Robin Hanson Apologized For His Ideas

They broke Robin Hanson. http://mason.gmu.edu/~rhanson/JuneteenthApology.html

Hanson chose to be an icon and leader. Giving in is a betrayal of his followers, fans and values. It signals that you can't succeed by standing up for truth and free speech. He's discouraging them. He took on a responsibility and failed at it.

He was some sort of role model. He knew it and wanted to be. And that's why he was targeted. And then, with little fuss, RIP.

At the same time, Scott Alexander stood up to the NYT. Though, interestingly, Alexander wasn't even given the option to apologize and recant.

They gave Alexander the options fight back or not fight back, and be attacked either way using the same weapon (dox him by printing his name).

I saw something recently, forget where, about a revolution long ago, I think somewhere in China. I don't know if it's a true story or just designed to make a point. Was like:

What's the penalty for being late? Death.

What's the penalty for a revolution? Death.

So then they revolted cuz it's the same penalty anyway.

Did Hanson naively think that his job would always be safe when he criticized mainstream ideas? Did he think he lived in a society with free speech and tolerance of intellectual diversity? Or just that his particular university was especially great? I doubt it.

He ought to have known a confrontation was possible. If he wasn't prepared for the confrontation, what the hell was he doing? If his plan was to give in, he misled his readers about that.

Hanson is trying to proceed with blogging like nothing happened, without any explanation to his readers (other than the official apology, which doesn't explain it – a real explanation would be e.g. "they threatened my job, and i wanted to keep it, so i spoke out against the cause". That particular explanation would raise some questions before he was accepted back as an advocate and leader of the cause. If he has a better one, let's hear it. If he's muzzled, and can be threatened into not saying whatever the university leaders choose, then can we trust anything he blogs to be his real opinion?).

I was not much of Hanson fan anyway, but he's one of the symbols we have ... well had. I don't know of a bunch of better ones.

People should not accept him back. Don't act like this didn't happen. He's clearly compromised and there is no plan or strategy in place to enable his free and honest speech going forward. There are problems here which Hanson is trying to ignore instead of present solutions to. He's doing no post mortem. He's making no plan to be more successful next time. He's presumably just decided on a bunch of things he's no longer willing to say publicly, and he's hiding the list from his audience. And I doubt it's even a list, in writing, or that he has any policies to ensure he consistently follows his plan. He may well behave inconsistently and get in trouble more, or refrain from saying things that aren't on the list, or both, and there's no transparency.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Message (1)

Exploring Gender as a Social Construct

This question is directed to people who think gender matters for behavior and mental capabilities. Similar questions could be asked about race and other traits.

Suppose that gender is a social construct. Suppose that gendered behavior is due to just culture, not a mix of culture and genes. Suppose that women are born with equal mental capabilities to men.

If you conceded all that, what would you change your mind about, if anything? Why?

I ask this because a lot of effort is spent denying that gender is a social construct. Many right wing people are quite hostile to the social construct theory and view it as dangerous. But what negative consequences do they think it implies?

I interpret people as thinking something like "If the left was correct that gender is a social construct, then a lot of their political philosophy would be correct, and I'd have to change my mind about a bunch of stuff." I am doubtful of this and don't see that the social construct theory implies much leftist political philosophy.

If gender is a social construct, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Social constructs exist and matter. They can't be instantly or trivially changed or gotten rid of. Culture and memes are important.

This issue is complicated by biological differences between the genders for e.g. muscles. Men are stronger on average. The difference is significant. Reasonable people don't deny that. Try to focus your answer on basically intellectual differences, personality differences, behavior differences, mental differences, etc., which are the things that might be cultural.

Note that the anti social construct view claims that genes influence gendered mental traits, but do not fully determine them. They think a mix of biology and culture leads to gendered traits. They don't claim it's all biology. The social construct view, by contrast, denies the role of biology. It rejects the mixed factors view in favor of a single dominant factor.

For people who think gender is a social construct, I have similar question: What (classical) liberal ideas do you think that contradicts, if any?


