Is it just my imagination . . .

. . . or is the world getting dumber?  Maybe it’s just old age on my part—not keeping up with the changing times.  But I can’t shake the notion that a few years ago the world starting getting dumber.  Last year I focused on the Trump campaign, as when he promised to pay off the entire national debt in 8 years, and when asked how responded “trade”.  But it goes far beyond Trump; consider the recent Google controversy.  Here are the remarks that got James Damore fired:

At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story.

On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:

  • They’re universal across human cultures
  • They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
  • Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males
  • The underlying traits are highly heritable
  • They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective

Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.

. . . I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more.

A few remarks:

1.   I agree with almost the entire set of remarks (there’s lots more.)  If anything, I’m to the right of Damore—I weakly believe in gender and racial diversity.  I’m told that people who express these views get hounded and shamed on the internet.  I just endorsed them—will this happen to me? (I doubt it.)

2.  I can no longer work at Google.

3.  Last year, I was repeatedly told that I did Trump bashing to appear more fashionable to my colleagues at Bentley, or at DC cocktail parties (even though I didn’t teach at Bentley and don’t attend DC cocktail parties.)  OK, if I’m trying to appear PC, then why do I publicly endorse the supposedly racist and sexist views that got a Google employee fired?  Just asking.

The truth is I don’t give a damn what anyone thinks of my political views. I usually refrain from posting on race, sex, and gender because America is mentally ill when it comes to those topics, and its almost impossible to have an intelligent conversation with a crazy person.

4. Damore’s statement actually seems quite moderate and non-controversial.  As far as I can tell, even noted Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker would agree with the gist of what he said.

5.  The (male) leadership at Google is extremely smart.  I’m pretty sure that deep down they agree with Damore.  Clearly he was fired to appease Google’s critics.

6.  I suppose it’s always been true that people have been fired for expressing non-PC views.  In the 1950s, advocating communism might have gotten you fired.  But this somehow seems different.  Communism was an abhorrent system that only a few extremists favored.  Damore’s views are politically moderate and held by a large proportion of the US population.  Of course being a moderate doesn’t prevent you from working at Google, it just forces you to keep your views to yourself.

7.  This sort of left-wing PCism run amok is Donald Trump’s best friend—it converts moderates into conservatives, as people seek a supportive tribe.

8.  America’s mainstream press is also part of the problem.  Consider this Business Insider piece:

His memo goes to show that there is a right way and a wrong way to debate an issue. The right way to discuss controversial topics at work is to do so respectfully.

Here’s an easy rule-of-thumb to remember: You should generally steer clear of any remarks that evoke sentiments of “you people.” In other words, don’t make personal attacks on people or groups of people — keep it civil.

As Pichai wrote in his memo, “People must feel free to express dissent.” Indeed, the Google CEO acknowledged the importance of calling into question the company’s trainings, programs, and ideology.

Where Damore crossed the line was by suggesting a group his coworkers are biologically ill-suited to their work.

This is so laughably inaccurate that it’s almost libelous.  Damore never claimed that his coworkers are biologically ill-suited for their job.  Even if it were true that women were less good at tech work than men, on average, it would not imply that the specific women hired by Google were incompetent.  But it’s even worse than that; Damore alludes to the possibility that biology merely leads to different “preferences”.  After all, men and women score about the same on IQ tests, but I wouldn’t be the first person to note that, on average, men seem more inclined to like working with things whereas women, on average, seem to have a preference for working with people.  A difference that shows up at about age . . . I don’t know, maybe age 1?  (Or even Chinese age 1, zero in the West.)

9.  This sort of PCism seems to be spreading like a plague.  It’s closest 20th century parallel (noticed by my wife a decade before I noticed) is China’s Cultural Revolution, where people were told they should be ashamed of themselves if they had a privileged background.  Another similarity is that many of the victims are liberals, not even “guilty” of the absurd “crimes” they are accused of.

10.  The growing stupidity of the world seems international.  Recall Berlusconi in Italy, or the new right in Eastern Europe.  In the 20th century, the Nazis and communists were horrible, but at least you had a sense that they wanted to appear respectable to outsiders.  The communists in particular seemed to actually want to convert others to their cause.  ISIS and Boko Haram simply want to kill you and rape your daughters.  They don’t even try to appear appealing.  Some of the statements by North Korean’s leader are so stupid they are laugh out loud funny.

11.  Even the arts are affected.  I’m told that white authors are no longer allowed to included non-white characters in their novels.  It’s almost like an over-the-top, right-wing parody of PCism from the 1990s that has come true.  And you liberals need to keep in mind that this particular form of insanity, far more stupid than anything Trump says on his worst day, is coming from the political left.  Trump is merely offensive, in a standard neanderthal right-wing sort of way.  The left shows far more creativity, even in their stupidity.

Last year I focused on (OK, was obsessed with) Trump because he actually got the nomination.  If it had been Jeb Bush and Bernie Sanders I would have directed my scorn at the Dems.  And Sanders wasn’t all that far from gaining the nomination—if it had been up to white voters he would have been the nominee.

So why does the world seem to be getting dumber?  Maybe 200 TV channels and the billion internet channels have dislodged the elite from their gatekeeper function and empowered average people.  Who can forget this bit from the film American Splendor:

Mattress Guy 1: So how smart is she?

Mattress Guy 2: I don’t know. I guess she’s about average.

Mattress Guy 1: Average? Hey, man. Average is dumb!

PS.  For a much more intelligent take on this issue, read Scott Alexander.

PPS.  Last year I was considered “deranged” for arguing that Trump’s personality slightly (and I emphasize slightly) increased the risk of nuclear war. Now the US stock market has become similarly deranged after Trump’s “fire and fury” tweet.

PPPS.  If you think I’m making up my claims about the publishing industry, read this:

One author and former diversity advocate described why she no longer takes part: “I have never seen social interaction this fucked up,” she wrote in an email. “And I’ve been in prison.”

Many members of YA Book Twitter have become culture cops, monitoring their peers across multiple platforms for violations. The result is a jumble of dogpiling and dragging, subtweeting and screenshotting, vote-brigading and flagging wars, with accusations of white supremacy on one side and charges of thought-policing moral authoritarianism on the other. Representatives of both factions say they’ve received threats or had to shut down their accounts owing to harassment, and all expressed fear of being targeted by influential community members — even when they were ostensibly on the same side. “If anyone found out I was talking to you,” Mimi told me, “I would be blackballed.”

Dramatic as that sounds, it’s worth noting that my attempts to report this piece were met with intense pushback. Sinyard politely declined my request for an interview in what seemed like a routine exchange, but then announced on Twitter that our interaction had “scared” her, leading to backlash from community members who insisted that the as-yet-unwritten story would endanger her life. Rumors quickly spread that I had threatened or harassed Sinyard; several influential authors instructed their followers not to speak to me; and one librarian and member of the Newbery Award committee tweeted at Vulture nearly a dozen times accusing them of enabling “a washed-up YA author” engaged in “a personalized crusade” against the entire publishing community (disclosure: while freelance culture writing makes up the bulk of my work, I published a pair of young adult novels in 2012 and 2014.) With one exception, all my sources insisted on anonymity, citing fear of professional damage and abuse.

None of this comes as a surprise to the folks concerned by the current state of the discourse, who describe being harassed for dissenting from or even questioning the community’s dynamics. One prominent children’s-book agent told me, “None of us are willing to comment publicly for fear of being targeted and labeled racist or bigoted. But if children’s-book publishing is no longer allowed to feature an unlikable character, who grows as a person over the course of the story, then we’re going to have a pretty boring business.”

Another agent, via email, said that while being tarred as problematic may not kill an author’s career — “It’s likely made the rounds as gossip, but I don’t know it’s impacting acquisitions or agents offering representation” — the potential for reputational damage is real: “No one wants to be called a racist, or sexist, or homophobic. That stink doesn’t wash off.”

Authors seem acutely aware of that fact, and are tailoring their online presence — and in some cases, their writing itself — accordingly. One New York Times best-selling author told me, “I’m afraid. I’m afraid for my career. I’m afraid for offending people that I have no intention of offending. I just feel unsafe, to say much on Twitter. So I don’t.” She also scrapped a work in progress that featured a POC character, citing a sense shared by many publishing insiders that to write outside one’s own identity as a white author simply isn’t worth the inevitable backlash. “I was told, do not write that,” she said. “I was told, ‘Spare yourself.’

