Category Archives: Education

Google’s CEO

A question:

Given that the full text of the memo is public, that it is the subject of a national debate on an important subject, that many educated people disagree with one another about what claims it made, and that clarity can only help Google employees adhere to the company’s rules going forward, would you be willing to highlight the memo using green to indicate the “much” that you identified as “fair to debate” and red to flag the “portions” that you deemed Code-of-Conduct violations?

He can’t do that, because a) he doesn’t know himself and b) maintaining uncertainty is a key element of totalitarian thought control.

[Update a couple minutes later]

The Google Archipelago: A nice round up of links from Ed Driscoll.

[Updatea a while later]

This whole thing is so rife with irony. Google may regret being a California company:

Dan Eaton, an employment lawyer, in San Diego wrote on CNBC: “Federal labour law bars even non-union employers like Google from punishing an employee for communicating with fellow employees about improving working conditions … California law prohibits employers from threatening to fire employees to get them to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular political course of action.”

He also said” “It is unlawful for an employer to discipline an employee for challenging conduct that the employee reasonably believed to be discriminatory, even when a court later determines the conduct was not actually prohibited by the discrimination laws.”

Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

[Monday-morning update]

Cathy Young has an interview with Damore, in which he provides his influencers. I’m probably going to write up something on this myself at some point. There are so many issues to unpack.

[Update early afternoon]

Yes, Pichai should go, but that’s not enough:

When you use Facebook or Google (or Twitter, or Amazon, or Netflix) you’re sharing a lot of data with a company that you have to trust won’t abuse that. It’s much harder to trust a company that has decided to aggressively pursue thoughtcrime. And it doesn’t matter where you are on the political spectrum – Damore describes himself as a centrist. But it only takes one politically incorrect utterance, as so many in academia have learned, to achieve Enemy Of The People status. And then, apparently, you’re fair game.

Can you trust a self-driving car from Google, if some new company policy might reprogram it to avoid events Google doesn’t approve? Can you trust Google to prevent its (apparently many) “social-justice warrior” employees from trawling through your personal data looking for dirt, and then leaking it?

As Robert Tracinski writes, this is the big danger for Google: “The most dangerous part is that they are now beginning to be seen by the public (or revealed, depending on how you look at it) as politicized entities. Politicized entities to whom we are giving enormous amounts of data on our lives, thoughts and interests.”

There should, at a minimum, be Congressional hearings.

From College Indoctrination

…to corporate intolerance:

It is no surprise, then, that corporations are increasingly populated with young adults who do not know how to handle political views or scientific claims they have been taught are out of bounds of public discussion. When Google’s diversity officer replied to James Damore’s email, it was an incoherent affirmation of the company’s diversity policy, coupled with an accusation of sexism. It didn’t even attempt to cite reasons why the science Damore mentioned was wrong, or why his political views about diversity policy were misguided. It just asserted they were, and then used that assertion the next day as a pretext to fire him. This is what we get when university professors abuse their power and attempt to turn students into pawns in their political game, rather than autonomous agents with the capacity (but not yet ability) to think for themselves.

Combined with the problems of journalism, which are also discussed, this is a societal disaster.

[Update a while later]

Straight talk about sex differences in the workplace.

[Update mid-morning]

No one expects the Google Inquisition.

[Late-morning update]

By firing the memo author, Google validated his thesis.

[Update a few minutes later]

I don’t often agree with David Brooks, but yes, the Google CEO should resign.

[Update early afternoon]

Google is run like a religious cult:

“Conform and carry out the rituals, and you’ll be rewarded and praised; ask any uncomfortable questions or offend the wrong people, and the threats and public shaming will be swift and ruthless. The religion in this case is a kind of intersectional feminism, its central tenets are Diversity and Inclusion, its demonic enemy is Bias, and its purifying rituals include humiliating forms of ‘training’ that resemble Maoist struggle sessions.”

“This might sound crazy to a lot of your readers, but college students should understand, since it’s a similar culture.”

This is just awful.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Ann Althouse:

Apparently, Damore wasn’t sufficiently afraid. He didn’t see that this was the unacknowledged rule. Google is a safe space, muffling the fear. That in itself is something to be afraid of. When sparing everyone fear is the order of the day, you need to fear you will be deemed the embodiment of the fear that others must be spared. Then you’re completely unsafe. And gone. No man, no fear.

And as Stalin would have said, “No problem.”

[Update a while later]

Why I was fired from Google.”

Men And Women

An interesting discussion on sex differences, spurred by the Google kerfuffle.

It is very important to the Left to minimize them. This is one of the several areas in which they are not the “party of science.”

