Morning Ed: Business & Labor {2017.08.08.Tu}

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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444 Responses

  1. Damon says:

    [BL4] No only unemployment, but homelessness. I still recall that the reporting on homelessness, which was almost daily, in the major media, stopped cold turkey when Bill Clinton took office. Coincidence right? Right? RIGHT?

    [BL5] Indeed. Most of my companies security/confidential aspects, Export/Import, Customs, etc. regs are all focused on reporting and training. Better to disclose than to conceal. Conceal gets you disbarment, fines, criminal prosecution, etc. “When in doubt, disclose.”Report

    • gregiank in reply to Damon says:

      Ummm yeah, the unemp rate was fakeity fake fake until sometime around when Trump was inaugurated.

      The Unemp rate is good, it was good a year ago and has gotten better. Is it the only metric to look at the economy…of course not, but its good.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to gregiank says:

        And imagine all of the jobs that Trump created that aren’t even reflected in those job reports! If the fake unemployment numbers are looking better, think of all of the stealth jobs he must have created to move the bulk of the invisible labor force!Report

      • Damon in reply to gregiank says:

        Sure, if you remember that the unemploy rate excludes folks who’ve given up looking for work. That figure went up steadily for quite a while post crash while the unemploy rate when down as people moved from looking to no longer looking for work.

        Look for the unemploy rate to increase as people go back to looking for work. That’s when the economy is growing. But it’s likely that all those no longer looking will just never work again…Report

        • Troublesome Frog in reply to Damon says:

          Sure, if you remember that the unemploy rate excludes folks who’ve given up looking for work.

          That’s U-3. If you want “discouraged workers” added, the stat you want is U-4. U-3 is at 4.3 percent and U-4 is at 4.7. There are two more rates that add in other types of underutilized workers, but it’s not a mystery what the difference is.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

            I’ve always watched very closely which metric of unemployment people use. Quite a number of pundits, politicians, and random internet commentators jump from one to the other to suit their cause, hoping you’ll miss the rather blatant sleight of hand.

            Now there’s good reason, at time, that you might want to focus on one or the other. But most of the time, it seems people deviate from the standard in order to grind a particular political ax that they literally didn’t care about six months prior.Report

  2. Oscar Gordon says:

    BL5 Boeing spent (still spends) a lot of effort on overcoming the culture of hiding mistakes from it’s past. Annual training for everyone on reporting mistakes.Report

  3. Saul Degraw says:

    BL2: This is a third-rate Onion wannabe. This is how you write a business parody headline.

    BL3: This makes sense to me.

    BL5: I worked for one firm that believed in shame as the best management tactic. They were the most unpleasant place to work and had a reputation as such. Most people were nice but there was still an atmosphere of fear. The partners had a lot of money though so I am sure they thought everything was dandy.

    BL6: The moaning of the death of the summer job represents a kind of pomposity in conservatism that I just don’t get. Perhaps it also shows an advanced economy where teenagers don’t have to work but we moan this. If conservatives are supposed to believe in the powers of the market and economy to increase prosperity, why are they moaning about the death of the teenage job?Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Summer Jobs (among other teenage jobs) teach a person a *LOT*.

      I’ll tell this story again:

      I have friends in management (until recently, I would have said that I know three people without degrees) at a small manufacturing company who tell me that they would hire a person with a year or two of experience as assistant manager of a Domino’s, Pizza Hut, or McDonald’s before they would hire a person with a bachelor’s degree in “Business” (let alone (whatever) Studies).

      They say this because, and I’ll try to recreate the rant for you:

      “I know that the guy who worked as an assistant manager at Pizza Hut had to deal with all three delivery drivers calling in sick on a Friday night because there was a party, I know that the guy who worked as an assistant manager at Domino’s had to deal with screaming customers at the same time as stoned line cooks at the same time as the phone ringing, I know that the guy who worked as an assistant manager at McDonald’s knows how to tell time, how to count, how to shower, and how to deal with both people who tell him what to do and people that he has to order around. The guy with a degree? I don’t know anything about him except that he can probably outdrink me.”

      I don’t know how representative this is but I was impressed by the rant and it was given to me at a point in his life when he did not (yet) have his (night school) college degree.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Jaybird says:

        Yes to this. I made a comment recently about the value of work. It veered into the value of work versus effort, IIRC, and I didn’t follow up on it. But while I believe that work is important to building ephemeral things like character, it also has very practical benefits.

        At the risk of threadcrossing, this topic ties in closely to the running discussion about how to devalue the prestige of a degree from an elite university. I remember my dad was always more inclined to hire someone who’d gone through night school than someone who’d attended full-time college. I consider the value of how someone got through college just as important as what they did in college, and both more important than where they attended. I think the value of Ivy’s would decline organically if we started paying attention to what really counts.

        A question for Saul: do people on the left not think about the topic of summer jobs?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Pinky says:

          Here’s a blast from the past for ya… an article from Newsweek from 1997. Talking about the successes of the “Welfare to Work” program.

          Dennis Drummond of Jefferson Smurfit Corp., a paper-products company, came over the border from Illinois to tell other executives about his experiences in hiring 17 welfare recipients. ““The first thing you learn is they come in late. They’ve often never owned an alarm clock,” he explained, echoing familiar frustrations. “”You’re ready to fire them. They don’t know where the bathroom is. But we didn’t know where it was when we were new either. If you work with them, give them a “buddy’ at the start, they often turn into outstanding employees.”

          I added the emphasis because that was the part that I wanted to talk about.

          There is a real dividing line between people who have the whole “own an alarm clock and get out of bed when it goes off” thing down and the people who don’t.

          Summer jobs teach a lot of the little skills that we never even *THINK* about when you get to the point where I am in my career.

          These stupid minimum wage jobs that would be easily replaced by a kiosk or a roomba teach a lot of skills that are so essential that it’s easy to forget that they’re skills at all once you’re surrounded by people who, for example, no longer require alarm clocks to wake up within two minutes of 6:50AM.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jaybird says:

            This is one of those reasons I am really resistant to high minimum wages. Perhaps if there was an exception for teenagers….Report

            • Then companies will bend over backwards to hire teenagers instead of grownups.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Will Truman says:

                Well, not all MW jobs can be done by teenagers, either because the law won’t allow it (e.g. selling/serving alcohol), or the schedule won’t (pesky truancy rules!).

                But yeah, I expect they will. And lots of teenagers will have opportunities for work experience.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                A job where they push a broom up and down aisles and straighten the Barbie section is a job that will help them be better (insert profession here) in the future.

                There is literally *NO* profession that would not be improved by being held with a person who has previous experience pushing a broom up and down an aisle and straightening the Barbie section.Report

          • fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

            One of the most eye-opening things (as a child of the middle class, and with parents who emphasized education (1)) and sad-making things I ever heard was from a woman who was posted here a couple years as a Methodist (IIRC, might have been Lutheran?) pastor – she served an area of town that might be politely described as “lower income” and she talked about how she would buy alarm clocks for the schoolkids – because their parents never thought of getting them up for school, the kids had to get up, dress themselves, feed themselves, get to school. One of the “problems” that came up in her congregation (several people were teachers) was that “these kids can never be on time” and it turned out it was they just didn’t have the resources to….

            so the pastor bought alarm clocks for them. No idea how it worked out.

            but that was one of the moments where I realized “privilege” is not just being white or cisgendered or whatever – it’s also elements of how you were raised. And I’m always grateful to have had the parents I did.

            (1) Until I was about 13, my mom would come and WAKE ME UP in the morning instead of making me use an alarm clock….it was a gentler thing and also she often had breakfast started by that time.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to fillyjonk says:

              I’m sure you’ve heard that public schools were the original meta-training for factory work, right?

              Show up on time, do a task for 50 minutes, the bell rings, 10 minutes to go to the next task, the bell rings, repeat a couple of times, the bell rings, lunch, the bell rings, do some more tasks and switching tasks until the final bell rings and you can go home.

              Even if you don’t get great grades, when you show up at the canning factory and show them your high school diploma, they know that you can show up on time, do a task for 50 minutes, and so on.

              The parents who do something as simple as wake their kiddos up in the morning are helping their own kiddos be employable under the old paradigm.

              Nudges to get summer jobs are helping their own kiddos be even more employable.

              See also: reading bedtime stories, making meals, taking them to the library, correcting their faulty diction, and so on.Report

            • Michael Cain in reply to fillyjonk says:

              During one of the summer interims when I was a staffer for the state legislature I interviewed a number of the front line people in one of our state’s social services organization. I still remember the woman who told me that while she generally had no kind thoughts for the military, she thought there much to be said for making all teenagers spend a couple of years in an environment that enforced getting up at a specified time, maintaining personal hygiene, and wearing clean clothes every day.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Pinky says:


          I think we think about them but not in the same way. I don’t see any inherent value in a summer job. As Lee and others pointed out, there are lots of people who do crappy summer work but don’t develop a sense of empathy or compassion because of it.

          I am not a romanticizer of a low-level job for the sake of having a low-level job. If we are interested in a society that advances, maybe some concepts need to go the way of the dodo.Report

          • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            I don’t know if summer jobs have any inherent value. I know that they had value for me: they gave me spending money and allowed me to eat and pay the rent during the school year. I suppose that there are other options for that. You can take money from parents, to the degree that they are able to support you, or you can take out loans once you are in college. Working for your own money is, to me, the clearly superior option, but I guess opinions can vary.

            I have noticed though, that there is a fair amount of overlap between the folks who think that menial work is just a distraction for those kids who should be channeling all their time and energy toward amassing the most prestigious set of education credentials possible and the folks who come out the other end of that process complaining about the size of their student loan debt and/or that it’s too hard to find the comfortable, safe upper-middle class lives that they were “promised.” I cannot say whether this is just a coincidence or not, though.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      BL6: Its because the social beliefs of conservatism are conflicting with their economic beliefs and they are choosing to follow their social beliefs on this issue. I think this should be fairly obvious. There are times when different beliefs in an ideology conflict with each other. American conservatives believe that summer jobs give teenagers a good work ethic among other things. It might be economically inefficient but conservatives believe it has social values that they like.

      Liberalism started off and still carries a connotation of permissive behavior, that people should generally be allowed to do as they please. This permissiveness conflicts with our ideas about economic and social justice. Its why we want to ban private discrimination even though that should technically be allowed under liberal beliefs regarding letting people do as they please or why our attitudes towards sexting get complicated.Report

      • Joe Sal in reply to LeeEsq says:

        There are a lot of things to pick through there. Is conservatism a needs based or a abilities based ideology. Is liberalism a needs based or a abilities based ideology?

        If your ideology is about ability to provision yourself, a teenage job and access to a teenage job may be a useful development tool.

        I your ideology is about needs, there really is no need to stop suckling the mother until she passes away from old age.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Bl6 – the flip side of it is that we probably want the kids of middle class and up parents, destined for a professional or managerial track later in life, to have done some scut work jobs as a teenager like cleaning grease traps & hauling mulch bags so they know what it’s like at some point in their lives.

      this article on restaurant dishwashers is worth reading in full, but one of the takeaways is how many good restauranters got their start on the scouring line, vice the myriad of wannabes destined for failure.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Kolohe says:

        I’ve done gardening work at public parks as a summer job when I was in college.

        I think there is something to that argument but I am not always sure that it works to teach humility.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          It’s less humility, and more empathy.

          It’s hard to empathize with the lives of your bottom rung workers if you’ve never been on a bottom rung.Report

          • Kolohe in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            It’s to be clear no panacea and may go in the other direction in some cases. The whole ‘hey I was treated like garbage when I had this gig so I have no problem treating other people like garbage when I’m in charge’. See also when frats/sororities and groups with similar dynamics have initiations that get out of control.Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Kolohe says:

              I think you just described almost every brass ring career including medicine and banking.Report

            • fillyjonk in reply to Kolohe says:

              Yeah, that can happen too, I’ve seen it, I’ve seen the “I had to go through this, so I’m gonna make you go through worse.”

              I dunno. After working the “dish room” in my dorm cafeteria, I was a LOT more careful about what I did with the scraps on my plate/silverware/etc. Prying off bowls of mashed potatoes that have been turned upside down and “fused” to the plate gets really old really fast.

              (I was gonna say at first, in response to @oscar-gordon that I didn’t think I’d ever had a bottom-rung job, but then I remembered the dish room. It wasn’t for long but yeah.)

              I will also say one way I vet prospective friends/dates is how they treat service workers. If I go out with a guy and he’s rude to the waitress, he doesn’t get a second date, no matter what his other good qualities may be.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            Based on how older management and executive level people who had teenage jobs when they were younger act now, it doesn’t seem to teach that much empathy.Report

          • gregiank in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            A hard summer job isn’t going to teach empathy especially if the kid knows he is going to end up in a corner office. Parent’s can teach empathy and the hard job may open some eyes. But there is a big diff between the hard summer job for a rich kid and hard summer/fall/winter/summer job with not a ton of upside growth.Report

            • Dark Matter in reply to gregiank says:

              I don’t expect my kids to learn empathy, I expect them to learn how terrible those jobs are and understand THAT is their life if they screw up. “This miserable life could be yours…”

              It’s a bit of a lie, even by “bad job” standards corn detasseling sucks.Report

              • greginak in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Rich or middle class kids who are going to college know they are short timers are hard summer jobs. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do them because they certainly might learn something. But all that stuff you want your kids to learn, they will learn from you. I helped my dad out at 14 which taught me somethings. Mostly it confirmed what my dad had already taught and showed me with his life.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to greginak says:

                But all that stuff you want your kids to learn, they will learn from you.

                Thank you very much, that’s an amazing compliment, makes my day.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

                Yet another advantage that middle class kids with two parents have.

                “Privilege”, I think the word is.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    BL6: When I was a kid, summer went from somewhere just past Memorial Day (like only one or two weeks) and started the week of Labor Day. August didn’t mean that school was starting, September did.

    I understand that teachers are back at school this week and students are back at school starting next week.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

      I think this has always been geographically dependent. When I grew up in NY, summer vacation was from June to Labor Day. As far as I can tell it still is.

      In California, as far as I can tell, summer vacation has always been from May to August.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Jaybird says:

      A friend who lives outside of Atlanta posted on Facebook the other day that Cobb County public schools started on July 31 this year…

      I do note that when my kids were in school they seemed to get many more days off than I did when I was that age.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Michael Cain says:

        July 31st?

        The only way that this makes sense to me is if we’re officially transitioning from “the point of school is education” to “the point of school is day care”.Report

      • fillyjonk in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Yeah, I’ve seen this. Locally, many of the schools give Fridays off for the second half of the spring or so. It’s a headache for a lot of working parents (and a cost, if you have to organize childcare).

        I dunno. I’d rather see the schools start later in the year and not get all those random days off. (I don’t remember what Federal holidays we got off when I was a kid. Maybe Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays? And MLK Jr. day was not official yet and we didn’t get it….but I don’t remember other ones. And of course, the “day off” was always the day my mom scheduled doctor or dental checkups for us….so not only did we not get the day off but we didn’t get to miss school for them)Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      TLDR: Google employee posts long, thoughtful, memo about Google’s problems with political correctness. Everyone proceeds to prove his point.

      In related news, Scott Alexander is characteristically on point with responses to feminist bullshit and more feminist bullshit. No wonder Veronica hates him so much.Report

      • Richard Hershberger in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Would you have the same reaction had the memo been about black engineers? If not, why not?Report

        • Troublesome Frog in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

          While not endorsing the memo, I have to point out that there’s some difference in the amount of evidence supporting differences in brain by gender vs race, so the two don’t seem directly comparable.

          I’d say that in either case, even if it’s 100% correct and supported by evidence, it’s totally insane and counterproductive to share it in a memo that essentially undermines a bunch of your coworkers. I just don’t see how you can keep somebody onboard after that.

          My wife works for a Giant Semiconductor Company that has a social media style forum where employees can talk about work and it’s just as toxic as you’d think. It seems absolutely nuts for a company to create a space where people spread rumors and amplify each others’ resentment all day long. It’s like a YouTube comment section but with the bile focused at the company and team members. My only guess is that it’s a honeypot so HR can figure out who goes first whenever a wave of layoffs happens.Report

          • aaron david in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

            Remember the bad ol’ days, when everyone went out to happy hour and kevtched? I don’t know if this is better or worse, even adding in the DUI’s.Report

            • Troublesome Frog in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

              I think that’s mostly a good response. I have to chuckle about this:

              It’s true that women are socialized to be better at paying attention to people’s emotional needs and so on?—?this is something that makes them better engineers, not worse ones.

              If we turned it around and he’d dropped a little factoid about men being socialized to be better at something that was relevant to coding, he’d have the mobs at his gates right now instead of having people sharing his essay.

              I can’t say enough about how bad it is to undermine your coworkers, though. That fact exists in total isolation from any facts or opinions about whether they’re inherently bad at their jobs or whether one person in particular just happens to suck at his job. You just can’t do that sort of thing and expect it to be a net positive.

              My wife’s boss at one point said something in front of the group like, “I’ve been trying to get my wife to apply here. She’s a woman and she has a pulse, so it should be easy.” He later apologized to my wife and said something like, “I didn’t mean you. You’re a good engineer,” totally missing the fact that he just undercut her legitimacy in front of all of her colleagues and stamped the whole thing with his authority as the technical manager.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

              That post seriously makes me question whether he actually read the memo, or just skipped straight to the comments at Gizmodo and tried to infer its contents from what the peanut gallery had to say.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                He read it, and demonstrates the precise problem with the whole document. It was written by someone who had no idea how to craft that kind of document.

                You can read it and give it a very charitable read, and come away understanding the point the guy was trying to make, but the fact remains that you have to give it a very charitable read.

                However, the argument is poorly constructed and employs claims that are ripe for people to take issue with. It is, quite obviously, a document written by a person who is used to writing documents to support objective points. Gender discrimination, despite having objective data and objective conclusions, is also a subjective minefield, and you can’t engage one without taking care toward the other. It’s obvious he is cognizant of this minefield, and he has an idea where the mines are, but he still goes charging in anyway.

                In short, he got cocky.

                (protip: when entering a minefield, unless you have clearly marked all the mines with bright flags, don’t go charging into the field).Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                If he’d simply said something like “hey, look, it’s pretty impossible for us to hit certain goals because the educational pipeline that feeds us doesn’t meet those goals” he’d be fine.

                I mean pointing out you can’t get, say, 50/50 gender ratios and maintain quality when the schools are churning them out 90/10 in that field is a pretty strong point. (I mean maybe you can — Google, I’d imagine, gets to cherry pick like crazy. But it’s still a valid point).

                He wouldn’t have gotten any grief over that. But dipping his toes into biological arguments is…not a good idea. There’s a very ugly history there (and an ugly present) and he’s both wrong on the science (his claims of settled science are pretty laughable in general) AND wrong on the conclusions (as noted — the supposed ‘weaknesses’ of women he claimed are, in fact, strengths for collaborative design — which is Google’s bread and butter).

                Putting it all in writing to boot — Jesus. Way to basically tell every non-white male coworker you have “Offhand, I think you’re a token hire who replaced someone much better“. However noble and honest his intentions, that’s the ugly seed he planted in the minds of the folks that have to work with him.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Richard Hershberger says:

          Why you gotta do this to me? You know I’m not going to lie, and you also know that no matter how clearly I explain this, and no matter how many caveats I load it up with, it’s still going to trigger the village PJWs.

          Anyway, if it were written in the same tone, and with the same quality of argumentation, yes, though it would have to be about cognitive skills rather than about personality traits. There’s a robust and well-documented cognitive skills gap, on the order of 10-15 IQ points, between black and white Americans (not sure how well this generalizes globally) in adulthood. The reasons for this are not fully understood, so I couldn’t endorse an assertion that it’s definitely due to genetics, but there’s no legitimate controversy regarding the existence of the gap.

          It’s important to note, of course, that this doesn’t mean that any particular black person has low cognitive ability. Because there’s a great deal of overlap in the cognitive skill distributions, there are millions of black Americans who are smarter than the average white American. But it does mean that black Americans are going to be underrepresented in the right tail of the distribution, which is where most software engineers hang out, especially the ones who can clear Google’s hiring bar.

          More to the point, the existence of a hiring bar, if it’s applied in a race-neutral manner, means that there’s no reason to question the qualifications of black engineers who clear the bar simply on account of a difference in average cognitive skill between races.

          Of course, this doesn’t mean Google shouldn’t hire black engineers. It doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try to make black engineers feel welcome. It doesn’t mean that the black engineers they do hire are bad. It just means that having black people underrepresented among their engineering staff is not prima facie, much less probative, evidence of discrimination or other wrongdoing, and also (arguably) that they should not lower the bar or otherwise discriminate for the sake of achieving equal representation.

          That said, they’re fishing Google, so if they really wanted to they probably could achieve equal representation without lowering standards by paying enough to poach all the best black (and female) engineers from other companies. But it would a) cost more, and b) just make it that much harder for other companies to get good representation numbers.Report

          • Troublesome Frog in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            That said, they’re fishing Google, so if they really wanted to they probably could achieve equal representation without lowering standards by paying enough to poach all the best black (and female) engineers from other companies. But it would a) cost more, and b) just make it that much harder for other companies to get good representation numbers.

            Well, that and the poo flinging would stop being about “lowering the bar” and start being about unequal pay. Sadly, Google is at the end of a long pipeline of things that cause varying degrees of racial/gender representation in the workforce and they can’t really correct it themselves with infinite money, wisdom and benevolence. They’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.Report

          • Truth and Justice in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Does this blog not have a problem with naked white supremacism? Saying that white people have higher IQs than black people is straight out alt-right Nazi talking point. Charles Murray promotes the idea but no legitimate scientist supports it. Brandon Berg should be banned from this blog for promoting Nazi ideas. It is amazing that this blog tolerates alt-right Nazis like Berg and Truman.Report

          • Road Scholar in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            There’s a robust and well-documented cognitive skills gap, on the order of 10-15 IQ points, between black and white Americans (not sure how well this generalizes globally) in adulthood.

            Are you aware that the same psychologists, using the same methodology, also measure a similar (8-10 point) IQ advantage for liberals over conservatives? Which seems ironic to me given that conservatives are most likely to uncritically embrace the evidence for racial cognitive superiority while liberals are more suspicious.

            The problem with the racial thing is that there is no good explanatory theory behind it. Race is a social construct based on a very few genetic differences coding for superficial characteristics like skin color. So what the hell could that possibly have to do with intelligence? The case for gendered cognitive variation is more plausible given the more holistic nature of sexual dimorphism, but there’s still very little in the way of explanatory theory beyond “just so” stories and, like race, so much cultural and social cruft attached that it’s impossible to really say what’s what yet.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Road Scholar says:

              Urban VIII did nothing wrong.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to Road Scholar says:


              Are you aware that the same psychologists, using the same methodology, also measure a similar (8-10 point) IQ advantage for liberals over conservatives?

              Haven’t heard of it. I did a quick web search and found a link to a study of 1600 foreign college students and 1200 community college students, which is obviously nonrepresentative. My understanding is that social liberalism and economic conservatism are both positively correlated with IQ, but I’m not sure how big the size of the gap is, and how much it’s been studied.

