This is Google


#61

Yonatan was, by my estimate, in the top 20-50 most well-respected engineers at Google. His piece is extremely good.


#62

In this particular instance, there’s a pretty clear-cut case that the guy should have been fired. He chose to circulate a relatively tactless, poorly argued and misguided internal memo that runs contrary to Google’s corporate ethos, and is indeed likely to be actively harmful in a workplace environment.

However, if he had said some similar things in a public blog post without any particular reference to Google’s corporate policy, I think there would be much more of a free speech concern involved. Yes, in a strict de jure sense free speech is about the government not interfering with speech, but de facto freedom of speech can clearly become a concern if the social consequences become increasingly severe.

In particular, online shaming can sometimes be very powerful, and I think it’s useful to think about the consequences that someone could suffer as the result of such an event, and whether that really makes sense in proportion to just how dangerous or harmful their speech might be.

With regards to this particular memo, while it may well be harmful in a workplace environment and thus could easily warrant firing, I don’t think its contents are seriously harmful in the broader public sphere. If he were expressing similar opinions in a public blog post, especially if it didn’t reference Google’s hiring practices in particular and if he did not bring these kinds of things up in the workplace, the presence of an Internet lynch mob would rather more concerning.


#63

I don’t think someone who has those opinions should ever work in any position that requires interacting with other people.


#64

That’s pretty much every job ever though, isn’t it?

If we lived in a society with a universal basic income where people could get by without having a job at all the consequences might not be quite so onerous, but even with a UBI I think the evidence suggests that lack of work can be seriously detrimental to peoples’ overall health and well-being.

There might well be a utilitarian case that society as a whole would be better off if certain people were almost completely excluded from its day-to-day operation. However, I think this kind of argument sets a very dangerous precedent, and so one should really set the bar rather high for such extreme measures.

What exactly are the opinions that would warrant someone being almost completely excluded from modern society?


#65

Racism
Sexism
Fascism


#66

Freedom of speech just means the government itself can not punish you for your speech. Society and other societal organizations can punish you in any legal way. IANAL, but it is my understanding that misogynist is not a protected class. It is legal to discriminate against someone because they are a misogynist. You can refuse to employ someone because they are a misogynist. You can refuse their application for housing or a loan at a bank. You can refuse to allow them in your place of business. You can ban them from attending events at your private venue. PAX could ban this guy from PAX just in case he ever thinks about coming. Most importantly, other people can use their speech to denounce this person.

None of these things infringe upon freedom of speech. If you say dumb shit, nobody is going to actually stop you from saying it. The government isn’t going to stop you. Nobody can shoot you, or rob you, or beat you up. That’s not allowed. But there are, and should be, societal consequences for being anti-social. That’s right, consequences. You don’t solve consequences. You just suffer under them. That’s how the world works. If you don’t like a consequence of your own actions, you shouldn’t have done that shit to begin with.


#67

I largely agree with both Scott and lackofcheese. I believe this guy should have been fired and google to be a better place without him.

That said I don’t want this to become an echo chamber so I’m going to link to an opinion piece making what I believe to be a reasonable counter argument.

Edit: ok maybe reasonable for the first half:

But I agree that it isn’t sexism that dissuades them [women] from it, but more likely simply preferences they may have.

Emphasis and clarification added by me to show why I think maybe the writer may be a bit… horrible.


#68

Scott, while that is what “freedom of speech” means in the limited context of the First Amendment, that doesn’t really cover the full meaning of the term in the broader context of human language. Having a legally protected right to do something is only particularly meaningful if you can do it without suffering consequences that can easily be much more serious than simply being robbed or beaten up. People at large have the power to do you rather extreme harm without ever having to break the law to do it, easily worse than the kind of thing the government might do (fine you or put you in prison).

Yes, there are, indeed, very important reasons why, unlike society, the government should not be in the business of imposing consequences on free speech, and why this principle warrants special constitutional protections. However, it is also true that “free speech” has value of itself, separate from particular concerns about its relationship to the government. It is not simply de jure free speech that has value to society, but also a significant degree of de facto free speech.

No one here is claiming that there aren’t, or shouldn’t be societal consequences for being anti-social. The question is how severe those consequences ought to be. Moreover, if the anti-social behaviour in question is simply expressing one’s genuinely held beliefs, then this can be a serious concern.

