This is just wonderful about the Google Diversity piece

No, truly excellent (From cjcjc):

The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right.

In the case of personality traits, evidence that men and women may have different average levels of certain traits is rather strong.

When the memo went viral, thousands of journalists and bloggers transformed themselves overnight from not understanding evolutionary psychology at all to claiming enough expertise to criticize the whole scientific literature on biological sex differences.

It was like watching Trinity downloading the pilot program for flying the B-212 helicopter in The Matrix. Such fast learners! (Even Google’s new ‘VP of Diversity’, Danielle Brown, criticized the memo because it ‘advanced incorrect assumptions about gender’; I was impressed to see that her Michigan State B.A. in Business and her U. Michigan M.B.A. qualify her to judge the scientific research.)

Within the field of neuroscience, sex differences between women and men—when it comes to brain structure and function and associated differences in personality and occupational preferences—are understood to be true, because the evidence for them (thousands of studies) is strong. This is not information that’s considered controversial or up for debate; if you tried to argue otherwise, or for purely social influences, you’d be laughed at.

The quite wonderful logical point is also made. If men and women are exactly the same then why do we need diversity? But if men and women do bring different things to the table then we’ve not got that hard equality, have we?

Another copy of this is here .

81 thoughts on “This is just wonderful about the Google Diversity piece”

  1. Bloke in North Dorset

    I see Google has fired the author. Another win for the authoritarian twitterati flash mob and another nail in freedom’s coffin

  2. @Matthew L – that piece to a certain degree (and the comments under it) kinda prove the manifesto writer’s point. Note how “liberal” (US sense) positions are taken as absolute scientific truth, from which dissent is WrongThought that requires suppression.

  3. @ hunker,
    Perhaps there is now a opportunity for someone to outcompete Google, on the same principle as Stephanie Shirley.

  4. Matthew L: ‘Pharyngula’ is a lying faggot, just like yourself.

    Why is it that Northeast Asians overachieve a small, but significant amount, vs. white norms, in spatial intelligence, everywhere, regardless of the society? Why is it that high SES blacks like Obama’s daughters (Africans with significant white admixture dragging them well above the African average) achieve similar scores in the SAT, and Ravens matrices, to low SES whites who grew up in an Appalacian holler? And that their life outcomes are consistent with their IQ scores?

    Oh, it’s because you’re a lying sack of shit.

  5. — “Google’s new ‘VP of Diversity’, Danielle Brown, criticized the memo because it ‘advanced incorrect assumptions about gender’”

    A case of it being difficult to get a man (or woman, or bloke in frock) to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.

    Such people are modern Soviet Commissars, whose position depends entirely on their continual mouthing of the propaganda, even in the face of all contrary evidence.

  6. “Why do ‘Freethoughtblogs’ not seem to contain any, errr, free thought?”

    Because you can spin an unfalsifiable neo-Darwinian fairytale to support any ideological obsession?

  7. Is appointing a VP for Diversity a sign that Google is doomed? Like installing a fountain in a corporate HQ’s atrium, promoting any HR function to board level often means a company is losing its focus.

  8. google: “Men and women are not different. Our targeted advertising sells lipstick and tampons to both, equally”

    h/t Old Holborn on Twitter

  9. What annoys me most about this is the widespread misrepresentation of the Googler’s argument, including by the company management. A shame that as a software engineer (broad stereotype perhaps) he probably thought that citing references and maintaining a level tone about a controversial topic would be enough to prevent any serious backlash and people would not just jump to their own conclusions. I hope there is a wrongful dismissal case and a good settlement for the guy, who will now be very Google-able to employers for all the wrong reasons and will undoubtedly suffer as a result of this.

    Actually feel very sorry for the guy.

  10. @Raffles – it has been hit by lots of traffic from places like Hacker News and Slashdot, which surprisingly to me both seem to have the most upvoted comments supporting the fired Googler.

  11. Paul Rain

    No, I’m not gay. Bum sex disgusts me. Nothing against gays as such, though. Each to his own…etc.