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (59)

Clarifying My Beliefs

This post will clarify a few of my ideas that people have concerns or misunderstandings about.

Politics

Freedom and Capitalism

I want a small government with limited power. The proper function of government is protect people against force – e.g. military, cops, courts. I want a society with tons of freedom including economic freedom (which is what “capitalism” actually means). See my essay liberalism. I’m not necessarily opposed to all anarchist ideas (though most are awful), but I think we should aim for minimal government and try that for a while before thinking we know in advance what further reforms would be a good idea.

I respect thinkers like Ludwig von Mises and Ayn Rand. I do not respect lots of their followers or the people commonly associated with them (e.g. I disagree with Hayek, Rothbard, most libertarians and most Objectivists). I also disagree with most Republicans and most Democrats.

In general I like individual thinkers, not groups.

I think political philosophy and economics are more important than politics. By politics I mean stuff like current events, news and election issues. Current political issues include abortion, gun control, immigration, racism, feminism, rent control, tax policy, government-run healthcare and environmentalist policies. People should learn how to think effectively about general principles before trying to debate those specific controversies.

People are partially right to complain about corporations and Wall Street. Many of their arguments are incorrect, but there is shady, unfair, exploitive stuff going on. But the problem is mostly government involvement in the economy and lack of economic freedom. For example, the main source of monopolies is government laws that make it harder to compete with existing companies, e.g. by increasing barriers to entry.

Trump

I like Donald Trump better than Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden. I think Trump has moderate political views and likes America. I disagree with his protectionist economic ideas (like tariffs and trade wars), though I do agree with his intuition that there’s some problem related to trade with China and that some sort of action should be taken. I think Trump screwed up by hiring a bunch of establishment Republicans and he handled coronavirus badly.

I appreciate that Trump is somewhat, partially challenging the ruling elite class of journalists, media pundits, unelected political influencers, professors, politicized non-profits, lobbyists, bankers, administrators and bureaucrats. Most politicians in both parties are part of that elite which is oppressing and ripping off the American people (the middle and lower classes, and the wealthy people without friends in high places).

Tribalism

Most people bring a tribalist, follower mindset to politics. They cheer for their team, just like sports. They’re super biased. They don’t understand the other side(s) very well. They don’t rationally study or debate the issues.

This doesn’t mean each tribe is equally right or wrong. Currently, I agree with Republicans more than Democrats. That’s despite being an atheist and growing up in a Democrat family in a heavily Democrat area. I do disagree with lots of Republican ideas.

Immigration

Immigration has been used for decades to try to dilute Western civilization by bringing in people who think in other ways and have other values. Western countries have been doing a bad job of standing up for their values and assimilating immigrants. There are ongoing debates about whether Western values are worth standing up for. While this debate is ongoing, I think immigration should be slowed way down. I don’t think bringing in immigrants who agree with you, and vote for your tribe, is a legitimate way to resolve a debate.

I don’t think white people have a monopoly on Western values. I don’t think genetics are destiny. I know many other people who criticize immigration are racist in some way (that doesn’t merit all the tribalist hatred they’re receiving, which often comes from people who are even more racist). They think there are race-related IQ genes and that there is such thing as a biological “human nature” which is controlled by genes and therefore can vary by race. I have a strong “left wing” position – shared by right winger Ayn Rand – that ideas and culture are what matter, not biology. (On a related note, I think gender roles are socially constructed, but I don’t believe some of the other ideas commonly associated with that claim. While males and females biologically differ in some physical characteristics, I don’t think biology is the cause of observed mental differences like personality traits or math success.)

I disagree with many economic arguments against immigration. In a capitalist society, immigrants don’t drive down wages. That’s because, as the workforce gets larger and wages go down, it’s easier to start a business (because you can hire employees more cheaply), so more businesses get started, which pushes wages back up. However, currently US regulations are hostile to starting new businesses. When it’s a huge burden to start a business and hire people, then immigration can drive wages down. But “they took our jobs” is a bad argument.