Another author recalled being instructed by her publisher to stay silent when her work was targeted, an experience that she says resulted in professional ostracization. “I never once responded or tried to defend my book,” she wrote in a Twitter DM. Her publisher “did feel I was being abused, but felt we couldn’t do anything about it.”

HT:  Tyler Cowen, Scott Alexander


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85 Responses to “Is it just my imagination . . .”

  1. Gravatar of Philo Philo
    10. August 2017 at 09:33

    As the various kinds of stupidity clash we must hope that overall they cancel each other out. Unfortunately, even then each will have its pockets of local dominance.

  2. Gravatar of danyzn danyzn
    10. August 2017 at 09:45

    Being an empiricist and realist means correctly understanding how people will react and adjusting your speech accordingly. Normal people are always going to interpret statements about group averages as statements about them. “People named Chad are dumber on average than people not named Chad” is not a statement I would make to my co-worker Chad, even if it is true and well-supported.

  3. Gravatar of Anonymous Anonymous
    10. August 2017 at 09:58

    My hypothesis: since we have become wealthier, we can now better afford the cost of being misinformed, and so we indulge in stupidity more, believing more of what we want to be true rather than what is actually true.

  4. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    10. August 2017 at 10:12

    “Last year I was considered “deranged” for arguing that Trump’s personality slightly (and I emphasis slightly) increased the risk of nuclear war.”
    You still are:
    http://www.newsweek.com/hillary-clinton-donald-trump-too-friendly-north-korea-465617

  5. Gravatar of H_WASSHOI H_WASSHOI
    10. August 2017 at 10:13

    I don’t think computing power of brains is on an efficient auction market at present.

  6. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. August 2017 at 10:33

    Danyzn, I agree, fortunately the Google employee did not do that. He said women were different, on average, which is true.

  7. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. August 2017 at 10:35

    I would add that Larry Summers came much closer to claiming that women were dumber, but even he did not do so. There is nothing in Damore’s email that conflict’s with the empirical observation that men and women have essentially identical IQs.

  8. Gravatar of rayward rayward
    10. August 2017 at 11:04

    Are males better at advertising than females? They are called Mad Men for a reason (actually two, Madison Avenue and they are all men). I refer to their modern counterparts in Silicon Valley as Sili Men. The Sili Men have proven themselves to be exceptional at advertising, just as the earlier Mad Men. Advertising seems rather a feminine occupation to me, but who am I to question male success.

  9. Gravatar of Philip Philip
    10. August 2017 at 11:50

    IQ: Same mean, probably different SD.

    What’s interesting is that men tend to believe the science about genetic differences b/w men and women more than women do. I suspect that is genetic (b/c I’m a man.)

  10. Gravatar of Wyatt Bush Wyatt Bush
    10. August 2017 at 12:12

    Scott,

    I agree with your assessment at hand of the problem with progressive echo chambers, and I do agree that Damore is being mistreated egregiously by his critics. However, I do not think your take on gender differences is accurate.

    See Grant’s response to Scott Alexander (http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/08/07/contra-grant-on-exaggerated-differences/#comment-533527)

    Also, see Quora on scientists responding to the Memo (https://www.quora.com/What-do-scientists-think-about-the-biological-claims-made-in-the-anti-diversity-document-written-by-a-Google-employee-in-August-2017)

    Regardless, this is how ideas and ideological differences are supposed to be exchanged. I am sure there are many people who would read this post and call you a bigoted sexist and dismiss everything you said off hand.

  11. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    10. August 2017 at 12:17

    Incidents like the burning of witches, Stalin’s purges, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Trump’s lies and left-wing PCism appear mad and stupid to us because we think life should be about intellectual honesty and about finding out the truth. I assume that’s Damore’s opinion, too. But here were are wrong. The world is not about truth for many people but about religion and power. Many people in power don’t care about the truth at all, they care about their power. And when their religion, their belief system (=their foundation of power) is threatened, they don’t hesitate one second before burning the witch.

  12. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    10. August 2017 at 12:24

    @E. Harding: but Hillary’s your girl now, right? Didn’t you say you’d be voting straight Democrat if Trump signed the Russia sanctions bill?

  13. Gravatar of TravisV TravisV
    10. August 2017 at 12:25

    Josh Barro:

    “The Google memo is poorly argued and reaches the wrong conclusion”

    http://www.businessinsider.com/google-memo-diversity-tech-2017-8

  14. Gravatar of Jameslgb Jameslgb
    10. August 2017 at 12:33

    You aren’t getting dumber it’s Gramscian Damage.
    http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=260

    I would not do the original article justice. I just recommend reading it and it’s from 2006 but pertinent.

  15. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    10. August 2017 at 12:34

    @danyzn
    Lovely description for being a broken gutless suck-up.

  16. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    10. August 2017 at 13:12

    @Travis
    Last time I checked women earned just 18% of undergraduate degrees for computer science. At top research universities that number was even lower (just 14%) but Barro complains that women make up “just” 20% of Google’s tech workforce. 20% is very high, even 6% too high when you assume that Google only takes people from top universities.

    Or his statement: “Diversity efforts are obviously not coming anywhere close to imposing equal representation.” What kind of argument is that? He’s basically saying: “Look the diversity programs are harmless, great, and successful because they are not successful at all.” –> Or what’s his point again???

    There’s no need for diversity programs at all. Employ the people that are best suited for the job and forget about the rest. Why so many people would care about the genitals between the legs of those employees is beyond me.

  17. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. August 2017 at 15:59

    Wyatt, I did read that exchange, and thought Alexander came out ahead. In any case, I’m not sure you know what my take on gender differences is. I claim that, on average, women tend to be more interested in people-oriented fields and men tend to be more interested in working with things. Please point me to the studies that refute that claim. In addition, men gravitate more to highly stressful jobs with long working hours.

    And your quora document is titled:

    “(https://www.quora.com/What-do-scientists-think-about-the-biological-claims-made-in-the-anti-diversity-document-written-by-a-Google-employee-in-August-2017)”

    Do you think that is an accurate description of a document where the author states that he “strongly believe[s] in racial and gender diversity”? Just asking.

    I agree with your final paragraph.

    Travis, That’s a very weak effort by Barro. Damore did address some of those issues that Barro claims he ignored:

    “At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story.”

    Not the WHOLE story.

    Barro wrongly implies that Damore is opposed to diversity efforts by Google. Not so, Damore claims they have gone too far. And pointing to the 20% female share of Google’s employees doesn’t carry any weight. If numbers told the story then you’d assume that America’s elite universities discriminated against Christians in their hiring, and in favor of atheists and Jews. Does anyone seriously believe that? Racial and gender disparities tell us nothing about discrimination. Indeed Alexander points out that the disparities are often greatest in countries with the least gender discrimination, like Sweden and Canada, and least in countries with the greatest discrimination, like Zimbabwe.

    There may be good arguments against Damore, but I’m not seeing them.

  18. Gravatar of Benjamin Cole Benjamin Cole
    10. August 2017 at 16:01

    I used to believe in sexual stereotypes until young women took up auto repair, and came to dominate the laboring ranks of the industry, as they do today.

    More and more stupid?

    Well, orthodox macroeconomists insist there are spreading labor shortages across America. This is standard fare, and has been prominently featured in official Fed statements.

    The BLS reported Wednesday that Q2 YOY unit labor costs fell 0.2%.

    You see, widespread labor shortages are entirely consistent with falling unit labor costs.

    The world has become a reality TV show.

    Generally, I have given up reading fiction, but I make an exception by reading the “news” and keeping up on orthodox macroeconomics.

  19. Gravatar of Benoit Essiambre Benoit Essiambre
    10. August 2017 at 17:31

    Speaking of nuclear war. This blog has made me understand and convinced me of a bunch of things. However I was never quite persuaded on NGDP targeting mainly because of practical issues.

    However, there is one scenario where I can see a clear benefit. It’s the one where global production were to drop considerably and suddenly. I can’t imagine that things would go too well if there was a 20% drop in production and prices were prevented from going up by more than 2%.