    And I’d rather chat to an intelligent gay than some neo-Darwinian half-wit who thinks the following is a scientific statement:

    “We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules known as genes.”

  12. “Google’s new ‘VP of Diversity’, Danielle Brown, criticized the memo because it ‘advanced incorrect assumptions about gender’”

    It seems ‘incorrect’ no longer means it’s actually incorrect, but that it’s not something one is allowed to think.

  13. I am now a fervent supporter of nailing Google for tax avoidance. I will loudly support even the stupidest calls for Google to be prosecuted, fined etc for avoiding paying their “fair share”.

    If Google volunteer to inhabit the lunatic world of SJWerry then they play by the full rules – irrationality, stupidity, malice and insane mob rule. Fuck off, Google.

  14. Maybe he should have got a woman to write his memo for him. It’s well known that women have better communication skills than men. 😉

  15. @Theo

    I used to think that the expression “coming on to rain” was to do with the weather but it seems to mean that you are inadvertantly about to be called gay.

  16. “Rob – so you want another tax audit? Last one appears to have not been worth it.”

    I want a mob outside their offices demanding “justice”, 24/7.

  17. Webopedia defines a software engineer as:

    ‘A software engineer is a licensed professional engineer who is schooled and skilled in the application of engineering discipline to the creation of software’

    ….not many about then. (Lots of progrmmers though)

  18. @gunker

    Try this:

    I think they’re OK – at least they’re not Google. Otherwise, do not use Android or Chrome, or Windows come to that. Install an adblocker and anti-tracking software. Do not visit Facebook ever. These strategies aren’t perfect, but they’re better than meekly handing over your privacy.

  19. What on earth is a “software engineer”?

    Interesting philosophical question.
    If “paper” engineering is using mathematics to model virtual structures. A plan, blueprint, whatever of something may or may not be built in the physical world. How is this different from creating logic structures in virtualities not connected to the physical world? One could model a bridge in code. All the masses, stresses, loads, vibrations, physics … Wireframe, ray trace & texture until, looking at it on a screen, it was no different in form or function than the real thing. If you physically encounter neither, what’s the difference to the observer?

  20. One could model a bridge in code.

    Which is what Finite Element Modelling is. And it’s done by structural engineers who learned FEM, becoming what appears to be the Wiki definition of a software engineer. Not convinced Google has many employees who put engineering mathematics and principles into code, though.

  21. What Rob says. And break the company up. These guys obviously have too much time and money on their hands. Things we can do personally:
    – Stop using gmail
    – Don’t buy Android phones
    – Use an alternative search engine
    – If applicable, consider swapping Chrome for Linux.
    – Don’t click on adverts provided by Google.

  22. “I see Google has fired the author.”

    Hmmm . . . I wonder. My nephew is a big time software guru at Google. I need to stay in touch with the family network to see if he has been fired.

    If it were him, he’d already have a job at Microsoft. Whomever the guy is, I don’t fear for his employment; I suspect he doesn’t either.

  23. If Google believed their own diversity bullshit, they would just hire a bunch of women and teach them how to write code, but they don’t so they hire thousands of males from the subcontinent and subject them to endless harangues on joys of diversity.

  24. “In the case of personality traits, evidence that men and women may have different average levels of certain traits is rather strong.”

    Totally missing the point. We’re well aware that gender distributions closely map to sex distributions in our society. The question is whether ‘the average levels of certain traits’ are the result of something innate or of something we’re doing in the way we bring up kids.

    There is simply zero evidence one way or the other for that. It’s hard even to conceive of an (ethical) experiment which could prove it one way or the other.

    Personally I’d find it very surprising if there are no behavioural differences rooted in biological/neurological differences, but that’s not evidence.

    I’d also find it extremely surprising if all such differences are rooted in biological/neurological differences rather than learned behaviours – and that’s also not evidence.

  25. “We’re well aware that gender distributions closely map to sex distributions in our society. The question is whether ‘the average levels of certain traits’ are the result of something innate or of something we’re doing in the way we bring up kids”

    Read ‘The Essential Difference: Men, Women and the extreme male brain’ by Simon Baron-Cohen. Or indeed his other books.

