Googling Diversity

So should we look a bit at Google’s self-inflicted hangnail? Google is so huge that is about what it amounts to. Still, it is interesting in several ways.

Now mind, I believe that one may run a company one owns as one pleases, and if you choose to promote less competent social justice warriors into posts of responsibility instead of competent software engineers – well on your head be it. The counter argument is that Google is nearly a public utility, but that is not so. The Internet is not necessary (yet, anyway), however desirable it is. And Google does have, in all areas, competitors, some very good.

Ben Domenech lays it out well at The Federalist.

Yesterday, the internet lit up with a flame-war of epic proportions over an internal memo written by James Damore, a Google engineer with a Harvard PhD, who wrote at length about workplace diversity. The memo was the type of statistical analysis one could expect from a dispassionate engineer irritated by a lack of clarity in why fewer women choose to participate in his field, attempting to quantify it beyond the vague assumptions favored by corporate PR. He offered various reasons and explanations for why this could be the case, and offered to discuss the memo further with anyone interested in doing so. For writing this thoughtcrime, he was fired. Google’s CEO claims the memo violated its Code of Conduct. You can read the CEO’s statement here, which stresses that his views were “Not OK”.

These views are consistent with those of Google’s Eric Schmidt, who recently rejected the idea advanced in a Q&A that any right of center views need to be considered part of the bucket of “diversity” favored within Google. As I noted at the time: 

Note the response from Eric Schmidt, who rejects the idea that anyone disagreeing with him politically could be operating from a position of ‘science-based thinking’. The level of diversity and inclusiveness welcomed by Google is precisely as much as is needed to achieve their corporate aims. ‘You’ll also find that all of the other companies in our field agree with us’ – yes, we know.

You see the same tone advanced by Danielle Brown, Google’s vice president of diversity, integrity and governance, who insists the memo’s gender assumptions were “incorrect”.

As always “not consistent” does not mean right or wrong. It means “he doesn’t agree with me, and it’s my company”. As it happens, I believe Damore makes a hell of a lot of sense. But my name isn’t Schmidt, and I’m not CEO of Google, and I do think he can run the company however the shareholders will let him, no matter how stupid. And I note that Google does appear to make money! 🙂

Domenech quotes several of his contributors in his article. As usual David Harsanyi makes a good logical case.

Gizmodo calls a Google engineer’s leaked internal memo about the company’s diversity initiatives an ‘anti-diversity screed.’ Recode calls it ‘sexist.’ Most major news organizations frame it in similar terms. The memo has gone viral. (Update: Google has fired the author for ‘perpetuating gender stereotypes.’) In reality, the problem is that a senior software engineer, perhaps unwittingly, admitted to pondering three of the most scandalous thought-crimes of contemporary American society. The first was to propose that a meritocracy might be heathier for a company than bean-counting race, ethnicity, and sex. The second is pointing that ideological diversity matters. The third, and most grievous of all the wrongthinks, is suggesting that men and women are, in general, physiologically and psychologically different from each other, and thus they tend to excel at different things.

And that my friends is the real ‘thoughtcrime’ here. Wouldn’t it be terrible if we promoted people based on their skills instead of their politics?

Don’t Fence Me In: Claim The Inheritance

How sad is that? Almost makes you cry, doesn’t it? We all like the fact that reports say the Millenials are the most conservative generation since the ‘Greatest Generation’, but there is nothing to celebrate in an American generation being risk averse. Ben Domenech wrote about it in The Federalist, and it’s worth commenting on.

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.

OK, a break, I simply can’t resist…

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. […]

Once there was a country born without an inheritance. It was a civilization carved by the rejected refuse of the old world, by the religious freaks, criminals, bastards, and orphans. They were the type of men and women willing to risk all to cross the wine-dark sea in search of their fortune. They came from all the corners of the world, and in this land they worked the good earth and made their way. In time they built marketplaces and cities and governments, and threw off the shackles of their far-off, old-world rulers to make their own law. Where other revolutions had been crushed, they prevailed. They risked it all, and won.

Still, some were restless. So the risk-takers pulled up stakes and moved further west, finding the edge of civilization and making their homes there, and bringing their language and their law with them. They were called to the promise of the golden light of the horizon, so they journeyed west and further west, from sea to shining sea.

But the risk-takers never stopped. Their families had come from nations where inheritance was all—where blood was royal or serf, and the class of those who sired you charted your future, not the ability of your mind or the strength of your will. This truth they denied, and out of this audacity was birthed a society that, slowly but surely, through march and blood and slaughter, embraced the equality of all under law. […]

This is an American inheritance, but it is not a birthright. It must be claimed. And it is an open question whether the children of the children of those who rescued the old world will claim it. […]

There is comfort in the safety gained. But, slowly and surely, there is something lost, too—an idea that once lived here, in this new world. It was a belief that we are not prisoners of our destiny, that the world we pass on can exceed the one we were born into. This is not a uniquely American belief, but a human one, although not all cultures acknowledge or honor it. It was here in America where this belief was uniquely understood from our inception in our creed. We are born with an equal claim to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of what lies beyond that far horizon. To deny this is to break faith with our own humanity, rejecting what is best in ourselves.

I don’t have a lot to add except that if you care about America, or especially the idea of America, you need to read Ben’s article and apply it to yourself, and especially encourage those coming after us to take the longhorn by his horns, and risk it all. That is what won America. My life hasn’t been what I dreamed of as a boy – I didn’t get rich, nor did I marry Ann Margeret. But I have had a hell of a good time, and while I never worried overmuch about tomorrow, I made due allowances and did what I perceived to be my duty. No man can do more, nor should he ever wish to do less, to paraphrase Robert E. Lee.

I’m reminded of an American girl from Brooklyn, about 150 years ago, or so. It seemed she had it all, a doting daddy, a reasonable education, and more money than she knew what to do with. As it happened she went to England, and rumor had it had an affair with the Prince of Wales, and married the son of the Duke of Marlborough, and they had a son, who became perhaps the greatest Prime Minister of Great Britain. In the very dark days after Dunkirk, he quoted a poem, which pretty well summarizes the American experience.

 

For while the tired waves, vainly breaking,
Seem here no painful inch to gain,
Far back, through creeks and inlets making,
Comes silent, flooding in, the main.

 

And not by eastern windows only,
When daylight comes, comes in the light;
ln front the sun climbs slow, how slowly,
But westward, look, the land is bright

It still is, if we make it so.

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