    But I thought this scenario was too unlikely to affect a cost/benefit analysis of NGDP targeting.

  20. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    10. August 2017 at 17:37

    I think the talk of leftist PC is overblown, but perhaps that’s a function of my isolation from it. I see lots of right-wing PCism run amok, which Jeff Flake has recently been very reasonably addressing.

    That said, there are silly attacks on liberals at times from hypersensitive fellow leftists, as if lifetime histories and apparent intentions don’t matter. I don’t deny there’s a problem, but it’s way overblown.

    The situation at Google has much less to do with leftist PCism than with practical corporate culture. The comments in that memo are very stupid from a practical perspective, in that one should expect to be fired for openly expressing such views in the workplace. That doesn’t mean there isn’t merit to the comments, but that such comments are not helpful to an organization coming from below the executive level.

    What’s far more disturbing to me are the leftists who attack me for saying that Maduro and Chavismo, for example, are responsible for Venezuela’s economic woes. The Chavistas are just as cultish as the Trumpistas, and like the Trumpistas, always blame others for the problems the current government causes.

  21. Gravatar of Wyatt Bush Wyatt Bush
    10. August 2017 at 17:56

    Scott,

    The Quora question itself is highly distortionary of the contents of the memo, however, I do not find the top response from an evolutionary biologist to be. Apologies for not making that more clear in my first comment. Most relevant excerpt (HT Steve Horwitz).

    “Sex differences in cognitive abilities have been well-studied, so it’s intriguing that Damore chooses to ignore this vast literature to focus on personality. The reason, however, quickly becomes clear when we look at the evidence: namely, there’s zero evidence that suggests women should make worse programmers. On average, women score slightly worse on certain spatial reasoning problems and better on verbal tests. Their overall problem-solving abilities are equal. Women used to score worse on math, but inclusive environments negate that difference. Even the (relatively robust) difference in spatial reasoning can vanish when women are asked to picture themselves as male. The only published study of coding competency by sex found that women were more likely than men to have their GitHub contributions accepted — but if they were project outsiders, this was true only if their gender was hidden.”

    This is definitely outside my expertise though, I’ll see what I can do about getting someone more knowledgeable than myself to comment.

  22. Gravatar of John Smith John Smith
    10. August 2017 at 18:24

    The evidence supports the idea that women don’t do computer science out of choice, not because they suck at it. For example, in high school I was good at poetry, but I ended up studying asset pricing. Presumably I could have been an above average poet but chose not to do it, maybe for biological reasons. However, I’ve never seen a robust group of studies that argues women have lesser ability than men in mathematical reasoning, so that part of the memo which focuses on ability is clearly incorrect.

    The US has 18% proportion of women in Computer Science BSC degrees. Sweden has 25% women in its computer science programs. In the aggregate, the software engineering profession must resemble the computer science Bachelor’s population almost exactly. Suppose we recreated Scandanavian gender utopia in the US. That would represent a 7% increase of women into the field. 25% of the “inequality” remains unexplained. And we will never adopt Scandanavian gender roles in America for at least 25 years. Something other than discrimination must be driving the variation.

    In any case, if Google manages to maintain gender parity in their software engineers, it must be the case mathematically that Apple or some other software company has less than 20% women in their software roles.

  23. Gravatar of anon anon
    10. August 2017 at 19:13

    The top Quora response is quite poor when viewed in comparison to Scott Alexander’s. The portion you excerpt and claim to be most relevant seems to me totally irrelevant and a straw man.

  24. Gravatar of E. Harding E. Harding
    10. August 2017 at 19:17

    msgkings, Hillary’s not running in 2018, and I was so depressed by how every Democrat voted for the sanctions bill, I don’t even know what to do now.

  25. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. August 2017 at 19:35

    Wyatt, That passage is written by someone who doesn’t seem to understand what the debate is about. The usual claim is not that men are smarter than women (I know of no evidence for that claim), but rather that the distribution of male talent has fatter tails.

    As far as studies that show women do better if they picture themselves as men, that has no relevance to Google even if true, and those sorts of studies rarely hold up when replicated.

    And again, this is probably mostly about biologically-related differences in preferences, for which the evidence is pretty overwhelming. Intelligence is a red herring.

    John, It’s even worse than those numbers suggest, In some of the least gender equal countries in the world, women hold close to 50% of positions in computer jobs. So the evidence that it’s about discrimination is just exceedingly weak.

  26. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    10. August 2017 at 19:36

    anon, I agree.

  27. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    10. August 2017 at 20:59

    @E. Harding:

    You obviously know what to do. Completely ‘welch’ on your oh so dramatic pledge.

  28. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    10. August 2017 at 21:15

    It’s revealing that no one ever talks about inequality in professions that aren’t perceived as high status.

    For example, 92% of nurses are women, while 95% of truck drivers are men.

    Likewise, 77% of event planners are women, while 73% of wholesale sales representatives are men.

    This isn’t idle bickering. Perhaps the best way to get women into computer science would be to figure out why jobs like nursing, counseling, event planning, and elementary education are so unappealing to men. Perhaps if female dominated professions were seen as less hostile to men, more positions would open up for women in currently male dominated professions.

    https://www.dol.gov/wb/stats/occ_gender_share_em_1020_txt.htm

  29. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    10. August 2017 at 21:30

    So why does the world seem to be getting dumber? Maybe 200 TV channels and the billion internet channels have dislodged the elite from their gatekeeper function and empowered average people.

    I disagree with this thesis. In fact, there is an alternate “Elite Overproduction Thesis” that I first encountered in 2013.

    Elite overproduction generally leads to more intra-elite competition that gradually undermines the spirit of cooperation, which is followed by ideological polarization and fragmentation of the political class. This happens because the more contenders there are, the more of them end up on the losing side. A large class of disgruntled elite-wannabes, often well-educated and highly capable, has been denied access to elite positions.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-11-12/blame-rich-overeducated-elites-as-society-frays

  30. Gravatar of Steve Steve
    10. August 2017 at 21:37

    Synthesizing my previous two posts, no one cares about gender inequality in low-status and mid-status professions, precisely because no one actually cares about gender inequality. They only care about high-status opportunities.

    The goals of the great gender inquisition have absolutely nothing to do with gender, and everything to do with creating sinecures for talented/highly educated people who would otherwise feel shut-out of elite status.

  31. Gravatar of Miguel Madeira Miguel Madeira
    11. August 2017 at 02:51

    “It’s revealing that no one ever talks about inequality in professions that aren’t perceived as high status.”

    There is nothing special about this – there also much more papers and articles written about inequality of income or wealth than about, lets says, inequality in the ownership of pet hamsters (with abstracts like “20 years ago, 15% of the population owned 40% of all pet hamsters; today that share rose to 63%”); people talk about the inequality in things that they feel important, not in things that they think are trivial or irrelevant; and, almost by definition (it is what “high status” mean), most people think that the access to high-status jobs is more important than the access to low-status jobs.

  32. Gravatar of Miguel Madeira Miguel Madeira
    11. August 2017 at 03:18

    A problem with the “men like to work in things, women with people” idea is that, when confronted with the real world, is full of ad hoc special clauses, to justify any possible exception, that in the end becomes almost non-falsifiable.

    Women are the majority in strongly technical things like medicine, biochemical or pharmaceutical sciences? Counter-argument: these professions are to treat people, even if in jobs with no direct contact with people (but this will not apply also to civil engineers – build houses where people will live – , software programmers – create applications that will be used by people -, and perhaps almost all professions in the world?)

    Man are the majority in politics and management? Counter-argument: man are more motivated by high status (but, at least in Portugal, judges – a profession that I imagine is also high-status – is overwhelming female)

    Man are the majority in sales representatives (the quintessencial “people’s person” job)? Counter-argument: man deal better with stress (but medicine – with life and death situations everyday – is not also stressful? And lawyers, a profession that I think is female-majority, is not also a stressful job, with the typical lawyer losing probably 50% of the cases?)

    If anything, I suspect that a better model for the male-female differencesis “female – detail-oriented professions; male – «big picture» professions” (picking berries versus hunting bisons?), but even for that I can see many exceptions.

