The crackpot Google manifesto

Image result for john galtDefenders of the Google manifesto  who claim it is an argument about science are in denial. Damore claims that any program to encourage hiring and promotion of women and minorities constitutes discrimination against white men:

“Google has created several discriminatory practices:  … Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race ● A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates…”

So he defines “mentoring” of minorities and women as “discriminatory”. Then he complains that: “Discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons, and school dropouts.”  Ok, buddy. Just like that.  Trying to employ more women as programmers is the same as trying to increase the murder rate for women. Gotcha. He says he supports a diverse workplace but it’s pretty clear he thinks women are not qualified for high level work. His only suggestion for improving diversity is condescending and creepy:

We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration. Unfortunately, there may be limits to how people-oriented certain roles at Google can be and we shouldn’t deceive ourselves or students into thinking otherwise (some of our programs to get female students into coding might be doing this).” 

Imagine the luck of the female programmer stuck pair-programming with this guy. That person could hear that the wage gap between women and men is a myth (“”For the same work though, women get paid just as much as men”) , that the feminist and civil rights movements were invented by “Marxist intellectuals” in response to the failure of class struggle, and that Google’s management is motivated by a “veiled left ideology” that damages the company. He tells the reader that  “the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left”.   He calls Google’s diversity initiatives “encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies“. He complains about “political correctness” which he defines as  “a phenomenon of the Left and a tool of authoritarians.”  He tries to explain that “empathy” is an enemy of clear thinking:Image result for men's rights movement

I’ve heard several calls for increased empathy on diversity issues. While I strongly support trying to understand how and why people think the way they do, relying on affective empathy—feeling another’s pain—causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases. Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.

He even complains that women spend too much money.  And, of course, no essay in this tradition can avoid discussing castration: “Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males“.   John Galt and Rush Limbaugh  visit the Men’s Rights drum circle. Ick.

There is a biological argument, but it’s a transparent straw man:  “Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership.” Google engineering is 19% female. Google’s management is 22% female.  Here’s how many people argue that there are definitely no biologically influenced differences in distributions of traits: 0.

Damore’s basic argument reduces to: men and women are not identical biologically so men are better at science and programming. That’s it. He refutes the argument nobody makes – that men and women are identical – by citing some biological studies showing some differences. And then he extrapolates from those differences that programming/management ability must be gender correlated.  This extrapolation based on nothing then gets turned into a graph of a normal distribution of biological ability to program. Calling such an argument sleight-of-hand gives it too much credit. But even if it were true that biology is destiny for programming and  management and that fewer women are suited to those exalted professions due to hormones or X chromosomes or something, the rational response in a company like Google might be: that’s why we have to pay women more, recruit women more extensively, and aid and mentor women employees better to compete for a relatively rare resource.  Google is not required to do random sampling from the population of programmers or would be managers. This is the most elementary statistics, but not only does Damore get it wrong,  his defenders who are bedazzled by the citations of irrelevant scientific studies seem unable to do basic statistical reasoning.

Image result for 4 acesConsider the 4 Aces Fallacy. There are 52 cards in a deck, so a blind pick from a shuffled deck produces an ace with probability 4/52. The probability of picking 4 aces in a row is so small that it is essentially impossible. Yet, I can guarantee you I can pick 4 aces in a row out of the deck every time if I can look at the cards. If I look at the cards, the distribution doesn’t matter: If I actually want those aces, I can pick 4 aces in a row out of a deck of 10,000 cards that contains only 4 aces.  Google and other companies don’t hire based on blind chance. They recruit, interview and test and, because they are a highly profitable company, they can pay more and offer better benefits to attract employees they want. They look at the cards. If they want aces, they can get them. Most of the programmers in the world are average or worse. Does Google have to accept that half of its programmers will be below average? This is obvious, but in a rush to take Mr. Damore’s rant as a serious contribution, many commentators have ignored it.

The really interesting question is why this document has any defenders at all and, particularly, why all the concerned hand wringing from academics. It sometimes sounds as if people believe dim witted bigotry is an endangered and valuable trait that needs to be rescued from oblivion.

“Civilization’s going to pieces,” broke out Tom violently.
“I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessimist about things. Have you read
‘The Rise of the Coloured Empires’ by this man Goddard?”

“Why, no,” I answered, rather surprised by his tone.

“Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if
we don’t look out the white race will be–will be utterly submerged.
It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.”

“Tom’s getting very profound,” said Daisy with an expression of
unthoughtful sadness. “He reads deep books with long words in them.
What was that word we—-“

“Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at her
impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us
who are the dominant race to watch out or these other races will have
control of things.”

“We’ve got to beat them down,” whispered Daisy, winking ferociously
toward the fervent sun. –  F. Scott Fitzgerald, Great Gatsby.

(h/t to vp at for reminding me of this )