August 8th, 2017

Google engineer who wrote wrongthink memo is Summersed

I don’t need to go into all the details, because if you follow this link you can get up to speed on them. But the gist of the story is that a senior engineer at Google wrote an internal memo questioning the idea that the reason women were not as numerous as men in tech jobs such as softwear engineering was due to discrimination rather than some more hard-wired differences between men and women.

Well, you can imagine what that sort of heresy unleashed—a firestorm of anger, hurt feelings, and demands (not just from women, by the way, but from a host of outraged SJWs) that he be fired.

And so it came to pass, with Google saying that although they love discussions of all sorts of issues, that particular one violated their dogma (otherwise known as the Code of Conduct).

Chilling, terrible, predictable.

Why did I use the word “Summersed” in the post’s title? It harks back to a topic I wrote about extensively early in my blogging career, the firing of Larry Summers as Harvard’s president. His offense was very similar, although slightly different. He dared to question the idea that female under-representation in the upper echelons of sciences—the pinnacle of achievement—might be due to something more than discrimination, and that the question was at least worthy of study.

For that, he was drummed out. Now, granted, Summers was already an unpopular president at the university for many reasons, so for a lot of people this was just the excuse to get rid of him. But for many others, it was what he said—what he dared to say—that threw them so.

It was a sad thing to realize that in an institution with Harvard’s reputation, such questions were so beyond the pale that they could not be mentioned and certainly not studied—even if true. Maybe especially if they turned out to be true. In the ensuing years the rot has spread to industry, particularly Silicon Valley tech firms such as Google.

Personally, I don’t care if women aren’t biologically as likely to enter tech fields in equal numbers to men. Why should I care, as long as the women who do want to enter, and who can do the work, don’t face discrimination in hiring? I’m sure there are professions for which men—on average, which are all we’re taking about, rather than individual men—aren’t as likely to have the aptitude or interest as women do. Who cares?

Lots of people, apparently.

[NOTE: You can find my Summers posts here and here as well as here.]

39 Responses to “Google engineer who wrote wrongthink memo is Summersed”

  1. n.n Says:

    Google is a “progressive” organization that is a leader in normalizing [class] diversity policies.

    Class diversity discriminates between individuals based on the color of their skin, their sex (i.e. male or female), etc. is logically and by definition racist, sexist, etc. A bigoted (i.e. sanctimonious hypocrisy) philosophy normalized by the Pro-Choice Church and its progressive (i.e. monotonic) liberal (i.e. divergent) acolytes.

    Equal and complementary. It’s not that complicated.

  2. Ray Says:

    According to feminist dogma, there is no difference between men and women and the reason there weren’t more women programmers is because of discrimination. I am not surprised there aren’t many women programmers. About 40 years ago I did a lot of computer programming and I hung out a lot in the computer room. I only recall 4 women I saw there regularly using the computers. Most of the programmers and computer users were guys.

  3. Oldflyer Says:

    I am researching what I have to do to cut all of my ties with Google. This is just kind of the straw that, you know. I have been concerned about their tentacles reaching into my life for awhile. I am not sure that I can even do it because Google has become so ubiquitous. I use google maps for directions and traffic (it is better than my Garmin), google earth for fun, and GMail. I use chromecast to put streamed sports on the TV, and carry a chromebook when I travel. As a first step, I changed my search engine; next step is Gmail. It will be hard, if not impossible, but there are so few options to make statements to these over bearing giants (I know they will miss me; probably as much as the NFL does.)

  4. Cornflour Says:

    In case anybody wants to read the complete text of the offending protest against “Google’s ideological echo-chamber,”
    here’s a link http://tinyurl.com/y99owfbr. I was surprised at how mild it was. News stories have typically called it a screed or manifesto.

    Also, just in case there’s anybody curious about the broader scientific issues, I’d recommend Diane Halpern’s “Sex Differences in Cognitive Abilities.” The book is a thorough summary of research in the field, and it’s very carefully worded. Even so, I doubt that it could be published today if it weren’t the fourth edition of what’s become a standard work.

  5. Mr. Frank Says:

    There are no differences between men and women.