              Note that the racial IQ gap isn’t just a finding from one or two studies. It’s been replicated over and over, and is extremely robust. The holy grail of psychometrics is a legitimate test of cognitive ability that shows no racial gap, and nobody’s ever been able to find one.

              The problem with the racial thing is that there is no good explanatory theory behind it.

              As I said, the reasons aren’t fully understood, but the gap definitely exists.

              Race is a social construct based on a very few genetic differences coding for superficial characteristics like skin color.

              Come on. Seriously? Those “very few genetic differences” are strongly correlated with ancestry, which means they’re correlated with many more genetic differences than the ones that code for the visible differences characteristic of various races. That the same genes code for skin color and IQ is a strawman, and a pretty ridiculous one at that.

              Anyway, this is somewhat beside the point, because, as I said, we don’t know why there’s a racial IQ gap. It could be 100% environmental. In theory, it could be 200% environmental, if black people have higher average genetic cognitive potential than white people but are having it suppressed by environmental factors. From the perspective of someone making hiring decisions for cognitively-demanding jobs, it doesn’t really matter, though.

              The case for gendered cognitive variation is more plausible

              A priori, maybe. But in practice, we don’t see large test male-female gaps in average test scores. We do see males overrepresented in the tails, but median scores are quite similar. There are differences on some subtests, but they more or less balance out. Male-female differences are more oriented towards personality.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Get a bigger sample set or fuck off.
                Blacks in America do significantly more poorly than Blacks in Europe.
                We call this Selection in Action, as you do not have a decent representative sample in Either Place.

                Do you really think slaves had the highest IQs in Africa???

                So, when you say “There’s a Racial IQ Gap” — what the fuck is your sample set?

                Because when my friends take a sample, they use cell phones. And their data is loads more accurate (and profitable) than Academic Researchers. (Cellphones have better penetration in Africa too).Report

            • Dark Matter in reply to Road Scholar says:

              Are you aware that the same psychologists, using the same methodology, also measure a similar (8-10 point) IQ advantage for liberals over conservatives?

              You’re comparing one study that can’t be replicated to a large body of research.

              The problem with the racial thing is that there is no good explanatory theory behind it. Race is a social construct based on a very few genetic differences coding for superficial characteristics like skin color. So what the hell could that possibly have to do with intelligence?

              No, the first problem is, “is this a real thing”? Can we replicate it? Not having an explanation is irrelevant for judging whether or not something exists.

              If it is a real thing then we can (and should) look for explanations. We should be examining Culture, poverty, lead poisoning (already known to lower IQ), lifestyle, & diet. Genetics is unlikely for the reasons you pointed out, but something is clearly going on.

              However just bringing up the subject results in bricks being thrown until that line of questioning is stopped. So we’re not actively researching whatever the problem is. Thus we condemn people to it, and a lowering of IQ is an amazingly nasty thing to do to a group of people.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Dark Matter says:

                A few things. People do research these issues. The lead poisoning issue has gotten a lot of attention in the last few years. Are people touchy about the subject: yeah, but it’s not like there isn’t a really fraught history there. Ignoring all that history and how a lot of bad science has contributed to racism, etc is not at all helpful. It’s also hard to research this kind of stuff in a truly rigorous manner since we can’t exactly do real experiments.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to gregiank says:

                Ignoring all that history and how a lot of bad science has contributed to racism, etc is not at all helpful.

                I disagree. That history should be ignored.

                The alternative is a sensitivity which resulted in ignorance. And that ignorance has created MANY man years of suffering.

                Inflicting a StD loss of IQ to a significant fraction of the population? The economic losses, the aggravation of any number of social problems, start putting numbers on the costs and wars look cheap.

                It’s also hard to research this kind of stuff in a truly rigorous manner since we can’t exactly do real experiments.

                It’s even harder if we’re not allowed to ask the questions.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Again people ask those questions. How do you think the lead pollution studies got done. People are very sensitive to more science aimed at “proving” certain people are inferior. That kind of stuff very much hurt the people you are talking about. Ignoring that leads you to step into giant minefields then be flummoxed when you set up a mine.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to gregiank says:

                That kind of stuff very much hurt the people you are talking about.

                No, we didn’t do scientific investigations to decide how racist we were going to be. We decided to be racist and then mumbled the word “science” or “god” to justify it.

                Again people ask those questions.

                Mostly they don’t, certainly not to the extent they should. In order to investigate “why are Blacks more (less) [X]”, you must first admit that this is a thing, admitting it’s a thing brings protestors to your door.

                Most of the people who could and should be asking those questions are members of the Left. If they’re not clutching pearls themselves they don’t want to be denounced by their friends as racists.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Dark Matter says:

                We have the questions. We have the data. We have the fucking answers.
                We have profit.

                Welcome to the fun world of trade secrets.

                But race is an idiotic concept, and we’re a lot more finegrained than that.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to gregiank says:

                have you read carrier’s research on IQ? if not, you should.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Dark Matter says:

                You should see Carrier’s research on IQ. Fascinating stuff.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Another case of STEM guy with an actual point coupled to a complete and utter inability to express that point in a way that won’t get him curb-stomped.

        This is one reason I support making STEM students take lots of writing classes in college.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        Google is a large company and I know female engineers there and they are good and skilled. Are there bad female engineers at Google? Probably but there are probably plenty of bad guy engineers as well.

        Here is the thing that gets to me. Patrick pointed out that even if Google wanted to keep the guy, he made himself toxic. California and Silicon Valley is still socially liberal whether libertarians and conservatives like this or not. No one is going to want this guy on their team and women aren’t going to want to work with him because it is clear how highly he values their work and he would be dismissive of their situations. He probably wouldn’t want respond well if he had to report to a woman either.

        Another thing I don’t get is how the greatest defenders of at-will employment suddenly cry fowl when someone is terminated for progressive/liberal reasons. The guy distributed this memo internally, he took on a deliberately political and provocative statement using company time and resources, it got leaked to the press (he had to have known it would have), and Google is embarrassed in a year when tech companies have been shown to constantly step on landmines with sexism in the workplace. But know all I see are libertarians rushing to the guy’s defense while they would have seemingly no issue with a company terminating an employee for wearing a lavender shirt or attending a Pride event on the weekend.

        At-will applies to everyone, not just people you don’t like.Report

        • Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Damn right!

          “At-will applies to everyone, not just people you don’t like.”

          But it does highlight the hypocrisy of the company’s diversity statements.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Damon says:


            Does Google talk about ideological diversity? Legally, I think the situation might be different if he did this on his own time. Realistically, there are probably a lot of Google employees who might agree with the guy (I don’t) but the guy was provocative enough to shoot himself in the foot. He choose a hill to die on.Report

            • Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              That the guy was going to get fired was a high probability? No doubt. He probably expected it too, but figured writing his “memo” was worth the risk. I expect he’s got skills that are in demand. (I have some similar experience, although mine was not about diversity but about volunteerism)

              Frankly, it wouldn’t matter if the guy wrote the note on his own time or not since he sent it out on company assets. His real “offense”: pushing back against company policies. And as I said, Google’s demonstrated that they don’t REALLY value diversity, they just value compliance/conformity.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Damon says:

            But it does highlight the hypocrisy of the company’s diversity statements.

            Not really. Again, that whole document could have been written in a way that actually encouraged the desired discussion, but the guy was careless with his language and left too many openings to toss grenades through.Report

            • Damon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              We’ll have to agree to disagree. He was likely going to get canned regardless.

              First, one does not send mass communications speaking ill of company policies.

              Second, one does not speak wrong think of diversity programs. Too much possible legal ramifications.

              Third, one does not speak against corporate culture. You become a “bad fit”. (I have some experience living this)Report

            • El Muneco in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Right. He’d still have a job if he was just another dudebro. It was being an asshole that got him fired. No company’s diversity statement stretches that far – in fact, my company’s explicitly says the opposite. And we have plenty of out-and-proud Trumpistas, but as long as they don’t drag down the work environment, no one has any complaints.Report

            • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Just because you passionately believe something to be true does not mean you have to say it.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

                Ah, if only most people would take that advice…

                As I note above, it’s a good idea to fully survey a hill before engaging in an act that may find you smote upon it.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                A standard bit of lawyer advice is that you have to answer all questions your asked on the stand truthfully, this is for civil and not criminal trials so the 5th amendment doesn’t apply, but you don’t have to volunteer information that shoots you in the foot if nobody asks about it.Report

        • I don’t object to the firing*, but you can support at will employment without supporting every employer’s use of it.

          * – As it pertains to this guy and this set if circumstances. A lot of defenses of the firing take their support to positions I don’t agree with, though.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          There you go again, painting libertarians with that mile wide brush.

          Nope, guy stepped on his dick in a very public way. Even if the memo hadn’t been leaked, he was gonna get fired.

          Thing is, he could have written that whole document in a way as to not piss everyone off and actually foster that discussion, but he didn’t.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            “he could have written that whole document in a way as to not piss everyone off and actually foster that discussion”

            I don’t think that would have been possible, given the topics he was discussing.

            He could have done it without the evopsych stuff. Because now everyone’s going to be all “oh, evopsych, well, this shit is OBVIOUSLY WRONG because evopsych” instead of discussing concerns about major technology firms possessing an ideological and philosophical monoculture.Report

            • Kinda with Duck here. I do think that, as Oscar says, there are better ways he could have written what he wrote. But I’m not sure how much good it would have done without actually changing what he was saying.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Will Truman says:

                Depends on what he was really trying to say.

                If he was really trying to say that women are in general inferior developers/engineers, then yeah, their ain’t no good way to dress up that shit sandwich.

                If he was trying to say that Google should not demand parity when parity does not actually exist in the world, but he got lost trying to defend his position*, then my position holds.

                But he didn’t, and he got canned, and engineers who want to be all clever and write about corporate policy should actually get some practice doing so.

                *Happens to everyone. Good writers either know how to spot it when they do it, and begin revising, or they have good proofreaders and editors.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck says:

              It would be impossible to not piss anybody off, given the topic, but it’s increasingly difficult to find a topic for discussion that won’t piss somebody off.

              He could have done it such that the population of the offended was small enough to be mostly ignored. IMHO, sticking with the argument that it’s a fools errand to demand gender parity when the schools are not graduating gender parity would be unimpeachable (but qualify it by saying we should strive for parity so as to encourage kids and schools to do the same, even if the goal is never fully realized*).

              *See one of the SLC essays @brandon-berg linked.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


            The problem is that I think you and Jason and James Hanley are a bit one of a kind when it comes to libertarians. Or a small group. I see a lot of people rushing to the guy’s defense on Jasons feed and engaging in a kind of knee-jerk contrarianism that is awfully close to “hold my beer.”Report

            • The vast majority of libertarians and conservatives I’ve read agree that Google has the at-will right to fire him. In fact, agreement is such that it’s not even stated because it’s assumed. Which has, ironically, lead a lot of people to read their complaints as though they oppose Google’s right to fire him.

              The three counterexamples involve (a) one from a lefty, (b) one iunvolving claims of whistleblower protection, and (c) something Google-specific because they allegedly solicit input. These are not strong arguments, but are not contrary to at-will employment.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:


                My observation is that this is becoming a culture war thing on predictable lines:


              • Sure, but Shapiro and Podheretz aren’t saying that Google doesn’t or should not have the right to fire him, just that it’s the wrong thing to do.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Will Truman says:

                That’s an extremely polite description of what Shapiro and Podheretz were going for in those tweets.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to gregiank says:

                Oh, they’re pissed off about it, but in the sense that it was the wrong choice and not that it shouldn’t have legally been an option.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Will Truman says:

                The thoughtcrime and groupthink stuff is crap. They are ignoring why saying women can’t be as good computer types or how that might effect a work enviro. Like they can’t even see why saying to your coworkers that their biology makes them less qualified isn’t a teensy weensy bit of a real issue. They are fine with stirring the quite large poo pot of a discussion all around this.Report

              • Truth and Justice in reply to gregiank says:

                Will Truman likes to link to race pseudoscience blogs, like Rod Dreher he claims he doesn’t believe in to but secretly does.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to gregiank says:

                It’s an uncertain question as to where specifically the infraction lies here. Can the argument be made that the gender disparity is the result of choice and aptitude rather than discrimination? If that point can be made, then what did this guy say that crossed the line? Was it that he did it through company channels? Does it not matter that he was (allegedly) doing so in a discussion about the gender disparity?

                Critics of the memo are pretty significantly misrepresenting it, which has a lot of people up in arms. Many are also suggesting that the basic infraction really is the point of view expressed (that things other than discrimination is responsible) or the product of consequentialism (he has to be fired for no other reason than that because employees are upset) and others still are suggesting that he should not be able to find work again, which is itself a disturbing prospect.

                But all of that is tangential to the main point that I was making, which is that the narrative that libertarians and conservatives have suddenly turned against EAW, is incorrect.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Will Truman says:

                He spent too much effort talking about biological differences, enough that it leans toward biological determinism.

                I mean, I read it and I can’t help but think, “If you had stuck to Points A, B, & C, and stayed away from D & E, you’d have made your argument and not pissed too many folks off.” Just because A, B, & C are valid doesn’t erase the use of D & E to try and hold the argument down.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Will Truman says:

                I read the memo. Clearly i was bored. Gender, or race, disparities are very touchy issues as anyone with a vague sense of history should understand. There is a very strong thread of cluelessness, that gets interpreted as malice, in the people who complain that PC prevents them from discussing why some groups might be biologically inferior. It is reasonable to study gender differences. In fact it’s so reasonable people do it. But if you want to wade into that pool you should know the history.

                The dude also complained about it not being comfortable for conservatives to open be conservative. That sort of showed where he was coming from more than some of the other issues. Working in a place where others don’t’ share your politics can be a PITA but it isn’t oppression. It happens all the time across regions and industries. I certainly know people who dislike having to bite their tongues about disliking Trump due to where they work. That is just life. He wasn’t happy about many things about his workplace and wanted them all changed to suit his views. That isn’t ever likely to work out well.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to gregiank says:

                “They are ignoring why saying women can’t be as good computer types or how that might effect a work enviro. ”

                That isn’t what the memo says.

                What the memo does say is that the average woman has a different method of doing programming work than the average man, and that Google is ignoring this in its ideologically-motivated insistence that All People Work The Same Way. And that this willful ignorance has a negative effect on workplace morale and productivity, and that this negative effect is being ignored for the same ideological reasons that spawned it.

                So. You can suggest that “women program from Venus, men program from Mars” is manure, but it’s not true to claim that the memo says “women are bad at computering”.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

                It doesn’t matter what the letter actually said at this point.

                At this point it is, and forever will be, the anti-diversity letter that said that women are bad at being engineers.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Jaybird says:

                Only if we let it.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I’ve heard the argument that women are better at being software engineers than men (Provided you can get them in the field).Report

              • gregiank in reply to DensityDuck says:

                I read the memo. You are putting the best possible spin on it. The dude’s evidence is, at best, highly contestable through to cherry picked. He is doing the thing i called clueless; speaking widely and definitely about something that has a very fraught history in way that looks like he doesn’t remotely get why people are touchy about it.

                Whose morale is suffering? How is the productivity loss measured by something like the problem he claims? My guess is those are just personal opinions which he has a right to but are far from unbiased.

                As has been put out there the avg women may have advantages based on socialization that will help their programming work. That may be wrong of course but it isn’t something he discussed.

                But even your best spin “the avg women has a different way of working which due to the desire for diversity is making things worse” not a neutral or non-hostile argument. It’s suggesting that the different way women work, assuming it’s true, isn’t compatible with some jobs. That’s not a good look. And that assumes the women Google hires are average, which is unlikely. They almost certainly can pick from the top of the pool of people looking for jobs.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to gregiank says:

                “You are putting the best possible spin on it.”

                Isn’t that what “read charitably” means? And isn’t one of the basic tenets of useful civil discussion that one should always read charitably first?

                I mean, I get how your ideology requires that you not engage in civil discussion with those kind of people–you know the ones I mean–but maybe you could at least recognize that “putting the best possible spin on it” is kind of how society actually functions.

                Oh, and: “It’s suggesting that the different way women work, assuming it’s true, isn’t compatible with some jobs.”

                Quote the part where I actually wrote those actual words. No, not “well this part here is just like you said that”.Report

              • gregiank in reply to DensityDuck says:

                How about this, overly generous in your reading. And even at that what he says has major issues. Right after you tell me i’m not being civil you go right into my ideology requires i not be civil. Wha huh? If you truly believe in putting the best possible spin on things then i know one obvious way you can show your commitment to that.

                Saying that women on avg have a different way of doing programming and the diversity programs to fully include them are hurting Google is seriously problematic. That is the way you described what he said but there are huge factual issues with the two assertions and a very long history of believing women couldn’t do things based on being a woman. Neither of those issues addressed.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to gregiank says:

                ” If you truly believe in putting the best possible spin on things then i know one obvious way you can show your commitment to that. ”

                Is this the part where I call you a triggered snowflake? Or is that something that only *you* get to do?

                “Saying that women on avg have a different way of doing programming and the diversity programs to fully include them are hurting Google is seriously problematic.”

                So you agree with me that he wasn’t, actually, writing “women are worse at the computering”. Thank you for your cooperation.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to gregiank says:

                It’s suggesting that the different way women work, assuming it’s true, isn’t compatible with some jobs.

                This is an interesting one for me, because the pro-diversity position often spins it around the other way, suggesting that diversity is good because different “types” of people work different ways and bring different strengths to the table, so diversity makes for a stronger company with a more rounded set of strengths.

                If one makes that claim, the necessary flip side is that some “types” of people have ways of working that don’t fill up those niches and we’re worse off by having them instead of somebody who does. They’re just different ways of saying the same thing. I’ll agree that one *sounds* a lot nicer and more inclusive than the other, but they’re fundamentally the same claim, so I don’t see why one makes one’s position good and noble while the other makes one History’s Greatest Bigot instead of just being more tone deaf.

                It feels like there’s an element of having one’s cake and eating it too when we say that diversity is about getting a useful mix of the mojo that each demographic brings in, but God help you if you suggest that one demographic have more of a particular mojo than another.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                There are people who don’t work so good with others. We know this.
                These people are not actually limited by gender, honest to god.
                (However, if the word overseer or foreman is applied to that particular brand of Republican jerkoff — well, you might just be looking at the person who doens’t work well on a team, and feels his job is just to beat other people into working).Report

              • gregiank in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                I think part of the pro-diversity position is that different peoples lived experience gives them unique experiences so it’s good in that way. Some of the differing general styles people have may have advantages so it’s good to have a mix of them. So having people orientated people in a engineering setting can help a lot.

                The memo guy’s use of gender research has been correctly panned as bad. He really cherry picked research but also misses plenty of other things. One of which is that even if there are generally different gender based styles that may not apply within the group of women who end up in tech. So the avg women might be whatever his research says but does that even apply to the Google pool of workers or women in tech.

                The pro-diversity position you outline, and pushed by lots of people, does dip into the essentialist waters. This has always been thing pro-D people sort of miss.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

                Count me as someone else who thinks that the sneers against groupthink and thoughtcrime stuff are revealing.Report

              • Truth and Justice in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                Thoughtcrime is a word often used by Steve Sailer. most conservatives read him but don’t admit it, look at his twitter followers sometime and see how many “mainstream conservatives” there are including several Congressmen.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Truth and Justice says:

                Memes are good at being self-propagating.
                The poison that is currently destroying the left is of rightist construction.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                There is a lot of that person might be an a-hole but they are our a-hole when it comes to Internet cause celebs. Every group is guilty of this.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

                Both Shapiro and Podheretz are strongly suggesting that the man in questions should not have been fired. “Groupthink is diversity” is a revealing comment.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                There is never going to be social peace in the post-Internet era because social media allows everybody to retreat into comfortable trenches and wage continual culture wars.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              I wonder, if you polled those defenders, how many are STEM grads? I’m betting their defense is less political, and more “I can see myself shoving my own foot in my mouth so badly I can kick my own ass through my anus”Report

        • Troublesome Frog in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I’ll go a step further and say that even some things you say off the clock are risky for legitimate reasons. Firing somebody because he posted a rant to Facebook about Obama or Trump being the devil? Not OK. But if he posted a rant to Facebook saying he hated working with his Indian colleagues because they’re all smelly idiots? That may be your personal opinion on your personal time, but if it gets out, it’s going to be very hard to assign you team related work and absolutely impossible to make you a manager with any authority over the people you’re crapping on.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Troublesome Frog says:


            I generally don’t think that employers should go after employees for lawful out of work activities and lawful should also not equal wholesome but I concur that today’s world creates problems for that view.Report

            • Troublesome Frog in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              The Internet and the permanence of our brain droppings really change the dynamic. If I was going to appoint the guy in my example to manage a bunch of Indian programmers and somebody said, “I heard he said some bad stuff about Indian programmers at his 4th of July barbecue,” I’d be hard pressed to take that as a reason to limit the guy’s career. It’s just vague hearsay.

              But if you give me a written post that legitimately tells me he holds his Indian coworkers in contempt, it would be impossible for me to put him in charge of that team in good conscience. And if that’s the job he’s supposed to be doing, he’s out the door. If we could put him on some solo project in the corner, maybe we could let it slide, but there aren’t many of those projects, and you usually can’t make a career out of them.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                Do you fire the person who talked about “designated shitting streets”?
                Just fucking curious, mind.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                What I find surprising is how many people still think that they will be the ones that will get away with posting something that is mildly to extraordinarily controversial on the Internet and get away with it. There have dozens of stories of high profile people losing big because of something they said but everybody thinks that they will be the criminal mastermind that doesn’t get busted by the Feds.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          “Another thing I don’t get is how the greatest defenders of at-will employment suddenly cry fowl when someone is terminated for progressive/liberal reasons. ”

          I’ve seen a lot more people saying “hurrr, conservatives suddenly care about employment protections” than I’ve seen actual conservatives complaining that this guy’s employment should have been protected.

          Like, I haven’t actually seen any of the latter.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Google is a large company and I know female engineers there and they are good and skilled. Are there bad female engineers at Google? Probably but there are probably plenty of bad guy engineers as well.

          I doubt it. They have a pretty high hiring bar. I’ve worked at similarly selective companies, and I’ve never really run into anybody whom I’d consider a bad engineer. There may be a few who slip through, and I’ve heard that, short of any really egregious screw-up they like to give second chances (and time to build a paper trail of bad reviews) before firing, but virtually everyone is highly competent.

          Note that the memo is not really about women being bad at engineering. The theory he advances is more about women’s distribution of personality traits being such that fewer of them are interested in pursuing a career in engineering than men are. Note that women are already greatly underrepresented in computer science at the college level.

          Also, my understanding, based on the memo, is that Google doesn’t really practiced the hamfisted kind of AA you see in colleges, where being black is worth a full standard deviation on your SAT scores. One thing he mentions is attempting to lower the false negative rate (rejecting qualified candidates) for underrepresented groups. Assuming that the false negative rate with the standard interview process is negatively correlated with ability (that is, marginally qualified candidates have a high false negative rate, and highly qualified candidates have a low false negative rate), this will tend to lead to hiring women who are on average slightly less qualified than the men they hire, but probably not to the point where they’re actually hiring women who are bad or even mediocre engineers.