  33. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    11. August 2017 at 04:02

    Google’s “diversity” program is useless when only 14-20% of the graduates in computer science are female. Google can increase their female tech workforce as much as they want but by doing that they will only cut into the female workforce of other tech companies. When genitals are so important to Google then they should found their own university and train only people with the “correct” genitals.

  34. Gravatar of Miguel Madeira Miguel Madeira
    11. August 2017 at 04:15

    Btw, I work in a public hospital, and the female/male share in some specialities is very different from what is refered in the Scott Alexander’s post; of course, his numbers are about USA, not about Portugal, but this is supposed to be natural and universal rules.

    Medicals (specialties with more than 10 professionals):

    Anesthesiology* – 60% female, 40% male
    Surgery – 39% female, 61% male
    Gastroenterology – 44% female, 56% male
    Gyn/Obs – 71% female, 29% male
    Physiotherapy – 50% female, 50% male
    Internal medicine* – 60% female, 40% male
    Nephrology – 50% female, 50% male
    Ophthalmology – 36% female, 64% male
    Orthopedics – 14% female, 86% male
    Clinical pathology* – 37% female, 63% male
    Pediatrics – 72% female, 28% male
    Pulmonology – 60% female, 40% male
    Psychiatry* – 45% female, 55% male
    Radiology – 37% female, 63% male

    Residents:

    Gyn/Obs – 80% female, 20% male
    Internal medicine* – 65% female, 35% male
    Pediatrics – 80% female, 20% male
    Psychiatry – 60% female, 40% male

    Technicians:

    Medical lab – 75% female, 25% male
    Anatomical pathology – 88% female, 12% male
    Cardiopneumology (?) – 85% female, 15% male
    Dietetics – 80% female, 20% male
    Pharmacy – 71% female, 29% male
    Physiotherapy – 59% female, 41% male
    Radiology – 49% female, 51% male
    Occupational therapy – 53% female, 47% male
    Psychology – 93% female, 7% male

    In medicals and residents, there are many similarities with Scott’s model, but with some exceptions (and important exeptions, in my opinion), like the female majority in Anesthesiology and Internal Medicine (and, reading Scott’s post, the male majority in these two specialties is a very important part of his theory).

    And the female over-majority in the technical professions (the “lab rats” and similar) seems totally against the “women – people, men -things” idea – most of these professions are extremely things-oriented, without any contact with the patients; and the more male representation is in some of the specialities with more contact with patients (Physiotherapy, Occupational therapy, Radiology) – the exception being Psychology.

    But, if these results are very difficult to reconcile with the model “women – people, men – things”, perhaps are more easy to reconcile with a model “women – detail-oriented, men – center of the action” (or with female – “nerd jobs”, male – “jock jobs”).

  35. Gravatar of Miguel Madeira Miguel Madeira
    11. August 2017 at 05:08

    Correction – where it is “Clinical pathology* – 37% female, 63% male”, should be “Clinical pathology* – 67% female, 23% male”

  36. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    11. August 2017 at 05:28


    But, if these results are very difficult to reconcile with the model “women – people, men – things”, perhaps are more easy to reconcile with a model “women – detail-oriented, men – center of the action” (or with female – “nerd jobs”, male – “jock jobs”)

    I don’t see why you would need those theories in the first place. Let’s says the difference between countries is really significant then it’s simply just “culture” and not genetics.


    It’s revealing that no one ever talks about inequality in professions that aren’t perceived as high status.

    Good point. It’ also revealing that no one ever talks about inequality in high status professions that are dominated by woman. Anesthesiology* – 60% female? Internal medicine* – 60% female? Gyn/Obs – 71% female? Pediatrics – 72% female? Where’s the whining there?

    Or take Germany: Nearly 70% of all (!) medical students are female for over a decade now. Where’s the whining? Which diversity bullshit manager complains about that???

  37. Gravatar of Patrick Sullivan Patrick Sullivan
    11. August 2017 at 05:50

    No, the world is not getting more stupid. It’s always been thus. The guy from Google just experienced the Emperor’s New Clothes phenomenon.

  38. Gravatar of FXKLM FXKLM
    11. August 2017 at 06:17

    Thank you for this. Too often, when people ask why the world (particularly in politics) has become so bizarrely stupid, they really only recognize the problem on the other side. Then they look at what may have happened on the right or the left to cause that degeneration. That’s not going to help anyone understand the situation.

    Whenever someone points out the shocking descent into stupidity on my side, I have to point out that the same thing is happening on the other side. I don’t do that to deflect blame. This sudden mysterious decline into stupidity is bipartisan, and until we’ll never understand what’s causing it.

    Seems like it has to be social media, right? Democratizing the public discourse sounds like a good thing, but it has some serious drawbacks. The public is dumb and the easier it is for them to share their dumb ideas with one another, the dumber they get.

    Ironically, I think Citizens United shares some of the blame as well. The left’s objection to Citizens United was that would entrench the power of the wealthy over political discourse and give ordinary people less of a public voice. The reality is that, pre-Citizens United, the major media outlets had very strong control over political discourse. Now, anyone willing to spend their own money has much more power to get their message out. So the result has basically been the opposite of what the left feared (we’ve seen more, not less, access and diversity of opinion), but the effect has still been pretty toxic. That said, I still agree with the Citizens United view of the First Amendment. The world might be a better place if the public discourse were a little more exclusive and elitist, but the government has no right to impose those restrictions.

  39. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. August 2017 at 06:20

    Miguel, You said:

    “I work in a public hospital, and the female/male share in some specialities is very different from what is refered in the Scott Alexander’s post; of course, his numbers are about USA, not about Portugal, but this is supposed to be natural and universal rules.”

    Actually he doesn’t claim it is universal, indeed he notes that 50 years ago the numbers were much different. He also notes that in some countries nearly half of computer workers are female.

    You said:

    “should be “Clinical pathology* – 67% female, 23% male””

    What are the other 10%?

    I’m not impressed by your other examples. Working in a pharmacy is much different from taking apart an engine. It’s more like working with a recipe in a kitchen.

    When people talk about working with “things” they don’t mean pots and pans, sewing machines, etc.

  40. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    11. August 2017 at 06:33

    “What are the other 10%?”

    Only a cisgender would ask something like that. :rolls eyes:

    “It’s more like working with a recipe in a kitchen.”

    I love sentences like this by Scott. You never know if he’s serious (in an autistic way) or if the pun is intended. My money is on the first option.

  41. Gravatar of Miguel Madeira Miguel Madeira
    11. August 2017 at 07:04

    Second (and hopefully last) correction – “Clinical pathology* – 67% female, 33% male”

    “Working in a pharmacy is much different from taking apart an engine.”

    I confess that, in spite of working in an hospital, I don’t know exactly what pharmaceuticals do in hospitals. But I think I know what medical lab technicians do (testing for the presence of substances, searching for pathogens), and I think that it is not much different from (in therms of actions, not in goals or specific substances) what is make in lab work in any branch.

    But I think we are entering in what I talked about in comment 11 (“full of ad hoc special clauses, to justify any possible exception, that in the end becomes almost non-falsifiable.”).

    Indeed, pharmaceutical or laboratory work is very different from “taking apart an engine” (note – in spite of working in an hospital, I don’t exactly know what pharmaceuticals do in hospitals); but if we restrict “working with things” to activities that requires “hands-on”, dexterity, manual coordination, perhaps some physical strength (and in general an engagement with the physical world), etc. (what indeed could explain the male majority in surgical specialties, and also the strong minority in the technicians of physiotherapy), I think that, then, computer programming (the original point of contention, I think) don’t also count as “working with things” (I am talking only about computer programming; technical work in IT with more connection with the hardware will count).

  42. Gravatar of Miguel Madeira Miguel Madeira
    11. August 2017 at 07:09

    After posting, I note that my comment is much confuse.

    Where I wrote “what I talked about in comment 11”, it is supposed to be “what I talked about in the comment 11. August 2017 at 03:18 “.

    And some repetitions in the text, but that does not affect the meaning.

  43. Gravatar of Bob Bob
    11. August 2017 at 09:10

    First, it’s hard to disagree with you in the fact that the world is not exactly getting smarter, and this happens among liberals too. A large majority of the coverage on this is very weak. Now, what I’d tell you is that, like Tyler would recommend, the right approach to analyzing the decision, and the reasons for said decision, is not to look at the press coverage at all, but look at the strongest possible arguments.