In this particular case, James Damore was quite clearly rather naive and injudicious in his choice of where and how to express his views, and this warrants greater consequences. However, if someone cannot express these kinds of views in any way, shape or form without serious societal backlash on the order of tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of economic loss and serious emotional and physical distress, then I think that’s a societal issue that needs to be addressed. That’s not to say that this is an accurate portrayal of the actual consequences; hopefully James Damore doesn’t suffer anything of this magnitude. However, insofar as that kind of thing can happen, I do think that’s a step too far in terms of the societal consequences for views that are mostly anti-social rather than actively dangerous to society.


#69

As far as what might be a reasonable counter argument, this is much more along those lines:

I think the Medium article makes some pretty good points, and Yonatan Zunger is clearly a pretty smart guy who knows how to express himself. That said, I don’t think his characterization of the memo was particularly fair. I actually bothered to read the memo, and while it’s rather poorly written and structured it definitely doesn’t say anything like

how women and men are intrinsically different and we should stop trying to make it possible for women to be engineers, it’s just not worth it.

or

I think one-third of my colleagues are either biologically unsuited to do their jobs, or if not are exceptions and should be suspected of such until they can prove otherwise to each and every person’s satisfaction.

which are words that Zunger appears to be putting in James Damore’s mouth. Nothing in the memo makes either of those claims, neither directly nor indirectly.

Granted, I think it’s likely that this misunderstanding is more likely due to poor communication skills on behalf of the memo author rather than any kind of intellectual dishonesty from Zunger, but I think some extra effort was warranted to avoid this kind of misrepresentation.

Similarly, Zunger makes some valid points about the nature of engineering, but I don’t think they fully hold up in regard to the memo. Yes, engineering is, to a significant degree, people-oriented, but ultimately all jobs are about the creation of economic value, which in turn is about satisfying peoples’ wants and needs. While all jobs are people-oriented to some degree, engineering definitely classes as being more “thing-oriented” than many other jobs, especially in lower-level positions.

Also, amusingly enough, if there are indeed differences in thing-oriented/people-oriented job preferences between men and women, as the scientific literature seems to support, then James Damore is being actively counter-productive to his self-proclaimed goal of being more inclusive via non-discriminatory means when he actively perpetuates broader social stereotypes about how software engineering is solely the domain of introverts.


#70

All I know is that as a “woman” actively involved in various forms of engineering, my experience has been saturated with men who made it clear that I was and would continue to be an outsider. My experience, knowledge, insight, suggestions, questions, credentials, and word choice have been picked apart, ignored, dismissed, questioned, plagiarized, unacknowledged, and otherwise discouraged in a tediously specific and continuous way. Both submission and confrontation have been punished, my position rarely validated and more often blamed on me. So when I see studies that men prefer this, and women prefer that, it’s not surprising. I like the work, but… the people eye roll


#71

Oh, it’s definitely not surprising, and while scientific studies can tell you some useful (and often obvious) things about the overall demographics and how those correlate with various factors, when it comes to establishing the underlying mechanisms behind those effects sociology can be notoriously difficult. Common sense makes it quite clear that culture (in all its forms, including the prevalence of sexism) plays a major role here.

The studies seem to focus on the formation of “occupational interests” in younger children, and I’m not sure about the extent to which children are cognizant of some of these factors. However, for one thing, those interests are quite strongly influenced by one’s parents, and parents don’t have to be at all sexist to not want their child to have to deal with the shittiness of some male-dominated workplace cultures.


#72

And of course, the first people he speaks to publicly after? Not any of the media, mainstream or otherwise, but to conspiracy theorists, hardcore bigots and Alt-right thought leaders Stefan Molyneux(Who literally belives that feminism was invented by the CIA as a psyops plot at the behest of the NWO - or was it the illuminati? I don’t fucking care - to destabilize and destroy the traditional family unit, and that rome was destroyed by feminism and immigrants) and Jordan B Peterson(A University of Toronto professor most famous for basically being an open bigot and trying to batter people with his professional credentials when challenged).

Maybe not beliving that he didn’t mean it that way, when literally the first thing he does is use his new-found fame to join the chorus-line of proud bigots singing “Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, Come and join the Nazi Party!” at the top of their lungs from every platform afforded to them.

Edit - Also, not all is well at Google, apparently.


