>If the pipeline were not an issue and you could train people, then we’d have no need to import workers.

I'm confused as to whether you are implying it's impossible to train people? Also isn't the concept of ignoring applicants with some form of training (reasonable boot camp) essentially blocking the pipeline?

I think people are trainable but companies are loath to do do that. They hardly want to train people they’ve vetted and hired.

And yes, ignoring people from boot camps and other alternate learning systems is a problem.

Hi, author here.

I live in Lagos, Nigeria but visit Silicon Valley frequently and follow the situation closely.

Being near but far, has given me unique perspectives on these type of issues.

I sent my report to 22 US media companies (the ones covered, NYTimes, WaPo, CNN, Guardian, Wired etc) and was essentially blackballed. Thankfully we can self-publish.

I am here in the comments and happy to answer any questions you may have.

thanks for this great post. I was wondering how does the Tech community in Nigeria feel about the renaming of Tech jargon as currently implemented by Githab, Redhat, Twitter and others (links below). Do you think this is something companies should be doing? It seems like a cheap shot to me personally and it would be cool to get your opinion on this in a future post on your blog.






Painting a house that is getting rotten is easier than doing a proper renovation.

These are feel good measure, done to tap themselves on their backs and make it seem like work has been done. But no one is fooled.

While some terms can be improved or neutralized, it’s also true that people in Africa like any other place, are also afraid of the dark. It’s part of the human experience. And lack of light or darkness is one ingredient in how or why people perceive things in particular ways.

What exactly are you trying to say? what is light and what is darkness?

GP is saying that most terms using black with a negative connotation, like "black list", didn't originate from racism towards people with dark skin, but from the fear that many people have of darkness. GP is suggesting that this is pretty universal across humanity, including among African cultures.

I...hope this is sarcasm?

African people are afraid of the dark...just like little kids?

I don't understand what you're trying to say.

Most cultures including european have mythologies and folklore around the dark. So there is psychology surrounding this. It’s why a good portion “scary movies” involve darkness. But it’s also prevalent in other cultures.

What successful paths have you encountered in Nigeria that propels local disadvantaged populations into areas of the economy that would typically be out of reach to them and which may be applicable in the US?

When it comes to economic growth, Nigeria is so far behind policy wise. Sadly, there is nothing I can offer you around policies that can or should be replicated.

On the individual level, I have seen people transform the lives of their families by learning to code.

This is one https://www.freecodecamp.org/news/how-i-went-from-programmin...

> blackballed

Honest question - Is that a racist term? Doesn't appear to be based on Google search, but I see people removing words with black in them such as "blacklist" so I am curious.

No. It refers to a supposed part of the process of joining the Freemasons. The members of the lodge vote anonymously whether to accept a prospective member by depositing a white or black ball into a closed box, with the black ball representing a “no” vote. So “blackballed” refers to some exclusive group excluding outsiders.

I’m not a Mason so I don’t know if this factual, but that’s the idea.

Of course, someone could be blackballed because they are black—if a particular Masonic lodge had racist members—but it’s not inherent to the concept.

So no, but really yes. It's just as racist as "black list" and "white list".

That’s more the general case of the word “black” being used both to denote bad/negative/disallowed and to denote people of African ancestry. But there isn’t a specifically racial meaning to either “blackballed” or “blacklist”.

For me, racism is about the intent. Sometime, those are words, but most times they aren't about words.

So it depends.

> when you are busy pointing your torch at others, you forget to point it at yourself.

Big tech should stop fronting and you should stop pointing.

Please try your luck with Quillette[1] - it's a dissident media magazine, not only open for, but indeed interested in, publishing articles that go against the popular narrative.


[1] https://quillette.com/about/ the "How can you pitch an article?" question

The nation is pretty evenly divided so I wouldn't say that they go against the popular narrative, instead they go along with one of the two popular narratives.

Actually, I believe they are vilified for being moderates.

Quillette has argued numerous times on behalf of phrenology[0][1]. More receipts[2]

How do you think they’ll react to an African techie?