          I disapprove of Google’s decision to fire him, but acknowledge their legal right to do so, as I would in your bizzaro-world scenario where they fire someone for attending a gay pride parade. Though mostly my disapproval is focused on the pearl-clutching PJWs that made it basically necessary.

          However, there is one extra factor that could justify his suing. Normally when you get fired or laid off, your loss is limited to the pay lost from not having a job until you find another one, which is fine. But what could really screw him is the backloaded nature of tech pay. Usually you’ll get options or restricted stock units that vest over a period of years. Depending on how long he’s been working there, the voiding of his options or RSUs could cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars even if he finds another job today.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            I’ve known “bad engineers” who’ve worked for Google.
            They’re … worth their pay.
            well worth their pay.
            (Eventually they even figure out what they were working on!)Report

          • Troublesome Frog in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            I wouldn’t be surprised if Google was smart enough to let him keep his backloaded compensation to help make the fire go out quickly. “We could terminate you right now and argue reasonably that it’s for cause, or you can sign this contract and we’ll let you keep this big pile of loot.” Seems like that would be a no-brainer with how big of a PR mess this turned out to be, even ignoring the costs of litigation.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:


        Hrmm, after reading that first link, I may have to walk back a comment I made elsewhere.Report

    • Troublesome Frog in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I actually interviewed at Google in Mountain View several weeks ago and attended one of their pre-interview training sessions. It was 100% men. One of the guys in line looked around and said to me, “There are too many people for this to be coincidence. I wonder if they’re holding a women-only session so nobody has to be the one woman who speaks up in the training session full of strange men.” I don’t know the answer to that, but Google doesn’t seem to do a lot of stuff by accident in their hiring pipeline, so I wouldn’t be surprised.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

        Google only hires the best, and women in STEM face an awful lot of social/cultural pressure that they aren’t/can’t be on par ability wise with men in the STEM fields. This could very easily result in fewer women even bothering to apply for the jobs at Google, and if you only get a handful of female resumes, you may not have enough to compete with the men (especially given how men tend to oversell themselves, and women undersell).

        There is a whole lot of baggage in STEM regarding women, and it will take time to clear.

        One response to the Google letter (Zunker? Zunger?) made the very good point that one thing women in STEM are very good at is program/project/personnel management, usually way better than men are, because those roles are all about building and managing relationships, which is something your average male STEM worker sucks at.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          @richard-hershberger found it!Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Jason K. has a very long thread on this incident at Google. One explanation is that the memo man is right and evolutionary psychology and biology explain why fewer women make it in STEM. I do not find this explanation plausible. Women have been able to break into other fields that traditionally had high levels of misogyny, competition and some very sexist men working in it like politics, finance, big law, the military, and company. STEM might be different for two reasons.

          1. Traditional sexism emphasized that men are rational and unemotional while women are illogical and highly emotional. STEM traditionally attracted people who pride themselves on their cold rationalism and logic. Other fields like finance or big law are more comfortable with expressive displays of emotion even if they are negative like anger or pride. A workplace filled with people who see themselves as coldly rational might be less open to welcoming people seen as emotional than a place where at least some emotional displays are common.

          2. Sexually successful misogynists might be more open to working with women than sexually unsuccessful misogynists.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to LeeEsq says:

            The fact that women have 3xcelled in some traditional field and not in others despite having headwinds in both suggest to me that there may be something else at play.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Traditional sexism was also willing to let women fail to be good at things. Because if Susie finds math tough, well, you gave it a good try, and anyone can be a mommy, right? But if Joey finds math tough, it’s get back in there and work harder, do you want to be a plumber or something?Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to LeeEsq says:

            BB up above had two links to Scott A., and one of them talks about the study that the Google doc touched upon, which is that women in highly egalitarian societies, where they have few social barriers to entry, still trend away from the engineering fields, but women in very discriminatory societies have a strong showing in the engineering fields. Which makes wonder if this isn’t more about revealed preferences, rather than active or passive social influences (I recall the study referenced because the conclusions were so counter-intuitive).

            So in highly discriminating societies, where women are not allowed to enter high status fields (doctor, lawyer, etc.), but they can get into engineering, they shoot for it because of the benefits it brings (better pay, status, opportunities, etc.). But when the barriers are cleared, women gravitate toward what appeals to them, and it appears that certain STEM fields are not that appealing.

            Now why they are not appealing could be biological, or it could be social conditioning, or a combination thereof (Scott A. points to a possible biological cause, but I have no idea if that explanation works on it’s own), but the evidence suggests that those career paths are just not something women are interested in at the same rate men are.

            Anecdotally, one thing I’ve noticed is that women with engineering degrees tend to pursue management roles much more aggressively than men do, and they tend to excel at them, so I wonder if the gender diversity numbers notice that and adjust for it?Report

            • Saul Degraw in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


              How much of that is because discriminatory societies are still developing economies and likely to push math, math, and more math as a way to economic development?

              Math and Science are seen as safe subjects to teach in a lot of quasi-authoritarian states as far as I can tell. The Arts and Humanities, not so much.Report

        • fillyjonk in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Also, from my own experience: in heavily-research-oriented STEM, you have to pretty much be able to tolerate not having a life outside your research. And maybe have your continued employment be dependent on ability to get grants (or luck in getting grants, sometimes). It helps to have a spouse in a different field who can do most of the heavy lifting at home. But still, yeah: hobbies and relationships and stuff like just bingewatching tv often have to go by the wayside.

          Some women don’t want that, and I tend to think people should not be forced to do what they don’t want. **I** don’t want it, and that’s why I went into a teaching-heavy career. (A lot of men don’t want it, either: my newest male colleague left a fairly promising research career to teach because he got sick of the ratrace)

          I’m an ecologist and I’ve published a few research papers but some days I question if I’m really a scientist. I certainly tend to say “I teach college biology” first when meeting a new person.

          I dunno. I don’t have a lot of opinions on the memo (or rather, I do, and they’re all conflicting). I’ve had some people above me in the chain who expressed fairly shocking things to my face (and to the face of other women) and got to keep their job. The only saving grace is that this person wasn’t in direct control of whether we kept our positions or got promoted. I just learned to avoid him as much as humanly possible. (And apparently he eventually peeved off the wrong person, because he got busted back down to a lower level….)

          I dunno. I’ve seen some casual sexism in my career (and some of it from other women!). You just, I don’t know, you just deal with it. It sucks and it’s not right but some people are just a-holes. I’d rather have some guy writing a vague screed (whatever it might say) then have him snarking at me to my face.Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to fillyjonk says:

            Also, from my own experience: in heavily-research-oriented STEM, you have to pretty much be able to tolerate not having a life outside your research.

            This. The divorce rate for people who are married when they start into the tenure-track grind — research, teaching, service — with their shiny new PhD is remarkably high.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to Michael Cain says:

              My wife has told me, numerous times, that I am not allowed to pursue a PhD, because she sees me little enough as it is.Report

              • I’ve made two runs at a PhD in two different fields and bailed both times. To paraphrase a couple of my friends who do have PhDs: “Mike, we all know you can do original research, we’ve watched you do it. But you lack the necessary tolerance for academic b*llsh*t to finish a PhD.”

                OTOH, my current “research” project could probably use a terminal masters degree in three or four subjects where I don’t already have one.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Michael Cain says:

                @michael-cain — I had a friend who was working on her CompSci PhD, and while doing so was getting actively recruited by {big tech}. She asked me, “Why are they trying so hard to get me? Don’t they realize that I’m actively pursuing my PhD?”

                I was like, OMG do you know how many people we hire who were totally burned out by school?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronica d says:

                I know my office has an equal population of PhDs, and the smoking ruins of PhDs.

                We also have a whole lot of terminal Masters.

                Straight up bachelors are the rare bird.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Michael Cain says:

                MIT recently announced a masters degree program that doesn’t even have a high school diploma as an entry requirement. However, it’s aimed at verifying the effectiveness of various “this will fix it!” programs in third world countries.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to George Turner says:

                Colleges have never had getting a high school diploma as an entry requirement.

                One of my fellows got through high school in three years by not getting a diploma and going directly to college. If he’d stayed he might have been the valedictorian. By his senior year he’d run out of STEM classes and just had things like gym.

                Very embarrassing for the administration that their brightest student was too smart to get a degree, now days they have a program which lets him take classes at the local community college.Report

              • veronicad in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon — Your wife sounds very wise.

                Honestly tho — and I hope this doesn’t sound pretentious as fuck — but I personally find that an advanced degree in computer science negatively correlates with the likelihood I’ll recommend a job candidate for hire. Likewise, after having tutored a friend of mine working on her compsci PhD, and realizing her Numerical Optimization class covered really basic shit that I learned from reading books, and her Machine Learning class was likewise pretty standard stuff that I knew —

                Well, when I was young I assumed a PhD was a really big deal. I don’t think that anymore.

                Like, if you can hack a PhD program in math or compsi, you can probably score a job at a tech company that is doing cool stuff. And isn’t doing cool stuff really the goal?

                Furthermore, setting aside the current topic of conversation, you probably will encounter less dumb politicking and status games in industry — well, you’ll encounter it, but at least you have the logic of “bring this product to market” driving things, rather than “can I make this grant proposal look worthwhile to some gaggle of territorial ninnies who think they own these ideas.”

                I dunno. Am I wrong? I’ve never met anyone pursuing an advanced degree that didn’t hate it a little bit. By contrast, I love my job.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronicad says:

                I am sure some folks will disagree, but the old saying when I was an undergrad was that an Engineering PhD was a great way to educate yourself out of a job.

                It’s not entirely true, but the number of positions not in academia or government labs where an engineering PhD is required or very useful is pretty limited. My employer has a slightly higher percentage than a lot of places, but we do a lot of cutting edge numerical work, so it’s useful to have folks who’ve done the deep dive into certain topics.

                Add to that that I once worked as academic staff for my Alma Mater, and supported PhD candidates, and watched them go batshit insane trying to get it all done, and I’m just not sure the process is worth it. At least not to me. I just can’t focus on a single topic like that, I get too distracted by other interesting things to learn.

                But every once in a while, I start pondering the idea, and my wife quickly brings me back to earth.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                One of my college roommates (and a former caving partner) got his PhD from John’s Hopkins and now works at UCSF. He told me that in his field nobody wants a master’s degree because it means someone failed at a PhD, which looks even worse than just having a BS.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to veronicad says:

                I got my Master’s entirely to play around with Machine Learning on my company’s dime. (Hey, they payed for it. Even gave me a nice bonus for getting it).

                I got a few other things out of it — a rather systematic look at Unix from the kernel level up (specifically the nuts and bolts of how an OS is really welded together), with some fun practical experience for instance, and a much better understanding of a few other things here and there.

                All stuff I could have learned on my own (in fact, I knew about half the machine learning stuff going in, but getting to have two semesters to screw around hands on was pretty nice) and played with on my own, but I’m married with a kick and a full time job.

                So getting paid to do it was a really nice treat. 🙂 (And it did it’s job — I’m pretty darn loyal to my company!).

                Then again, I’m not a rock-star level coder. I get the job done, I’m good with design and debugging, and you hand me a problem I hand you a solution (and I can even coordinate well with teammates and write well enough that customers can understand), but I’m average at best.

                But it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever solve a novel problem. I do a lot of code archaeology — searching out other people’s algorithms and solutions and kicking them into a shape that works for us. Or fixing the undocumented rat’s nest of 20+ year old crap at the core of our engine. Some real hot coders wrote some of it, but jesus they couldn’t even use meaningful variable names.

                I mean I had to debug this really slick, highly optimized self-sizing array that deals with an obscure input method we still support — not a single freaking comment and the variable names probably meant something to whomever coded it, but I think his original C compiler charged by the character.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Morat20 says:

                I’ve written quite a lot of strange code just based on what I needed done.

                Just in passing, I also have an interesting solution to the stellar navigation problem. The current methods pick several bright stars in a field, view them as a triangle or polygon, and then search a database of internal angles.

                My suggestion is to pick any random star and then spin the entire star field around it, making a bulls eye pattern that is a unique “barcode” for that star. I wrote quite a bit of code to test it using online star databases (which are all over the place for popular astronomical “sky view” programs), and the results are great.

                The essential problem is that a starfield has too much information. By setting each star to either the same brightness, or binning them into a couple of brightnesses, and spinning the stars, you’re throwing enough of the information away to come up with an integer that represents the star. Then you just go to a look up table to find the star’s coordinates and do a closer comparison.

                The great thing is that the data table is compact, so instead of having data for a couple of hundred potential guide stars you can use tens of thousands of potential guide stars. That means that instead of having to use a wide-field camera, you can use a very narrow camera that has an inherently higher resolution, and thus greater angular accuracy.

                And the computation is cheap and fast.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Michael Cain says:

              I just want to know how my friend without an undergraduate degree gets tame grad students to do his busywork for him.
              He doesn’t actually teach in-person classes, either.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I actually read the Gizmodo version, so I didn’t see the diagram until just now (non-Gawked-up version here). The Vice Motherboard reporters, demonstrating how totally qualified they are to report on this, laughably describe it as “not sourced or explained,” despite the fact that a) it’s just illustrating a statistical concept, not presenting actual data, and as such doesn’t need a source, and b) is explained, both in the preceding paragraph and in the text in the image itself.

      This is an excellent illustration of the way both racists/sexists and PJWs make exactly the same statistical error, annoying the hell out of those of us who actually have a nuanced understanding of group differences. The correct way to model group differences is as overlapping bell curves (or some other curve if the trait is not normally distributed). A sexist hears a description of the right graph, imagines the one on the left, and thinks “I knew it! Women can’t be engineers!” and then probably yells at the TV or something. A PJW hears a description of the right graph, imagines the one on the left, and thinks, “This misogynist is saying women can’t be engineers!” Intense triggering and pearl-clutching ensue. They’re both wrong in the same way; they just differ in their emotional reaction.Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Thanks for the link, he wrote a lot better than I’d realized from the mock up.

        So he clearly understood the difference between group averages and individuals and the kind of implications you can and can’t draw from them.

        For all the claims of pseudoscience, his core problem seems to have been that he suggested that some average differences were innate, and that’s heresy.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      He went from writing something that maybe a dozen people would have read to something that maybe hundreds of thousands read.


      • DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

        But it’s important that we talk about it a whole lot. Because the best way to deplatform something is to make sure everybody knows about it.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

          I think that the point is that we spend more time seeing what happened to the person who said X than in actually reading X.

          Why would you want to read X anyway? X is hateful.Report

          • Joe Sal in reply to Jaybird says:

            Rule #235:
            Social engineering is napalm.

            Rule #236:
            Don’t try to fix the problems with napalm, even with a hammer.(yes we know it looks like a nail)

            Rule #237:
            Don’t bathe in the napalm especially, while hammering, or grinding, or smoking.Report

            • gregiank in reply to Joe Sal says:

              The working definition of social engineering is something other people do on a largeish scale that you don’t like.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to gregiank says:

                You’ve met me right? I use napalm for fuel, social engineers just can’t help but make a world covered in it.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Umm yeah…whatever. Social Engineering is a fancy phrase to diss stuff you don’t like. You want to make a society that you believe is good, boom, you are a social engineer.Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to gregiank says:

                I was just having fun here, but if you must ascribe to me and what I like and dislike or what I diss or don’t diss here we go.

                My default position is typically to advise peoples on my side of the fence not to engage in social engineering. I mean really, to get technical what separates the right from the left has a great deal to do with the differences between individual and social so if this is the case, most of the social engineering is an artifact of the left.

                Now we get into what you have said above about ‘want to make a society that you believe is good’. If you look at society, that thing is made of people, so the starting parameter probably ought to be to figure out if people are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. If people are bad, then it doesn’t make any sense to assume that I could ‘make’ a society that is good out of bad people.

                That kind of gets to the other part. Maybe I could ‘make’ a society out of good people. I think people on average are ‘good’ but when they get together in groups and start deciding things they are no longer good. So by default there is no ability to make a ‘good’ society. So I’m not going to end up with a good society, just mostly good people i like, one at a time, but not in groups. I don’t believe it a overly ‘good’ idea to put social cages around individuals who are basically good. So your premise that I will somehow make an effort to become a social engineer in an attempt ‘make’ a society I like, is fundamentally flawed.

                A step further raises the question of whether or not a society can be ‘made’ into something, god, bad or other. I suppose a society is what it is, my impact in making it something it is not, would be a waste of my time and rather annoying to the true nature of whatever society is.

                With that said I am more than happy to watch those who think they have a grasp on the ‘one true social objectivity’ screw up to no end.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Joe Sal says:

                Please, come on here. It’s not that we don’t want Social Engineering, it’s that we want Complexity, and self-organizing systems.

                In short, if you’re going to make life a game (and you’re gonna, don’t pretend you ain’t), make it fun, and have it reward long term objectives.

                Seriously, if you can’t make it fun, why ARE you playin’?Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Kimmi says:

                Self organizing systems I can see, and that doesn’t take a major planned effort to reach. I’m more for that than against it up to a point. My reference to Smith the other day about spontaneous order was just to see if there was cognition of not only spontaneous ordering but the phenomenon spontaneous disordering. That is a problem also.

                So these social engineers build something not in regards to spontaneous ordering, what if they get it wrong? How do they unbuild it? What happens when they are wrong about social objectivity, and not in a minor way? Social engineering in itself can and often is about control. If it didn’t have to be controlled, it wouldn’t need to be engineered. Why is it engineered? Some people think people are bad. That’s not my premise, and the only real road that leads down is a ‘bad’ society as I was suggesting above. If people want to ignorantly build a bad society, that is nothing I can change. Let humanity suffer or enjoy itself.

                Complexity. That’s a tough one. Only a few people enjoy picking apart, troubleshooting, operating overly complex systems.

                It is possible for a carpenter to have a oil well that runs a generator that runs a compressor that runs a pneumatic nail gun for nailing boards together.

                It is also possible for a carpenter to use a hammer for nailing boards together.

                What kind of carpenters do we have? Can they diagnose problems in the moving parts of one better than the moving parts of another? What is the probability of cascade failure? Your trouble shooting social objectivity here.

                I’m sure there are some studies that show people only like complex things in X,Y,Z parts of their life, and they typically only engage to a depth of K,L,M. Keep adding variable parameters and the amount of certainty about what is going on diminishes, quickly.

                In a lot of the work I do, we have something called visual control indication. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just easy visual measure to see that stuff is still doing what it is supposed to be doing. The best I can tell the social engineers are using bombs as visual control indicators. The problem is, those bombs will eventually be nuclear.

                I make it fun, but I do my own thing. The great thing about individual sovereignty, is the rest of social society can be on a highway to hell and it doesn’t have to mess with my mojo.

                But hell you know all this stuff, you kind of dabble on the surface and go meta, but your fucking smart under all that.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Joe Sal says:

                So, sometimes we do a good thing.
                Try EnergyStar, which the government got repaid dividends in giant hoards of money.

                Other times, we do Medicaid Reimbursements, where we pay hospitals less if they readmit patients. (This lead to some unscrupulous, desperate hospitals trying to find ways to let the least among us die quickly in hospital, rather than letting them leave and come back to die).

                So, someone made a poor game. What’s next? Well, they take it back to the Executive Branch, and they redraw the rules.

                Same thing with the Hugo Awards, once the Puppies decided to play their game.
                You make a dumb game that has cheat codes, you patch the problems.

                Sometimes, you make a whole new game.

                Some general things we can learn, though: Rules work a lot less well than incentives, provided the incentives aren’t… hoarded (See the Dem Environment Bill? See Dem Env Sink…) and pretty politically motivated.

                This is more what I meant by complexity. If you have multiple good solutions to any given problem, you’ve got a fun game.

                Letting particular people get too much power makes poor gameplay, particularly if other people can’t rise up and take over. The old saying was “It’s one generation to build a fortune, and two to lose it.” So long as we’re doing that, we’re doing pretty good. Thing is, we ain’t doing that anymore, and the Powers that Be are… pretty conservative, pretty stupid, and Like People Like Them (and, they ain’t nice folks).Report

              • Joe Sal in reply to Kimmi says:

                Part of the problem with the game is the old ‘break the leg first’ problem.

                It has many modes but you can usually tell where on the cost, quality, time triangle the leg has been broken on. Then the game becomes about the competition of selling crutches. Not that there will ever be a discussion about the broken leg, or where, or how it happened. What will be paramount is the crutch, then the factions open up the competition of who has ‘the best’ crutch that does the most work for you. Then they take turns selling crutches.

                That said, I agree with most of what you have written up there. We specially sync with letting particular people have too much power. I think Venezuela is a lesson about letting kids in the candy store. Kids that will only leave when the store is burning to the ground.

                I think america has kids in the candy store, the fact that they aren’t nice is only a degree of character. The hard part isn’t finding nicer kids, the hard part is torching the candyhouse. (People have a lot of candy invested)Report

    • veronicad in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      For obvious reasons I’m not going to weigh in on the specific case, the memo itself, the internal conversations about the memo, the leaks, or the ultimate decision to fire the guy. That said, most of you can guess how I feel. Likewise, for good or for bad, things leaked. Everyone has (or can) read the memo. We know what it says.

      It didn’t really say much new. The contents of that memo have been said elsewhere by others, many times. So, I feel okay addressing my comments to the general attitude it expresses about women in STEM.

      First, there probably are some cognitive differences between men and women, on average. Second, I would be surprised if every type of career ended up with a precise 50/50 gender balance. Likewise, a clumsy attempt to force a 50/50 balance could do as much harm as good. Sure. That seems plausible. That said, tech has a particularly bad history with diversity, and tech in particular will benefit greatly from more women.

      Why do women do poorly in tech when they’ve done well in (for example) medicine and law — or, for that matter, when they do pretty well in mathematics?

      Well, I bet there are many reasons. One reason might be “systemizing” versus “empathizing.” Sure, fine.

      Another reason might be — and gosh I believe this is true — men in tech have particular issues with sexism.

      It’s not just sexism. After all, do we really think that a room full of tech dudes are more sexist than a room full of surgeons or financeers or lawyers?

      The reality is they are probably equally sexist. But that isn’t the point.

      They are also, in their own strange way, socially inept.

      Yes, we’re talking here about the problem with nerds.

      I’ve written about this plenty. I don’t want to repeat the same arguments. That said, it should be easy to see how hyper-systemizing/low-empathy men might have a very difficult time dealing with women. Furthermore, it can be easy to see how a non-diverse nerd workforce can get stuck in a kind of socially isolated perversity. So you have “tech bro” culture, startup culture, the stuff that the HBO show Silicon Valley mocks. It is a maelstrom of eccentricity and social dysfunction.

      Nerds are great. I’m a nerd. We make cool games and awesome software. All the same, we need adults in the room.

      That said, I truly believe this: very few nerds want to be sexist. My experience with my mostly male cowokers (at Google and in my jobs before Google) is that they really mean well most of the time. They are sensitive to these issues. They want an equitable environment. Likewise, they want diverse cognitive styles, diverse viewpoints, diverse life histories, etc. In short, they want women and minorities to feel welcome.

      However, there is the flipside. A few men very much feel otherwise. In tech, sexist, racist shitweasles abound. Look no further than “neoreaction.” They’re a minority, but a very ugly minority.

      Sometimes they spout their hatred out loud (often anonymously). Just as often they say it using coded language. All the same, they’re usually pretty easy to spot.

