I’d been struggling to write something about the James Damore Google Memo, and then the Neo-Nazi/White supremacist march and violence in Charlottesville, VA happened.

The below thoughts on the Google Memo are scattered and incomplete and a news cycle too late.

“When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression”  – The Internets

For someone who disavows Microaggressions, I’m surprised the James Damore feels like the “progressive” culture of Google is trying to shame him into silence.

whoops.  I guess the comment above is a bit shaming.  I’ll try harder.

“Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts”.  -J.D.

I get where this comes from (it’s a common refrain from scientists/engineers and men of all stripes), but it’s so misguided.  I blame engineering school for not requiring more humanities classes.  Or Therapy sessions.  (Seriously, to teach self-examination.)

Emotions are not something you can shut off.  Emotions are something you recognize. Recognizing your emotions helps you to see the biases in your reasoning.

e.g. It sounds like you feel threatened and vilified by these programs to diversify Google which exclude you.

Unfortunately society propagates this reason vs emotion fallacy and has probably ruined many a marriage/emotionally stunted many individuals because of it.

“Viewpoint diversity is arguably the most important type of diversity and political orientation is one of the most fundamental and significant ways in which people view things differently.” – J.D.

Said the white male who can’t fathom that non-whites or non-males might have a vastly different life experiences and viewpoints.

I’d also put socio-economic status and locality above political orientation (which seems to be more more the result of the above) as well.

I wonder if J.D. has done a sensitivity analysis on the causes for the gender/racial imbalance at Google relative to the qualified population.  I don’t know what that difference is exactly, but I’m pretty sure it is significant.  Does he believe that the majority of the disparity is explained through the studies he’s cited?  Otherwise his arguments are just a smoke-screen.

Also, I think he forgot to cite the studies saying that diversity is a good thing.

I think J.D. would’ve been on less inflammatory ground if he had stuck with “I think Google’s current programs to promote diversity are not the right ones and here are my ideas that I think are better.”  And to his credit, he did propose some replacement ideas, since he claims to want diversity.

However, I know that there are those who think we don’t need any corrective mechanisms.

Let’s assume non-terrible hiring managers and a welcoming environment for all genders and ethnicities; the hiring bias would still perpetuate due to

  1. Affinity bias – we like people who are like us
  2. Confirmation bias – we want to hire people who will fit our vision of “successful”, and if all the people in the +1/+2 positions are white men, guess what kind of candidates will be hired.

We live in a grievance culture, where everyone has the right to feel aggrieved.  But that right must have a limit somewhere.  It must come with the responsibility of understanding those who aggrieve you.  Take your grievance right too far and it becomes suffocating tyranny for both parties.

Three examples of why diversity is important in Tech.

  1. Color film was originally only calibrated for caucasian skin tones.

2.  ” In June 2015, for example, Google’s photo categorization system identified two African Americans as “gorillas.” The company quickly fixed the problem, but Microsoft AI researcher Kate Crawford noted in a New York Times op-ed that the blunder reflected a larger “white guy problem” in AI. That is, the data used to train the software relied too heavily on photos of white people, diminishing its ability to accurately identify images of people with different features.”  ~ “How a Machine Learns Prejudice

3.  Soap Dispensers aren’t calibrated for dark skin.

An actual rebuttal from on the Economist (h/t KK)

And Charlottesville…  I don’t even know where to begin.  It’ll have to be for another post.  But somehow I feel that by the time I sort my words out, the news cycle will be long past as well.


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