I think the USA should screen immigrants better. Instead of letting so many immigrants in by lottery or extended family ties (including birthright citizenship granted to babies born here by tourists), I think immigrants should be admitted more based on having American values and being ready and able to do productive work. Although I think IQ tests (and the concept of IQ itself) are highly flawed and culturally biased, I think they’d be better than nothing for an immigration screening method. English language proficiency tests would also help.

Identity Politics

I’m opposed to identity politics. I think we should stop looking at people’s skin color, rather than doing affirmative action or having race-based groups like “Black Lives Matter”. I want a more color blind approach.

I do not think racism, sexism, homophobia, white privilege, etc., are solved issues. There are significant problems there (by both Democrats and Republicans). The current activism – like riots and cancel culture – is making things worse and is making it harder to reform anything.

PUA

Lots of “pickup artists” are idiots. Sometimes their idiocy crosses the line into assault. People like Good Looking Loser, Russel Hartley and RooshV are awful.

In 1994, the alt.seduction.fast (ASF) discussion group was started on Usenet. Some people there figured out some good ideas about how dating and social dynamics work. Of course some people there were dumb, too. Representatives of that group, which I respect, include:

It was a discussion community. Many people participated productively and there are archives of ideas people liked, e.g. Classic PUA Writings. Many of them also went out and met people in person. They weren’t just armchair philosophers.

The ASF people aren’t perfect but I think they have some genuine knowledge. They managed to analyze, describe and understand social dynamics in ways that other groups haven’t. This information is useful for all members of our culture, male or female, in order to better understand the unwritten rules of our society. And although the ASF focus relates to dating, many of the social dynamics principles apply to other social situations too.

Other so-called pickup artists vary. Some learned a lot from the ASF crowd or participated in those discussions. Others didn’t and are usually clueless. Some of the ASF knowledge has spread elsewhere but it’s often mixed up with bad ideas too. The “red pill”, “mgtow (men going their own way)”, “MRA (men’s rights advocates)” and “manosphere” groups often have some ASF knowledge mixed in along with some of their own bad ideas.

Because so many fakers try to sell their pickup artist advice (advice that doesn’t work and is often offensive), the ASF people pretty much stopped using the terms “pickup artist” and “PUA”. I’ve been using the term “PUA” anyway but I’ll consider calling them the ASF community or specifying individuals in order to reduce confusion.

Claims about how our culture works are not claims that it should be that way. I’m not in favor of social climbing, promiscuity or pandering to whatever other people want. I’m also against lying to or tricking women (or anyone). The ASF people, contrary to some of the attacks on them, are more anti-lying than the typical person.

FI Members

There are no senior members of FI who have been around a while (years), learned FI well, and who make good role models. Don’t try to copy anyone or assume they’re good and you should try to be like them.

I don’t endorse anyone’s learning behavior, and I certainly don’t endorse their lecturing behavior. Some newer members have potential (and older members could change) but none have established themselves as doing a great job.

Don’t try to copy me either. That will lead to cargo culting. You have to learn things yourself and follow your own judgment. I’m too different in too many ways. You should expect to misunderstand me a lot, not to be able to do what you think I do and have it work in your own life situation.

Being a Discord moderator is not an endorsement of someone’s ideas. Being in a video with me or having a guest post on curi.us is not an endorsement of a person in general.

On a related note, I think everyone but me should be posting anonymously. (Because of cancel culture. And by posting anonymously I mean use something that isn't your real name or connected to your real name.) I’d prefer to be anonymous myself. I think it’s way too late for me to change (and maybe too hard to stay anonymous when e.g. selling stuff, meeting people IRL, and developing a reputation as a public intellectual) but everyone else should go anonymous. What’s the benefit of using your real name?

