The Google Gulag

A lot has been written on Google’s firing of James Damore, the author of an internal memo about the assumptions underlying his former employer’s “diversity” program. Whether or not one agrees with the memo, it certainly is in line with mainstream scientific research concerning differences in interests, abilities, and mental illnesses between men and women. Others have pointed this out here, here, and here. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) accepts that women are more strongly disposed toward neuroticism.

But Google’s concern clearly was not with the scientific basis of the claims made in the memo. In the words of its CEO, Sundar Pichai, Google’s concern was that the claims were “offensive and not”… “OK”. Presumably, the reason why they were not OK is that they constituted “harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination”. If that is true, then the same allegation must be made about quite a lot of mainstream research in psychology and neuroscience. And the allegation had better be backed by an argument to the effect that endorsing an empirical hypothesis about the abilities, interests, or psychiatric profile of a certain group (say, woman or blacks) must in and of itself constitute a form of “harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination”.

Of course, no such argument was provided by Google’s CEO, let alone by Google’s VP of Diversity, Danielle Brown. What is worse, Google’s CEO misrepresented the claims made in the controversial memo by suggesting that, according to it, women are “less biologically suited to [build great products for users that make a difference in their lives”]. Everyone who has read the memo will be able to confirm that no such claim is made or implied. All that is implied is that women and men will tend to occupy different roles in the building of “great products”.

Again, many others have pointed this out already. But a question that has remained unanswered is why the intelligent CEO of one of the world’s most important tech companies would feel compelled to make such rash claims, and to support such a controversial and unfair (and possibly illegal) decision. Here are three explanations that do not exclude each other:

  1. Google has just been accused of sex discrimination by the US Department of Labor. As a result, it may want to send out a strong signal that it does not tolerate such discrimination.
  2. Google occupies a quasi-monopoly position. As a result, it can afford to offend a significant part of its customer base, and to make announcements that experts can easily unmask as ridiculous and unscientific.
  3. To add some spice to this post: being a recent immigrant of Asian origin, Pichai may be disposed—perhaps even biologically disposed—toward conformism. As a result, he may have found it harder to resist what are no doubt orthodox opinions in the environment in which he is working, and in which he has been educated (for example, Stanford University).

Admittedly, these explanations are all speculative, but it may be worthwhile to reflect on the causes of such seemingly irrational behavior, because it may help us to understand why, in our own profession, it has proven to be extremely difficult to move prominent departments, journals and professional organizations to accept empirical findings concerning race and gender (discrimination) that go against the politically correct narrative.

 

Bob le flambeur

Bob le flambeur is a professional philosopher who enjoys the finer things in life, but who is afraid that his opinions about politically sensitive topics are becoming unaffordable. Hence, he has decided to go underground.

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23 Comments

  1. I’m glad companies are still able to fire people they don’t want to employ. That’s good.

    Damor surely knew what to expect working at a big-lib firm like Google, so kudos that he had the cajones to speak his mind anyway. He’ll be a darling of the conservative movement and get some nice speaking engagements with handsome fees, and end up much better off than he otherwise would have been slinging code anonymously as a small fish in the big Google pond.

    Crazy like a fox.

    • But companies aren’t free to fire people they don’t want to employ. Imagine if Google wanted to get rid of all their token women and racial minorities, because there are white guys who could do those jobs better. Or suppose they just said ‘We’re mostly a bunch of white guys and we prefer to work with people like us’. The state and media would come down like a ton of bricks. It might as well be illegal. (In fact it probably is. The EEOC would get involved.)

      And companies aren’t free to hire people they just want to hire. If you don’t have ‘enough’ women or blacks or whatever, you’re in big trouble. So given that situation, why should we want leftist corporations like Google to have the freedom to fire people who question ‘diversity’? In reality these corporations have the freedom to intimidate and punish dissenters, and the state and media will back them up. No one has the freedom to the same to leftists or feminists or minorities. The result will be that no one is free to talk about the most important, life-or-death issues in our society. Not unless people were similarly ‘free’ to dissent from Communism in the USSR. What the Communists couldn’t quite achieve will now be imposed by a bunch of Capitalists.

  2. It’s high time that Republicans in Congress regulate what these private, Leftist companies do, and also punish them harsly for the actions they take; in other words, make these Leftists “bake the cake”. Though, given how spineless some of them are, it’s highly unlikely they would even entertain such an idea.

    • I’m not in favor of more regulation. My own preference would be to see more competition for Google (incl. Youtube). Honestly, why it’s so easy for Google to maintain its monopoly eludes me.

  3. “why it’s so easy for Google to maintain its monopoly eludes me”

    Because they have the backing of the state, the intelligence agencies, etc. It’s a safe bet they’re doing lots of useful work for our leaders. But how can there be real competition when no one is allowed to put together a white-guy-centric (i.e., merit-based) company?