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s sort of the tl;dr:

This seems to me like the clearest proof that women being underrepresented in CS/physics/etc is just about different interests. It’s not that they can’t do the work – all those future math teachers do just as well in their math majors as everyone else. It’s not that stereotypes of what girls can and can’t do are making them afraid to try – whatever stereotypes there are about women and math haven’t dulled future math teachers’ willingness to compete difficult math courses one bit. And it’s not even about colleges being discriminatory and hostile (or at least however discriminatory and hostile they are it doesn’t drive away those future math teachers). It’s just that women are more interested in some jobs, and men are more interested in others. Figure out a way to make math people-oriented, and women flock to it. If there were as many elementary school computer science teachers as there are math teachers, gender balance there would equalize without any other effort.

I’m not familiar with any gender breakdown of legal specialties, but I will bet you that family law, child-related law, and various prosocial helping-communities law are disproportionately female, and patent law, technology law, and law working with scary dangerous criminals are disproportionately male. And so on for most other fields.

This theory gives everyone what they want. It explains the data about women in tech. It explains the time course around women in tech. It explains other jobs like veterinary medicine where women dominate. It explains which medical subspecialties women will be dominant or underrepresented in. It doesn’t claim that women are “worse than men” or “biologically inferior” at anything. It doesn’t say that no woman will ever be interested in things, or no man ever interested in people. It doesn’t say even that women in tech don’t face a lot of extra harassment (any domain with more men than women will see more potential perpetrators concentrating their harassment concentrated on fewer potential victims, which will result in each woman being more harassed).

It just says that sometimes, in a population-based way that doesn’t necessarily apply to any given woman or any given man, women and men will have some different interests. Which should be pretty obvious to anyone who’s spent more than a few minutes with men or women.

Yup. But do read the whole thing, because it also describes just how toxic and (ironically, given the “punch a Nazi” commentary) fascist the environment in the industry has become.

[Update a while later]

The most common error in reporting on the Google memo:

To object to a means of achieving x is not to be anti-x.

The failure to apply that same logic to the author of the memo is straightforwardly frustrating for those who agree with many of the views that the memo expressed. And it should also frustrate those who disagree with the author but care about social justice.

Every prominent instance of journalism that proceeds with less than normal rigor when the subject touches on social justice feeds a growing national impulse to dismiss everything published about these subjects—even important, rigorous, accurate articles. Large swathes of the public now believe the mainstream media is more concerned with stigmatizing wrong-think and being politically correct than being accurate. The political fallout from this shift has been ruinous to lots of social-justice causes—causes that would thrive in an environment in which the public accepted the facts.

Given that many of their goals are actually terrible, I’m glad they continue to screw up like this.

[Update a while later]

The Google memo exposes a libertarian blind spot.

[Update a while more later]

Megan McArdle: As a woman in tech, I realized that these are not my people:

Thinking back to those women I knew in IT, I can’t imagine any of them would have spent a weekend building a fiber-channel network in her basement.

I’m not saying such women don’t exist; I know they do. I’m just saying that if they exist in equal numbers to the men, it’s odd that I met so very many men like that, and not even one woman like that, in a job where all the women around me were obviously pretty comfortable with computers. We can’t blame it on residual sexism that prevented women from ever getting into the field; the number of women working with computers has actually gone down over time. And I find it hard to blame it on current sexism. No one told that guy to go home and build a fiber-channel network in his basement; no one told me I couldn’t. It’s just that I would never in a million years have chosen to waste a weekend that way.

These people don’t realize the degree to which their ideology is blinding them to reality. And they don’t realize the degree to which their behavior harms their own cause:

…you still have to ask whether shamestorming Damore and getting him sacked was really the best way to convince him — or anyone else — that he’s mistaken. Did anyone’s understanding of the complex quandaries of gender diversity advance? If there were guys at Google wondering whether the women around them really deserved their jobs, did anyone wake up the morning after Damore’s firing with the revelation: “Good God, how could I have been so blind?” No, I suspect those guys are now thinking: “You see? Women can’t handle math or logic.”

And as always, the Left is impervious to irony.

[Update just before noon]

Leftists: We worship science, except when we don’t.

[Update a couple minutes later]

Google has done a horrible thing to its employees, especially its snowflakes:

Google’s monoculture has turned these employees into snarling, hate-filled, censorious little thought-police who live under the misapprehension that their seething rage is virtue. It reminds me of what happened in the Soviet Union when neighbor turned in neighbor to ensure the regime believed in their loyalty to the Right Ideas.

And they are incapable of seeing it.