Twitter

I’m going to stop posting on Twitter in general. Most of what I posted was just retweets without me writing anything. I dislike Upvotes and Likes in general (pointless) but I found retweets ok (shows stuff to my friends/fans) and tried them for a while. Retweets were not endorsements. I never treated Twitter like a discussion forum or serious place. I will continue to read Twitter because I like a few people there. I’m going to stop retweeting because Twitter has an awful, tribalist political culture which I don’t want to contribute to. Plus Twitter shadowbanned me and is part of the cancel culture which is trying to suppress right wing speech.

I think FI people like Khaaan and Justin are tribalist tweeters who don’t understand the other side(s) of the debate well. That doesn’t stop them from being right or sharing good info over 50% of the time. But they ought to learn how to think rationally instead of doing so much politics. Even if they were going to do politics stuff, their approach is basically unproductive because they’re so biased for their tribe.

Offensive Comments

I’m not careful about what I say all the time. I don’t believe in political correctness. I think misunderstandings will happen whatever you do and it’s not worth the effort to walk on eggshells around everyone. Better if people mostly have thick skins rather than police their own speech.

If you dislike something I say, you can ask about it or criticize it. (Try to understand what it is before attacking it, please.) We might disagree. If so, I’ll have a thought-out position that you can hopefully respect, even if I didn’t explain it all upfront. I can’t preemptively explain everything I think every time I mention a topic. People can ask questions or read my writing to find out more.

I often disagree with all mainstream positions on a topic in some way. When disagreeing with one view, I don’t always communicate what I think about all the other positions. This leads to misunderstandings because people assume if you criticize one tribe then you must be part of an opposing tribe.

Lots of “jokes” reveal genuine racism or other bigotry. Speech is meaningful. I’m open to rational questions and criticism – I won’t just automatically dismiss issues as minor. But please try not to assume what I think and don’t begin the conversation in an adversarial way.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (45)

Are Government Coronavirus Policies Awful Attacks on Freedom?

George Reisman tweeted:

[Trevor Dillinger wrote:] You have no right to drunk-driving. Same with COVID-19 spreading.

Your comment would apply to the Chinese Communist Party, who knew they were spreading Covid 19.

No one should be virtually imprisoned in a “lockdown” without benefit even of probable cause to suspect that he might have the disease, let alone without a trial or even the existence of a law that he is alleged to have broken.

The proper response would be to avoid contact with people especially susceptible to the disease and for them to avoid contact with whoever might give it to them. That’s it. For the rest, the purpose of life is not to avoid giving Covid 19 to others or getting it from them.

I disagree with Reisman despite agreeing with lots of his principles and views. This post is me thinking out loud about coronavirus lockdowns vs. individual freedom to stay home or risk going out.

Guessing a Reisman view: If you live with someone and they go out, too bad. Don’t live with people you can’t coordinate risk taking with.

Guessing a Reisman view: If your commute and job aren’t safe enough, quit. If you didn’t save money, oops, too bad. Or maybe you can get your work to make changes (plastic screens, masks, sanitizer, fewer customers inside at once, etc.) and get a car instead of public transit.

This stuff, like I think Reisman wants, is awkward in a world where the government requires people to do various tasks in person. Like go to the DMV IRL. If the government keeps requiring that, while also being hands off about the pandemic, they’re risking people’s lives. Solution: instead of lockdowns the government cancels a lot of their red tape so fewer people need anything, and moves the rest online.

It’s awkward in a world where too many employers do the minimum required by the government. They’re used to being bossed around instead of taking initiative to make good policies. So if the government stops bossing people around we get chaos.

It’s awkward in a world where people pay taxes for public education and expect their kids to go to govt schools and then there’s a pandemic and if they want to be safe they may have to give up major resources they planned around having.

It’s awkward to tell people to quit their jobs to avoid pandemic risk in a world where you’re punished for quitting in some ways. Like you lose unemployment and severance benefits which you’d get if you were laid off (fired without doing anything wrong). But if you’re quitting cuz pandemic, that is an external problem outside your control, and you might actually deserve unemployment benefits.

