August 8, 2017

INEZ STEPMAN: Google Fires Engineer For Noticing Men And Women Are Different: Google’s reaction, first condemning the memo and then firing its author, confirms in the most unfortunate terms fears about the company’s ideological ‘echo chamber.’

For years, I’ve thought that “Brave New World” was the clear winner in the dystopia prophesy contest, but the regressive left keeps reminding me to keep “1984” in the running. Like in other ideological purge cases, such as the firing of Mozilla CEO Brandan Eich and the browbeating of Harvard University president Larry Summers, leftists have urged Damore’s total banishment from the tech world until, in the words of one Twitter user, he learns “what it takes to actually be an engineer and a decent human.”

In other words, until Demore stops questioning Silicon Valley political groupthink and learns to love Big Brother, he will not be welcome in a technical profession that has nothing directly to do with politics.

The rigid politicization of everything and the drawing of ideological battle lines are bad for Google, as Demore’s memo points out, but they are even worse for America. While college students cry out for “safe spaces” from dissenting ideas, the real safe spaces Americans need are those in which to work, find friendship, and discuss opposing ideas without risking their livelihoods.

Silicon Valley turned into Mizzou so gradually I barely even noticed. But remember, your top priority can be shareholders, it can be diversity, or it can be technical excellence. But you can only have one top priority. Google’s seems pretty clearly to be diversity.

Related: Female Silicon Valley Engineer: Google Can’t Seem To Tolerate Diversity.

It’s fine to question Damore’s characterization of women. (As a female engineer in Silicon Valley, I endorse his suggestion to “treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group.”) It’s okay to disagree with the proposed solutions. But the backlash was egregiously swift and brutal. Google representatives issued multiple statements denouncing the document. Past and present colleagues chimed in over the weekend with calls for the engineer to be ousted. Media outlets like TechCrunch, Gizmodo and Motherboard jumped on board to declare the memo an “Anti-Diversity Manifesto.” It appears that the ideological echo chamber extends beyond Google’s campus.

Silicon Valley has a very peculiar definition of diversity that requires proportional representation from every gender and race, all of whom must think exactly alike. Given that Google has failed to reach this ideal despite nearly a decade of efforts, Damore might be right to suggest that it try a different tack. Google rejects 99.8 percent of job applicants, making it far more selective than any Ivy League university. It’s not unreasonable to posit that in this top 0.2 percent of the population, there may be various ways in which talent manifests differently between the sexes.

Suggesting that men and women are different, though, can be a perilous endeavor. In 2005, Harvard President Larry Summers speculated that the under-representation of women in top science and engineering positions might have something to do with the male tendency to exhibit extreme traits — to, say, have very high or low IQs. The remarks were widely condemned as an allegation that women have an innate disadvantage in science and math. Summers apologized profusely, but it was too late. The faculty convened and issued a no-confidence vote, and the president stepped down shortly thereafter.

Suppressing intellectual debate on college campuses is bad enough. Doing the same in Silicon Valley, which has essentially become a finishing school for elite universities, compounds the problem.

When an institution puts “social justice” ahead of its actual mission, decline is inevitable.

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