      You cannot fire someone merely for using coded language. However, if they’re foolish enough to cross a bright line…


      Women and tech face many hurdles. One rather pernicious one goes like this:

      A random man in tech is assumed to be basically competent, unless he proves otherwise. A random woman in tech is (too often) assumed to be basically incompetent, unless she can prove otherwise.

      I’ve talked before about the metaphor of compound interest, about how small differences in treatment can add up to enormous differences over the course of a career. Even men who do not want to be sexist have the same system-1 reasoning tools as everyone else. They come into a meeting and just unconsciously assume the women in the room cannot handle the big-hard-thinking, but are there to do “people stuff” (like taking notes or getting coffee for the boys).

      Even if she in fact is more an “empathy” person than a “systems” person — but chances are she is a mixture. Like everyone else, she wants the same opportunities to develop her spectrum of talents. She certainly doesn’t want to take notes or get coffee. That’s not why she is there.

      She is an engineer, the same as the rest of you.

      This really happens. Men don’t notice they do this, but they do it. Likewise, when meeting new engineers, she’ll be asked if she is in human resources or marketing.

      Dribs and drabs. Women in tech tend to have shorter careers than men. When asked why they leave tech, the main reason given by women is sexism. It is demoralizing.


      An essay that suggests that “systemizing” versus “empathizing” is sufficient to explain an 80/20 gender divide is probably wrong. This difference might explain some of the variance, but there is a lot of variance, along with many specific complaints of obviously sexist behavior. Worse, it is pernicious, precisely because it reinforces one of the chief negative attitudes that women face, namely the assumption of incompetence. Therefore, it is not an idea that one can just casually “throw out there” for discussion.

      It causes harm. If you do so in a clumsy way, it can hurt your career greatly, inasmuch as many tech companies have a broad commitment to creating safe, diverse workplaces. Having to constantly deal with low-grade sexism sucks. Companies make policy to reduce this, including by limiting what people can and cannot say on the job. In fact, understanding this is part of your job. Don’t fuck up.

      Smart engineers are valuable, but they are not irreplaceable. One poorly conceived memo can cause much grief.

      As a final note, let me say this: if you are a hyper-intelligent, but socially low-awareness person, steeped in the “alt-right” culture space, accustomed to speaking anonymously online about your strong anti-diversity views, and if you decide to write a lengthy anti-diversity rant targeting your employer, published with your own name on a company system — even if you believe you are being super careful in selecting your language — OMG just stop!


      Keep it on Reddit you dipshits. It’s bad enough you believe this shit.Report

      • Damon in reply to veronicad says:


        You’re comments on this? Ignore the source. Plausible? I would not be surprised by this, but I’m a cynical, cynical guy. If true, that’s a toxic workplace and hostile-and it’s actionable.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Damon says:

          It’s kind of amusing how a bunch of SJW Nazis think they’re fighting Nazism and how they came to possess absolutely no self-awareness.

          The men who are in tech tended to be the kids who took apart their parent’s television – because they found a screwdriver, and they never looked back. They are fascinated by figuring out how things tick, the internals, the clever mechanisms, the magic of coils and wires. Some girls are like that too. In fact, girls with an congenital androgen problem end up with no observable behavioral differences from boys, and they become gear heads too. If the problem was purely societal, they wouldn’t be any more likely to become gear heads than other women, but they do.

          If Google has 20% female coders, they’re doing great. In automotive repair, only 2% of mechanics are women. Since women love driving cars, there must be some other reason they’re not rebuilding their own transmissions – like a lack of interest in gears. Most women probably don’t even know the difference between a gear shaper and a hobber, and don’t care. But a few will be fascinated by it.Report

          • Damon in reply to George Turner says:

            I’m not sure that “women love driving cars”.

            I love driving. Most of the women I’ve known viewed it as transportation, hated driving at night, viewed it as a means to and end, didn’t like driving fast or shifting through the gears on a winding road….In fact, in the sub set of “soccer moms”, I think they may actually view driving as a chore associated with taking johnny to practice.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to George Turner says:

            Do you know what happens to boys with a congenital estrogen problem (aka higher than normal for guys)?
            Seriously, dude, do you?
            Because if you don’t, I have a few that I’d like to introduce to you.Report

        • veronicad in reply to Damon says:

          @damon — I’m not going to ignore the source. It’s fucking Breitbart. They are literally human-shaped fecal matter. You may as well ask me to comment on RooshV’s unwashed anus.


          I won’t comment on internal communications, except to say I’m generally proud of my employer and how they handle difficult social issues.

          Speaking in broad terms, should thoughtless insensitive comments made at work affect your career: to Popehat.Report

          • Damon in reply to veronicad says:

            I don’t think that you actually answered the question. Perhaps if I rephrase.

            “I want those hostile voices to know: I will never, ever hire hire/transfer you onto my team. Ever. I don’t care if you are perfect fit of technically excellent or whatever,” declared former employee Adam Fletcher in a post on Google’s internal, staff-only Google+ network: “Internal Plus.” “I will actively not work with you, even to the point where your team or product is impacted by this decision. I’ll communicate why to your manager if it comes up.””

            Do you support fellow employees blacklisting/refusing to work with a person because he holds views you find objectionable?

            Do you have a problem (referencing the bold type) fellow employees disrupting work projects, to the detriment of the company, to ‘punish” other employees for having views they dislike?

            Yes or no?Report

            • veronica d in reply to Damon says:

              @damon — Please understand, I cannot comment on that material.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                Damon: Given that veronica d works at Google, it’s entirely possible that her words are in that article.Report

              • Damon in reply to DensityDuck says:

                Yeah, I’m a little slow on the uptick sometimes–the second comment she made where she italicized “cannot” got thru.

                Anybody else want to respond to my questions, because frankly, I’m appalled, especially about this alleged comment:

                “After being warned that keeping blacklists could result in him being reported to Human Resources, Cowan then bragged on Twitter that they were “threats I ignored, naturally, and which ironically grew the list substantially.””

                Yeah, I’m sure he’ll be ignoring that email from HR to come chat with them as well. That’s just plain stooopidReport

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Damon says:

                I’m not an HR person, but I suspect that keeping a mental (or otherwise private) list of people you really don’t want to work with is fine.

                Acting on that list to the detriment of the company could very well be grounds for discipline/dismissal.Report

              • Damon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                “Acting on that list to the detriment of the company could very well be grounds for discipline/dismissal.”

                Exactly. And posting about it? That’s just an invitation to having a chat with HR.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Damon says:

                “Acting on that list to the detriment of the company could very well be grounds for discipline/dismissal.”

                Exactly. And posting about it? That’s just an invitation to having a chat with HR.

                Hold up. Did he ever claim anything suggesting anything like this?

                Different groups having different averages doesn’t mean anything about individuals. He made it explicitly clear he understood that.

                I am much bigger than the typical person, that doesn’t prevent the next person I meet from being bigger than me. It’s shockingly unlikely, it’s happened perhaps twice if you ignore my relatives, but it could happen tomorrow.

                It could even be a woman, she’d just be more unusual for her gender than I am for mine. That’s ALL it would mean, it doesn’t mean I’m emotionally invested in the issue much less that I’d be unwilling to work with her.

                Being a software engineer working for Google implies lots of things about your level of skill, intelligence, etc. The average person of either gender isn’t able to do that. I’m not sure what the gender split is on people who function at that level, 80/20, 90/10, something like that.

                Observing that this gender split actually exists doesn’t make you a Hitler clone. Ditto wondering if the origin of that split isn’t anchored in biology rather than “discrimination” (ditto linking to studies which suggest that is the case). The pro-discrimination people are normally also the ones claiming woman make 79 cents on the dollar which suggest the objections are largely political.

                Now having said all that, maybe he was on HR’s radar anyway and this was the last straw… but at the moment we simply don’t know.Report

              • Damon in reply to Dark Matter says:

                “Hold up. Did he ever claim anything suggesting anything like this?”

                No he did not. The claim was made by other Google employees (allegedly) that refuse to work with the guy, and that were compiling lists of “bad actors” they didn’t want to work with.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Damon says:

          Mass Effect Andromeda was assassinated, in good part, by hiring SJWs, who put a real kibosh on hiring for talent, and not for brainwashing.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Kimmi says:

            But, of course, those people were hired because they were good at putting spikes in gears.

            Now, I’m not going to say that the “August Personage around here who has openly deemed me a bigot (don’t think I am, just a garden variety asshole), and then had the gall to say that bigots deserve to have their pseudoanonymity erased” would have been a good fit for that job… But I’m also not going to contradict it, either.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to veronicad says:

        Or shorter, not all sexism is expressed in exactly the same way and the type that exists in finance or law might be of a type that makes it easier for women to break in because finance and law require a bit more emotional intelligence than tech does so it won’t attract high-systemizing/low-empathy people.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to veronicad says:

        “transphobic mysoginistic cis womyn”

        Like it or fuck it, your side is just as much part of the problem as the other.
        Like, when the person being addressed as such has literally no idea Why or What is being said?
        That’s a communication problem.Report

  5. Pinky says:

    BL3 – I’ve long argued that what we see as monopolizing in tech is more like monopsonizing. Microsoft buys up possible competitors and integrates their better ideas into their product. They essentially become a single buyer in a market consisting of pieces which can be integrated into Windows. Ditto Facebook, and probably a bunch of other companies. They’re more service providers than service creators.Report

    • Marchmaine in reply to Pinky says:

      This is pretty accurate.

      When I started in software 20-yrs ago there were hundreds… nay thousands of software companies all trying to become the next […….].

      Now? There are lots of start-ups, but only a few see themselves as building a business… most are building exit strategies through acquisition – not implicitly, but explicitly (if you talk to the people high-enough up the decision tree). Not saying that M&A hasn’t always been a part of Tech and a part of all business… but in the software space, the trend is way past trend and into accepted fact of mature business model. It is outsourced risk/innovation.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Marchmaine says:

        My experience and observation in tech is that a lot of start-ups just want to be bought out by Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Oracle, Facebook, Netflix, etc. at some point. That is how the money is made and you also get transitioned to a cushy job for a few years.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Yes, the ecosystem of Tech Whales is bigger than that… and somewhat less customer facing than, say Facebook, but yes, most start-ups have identified who they plan to sell to as part of their funding campaign. In fact I’d say that most of the tech churn happens well below the Google/Facebook level – those are the block-buster deals.

          As to making money… sure, there’s a lot sloshing around; but its a lot more controlled than in the late 90s. When we buy a company we’ve gone from keeping the principals around for 2-3 years to having them quietly disappear in 6-mos. So changes there too.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Marchmaine says:

        Eh, there’s plenty of tech bros of the previous generation who stuck around just long enough to get bought out for big bucks. That’s what Mark Cuban did. That’s even more or less what Elon Musk did, as well as Maria Cantwell.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Kolohe says:

          Cuban, yes; Musk, no; not sure about Cantwell.

          Cuban *is* the bubble poster boy. He won the internet in 1999 figuratively in a literal sense.

          Musk’s project, PayPal is an ongoing concern as part of ebay… another ongoing concern.

          Sometimes its the smart move to sell your company… that’s not what I’m really saying. What I’m saying is that the pitch to me as a Software guy *used* to be, “come join us we’re going to do x and become y…and you want to be on the ground floor…the sky’s the limit” Now it is a straight, “we’re building a customer base to take to company x, y, and z… the VC we’re working with has backers from all three… its a sure thing. We’re projecting IPO in 4-years and you should net $$ when we cash out” $$ is certainly a chunk of change, but its no-where near the limit of the sky.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Marchmaine says:

        ” There are lots of start-ups, but only a few see themselves as building a business… most are building exit strategies through acquisition ”

        So that’s pretty much like the pharmaceutical industry; the small startups invent the product (and take the risk that it’ll fail) and then sell it to Google or Amazon or whoever.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Some of my customers are the “Baby Bio’s” and yeah, there’s some similarity in the outsourced risk part of the model; I’ll just note that setting up a Baby Bio seems hella more involved than the software shops that recruit me.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Marchmaine says:

        (Yes, that was a bad idea for a company name).Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Pinky says:

      Or just kills them. Back in the days when video-over-IP was becoming a thing, MS bought up a lot of little video compression companies. All of their algorithms were better than what MS was using. MS made no effort to incorporate those ideas, simply bought up the IP and locked it away. They single-handedly brought advancement in the available tech to a halt for a few years.Report

  6. aaron david says:

    BL1 – Most of my adult life has been around the book world; new and used, labor and management, buyer and seller. Even now I still scout, mostly for fun, but also as it is bred in the bone. I have sold everything form Rules for Radicals to Turner Diaries. Not to mention Loompanics and Maplethorp. Bibles and porn. I have worked for conservatives and liberals, independents and corporations. I have never, NEVER, not sold a book that someone wants. And never lectured them on the purchase. Who am I to know what the would or would not do with it, why they are reading it? Research? Hate? Not for me to know, or care. 1st amendment is absolute in my eyes.

    That person is a POS.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to aaron david says:

      I guarantee you that if you go into that store, you will find books full of left-wing hate speech stacked to the ceiling.Report

    • Pinky in reply to aaron david says:

      I wasn’t going to read BL1, but the vehemence of your response to it made me curious. I haven’t read Hillbilly Elegy, but boy the author of BL1 comes off terribly. He also doesn’t seem to respect his customers’ ability to read a controversial book and judge it for themselves. I’d be happy if people read Elegy, the Bible, the Communist Manifesto, and Atlas Shrugged. I’ve only read a little of Thomas Frank, but I’d encourage anyone to read him. He could convert the most neutral of moderates into full-throated conservatism.Report

      • aaron david in reply to Pinky says:

        Not much really sticks in my craw (just seems so ’round here) but this issue really does. I spent way to long in that industry, with good bosses of all political stripes, to leave this alone. I understand field specific bookstores are often very single minded politically, but they wouldn’t even carry the book. General bookstores? You are in it all the way.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Pinky says:

        Hating on Hillbilly Elegy is the new radial chic.

        J.D. Vance: “White people, like all people, are not inherently moral failures. Their problems mostly come from a lack of self-discipline and poor role models. An opportunity to develop any kind of meaningful life can make up for these things, but modern culture and the modern economy are steadily eliminating those opportunities and nobody seems to have any ideas for how to replace them.”

        Liberals: “Fuck you. White people are racists and they deserve what they get. Plus which, fuck you for suggesting that people’s problems are in any way their own fault.”Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to DensityDuck says:

          My wife read it, and said it hit home in an awful lot of uncomfortable ways. She’s suggested I read it, said given my history, it would likely be a very fast read, since I’d be able to skim most of it as just variations on my lived experiences.Report

          • fillyjonk in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

            I read it. I was born in W. Va. and grew up in Ohio (but not the part Vance talked about). Also my family background was different, as my parents were professors.

            I found it not as “simply explanatory of the rise of Trump” as some would see it. Yes, there are cultural/economic factors that hurt the people in question, but also, there seemed to be cases where I’d read about what was going on and sort of shake my head – “could they not SEE how that would be a problem?” They’re neither as guilty nor as innocent as others make them out to be. (In other words: like all humans, flawed and complex).

            I found it somewhat depressing, given that. I see elements of the “honor culture” Vance talked about in operation where I live currently (some of the more hair-raising violent crimes seem tied to “you disrespected my brother” or similar). I dunno. I don’t know if/how that changes, or if it’s just a thing in human “software” we have to live with.

            there does seem to be a lot of “doing the same old thing and expecting a different outcome” but maybe everyone does that and I just don’t see it clearly for my own milieu.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to fillyjonk says:

              We’re breeding out the honor culture. Slowly but surely. It’s taking millenia, but it’s going away.
              What’ll we get in its place?

        • Jesse in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Except of course, the most scathing response about Hillbilly Elegy came from somebody who actually grew up in the area –

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Jesse says:

            Thing is, they are both right. They are both identifying problems that align with their highly partisan views. They are looking at a rainbow and both are colorblind, in different ways.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Jesse says:

            That article in no way disagrees with my characterization of the discussion, including the political alignment of the critic.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Skimming the response to Hillbilly Elegy makes me wonder how much the guy knows about Appalachia (remember, I live there — and I hear all about how people read in the papers that their friends from high school are on opiods).Report

      • Joe Sal in reply to Pinky says:

        “Listen, liberal” appears to be one of Thomas Franks recent works, I will give that one a try. Thanks for the reference.Report

  7. DensityDuck says:

    Hey, remember how all those Jewish Community Center bomb threats that were Definitely A Sign Of Populist White-Nationalist Bigotry Newly Enabled By Trump turned out to be coming from one kid in Israel?

    That story just got even more weird. Looks like he might have been doing it as a business, phoning in “untraceable” bomb threats in exchange for a fee. Want to get out of school? Hire PhoneMerc to say there’s a bomb in the building! Need to deplatform some alt-right hate speakers? PhoneMerc will make sure their chosen venue stays Nazi-free!Report

  8. Kolohe says:

    DensityDuck: Hating on Hillbilly Elegy is the new radial chic.

    Because it’s tired?Report

  9. Silver Wolf says:

    BL5 was in San Francisco involving an Air Canada plane.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      What’s funny is going to the Twitter feeds of the people linked in that article and watching them lose their shit over it, each rant capped off with “whutevs, dun care, bye whore (wave emoticon)”.Report

    • fillyjonk in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      So instead of “Millennials are killing XYZ” it’s really “Twitter is killing XYZ.”?

      probably preferable to blame a (currently) non-sentient web interface rather than an entire generation of humans….Report

      • Morat20 in reply to fillyjonk says:

        Twitter is a cesspool of drooling Id, the half that isn’t bots.

        And the real issue is the problem humans have of determining ‘scale’ with the internet. 2000 angry Tweets about something seems like a groundswell (it’s like having a good chunk of a small town screaming on your lawn), but as Kevin Drum notes (paraphrasing) — that’s about the real-life equivalent of a letter to the editor. All 2000 together.

        But, culturally, I don’t think we’ve really adapted to understand that. It’s causing a lot of problems along the “silent majority” type — the real belief that there are masses of silent people who totally agree with you, and when someone tries to move from Twitter into real-life, the results are often comically sad.

        The folks who occupied that bird sanctuary really thought there were hundreds or thousands of fellow travelers who would come to them. There have been innumerable internet-organized “marches” that promised hundreds of thousands, but failed to make even 10,000.

        Twitter, with the horde of bots and the ease of re-tweeting, magnifies the problem massively. But the root problem is the same across all social media — the internet in general — as society, we have no sense of scale for the internet.

        There’s 10,000 angry Tweets about Bob. Is that a lot of people? Is it basically nobody? Should Bob care? Should we care? Are any of those even real people, or is it six guys and some weird bot-loop?

        A Facebook page has a million fans — how many of those are real? How many active? How many even notice? How many give a crap beyond “Eh, I liked that TV show/that idea, but I wouldn’t get off the couch over it”. No idea.

        Honestly, I suspect the next decade or two is gonna have a lot more people stepping on their own dicks, as it were, confidant that whatever they’re about to do or say is backed by legions of people agreeing with them — only to end up pretty alone, in the spotlight, while crickets chirp.

        Thinking your opinions are shared by a lot of people, possibly even most people (because clearly they are right, or else you wouldn’t hold them. Who holds wrong opinions?) is a pretty common mental trap among people in general. Twitter — and social media — just turn the dial up to 11 and then break off the knob.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Morat20 says:

          So, anything that’s run by bots deserves derision?
          May I introduce you to wikipedia?Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Morat20 says:

          Twitter unleashes some of the least endearing social traits of humans in a very pure form. Its like a perpetual high school cafeteria in an over the top teen movie.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to LeeEsq says:

            Yep. And people routinely use it to “prove” and “disprove” whatever they want. Take politics — I’ve lost count of the number of people who cheerfully claim (about Team Red or Team Blue) whatever they want because “Twitter’s exploding about it”.

            They’re bad, they’re good, they’re obsessed with nothing, they’re vile, they’re heroic — politicians are up or down or doomed or sainted because “Twitter’s all over it”.

            Half of Twitter is freaking bots (there are entire companies designed to make you pop out on Twitter, to promote your brand — that’s without getting into the less commercial bots), and the other half — 140 characters. Less effort than an email. Half the time it’s just a click, not even a thought typed out.

            And it’s supposed to mean something? We’re to take it as evidence of some cultural zeitgeist? Call it a third bought-and-paid, another 20% bots operated by everything from bored script-kiddies to psy-ops groups, and 50% people whose entire investment in whatever is “trending” on Twitter is the effort of a single mouse click.

            And yet people treat that as if it’s a foundation of stone, not a quagmire of…..well, tainted feces is probably too kind. 🙂Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Morat20 says:

              Twitter is a forum. If somebody of note says something on twitter, someone of note still said the thing. If people on twitter organize and drag a book’s ratings/reviews (with or without having read it) that book’s ratings are still drug. If it’s affecting what publishers do, it’s still affecting what publishers do.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Will Truman says:

                Twitter is half bots, by most metrics. I mean literally “half bots”. Half the users aren’t people, they’re scripts run by anything from companies to intelligence services to bored kids. (Twitter could easily fix that, or at least make a reasonable dent, but “number of users” is such a great way to raise money….)

                What’s left is…what’s the worth of 2000 retweets? If 2000 people retweet your book review, is that worth 10 sales? 100? None?

                That gets back to the social media problem: 2000 people screaming on your front lawn is a sign you pissed your whole town off. 2000 people Tweeting angrily at you feels the same way. Is it the same?

                That’s the social media problem in a nutshell. Twitter makes it worse, just because it’s literally half fake AND the effort required to scream angrily at someone is much lower than even “send off an angry email”. (Which, as far as I can tell, rates so low that virtually no business or politician gives a flying crap about emails. They barely care about phone calls. Physical letters require enough dedication and effort to notice).Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Morat20 says:

                Most estimates are substantially less than half. Still quite a bit, though. That’s not the same as saying that x% of all activity is fake. Fake accounts tend to be limited-purpose and then are abandoned or swept away.

                The vast majority of people you actually *interact* with are actually people. Most bot dealings are retweets and likes, with follows that tend to give you a fluctuating follower count as they follow you and then get Twitter discovers them and shuts them down.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

                AIs on twitter do shitposting.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Morat20 says:

                Most books get a couple hundred reviews.

                2000 people getting together and giving your book zero stars on Amazon means it won’t show up in any recommendations or search results, and so nobody will ever see it unless they know to look for it directly.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to DensityDuck says:

                But Saul’s link claims that the resistance is going underground:

                But in an interesting twist, the teens who make up the community’s core audience are getting fed up with the constant, largely adult-driven dramas that currently dominate YA. Some have taken to discussing books via backchannels or on teen-exclusive hashtags — or defecting to other platforms, like YouTube or Instagram, which aren’t so given over to mob dynamics

                Twitter is not a teen forum anyway; snapchat is.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Morat20 says:

                I think my Twitter followers consist of:

                1) People from here.
                2) Tay Zonday of “Chocolate Rain” fame, who seems to be an OK guy.
                3) Bots.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                Chocolate Rain, and also the Doomfist rap!Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Freddie DeBoer is right, everybody is a police officer these days and Twitter is a near perfect baton for smacking down criminals as they see them.Report

      • Jesse in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Eh, you know what’s a good way not to get smacked down? Don’t post or do dumb things on social media.