    It’s very easy, on the ground, to see different levels of voluntary attrition in men and women from tech companies. I unfortunately can’t give you the numbers I have, but it’s often 2:1. Interviews looking for reasons don’t point out to ‘too many hours’ or anything like that as being the difference: It’s things that are all polite, exit interview code for 1950s mores. Similar numbers also show up when looking at certain minorities. There are some companies that don’t have numbers like this, but those are companies with a far higher percentage of women engineers than average: Numbers stop being terrible in places that achieve a somewhat more balanced equilibrium.

    While someone can make a biological argument. We also have to consider cultural arguments for this. And just as we can say the left is dumb, we can say the ‘women are inferior’ crowd is equally as dumb, and sees articles like this, shared internally in google, as a great way of increasing the pressure on cultural bias. Let’s recall that even supposedly very smart software developers are bad at statistics.

    Another important point, often forgotten by those in the field, is that ideal skillsets across technical ladders change: When I hire, I care far more about social skills than people outside of the industry would guess: As one becomes a senior engineer, then principal, then staff engineer, being better at tech is not really what makes someone succeed at the role. And yet, you’ll be hard pressed to find Google increasing the percentages of women as levels go up: You just get more socially adept men.

    Therefore, it’s not hard for me to see how an environment where an external narrative about equality is better overall for a software company, even if every single claim about men being on average better at software were true.

    Now, don’t even take this as a stronger argument: Just don’t assume that all the companies that are taking a more aggressive approach to enhancing diversity are led by fools.

  44. Gravatar of Miguel Madeira Miguel Madeira
    11. August 2017 at 09:46

    “even if every single claim about men being on average better at software were true.”

    I think that are two different opinions that in this discussion are easily conflated – “men are, on average , better at software than women” and “men are, on average, more interested in things like software than women”.

  45. Gravatar of msgkings msgkings
    11. August 2017 at 10:09

    +1 to Bob, and to Miguel’s last comment at 09:46

  46. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    11. August 2017 at 10:57


    And yet, you’ll be hard pressed to find Google increasing the percentages of women as levels go up: You just get more socially adept men.

    What’s that a “socially adept man”? And what have women got to do with it? Men without women are hillbillies and Neanderthal men? And if yes what’s the reason for this? Genetics? And what’s the point of companies like Microsoft, Tesla, and Facebook? Producing “socially adept men” or producing an ingenious product?

    Last time I checked (surprisingly?) many founders of these companies have a background story that I would not describe with “socially adept”. When you think about Zuckerberg, Musk, Jobs, Gates, Bezos, Ellison, Brin, and Page, you think “socially adept men”? That’s a bit hard to believe.

    Their successors might be “socially adept men” but they are usually the beginning of the end. When you see people like Pichai, Ballmer, and Cook taking over, the rise and the peak are usually over and you can start preparing for the decline.

  47. Gravatar of Sean Sean
    11. August 2017 at 11:02

    He is obviously correct. I would lean to sexual market preferences as the reason for the difference and not biological intelligence. A successful man can reproduce with dozens of other women while a successful women can only reproduce with one. Gives a much bigger reason for males to be empire builders. A rich man can have a lot of sugar babies and likely still an acceptable wife.

    I think google was 100% right to fire him. IF they didn’t they would have a scandal. Maybe enough people would start using another search engine that it would help that company build up the resources to compete with google. A serious concern.

    Also sounds like he’s going to get paid. Based on california labor law that allows activist to discuss work place conditions. So he will likely make out well.

  48. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    11. August 2017 at 11:12


    Maybe enough people would start using another search engine that it would help that company build up the resources to compete with google. A serious concern.

    Worst argument so far. I assume you meant this in an ironic way???


    IF they didn’t they would have a scandal.

    Unlike now of course. Your use of irony is astonishing.

  49. Gravatar of dtoh dtoh
    11. August 2017 at 14:53

    Can a society disintegrate from group think stupidity? It sure seems like the U.S. is headed in that direction.

  50. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. August 2017 at 15:28

    Bob, You said:

    “And just as we can say the left is dumb, we can say the ‘women are inferior’ crowd is equally as dumb”

    I agree, but I don’t see any reasonable people making that argument. What I do see is reasonable people making the argument that women are different, on average.

    About 80% of students in veterinarian schools are women. Do you see people arguing that’s because men are inferior? No. Do you see people arguing that that’s because men are discriminated against? No.

    There is a third option, I don’t know why people can’t see that.

    A lot of people really need to work on their reading comprehension.

  51. Gravatar of LC LC
    11. August 2017 at 17:46

    Scott:

    I disagree with your post on this topic.
    Full disclosure: I am a minority male tech guy, so perhaps my views are totally biased. I have several issues with the Danmore post. Let me list them out:
    1. For anyone who had time and energy to write a 10 page essay, what struck me was the assumptions being made. Didn’t he research what are Google’s goals in this diversity push? Was it to have 50% female engineers or just more female engineers than Google current has? He starts out without any of that information, and goes on to try to persuade others Google is wrong or discriminating others without evidence. In my view, this is not an attempt to be persuasive.
    2. He complains about Google being an echo chamber. However, anyone who has worked at any corporation should know that corporations are always echo chambers. They’re not a forum for free debate. Their goal is and always will be to maximize profits, and as long as share holders and employees agree to what the management has set out to do, then you get into line. If you wanted to have this type of philosophical debate, do it on a free forum like this one.
    3. He certainly doesn’t know much about engineering. A lot of people confuse engineering with writing code or building things or tinker with something. That is the basics, the stuff you do at school and internships. A large part of engineering is really to be skeptical and ask questions, and seek quantifiable metrics to explain something. A good part of my job is often asking why are we doing this, given what we know about that? What are we trying to achieve? The best analogy I can come up with is people confuse economists with the guys on TV who say “dollar shouldn’t be weakening because Fed is raising interest rates.”
    4. I find in general women engineers are better and more valuable because they ask the right questions to start, get their colleagues to thoroughly explain a process or a problem and then can get to the solutions. Also, once they’re committed to a solution, they’re fully on board and work much harder to get things done. No wonder corporations want more women engineers.
    5. A lot of the debate or assumption here is looking at US data only for female engineers or scientists. The world is much bigger than just US (and this is where Trump is really hurting us). Why do US corporations push for diversity? It’s because they can get the best talent from all over the world. It was great for US corporations until Trump.
    6. In a litigious society, corporations such as Google have to be cautious. This doesn’t mean they’re stupid. In fact, given the profit and market share they have had, I find Google to be very smart.
    7. For the life of me, I can’t understand what would drive some tech guy to write 10 pages of essay on something that’s not related to his work. Where does he have the time? Doesn’t he have enough to do? Why discuss this in a corporate setting?

    As I said, my views might be biased, so criticize me for points you disagree with.

  52. Gravatar of D.O. D.O.
    11. August 2017 at 18:12

    1. Boys having more interest in trucks does not translate immediately into 20% women as a right balance for coding software. Those steps in between are also important. Why coding software is more “working with things” than anesthesiology? And no, sorry, no handwaving explanations about why that might be true.

    2. Google is business first and foremost. It cannot be held accountable for not having a larger percentage of women than US education system supplies it with. It also cannot be held accountable for not holding onto the guy that became a PR nightmare.

    3. That said, if talented women require some different work environment to show their full potential, or female-only conferences, or more reasonable working hours, it might be a good business strategy for Google to adapt.

    4.It is also possible that women (on average) provide a different approach or a different point of view, useful in Google’s line of business or in creating better team effort. Then they should just figure out where to find more talented women. (Hint: money, work environment, etc.) Skinny tails be damned.

    5. Suppose that women (on average) have less interest in computer coding for whatever reason. What exactly is the benefit for society (assume 3 and 4 are wrong) in having more frustrated programmers than more satisfied doctors, lawyers, teachers etc?

    6. It seems that significant amount of women in tech do experience discrimination. At least as seen from their experience. Dissertations about boys, trucks, testosterone, distributions with tails, and universities not churning enough suitable candidates suddenly does not seem very relevant. In other words, do not fight numbers, fight actual discrimination.