    Mr Baron-Cohen is a Professor of Experimental Psychopathology at Cambridge University, so probably knows a bit about it all, certainly more than you or me, or the Head of HR at Google for that matter.

  26. @tomo,

    No there won’t because the number and type of victims will never become sufficient to cause the outcry necessary.

  27. @Dave,

    To be entirely trivial, the near-universal desire of women to have sex with men and vice-versa is a clear example of a biologically hardwired difference. It is not socially constructed. The corollary being that homosexuality is a reminder that group medians are not ever useful when we are dealing with individuals. And also proves that heterosexuality is not socially constructed – because you remove the social construction against homosexuality for three generations and it still only hits a single-digit proportion of the population.

    The question for Google (and everyone else) is actually twofold. Firstly, to what extent is the current sex ratio among their employees a consequence of (variations upon, both implicit and explicit) “she’s a girl so we won’t hire her”?

    My guess is there is some of that as there is always a subjective element in hiring and people, even those who make hiring decisions, have prejudices, whether they want them or not. But probably a lot less than one would imagine.

    The second is an entirely different question, being, to what extent is it desirable to address the imbalance in sex ratio? A question that actually has to start much earlier – at the level of society rather than google, though of course google has the money and clout to look into it.

  28. And of course the more urgent question they need to ask themselves is how firing someone for having widespread if controversial opinions demonstrates their commitment to tolerance and diversity.

  29. “they would just hire a bunch of women and teach them how to write code”

    They have tried. It isn’t working. The software engineer said it isn’t going to work, so let it go. They let him go instead.

  30. “Indeed. Half the media is awash with comments about “engineering”, as if Google did any.”

    Can’t speak for Google and their practices, but there is indeed a difference between setting programmers loose to write a system and software engineering. The latter uses a range of tools and ideas to implement software according to known templates/algorithms etc, largely drawn from what is termed Computer Science, and employs project management techniques many of which would not be out of place in an engineering project.

  31. Rob – and people wonder why I want to move to a country that practices rule of law rather than rule of mob.

  32. You must possess a strong ability to perform abstract spatial relations to be successful in college level Physics courses like Electricity and Magnetism, Waves and Vibrations, etc. This is not hearsay, but reality.

    There has been considerable research done to demonstrate that there are gender differences in the ability to perform at high levels in spatial relations that have been linked to testosterone levels. Researchers have even found that having too much testosterone actually inhibits performance in spatial relations task. There is actually an optimal level. Some of this research has examined women who transitioned to the male gender who were going through hormone treatment. It was actually found that their spatial relations skills improved at a statistically significant level.

    Of course even something like testosterone levels have overalap between genders which is why Engineering students are not 100% male, but more like 70-80% male at most schools. Additionally note that of those males, not too many of them show the body type of a male at the higher end of the testosterone scale as well. Research fitting in with actual reality. What an interesting concept.

    Some good reading here for the supposed “Diversity Expert” at Google.

  33. For Dave:

    “Sex Hormone Influences on Spatial Ability

    There is also considerable work on sex hormone effects on spatial ability, as also discussed in other papers in this special section. Most studies concern effects of circulating levels of testosterone and estradiol, although there is some evidence about early hormones, particularly androgens.

    Evidence on cognitive effects of circulating sex hormones (activational effects) comes from studies of natural variations in hormones across individuals and within individuals (e.g., in association with the menstrual cycle) and effects of hormone replacement (in association with aging or surgical removal of the ovaries). Findings are complex (for reviews, see Hampson, 2007; Maki & Sundermann, 2009), but generally suggest that spatial ability is facilitated by testosterone in the moderate range (levels that are high for females and low for males) and verbal memory is facilitated by estradiol, especially in young postmenopausal women. “

  34. “Rob – and people wonder why I want to move to a country that practices rule of law rather than rule of mob.”

    I’m happy to join you. But Google are explicitly on the side of the Mob; their actions, their beliefs sustain it and encourage it. I want them to experience the entire Mob experience – the irrational hatred, intimidation and shutting down of their public life.