        There are literally millions of people still saying incredibly racist, sexist, or just dumb things right now and you know they’re getting away with it? Because they’re not posting it on public consumption on a major piece of social media.

        That’s not even getting into the framing where people who are called out. who bluntly, usually have a lot more social and political power (since it’s useless to “call out” some guy or girl on Twitter with 9 followers or whatever and yes, if you regularly get published in major newspapers and magazines like Freddies does, you have social and political power even if you don’t get paid well for it) as the “victims”, while pushing the people calling them out, who usually have less social or political power as the “cops.”Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Jesse says:

          “you know what’s a good way not to get smacked down? Don’t post or do dumb things on social media. ”

          Haw. I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t think that “I love my wife and I think she’s hot, even though she isn’t a skinny bitch” was a dumb thing to post on social media, but here’s how that turned out for one dude.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Jesse says:

          The complaint isn’t people saying obviously racist things or racist things where they should have known better. We’re not even dogpiling conservatives. We’re talking about liberals who say something that has an ungenerous interpretation that people land on with both feet. Or have the audacity to suggest that somebody’s interpretation of what somebody else said wasn’t entirely generous.

          It’s honestly worse for the leftwards than it is for conservatives or people like me. Conservatives mostly just end up blocked or cussed out or whatever. People like me (or most of OT) just end up on some block list. They’re not our community. I’m personally not very accountable to them. The only way they can really do damage is to both unmask me and get either my wife or myself fired*. Neither of which are especially easy yet. I’m not saying it’s all good, but exposure is unlikely.

          Jesse Singal and Freddie aren’t worried about people like me. They’re worried about friendly fire and leftwards going after their own. They make juicier targets because that’s where the right Call Out can do the most damage. The guy with the curvy wife was piled on precisely because he was trying to be a good liberal. That seems more common than google memo guy.

          * – This is why people getting doxed and fired tend to freak non-members of the liberal tribe out. It’s the main way that the craziness can bleed over to the rest of us. Even if the afflicted individual did something we wouldn’t, a lot of us don’t trust them to make the appropriate distinctions.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Will Truman says:

            There has been a dangerous trend towards orthodox thinking across the political sphere recently. Every person seem required to sign on for the entirety of whatever political ideology they believe in without the smallest bit of heterodoxy allowed.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Jesse says:

          The linked article in question involves anti-racist YA fantasy novel being attacked because it wasn’t anti-racist in the right way. There are lots of people who say obviously stupid things and get smacked down for it but Density Duck points down, at least a plurality of it is saying the right thing in the wrong way or saying something that isn’t really bad but pisses off the right person to wage a social media war against you.Report

        • Saul Degraw in reply to Jesse says:


          I think @will-truman and @leeesq are right here. This is about the left wing circular firing squad and witch hunts. The YA novel was denounced for not being racist in the correct manner and there were other examples of left wing denouncing allies for failing to perfectly lockstep.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Social media like college campuses is one of the few areas where the Far Left in the United States or really most of the developed world has real power to shape things. They use it accordingly and I guess unsurprisingly to attempt to get ordinary liberals to go along with them.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to Saul Degraw says:

            Yes, but ask yourself — is this actually a meaningful bunch of people? Does this constitute anything real?

            There are, bluntly, always loons. A fringe, ignored minority. Twitter is like…giving them a megaphone, it makes them sound huge and big. But are they?

            So is this some real movement, some telling moment or useful data point, indicative of something? Or is it a handful of loons, puffed up on Twitter, looking many times bigger than they really are?

            Again, the problem with social media is that the crazy guy on the corner with the cardboard “REPENT” sign tends to look just as big as the biggest church in town, because we are very bad at determining scale here.

            And everyone’s way too happy to jump on the loony train to prove their pet point.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      “Does Twitter ruin businesses?”

      It certainly ruins careers, for the reactionary reasons described in the article Saul posted.Report

  10. DensityDuck says:

    I do have to say that my favorite bit of the hastag-DISCOURSE around the Google Memo is the intimation that the colors used in the “distribution overlap” chart are some kind of secret message to racists.Report

  11. Oscar Gordon says:

    OK, regarding the Google document.

    That argument he wanted to make, that women are not actively pursuing careers in Comp Sci?

    This is how you make it and not get fired.Report

    • Jesse in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Yup. The guy seemed to be insistent on making the argument in the worst possible way while making sure it’d be inflammatory to everyone but a group of people who assume that almost every non-white or Asian male hired in Silicon Valley is some sort of diversity hire.Report

    • gregiank in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      I don’t think that was actually the argument he wanted to make though. The NPR segment is descriptive of why something happened w/o getting into any biology and doesn’t say diversity initiatives are making things worse.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to gregiank says:


        That is the point I’ve been making (and why my sympathy for the guy is nil). There was zero need to drag any question of biology into this. Either he really wanted to make some points about biology, or he was incredibly clumsy putting his document together and was slapping together whatever evidence he thought would bolster his point while badly navigating the minefield he was stepping into.Report

        • gregiank in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Assuming i have point i think it’s that biology was this guys issue. It’s diversity and biology that are his issues He wasn’t clumsy, he was distilling some old fashioned MRA type talking points. He stepped into the minefield fully aware of it and not caring i think.

          He did say he felt conservatives felt uncomfortable politically at Google. Very possible and wants something done about that. He wants his political views to be made safer to talk about at work.His style was dry and formal and appearing above it all and just trying to discuss stuff. But that was just style not his substance.Report

          • George Turner in reply to gregiank says:

            His document was genius. He’ll probably make millions off the lawsuit he filed. He’d filed a complaint with the NRLB prior to getting fired, and you can’t fire someone for filing such a complaint.Report

            • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

              Why yes a there is a decent chance this conservative man is a grifter. Good point.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

                My prediction:

                I’m betting those internal Google sites have TOS’s with language stating that the content of the sites is company property/confidential/not to be shared with outside parties without the approval of corporate, etc. So unless Google identifies and disciplines the person or persons who leaked the document, he’ll sue Google for not only the dismissal, but also for failing to give him a safe place to express his opinions.

                I mean, if the document had stayed internal, or if he document had leaked without his name attached, he might have still gotten fired or laid off, but his name would not be mud.Report

          • Morat20 in reply to gregiank says:

            He should suck it up. My political viewpoints aren’t super popular at several of my jobs, and you know how I deal with it? I don’t talk politics at work, instead I do my job.

            Now if my job WAS politics, I’d be in a bit of a pickle, sure.Report

            • gregiank in reply to Morat20 says:

              Agreed. But i do think that shows a lot about where he is coming from. He wants to be safe and is fine with his company making it cool for him to talk politics at work. But helping out those other people…..he just isn’t down with that.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Morat20 says:

              I think this is close to right. He may have been lulled into a false sense of security with talk about open forums and exchanges of ideas. But unpopular ideas are unpopular ideas, and people who talk about wanting an open forum rarely want an open forum that is going to result in the expression of ideas that actually cause discord.

              I was especially critical of the guy when it sounded like he sent a memo out of the blue. Finding out that he was participating in a forum with an existing conversation made me moderately less unsympathetic. But at the end of the day, unpopular ideas are unpopular and you’re always putting yourself at risk for airing them, no matter what was said beforehand.Report

        • Trumwill in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          “The way to make the argument you are trying to make is to make a different argument” is largely unsatisfying here, unless either (a) we are certain the first argument is wrong or (b) we need a noble myth until we know the truth or because we know the truth and don’t like it.

          For whatever it’s worth seems to me innate biology and free choice are responsible for a non-trivial percent of the gap but not all of it.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      Make up a just-so story whose primary virtue is not the strength of the evidence supporting it, but that it allows feminists to continue blaming men? I suppose that might placate them a bit, but it would be nice if we could acknowledge the fact that biological factors are a highly plausible explanation and expect people to respond like rational, intelligent adults.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        As I said before, it’s a topic that is a mine field, and it needs to be approached with a similar degree of care. Especially in this day and age of Twitter mobs extreme public shaming. Hell, not even academics talking to other academics can avoid the Twitter mobs (see Truth’s ranting in these threads).

        There has been too much discrimination justified by biological differences, you can’t just toss that on the pile.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          But he’s not calling for discrimination. He’s very explicitly calling for an end to discriminatory practices that (according to him) Google is already engaging in. And I guarantee you that the same people who are currently smearing him for this are people who think that the NPR’s just-so story is definitely, unquestionably true and justifies ramping up that discrimination even further.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Yeah, both sides are idiots. What else is new?
            Science, actual science, says that women make better software engineers than men. You can put money on that, and make a mint.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Doesn’t really matter though, does it? He tossed it on the pile, it’s what everyone focuses on because it’s such an emotionally & historically laden topic.

            This is debate 101, don’t reach for supporting evidence that is going to distract your intended audience from the point you are making, unless you have no better options. He had better options, he used them, then he clumsily tossed in the grenade for no good reason*. His point had been made, there was no reason to let biology enter into it.

            I mean, I agree that companies should not be wasting effort to hire a certain percentage of women to the field when colleges are not graduating anywhere close to that value. It’s highly counter-productive. Resources would be better spent encouraging school children to enter the field so colleges can produce more, and so the upcoming generations are not as disposed to engaging in the competence bias @veronicad describes (which is quite real, and I’ve seen it in action, but it is getting better and is by no means a universal issue in tech – some places are better about dealing with it than others).

            *PS Scott A. did toss it on the pile, but he treated it very carefully and with an effort to suppress a lot of the emotional impact it has, because he both knows how to write, and he knows his audience.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Biological factors ain’t a highly plausible explanation until you can Show me the fucking money.
        You makin’ dough offa this piece o’ crap?
        Cause if you ain’t, I can tell you some biological factors that DO make money, these days.Report

    • bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      This is the way to make that argument. But it would have run counter to the point he seemed to be trying to make, which was that few women were software engineers because of some innate biological difference (on average – I’ll give him credit for at least recognizing that there’s a lot of variation within and across genders). An argument from social conditioning or gender bias in society/opportunity/education would have run counter to his complaint about Google trying to recruit more women or care about fostering diversity in general.

      Given his glaring ignorance about the history of his own field – what programmer never heard of Grace Hopper? And did he completely miss even the trailers for Hidden Figures? – he deserved getting online smackdown he got. Still, I’d have hoped the company would just educate him to remedy that.

      However, when you add in the idiocy about women being more neurotic and unable to handle stress (Really? Has he never met any actual women?) he went beyond ‘providing a conservative pov’. The only people I know would characterize that as a conservative pov are people on the left making bad caricatures about conservative views. And the icing on the cake is that he’s the one *whining*. Beyond just giving the company a PR black eye, I can see why they let him go. Being a clueless idiot is reasonable cause for termination.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to bookdragon says:

        The company pretty much had to fire him, because he’d be unable to work with a good chunk of their company.

        When you imply openly to everyone that anyone who isn’t male is a “diversity” hire with suboptimal skills, you kinda kill teamwork.Report

        • bookdragon in reply to Morat20 says:

          Yep. Plus it just displays poor reasoning skills and even poorer common sense.

          I know there’s a lower % of women in his field, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t women leading teams or projects. Given that this guy appears to have been working in the field for less than 4 years, he is limiting his career there by making himself ‘that guy’ none of them want to have to deal with.

          For instance, I’m in my early 50s, female, and a senior engineer with a PhD (in aero/mechanical engineering). I bring in contracts and serve as PI on them. Would I choose someone like him to work on one of those efforts? No. And not just because I would expect that he would disrespect me at every turn. Anyone so inept at basic interaction and communication would make a lousy team player, and would not be someone I would ever want to have to bring with me for a meeting with customers.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

            This ties into something @gregiank said here. The diversity issue at Google (& maybe @veronica-d can say something about this, I don’t know) might be a question of exactly how they are determining their percentages? Are they striving for true parity in every skill code/field, or within larger technical working groups? Because given all the myriad tasks that a large project needs, reaching parity should not be difficult*, but if they are working toward parity in a skill code, that could very well be effectively impossible right now or in the foreseeable future.

            *without any kind of effort to pigeonhole people into gender stereotypical tasksReport

            • bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              My argument here doesn’t have much to do with how Google deals with percentages. My reaction to him was that this is the guy who would assume I was ‘diversity hire’ b/c of my gender and unless I bent over backwards to make him happy, use that to justify every little gripe and undermine me by passing his opinions on to everyone else on team. Hence, I would not select him for any project I ran.

              I have dealt with the type far too many times before. (In undergrad I graduated 2nd in my class, but a guy who was on academic probation still openly sneered that I only beat him for a scholarship b/c I was female).

              Now as to determining diversity %s, a company the size of Google perhaps worries about that. (Mine does not. Women in my field are even rarer than in programming, and we have a difficult enough time hiring qualified US citizens who can get a security clearance, so gender diversity isn’t a driver here). My gut reaction there is that, yes, it is difficult to find 50% qualified women or minorities in field that has become largely a monoculture of white and Asian males in the US. So put the team together of the best people available. However, if someone makes it difficult to have a functioning team of anyone but 100% dudebros, that person is not an asset.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

        I don’t know that is the argument he wanted to make, and yes, I am working very hard to not assign intent here. I can very easily imagine a person trying to make an argument and reaching for all the evidence he could find to support that argument, and being very clumsy about how it is presented.

        I can also very easily imagine a person carefully crafting a document that will at once illicit a very strong reaction while being just bland enough to make it look very much like an over-reaction (i.e. high level trolling).

        Still, I try to follow the mantra that one should not ascribe malice to what can be explained by stupidity. So absent some evidence that they guy is a fan of the alt-right (not every conservative is)…Report

        • bookdragon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          I’m not at all assuming he’s a fan of the alt-right. You’ll notice I explicitly said that I object him even characterizing the idea that women are more emotionally frail and anxious as a conservative pov.

          He may well merely be stupid, but his response to the criticisms of his posting sure make it seem like willful ignorance. Either way, not someone I’d want working for me. It’s not as though a company like Google has any lack of talented applicants happy to take his place.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to bookdragon says:

            I haven’t seen any of his responses (I wasn’t aware he’d said anything).

            As for his dismissal, I have no issue with that. Google is a private firm, they have the right to set whatever corporate culture they want, and hire and fire in accordance with that culture.Report

            • Walter Olson tries to make the point that it wasn’t entirely an internal decision:

              I’m not entirely sold on it, but it’s important to consider the intersection betrween public policy and private actions.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Will Truman says:

                One would probably have to look closer at California law, which is almost certainly tougher than federal law.

                Also, I think the incentives being discussed in that piece point towards employers never, ever having digital employee forums.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

                I’m not buying it or we are at a fundamental disagreement between liberals/Democrats and libertarians on this issue.

                I’ve never bought into the argument from some to many libertarians that government oppression is the only form worthy of worrying about and/or doing anything about. I think there is a role for government in protecting against tyranny from other sources. This includes protecting the rights of minorities or oppressed groups like women (not exactly a minority number wise but still one with a long history of laws prohibiting them from certain actions) and their rights to full protection into economic and civil life.

                I also generally don’t think employers should be able to fire someone for out of work and lawful activity but @troublesome-frog points out how the Internet makes this complicated.

                “Loose talk” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in Olson’s essay.

                The idea that corporations are only doing this because of government non-discrimination laws is kind of silly. Suppose there were no non-discrimination laws, employment was still at will, the memo was still published, and Google still fired the guy. Would Olson still cry foul?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                The idea that corporations are only doing this because of government non-discrimination laws is kind of silly.

                How is this silly? This is simply trying to examine all the potential incentives for a given behavior, and how the government behaves and responds to specific situations can shape incentives in ways both intended & not.Report

              • If the law did more or less require that they fire him for liability purposes, would you consider that a good thing (protecting female employees from a belligerent coworker) or a bad thing (interfering with employer-employee relations)?Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

                I don’t quite buy that the law more or less required that Google fire the guy. I think that the generally bad press tech has been getting on the issue has more to do with the decision than actual California Civil Rights law.

                That being said, I support non-discrimination laws (and make my living representing plaintiffs in these cases) and think one employee getting terminated for a screed is a small price to pay for it.

                For all I know, there could be lots of guys at Google who believe in this guy’s screed but they are smart enough to keep their mouths shut.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                There is an internal survey of Google employees that is floating around the internet which suggests that something like a third agree with the memo, one-half disagree and the rest are neutral. OTOH, it flips when asked about whether it the memo is harmful: about a third say yes, over half say no, and the rest are neutral.Report

              • George Turner in reply to PD Shaw says:

                They should do another survey to see which parts of his memo people agree with. Quite a lot of cognitive scientists said he has the science right.

                He’s also not a conservative, as far as I can tell from his interview.

                ETA: interview on YoutubeReport

              • Kazzy in reply to George Turner says:

                “Quite a lot of cognitive scientists said he has the science right.”


              • George Turner in reply to Kazzy says:

                Quillette asked four scientists about the memo, and then of course got knocked off the Internet by the DoS attack.

                But here’s a part of what they published.


                Geoffrey Miller, evolutionary psychology professor at University of New Mexico:

                I think that almost all of the Google memo’s empirical claims are scientifically accurate. Moreover, they are stated quite carefully and dispassionately. Its key claims about sex differences are especially well-supported by large volumes of research across species, cultures, and history. Whoever the memo’s author is, he has obviously read a fair amount about these topics. Graded fairly, his memo would get at least an A- in any masters’ level psychology course.

                Debra W. Soh, Toronto based science writer who has a Ph.D. in sexual neuroscience from the University of York.

                As a woman who’s worked in academia and within STEM, I didn’t find the memo offensive or sexist in the least. I found it to be a well thought out document, asking for greater tolerance for differences in opinion, and treating people as individuals instead of based on group membership.
                Within the field of neuroscience, sex differences between women and men—when it comes to brain structure and function and associated differences in personality and occupational preferences—are understood to be true, because the evidence for them (thousands of studies) is strong. This is not information that’s considered controversial or up for debate; if you tried to argue otherwise, or for purely social influences, you’d be laughed at.

                Lee Jussim, professor of social psychology at Rutgers University:

                The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right.


              • veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Do we know the process they used to select those four scientists?Report

              • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

                Oh cripes. Evo psych is largely crap to be generous. Social psych ain’t do to well either.There is a lot to sex differences and the memo guy picks himself a bowl of cherries. This is all overly simplified or political opinions.Report

              • greginak in reply to greginak says:

                One of the most obvious errors memo guy and many of the commenter’s on the science have made regards sampling bias. Suppose the average height of men in the US in 5 11 ( i think that is what it is) So therefore if we go to an NBA team the avg height of the players would be 5 11. Right? Of course not the NBA is a unique sample and the national average doesn’t describe it.

                Take female techies at Google. Avg women might have some such score on various measures but are women who entered tech different? Possible. Google can pick from the cream of the crop. So are the very best female techies described by national avg’s. No. Any decent social scientist would not assume a general avg should describe that smaller Google subset.Report

              • George Turner in reply to greginak says:

                But Google isn’t picking average guys, either. They’re looking for people who could win the Turing Prize, like Dijkstra, Knuth, Hoare, Wirth, and von Neumann. Two women have won the Turing Prize, but twice as many men with women’s first names have won it.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to greginak says:

                Any decent social scientist would not assume a general avg should describe that smaller Google subset.

                I don’t remember where he made that error, what I do remember is him clearly saying that general averages have nothing to do with individuals.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to greginak says:

                …the memo guy picks himself a bowl of cherries…

                Did you read the resumes of those scientists? We’ve got two Psychology Department Chairs saying he’s using/quoting the mainstream science correctly. If there’s evidence this is some rogue faction of science, I’d like it on the table. The accusations of bias/sexism or whatever that I’ve seen misrepresent what the guy said and/or clearly don’t understand how math works. I haven’t seen for real scientists pointing out he’s a flat earther.

                Lee Jussim is a professor of social psychology at Rutgers University and was a Fellow and Consulting Scholar at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (2013-15). He has served as chair of the Psychology Department at Rutgers University and has received the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize, and the APA Early Career Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology. He has published numerous articles and chapters and edited several books on social perception, accuracy, self-fulfilling prophecies, and stereotypes.

                Since earning his bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in personality psychology from the University of Michigan David P. Schmitt has authored or co-authored more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. He is founder and director of the International Sexuality Description Project (ISDP). The ISDP is among the largest-ever cross-cultural research teams, involving over 200 psychologists from nearly 60 countries around the world whose collaborative studies investigate how culture, personality, and gender combine to influence sexual attitudes and behaviors.served two terms as Chair of the Psychology Department at Bradley University from 2005-2010. He blogs at Psychology Today…Report

              • gregiank in reply to Dark Matter says:

                That there are some differences between men and women’s brains isn’t in dispute. There is a hell of a lot discussion about how significant those differences are and what affect they have. Just stating there is a difference doesn’t actually say all that much. A difference can not have any real world significance. Also how the various differences and similarities mesh to together is not all that clear. The state of the science on sex differences between mens and womens brains is not what we should call advanced.

                Again the sampling issue here is a problem. Even if the avg womans brain may be different on some measure that doesn’t mean that will apply to the women Google hires. Women who go into tech may be different from the general sample and Google can hire the top 1% of applicants. It is bad social science to say that some general average applies to a small select group. Even if memo guy is correct about the science it can’t be directly assumed to apply to a select sample like women techies hired by Google.Report

              • George Turner in reply to gregiank says:

                The day after the memo story went huge, a bunch of Google’s female employees had to take a day off because of the stress of it all, and nervousness about working in an “unsafe environment”. I bet they went shopping and got their nails done.Report

              • gregiank in reply to gregiank says:

                I finally found a piece i’ve looking for about a recent large scale study of sex differences in brains. Note the end.


                psych today about effect sizes and some other stuff.


              • Oscar Gordon in reply to gregiank says:

                Note that your PsychToday article is one of the scientists you threw shade at in the Quillette article.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                True. The PT article was quite a bit more measured. A lot more about what isn’t known or is uncertain. Effect sizes are one of the common things people ignore in psych research and also regarding diet and health.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to gregiank says:

                My point is, those 4 academics are not amateurs. It was kind of rude to be discounting their opinions before becoming familiar with their work.Report

              • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Well i do have a low opinion of evo psych in general. Like i said i like Social Psych but A) haven’t been in grad school for a long time and B) am concerned about the replication issues. I do think social psych is useful.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

                Yeah, but these aren’t people holding degrees in Fairy Finding.Report

              • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Who needs a degree in fairy finding, aren’t there apps for that.Report

              • George Turner in reply to greginak says:

                Evolutionary psychology has evolved a lot since you probably last studied it. It used to hold that men pursue short-term mates and women don’t, but now it holds that women do the same.

                The real problem is that it’s difficult to rerun the experiment using human’s cloned from 200,000 year old DNA under controlled conditions, perhaps changing the environment in all kinds of sinister ways to see what kind of people eventually result.

                So a lot of it is really just based on reasoning about earlier selective pressures.

                I developed two theories, one regarding why we butcher people, mutilate their bodies, and hang the corpses in trees and on poles, and one on why people get addicted to BDSM.