    There are no differences by race.

    Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them.
    George Orwell

  6. Susanamantha Says:

    I had two children and 5 grandchildren in pre-schools. None of them had a man as a teacher.

  7. Griffin Says:

    Google and Amazon have at least as much monopolistic control as Microsoft ever did and they were hounded for ages by governments. Time for DOJ to fire up the lawsuits I’d say.

  8. I R A Darth Aggie Says:

    Not so fast, Google.

    https://twitter.com/ClarkHat/status/894925657112805376

    Additionally: https://archive.is/VlNfl

    A Quillette piece where they asked four experts in the field to assess the “screed”. They’re take is, shall we say? a wee bit different.

    I particularly liked the simile to The Matrix movie, where you could do a simple download and understand complex knowledge.

  9. Kyndyll G Says:

    Somebody on the far left needs to provide a rational explanation of how they reconcile a belief system in which there are no differences between males and females, but there are suicidal people who feel “trapped” in the wrong body because of genitalia, who need to be catered to at the expense of the other 99.7% of the population. If there’s no difference between males and females, what does it matter which one you are?

    Of course, you’ll wait a long time for a rational explanation about anything from someone on the far left. Conversationally, we refer to that time period as “forever.”

    Of course there are critical differences be they social, cultural or biological, between the genders, and pretending there aren’t is idiotic denial. Recognizing that relatively few girls and women are interested in the hard sciences and tech fields is this thing called “reality”; my only concern as a woman is that there are no barriers preventing entry to those fields for women who are interested. (There aren’t, in my experience. The private sector loves female applicants for STEM jobs and if you happen to be a minority, too, the world is your oyster in those fields.)

  10. Griffin Says:

    Kyndyll G,

    I think the reason these things don’t make sense is because it is not one line of thought but instead a bunch of different groups with often diametrically opposed worldviews that have formed a coalition. The hardcore feminists and the trans crowd have very little in common other than leftism.

  11. AesopFan Says:

    Kyndyll G: never confuse a Liberal with logic.

    I read the original memo; he was at least 99.9% correct, erring only in the kow-towing to SJWs that he, perhaps, hoped would deflect some of their anger (we all know nerds are deficient in social psychology).

    And I say this as a female computer programmer, bred in the seventies matrix when we did it with key-punches and turn-around-time. The ratio then was probably 1-in-10 and it hasn’t changed, because the distribution of the “brain wiring” needed to do programming and enjoy it hasn’t changed — and there are simply not as many women with that wiring as there are men.

    I knew as early as grade-school that I thought differently and worked differently and wanted things differently than did my girl-friends, and that has not changed, although I can do the girl-things if I choose to.
    (I am planning to title my autobography “Female is Not My Native Language”). And I am happily married with children and grand-children and no desire to be trans-anything.

    The only discrimination I faced in my entire educational and professional life came from a salesman’s disparaging comments about the women I was training to USE the system I designed — and my boss and co-workers totally supported me when I walked out on him.

    “Personally, I don’t care if women aren’t biologically as likely to enter tech fields in equal numbers to men. Why should I care, as long as the women who do want to enter, and who can do the work, don’t face discrimination in hiring? I’m sure there are professions for which men—on average, which are all we’re taking about, rather than individual men—aren’t as likely to have the aptitude or interest as women do. Who cares?”
    -Neo

    No one really cares; they are just picking a new crisis to cause trouble.

    I’m perfectly willing to go on the ramparts against actual discrimination in hiring and promotion etc, but this is not the Seventies, and every IT company in existence is fighting to get females on their roster.

    There are fewer women pursuing IT and all other tech careers because there are fewer women with any interest in doing so, and even those with the aptitude and training don’t necessarily want to make a living in the high-pressure segments of the field.

    If you added up all the women in the world who want to work with computer innerds, they would not fill the quota demanded in just one of Google’s offices.

    I suspect the real motive for the writer, which he tiptoed around, is the very justified fear that the managers will hire unqualified women to make the quotas, and the products Google makes will suffer, and the work-force will rightfully see that they (as men) are being discriminated against.