  35. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Tim N: just because you can’t drop it on your foot doesn’t mean it’s not engineering.

    Google’s entire market position derives from the early advantage it had over its rivals thanks to its page matching algorithm. This was derived from work Page and Brin did using spectral graph theory. Applications of mathematical methods to a problem in the real world is the distilled essence of engineering. If Facebook’s facial recognition code or Shazam’s song-matching code or Amazon’s JIT warehousing systems aren’t engineering, then what the hell are they?

  36. Bloke no Longer in Austria

    Dearieme, BiS et al

    I used to call myself a “systems engineer” because it was my job to bolt complex computer systems together. These days installing and configuring software is not too difficult but in Ye Olde Dayes there was a lot of buggering about with config files and knowing their syntax was quite a trcky task ( especially print drivers and terminal emulations ).
    I never classed myself as a “software engineer” because I was a rotten programmer. I found mathematicians were the best, because they could think, as I used to describe it, “in staright lines.” They operate sequentially and know which tool is applicable to the next task. I was good at recognising errors and gathering evidence and so I specialised a lot in diagnostics.
    I can think of a few women who could program well – and they were all excellent mathemeticians first – they stick in the mind because they were so rare. And my late mrs was one of them.

  37. “the more urgent question they need to ask themselves is how firing someone for having widespread if controversial opinions demonstrates their commitment to tolerance and diversity.”

    Widespread opinions that happen to be based on the truth. Controversial only because some people don’t like the truth and the logical conclusions one may draw from it.

  38. And it becomes clear why the left loves Islam so much. Both cannot tolerate wrong thought and deviation from right think. Islam means submission and the left have grasped this concept with glee. Although the left has not called yet for stoning or beheading of individuals merely content to rob them of their livelihood and make there lives a misery , it can’t be far off when they advocate this.

  39. My payslip describes me as an IT Engineer, but it sticks in my craw to claim that what I do is engineering. I wouldn’t even claim to be an IT Technician, an honest descritpion would be to call me an IT Fitter.

  40. I spent many years and the best part of a PhD trying to define what it is that programmers do; not entirely to my satisfaction, so a peripheral comment on a blog is never going to be a satisfactory answer, but…
    Programs are virtual machines. Without a program a computer is a dead thing it does nothing, with the appropriate program it becomes a calculator, a fancy typewriter, a magic filing cabinet, whatever. To quote Fred Brookes:

    The programmer, like the poet, works only slightly removed from pure thought-stuff. He builds his castles in the air, from air, creating by exertion of the imagination. Few media of creation are so flexible, so easy to polish and rework, so readily capable of realizing grand conceptual structures.

    Yet the program construct, unlike the poet’s words, is real in the sense that it moves and works, producing visible outputs separately from the construct itself. It prints results, draws pictures, produces sounds, moves arms.

    The virtual machine becomes a real machine. The output may not be something you can drop on your foot, but it is real nonetheless. And because the programmer ultimately has to work within those constraints —of real time, and place, and action— it can be a form of engineering. There are after all various ways of characterising Engineering. Some see it as applied physics and mathematics; some appeal to economics —designing for optimum use of material; or perhaps look to the root of the word, ingenuity.

    For ’tis the sport to have the enginer
    Hoist with his own petar; and ‘t shall go hard
    But I will delve one yard below their mines
    And blow them at the moon. O, ’tis most sweet
    When in one line two crafts directly meet.

  41. With luck Google will destroy themselves from within. Perhaps this sacking of a sensible techie will piss off enough of the people who actually produce the value at Google, and I’m not referring to the Diversity drones.

  42. “Programs are virtual machines. Without a program a computer is a dead thing it does nothing, with the appropriate program it becomes a calculator, a fancy typewriter, a magic filing cabinet, whatever.”

    The conventional way of describing it is to say that a computer is a “universal machine” capable of simulating and thereby performing the function of any other conceivable machine. A program is a precise description of such a machine that the universal machine can take as input, that causes it to perform the function specified. Loosely speaking – read Turing’s original papers for a more precise formulation.