    • @Jacques – you’re simply confused, or else you have no real world experience in the private sector. Sure the EEOC gets involved in title vii stuff, and if Google or any company went on a firing binge of protected classes they’d be crushed under a mountain of litigation, but this was no Inquisition.

      And unlike the Inquisition, unless I’ve missed something, this isn’t a life or death matter. The dude got canned, just like he knew he would when he wrote his missive. Methinks the gentleman doth protesteth too much.

      Anyway I respect his chutzpah and I would hire him. It would be nice if more likeminded folks spoke up as clearly and boldly, consequences notwithstanding.

  4. “if Google or any company went on a firing binge of protected classes they’d be crushed under a mountain of litigation”

    Which is what you’d probably do if you were free to innovate, save money, make things more efficient, etc. You’re conceding that no one is free to fire or hire as they prefer. But then why celebrate the freedom of leftist ideologues and enemies of normal people to punish dissenters using their hiring and firing power? It’s just the freedom to enforce leftist lies and injustice. I mean, if ‘freedom’ is really important to you that’s fine; but then don’t be so happy that just some people–those who care least about freedom–have these basic freedoms now.

    The survival of the west is a life or death matter. I wasn’t referring to this one guy’s situation. We die for sure if we can’t even discuss things like sex and race differences without being ruined. Sure, this one guy may be okay. Not all of us are computer programmers. Ordinary people need to be free to talk about the life and death of their society without fear of being ruined and prosecuted.

    • Conceding? LOL! Really? Even without title vii protections do you really think companies would go around firing folks en masse in order to “innovate, save money, make things more efficient, etc.” simply because of their gender or ethnicity? That’s an example of the “lack of freedom” that keeps you up at night and results in these incessant hand-wringing comments online? That’s just silly. What world are you even living in? Now I’m even more convinced that you’ve never had a real world job.

      Are your anonymous blog comments changing the tide of Western civilization? No they’re not. You’re the equivalent of an empty suit televangelist. Get a life, bro.

  5. “Even without title vii protections do you really think companies would go around firing folks en masse…”

    Yeah, some people would do what some people did in the past: they’d hire and fire on the basis of merit, proven ability and achievement relevant to the work, etc. And the result of that would be a workforce that wasn’t very ‘diverse’ but which would also tend to be much better suited to the real purposes of running a business (or a school, or whatever). Just like the NBA or the class of top-notch physicists isn’t very ‘diverse’. Otherwise, why do you think states now pass laws against these practices? (And by the way, if people hire and fire in order to innovate, save money or make things more efficient–as I was suggesting–then obviously they’re doing it “simply because of their gender and ethnicity”. That’s just incoherent.)

    But anyway, the question wasn’t whether people would do this (or whether I’ve had “a real world job”, though I promise you I have, I really have!). The question was whether people have the freedom to do it. Well, they obviously don’t have that freedom, and you do seem be conceding that.

    And, yes, this is a major loss of freedom. People aren’t free to organize their own companies or businesses or professional guilds or whatever on the basis of their considered judgment regarding the job, the profession, etc. But it’s hard to argue about what’s important. On the other hand, I do wonder how you can consistently celebrate the freedom of leftist ideologues to fire on the basis of employee’s having non-leftist opinions, while not caring that other kinds of people have no such freedom to fire or hire employees for _their_ different reasons. Maybe it’s not really freedom you care about?

    I have a pretty nice life already CRD.

    • My original point was, and remains, that I’m glad companies have the right to fire people whom they don’t want working for them. You’re the one who went off on a tangent. But I’ve noticed it doesn’t take much to trigger you to pick up your hobby horse and ride it around spinning every conceivable topic into a diatribe about the fall of Western civilization to the “mud races” (or whatever pejorative you prefer), and possibly women now as well…

      Your worldview is stark and sad and confused. In my experience I’ve hired and fired a number of folks across the spectrum and the gub’mint has never once overridden or otherwise penalized me or my employer for even one single termination of any white, black, asian, hispanic, male, female, over 40, whatever.

      The real irony is that your idealogical ancestors, people like you who treat others whom you believe to be beneath you with contempt and disregard created the very circumstances which resulted in all the various governmental protections that are in place today. Thanks for that.

      But now you want to whine about it. Excuse me if I’m not sympathetic. If I don’t like the mess your ilk has made, I’m pretty sure I won’t like your solutions either.

      And I’m glad to hear you like your life, because you come across in your comments as a very petty, miserable, empty shell of a human being.

