Sunday, April 29, 2018

James Damore's account of an "Ideological Echo Chamber" needs to become a book

Will the “Google-Memo-Guy” James Damore write a book? I wondered that on Aug. 21 when I wrote a post on the movies blog “Milo Meets James Damore”. 

But his “Memo” called “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber”, which Wikipedia labels as a “Manifesto on Workplace Diversity” qualifies at least as a booklet now.  You can find it (in two formats) on James Damore’s own site “Fired for Truth”.

The original memo is well footnoted and clearly argued.  Damore seems to say mainly that employers should not focus on meeting particular numbers to achieve diversity, especially regarding gender in tech employment.  Damore’s firing apparently came after an unfooted version went viral on social media in early August 2017.

Damore has filed class-action suit against Google, explained here.  Since he hasn’t tweeted much lately, it seems logical that the relative quiet as wise for the litigation. The suit seems a bit silly.  But so does Google’s termination of Damore.  Whether it is OK to circulate a controversial memo in the workplace depends on the conduct code of the employer.  But apparently Google (unlike most corporate employers) allowed this practice, even encouraged it, and Damore’s content, understood properly, is reasonably objective and in no way hateful.  (A few of his past tweets, like one about the KKK, did seem off the mark to me.)   But he is challenging the left-wing idea of political correctness, of making policies according to groups and “intersectionality”.

In fact, The Knife, (Jens Erik Gould) has an article "The Misrepesentation of James Damore", including an addendum about the NLRB's surprising attack on him, as well as details as to how the memo was actually invited and circulated at Google.  Major media outlets characterized his memo with subjective characterizations typical of left-wing bias, and Knife says Damore's memo actually had relatively little deception language or metaphors compared to normal political writing.
As for my reaction to his memo, I’m particularly drawn to his opening table on Left v. Right biases. I am somewhat biased to the Right on his first three points, but I think that change is often good and am open to some of it.   I do see humans as competitive and personal inequality as inevitable.  But I also think that as a moral point, if those who are more advantaged don’t reach out personally to those who are not, society can become unstable and vulnerable to authoritarianism (especially fascism).
But the Left tends to mix up this ironic setting of personal responsibility (as libertarians see it) with group membership.
While Damore’s points seem, from a clinical and statistical view, to be valid, we should remember that in real life, it is the exceptions that swallow the rules.  The 2016 film “Hidden Figures” made the point about female mathematicians at NASA in the early 1960s.  Women made many contributions to computing in the early days, such as the invention of COBOL.  In the 1960s, I found it common to have women working as programmers and mathematicians in the Navy department in summer jobs, as well as with graduate school (Ph D candidates).  Female math and science teachers were common in the 1950s and early 60s, in my own experience.  When I worked for Univac in 1972-1974, I found plenty of women in management; Univac seemed more competitive then than big rival IBM.  I would generally expect to find in tech today with no particular emphasis on measuring diversity numbers by gender.

 Paul Lewis writes in the Guardian about Damore, "I see things differently: James Damore on his autism and the Google memo", here. Some autism, as in "The Good Doctor", is depicted as the hyper-masculine, hyper-logical brain.  One important supporting observation seems to follow the ideas of George Gilder ("Men and Marriage", 1986);  in a real world, men are fungible, and of all the men that have lived, only 40% have descendants today, compared to 80% of women.  This fits into an inevitable result that statistically most men will have some physical and connected personality traits that separate them from women and make them more suitable for certain kinds of work.  We don't quarrel about the fact that major professional sports are generally male-only (I think we'll have a trans relief pitcher in baseball some day.)  Damore doesn't offer any evidence that the patterns are any different for cis gay men than the general male population. 

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