I may follow Roger’s advice to start using Dogpile. But I’ll have to wean myself from Chrome, because it makes it hard to automatically use other search engines.

Google Can’t Seem To Tolerate Diversity

This is not a new problem. It goes back to Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve and (as she mentions) the mau mauing of Larry Summers out of Harvard when he had the temerity to suggest that math ability in men may have longer statistical tails than in women.

In reading commentary on Twitter, I see a lot of straw-man misrepresentation of what Damore allegedly wrote (I haven’t read it yet). For instance:

But this is what one would expect from people who view everything through a lens of racism, sexism, genderism, otherism. All that matter to them is what group you’re a member of, and the notion of treating people as individuals is anathema to them, because individualism itself is anathema to them (it’s selfish donchaknow). So when someone makes a statistical statement about a group (valid or not), they must take it as an insult to every member of that group. (Note, this isn’t the same as things like talking about “rape culture,” which in fact does implicitly accuse every man of wanting to and finding it acceptable to rape, which is where the #NotAllMen hashtag came from).

Of course many women face sexism, and of course many women have been discouraged as individuals to go into STEM for no reasons other than they’re women, and that’s terrible. And everywhere it occurs, it should be fought and women who want to and are capable of advancing in those fields should be instead encouraged. But it would be utterly illogical for any woman to be discouraged by a simple statistical reality, because no woman is a statistic.

But the notion that every group should be represented in every endeavor in exact proportion to their representation in society at large is…insane. Men and women really are different, and they are statistically likely to be more interested in, and better at, different things. So if there really is a goal that we are going to get as many percentage of women into STEM as there are in the population, it is either doomed to failure, or it will doom whatever organization that attempts to do it, in terms of having to compete with other organizations that make technical excellence their priority instead.

And if Google becomes Mozilla, I won’t weep for it. And after this incident, I will be even more adamant in not trusting them with my data. Because I’m sure I’d be at the top of one of their blacklists.

[Update a couple minutes later]

It’s ironic to note 1) That these women who claim to be so great at STEM who are upset at this are apparently unable to deal with statistics and
2) That when Larry Summers said what he said, he was actually claiming that women are on average better than men at math, because the tail goes both ways.

But apparently “average” is an alien concept to them. Perhaps they think that everyone should be above it.

[Update a few minutes later]

Some sane thoughts from Julia Galef:

…as far as I can see, there are only two intellectually honest ways to respond to the memo:

1. Acknowledge gender differences may play some role, but point out other flaws in his argument (my preference)

2. Say “This topic is harmful to people and we shouldn’t discuss it” (a little draconian maybe, but at least intellectually honest)

Unfortunately most people have taken option 3, “Pretend there is no evidence of gender differences relevant to tech and only a sexist could believe otherwise.”

I’m going to try to cite only women in this post, just because, even though it’s sexist.

[Update early evening]

Many (but surely not all–there will be many more to come) of the lies that the media has told about the memo have been collected. By a woman.

[Wednesday update]

Kirsten Powers and other women are amazed at the lying and hysteria over this.

Risk-Averse Millennials

In response to a young woman who (almost literally) poo-poos being an astronaut, Ben Domenech says that they need to seize their own destiny:

Space is the next frontier. Throughout the history of America, we have been a nation driven by the idea of the frontier—a place where law was slim and liberty was enormous, where you could make your way in the world based on your own ambition and abilities, not fenced in by the limitations of society. The idea of the frontier is a stand-in for the idea of liberty. The danger for the millennial generation today is that even as they inhabit an era providing utopian degrees of choices, they have become too fearful to actually make those choices and seize the future liberty allows. In so doing, they deny their inheritance as Americans.

We have an abundance of evidence on this front. Millennials are extremely reluctant to invest or risk their capital. UBS found that in the wake of the financial crisis, millennials appear more risk-averse than any generation since the Great Depression. Brookings has analyzed the sense of displacement driven by technology, seeing Spike Jonze’s “Her” as a prediction of the world as it will be when millennial values drive society. And Megan McArdle has written eloquently about the fear of failure of any sort, even in the smallest ways, that animates young Americans.

“The other day, after one of my talks, a 10th-grade girl came up and shyly asked if I had a minute. I always have a minute to talk to shy high school sophomores, having been one myself. And this is what she asked me: “I understand what you’re saying about trying new things, and hard things, but I’m in an International Baccalaureate program and only about five percent of us will get 4.0, so how can I try a subject where I might not get an A?”

Consider the experience of millennials today as illustrated by Aziz Ansari in “Master of None,” quoting Sylvia Path’s “Bell Jar,” on the impossibility of making choices when overwhelmed by the options before you.