#73

IMO children are particularly absorbent to the pavlovian conditioning provided by parental biases. Most parents I’ve met sincerely believe and insist they are treating their child without bias, while awarding fear/caution and attention/praise in alignment with gender tropes. It’s like touching your face: you do it all the time without noticing. Doesn’t matter if you intend to or not.


#74

Quora: What do scientists think about the biological claims made in the anti-diversity document written by a Google employee in August 2017?


#75

Not really any proof here, but this thread makes very suspicious of this whole thing:


#76

I don’t buy it.

Yes, this kind of thing definitely falls within the alt-right’s playbook, so as conspiracy theories go the alt-right subversion hypothesis is well within the realm of reason a priori. The evidence is consistent with alt-right tactics, so you can’t really exclude the hypothesis from consideration.

However, all of the evidence is also quite consistent with Damore being very naive and putting up a good-faith effort at scientifically informed discussion, and subsequently feeling genuinely betrayed and marginalized.

Absent evidence of the kind that would strongly favour the alt-right subversion hypothesis over the naivety hypothesis I’m inclined to say the latter is much more likely, mostly due to the priors. On the whole, I’d assign a probability somewhere on the order of 10% to the subversion hypothesis given the evidence I’ve seen to date.


#77

Of course, regardless of its root causes I would fully expect the alt-right to take this whole event and run with it, as they are quite obviously already doing. The alt-right seems particularly good at adopting new figures into their cause as martyrs, regardless of whether those particular people identify themselves with the alt-right in any way. For another example, consider the alt-right’s treatment of PewDiePie; in short, he was somewhat unfairly treated by the media, and then the alt-right took this to mean that this was in fact the “fake news media out to smear and destroy PewDiePie”, thus adopting him as a martyr for their cause.

When you get articles like Zunger’s putting words into Damore’s mouth such as

I think one-third of my colleagues are either biologically unsuited to do their jobs, or if not are exceptions and should be suspected of such until they can prove otherwise to each and every person’s satisfaction.

or Suzanne Sadedin saying

The passing mention of IQ is interesting, since it has nothing to do with gender, which is the focus everywhere else. He’s presumably talking about race, but he doesn’t want to be branded a racist, so he keeps the reference subtle. So why risk doing it at all? It’s a dog-whistle to the alt-right.

I think that we have a serious problem.

Even if Damore is actually a literal closet Nazi, I think that coming out of the door accusing Damore of that is a terrible tactical move unless you can also convince people who are not already predisposed to believe it. Otherwise, you’re just playing into the alt-right’s hands and giving unwarranted credence to their narrative of how Damore is a martyr for free speech.

For example, Dr. Sadedin has an objective and honest assessment of the science, but along the above lines I think her characterization of the memo as as “advanc[ing] what appears to be a covert alt-right agenda” is counter-productive, because the evidence presented for that covert alt-right agenda is relatively weak.


#78

Check who Damore is niw following on Twitter.


#79

Is @Fired4Truth a parody account? It feels too good to be true. I mean, Scott fucking Adams? A bunch of NewAtheists? Jordan Peterson?


#80

For at least one thing that doesn’t pass the smell test - the idea that it’s an actual approved ad on that bus stop. Sure, it would take more than four days to get an ad through and approved for a particular location…But it wouldn’t take even two days to bash out those posters in photoshop, find a print shop or person with a large-format printer, running it off, and then Wheat-pasting it up over the top of the ad-spaces on those bus-stops.

I mean, look at it - it’s clearly regular paper, not vinyl or glossed paper as those kind of installations usually are, and a professional install doesn’t usually leave those kinds of bubbles and ripples.

I’m pretty sure - nearly 100% - that it’s not an authorized or official installation, but more than likely just vandalism.

I’m with Cheese on this one, sort of - It doesn’t smell like an organized effort to me, but rather just opportunistic action from a well-practiced and polished outrage machine. Let’s face it, the same people have been pulling this shit over and over and over and over, constantly, since 2014. It’s not the first time they’ve had a rapid and organized response taking advantage of fresh martyrs and events for their cause.

Of course, I don’t agree with him on everything he’s said here, I think he’s wrong on a few points, but that’s really not the issue at hand. This isn’t a plot, it’s just people with a lot of practice revving up the outrage engine very quickly taking advantage of the situation presented to them.