We live in a world where hospitals can’t say “guys if you don’t wear masks we’re cancelling your health insurance and firing your as customers” or similar. The government has tons of laws requiring them to give care regardless instead of demanding their customers take appropriate steps to not get infected. They can’t just refuse ventilators to people who acted irresponsibly. In a better world, they could, so there’d be way more lockdown type pressures from non-government sources. Similarly, health insurance can’t offer discounts for low covid risk behaviors or raise prices for risk takers.

What if I want to stop going to the gym because of the lockdown, but I had signed up for a year long membership plan (as is typical at US gyms). I claim the gym is no longer providing the service I signed up for: safe workouts. The gym says: what!? we are still open like normal! The government is going to have to play a role in deciding stuff. Am I being overly risk averse and I’m still on the hook for gym dues, or am I being reasonable and the gym operating like normal is a bad idea? The government needs some kinda general policy about this, not “no comment”. That way, such things can be resolved by the courts in a consistent predictable way (not the chaotic choices of each individual judge or jury). And we want almost none of it to go to court in the first place, which would be very expensive and overload the system – but if the results are clear and predictable enough due to consistent, standard policies then people can follow that without needing their own individual court case.

You can’t disentangle the government from life overnight just because you like freedom and government pandemic policy is inconvenient and, in various ways, stupid.

Government does a ton to prevent new businesses and products. They regulate where you can create buildings, what buildings you can create, whether you’re allowed to run a business of a particular type, whether a product or service may be sold, the price at which it may be sold (e.g. anti-gouging laws), the many safety checks you must submit to, the vetoes you must give your neighbors in many cases, and much more. The government has stopped a large amount of hand sanitizer and mask production. One of the bottlenecks has been the stuff you add to alcohol to make it undrinkable (undrinkable alcohol is the main ingredient in hand sanitizer), which is needed because the government wants to have a bunch of extra rules and taxes related to drinkable alcohol. The FDA, CDC and others restrict new medicines, drugs, vaccines, virus tests, volunteering for treatments, experiments, uses of lab animals, uses of volunteer human patients, and so on. In that world, where free market response to covid is so limited by govt, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to also ask the govt to be hands off regarding covid. You could try to ask the govt to manage the medical response to covid but be hands off on freedom of travel and other activities by citizens, but i think that doesn’t make sense when those activities are medically relevant.

We live in the world where the govt doesn’t just watch as other actors handle everything. We don’t have other non-govt actors set up to properly evaluate a pandemic, communicate to the whole country about what to do, etc. The govt is bad at it too but they do have agencies and budgets that are meant to address this stuff. And it’s also a world where if the govt says “X is a bad idea” but leaves X legal, people assume the warnings are unserious. And that’s a generally reasonable assumption: the govt actually does ban all kinds of things they really think are bad, and gives all kinds of way way overly cautious warnings that are not backed up with actual rules. Plenty of way overly cautious stuff is backed by rules, so having no rules really signals no real danger. So leaving bars and restaurants and gyms free to operate as normal would communicate to the public that there’s no real danger.

This is similar to parents (govt) who punish their kids (citizens) over major and minor things, and sometimes over nothing or the parent’s error, and they have rules for all that stuff – if that is your general policy, then telling your kid “I think eating cyanide is a bad idea” while not making any rule or threatening any punishment would be irresponsible and communicate that eating it isn’t much of a big deal (because everything else that’s a big deal, and a lot more besides, gets rules and threats).

There are lots of things wrong with the govt but trying to change some specific policies in response to a pandemic is bad timing and planning. Public health policy to defend against ~3 million Americans dying of a disease is the wrong govt changes to start with and we should generally do more changing/reforming during calmer more normal times when it’s easier and there are fewer unusual factors making it hard to tell how successful the changes are.

The government coordinating mass action to protect millions from death is one of the last types of government functions we should be looking to get rid of, not one of the first.