    Of course, if there are some sexist jerks at Google, and I’m sure there are, just get them out of management or put them in a cubicle by themselves.

    The good programmers I knew only cared about your program code, not your DNA.

  12. Big Maq Says:

    Thanks to Cornflour and IRA Darth Aggie for the links.

    The Archive.IS is rather informative. Most notable is Geoffrey Miller’s astute exploration of the two core assumptions behind the diversity dogma at play at Google.

    “(1) The human sexes and races have exactly the same minds, with precisely identical distributions of traits, aptitudes, interests, and motivations; therefore, any inequalities of outcome in hiring and promotion must be due to systemic sexism and racism;
    (2) The human sexes and races have such radically different minds, backgrounds, perspectives, and insights, that companies must increase their demographic diversity in order to be competitive; any lack of demographic diversity must be due to short-sighted management that favors groupthink.

    The obvious problem is that these two core assumptions are diametrically opposed.

    If different groups have minds that are precisely equivalent in every respect, then those minds are functionally interchangeable, and diversity would be irrelevant to corporate competitiveness.

    These can be used to cut to the chase on any discussion with a leftist on these kinds of programs, and on the argument that there is a “pay gap”.
    .

    Anecdotally, living in a top 10% public school district, had daughters who took an elective that was an introduction to STEM – meant to spark interest in related career paths in middle school students.

    Females represented less than 10% of the students in those classes.

    FAR, far more were taking the “cheer leading” elective.

    Hard to believe in this day and age, if there is this widespread belief that females are under-represented in these fields due to cultural biases and discrimination, that the parents are seemingly not all that interested in opening those doors for their daughters.

    Yet, you won’t find many adults around here talking about women’s “traditional role” or similar – quite the opposite.

    Not what I expected, and I don’t think it is some anomaly, as a similar pattern, though less pronounced, is true of high school STEM path courses and electives (e.g. Math and Sciences). It certainly was an eye opener at the time.

    Wonder if folks have similar experience / observations over the past decade?

  13. Big Maq Says:

    The Google engineer did succeed. His memo did initiate a conversation on the topic.

  14. Cornhead Says:

    Dear Google:

    Don’t be evil.

  15. physicsguy Says:

    Our department has averaged about 40% women majors, even though we average about 5 total majors per year. That’s not a bad number for the size school; typically 1.5% of student body are physics majors. We had the American Institute of Physics call and ask how we managed such a high percentage of women. Our answer was we didn’t do anything. Just made sure they had the same opportunities as the guys. AIP couldn’t understand that.

    It is true that over the years I’d say 95% of those women went on postgrad in engineering, education, medical, etc, instead of straight physics. Many expressed a desire to help people or build something useful. Pretty much explains why physics PhDs are about 15 % women. But according to my faculty colleagues outside the department we must all be a bunch of raving mysogynists.

  16. Mark30339 Says:

    A thousand likes to I R A Darth @3:03pm for the expert take at https://archive.is/VlNfl

  17. Mark30339 Says:

    This whole thing is about abuse of power. When Richard Feynman was on shuttle disaster investigation, power was applied to silence him, but he was a Nobel Laureate and resisted. He said: “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.”
    .
    But Feynman didn’t know Google. Google is no longer satisfied to just know us better than we know ourselves, it now insists on purging from us any knowledge not specifically sanctioned by them. And with that, it purges human dignity, honest dialogue and trust because its vast power convinces Google that Google knows best. But hey, these Overlords are nice as long as you obey.

  18. TommyJay Says:

    Neo,

    I agree with the post, especially the conclusion, but the Summers flap was about those who demonstrate extreme excellence. I believe he made explicit comments about those scientists populating the distant tail of the bell curve, e.g. Noble prize winners, not the average purveyor.

    That made it all doubly stupid. Because dammit, just as many women want to be freaks and weirdos (the successful kind) as do men.

  19. Ymar Sakar Says:

    The reason why it was easy for me to recognize that the Leftist alliance was a cult or even a bunch of cults in league with each other (conspiracies inside conspiracies, onions inside onions, mirrors opposite mirrors) is because they operate the same way as cults. So even if the world refused to recognize them as cults, I connected the dots, because I could see that they were data point dots to begin with.