[0] https://theoutline.com/post/8104/phrenology-hirevue-quillett...

[1] Phrenology is "the detailed study of the shape and size of the cranium as a supposed indication of character and mental abilities."

[2] https://www.pinkerite.com/2019/07/yes-kevin-drum-quillette-i...

Could you post the link from quillette itself?

Sure, could you tell me for what purpose first?

I want to learn the wonderful field of phrenology of course. :)

But seriously, I've seen that claim previously, but never pointing to original source (unless the article was deleted?). I didn't carefully read the articles you provided, so sorry if it is in there somewhere.

Not surprising, HN loves Claire and her Murrayan novelists.

Here you go[0].

Out of the links I shared[parent], the former link takes a deep dive into Quillette authors (one of whom wrote the article I cite below), the latter delves into the actual arguments they make in advancement of "neophrenology".

To reiterate my initial comment (I am not here to make a value judgement on phrenology), this does not seem like a publication the OP would like to submit to.

[0] http://archive.is/6okTx

:EDIT: minor clarifications

Thanks. I skimmed the article and the author seems to be bashing a book (with some good arguments, but since I didn't read the book itself, I can't tell how justified they are). So the main problem is that he published something worse somewhere else?

You have a point that OP might not want to submit there, guilt by association is all the rage nowadays. I mean they are currently trying to cancel Chomsky for signing an open letter on freedom of speech, just because some other people also signed it. This is literally Hitler liked pippies situation...

The main problem (and again, I shouldn’t be doing a value assessment of Quilette sticking to my original point, but you’ve asked) is that Quilette “scholars” seemed to have started from 1700s race research, jumped to Jim Crow-era race research, and seemingly skipped everything before and after The Bell Curve(1994) research that does not suit their argument of genetic determinism.

To my initial point, value-arguments aside(I’m certainly not going to convince you), does an African developer want to seek out Quilette to publish?

HN downvotes me because Claire Lehmann is a Paul Graham darling, but the only thing "Libertarian" about Quilette is the fact they bypass violation of the NAP with the argument the black people are either (A)not people or (B)"less than" people.

>HN downvotes me because Claire Lehmann is a Paul Graham darling

I don't speak for HN, but I can speak to why I personally downvoted you. I downvoted you because of the hostility and passive-aggressiveness, the scare quotes and browbeating of your respondent. I think it's reasonable to discourage that sort of behavior, because it's one of the leading causes of long term forum degradation.

Out of curiosity, has there ever been another point in time where a dominating culture has made efforts to represent non-dominant races/cultures proportionally in the upper levels of society? Were there lessons learned from that? This phenomenon seems relatively new so I'd like to learn more about how it works in practice.

I am not sure about "dominant races," but there has been something akin to this move in another aspect of society: gender. Here's an article that outlines the effects of finally having enough men in congress convinced to ratify the 19th amendment (enabling universal suffrage) [1]. In this case, the "dominating" culture is the more correct term than "dominant," since the proportion of males to females in society is usually close to 50/50 - but I think it does give us some idea about the kind of policy ramifications that might happen with more representative representation:

> Some of the legislation championed by women lawmakers, such as the enactment in the early 1990s of the Violence Against Women Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act, are remembered as signature achievements more than a generation later. But other victories were shockingly prosaic, correcting gender inequities that few would now believe lasted as long as they did, from giving women access to credit to ensuring that medical research included women as subjects.

A good example of the kind of prosaic mentioned: most people do not know that the NIH was not required to include female subjects for drug trials until 1993, though it is shockingly obvious that a drug could affect female bodies (e.g. reproductive system) differently [2].

[1] - https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/07/how-wom... [2] - https://grants.nih.gov/policy/inclusion/women-and-minorities...

I wouldn’t look at it that way. As someone who is middle class and better off than most of the planet I see a more equitable world as the only way to prevent further instability and conflict.