                The really bizarre, highly emotional, widespread, and apparently maladaptive behaviors are the ones most likely to be evolutionary relics.Report

              • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

                Behaviors are usually complex. It would be nice to have a simple explanation for them. Even good Evo P explanations still need to be understood along with culture among other things. And some of it are just so stories that can’t be proved and fall apart when applied across cultures.Report

              • George Turner in reply to greginak says:

                Well, my theory on butchering people came to me after Iraqi insurgents murdered a bunch of US contractors and hung their bodies on a bridge (sparking the first uprising back in 2004). It’s a behavior repeated throughout history. Why grossly butcher and then hang the “offender” or enemy raider high up in a tree? Earlier in history we’d commonly display enemy corpses on poles.

                But the warning almost never works. It just really pisses the enemy off. Assuming the enemy has any sizable forces, they swear vengeance and hunt the butchers down like animals almost every time. If they don’t have sizable forces, they spread the story of the evil butchers far and wide. We still denounce anyone who has ever done such a thing.

                So if it doesn’t work, why do groups of people keep doing it when they’re enraged? And how do people keep thinking of it after decades or centuries of never seeing it done? Virtually no murders committed by a rational individual involves butchering and public display of the corpse, Even lynch mobs, though big on the public display, usually wouldn’t do the butchering part.

                We do see it in Mexican cartel wars, and quite frequently. It’s done by enraged groups as a warning and a threat, the probable message is “stay away and don’t even think about messing with us.” And of course the result is lots of focus by law enforcement, and vicious retribution by other cartels. A big cycle of mayhem, butchery, and assassinations follow.

                So again, it’s not done by individuals, but by groups, and it almost never works. In many cases we can be pretty confident that the people doing it have never themselves even killed anyone before.

                So why does the behavior keep reappearing?

                My theory is that for a couple million years, the behavior was really useful against predatory animals, especially territorial ones. Animals smart enough to remember and fear us, but not smart enough to hold a vengeful grudge, form a moral opinion, and not socially organized enough to form a resistance and plot retribution.

                If a big cat kills one of your tribesmen or family members, you could just hunt it down and kill it. Clean kill – problem solved. But the problem shortly returns because the cat either has buddies who don’t realize what happened to it, or because the cat is a loner (tigers, etc) but is no longer defending its territory from other cats. So you’ve either thinned the local pride by just one, or you shortly get a new man eating cat you have to worry about.

                Better solution. Get organized and stay pissed off. Go crazy vengeance on the beast. Make it die in loud cries of pain so all the other cats know what’s going on. Disfigure it. Partially dismember it. Hand it up in a tree so all the cats can see it an remember. Make sure its kittens watch the whole thing.

                And if you can’t deal with the cat, hunt down its den and kill its kittens, hanging them right where it can see them. Leave a calling card, while you’re at it. You want your local cats terrified of people, yet still defending their turf from other cats. But of course cats are very dangerous so you should only try this as a member of a large group of angry men.

                If you have a large group of angry men, hey, find a cat and string it up! It will repel other cats and make them fear you, and thus keep your wives and children safe.

                It’s such a great idea let’s just code it into our DNA somewhere, for use by angry frustrated mobs in the future. Handy for Mussolini, Ceau?escu, uppity blacks, American contractors, Zionist settlers, and so many others! We are humans! We are strong! Fear us all ye who trangress!

                The BDSM theory would come later in our evolution, when we kept raiding enemy villages, killing the men and taking the young women. This was such a frequent activity that it’s the main plot of the Iliad.

                Well, for a young girl to survive under the direst and grimmest circumstances of her life, having just seen her dad and brothers butchered and stuck on poles by a bunch of blood crazed barbarian hellions, is going to take some doing.

                If she gets passed around by the low-status grunts she’s going to get gang raped, possibly murdered, or probably knocked up and abandoned in a ditch.

                If she fights too fiercely they’ll just kill her as too much trouble.

                But if she puts up just the right struggle, just the right amount of protest, they’ll assume she’s a high-status daughter, a princess, and pass her up the chain of command, to the guy who murdered her family. So another game begins, and its one she has to win without having had any acting classes. If she wins, she might become his queen and create a powerful lineage. If she fails she’ll likely be killed, or else fall way back down the hierarchy, becoming some idiot grunt’s slave and probably not leaving anything in the gene pool

                The stakes are extremely high and the test was made very often in our history. Winning against a stacked deck with a newbie player is going to take a whole lot of very powerful brain signals to override normal reactions, reactions that aren’t going to make a lick of sense to her. In such an environment, over a very long period of time, girls would evolve “emergency mating” software, not for use under any other circumstances, and that software would have to override almost anything else, perhaps to the point of being addictive.

                But like any control system, it would be tuned. The rewards come only in certain circumstances, and if those are absent the result is just fear. Lots of fear and panic, or else murderous rage. There’s rape rape and then there’s upgrading life partners due to exigent circumstances involving mass death.

                So, taking a split brain view, the girl is displaying fear, and feeling it on one level, yet really really liking it. But for that to happen her captor needs to be a fairly high-status male (Sean Connery the cat burglar, not Lee Roy the cleft-lip garbage man), and she needs to feel she’s in control of the semi-mindless beast’s anger, lust, and fury, because she’s what he wants. She’s keeping his focus on her, and thus controlling him because in that regard, his subconscious is about as complex as a bucket of spit.
                The people with psychology PhD’s who write about the behavior, as practitioners, are adamant that the submissive partner is the one who is controlling everything. That’s the only way the magic works. If the sub feels they’ve lost control, everything instantly shuts down. No outside observer would guess that. What’s going on mentally is opposite what’s going on physically. The power relation is flipped, but only on a level that can’t be seen. If it’s not, what you have is a murdering rapist killing his next victim, not a war captive upgrading herself to found a dynasty.

                The men, of course, aren’t under evolutionary pressure from this. As long as the girl (Homer’s “prize”) doesn’t go nuts and kill them, they’re good. They’re also simple. Still are. “Steal girl. Mate with girl.” (Later we added “Divorce girl. Giver her house.”) The men just worry about whether they can pull off the raid without getting killed, and later how the loot gets divided up. They’re sitting ducks for what the girls are going to pull off, playing them like puppets on a string.

                The traits that would likely be added to our genes are an ability for extreme focus under stress, total submission yet not-submission, and a few other generally useful traits that might have created a greater capacity for religious devotion, tolerance for suffering, loyalty, etc, which would stay in the gene pool of both sexes. It was likely a huge win because the survival responses had to be powerful, focused, and widespread. The evolutionary pressure would have been large.

                The amusing thing is, as civilized people, we’ve been weeding “true doms” out of the gene pool for thousands of years because they’re murdering rapists. The ones we still have are in prison, or should be.

                This has left us with a world where there are BDSM women across the planet bemoaning the lack of “true doms”, and either encountering one of the not-yet-jailed ones, or some goober who wants to get laid, or one of the few people who understand the required role playing, can tolerate the amount of preparation, and who are willing to indulge a behavior that should possibly be classed as a form of drug addiction. There aren’t many of those.

                It’s a titillating bucket of crazy, but one that makes perfect sense in Homer’s day.

                One day the theory will get published, either in The Journal of Evolutionary Psychology or Cosmo. My bet is Cosmo.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to George Turner says:

                of course. Explaining the evident universality of vore without getting into evopsych is really, really hard. Humans are a trainwreck of older crap, and that particular bit dates back to when we looked a lot like mice.

                BDSM is merely “Bigger is Better” writ large. No need for explanation.

                Widespread homosexuality is a product of civilization (more specifically western).Report

              • Koz in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yeah, no shit.

                The whole thing is just so deflating, especially the DDoS of Quillette part. The worst of it is, it’s not going to get any better until somebody can show enough self-reflection to say, “I, as lib, am shit on a stick, morally speaking” with appropriate resolve to do better in the future.

                Look, I voted for Trump. And that has it’s pluses and minuses so far. But if you’re still lib in the year of Our Lord two thousand and seventeen, you are Trump.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The first article he linked said: “There were only 14 regions where men had higher brain volume and 10 regions where women did.”

                14 to 10. According to the NFL rule book, males win!Report

              • gregiank in reply to gregiank says:

                meta analysis of studies on size of amygdala


              • Kimmi in reply to gregiank says:

                How many of those are hand traced?
                I don’t want any determinations that can’t be reproduced reliably.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to gregiank says:

                What I remember most about sex differences is that they’re pretty radically changed by pregnancy and childbirth. So, fun that you’re looking at a study on 44-70 year olds.
                You get far less differences when you look at college students.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Kimmi says:

                Also menopause. What might be true or false before menopause may be very different after. It’s often pretty easy to tell someones motives regarding sex differences. If they say a simple “men are this, women are that” it’s almost always their own projection. Sex differences are real but also really complex and not well understood.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to gregiank says:

                Actually, not menopause.
                Pregnancy, childbirth, early child development, are all intensive “choice making” on the part of our instincts. Hardwiring for “don’t drown the baby” (because most moms have that fantasy) should be expected.

                Menopause doesn’t have any of that “we need you to do THIS” retraining of mental machinery.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to gregiank says:

                It is bad social science to say that some general average applies to a small select group.

                You keep asserting that he’s saying that, and I simply don’t see it.

                His original memo is here:

                Would you please quote (ideally with page number) where he’s doing that?Report

              • gregiank in reply to Dark Matter says:

                He is using data from studies of a normal/general population. The women who Google hires are a unique subset so it is not good social science to assume they have the same characteristics.

                The example i used somewhere else would be assuming that the avg height of a NBA player is the same as the avg height of a man in the entire US pop.

                He isn’t stating he is doing it because he seems unaware of the issue entirely. The guy in the PT article briefly mentions this at the end.Report

              • George Turner in reply to gregiank says:

                Well Google’s highly selective hiring practices for a technical field should make disparities worse. The top end (the tails) of the Bell Curve is dominated by white (and Ashkenazi Jewish) men.

                In Nobel Prizes, Jews are over represented by a factor of one hundred compared to their percentage of the population. They’ve won 41% of the Nobel Prizes in economics, 28% in medicine, and 26% in physics. In contrast, women have won 1% of the Nobel Prizes in physics, 1.3% in economics, and 2.3% in chemistry. That’s probably not due purely to sexism, because women have won 5.7% in medicine and 12.5% in literature.

                Studies of Ashkenazi Jewish brains find that they’ve enlarged their areas for spacial and abstract reasoning at the expense of motor skills, something that didn’t happen among Sephardi Jews who aren’t lopsidedly winning Nobel Prizes in physics. This would seem to indicate that freakish mental abilities at geometric manipulation and abstract reasoning correlate to winning Nobel Prizes in certain fields, fields not very dissimilar to programming at the top levels. 42% of Turing Prize winners (for computer science) were won by Jews, so that’s not a stretch. As an aside, 4% of Turing Prize winners were women.

                So even though a particular woman might win the Nobel Prize in Physics or the Turing Prize in computer science, you’re going to have a tough time building a team where half the team is women, and where those women are equally likely as the men to win the Turing Prize. Unless of course you fire the bright Jewish guys, which is what Google just did.

                What the memo’s author was in part doing was trying to better address the gender disparity by bringing the practice of programming more in line with women’s preferences and general skill sets by making it less solitary and less competitive.Report

              • Michael Cain in reply to George Turner says:

                Long ago, when I was in a PhD track in pure math, the American Math Society seriously asked the question, “Are there any left-handed topologists?” meaning people with a topology PhD who were left-handed. Topology is heavily biased towards visualization skills — it was often said by topologists at that time that once you had the right picture in your head the proof would write itself. Brain physiology theory at the time said that the critical visualization skill was a right-brain function, and that being left-handed impaired visualization to the point that you couldn’t do dissertation-level topology.

                Have no idea if they ever found any, but it was a question that got asked at national meetings.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to gregiank says:

                The women who Google hires are a unique subset so it is not good social science to assume they have the same characteristics.

                And when, exactly, does he do that? Please quote.Report

              • greginak in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Did you read the memo? He lists off various studies then says that info suggest Google’s diversity programs are not wise. Well who does the diversity programs apply to? People who work for and are hired by Google. Google gets the cream of the crop of work ( at least as i understand, if thats wrong please correct me). The best workers are, in any industry, are not representative of the entire population. It would be like assuming students at the Ivy’s are representative of all college students.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:


                The best workers are, in any industry, are not representative of the entire population. It would be like assuming students at the Ivy’s are representative of all college students.

                This is, actually, kind of his point. Google wants gender parity. Gender parity in the field as a whole does not exist, because schools are not graduating enough women as a whole to even come close to parity (the reasons for this are various and sundry and have been touched upon numerous times all over these threads).

                I mean, sure, if 40% of the CS/Engineering grads were women, Google could try for parity, although they’d still struggle simply because they want the best. But if only 20% are women, and Google is maybe interested in the top 10% of those graduates (and competing with all the other large software firms for the same 10%), then parity as a near term goal is statistically a dream.Report

              • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                One of the key observations when looking at gender differences is that the differences within each group are larger then the differences between the groups. Picture two bell curves one having a slightly lower avg on whatever measure of brain activity we want to look at. The mens avg might be slightly higher. But the women at the right end of the curve will still perform higher than most men. I’m guessing Google is getting the women who are 1 or 2 SD above the norm. Even if their pool is smaller their scores will be higher then most men even if the avg man has a higher score than the avg woman.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

                That’s not countering my point, it’s supporting it.

                There is not enough supply of high end female engineers to meet the demand Google has set for itself (assuming it maintains it’s bar). Now if every other company/school/lab decided to stop even trying to maintain gender diversity, Google might be able to hit parity, since they’d be able to easily attract the Lion’s share of female engineers away from all those other companies. But that ain’t the reality, which means Google will either have to find a way to increase the overall supply, or start offering higher than norm (for Google) wages for top tier women (and honestly I’d be all for this, since that’ll cascade through industry), or lower their bar, and boy won’t that just be the sh*tstorm if they do.

                PS thanks for the links!Report

              • George Turner in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Google erected another obstacle for itself.

                The majority of white women voted for Trump. A lot of really smart rich girls who go to top schools are from conservative families.

                Google just signaled that they’re a brutally enforced far-left SJW company. They just cut their recruiting pool in half.

                But they may have just cut their male recruiting pool even further, so it may shake out for them, at least as far as their diversity stats.

                Perhaps relevant is Laird Wilcox’s 1990 paper on ritual defamation. That explains a fairly large portion of SJW Internet debates.Report

              • veronicad in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon — There are a few variables here. One is the number of women and minorities entering the “pipeline” at the primary school level, which is to say, those who get interested in computers (and math and computing) as children and teens. Then there is the number that pursues a degree in a computing related field. Then there is the number that enters industry. Then there is the amount of time a person remains in industry (which effects the gender balance in an obvious way). A whole host of factors play into these decisions, but we are certain that talent is being lost because women and minorities perceive tech as a “boy’s club,” and in fact a pretty hostile-to-women-and-minorities boy’s club.

                Can we address this merely by a recruitment drive? Of course not. To address the problem involves contributing at every level. For example, Google offers things such as the Summer of Code. Likewise we do outreach to groups like Girls who Code. There are various efforts. Google is not alone. Most of the larger tech companies make similar contributions. Likewise we work to change how software engineering is perceived. It is not merely a boy’s club, not anymore — men like James Dalmor notwithstanding. But then, Dalmor exists, and every woman can tell stories about how she is constantly undermined by clueless and/or hostile men. (We know who they are. The man might carefully choose his words. He might act within the boundaries of plausible deniability, but attitudes leak out.) This is a drain on careers. It is measurable.

                Men need to stop acting this way. We want more women and minorities in tech.

                The point is, a job in software is a professional thing, and both men and women need to approach work professionally. On the other hand, we want to continue to “open” culture that nerds have developed. For example, we don’t have much of a dress code. We can play video games at work.

                So can we have an “open” culture that is cool and kinda-nerdy but not sexist/racist/hostile/shitty?

                I think we can. In fact, I’m sure it’s possible. Most of the men I work with have great attitudes, if sometimes they lack insight.

                Bluntly, being a narrow-minded sexist/racist asshole is not essential to being a nerd. Nor is being socially maladjusted. To the degree that computing will always be attractive to “weird brain” types, that does not mean that weird-brained adults cannot act like adults.

                We in fact provide training on how to do this. All large tech companies do.

                On the other hand, if you approach “diversity training” with a shitty attitude, well, your attitude will show. It will affect morale. Managers will (eventually) notice. Things might not work out for you.

                Your attitude does matter. Of course it does. It must matter.

                There is a growing demand for software engineers. To fill the slots, companies cannot limit their recruiting to socially awkward men with (some level of) ASD. That won’t work. Furthermore, just as I want a variety of cool and interesting people to join my roleplaying groups, I want technology to be an open place. However, to get a balanced RPG group, I might have to kick out that one dysfunctional guy who keep creeping on women (or making weird judgements about their cognitive capabilities). He might be a good player. He might be a “cool guy,” at least to the other guys. But he drives away women. This is similar.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronicad says:


                Totally on-board with you here, especially regarding school age outreach (I am a fan of programs like FIRST, Science Fairs, etc.). If the memo was trying to say that such outreach is a waste of resources, then I missed it.

                I’m also all for making workplaces more welcoming to women (more on that in a minute).

                I am being specifically critical of the idea that Google can recruit it’s way to anything close to parity in the near term. This is not to say that they shouldn’t actively recruit women into tech, but only that their near term goals should align with reality.

                Regarding the workplace specifically, your ‘toxic nerd’ must be something that pops-up more often in CS than it does in other engineering fields. Back in college, the kind of anti-social person you describe either didn’t exists, or existed in such small numbers as to be unnoticed. Maybe they all dropped out and went to CS? I took quite a few CS classes, but I didn’t hang out in the building beyond class time, so I wasn’t aware of the cultures over there. I saw a bit of that at the Lazy B, but it was less toxic nerd and more grumpy old engineers not yet up with the idea that women can be engineers too (i.e. generational). At my current employer, where we make engineering software for a relatively niche market, when we run across toxic nerds, well, they aren’t fired outright, but they are STRONGLY encouraged to find employment elsewhere, or they are first of the RIF list. That doesn’t happen too often.

                Anyway, my point is, perhaps this is something that CS programs need to address (if they aren’t already), and it’s something companies like Google can encourage them to address? I mean, it’s kinda normal for grade and high school nerds to form a clique, because High School is brutal, and it’s basically a self defense mechanism. But it shouldn’t be allowed to perpetuate through college (and High Schools should try to open things up more so it isn’t such a boys club). I don’t think any of that will get us to parity in the tech work force, but we were up near 40% once before, it shouldn’t be hard to get back there.

                Finally, I think it’s also important to be very clear about what constitutes “women in tech”. We have a smaller percentage of women in our development team, but we have a lot more on our support, services, and leadership teams. These are all women with STEM degrees, but they are not in the development trenches. Instead they are interfacing with customers and vendors and keeping everything humming along. Our Service & Support engineers are not just answering phones and email, they are working with customers and helping them to solve their complex technical and engineering issues. They are very much “in tech”, they just aren’t writing volumes of code, and I think they’d be very offended if they got lumped in with non-tech workers.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Regarding the workplace specifically, your ‘toxic nerd’ must be something that pops-up more often in CS than it does in other engineering fields.


                That. I get the whole “men are jerks” thing, but there are so many clustered in CS (as opposed to any or all of the other fields) that it massively distorts this field so much more than the others?

                In every work place I’ve been in, unprofessionalism, by anyone against anyone, is an instant ticket to unemployment. Various people have demonstrated that over the years in various ways. As a rule of thumb it’s drunk salesmen who do the men-are-jerks things and not the engineers.

                I’ve never run into it, and my attractive, athletic, highly intelligent daughter majoring in computer engineering has also never run into it (I’ve asked her directly). Now maybe that’s a local thing, but at the moment we have people pointing to the lack of females in CS and claiming it must be proof of intense discrimination… even though locally we see the ratio but not the toxic nerds.

                Maybe she’ll run into it later. Or maybe the issues go a lot deeper and the number of jerks is pretty constant across all fields.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to greginak says:

                Your “sampling” argument is meaningless because he’s only applying the “brain” argument to the population as a whole, i.e. not to software engineers much less people who work at Google.

                Assume Google is only interested in the top 1% (and there’s such a vast difference in the productivity between high level SW people and low or even average SW and maybe they should).

                If you assume the only reason SW isn’t 50/50 is because of microaggressions and other discrimination, then in theory you could hire 50/50 if you put enough pressure on the HR department or just let them do their thing. That memo suggests Google is well down this path.

                However the male/female ratio for software engineers is something like 88/12 (different sources put it at different levels, 12 is a handwave average of sources, I wouldn’t be shocked at 15 but I also wouldn’t be shocked at 9).

                If that is the “natural” ratio (and something close to that ratio is present at every level of education), then if Google wants to hire 50/50 they need the top 1% of male and the top 8% of females that present themselves.

                You can somewhat get away from that with strong female recruiting (although why you’re not simply trying to recruit that upper 1% regardless of gender is something of an issue and lots of places have strong female recruiting), but telling HR their top priority is gender and not talent results in lowering standards. If that’s not a problem it should be.

                This is the quarter page summation of that guy’s memo without the sources and arguments about biology. He might have had to make bio arguments because that’s where the science is and because the default Google HR position is “microaggressions”.Report

              • greginak in reply to Dark Matter says:

                I’ve explained it as many ways as possible. He is talking about diversity programs at Google so using population avg’s is not directly applicable since it’s a different unique sample.

                There is no natural ratio. Any percantage of hires is affected by many things most of which are being ignored and far more than whatever can be gleaned from population surveys.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to greginak says:

                Are you trying to claim that, at Google, the 8th percentile female resume is every bit as good as the 1st percentile male resume? How does that work?

                Do they offer way more money to females than males?Report

              • greginak in reply to Dark Matter says:

                How do you measure resumes in percentiles? There could be somewhere between a handful to a dozen or more measures that could be used to assess people. And those don’t even address a variety of work skills. At a place like Google, or in universities like Harvard, there are far more qualified candidates then they have positions for. Or in other words for every open job that have 10 or 50 or 100 people prospective employees who could do the job. Each brings a unique set of skills and qualities.Report

              • George Turner in reply to greginak says:

                Well, my resume would include assembly language for
                6502, 6809, 68HC11, 8080, Z-80, 8086, 8087, 80×86, 68000, and the Apollo AGC, which is an abortion that somehow didn’t die as fast as it should have.. Plus some of the later stuff.

                Languages are COBOL, FORTRAN, Pascal, C, C++, Lisp, new crap based on C, and also-rans like Modula-2, LOGO, PL/I, Forth (I wrote a Forth interpreter in 8080 assembly when I was a teen, shortly after I’d laid out my first schematic for an 8-bit ALU) .and of course other languages that died.. I also dominate PLC programming, which bridges a gap between hardware and software thinking.

                I’ve come to hate most instruction sets. Hardware can detect most loop end conditions, and a branch can be automatic, instead of wasting machine cycles on all those compare branch instructions.

                There’s just a pure joy to a good algorithm, properly expressed. There’s a joy in making it execute in real time to solve a real problem. I’m not sure it’s something that can be taught to those who don”t already feel it.