    The Left is much like some organized religions, if you go against the dogma, there are negative consequences. Sometimes very severe ones as Jean De Arc and various other Europeans found out.

    That is why it is not merely some label their political opponents attached to them, making “liberal” into a curse word. No, the dogma is what makes it rigid or orthodox. And the dogma is enforced by the Leftist alliance members, not by their opponents. Thus it is not their opponents that determine who is in a cult or a church, but the leader of said cult or church. If there is no organization, if there is no conspiracy, then there’s nothing to worry about. A leftist can say and do whatever they want, and there will be no peer or centralized pressure against them. The moment I saw the existence of that pressure, it was easy to back track and reverse engineer it back to a source hierarchy.

  20. neo-neocon Says:

    TonmyJay:

    In paragraph 5, I mentioned that Summers was talking about the upper echelons of science, the pinnacles of achievement.

  21. ArmyMom Says:

    I have been a woman in IT for over 20 years. I manage and speed up database back ends for IT shops all over the US and a few in the UK. I have another woman working with me who does similar work. I was hired by a woman for my current consulting gig. I do not have a college degree but I am certified in several subjects. I suspect that I am one of a few old guard that worked their way up.

    In IT, it was very difficult getting in to a decent position at companies at first. However, because in IT (as it should be in most STEM careers), what you know is worth more than most anything. You would think that a bunch of people who have to deal in data and the realities of code (either you know how to make good code or you don’t….I can always tell the good developers) where your world is very black and white, that those people would lean more libertarian or conservative. But, an astounding amount are uber leftist\progressive.

    I have had to not talk\tweet\blog\post anything that would give an indication of my conservative beliefs in order to not be blackballed. The group think is real and vicious. I can run circles around most of the IT guys I know and am asked for advice and guidance all the time. I have people from everywhere who want to connect with me professionally on LinkedIn. But, if they got wind of my political beliefs, I would be out of work and fast.

    The only thing good I can take from all this is that I read on Ace of Spades that the Google guy had filed a complaint with the NLRB before he was fired that he was being misrepresented and silenced on the job. The guy might have a case….you never know. And, Google will get swallowed by Amazon (not that that is good) if they don’t watch out. I am currently getting certified on Amazon Web Services because there is such demand for cloud services and computing.

    Oh and there is an organization for Women in Tech. http://www.womenintechnology.org/ They are very leftist but they are there trying to support women in STEM fields. At speaking gigs that I have done, there have been more and more women that are attending. I think the guys are pretty glad since a big group of geeky guys is the worst thing ever. 🙂

    Make no mistake, what Google has done is VERY chilling. I only hope that sane people recognize what is going on and demand a stop to the wrong think madness.

  22. Sean Says:

    Silicon Valley is run by beta males who don’t know the first thing about women but think they can get a pass by sucking up to SJWs. And since they’re billionaires, they get to force their abstract society-functions-like-an-algorithm understanding of the world on the rest of us. Such cringe.

  23. Matt_SE Says:

    This is what we mean when we refer to a culture war. You will not be allowed to not care. You will be forced to choose a side, and if you wait too long it will be done under the worst duress.

    A sizable portion of our fellow citizens have decided that they will live by different rules.

  24. Sean Says:

    And now for the inevitable cross-pollination of conflicting narratives: liberals who think NFL owners have no right to blackball Kaepernick for his views but love Google firing this guy vs conservatives who love NFL owners blackballing Kaepernick for his views but think it’s outrageous Google fired this guy.

    Apples to oranges or what?

  25. Oldflyer Says:

    I have worked with women programmers and women pilots. For the most part, the ones that I encountered were successful in those fields. I frankly had not thought too much about whether they were exceptions to a rule. Still, I think somewhat intuitively think that the average woman, if there is such, gravitates to the nurturing or social professions. I have no idea whether this is due to lingering cultural bias, or if it is biological. I have one wife, two daughters, and two granddaughters. Statistically, those numbers are insignificant, but 100% of them have opted for education, health care, or social work. The wife’s options were somewhat limited unless she had been willing to take less traveled paths; but, the others had a full range of options, with no cultural limits. Is that indicative?