If there is a novelist who predicted the risk aversion at the heart of the millennial generation, it is the man who wrote that “You can get all A’s and still flunk life.” Walker Percy’s work spoke with the voice of the displaced Southerner wrestling with the inheritance of tradition and the modern age. His understanding of dislocation and despair and regional displacement speak to a different sort of placelessness which animates this generation. His protagonists prefigure the rise of hipsters—the love of irony and pop culture and memes as insulation from seriousness, a tranquilizer for despair. Fear of failure runs through his work, and the crippling fear of making a choice in a world full of choices that could lead down the wrong path.

Read the whole thing, but there’s another point to be made here: Much of West’s perception of what it is to be an astronaut is dated, largely influenced by the Apollo mythology (and yes, I know this is an attempt to be comedic). The vast majority of space travelers of her generation are unlikely to be NASA astronauts. For many, yes, there will be math, but for many others there will not, but the real point is that there will be many, and few of them will be overtrained civil servants. Like the storm-tost’ immigrants of Lazarus’s (non-legally binding) poem discussed so much this past week, they will likely be more akin to the people who set of first from Europe for a New World, and then headed west. And many those who headed west, or their descendants, will decide that the direction of the next frontier is up from there, and then out. And regardless of the generalizations of the nature of her generation (or any), there are many members of it who will know doubt take Domenech’s advice and seize their own moment. It’s not your grandfather’s space program.

As an aside, I’d note that Nolan’s quote was likely influenced by Wilde’s aphorism that we are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars.

[Update a couple minutes later]

As usual, the comments are figuratively pedestrian when it comes to our future in space.

Venezuela

Remember all those left-wing pundits who drooled over Chavez?

Chavez’s untimely death from cancer in 2013 saw an outpouring of grief from the global left. The caudillo “demonstrated that it is possible to resist the neo-liberal dogma that holds sway over much of humanity,” wrote British journalist Owen Jones. “I mourn a great hero to the majority of his people,” said Oliver Stone, who would go on to replace Chavez with Vladimir Putin as the object of his twisted affection.

On the Venezuelan regime’s international propaganda channel, Telesur, American host Abby Martin — who used to ply her duplicitous trade at Russia Today — takes credulous viewers on Potemkin tours of supermarkets fully stocked with goods. It would be inaccurate to label the thoroughly unconvincing Martin, who combines the journalistic ethics of Walter Duranty with the charm of Ulrike Meinhof, a useful idiot. She’s just an idiot.

Brutal, but fair.

[Update a few minutes later]

Venezuela’s slide toward civil war. Unfortunately, the government confiscated the weapons (which many on the Left would love to do here, if they could pull it off). So unless we smuggle some in to them, the war won’t end well for freedom.

[Update a while later]

An AP reporter finally leaves the country:

In the early days, the shortages seemed almost whimsical. My Venezuelan friends were used to going on Miami shopping sprees. When I made trips home, they asked me to bring back perfume, leather jackets, iPhones and condoms. I usually took two near-empty suitcases to carry back the requests, plus food and toiletries for myself. As the crisis deepened, the requests became harder to fill, and traced the outlines of darker personal dramas: Medication for heart failure. Pediatric epilepsy drugs. Pills to trigger an abortion. Gas masks.

And things were still somehow getting worse. The first time I saw people line up outside the bakery near my apartment, I stopped to take photos. How crazy: A literal bread line.

Then true hunger crept into where I lived. People started digging through the trash at all hours, pulling out vegetable peelings and soggy pizza crusts and eating them on the spot. That seemed like rock bottom. Until my local bakery started organizing lines each morning, not to buy bread but to eat trash.

This is the end state of socialism. They ran out of other peoples’ money.

Demonizing School Choice

won’t help education:

…it’s certainly fair to note that people opposed to desegregation decided that one way to solve the problem was to get rid of public schools, allowing racists to choose a lily-white educational environment for their children. Maintaining Jim Crow is a vile motive, and it can’t be denied that that was one historical reason some people had for supporting school choice.

Only the proper answer to this is, So what? You cannot stop terrible people from promoting sound ideas for bad reasons. Liberals who think that ad hominem is a sufficient rebuttal to a policy proposal should first stop to consider the role of Hitler’s Germany in spreading national health insurance programs to the countries they invaded. If you think “But Hitler” does not really constitute a useful argument about universal health coverage, then you should probably not resort to “But Jim Crow” in a disagreement over school funding.

If you think we can’t allow school choice because Jim Crow, then it would be just as logical to oppose minimum wage and gun control, because historically, their purpose has been to control blacks.