    • CRD, you’ve asserted at least twice that as, a matter of fact, companies can legally fire those “they don’t want to employ” and “whom they don’t want working for them”. Jacques corrected you by saying that there are severe restrictions on this right. In fact, these legal restrictions go *further* than title vii, and you acknowledge (at least) title vii. But you respond by suggesting that you don’t concede this: “Conceding? LOL? Really?”. This is really hard to make sense of. Either you acknowledge legal restrictions on the right to fire someone, or you don’t. But if you do, then you have to concede that at least two of your two statements are incorrect or, at the very least, in need of serious qualification.

  6. correction: “obviously they’re doing it ‘simple because’…” should be “obviously they’re NOT doing it ‘simply because…”

  7. “people like you who treat others whom you believe to be beneath you with contempt and disregard”

    Hiring and firing people simply because of their abilities or achievements isn’t treating them with contempt and disregard. However, denying people the freedom to hire and fire, associate, decide how to organize their own concerns and institutions _is_ treating them with contempt and disregard. It’s a denial of a basic human right. You disagree?

    What was it that required–morally required?–governments to prevent people from exercising basic freedoms of association, or the freedom to hire and fire others on the basis of merit (instead of having to meet some pre-ordained conception of what an adequately ‘diverse’ workforce or school should be like). Curious to hear some explanation of this.

    “shell of a human being”, etc… Whatever. My point is that your quasi-liberal or libertarian take on this is a dangerous error, or else it’s disingenuous. People who care about freedom should not be celebrating this. There’s nothing to celebrate in the freedom of leftists and corporations to do X when non-leftists and other normal people are punished for doing X. Unless you don’t really care about freedom and what you’re celebrating is something else.

  8. Incidentally, I think you’re beneath me in some important respects but I’m not treating you with contempt. Interestingly, it’s always the ‘egalitarians’ who are the most contemptuous and smug and patronizing in their dealings with actual people they regard as their inferiors. But that’s not surprising given that their ‘ideological ancestors’ who just luuurved humanity so darn much were also the greatest mass murderers in the history of the world!

  9. I’m not sure there is a way out of this morass. ~30% of the country is fine with large corporations punishing instances of ideological diversity in the workplace. Moreover, capitalism in the West (or, at least, in the States) has, through the consolidation of industry and the close connection between government and business, become the equivalent of a weak form of centralized government. This irony aside, libertarians can’t straight forwardly defend corporate sovereignty, since this translates to indirect support for a capitalist inspired communism of industry.

    What this means is that without anti-trust action, only a strong government response can do anything to stop reduction of ideological diversity in the workplace. Such a response will never come from a GOP-led movement, and Democrats are content enough to stand on the sidelines.

    Should companies not be allowed sovereignty in this regard? No, on principle they should be given this right, but a problem still exists and it is further upstream. Namely, ideological diversity has not merely been devalued, it’s now perceived as dangerous, tout court, by 30% of the populace.

    How the h*** did we get here? I ask, because it’s startling, dangerous, and I haven’t a clue where it all came from.

    Since 2008, or thereabouts, the West lost a coherent matrix of rationality. There are now a plurality of conflicting, yet interdependent points-of-view. Post-modernism has been dead for what, a couple decades? Yet, it feels like its progeny has just now matured. The conceptual space within Western politics and society seems like a playpen or nursery in disarray after the children come through.

  10. @Bob, maybe you can explain how legal protections such as title vii = cannot terminate. I haven’t seen that case made. No intellectual short cuts, please.

    You seem to think that helpful correction has been offered, yet I’ve pointed out in a prior comment that I have personal experience terminating multiple individuals who were covered under title vii. I’ve “asserted” a fact that I personally know to be true in my experience. Maybe you have a counterexample in mind where some employer was unable to fire an employee for cause specifically due to some governmental restriction. Normally any half-witted labor attorney can navigate employment law to achieve the desired outcome.

    If my comment is too unqualified and universal for your more fine grained definition, then so be it. I’m pretty sure a normal person wouldn’t read my original comment and go off on a tangent like axe-grinding Jacques.

    Me: “I’m glad we have freedom of religion in the U.S. and people can worship, or not worship, as their conscience dictates.”

    Overzealous Axe-grinding Interloctor: “That’s false. You can’t properly worship the ancient Canaanite deity Molech by burning living human babies on the extended, red-hot metal arms of his glorious visage and then eat their roasted bodies while engaging in public sex orgies!”

    Unhelpful blog admin: “you’ve asserted that as, a matter of fact, Americans have “freedom of religion” and “people can worship, or not worship, as their conscience dicates”. Overzealous Axe-grinding Interloctor corrected you by saying that there are severe restrictions on this right.

    Me: LOL! Mmmkay.

    @Jacques, I thought they arrested you for driving your car into a crowd of people in Virginia. Do you get internet privileges?