  53. Gravatar of mbka mbka
    11. August 2017 at 19:38

    Scott,

    it’s odd but I can’t really get fired up on this. I tried, but… this scandal is just more of the same, and as you point out, well-known mental issue the US has in certain areas of public debate. Then again, all cultures have their own social issues where they go mental; anglo culture doesn’t take sex and gender well, continental Europe chokes on money etc. And on the bright side, the US does have a culture of open discussion. We do here, and elsewhere, discuss this largely US issue even though many of us aren’t even Americans! In other cultures, this politically motivated employee dismissal would have been executed, then swept under the carpet, in total suppression of even the hint of dissent. Pick any East Asian country for examples of how that works out there. Also see the fascinating line of thought that the whole point of reason is to argue better for one’s group interests, e.g., https://sites.google.com/site/hugomercier/theargumentativetheoryofreasoning

    The bigger background here is that it’s fairly fruitless to discuss things on their merits because enforcing blind allegiance to “the tribe” is the whole point of the outrage. This is about ritual and taboo, e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purity_and_Danger.

    Repeating a mantra, a credo, punishing those who don’t repeat it, this is how groups are formed, and this is how groups are maintained. It has been pointed out both for Stalin’s and for Trump’s methods, and it is visible too on the left: the more absurd the credo, the bigger the lie, the more value is there in blind allegiance to it. There is more visible commitment in agreeing to defend the absurd. Note – I don’t think that criticizing Damore is absurd, because he is not obviously right on everything. Attacking him in this way though is way more than his memo’s contents warranted.

    Conclusion: the world hasn’t become stupider. It has become more tribal. We see the consequences, tribalized media wars fought not over substance but over allegiance.

    Oh yea, on substance re: diversity. The whole point of diversity (biologically and otherwise) is to be able to fill more ecological niches. One has more tools for any job, hence a better division of labor. Since the point of diversity is precisely a better division of labor, it is absurd to try and force equal representation of all dimensions of diversity (gender, age, SES etc.) into everything. It negates the benefits of diversity.

  54. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    11. August 2017 at 19:45

    LC, Thanks for that information. You started by saying you were going to disagree with me, but I didn’t see you actually disagree with anything I said.

    Damore strongly supports diversity. He also thinks Google went too far. That’s a subjective judgement that I’m not qualified to make. My only point was that there is nothing outrageous about his post. It’s no more outrageous that a post suggesting Google is focusing too much on self-driving cars. You may be right or he may be right, but that’s not the issue I’m focusing on here.

    D.O. You said:

    “Boys having more interest in trucks does not translate immediately into 20% women as a right balance for coding software.”

    No one claimed it was. The point is that looking at percentages tell you NOTHING about where there is discrimination. Nothing about whether there is a need for diversity programs. Why is that so hard to understand? It’s diversity program advocates who have the burden of proving that the 20% number is something we should care about. But why? What about the big underrepresentation of Christians at elite schools? Is that also a cause for concern? Why?

    You said:

    “That said, if talented women require some different work environment to show their full potential, or female-only conferences, or more reasonable working hours, it might be a good business strategy for Google to adapt.”

    Wait a minute! Women are different from men? I thought the diversity people were telling us that the idea of differences between the genders is a myth? Which is it?

    Seriously, I agree with your point, but only because I believe that women are different, on average.

  55. Gravatar of anon/portly anon/portly
    11. August 2017 at 20:07

    The Josh Barro thing is a bit odd, to me.

    “Imagine there were a professional field where, because of aggregate differences in aptitude and interest across genders, 35% of the good job candidates were women, and that you would expect an industry environment that truly treated people equally to produce an employee base in this field that was 35% female.

    In the real world, employment in this field is likely to end up being a lot less than 35% female.”

    He then gives four reasons, the fourth of which is very different from the first three, and is sort of beyond analysis. The first three are “hiring-manager biases and stereotypes.” They lead, as suggested above, to “a lopsidedness by gender in hiring that exceeds the actual lopsidedness by gender in the qualified candidate pool.”

    This immediately raises the question, does this work the other way? In other words, if we have a field where 35% of the qualified job applicants are men, will for similar reasons employment “in the real world … end up being a lot less than 35%” male?

    If not, if this effect is one-way, it then seems like having a minority of qualified job applicants being women is completely besides the point, since these stereotypes and manager biases could persist even if a majority of qualified applicants were women.

    I think his logic suggests a very strong claim: we could never have a field in which 35% of the qualified job pool candidates were women, *and* in which there were no special employment efforts on their behalf. Because I don’t see how it would make sense that 35% of the good job candidates would be women in the first place, if many would either not be hired or would choose to “self-select out” of the field because of inevitable stereotype and manager-bias effects.

    If these effects can be so strong, that employers are willing to discriminate against or disregard 35% of their qualified job candidates (which seems kind of costly to me), I don’t see why the real point of Barro’s hypothetical, if accurate, wouldn’t simply be that we need lots of special efforts in hiring women across the board….

  56. Gravatar of D.O. D.O.
    11. August 2017 at 20:21

    I am not, actually, a “diversity advocate”. As far as I understand diversity advocates, they acknowledge that there are substantial differences between men and women (can we drop repeating “on average” as if we are playing in Mikado), but they think that it will be beneficial if societal norms change so that women and men will have equal chances to advance in every profession. Some of them (I mean, advocates) can be ignorant, self-righteous, overbearing, and trying to jump on the loudest bandwagon, not necessarily join the finest orchestra.

    As you, Prof. Sumner, I am not persuaded by 20% figure (hence my point 6) that there must be actual discrimination. On the other hand, it might be suggestive. I think that if American system of education and hiring does discourage a lot of girls and women from trying their hands in what might be an interesting and rewarding career, it would be a regrettable loss. But I am agnostic to what degree (if any) it does.

  57. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    12. August 2017 at 08:13

    mbka, Excellent comment–I hope everyone reads it.

    Anon/Portly. I generally like Josh Barro’s columns, but I thought that was a weak effort.

    D.O. Sorry for attributing to you views that you do not hold. But would you agree that some diversity advocates get very irate when someone even suggests that there are differences between men and women that justify labor market imbalances?

  58. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    12. August 2017 at 09:24

    There is a practical point being missed here. If an employee memo is widely distributed that offends some appreciable number of women at the company, even if women are a rather small minority, it’s easily cheaper to fire the memo writer as a signal to keep a few female employees from possibly quitting. It’s a relatively cheap signal of solidarity from management.

    I suggest that many here who are bothered by this firing would have also fired the memo writer, even if you completely agree with the memo content, if in the position of running Google in this case. Also, since this became public, out was important to signal to the potentially millions of customers who would be offended that Google values their feelings.

    As a pure business decision, this makes a lot of sense.

  59. Gravatar of Misanthrope Misanthrope
    12. August 2017 at 11:15

    Sumner, I feel your pain when you say “A lot of people really need to work on their reading comprehension.” But don’t forget to add on “basic logic” as well.

    I might suggest that you heed the persuasive conclusion of your post, and just ignore the stupid comments rather than respond.
    “its almost impossible to have an intelligent conversation with a crazy person.” No need to hedge this. Drop the word almost.

    Sometimes it’s best to live in your bubble and not even try to contemplate what delusions the others believe, much less try to persuade them of the truth. You can’t reason anyone out of a position that they didn’t reason themselves into.

    Also, mbka: I would say a more tribal world IS a stupider one.

  60. Gravatar of Jeff Jeff
    12. August 2017 at 11:21

    Diversity is a good thing because different kinds of people bring different attributes to the workplace. However, noticing that different kinds of people bring different attributes to the workplace is a bad thing.

    Or did I miss something?

  61. Gravatar of Candide III Candide III
    12. August 2017 at 13:01

    Communism was an abhorrent system that only a few extremists favored.

    Oh boy. Nobody remembers anything, do they? Communism, including Soviet communism, was very popular and championed by all manner of celebrities du temps. For instance, I have Stalin’s “Questions of Leninism” (printed in Moscow in 1938) on my bookshelf. It ends very appropriately with a respectful 15-page interview of Stalin by H.G. Wells. Noam Chomsky and “Harvard Crimson” were vocally supporting Khmer Rouge until it became absolutely impossible to pretend that mass murders weren’t occurring, at which point they switched in the best Orwellian tradition. Che Guevara was and is a popular icon. AIACC!