The nature of the dominant classes has changed over time. In the early days of civilization like in ancient Egypt you had the pharaohs who ruled because they guarded the knowledge of when and where the river Nile would flood. The farmers were mere meat robots who were forced to farm in order to pay taxes. It didn’t really matter how educated the farmers were or how free the discourse was.

Today’s dominant classes rely on an extremely complex society to keep things going. You need a highly educated work force equipped with all the latest communication tools and critical thinking skills. It’s not so easy anymore to get away with unfair social structures.

Increasing automation means that a lot of this oppression is simply unnecessary.

As far as I’m concerned we either figure out how to build a more equitable society where every kid has a fair chance at self actualization or we risk actual revolution in the long term.

I prefer to be on what I see as the right side of history same as the people who fought to abolish slavery, give women the vote and establish a welfare state.

It doesn’t seem rational, the only way to make sense of it is if the dominating class accessorizes the pursuit of the goal (regardless of its merits) as a form of aggrandizement in their own meta social stratosphere.

Questionable motives, but hey if it moves the agenda, take whatever help you can get. It’s already an up-hill battle.

It's a result of non zero-sum economics, so you won't see it from any time before the 18th century.

There might be something in the history of Empires like Rome, where over generations minority groups are assimilated into the dominant culture. Give it a few generations and nobody remembers relations 100 years ago.

In the US people today tend to forget the surge of nativist sentiment in 1920 towards... Italians. Or before that... Germans.

I'd prefer the article to be more upfront about "racial diversity" being "what % are Black", and not "what % are Black, Latino, Asian, etc". Billing Black %, though important, as racial diversity erases all other non-Caucasian groups.

While I would prefer to see my demographic represented in the analysis, I'm entirely fine with the lens being focused on black people. If anything good comes of it, underrepresented minorities in general will benefit.

Billing Black %, though important, as racial diversity erases all other non-Caucasian groups.

I think this is a lesser form of "all lives matter", because the "applies to other groups" subtext is pretty obvious. I'm not saying that you're saying "all lives matter", just that I disagree for comparable reasons: it's only an erasure of non-Caucasian groups if you interpret the author uncharitably.

Does it erase them or does it just take a moment to focus the conversation on the black part?

I’m pretty sure “racial diversity” here doesn’t mean “not white” but instead means racial division in proportion to the population in context.

The "Silicon Valley Tech Media Diversity Report Card" listed in the article has a column for "Black %" as its only diversity metric.

i cant say much more than "wow, thats pretty damning", particularly because many of the already small number of black people included seem like celebrity tokens (snoop, will smith, nba players) rather than bonafide contributors. im surprised i hadn't heard about this before, though unfortunately not surprised that it is the reality. thanks for sharing!

It’s really not fair to criticize Big Tech for not having demographics that mirror the US population as a whole. There’s so many large, societal factors standing in the way of black people and people of color from being able to even consider pursuing a career in tech that putting all the blame on discrimination or prejudice means your not talking about the real issues.

If Big Tech/Big Tech Media want to help those communities, they should lobby the government to stop mass incarcerating and start educating their future engineers.

The article is not pointing the blame toward discrimination, it addresses the hypocrisy of those with the means to affect change, who are glad to denounce while remaining passive. Apathy while in a position to influence is a form of tacit approval of the status quo. Basically, the article denounces a common form of virtue signaling by these people/organizations when it's convenient (like right now); They publicly plaster donations as flares to deflect attention, but then go back to their color blind ways once the storm has passed. If you're part of a community that has no valid reasons to be delineated along racial lines, at some point you have to wonder why people of a certain minority are underrepresented in your (tech, business, friends) circles. Do they ever ask? Do they care at all? Your stated explanation, incarcerations and lack of education, tends to be the quick goto. But it doesn't explain everything. It's rather increasingly becoming an excuse since, as the article is pointing out, there are instances of talent striving to emerge from those under-favored minorities despite the odds, yet the underrepresentation persists. If anything, the custodians of communities that supposedly transcend backward concepts like "race", should make efforts to encourage more forward-thinking notions such as diversity, as everybody ends up winning from the enriched perspective.