                One day us old timers should get together like D-Day veterans and reminisce about our time on PDP-11’s, Data General Novas, and S-100 systems, because the people on earlier systems are going to be dropping like flies soon.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to greginak says:

                At a place like Google, or in universities like Harvard, there are far more qualified candidates then they have positions for.

                Translation: Google has access to vast hoards of highly qualified females, and it’s only discrimination why they wouldn’t have gender balance.

                This is no doubt true for most fields, for software if you have too many “qualified” candidates then you should increase your benchmarks until you don’t and it matters a lot and makes a massive difference.

                “I observed something fairly early on at Apple, which I didn’t know how to explain then, but have thought a lot about it since. Most things in life have a dynamic range in which average to best is at most 2:1. For example if you go to New York City and get an average taxi cab driver versus the best taxi cab driver, you’ll probably get to your destination with the best taxi driver 30% faster. And an automobile; What’s the difference between the average car and the best? Maybe 20% ? The best CD player versus the average CD player? Maybe 20% ? So 2:1 is a big dynamic range for most things in life. Now, in software, and it used to be the case in hardware, the difference between the average software developer and the best is 50:1; Maybe even 100:1. Very few things in life are like this, but what I was lucky enough to spend my life doing, which is software, is like this. So I’ve built a lot of my success on finding these truly gifted people, and not settling for ‘B’ and ‘C’ players, but really going for the ‘A’ players. And I found something… I found that when you get enough ‘A’ players together; when you go through the incredible work to find these ‘A’ players, they really like working with each other. Because most have never had the chance to do that before. And they dont work with ‘B’ and ‘C’ players, so its self policing. They only want to hire ‘A’ players. So you build these pockets of ‘A’ players and it just propagates.”

                -Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs – the lost interview.Report

              • greginak in reply to Dark Matter says:

                There is no way to pick A players without your own biases, conscious and unconscious, coming into play. And every bodies definition of an A player will be different. And there certainly aren’t tests to find A players. I’m assuming he ran out of A players a long time ago to work on itunes.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to greginak says:

                There is no way to pick A players without your own biases, conscious and unconscious, coming into play.

                Unconscious biases? If that’s actually a thing (and some of the links in the Google memo suggest it’s vastly overstated or not a thing), then we can simply obscure gender on resumes.

                In reality, yes, A-listers have resumes filled with high level accomplishments and the “biases” argument is just diversity-speak for “we need to put our thumbs on the scales”.

                Your solution seems to be one set of standards for males and a different set for females. This instantly creates most of the nasty office politics you’re presumably trying to avoid. The office gets turned into a “boy’s club” because the A-listers are legitimately be more deserving of promotion, work on “can’t fail” assignments, and the statistics will look really ugly to an outsider.

                No amount of rhetoric changes that for every one female A player there are 8 males.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Well, look at chess, which has no barriers to entry and no biased judges with their thumb on the scales.

                There have only been 11 female grandmasters, and two of them were Polgars, raised as a science experiment. Judit Polgar is unquestionably the best female player ever, though Hou Yifan might one day surpass her. Judit beat both Karpov and Kasparov, and she beat Kasparov when he was ranked #1. Interestingly, both Hou and Judit were playing chess almost as soon as they could hold the pieces. Hou was beating adults when she was three.

                About 30 women have had a rating above 2500, which is the general cut point for a grandmaster. To become a women’s grandmaster only takes a rating of 2300.

                The chess community has been wrestling with the issue for a long, long time. “Sexism” isn’t a valid answer, even when sexism clearly exists. Judit Polgar beat more than a few sexists, because the board doesn’t care about politics.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Dark Matter says:

                Are you trying to claim that, at Google, the 8th percentile female resume is every bit as good as the 1st percentile male resume? How does that work?

                The point he’s trying to make is pretty straightforward and, yes, that’s one possible outcome because we honestly don’t know. A few scenarios:

                1) Men are 100% equal to women but the process that results in them getting a CS degree selects for men and women equally. Then the distributions are the same both in childhood and when resumes are submitted to Google.

                2) Women are naturally way worse than men at programming but they’re also discouraged from going into programming so only the very top tail of the bell curve even tries. The end result is only a handful of female programmers, all of whom are the programming equivalent of Wonder Woman, so the distributions are totally different, possibly with very different results at the median and upper tails.

                3) Women are naturally 10x better programmers than men but simply don’t bother to go into CS programs at all. Perhaps interest in CS in women is negatively correlated with skill so we only end up with a handful of female programmers, most of whom are terrible.

                Without having an understanding of the selection system that alters the population of “100% of people at birth” and selects it down to whatever percentage of them are actually qualified engineers, you can’t use the starting population distributions as a replacement for knowing the Google applicant pool distributions. If you do, you’re assuming that the process from birth to graduation with a CS degree is identical for men and women, which seems very unlikely to be true. It’s not a random sample at all, so why would you assume it’s a representative one?Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                If you’re trying to claim that only the top tail females are in the field, then you should be calling for removing names/sex-references from resumes (etc) and letting everyone succeed on their own.

                However I think this approach was tried and the results didn’t generate results that would satisfy the 50/50 crowd.

                My personal observation has been that women are people. They can be brilliant or idiots just like everyone else. I also think being female opens more doors than it closes in the SW field, or at least has so far… which raises more questions than it answers as far as gender balance goes.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Dark Matter says:

                If you’re trying to claim that only the top tail females are in the field

                I think most software engineers love top tail females – in yoga pants.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Dark Matter says:

                If you’re trying to claim that only the top tail females are in the field…

                Why in the world would you think that’s my claim?? The whole point is that we *cannot know that* or anything like it.

                I also think being female opens more doors than it closes in the SW field, or at least has so far…

                That hasn’t been mine, depending on what you mean by opening doors. Getting an interview at a big company? Maybe. Being given the benefit of the doubt and being treated with respect by your colleagues? Getting the high risk, high visibility assignments that advance careers? Maybe not so much.

                This is also a reason why diversity programs for hiring concern me. I don’t know to what extent they make life easier for women, but I do think they do help to make a lot of good engineers suspect in the eyes of their peers.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                Why in the world would you think that’s my claim?? The whole point is that we *cannot know that* or anything like it.

                You’re trying to raise the evidence bar so high that we can’t prove anything, or even suggest anything.

                This leaves us with two potential courses of action. One, dismantle diversity programs until we know what the heck we’re doing and what’s going on. Two, continue with these programs as a default except now they can’t be questioned because we don’t know what’s going on.

                This is also a reason why diversity programs for hiring concern me. I don’t know to what extent they make life easier for women, but I do think they do help to make a lot of good engineers suspect in the eyes of their peers.

                That is exactly my concern as well. And I should probably mention I’m being selfish here in two ways.

                First, my daughter is going into this field and I don’t want her lumped in with idiots.

                Two, I want HR hiring the best, regardless of gender/race/etc, because I’ll be working with them and various projects will fail if they don’t. Not “best woman”, not “best man”, just “best”.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Dark Matter says:

                You’re trying to raise the evidence bar so high that we can’t prove anything, or even suggest anything.

                This isn’t asking a lot. We have a state with a zillion confounding variables between the starting distribution and the final one. There are just no good conclusions to be drawn about the input from what we get on the output unless we detangle at least some of the confounding variables.

                I wouldn’t be at all surprised if, on average, men and women had a different population distribution at birth for a bunch of different aptitudes. But I know without a doubt that there are huge selection biases in the childhood-to-Google pipeline that massively affect the distributions in a gender-specific way.

                The innate differences, if they exist, are likely to be small and the confounding variables are quite obviously huge, so there’s absolutely no reason to think that you can use the unadjusted final data set to say anything about innate differences that come in before all of the confounding variables are applied.

                You’re simply barking up the wrong tree, analytically speaking. And this is coming from somebody who usually pushes to soften the attacks against people who try to make those measurements.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                You’re simply barking up the wrong tree, analytically speaking.

                Where are you trying to go with this? If you’re claiming an 8:1 ratio doesn’t exist, or is trivial for Google to overcome, then you need to do something other than claim we don’t have perfect information (and granted, we don’t).

                Yes, it’s possible there is no problem because of other factors in play. It’s also possible the other factors in play make things worse, not better.(*)

                If a lack of perfect information undoes an argument then there are no arguments for anything.

                (*) (When I think of other factors “worse” seems likely… although I tend to see the Dark side of things)Report

              • George Turner in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                In the beginning there were three languages. The first was FORTRAN, which was for scientists and engineers. The second was LISP, which was for pure computer science.(Science is to computer science what hydrodynamics is to plumbing.) And then, for people with great verbal skills who find algebra challenging and who can’t deal with Polish notation, we created COBOL.

                A top programmer I know went to a talk on some new IBM machine and came back and told me “I’ve always laughed at COBOL, but they said their COBOL compiler is so highly optimized that it can often turn a line of code into one machine instruction!” I replied “Maybe a line of COBOL doesn’t do very much.” He couldn’t stop laughing.Report

              • veronicad in reply to gregiank says:

                The question is whether the differences justify an 80/20 split, when we see much smaller differences in mathematics and the natural sciences. Scott A wants us to believe that is because women in mathematics all want to be teachers. Megan McArdle wants us to believe her lack of interest in building fiber networks on the weekends explains all of this.

                Nonsense. 80/20 is an enormous divide.

                First, yeah I know a number of women in mathematics who in fact went into teaching. Why not? It’s a decent job with many rewards. But still, they have to learn the math. In fact, the women I know in mathematics love the math. The talk about it constantly. Second, like McArdle, few things would bore me more than setting up some shitty network in my garage. I have better things to do. That said, I make a perfectly fine software engineer.

                Cuz I like math and abstraction. The fact that computers are coarse and clumsy physical things annoys me profoundly. “Dicking around” with them is a huge waste of my time, when I can be making them do math-things with my brain.

                Sure, abstractions are “leaky.” I’m a big girl. I can deal. But let me do the big-math-thinking. That is where my talent lies.


                Honestly, I think I know why there is such a large divide between female and male software engineers, and why it emerged at the time that it did. It’s the same reason women avoided comic book stores and roleplaying clubs. It is not that comics or roleplaying should be uninteresting to women. After all, the draw to stories and drama is not so different between the sexes, even if you can find some psychological trait with a p-value below 0.05. That’s not the point. They were repelled by the culture of those spaces, a culture created by-and-for socially awkward, sexually frustrated nerdy men.

                This is not a pleasant topic, but it’s the truth.

                Being a nerd myself, and wanting very much to create spaces not dominated by the geek social fallacies, spaces that are welcoming to a variety of people with a variety talents, experiences, and cognitive styles — I’ve long been on the side of nerds figuring out how not to be unpleasant creeps.

                This is just more gamergate, on and on, endless.

                But with much higher stakes.

                Have you noticed that Damore ran straight to the alt-right/MRAs to get his story out. One suspect he was already on board with their toxic stew. (Honestly, it was always clear to me. His choice of language and topic were giant red flags.)


                I don’t know what to do about this. Men like Damore are misguided. Their attitudes are unacceptable.

                Liz Fong-Jones has some thoughts (which are sadly laid out as one of those weird Twitter essays). I quite liked this article she links to:


                This evening at the office, waiting for our lovely now-cancelled “town hall”, I went into the women’s bathroom. It was empty, but on the mirror was a sticky note. It read, “You belong here.”

                I almost cried.Report

              • George Turner in reply to veronicad says:

                So how do you explain a 98 to 2 split in auto mechanics?Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronicad says:


                V, I’m not trying to be rude here (& I apologize in advance if I am), but is your experience typical of most girl geeks? I mean, when did you begin to transition physiologically, because if one of the questions here is that there are developmental differences in the brain between boys & girls that are strongly influenced by hormones, then you are (depending on when you began to transition) probably a very atypical case.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon It is rude to ask that, in any context, IMO, but from what I’ve seen, @veronica-d had a lot of childhood commonalities / has a lot of existing commonalities with other girl geeks I know. Both in terms of how her brain works and in terms of her experiences, both positive and negative. I know scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and librarians (many of my library friends have one or more science degrees), across a wide variety of ages and races. Some are trans women, some are trans men or nonbinary and wouldn’t call themselves a girl geek now, but were treated as such growing up, some are queer, most are as straight and as non-trans as they come. But we ALL have far more in common than not when it comes to experiences of being actively pushed away from science and passively treated to a crappy working environment in one or more classrooms or jobs because of our gender. And all sound pretty much exactly the same (ie barely different from straight cis men) when in the throes of a geekly passion. It honestly baffles me sometimes that so many men in these fields can hold such bizarre theories about the women they work with, and be so selective in their choice of what science to believe. Evopsych, or its earlier iteration, sociobiology, is bad not just because it’s non-replicable but because it is *not logical* to pick one explanatory hypothesis when a class of undergrads could come up with at least 5 equally valid hypotheses, and then further muddy the waters by confusing causation with correlation, and then insist you’ve proved something. If your work is neither falsifiable nor predictive, it’s not science and does not deserve to be treated as such. This has nothing to do with whether it’s interesting or worthwhile – it may or may not be – it just doesn’t get to wrap itself in the mantle of scientific method as a defense. (FWIW I get just as mad about implicit association tests as I do about women-are-generally-not-suited-for-STEM theories, so I’m an equal opportunity pseudo-science hater.)

                Also if you want some really good, *rigorous* social psych about these topics, I would recommend the work of Claude Steele on stereotype threat. Whistling Vivaldi is his recent popular book, which makes a lot of clear references to both his own and others’ academic work, or you could probably just stick his name into Google Scholar.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:

                I’m not asking about the social aspect of it.

                One of the claims being kicked about is that women who excel at tech show a very early interest in it, and they do so because they have certain aspects of early brain development that parallel men (I can’t find the link at the moment, but it was one of the links BB posted). IF that is true and represents a contributing factor to why some women excel, then V was not a typical girl geek, or at the very least, her experience is more closely aligned to those of the women with who had the male pattern development (i.e. the edge cases).

                Of course, if that brain development question isn’t true, then it’s a moot point, but either way, it’s a neuroscience question, not an evo- or social-
                psych one.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon Neuroscience is rigorous but part of that rigor is that most honest neuroscientists (another category in which I know quite a few successful women, fwtw) will tell you that we know almost jack shit about the brain and brain development. So asking if some particular neuroscience theory is “true” is like asking if phlogiston is true back in the days when we were really freaking unsure why the f stuff combusted. It may or may not fit our best understanding of the facts *at the moment* but it’s way too wobbly to hang a hat on.

                Why not work on the stuff we have rigorous science for that *also* clearly indicates an appropriate applied solution (like stereotype threat) and leave the other stuff as “we’re still trying to figure that out, let’s table it and find out what happens when we fix the stuff we more fully understand and maybe that will loop back to inform the other stuff”? Not saying we should stop doing the neuroscience research (anymore than we should stop doing the basic animal behavior research that the evopysch people love to inflate!!), just saying we should stop trying to apply it to exceedingly complex problems where we already know the answers aren’t one simple thing.

                Also I literally said “almost all of the girl geeks I know – which is a ton – are like Veronica when it comes to this” and you said “but aren’t they all atypical from other girl geeks based on neuroscience?” Maybe you should trust women and their experiences more? Again, this relates to solving understood problems before focusing on the pieces we’re still fumbling at the edges of.Report

              • veronicad in reply to Maribou says:

                @oscar-gordon @maribou

                First, Maribou is right in the first thing she said. In general that is not the sort of question you should ask of a random trans woman. On the other hand, I’m not a random. Oscar has proven himself to be a decent man. I don’t mind if he asks stuff like that.

                My life. First, I didn’t begin hormones until quite late into my career. So, I spent quite a few years presenting as male at work. Second, I’m not sure if I can really separate my trans-ness from my neurodiversity. In fact, I suspect for a person like me, my transness is a neurodiversity.

                Which, this might not be generally true for trans people. This isn’t a grand theory. On the other hand, I’m hardly unique.

                So did I face “career stuff” cuz sexism. Well, I honestly don’t know. I knew from quite early that I was different from boys. I knew I didn’t relate to them at all, whereas I related to women in a deep way. I also was not okay. There is a reason I ended up quitting high school, kinda drifting, in dead end jobs. I’m not gonna say that is only cuz I was trans. After all, I have plenty of trans friends who finished school and headed directly into a cool career. My screwed up life was my own fuckup.

                Or not. Being trans, genderfucked, ADHD, of of that, yeah, it messes you up. Plus, I pushed it down deep. I hid myself really well. Literally no one suspect I was trans.

                So fuck if I know.

                But it’s not just about me. I am really weird, wildly atypical. There are so many other women and minorities in this world who matter exactly as much as I do.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronicad says:

                First, Maribou is right in the first thing she said. In general that is not the sort of question you should ask of a random trans woman.

                Well, good, my instinct wasn’t wrong (which is why I lead with the qualifier).

                Oscar has proven himself to be a decent man.

                Thank you.


                The thing I was wondering is this. For the sake of argument (because I don’t know what is and is not ‘known’ in the field), let’s say that most babies get a pretty stock brain template, and the neuro-development trends that tend to differentiate* boys from girls are hormonal driven, then in this narrow slice of experience, you had a leg up over a lot of other women trying to learn CS. You’ve often talked about how a lot of this comes easily to you, which is something I hear a lot of other guys who are good at CS say.

                The reason this stuck in my head is one of my good friends** from college has a CS degree (she spent many years writing the avionics software for military fighter jets), and I remember her talking about how she struggled to learn it all, and deal with the ‘pinheads’ who seemed to think that she was there for an MRS degree. It annoyed her, but she got through it (helps that she was a former USAF spook who spent a long time sitting just south of the Korean DMZ decrypting and translating NK communications – so her tolerance for petty BS from sexist nerds was right around zero). It’s a tough slog to struggle to learn something and deal with petty discrimination at the same time.

                Which is why I was asking about when you begin presenting as female. I kinda figured you didn’t start the physical transition until much later (I think you are about my age, and I’d have been very surprised to learn that you found a doctor in the US willing to start the hormone treatments back in the 80’s), but if you were presenting early enough, yeah, I could see the overt sexism (and then some) impacting you directly (not that other things weren’t impacting you, but again, I’m approaching a very narrow slice of experience here). Anyway, as you say, somewhere along the way you picked up the math & CS and proved yourself competent (and honestly, we’ve had enough technical discussions that I’m pretty sure you are at least two or more standard deviations above highly competent), then you begin presenting as female, right? There is a lot of mental toughness that comes from knowing that you are near the top of the game, and that you can easily prove it, that armors one against the BS.

                So in short, in this one regard, you’ve probably had it easier than you might realize (or you do realize it and I’m preaching to the choir)***.

                *Something that occured to me as I was thinking about this yesterday is that the language this topic is often treated with is kinda loaded. “Boys are better than girls at X, girls are better than boys at Y.” ‘Better’ carries a lot of weight here. The developmental differentials aren’t about better or worse, it’s about more or less effort to learn/do. This actually ties into Vikram’s post as well.

                Using our example, boys generally find it easier to pick up concepts that are central to software development, which allows them to advance faster than girls if they make the effort to do so. Conversely, if there is a woman in the field, and she is successful, there is a very good chance she’s put in a lot more effort than her male coworkers to learn the subject matter, which means a lot of determination and desire to participate in the field, which adds it’s own value to the project and team. And vice versa for other areas.

                **Big sister type, took me under her wing, taught me UNIX, tutored me in calculus, kicked my ass, etc.

                ***I wasn’t sure if I should write out this comment, but I did get it started, and you bothered to respond, so for better or worse I figured I was obligated to finish the thought.Report

              • veronica d in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon — Oh I am well aware that I have it easier than most cis women (and younger trans women). In fact, I often joke that “I tricked the patriarchy into thinking I was a boy.”

                There is a lot of mental toughness that comes from knowing that you are near the top of the game, and that you can easily prove it, that armors one against the BS.

                This, precisely. This really isn’t about me personally getting dumped on. I can hold my own. It’s about bigger stuff.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Maribou says:

                Just to add, I’m not discounting the social impacts (which would obviously kick in the moment V started presenting herself as female). I am strictly looking at this from a neurodevelopmental angle, which would be operating until the physiological transition began.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                The social impacts would kick in long before V started presenting herself as female. Social impacts don’t have to be deliberate or targeted to be felt.Report

              • Maribou in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                FWIW the analogy I heard a neuroscientist use that stuck with me, about neuroscience that’s aimed at understanding how the brain works (as opposed to the relatively easier NS of understanding how a toxin initially fucks up brain tissue or something like that):

                “It’s like a 4 year old with an iPad. They obviously have a theory of how the iPad works that can let them do interesting stuff with it, but I wouldn’t trust that theory to be anything like what’s actually happening.”Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to Maribou says:

                Also if you want some really good, *rigorous* social psych about these topics, I would recommend the work of Claude Steele on stereotype threat.

                Wiki says the big criticism against “the stereotype threat” is it may not exist after we subtract publication bias.


              • Oscar Gordon in reply to greginak says:

                How do we know evo/social psych is crap, versus just relatively new and still finding it’s feet?

                I’ve seen a lot of criticism of the fields hereabouts, but it’s all made as if we are talking about astrology or phrenology.Report

              • gregiank in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Sadly Social Psych is deeply embroiled in the current replication crisis in psych. Is it all bad…no….i actually studied it in grad school for a while and it’s really interesting. But the replication thing.

                Evo psych has been widely panned for being a lot of just so stories without any rigorous methodology. They have replication issue as well. Their research methods are generally poor. I can find some more detailed criticisms of it if needed.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to gregiank says:

                Well, all of psych is dealing with the replication crisis to one degree or another, as well as poor/questionable methodology, so that isn’t saying much.

                Still, if it isn’t too much trouble to find some reputable criticisms, I’d be interested.

                Also, IIRC, not all of the science at play here is psych, some of it is neuro, which (AFAIK), is quite a bit more rigorous. So it’s important to keep the two separate.Report

              • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Yeah i put in the Nuero stuff for that reason, it is a bit more rigorous. The point being that there are all sorts of sex differences in brains but we really aren’t sure how significant they are, what they mean and even where there are effects they are often small. Posting memo guy as presenting The Truth about sex diff is doing what all those people who criticize Neil D Tyson or I F’ing love Science people do. I’ve mentioned the sampling problem re: how it applies to Google employees.Report

              • greginak in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                @oscar-gordon So after a bit of googling here is what i got. Not exactly the internet rabbit hole i thought i’d go down tonight.

                The wikipedia page, criticism of evolutionary psychology, is a actually summation of the all the major issues. Not exactly an exciting read though.

                Here is a shorter easier to digest piece that is not anti-EP from Psych Today

                2 journal articles that are exactly as easy to read as most journal articles but have some good stuff in them.


              • Kimmi in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                We know it’s crap because we worked for the psychologists who actually have a math background, and went around conferences saying “you don’t have the statistics to back this up”

                well, evopsych generally don’t got any statistics at all.

                If you want to do real evopsych, you start with why Germans don’t kill each other in drunken brawls (selection based on beer being widely available. obstreperous people got themselves killed), and then you go grab the genes for “violent alcoholism” and show that they’re more prevalent in Native Americans.

                That’s … at least decent science, particularly if you’re using a few other discrete populations to prove your case.

                Evopsych doesn’t generally do that.Report

              • Dark Matter in reply to George Turner says:

                Hmm. That means the Engineer’s post correctly presented the state of mainstream science.