It’s fine to give advice about govt pandemic policy and suggest e.g. that beaches should be left open since a lot of the spread happens indoors. The govt can be questioned and argued with and that’s no problem. That’s part of the existing system. It’s a different matter to suggest drastic changes to the powers and style of government and say any government control over the pandemic is illegitimate. Debating the right plan is fine; saying “I don’t really want to have a government except a few special cases, therefore we should get rid of our pandemic response” is unreasonable (terrible transition plan and not trying to engage with actual live political issues) and focusing just on saying that govt pandemic response violates freedom, without even connecting that to a broader abolishing of most govt functions – just special casing pandemic response as something to get rid of – is unreasonable.

The order of reforms matters in general. E.g. we’ll need welfare reforms before having fully open immigration. And we’ll need to stop subsidizing drug use before legalizing all the drugs. Although “legalize drugs; victimless crimes shouldn’t be crimes” sounds nice in various ways, it interacts badly with current policies about tax-funded rehab, needles, medical care for drug users, etc. (Or requiring everyone to buy health plans that cover preexisting conditions and don’t charge extra to drug users – that is a forcible subsidy from regular citizens to drug users.) Although “let anyone come here and work if they can afford a home” sounds nice, it’s a problem with rent control, tons of restrictions on building homes, minimum wage laws and other price controls on labor, tons of rules restricting starting businesses that could hire the new immigrants, as well as all the tax-funded welfare available to people who live here.

If the govt’s pandemic response was like “good luck guys and enjoy the freedom of not being oppressed by your govt” – but everything else about the govt stayed the same – it’d be awful. It’d be kinda like a parent who micromanages most of his kid’s life and then is hands off about one thing.

I’m in favor of tons of govt reform. I want a govt that does way less. But that needs to be done with general principles and broad plans. That ongoing project shouldn’t be especially connected to the pandemic besides using some pandemic response as examples of how badly the govt manages stuff. Minarchists and anarchists shouldn’t just demand total freedom about every individual issue that comes along, out of context, as a local optima. They should look at the bigger picture and figure out some good places to reform and focus on advocating that instead of wanting immediate pro-freedom changes to whatever political issue they’re looking at with no broader plan.


i wonder if reisman opposes the govt controlling its borders to protect citizens from coronavirus

should we have total internal freedom but travel ban china? or just let everyone in from anywhere – too bad for our citizens who are concerned about getting sick?

also:

The proper response would be to avoid contact with people especially susceptible to the disease and for them to avoid contact with whoever might give it to them.

so, avoid contact with old ppl but do have contact with their grand kids, and also the old ppl should avoid contact with their own grand kids? or they should ask their grand kids to heavily social distance and stuff?

what about old people who live in a care home and don't want to die? how should they protect themselves? too bad for not having the foresight to choose a home with great pandemic policies? too bad for not remaining independent in their own home? is it ok for the government to ban elder care workers from working at multiple different homes? should the old people, some of whom have significant mental deterioration at this point, negotiate with their care homes to adopt good policies like firing any workers who won't avoid all other care homes? should they have arranged for family members or hired proxies to be prepared to negotiate such things on their behalf? we don't live in that world where such things are reasonably expected of people. we live in a world where the govt is expected to make some policies. today i think "you can't work IRL at multiple retirement homes during the pandemic" is a good rule that more jurisdictions should have, even though i can imagine a different society where a similar result would be achieved in a more freedom-friendly way.


and re people just quitting and staying home if they want to avoid risk. which most people aren't in a position to do. but anyway, what happens if all the ppl who do food work quit and stay home?

i rely on other ppl working. i want policies that let “essential” workers keep doing their jobs with a lot of added safety. if people working in food, medicine, infrastructure (like water, power cables, and internet cables) etc. were mass quitting, that'd be awful for everyone. but if they are told "you can quit or not quit; freedom! yay!" then a lot will quit and everyone will be fucked. what keeps more of them working is that other parts of society are actually trying to take action in regards to the pandemic, like wearing masks when entering grocery stores, and trying to social distance so they don't get and spread it. and that's partly people being reasonable and partly govt policy.