    “I never classed myself as a “software engineer” because I was a rotten programmer.”

    The difference between a software engineer and a programmer is the same as the difference between an architect/structural engineer and a builder.

    A structural engineer plans how to build the bridge, how thick to make the steel, what quality of components to use, and *knows* it will stay up and support the load before they even break ground. A software engineer first sits down and figures out what the memory, processor speed, bandwidth requirements, software library performance requirements, operating system overhead, etc. are. They know how quickly different algorithms work, on what size problems. They know how fast you can push commands through the GUI libraries before they slow down. They know how fast the disk drives work, what the network capacity is, what the database search speed is for complex queries. They know how long it takes to write code of a given complexity and quality in different languages and using different design methods. And they design the system selecting components of measured and known performance so that the whole thing will work, but without specifying any unnecessarily expensive high-performance components. They know it will work before the first line of code is written, but without waste.

    Programmers, on the other hand, just start coding. They fix bugs until it no longer crashes, and then stop. They build the system, and then if certain components they used prove too weak and collapse under the load, they just replace them with stronger ones until it works. They act like a medieval builder. They build bridges by trial and error – if the last one fell down, build it’s replacement a little bigger and thicker. Keep trying until it stops breaking.

    Proper software engineering is expensive, and is overkill for a lot of small projects. (Engineering imposes a large overhead but small marginal costs. Programming has a small overhead but somewhat larger marginal costs. Total cost is overhead + marginal cost * size of problem, and so software engineering is not appropriate for small projects. A real software engineer would know this, and be able to calculate for you which side of the boundary your project is on.) Fortunately, most of the “software engineers” employed on small projects are really just programmers who know the value of advertising, working for managers who don’t understand the difference. It all works out OK in practice, mostly.

  43. Any differences that have been found between men and women in the area of engineering aptitude are far too small to make a difference like you lot are talking about. You’re claiming to be on the super rational, real over feels, side – why not put some actual numbers into the argument?

  44. That’s even more stupid then, BICR, because the attitudes on display around here become self fulfilling.

  45. Any differences that have been found between men and women in the area of engineering aptitude are far too small to make a difference…

    Care to adduce any evidence? I suggest you read Scott Alexander’s take on it.

  46. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Self-fulfilling? What the hell are you on about? This is observation, not prejudice. The article that dcardno links to nails it: skewed representation of sexes in one field or another is not well explained by stereotyping, or sexism, but it is very well explained by people doing things they want to do, and not doing things they don’t want to do. I suppose if you’re absolutely wedded to the idea of the evil patriarchy keeping women out of software engineering then no amount of data and argument to the contrary will convince you to stop emoting and consider you may be totally wrong, but that’s on you, not us.

  47. Bloke in North Dorset

    I see that 2 out of 12 Sr Software Engineers at Brave are women. I don’t know how that compares to Google but from my experience in telecoms engineering its about the same.

    But that tells us nothing, what we need to know is what proportion of women applied to be Sr Software Engineers and had the right qualifications, notwithstanding Swindon’s comment about not needing certificates.

  48. Most programmers don’t get the opportunity to do any more engineering than it requires to fill in potholes in the physical world. We’re mostly just fixing the compromises that came before.

    If engineering worked like commercial programming, things would fall down a lot more often. But engineers don’t get asked to build a new Thames crossing using only the materials, equipment and personnel leftover from the Crossrail project. And then being told six months later it has to be a bridge.

    Every time I was told not to compromise on the design of a software project, it got canned for being too expensive. I blame Excel, because everyone can knock out three lines of VBA and think they’re a programmer, and can opine on complexity, when in actuality it’s the IT equivalent of Lego.

  49. “If men and women are exactly the same then why do we need diversity?”

    I like that, but you know what feminists will say to that: “because women have been oppressed/discriminated against bladibla.

    The best argument against diversity? It’s another way of reintroducing positive discrimination, which we threw out ages ago because it’ discrimination, obviously.

    But it keeps resurfacing anyway. Why the double standard? Because some “egalitarians” don’t care about “equality”, they want to put white men down – for being white men.

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