                So his actual fault was speaking the honest, science backed truth, with which many people strongly disagree. Then the lynch mob formed and tossed him out without bothering to review either the research or what he’d actually said.

                Anyone, does this change his legal standing?Report

              • gregiank in reply to Dark Matter says:

                The memo’s guys science was heavily cherry picked. He completely doesn’t’ understand the concept of sampling which i noted somewhere in the thread. His science has a strong POV and is not a simple and accurate description.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to George Turner says:

                “Quite a lot of cognitive scientists said he has the science right.”



                X X X XReport

              • Okay, so if I am understanding you correctly, you think Olson is wrong about what the law says, but you would agree with the laws being written or interpreted that he is correct?

                It seems noteworthy that many who support the firing are arguing that Google has to – and nobody should be mad at them our the outcome – because of legal liabilities.

                My sense is that Google would have done it even without legal liability, but I’m not really not sure if a less PR-conscience or conservative employer (say, JR Simplot) would have been compelled to. And I’m quite interested to hear from more people on whether or not it should.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Will Truman says:

                @will-truman @pd-shaw

                Cal Government Code 12940 states:

                “12940. It is an unlawful employment practice, unless based upon a bona fide occupational qualification, or, except where based upon applicable security regulations established by the United States or the State of California:

                (a) For an employer, because of the race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status of any person, to refuse to hire or employ the person or to refuse to select the person for a training program leading to employment, or to bar or to discharge the person from employment or from a training program leading to employment, or to discriminate against the person in compensation or in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.”

                Section (j)(1):

                “(j) (1) For an employer, labor organization, employment agency, apprenticeship training program or any training program leading to employment, or any other person, because of race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status, to harass an employee, an applicant, an unpaid intern or volunteer, or a person providing services pursuant to a contract. Harassment of an employee, an applicant, an unpaid intern or volunteer, or a person providing services pursuant to a contract by an employee, other than an agent or supervisor, shall be unlawful if the entity, or its agents or supervisors, knows or should have known of this conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. An employer may also be responsible for the acts of nonemployees, with respect to sexual harassment of employees, applicants, unpaid interns or volunteers, or persons providing services pursuant to a contract in the workplace, where the employer, or its agents or supervisors, knows or should have known of the conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. In reviewing cases involving the acts of nonemployees, the extent of the employer s control and any other legal responsibility that the employer may have with respect to the conduct of those nonemployees shall be considered. An entity shall take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment from occurring. Loss of tangible job benefits shall not be necessary in order to establish harassment.”

                The question here is whether the memo rises to the level of “knows or should have known of this conduct and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.”

                I don’t think the existence of the memo creates any liability for Google yet but I can see how the phrasing of j(1) makes Google HR and Executives feel like they needed to take pre-emptive action in this case especially with the other horrible stories that have plagued tech this year regarding sexual harassment of female employees and it getting ignored by HR.

                So far there has not been much information about what the guy was like as an employee and how he interacted with his female colleagues. We also don’t know how much Google fired the guy for being a liability waiting to happen or because he showed himself to not be a team player.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                But he was a team player. He was pointing out why the team was failing to attain its objectives and suggesting alternate strategies.

                He supports diversity but said Google’s methods of achieving it were counter-productive regarding that goal. He still loves Google, and said the angry reaction came from management.Report

              • bookdragon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                We also don’t know how much Google fired the guy for being a liability waiting to happen or because he showed himself to not be a team player.

                Why not both/and? Not a team player hurts productivity, and someone 1/3 of your company would be uncomfortable working with is a liability, even if a nonlegal one.

                As to interacting w/ female colleagues, the other thing that seems to be missed is that Google has a peer review system where the evaluation of other employees affects your performance review and therefore raises/advancement. If you were a woman there, how would you feel about Damore evaluating you?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to bookdragon says:

                If any of us walked into the break room tomorrow and announced to a crowd of colleagues that “[Subset of employees Y] is biologically inferior and shouldn’t have been hired,” how many of our employers wouldn’t at least try to fire us?Report

              • j r in reply to Will Truman says:

                As someone who supports at-will employment arrangements, seeing someone get fired for sticking his neck on disseminating controversial opinions on a sensitive topic doesn’t bother too much. Workplace culture matters and employers would do well to manage it. At the same time, I have a pretty significant preference for the idea that your employer buys your time and your productivity, not you acquiescence to politically correct ideas. Where to draw the line? I honestly don’t know.

                Here is what I do think, though. We have some choices. We can live in a world where Google fires some guy for spreading ideas outside of the accepted wisdom on diversity, but that’s the same world where Colin Kaepernick can’t find a QB job, because he wouldn’t stand up for a magic song. Or we can support the norm that employers should respect a wide latitude when it comes to thoughts and actions and tolerate dissent, so long as those dissenting actions don’t cause harm to anyone or create a negative work environment.

                Whenever I say something like this, lots of people pop up to try and argue why these two things are clearly not the same and why one is completely justifiable while the other is just the worst. Personally, I find that a completely uninteresting conversation. We will either live in one world or we will live in the other. The idea that if you just keep fighting for your side, you’ll end up winning and vanquishing the other side is an illusion. And yet, it’s an illusion that lots of folks have bought into.Report

              • George Turner in reply to j r says:

                The Kaepernick question is one of national loyalty. If he won’t stand for the national anthem then he doesn’t support us, and would’ve supported the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. That’s why there are no British whites in the NFL and no British baseball players in the Major League. Their presence on the field would remind fans of that terrible night and how British tyranny was barely averted. We’d have to start the games with “God Bless America” or some other lame song like “It’s a Small World After All”.

                James Damore, the fired memo author, on the other hand, is a proud American Harvard graduate who was fiercely loyal to Google and wanted Google to perform better as a business. He’s not there to entertain crowds, he’s there to write code that will make Google rich and successful. Nobody would have known who he is except that fascists outed him and then fired him. And yes, they are fascists, just like we fought in the invasion of Sicily. Right in the who’s who of Google executives you see names like Bisciglia, Otellini, Martelli, Giampaolo, Costolo, Salvetti, Mazzocchi, Molinari, and Limoncelli. Coincidence? Perhaps. Or perhaps not.Report

              • notme in reply to George Turner says:

                Don’t miss out on spike Lee’s ironically named “stand with kaepernick” rally to protest the fact that no one will hire him. I guess he should also tell his gf not to insult the team owners.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to j r says:


                I agree. My point below re: Kaep was not that his unemployment was “wrong” but that it is clearly motivated by his political activism and not his play, as evidenced by the numbers 538 lays out. My issue is folks arguing, “It’s cuz he sucks!” which simply isn’t backed up by the data.

                “…create a negative work environment.” This is an interesting part of your comment. I don’t disagree with it but it puts us into fuzzy territory.
                “Larry keeps quoting from ‘Mein Kampf’ in the break room. It’s making everyone really uncomfortable.” Should we fire Larry?
                “Larry keeps using the break room to pray towards Mecca. It’s making everyone really uncomfortable.” Should we fire Larry?
                Tod often points out that issues of seeming good versus evil are usually really issues of one idea of good in tension with another idea of good. Even extreme examples follow this. Did the Nazis think they were evil and doing evil for evil’s sake? No… most probably thought they were the virtuous ones.

                Now that’s an extreme example but eventually businesses (and society) needs to decide which ideas of good they hold. American society vis a vis the law tends to favor “freedom of speech and expression” as a more important good than “emotional comfort”… but this isn’t universally accepted either.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Kazzy says:

                It’s difficult to argue that Kaep created a negative work environment when his teammates voted him the most inspirational player.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Well then his teammates should pay him because the fans sure won’t. A negative work environment isn’t when you’re coworkers don’t like you, it’s when your customers won’t do business with you.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

                Yeah, I can make stuff up too.Report

              • notme in reply to Kazzy says:

                Ok, Keep was fired bc of his political action on field. So what? He damaged the team and it’s brand.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to notme says:

                Kaep wasn’t fired.Report

              • notme in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Sorry I should have said not retained by the team.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to notme says:

                Under his contract, Kaep had the option to stay with the 49ers another year and chose not to exercise it.Report

              • notme in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I guess he should have stayed, then.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to notme says:

                I cannot argue with you there.Report

              • DensityDuck in reply to Will Truman says:

                The problem with saying “free speech” is the same as the thing I said earlier about saying “evopsych”. There’s a script that people run when those words come up, and they think that parroting that script is all they need to do. They think that discussion of the issue is useless because there isn’t a discussion, just a right answer and a wrong one, and everyone knows the right answer, and anyone who insists on pushing the wrong one has Nefarious Reasons for doing it.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      “This is how you make it and not get fired…”

      Marketing from the 80’s for home computers is why we see less females in software?

      I (an adult) buy computers for myself, my kids use them when I’m not and/or they use my disguards. Lots of adults do this, half of their children are female.

      Small differences in starting out can result in LARGE differences in how things end because people play to their strengths and differences re-enforce themselves. For example, most Canadian professional hockey players are born in January or February because the Canadian hockey leagues group children by calendar year. The children born early have the advantage when they’re 5, that gives them an advantage which then compounds.

      IMHO (with no research) the small difference which gets compounded in Software is: Which gender, when they’re 11-14 years old, is more interested in objects rather than people?

      After that you’re looking at the Canadian hockey league and everything is self reinforcing. The kids who are interested and more experienced in year one are even more interested and experienced next year, playing catch up gets harder and harder, the weaker kids drop out.

      And “weaker” is eventually “almost everyone”. Wiki claims about one worker out of 200 is software (less if we include non-workers). Software is hard, experience counts.Report

      • veronicad in reply to Dark Matter says:

        Back in the early 80’s, very few families had a home computer. They were definitely a weird thing to purchase, and often were purchased specifically so your kid could learn shit with it.

        So the thing was, many of my friends had home computers, mostly Apple II’s, with a few TRS-80’s floating around — this was before Atari hit the market. The IBM was still on the horizon, although my neighbor worked as an engineer at the IBM facility in Boca Raton. I was friends with his kid. They guy let he and I goof around with this CPM machine he had in his garage. (Eventually he got a PC, cuz dad worked on the project.)

        Anyway, it wasn’t until high school that my parents broke down and bought me a computer, and Apple II+, on which I taught myself to program. (And BTW, the 6502 was a pain in the butt.)

        So yeah, to the degree these were presented as “things for boys” would definitely affect how many women jumped on the bandwagon. Likewise the degree they were pushed as “things for weird, nerdy boys.”

        To discuss that, however, we have to get into why nerd-sexism plays out so differently from general sexism. It’s a difficult conversation. I recall in high school, plenty of girls did well in math. Fewer were involved with computers. I also recall the dudes in computer club were — well — we were an awfully dysfunctional group of jerks. It was very cliquish and weirdly status driven. Like, who had access to which cool software was a really big deal. Who owned what computer. Etc.

        Honestly, it was really gross.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to veronicad says:

          Computer club? I taught myself at home, computers were that rare, and I’m not sure my social skills were up to anything alive.

          Which is kind of the point.Report

          • veronicad in reply to Dark Matter says:

            @dark-matter — Keep in mind that ADHD and ASD present very differently for girls compared with boys. One of the differences is the nature of friendship. I recall reading (although I can’t find a link), that boys with ADHD often have few friends, and in turn often play with imaginary friends. By contrast, girls with ADHD often form close bonds with a single friend. (Growing up, I did both at various times.) In any case, learning to program can be a solitary activity, but having friends and mentors can be a tremendous boost. After all, in a world where most learning was done from magazines or books — unless you could afford time on a BBS, which I could not — knowing which books is critical.

            I begged my parents to buy me programming books, often selected with little information from a catalog. Sometimes they gave me the money. Often they did not. Thus my skills lagged behind my friends, simply because they had resources I did not. I recall trying to build relationships in computer club, to get access to software and knowledge. Help was sometimes shared, but just as often it was withheld. They guys who “ran the show” were arrogant jerks.

            (I went to a very posh suburban school filled with rich kids. I was not a rich kid.)

            I recall once stealing money from my parents so I could go buy the Feynman Lectures on Physics. I was a very weird kid.

            In any case, it is foolish to think that the gulf we see between weird-brained “tech dudes” and weird-brained women is purely our brains. Culture almost certainly plays a big role. Likewise, we need many more software engineers than we currently have. There is no reason we should limit the field to only weirdo boys without social skills who present on the ASD or ADHD spectrum. Instead, we should have an open, inviting culture space based on capability, instead of a tolerance for social dysfunction.

            I repeat, cuz this is fucking important: we should have an open, inviting culture space based on capability, instead of a tolerance for social dysfunction.Report

            • Oscar Gordon in reply to veronicad says:

              One way it’s getting better is stuff like FIRST, which gives the geeks of both genders a chance to not only shine, but do so in a way that allows their non-geeky peers to appreciate them.Report

      • Brent F in reply to Dark Matter says:

        That hockey example isn’t true at all. Its an idiotic Gladwellism that doesn’t hold up to any scrutiny.

        What happens is the is a historical bias to selecting 18 year old players in the draft from the first quarter of the year. Its not nearly most players are from just January and Febuary, more like a double chance of being drafted with that birthdate rather than from the end of the year.

        There’s pretty much no gap in professional career performance by age though.

        Where there is a significant permanent birthdate gap is in major junior (ages 16-20), which are disproportionately from earlier in the year. But that’s because a few months of development is a significant factor at that level, so the marginal players (rather than the stars who will become pros) tend to skew to an earlier birthdate.

        Now there is something of a birthdate effect at the pro level, but it only amounts to players from the first quarter of the year being overrepresented as about 30% of the population rather than 25%. Not the massive effect you’re claiming.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Brent F says:

          I stand corrected.

          It was an espn claim in 2008 by Malcolm Gladwell, who apparently made the whole thing up. I feel good that it wasn’t a simple urban myth, but it was definitely an outright lie.

          Thank you.Report

  12. Jesse says:

    They did a study of hostility to women players by men in a first-person shooter video game, where they could see the scores of everyone playing. Turned out the men who were most hostile to the women players were the worst players themselves, while the best male players were supportive to other players, both male and female.

    This is interesting, because I think it’s a partial explanation of what’s happening to a certain extent in the tech world. For a long time, the tech world was an island, where the usual rules of the workplace didn’t matter. You didn’t have to dress like normal jobs, you didn’t have to interact with people like normal jobs, you didn’t even have to keep your mouth shut like other jobs, because everybody just cared you could do the job and at the time, that was in short supply. Plus, you got the job originally because you took the same CS classes and did MST3K marathons with Randy, the hiring manager at the time.

    Now, cut to years later, and while you’re doing well, you’re not one of the superstars. You haven’t created a start-up that got bought up by millions by Microsoft or Amazon or Cisco or where ever. Plus, now there’s a whole new generation of people entering the industry. Women complaining about the obvious scientific things you point out in emails, coders from India that replaced your buddy Rick at 3/4 the wages, and even worse, now you have to go to all these stupid diversity seminars. Your new manager is younger than you, a woman, and just complains about Trump all the time.

    You’re starting to get worried. You thought you had it good. Sure, you were never going to strike it rich or anything, but you had security and autonomy because you had a skill set that nobody else had. But now, the ‘normies’ are gaining the same skills you have and turning your office slowly into every other office in America.

    In the end, it’s easier to believe you’re failing because those women/SJW’s/foreigners are getting unfair advantage than that you’re just not as good as you thought you were because of limited competition.Report

  13. DensityDuck says:

    “Google guy has no right to expect employment, he should have known that he could be fired for having opinions his employers considered provocative or unacceptable, this isn’t some kind of political retribution and anyway the First Amendment only applies to the government, and conservatives suggesting that he shouldn’t have expected to see consequences for his speech are either hypocrites or fools”

    (turns around)

    “hey y’know it’s a real problem that Colin Kapernick hasn’t been signed yet, do I hear RACISM yes I think I doooooReport

    • Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

      FWIW, I don’t think the issue is that he holds these opinions but that he chose to spout them off to his fellow colleagues in a work-place forum.

      Also, it is REALLY curious that you used THAT piece to mock the claims that race is a factor in Kaepernick’s situation… given that the article doesn’t discuss race or racism at all. All it points out is that Kaepernick’s situation is unique when looking at his recent statistical output and the length of his unemployment. Given that the primary variable that sets him apart from other free agent QBs of his ilk is not his race but his political activism, it is pretty obvious that the article is highlighting that as the cause of his unemployment.

      And even then they don’t REALLY take a stand on whether that is right or wrong. The extent to which they consider it “wrong” that he is unemployed (… the idea that he isn’t “supposed” to be…) is a pure statistical analysis. Based solely on the numbers, KP ought to have a job in the NFL. He doesn’t. So, something other than the numbers is likely the reason why.

      From there, folks can decide for themselves if that is a valid reason. All the article is doing is using stats to undermine the argument that he is unemployed for on-field reasons.

      So, yea… double-fail.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Kazzy says:

        He’s unemployed for on-field reasons. He takes a knee during the Star Spangled Banner. Fans don’t like that. The goal of the teams is to put fans in the stands and shows on TV. They are entertainers. If the crowds don’t show up, they’re failing at their primary job, entertaining. He just went the route of the Dixie Chicks and no team wants to pay for it in lost ticket sales.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to George Turner says:

          Yea that’s… still not on-field stuff. On-field stuff is throwing and catching the ball and tackling and all the stuff players do on the field.

          The argument isn’t that consideration of his political activism is out of bounds or inappropriate. Only that the reason for his unemployment does not seem related to his play on the field when looked at through a statistical analysis lens.Report

        • Troublesome Frog in reply to George Turner says:

          He’s unemployed for on-field reasons. He takes a knee during the Star Spangled Banner. Fans don’t like that.

          At least fans are consistent about being concerned more about on-field behavior like the national anthem than they are about off-field behavior like spousal abuse and dog fighting.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to George Turner says:

          “[Kapernick is] unemployed for on-field reasons.”

          The point of the post was not to discuss Kapernick.

          “[Damore] chose to spout them off to his fellow colleagues in a work-place forum.”

          The point of the post was not to discuss Damore.Report

      • KenB in reply to Kazzy says:

        I don’t think the issue is that he holds these opinions but that he chose to spout them off to his fellow colleagues in a work-place forum.

        There are a few different issues involved, but the fact that you call this “spouting off” is telling — whether you agree with it or not, the memo wasn’t a rant. If this man had been a woman and the memo had argued that Google’s efforts to recruit women were insufficient and needed to be stepped up, but otherwise the circumstances were the same, I have to think that you wouldn’t be criticizing her for spouting off, but rather would be supporting her efforts to make her voice heard.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to KenB says:


          That’s fair. I’ll also claim a bit of ignorance in that I have spent my entire career in an ‘industry’ (private early childhood education) that feels pretty far removed from the industry being discussed, so I don’t really have an analogue for this communication tool that is being discussed.

          I’ll amend my initial statement and say that the issue was not his simply holding the opinion but seemingly the manner and method in which he made it known. I think Google’s response and the conversation surrounding this guy would be very different if he were “outed” as thinking this way by a bar buddy he got drunk and chatty with or if someone peaked into his private journal.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

            Well, the manner in which he made it known was supposed to be a confidential internal forum where people could speak freely and respectfully.

            Honestly, if it hadn’t been leaked, I don’t know that he’d have been fired as such.

            PS, am I the only one who thinks Google is going to have a serious problem on their hands if they don’t take extraordinary pains to find the leaker(s) and discipline them? It was a confidential, internal forum. Letting docs from that out has to be against company policy.Report

            • j r in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Had not realized that’s how it got out into the public sphere. This is another data point in the “everyone is a cop now” thesis.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Oscar Gordon says:


              Do you think it’s wise for Google (and whomever else) to offer such forums? I assume there are some rules (i.e., no harassment) but it just seems like this forum introduces a whole bunch of potential problems and I’m not sure the value. But maybe I just don’t understand the corporate world or tech sector or large companies.

              I’m also curious what “confidential” means here… only available to Google people? Were admins present in the forum? If so, they surely knew of the memo prior to its leaking, suggesting this was more PR than anything.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Kazzy says:

                If it operates like forums I’ve seen at other companies, it is a forum for employees to discuss internal matters, so confidential means “not for consumption outside of work”.

                As for the wisdom, it’s typically a good way to get the opinions of the rank & file, as long as it’s moderated.Report

              • Troublesome Frog in reply to Kazzy says:

                Do you think it’s wise for Google (and whomever else) to offer such forums?

                If it’s heavily moderated and understood that what you’re writing is pretty similar to talking at an all-hands meeting, I think it could be pretty useful.

                If people think it’s more like a lunch conversation between friends who know each other’s boundaries, it seems like the worst idea since Smallpox Friday. Like I said before, the one at my wife’s company seems to be more of a fever swamp than anything else. The conversation is dominated by people who are dissatisfied and unproductive enough to spend a bunch of time bitching in the electronic forum. Normal people with work to do and who care about good outcomes at the office don’t make up a useful part of the messaging volume.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                Man, I miss SmallPox Friday’s…

                Good times.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Troublesome Frog says:

                @oscar-gordon @troublesome-frog

                Thanks. When you’ve only worked for companies small enough that you know everyone’s name and most of their significant others’ names, these things feel very foreign.Report

        • j r in reply to KenB says:

          This is a good point. Almost no one walks out of Jerry Maguire rooting for Sports Management International.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

        “it is REALLY curious that you used THAT piece to mock the claims that race is a factor in Kaepernick’s situation”

        It’s the first one I happened to see. I can certainly find others, if you’d prefer.

        “[T]he article doesn’t discuss race or racism at all…[g]iven that the primary variable that sets him apart from other free agent QBs of his ilk is not his race but his political activism, it is pretty obvious that the article is highlighting that as the cause of his unemployment.”

        errrr okay well I guess if you want to suggest that racism hasn’t ever been floated as a factor in why everyone’s dumping on Kapernick, then, well, go have fun with that.

        And I really appreciate the intellectual honesty of you completely ignoring the intent of my post. I mean, not the ignoring part, but that you’re just straight-up doing it without trying to pretend like there’s some intellectual justification for it.Report

  14. Kolohe says:

    Kimoe tried to explain status, failed, and went back to the first topic. “Is there really no distinction between men’s work and women’s work?”

    “Well, no. it seems a very mechanical basis for the division of labor, doesn’t it? A person chooses work according to interest, talent, strength—what has the sex to do with that?”

    “Men are physically stronger,” the doctor asserted with professional finality.

    “Yes, often, and larger, but what does that matter when we have machines? And even when we don’t have machines, when we must dig with the shovel or carry on the back, the men maybe work faster—the big ones—but the women work longer…Often I have wished I was as tough as a woman.”

    Kimoe stared at him, shocked out of politeness. “But the loss of—of everything feminine—of delicacy—and the loss of masculine self-respect—You can’t pretend, surely, in your work, that women are your equals? In physics, in mathematics, in the intellect? You can’t pretend to lower yourself constantly to their level?”
    “I don’t think I pretend very much, Kimoe,” he said.

    “Of course, I have known highly intelligent women, women who could think Just like a man,” the doctor said, hurriedly, aware that he had been almost shouting—that be had, Shevek thought, been pounding his hands against the locked door and shouting

    (Em added, 1 short paragraph removed)
    Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossed (1974)Report