I really really don’t want what I’m about to say taken to mean anything other than the condemnation of corporate face saving.

Companies certainly don’t care about addressing the underlying issues, and they can’t have their institution represented on those charts like that.

Going forward, if you can help fix those data visualizations, you are going to be an auto hire. This is how they see the world.

I think we’re just getting started with this stuff, and more breakdowns of the data are coming for all facets of society.

You overlook a number of high profile African Americans (Tony Prophet and Robert F. Smith for example) in tech and Silicon Valley and highlight a number of Africans (Nigerians in particular). Is your criticism also addressing the lack of Africans in Silicon Valley as well?

Not at all.

Without media coverage, it is hard for even myself to know of black founders in US tech.

Did you know the founder of the very popular Calendly was black? He lives in Atlanta and is Nigerian but I only got to know of him recently.

I just wanted to list a few names of people "I KNOW" that are doing spectacular things.

I hope more people make more lists of Black founders. We cannot have enough of them.

Statistically, the American immigrant population from Africa (around 2 million people) seems to have a very different background from most American born African Americans (around 40 million people).

Overall, African immigrants (like many other immigrant groups) tend to have very high education/economic mobility, due to the selection effect - if you don't have those characteristics, it's hard to immigrate to the US.

But if you lump both groups together as "black", the likely result is that tech companies trying to make up for lack of representation in American born African Americans, will end up filling most of the gap with African immigrants, because immigrants are more likely to have the background tech companies are looking for.

Which is great for immigrants, but does it end up helping African Americans?

Diversity among the Black Civil Rights Establishment now means 'what percentage of the workforce is black'.

Anyone who claims that hiring racism/sexism/ageism/etc. dominates in some industry should be ignored unless they’ve already conditioned on obviously-relevant factors with sex/race/age/etc. correlates, like the desirable strength/intelligence/etc. distribution of workers in that industry.

You might naively claim that professional basketball has a racist preference for black men, until you remember that black men are vastly more likely to fall into the height and athleticism distribution optimal for playing basketball. There are also industries where you rationally expect e.g. whites and asians to be disproportionately represented.

Are you flat out saying that some races and sexes are not intelligent enough to be in the tech industry?

You’re just asking for a long drawn out fight over which cultures emphasize education more.

Scratch out race.

Are you flat out saying that some sexes are not intelligent enough to be in the tech industry?

"Some sexes" is a weird way of saying that, and no. However, women experimentally have a narrower IQ distribution, which means that low and high IQs tend to be dominated by men. It's (I suspect) why there are more male nobel laureates (and programmers) but also more male prisoners.

This is also the expected result if you're familiar with GMV as mediated by sex chromosome pseudodominance in most mammals, including humans.

> women experimentally have a narrower IQ distribution

A glance at Wikipedia shows that this statement is contested. Pretty much every statement about men, women, intelligence, and IQ is contested.

> This is also the expected result if you're familiar with GMV

OK, I'll bite.


"few sex differences (if any) remain statistically significant"

It amuses me that any article about racism and sexism in the tech inevitably devolves to "It's not racism and sexism if we just think that other races and sexes don't perform well in the tech industry."

> Pretty much every statement about men, women, intelligence, and IQ is contested.

Well obviously, but most of the contests against hard IQ data don’t have much merit.

> <link to paper about gray matter volume>

GMV isn’t “gray matter volume”, it’s “greater male variability” - hence the mention of sex chromosome pseudodominance.

> in the tech industry.

It’s not just the tech industry - every industry will have some selective pressures.

That’s not the reason man. Socially women were driven away from certain fields, that’s all.

I’m not the OP, but I doubt anyones saying that. If anything you’re asking for a long drawn out fight over why some sexes don’t major in STEM more.

The argument is going to boil down to the “pipeline” problem, ‘there’s not enough to begin with for it to be represented in proportion’, which leads to the moral hazard dilemma of do we just started filling quotas.