if you just have all the unreasonable people going around being risky and all the reasonable people staying home, even if they could somehow afford that, then you'd lose a lot of important workers without replacement. partly cuz they have training and skills and stuff (including reasonableness). partly because replacing lots of workers is hard. partly because there are lots of govt restrictions requiring credentials and safety training and stuff to do jobs or start new businesses to pick up slack when some existing businesses are understaffed.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (11)

Google Is Culturally Racist

Google is (culturally) racist (in 4 parts):

https://www.tiktok.com/@realabril/video/6934884610606124293

https://www.tiktok.com/@realabril/video/6934884839103499525

https://www.tiktok.com/@realabril/video/6934885054053158149

https://www.tiktok.com/@realabril/video/6934885271318105349

And a Twitter thread (same author, Real Abril, similar info):

https://twitter.com/realabril/status/1341135819487100928

On TikTok she said 526 hires in 6 years, which is around 1.7 per week, but Twitter said over 300 engineering hires, so let's focus only on that. Around one hire per week. From my understanding, that's really good. This may surprise people, but I think each hire might be worth $10,000+.

I've seen tech companies offer 10k just for a referral of someone to interview there who ends up getting hired, and that was years ago. And in her job, she would do more work than just referring people. And tech recruiters can charge amounts like 10% of first year of salary (paid by company not employee) for getting someone hired, which will be over 10k for tech positions at google.

So she did a great job but got fired instead of promoted. And I believe her about a lot of the specific ways Google was (not very) covertly discriminating and resisted her improvements.

I think maybe Google actually wanted her to find black and brown programmers who think and act like white graduates of Ivy League universities, so they are an easy cultural fit or "Googley".

Google is not (very) racist against skin color. They are cultural racists against black and brown culture. Why? Because they are elitist snobs (not just that). It's not about merit; it's about bigotry against the Other, which makes it essentially similar to racism, especially when it correlates with race.

I think Google is full of atheist former-WASPs who are partially rebelling against being a WASP (particularly by becoming an atheist). They're similar to WASPs in lots of ways. (WASP = white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, which is the kind of person you'd imagine being at country clubs, expensive private high schools, or Ivy universities.)

What about the many asians at Google? Some asians have learned to get into and fit in at top tier universities. They're better at acting WASPy than black or brown people are.

Google also brings in a bunch of H1B visa coders, e.g. Indians. I bet those people are treated differently and worse, but Google likes underpaying them. (H1B visas are a government subsidy to Google and other tech companies. US visas or citizenship are worth money and Google gets to give them out without paying the US government for that privilege. People accept lower salary offers to get into the US and then put up with worse treatment and not getting promotions or raises for five years or however long it takes before they can stay in the country without staying at that job. The system incentivizes and causes some abuse and exploitation of foreigners.)

Anyway, you don't have to look like a WASP anymore to be hired (though physical appearance, including skin color and hair, still matter to how you're treated), but Google prefers people who are thoroughly immersed in WASPy culture.

Google's atheism is actually an issue. Black and brown people believe in God at higher rates than Googley people, which increases culture-clash. Similarly, I think black people value family more on average (and in somewhat different ways than e.g. asians, it's not just an amount), so might be more interested in going home for dinner instead of working late. (I don't think that particular issue means they are worse workers overall. I don't think it means they're getting less work done. I think the culture of 10 hour work days is stupid and that programmers rarely get more than 5 productive hours of coding done in a day. People can't focus and think effectively all day long. Google likes to exploit people that it can trick into staying extra hours without extra pay – often expecting rewards that never materialize. But I don't think Google actually gains much from exploiting the naivety of some of its primarily younger workers because those extra hours aren't very productive.)

There are actual flaws in all cultures which can be criticized, and not all cultures are equal. But I think Google's approach qualifies as bigotry because it's not about merit. It's about who fits into your social group and who doesn't. It's about preferring people like you over people who are different. In other words, if you discriminate more by accent than by skin color, and the accents you favor are rare among black and brown people, then you're still basically a racist.


Elliot Temple | Permalink | Messages (8)