Author: Gideon Scopes

A Facebook Engineer’s Plea for Political Diversity

Last year it was Google.  This year it is Facebook where industry norms of celebrating all forms of diversity—except that of thought—are being challenged. Brian Amerige, a senior software engineer at the company, has authored a document entitled “We Have a Problem with Political Diversity” in which he presents his concerns: We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views.  We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack—often in mobs—anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.  We throw labels that end in *obe and *ist at each other, attacking each other’s character rather than their ideas. We do this so consistently that employees are afraid to say anything when they disagree with what’s around them politically.  HR has told me that this is not a rare concern, and I’ve personally gotten over a hundred messages to that effect.  Your colleagues are afraid because they know that they—and not their ideas—will be attacked.  They know all the talk of “openness to different perspectives” does not …

Bridging the STEM Gender Gap Divide

Another still small voice has joined the chorus of those calling for us to reconsider our approach to the gender gap in technology. Writing in Quillette, University of Washington computer science lecturer Stuart Reges discussed in depth why there is reason to believe that the tendency of more men than women to pursue careers in the field may arise primarily from innate factors rather than bias or discrimination.1  Predictably, many have called for him to lose his job as punishment for speaking this heresy.2  However, one response that stood out from the others was written under the intriguing and provocative title “Women in tech: we’re training men to resent us” by Microsoft software engineer Kasey Champion.3  In it, she describes how learning that the article had been written by Mr. Reges, who had been her teacher and mentor when she was a student at the University of Washington, challenged her to rethink her view of men who think differently on these issues.  She goes on to discuss his arguments in detail, explaining what she believes …

Weighing the Threats to American Democracy

In recent years, there has been a tendency among many to present liberal democracy in the United States as being under threat from the actions of the right, yet little or no attention is given to the actions of the regressive left, which has also engaged in behavior hostile to democratic norms such as free speech, due process, and equal rights. One prominent intellectual who is an exception is Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, who in his new book Enlightenment Now recognizes that “a faction of academic culture composed of hard-left faculty, student activists, and an autonomous diversity bureaucracy (pejoratively called social justice warriors) has become aggressively illiberal.”1 However, Pinker goes on to claim that the regressive left is a lesser threat because it does not hold power in government, apparently viewing it as largely contained to academia: Of the two forms of politicization that are subverting reason today, the political is far more dangerous than the academic, for an obvious reason. It’s often quipped (no one knows who said it first) that academic debates are …

Lawsuit Exposes Internet Giant’s Internal Culture of Intolerance

James Damore, the former Google engineer who was fired last summer after authoring a document questioning the company’s diversity policies, has filed a lawsuit against the company. In a 161-page complaint, he does far more than challenge his firing and accuses Google of systemic discrimination against and harassment of white and male employees, as well as of violating a California state law that prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of an employee’s political persuasion. He has joined together with another engineer by the name of David Gudeman who was also fired after he expressed politically incorrect views. Together, the two of them are requesting that their case be treated as a class action on behalf of all employees who have faced similar treatment at the hands of the Internet giant. The charges that they make are broad and far-reaching, but they are not asking that their claims be taken on faith alone. More than half of the complaint is taken up by an 87-page-long exhibit consisting of screenshots from internal systems used by Google …

Rethinking Gender, Sexuality, and Violence

Over the past two weeks, America has been rocked by the revelation that the Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein has engaged in numerous instances of sexual harassment and possibly even sexual assault. In response, the actress Alyssa Milano began a social media campaign to raise awareness of these forms of abuse in the world at large, tweeting: While Milano may have had the admirable goal of drawing attention to a serious issue, the subsequent narrative that has been presented has not been entirely accurate, and a non-trivial amount of ugliness has also been unleashed. In the mainstream and on social media, we’ve been told that that all women live under constant threat and that all men are part of the problem.1 If a man had the audacity to say #MeToo and point out that he had also been a victim, he might have been ridiculed for being insensitive to women: One columnist admonished “nice guys” that they were most likely responsible for the bulk of the problem and bore the responsibility for fixing it.3 The …

Smearing Free Thought In Silicon Valley

In the aftermath of the so-called Google memo affair, there has been no shortage of misleading and in some cases downright inaccurate media coverage painting the author, James Damore, and his supporters in a very unfavorable light. The most recent example of this arose this past weekend, when The New York Times printed a hit piece on its front page with the inflammatory headline, “As Inequality Roils Tech World, A Group Wants More Say: Men.”1 In a clear display of narrative-driven journalism, the article attempts to smear those in the technology industry who hold dissenting views on gender issues by associating them with a political movement with which the public has little familiarity while providing little explanation of what that movement is or what it stands for. Like much of the media coverage on this issue, the article misrepresents what Damore said in his memo, claiming that he argued that women “were biologically less capable of engineering.” In reality, Damore’s memo focused on differences between the sexes in interests and personality traits, not abilities, that …

A Policy of Censorship More Extreme Than Google

By now, we’ve all heard about James Damore, the software engineer who authored a memo suggesting that the tendency of more men than women tend to pursue careers in technology may be explained at least in part by biological differences. Qualified scientists have confirmed that the scientific facts cited by Damore are accurate to the best of our knowledge at this time, but Google nonetheless fired Damore for “advancing harmful gender stereotypes,” raising concerns from many that the company is inhospitable to those who do not conform to a very narrow, politically correct ideology.1,2 From my own experience as a software engineer who has worked at several companies and holds degrees from two universities, I can attest that this problem is not unique to Google but is widespread in both industry and academia. In response to the Google memo, one company saw it necessary to lay down the law for its own employees, setting out a policy that is even more censorious than Google itself. That company is MongoDB, a New York-based database startup employing …