    An interesting question, with no obvious answer, is whether the increasing number of women in traditional male professions is due to the relaxation of past cultural biases, or whether it is symptomatic of new ones? Are those women who break with tradition more fulfilled than their sisters who did not, or are they stressed because they have opted for life styles that are abnormal for them?

  26. Sean Says:

    An interesting question, with no obvious answer, is whether the increasing number of women in traditional male professions is due to the relaxation of past cultural biases, or whether it is symptomatic of new ones?

    There are more women getting degrees than ever before. Degrees are worth less now on average than ever before.
    Coincidence?

    Also, women make up a greater percentage of doctors now than ever before. Men make up a greater percentage of nurses now than ever before.
    Nurses now have far more power and responsibility vis-a-vis doctors than they ever have before.
    Coincidence?

  27. Tuvea Says:

    Companies do stupid things all the time. So I’m not the least surprised Google did this. If California is like Illinois and an ’employment at will’ State the engineer is out of luck.

    He should have done what the candidate for hire at the University of Illinois did. Be a raging anti-Semite and a virulent Israel hater. That way Google would have to fork over half a million bucks to him. He didn’t even have to show up for a day of ‘work’.

  28. Harry the Extremist Says:

    What Sean says: “Kaepernick: Apples & Oranges?
    Is it the same thing or isnt it? If not, how so?

  29. Hangtown Bob Says:

    The Summers/Google engineer situations reminded me of the controversies surrounding the publication of the book, “The Bell Curve”, in 1994. The authors argued that human intelligence is substantially influenced by both inherited and environmental factors and is a better predictor of many personal dynamics, including financial income, job performance, birth out of wedlock, and involvement in crime than are an individual’s parental socioeconomic status.

    The book also looked into the effect of race on intelligence. One part of the controversy concerned the parts of the book which dealt with racial group differences on IQ and the consequences of this. The authors were reported throughout the popular press as arguing that these IQ differences are genetic, and they did indeed write in chapter 13: “It seems highly likely to us that both genes and the environment have something to do with racial differences.” The introduction to the chapter more cautiously states, “The debate about whether and how much genes and environment have to do with ethnic differences remains unresolved.”

    As a consequence of even mentioning the possibility that race may have an effect on intelligence, charges of RACISM were hurled about and much of the scientific content of the book was widely discounted and ignored.

  30. Sergey Says:

    The main problem haunting today liberalism is unsolvable contradiction between being essentially a belief system, a secular quasi-religion, and its assertion of being empirically and scientifically based. When these articles of faith crumble under usual development of scientific knowledge, the whole edifice collapses with it. The Church was not actually affected by transition from geocentric to heliocentric cosmology, but geocentricity never was a religious dogma, contrary to what most Progressives believe.

  31. Doug Purdie Says:

    Does anybody have the percentages of men and women who apply for high tech positions? Perhaps women just aren’t as interested in these jobs.

  32. LindaF Says:

    I always got a hoot out of the female professor claiming she was about to FAINT at the notion.

    Not exactly a feminist ideal.

  33. Tatterdemalian Says:

    Reality and imagination. Men are biologically adapted to handle the former, women adapted for the latter. Both reality and imagination can straight up murder entire civilizations, so it’s generally best to let those biologically adapted to their role handle that aspect of human nature, though experts that abuse their power and authority are even worse than incompetents.

  34. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Various folks have made the logical point that if there is no difference whatsoever between men and women in capability for work in a corporation, there’s no reason to exert any effort to get more women, since you’d be getting more of the same. There’s no corporate benefit to diversity.
    To say men and women differ in their capability is gender essentialism, which I am told is a Very Bad Thing.
    But you need to say it in order to justify exerting effort to get more women.

  35. Cornflour Says:

    A recent article in The Washington Examiner (https://tinyurl.com/ycadyayg) makes two good points. I’ll try to summarize. I’ve never been a lawyer. If anyone here knows the relevant law, please add a comment.

    1. According to The New York Times, Damore has argued the following:

    “I have a legal right to express my concerns about the terms and conditions of my working environment and to bring up potentially illegal behavior, which is what my document does.”