  62. Gravatar of D.O. D.O.
    12. August 2017 at 14:07

    But would you agree that some diversity advocates get very irate when someone even suggests that there are differences between men and women that justify labor market imbalances?

    Sure, lots of them. I doubt, though, that the reason of they ire is factual. Or, at least, not to a large degree. Because their main focus is advocacy, they consider the talk about biological differences as a deflection tactics.

  63. Gravatar of Radford Neal Radford Neal
    12. August 2017 at 17:09

    LC:

    You say, “He [Damore] certainly doesn’t know much about engineering… A large part of engineering is really to be skeptical and ask questions, and seek quantifiable metrics to explain something. A good part of my job is often asking why are we doing this, given what we know about that? What are we trying to achieve?”

    Try reading your description of what a good engineer does again. Don’t your words describe just what Damore was doing, with regards to a major company policy?

    You also say, “I find in general women engineers are better and more valuable because they ask the right questions to start, get their colleagues to thoroughly explain a process or a problem and then can get to the solutions. Also, once they’re committed to a solution, they’re fully on board and work much harder to get things done. No wonder corporations want more women engineers.”

    So, unlike Damore, you believe that the women engineers you’ve worked with ARE systematically different than the men. It’s just that your sexism goes the opposite direction of what you (incorrectly) attribute to Damore.

  64. Gravatar of ssumner ssumner
    13. August 2017 at 07:24

    Scott, Not sure I “missed” that point given that I said Google fired the guy to appease the diversity advocates, may of which are within the company.

    Jeff, Brilliant.

    Candide, Sure, lots of intellectuals like communism, but by the 50s very few voters did. The communist candidate received vary few votes in US presidential elections.

  65. Gravatar of Scott Freelander Scott Freelander
    13. August 2017 at 09:06

    Scott,

    It’s possible I missed your point, but let me ask this: can you think of a useful way to have a memo go public that’s written by a man and addresses the nature of women? In other words, I think women will fundamentally object to such commentary, whatever the merits or intentions, and whatever the culture. This is especially true in a workplace where women are in the minority.

    So, instead of a comment on PC culture, might it instead be largely indicative of human nature?

  66. Gravatar of Lorenzo from Oz Lorenzo from Oz
    13. August 2017 at 15:52

    A hypothesis:
    In a world flooded with information, what do folk do? They economise on information. How? By assenting to the received wisdom in their social milieu.

    The incentive to do so is particularly strong among those for whom displaying cognitive competence is at a premium. So various piety displays* allow massive economising on information as well as providing reputation protection and expectation convergence. Hence its particular importance for participants in transnational networks and workers in areas with a premium on cognitive competence. It has the wider disadvantage of committing people to social narratives that support such signals and so blocking consideration of contrary facts or concerns because it gets in the way of their display/low cost signalling.

    Which, looked at dispassionately, would come across as an increase in stupidity.

    (*I have decided to abandon using the term ‘virtue signalling’ on the grounds that it is not really virtue and generally not signalling as economists and biologists understand the term.)

  67. Gravatar of Carl Carl
    13. August 2017 at 16:50

    Social media amplifies tribal voices by removing institutional filters on which opinions are given voice. An opinion held strongly by 1% of the population might never have been heard in the past whereas it now could equate to a million tweets and Facebook and blog posts which in turn might motivate some of those who held only a moderately strong opinion on the matter to speak up. And that many voices become harder to ignore. And they are voices that generally do not pay a price if they are being shrill.

  68. Gravatar of LC LC
    14. August 2017 at 08:59

    Radford Neal:

    If the charge you level at me is I am a sexist, then yes, I am guilty as charged. Never claimed that I wasn’t sexist nor hypocrite.

    Please read my comments again about what I attributed to Danmore and what I stated are my opinions.

  69. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    15. August 2017 at 01:45

    ” The (male) leadership at Google is extremely smart. I’m pretty sure that deep down they agree with Damore.”

    Never underestimate the capacity of smart people to believe very stupid things. There are plenty of Nobel Laureates in multiple fields who have demonstrated this point.

    I work in the sciences, and the unfortunate fact is, excepting their very particular area of focus, most specialized brilliant people reach their political conclusions the same way dumb people do: by believing whatever is most consistent with their political self-image. The average PhD wielding scientist, I am convinced, will give about the same justification for his support for, say, affirmative action or higher capital gains tax (as most lean left) as the man on the street.

  70. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    15. August 2017 at 01:46

    LC:
    “4. I find in general women engineers are better and more valuable because they ask the right questions to start, get their colleagues to thoroughly explain a process or a problem and then can get to the solutions. Also, once they’re committed to a solution, they’re fully on board and work much harder to get things done. No wonder corporations want more women engineers.”
    So you’re sexist against men. If you expressed this sexism openly at your place of work, do you expect you’d be fired for it? I expect not, nor disciplined in any way.

    “5. A lot of the debate or assumption here is looking at US data only for female engineers or scientists. The world is much bigger than just US (and this is where Trump is really hurting us). Why do US corporations push for diversity? It’s because they can get the best talent from all over the world. It was great for US corporations until Trump.”
    I’m not sure what your specific point is, but global data actually reinforces Damore’s point. Countries that are the most “patriarchal” tend to have the most commonality of career interests between men and women, mainly because such societies are usually poor and career choice is driven by financial reasons, so both genders want to be engineers. The more “liberated” the women of a country are (Scandinavia being at the top), the more women’s career intersts *diverge* from men’s. Far from “patriarchy” pushing women into corners, it seems to impose greater uniformity of interests with respect to gender.

    “6. In a litigious society, corporations such as Google have to be cautious. This doesn’t mean they’re stupid. In fact, given the profit and market share they have had, I find Google to be very smart.”
    This is true, but not good. Thinking of our example above, who is more likely to sue Google: a man who overhears a coworker saying sexist things against men, or a woman who overhears a coworker saying sexist things against women? Who is more likely to get a sympathetic judge and a big payout? Which of the two are bureaucrats most interested in protecting from a ‘hostile’ environment? The woman. Due to this discriminatory enforcement of the rules, the state actually incentivizes companies to discriminate against men, or against opinions that might offend women (or minorities) to minimize litigation costs. It behooves a corporation to err on the side of being a little anti-white or anti-male in hiring, firing, promotions, etc., as it will probably reduce the risk of litigation or censure from women/minorities more than it will increase the risk of litigation or censure due to victimization of the ‘majority/oppressor’ demographics. As a white male, I view this as a bad thing.

    “7. For the life of me, I can’t understand what would drive some tech guy to write 10 pages of essay on something that’s not related to his work. Where does he have the time? Doesn’t he have enough to do? Why discuss this in a corporate setting?”
    As I understand it, he was responding to a prompt for feedback on the issue elicited at some session or event. I’m pretty sure he didn’t just up and write the thing.

    Also, usually acknowledgement of one’s own hypocrisy goes hand in hand with abdication of the moral right to criticize someone for the offense of which one is guilty oneself.

  71. Gravatar of Michael Rulle Michael Rulle
    15. August 2017 at 10:08

    So much has been said, so I will try not to repeat.

    1) How many women actually comment (or even read) this website? My impression from the comments section is that very few if any, women comment here. If they did, I am sure we would see a different perspective. But why don’t they read this website? My “common sense” guess is they simply don’t find it interesting. Which I find interesting.

    2) It seems obvious to me that if I (as a male) worked in a predominantly female company, founded by females, and largely run by females, in an industry dominated by females, that I would be irritated by some jerk female (which is certainly how I would instinctively feel about the writer of such an email) who felt the need to show how clever she could be with such an unnecessary and public e-mail. Of course I would focus on her intent, (which my self-interest would clearly fear was anti-male in some way) rather than its content.

    3) If the chairwoman of the company started speaking some crap (which is how I would perceive it) about the importance of free speech and not blow the writer out, I would undoubtedly feel threatened. I would most definitely not be interested in hearing about the pros and cons of her (the email writer) supposedly subtle take on diversity.