    Look, you’re a clown. A tedious clown, not even the funny kind. Freedom of association? Last I saw the Klan is still in business. Join up, man!

    I hire and fire based on business needs and performance. Maybe you’re in the wrong line of work. If your organization is suckling at the teat of gub’mint then they get to make up all kinds of rules for their teat suckers. Go do something. Start a business. Start a race-based club to rival the Klan, whatever, just quit whining about what a terrible job everyone else is doing to halt the decline of the West and man up and take action.

    As for thinking I’m beneath you in some respects, that’s practically a tautolgy. Of course I am. And you’re beneath me in some important respects, and we’re both beneath an average Australian Aborigine in some important respects (like Outback survival skills for example).

    Get over yourself.

  11. CRD,
    Let me see if I understand. You are granting that some people, at least, can’t hire and fire on the basis of perceived merit, but you think it’s just ‘axe grinding’ to infer that they aren’t really “able to fire people they don’t want to employ”. Thinking that this kind of freedom requires being free to hire and fire on that kind of basis would be just as silly as thinking that freedom of religion implies the freedom to practice religiously-based child sacrifice and cannibalism, etc. We can have the only kind of freedom that matters (to “sensible people”) even if we have to make sure that the workforce meets preconceived ideas about “diversity”. Is that right?

    The analogy is faulty. For one thing, child sacrifice and cannibalism are intrinsically wrong whereas hiring and firing on the basis of merit isn’t. So while in both cases there is a limitation on the relevant freedom, it’s an easily justifiable restriction in the one case but not the other. More importantly, a lot of “sensible people” have always believed (and still do believe) that hiring and firing on the basis of merit is a natural and effective practice–fundamental to our economic freedoms. So it’s not like this is some kind of outlandish practice that no one in our society has ever cared about–comparable to ancient Canaanite religion. And, weirdly, you yourself seem to believe in meritocratic hiring and firing. At least you claim that you “hire and fire based on business needs and performance”. But then how can you also think that, when the government won’t allow other employers to do just the same thing, this is not an important or relevant loss of freedom?

    The bottom part of your post is stupid and tasteless. That’s the kind of thing I had in mind when I said you’re beneath me in some respects. Maybe you should just try to deal with the arguments.

    • Did you have an example in mind of the fairy unicorn unfirable individual, Jacques? Bob misfired by linking to an article where the employee was, well, fired.

      You’re cute when you’re angry.

    • “Bob misfired by linking to an article where the employee was, well, fired”. Fired illegally, that is. Yes, Walmart got rid of the person, just like Mike Tyson managed to drive his car under the influence of cocaine. That doesn’t mean Walmart and Tyson were within their legal rights, or didn’t face serious legal consequences. And legal rights are the issue here.

  12. CRD, the issue is (obviously) not whether an employer can carry out some procedure resulting in someone no longer working for him but whether he’d be subjected to severe penalties for doing so. (This was the kind of example Bob provided.) Maybe it would help you to understand to consider one of your own analogies: You don’t have freedom of religion if you get sent to prison for practicing your religion; the mere fact that you practiced it doesn’t show that you’re free in the relevant sense. You yourself said at the outset that firing some kinds of people would trigger “a mountain of litigation”. (Bob’s example shows that it often succeeds too, at huge costs to employers.) QED: employers are not free in the relevant sense.

  13. Given the way actions speak, it doesn’t appear to me that Google is interested in the truth, per se, when it comes to workplace diversity. If it *were*, it would have had anything resembling a decent rebuttal to the claims presented by its now-ex-employee. The company solicited input. “How do we change the numbers/percentages of women in our workplace”? They brought up the numbers in the first place and asked for input on what would affect these numbers. And then they lost interest when they didn’t get an answer they liked.

    Google appears, then, to have a greater priority than truth-seeking here.

    It’s not how a philosopher handles unwelcome answers, especially after soliciting them in the first fucking place. Can you imagine Socrates getting a “wrong” answer about what justice is, then dismissing the interlocutor for contributing to a hostile dialogue environment while providing no explanation or better answer to the question. (But Socrates annoyed people and they dealt with him in their own “marketplace-friendly” way as well.)

    Google is in the information business. Information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, wisdom is not truth. They have a ways to go. Also, does “do no evil” include “shut down discussion that makes someone uncomfortable”?

    I thought Google had hired philosophers, or was that only for the no-bullshit end of things where they can’t afford caving in to ignorance and ultra-sensitivity?

    Don’t fuck with philosophers, especially the Aristotelian type. Not only do they have no tolerance for such pc-whipped or other nonsense, they’ll rip a gaping hole in it as well, especially if solicited. Google’s contradiction here is clear-cut.

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