    2. The Examiner then cites Dan Eaton, who’s an attorney and professor of ethics at San Diego University. Eaton’s argument, paraphrased:

    Federal labor law bars even non-union employers like Google from punishing an employee for communicating with fellow employees about improving working conditions. Also, since the memo was a statement of political views, Google may have violated California law which “prohibits employers from threatening to fire employees to get them to adopt or refrain from adopting a particular political course of action.”

  36. brdavis9 Says:

    …this article and thread comments are why I have never really left the blog (though I tend to go quiescent for long periods, whether from over-work, or ennui lol).

    …the last rational blog still standing.

    Gawd but I appreciate y’all.

    (new email address neo …)

  37. Cornflour Says:

    At his blog, West Hunter, Greg Cochran wrote this:

    “The Index

    Posted on August 7, 2017 by gcochran9

    It would be helpful if some guy would post a list of all the true things you’re not allowed to say. With localized versions: specific things you can’t say at company X, say McDonald’s or Google. I’ve seem people from other cultures slip up on this, and it hardly seems fair. Whoever wrote down the list would of course be immediately fired, but surely someone is willing to suffer for the greater good.”

    I’m pretty sure that this was written tongue in cheek, but I think it’s a very good idea. Might be best if it were a group project with editors — something like Wikipedia. Any volunteers?

  38. AesopFan Says:

    I R A Darth Aggie Says:
    August 8th, 2017 at 3:03 pm
    Not so fast, Google.

    * * *
    The latter link from Quillette was excellent.
    (Published on August 7, 2017 —
    The Google Memo: Four Scientists Respond)

    I read a few more related articles there, all of which are interesting and tangentially relevant to this discussion, but have a wider applicability.

    https://archive.is/DMOAw
    Published on July 18, 2017 — comments 54
    The Neurodiversity Case for Free Speech
    written by Geoffrey Miller

    https://archive.is/kTV29
    Punched Out
    Posted on April 19, 2017 by Will H. Moore
    Assuming I did not botch the task, by the time this posts I will have been dead via suicide for several hours. Nope, that’s not a setup to a joke.[1]

    And so the simple way to say it is this: I was done. I was tired of fighting to try to share my experiences, ideas, and views. Large portions of my conversations with most everyone contained frustration where I let things go that bug me.
    Perhaps that is true for most people. Perhaps it is part of the human condition. But I had enough and just wasn’t up for the continued effort.
    And I was tired of pissing people off, especially when I did not expect to or mean to. …

    * * *

    Cornflour Says:
    August 9th, 2017 at 1:10 pm
    A recent article in The Washington Examiner (https://tinyurl.com/ycadyayg) makes two good points.
    * * *
    Thanks for the link; I was looking for something like that after reading the first link from IRA DA.

    ICYMI, PowerLine Blog had run a series on Google-gate since August 5th.

  39. AesopFan Says:

    Well, the internet furor over Damor took about 8 hours of surfing out of my life last night, but here is a good article by a female “eye witness” shedding some light on the subject.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-08-09/as-a-woman-in-tech-i-realized-these-are-not-my-people

    “No, the reason I left is that I came into work one Monday morning and joined the guys at our work table, and one of them said “What did you do this weekend?”

    I was in the throes of a brief, doomed romance. I had attended a concert that Saturday night. I answered the question with an account of both. The guys stared blankly. Then silence. Then one of them said: “I built a fiber-channel network in my basement,” and our co-workers fell all over themselves asking him to describe every step in loving detail.

    At that moment I realized that fundamentally, these are not my people. I liked the work. But I was never going to like it enough to blow a weekend doing more of it for free. Which meant that I was never going to be as good at that job as the guys around me.”

    Some of the research on mastery of skills (particularly playing an instrument) indicates that the true experts spend upwards of 10 times as much of their time practicing as do the talented but not expert players.

    Works for sports as well.
    But a lot of people think it doesn’t apply to intellectual pursuits like computer engineering.

    The people who spend all their time with their tuba or basketball or marathon training or computer, male or female, are simply different from the people who don’t.

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