    4) Of course the email writer was going to be fired by Google unless they wanted to alienate 90% of the females. The males are certainly not alienated by this guy being fired—regardless of their view on diversity. My bet is the overall male reaction is either: “pajama boy” agreement with the PC view; thinking what a moron the writer was to write such a thing in the first place; or just assuming he had decided to leave Google with a bang.

    My guess is the writer purposely set off a stink bomb at Google for reasons far removed from his take on gender diversity in the workplace—-perhaps he really is irritated at identity politics (I am too), but why there, and why now, in an implicit attack on Google?

    Just in case it seems otherwise, I have no particular feeling about Google other than they sure know how to make money.

  72. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    15. August 2017 at 12:53


    How many women actually comment (or even read) this website? My impression from the comments section is that very few if any, women comment here.

    Such a promising beginning (leading to many obvious questions and conclusions very relevant to the core topic) but then you kind of completely blew it.

  73. Gravatar of John Hamilton John Hamilton
    15. August 2017 at 14:24

    As a matter of fact, the world may indeed be getting dumber. Have you heard of the Woodley Effect (as named by Charles Murray, who also coined the Flynn Effect)? Read this review to learn a lot more: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3c4TxciNeJZaEY0UjluV1djOG8/view.

  74. Gravatar of John Hamilton John Hamilton
    15. August 2017 at 14:35

    I just found a new post on how, via dysgenics (as measured by subtests of IQ tests), we are in fact getting dumber: https://www.unz.com/jthompson/working-memory-bombshell/.

  75. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    15. August 2017 at 15:41

    Michael Rulle
    “2) It seems obvious to me that if I (as a male) worked in a predominantly female company, founded by females, and largely run by females, in an industry dominated by females, that I would be irritated by some jerk female (which is certainly how I would instinctively feel about the writer of such an email) who felt the need to show how clever she could be with such an unnecessary and public e-mail. Of course I would focus on her intent, (which my self-interest would clearly fear was anti-male in some way) rather than its content.”

    First of all, if the company is being a jerk by discriminating against males (or in the case of your example, females) in order to correct mostly imagined wrongs, then how does that make one a jerk by calling them out for their bad behavior and offering an alternative explanation for what motivates it? What’s more, Damore’s memo was (I am told) prompted by some event and a solicitation for input, and he responded by giving his honest, and well-cited, opinion. That doesn’t make him a jerk; it makes whoever solicited the opinion (especially if it was in their official capacity, such as a ‘diversity officer’ or whatever). If they didn’t want to hear a someone’s honest (and factually accurate) opinion, they shouldn’t ask for it; they should say “this is our orthodoxy here; if you don’t like it, shut up and deal with it.” Letting “100 flowers bloom” just so you pluck out the dissenters is not honest or respectable behavior.

    Secondly, you are correct that women may see that they have a self-interested reason for hating Damore for arguing against anti-discrimination. But how does that justify their response? Doesn’t a man working at a misogynist company have vested interest in opposing anyone who argues against sexism? After all, if the company stops being sexist, he could lose his job to an equally qualified woman. He may well see that as a threat and be upset by it. Does that vindicate his sexism, that he puts self-interest above fairness?

    That is what the female google employees who are upset with Damore are. They are just the female equivalent of the chauvinistic man who is threatened by the prospect of his special treatment ending. That they prefer special treatment to fairness for the sake of self-interest is not surprising, but it’s laughable to pretend they have a right to be so indignant; all it shows is that they, unsurprisingly, care more about personal self interest than fairness.

  76. Gravatar of Mark Mark
    15. August 2017 at 15:43

    Correction: in my second paragraph I meant to write: “…arguing against anti-male discrimination.”

  77. Gravatar of John Handley John Handley
    15. August 2017 at 22:56

    Scott:

    I just read this argument against Damore’s points, and I think it’s a lot more even-handed in its criticism that others might have been: https://www.economist.com/news/21726276-last-week-paper-said-alphabets-boss-should-write-detailed-ringing-rebuttal

    I’m curious what you think.

  78. Gravatar of rob rob
    16. August 2017 at 00:14

    I agree fully, I feel like a pingpong ball constantly going from anger and frustration at one side to anger and frustration on the other.

  79. Gravatar of Mike Rulle Mike Rulle
    16. August 2017 at 04:11

    to Mark

    You make a good point that these emails were solicited, which does imply the company was, or should have been, open to a more reasonable broad view of ideas. Still, while my argument is weakened by this, net, I hold to my general view of how females might have reacted and why.

    In neither case was I implying that my projected hypothetical reaction by women was intellectually appropriate in a pure academic sense, regardless of whether the letters were solicited or not. I guess my main point is, I am not surprised by the company’s reaction nor do I think my hypothesis on women’s reaction is surprising or inappropriate. I believe there is a very strong political (and economic) component to these issues that cannot be ignored and are a function of where we are as a society at a given time and place.

    I would like to think “diversity” issues are settled, but it is clear they are not. Hence I was presenting a purely “subjective” perspective on why the reaction of Google was plausibly justified

  80. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. August 2017 at 08:20

    Scott needs a diversity manager for this blog. This blog must be anti-female and anti-diversity. For every Carl, Marc, Michael, Steve, and John commenting there needs to be a Shanice, Aaliyah, and Precious.

    And after every blog post Scott Sumner needs to wait until Courtney, Brishauwna and Tra’Shyla come up with their own blog post before he is allowed to make another one.

  81. Gravatar of Becky Hargrove Becky Hargrove
    16. August 2017 at 09:38

    Christian,

    ??????????
    Men are not the only market monetarists.
    http://monetaryequivalence.blogspot.com/2017/08/a-level-target-is-representative-not.html

  82. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    16. August 2017 at 11:08

    @Becky
    I never said they were the only market monetarists. But regarding female monetarist bloggers you are not the rule but the exception of the rule. What I mean in general is that gender should not play a role at all. Why do some people care about gender at all??? It should be about the quality of ideas not about gender. Humans are individuals, to sort them by gender is as meaningless (and offensive) as sorting them by their color of their skin. Nice blog by the way, keep it up.

  83. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    16. August 2017 at 13:28

    “The (male) leadership at Google is extremely smart. I’m pretty sure that deep down they agree with Damore. Clearly he was fired to appease Google’s critics.”

    I am a data engineer at a company HQ’d in San Francisco. I am genuinely good at what I do despite the impression I imagine I give off. I’ve worked with people who are really tech smart and tech leaders but absolutely fanatically crazy about this racial-diversity-politics. I think Sundar Pichai genuinely buys into this insanity and is not merely trying to appease critics. Similarly, I think Sergey Brin is a legitimate open borders fanatic, and is not just trying to appease critics.

    “ISIS and Boko Haram simply want to kill you and rape your daughters. They don’t even try to appear appealing.”

    You are not their target demographic, apparently. Raping and killing is appealing to many people.

    Slightly more reasonably, being allied with the conquerer who will be doing the raping/killing is better than being allied with the losing team who will be on the receiving end of that.

    “And you liberals need to keep in mind that this particular form of insanity, far more stupid than anything Trump says on his worst day, is coming from the political left.”

    I’m going to save this sentence. 🙂

    I’d quote a relevant Tyler Cowen snippet:

    “In other words, Trump’s main policy is his rhetoric […]. In essence, Trump supporters are diagnosing America’s problems in terms of deficient discourse in the public sphere, as if they had read George Orwell and the Frankfurt School philosophers on the general topic but are drawing more on alt-right inspirations for the specifics of their critique.”

  84. Gravatar of Massimo Heitor Massimo Heitor
    16. August 2017 at 15:26

    “I usually refrain from posting on race, sex, and gender because America is mentally ill when it comes to those topics, and its almost impossible to have an intelligent conversation with a crazy person.”

    These are at the heart of much of politics. The immigration issue is tied to race. If you can’t talk about race, and even admit this, you really can’t talk about immigration unless you circumscribe the debate to simple first order economic effects which is basically besides the point.

    This mental illness around race/gender clearly preceded Trump.

  85. Gravatar of Christian List Christian List
    17. August 2017 at 00:55

    Good comment by David Brooks by the way. Maybe the best overall comment so far on the topic.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/11/opinion/sundar-pichai-google-memo-diversity.html

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