The OP has clarified that he thinks that women inherently do not have the skills needed for the tech industry. It's not an unusual attitude, and challenges your assessment that this is a 'pipeline' problem.

As long as tech workers think that some races have 'cultural' problems and as long as some tech workings think that there are differences between men's and women's brains that make women less suited for tech work, I think we have to stop dismissing this as a pipeline problem.

The prejudice is real and all over this thread posters are happily justifying it.

You should try to learn how to discern the difference between “<group> doesn’t have the skills for <activity>” and “<group> is statistically less likely to match selective criteria of <activity>”. It’s a pretty critical distinction.

Does it lead to the same conclusion though. At the end of the day, do you believe that the lack of minorities and women in tech is justified?

If so, that only supports allegations of racism and sexism in the tech industry.

> Does it lead to the same conclusion though.

Not even slightly.

> do you believe that the lack of minorities and women in tech is justified

There isn't a lack of "minorities" - there are more than population baseline of East Asians, Jews, Indians, etc. There are a lower-than-population-baseline number of South Americans (which I am, by the way), black people, etc.

"Justified" is a moral judgement, not a factual or predictive one. You can believe whatever you want is or isn't justified independently of reality. However, the current distribution of ethnic groups and sexes in tech (and most other industries) is expected and predictable based on the distribution of correlated factors within those industries, without having to appeal to racism or unfair discrimination.

They also said that non-white races look too alike for facial recognition: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23462568

They didn't say "they all look alike", they said that white faces have more contrast so are easier to differentiate even with a naïve CV algorithm. It's one more source of systemic bias in the ML literature, especially given the comparative scarcity of source data from non-majority groups.

> It's one more source of systemic bias in the ML literature, especially given the comparative scarcity of source data from non-majority groups.

centimeter's posts in that thread directly reject your proffered line of thought:

  > your training data does not have enough people with dark skin or African American face features
  This isn’t the issue - the issue is lower variance across black faces in any basis.

Here's what I said: "if you partitioned the faces by race the output of the SVD would be much wider for white people [...] white people have more light/dark contrast, more hair colors, more eye colors, etc.". This is an obvious fact that is widely recognized by CV practitioners.

No, but I am saying that there are differences in population-level intelligence distributions across groups. The data is pretty clear on this.

I'm not sure I understand the distinction. If there are differences in 'population-level' intelligence, then some populations are less intelligent, correct?

If some populations are less intelligent, then it is OK to not hire them in the tech industry.

In your opinion, how do you tell the less intelligent populations from the more intelligent populations?

If you use population-level characteristics to make blanket individual-level determinations, you are an idiot.

You can't use statements about populations to draw inferences about individuals - and we hire individuals, not populations. Your entire framing of this issue is 100% backwards.

I love seeing comments like this surface on HN, because they serve to show how some people can think of themselves as rational while being so oblivious about their ignorance. It can go on silently for years, because they think it's just politically incorrect to say it, but that the "facts" are true.

This is why, despite what you may believe, "race" issues are still of actuality in SV. You would be amazed at what some of the supposedly smart and powerful people in these circles believe when it comes to this stuff.

You should consider the hypothesis that the supposedly smart people actually are smart (as one might expect), and have put more thought into this than you.

I stand by my assertion. Anyone trying to use a concept as misunderstood as IQ to explain a disparity in tech regarding black people is most probably misguided and jumping to conclusion. The other person responding to my comment (and who seems to be in the same boat as you) said: where they're still in disagreement is what causes it and the definition of "race". There's a very good reason for that. There are many other attributes that correlate _very strongly_ with what people like to call "race", that are likelier candidates (based on strong evidence) as factors of IQ disparity.

IQ researchers know that unless you can trace the direct origin of their findings to genes (as it's been done for some diseases), you cannot claim causation. Especially when there is also strong evidence of socio-cultural factors (environment, history, culture, nutrition, education, lifestyle, means, etc). Even the plasticity of IQ suggests that since it's not a number set in stone, it wouldn't be prudent to make wild genetic claims. Unfortunately the public at large doesn't want to hear that part, and would rather run with its own version of what I like to call "tldr science", that purports to explain why the world works the way it does with cliff notes.

