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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- How Our Profession Rewards Ignorance - August 18, 2017
- The Google Gulag - August 10, 2017
- Why a “Philosopher of Color” Declines to Contribute - July 26, 2017
- The American Philosophical Association’s Explicit Bias about Implicit Bias - July 20, 2017
- The Central European University Saga - May 31, 2017
- Live and Let Live, or Let the Left Live? - March 31, 2017
- Philosophy’s Culture of Silence - March 1, 2017
- Against Open Borders - February 8, 2017
- Implicit Bias: From Early Death to Failed Resurrection - January 17, 2017
- On What Doesn’t Seem to Matter - December 28, 2016