In a discussion about bias against a specific genetic group, if you want to bring arguments that excuse the status quo, by basically saying that the discriminated group is just genetically at a disadvantage, you need to damn well know what you're talking about. But as it's common with many "bottom-line" numbers like IQ, people tend to look at them and make the same mistake of drawing overly simplistic conclusions to very complicated and entangled issues.

The issue at hand here is the relative invisibility of black people in the tech scene. You brought up a point. I will assume that you're in tech, as I am. Despite what we pride ourselves to be able to accomplish, nothing in that field places it beyond the grasp of 99% of humans with a functioning brain, whether those individuals belong to a low scoring group or not. It's a challenging field, yes, but you don't need genius level IQ. What you need is a favorable environment (education, food, etc) that adequately prepares you for it. And this is true for most other fields.

The fact that you ran with "IQ" to explain the phenomenon (and that you had many advocates coming to your rescue in that endeavor) is very interesting to me, as it really is symbolic of how otherwise smart people may convince themselves that they've figured something that they really don't understand that well.

As I said earlier, this is how we remain in that situation.

Psychology researchers don't have any major disagreement about the relationship between race and IQ. It's well established that blacks have lower IQ than whites. Where they're still in disagreement is what causes it and the definition of "race".

It's amazing to see so many seemingly intelligent people being such avid science deniers. Just because you've demonized the people who believe something different from you doesn't mean they're wrong.

This rhetoric in commenting on venture capital and tech implies that whites and asians are more likely to fall into some biological distributions optimal for being in tech or being a venture capitalist.

could you explain what they are? Genuine question.

It's a matter of whether or not you believe IQ test results.

(Personally, I don't have a position, not being familiar with the literature brandished by either side of the debate. I am, however, aware of the debate's existence — hence this clarifying comment.)

IQ tests aren’t biological the way height is, thus my confusion. Additionally, we can’t know that tech/VC have significantly higher IQs. My inquiry is genuinely asking if this persons rhetoric had any merit whatsoever since on its face it looks dumb

Well, at least we got over phrenology... right?

IQ results are meaningful, but there's nothing 'biological' about them. Variation in IQ is heavily influenced by all sorts of social factors, and variation across social groups even comes with difficulties in measurement. The meme that 'IQ is biological' is just that, a baseless urban legend.

Don't be ridiculous. Performance on IQ tests is highly heritable and is also severely affected by metabolic disorders, childhood iodine deficiency, and sleep deprivation. That's biological.

It's funny when people are so uniformly wrong but write with such confident language. Most estimates based on twin and sibling studies place 60-80% of variance in intelligence as genetically heritable, with a single-digit percentage of adult IQ attributable to known environmental factors.

Twins-vs.-siblings studies are irrelevant to variation across large social groups. There's no way anyone can "write with confident language" about any of that variation being biological in nature, given that the social milieus are so starkly different.

Twin vs sibling studies aim at quantifying what effect genetics has on IQ rather than environmental conditions. If there are hereditary components to it, then they most certainly can be mapped to some extent across population groups, as have a lot of other "traits". There are only so many ways to slice this, but it is unfortunately a delicate topic.

Question, are the studies telling us IQ is heritable or telling us a dumb person can't have smart kids?

You don't need IQ test results. The SAT measures actual performance at solving math problems.


SAT measures your ability to complete the SAT, not your ability to solve math problems. If you are nervous in a testing environment or need to take your time with math problems or write them out beyond the scraps of paper they give you, you will have a bad time on the SAT. Even when I took the GRE for grad school, I ran out of time on the math section. It wasn't difficult, it was just trigonometry and very basic algebra, but I ran out of time anyway. I still got into grad school, so it turned out none of this testing stress mattered at all.

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