All posts filed under: Science / Tech

The Google Diversity Memo: It’s still stereotyping—just not the way you think it is!

As academics who have collectively done a lot of research on gender, we have been following the discussion about James Damore’s memo about diversity at Google and the subsequent arguments for and against with a lot of interest. First of all, we have to applaud James Damore for actually reading some of the science on this topic. Second, like Scott Alexander and other scientists who have spoken out on the topic, we agree with most of what he says about the science. A lot of data and many peer-reviewed articles show that women in the population are indeed more people-oriented than men. For example, the graph below taken from Adams (2016) shows gender gaps in values (defined as average male values minus average female values) in the European Social Survey (ESS). In this data, as well as in the World Value Survey, women are on average more benevolent and universalism-oriented, traits associated with being people-oriented, than men. While some of the gender gaps might be small, we still have a very poor understanding how small differences …

Should We “Stop Equating ‘Science’ With Truth”?

Actually: no. In the modern world, there are ever fewer reasons to maintain the distinct roles of men and women, which evolved over millions of years. But to imagine that we are not living with that inheritance is to reject not just science, but all forms of logic and reason. The message that liberates women is not: men and women are the same, and anyone who tells you different is oppressing you. The message that liberates women is: men and women are different. (And in fact, everyone who is intellectually honest knows this—see Geoffrey Miller’s excellent point regarding the central inconsistency in the arguments being presented by the control-left.) And not only are men and women different at a population level, but our distinct strengths and interests allow for greater possibility of emergence in collaboration, in problem-solving, and in progress, than if we work in echo chambers that look and think exactly like ourselves. Shutting down dissent is a classic authoritarian move, and will not result in less oppression. You will send the dissenters underground, …

The Google Memo: Four Scientists Respond

Lee Jussim Lee Jussim is a professor of social psychology at Rutgers University and was a Fellow and Consulting Scholar at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University (2013-15).  He has served as chair of the Psychology Department at Rutgers University and has received the Gordon Allport Intergroup Relations Prize, and the APA Early Career Award for Distinguished Contributions to Psychology.  He has published numerous articles and chapters and edited several books on social perception, accuracy, self-fulfilling prophecies, and stereotypes. His most recent book, Social Perception and Social Reality: Why Accuracy Dominates Bias and Self-Fulfilling Prophecy, ties that work together to demonstrate that people are far more reasonable and rational, and their judgments are typically far more accurate than social psychological conventional wisdom usually acknowledges. You can follow the twitter account: @PsychRabble for updates from his lab. The author of the Google essay on issues related to diversity gets nearly all of the science and its implications exactly right. Its main points are that: 1. Neither the left nor the right gets diversity completely right; 2. The social …

The Haunted Mind: The Stubborn Persistence of the Supernatural

It is wonderful that five thousand years have now elapsed since the creation of the world, and still it is undecided whether or not there has ever been an instance of the spirit of any person appearing after death. All argument is against it; but all belief is for it. ~Samuel Johnson. The Union cemetery in Easton Connecticut is haunted. Many witnesses have seen and heard mysterious phenomena there, from inexplicable orbs of light to eerie apparitions. The most famous supernatural resident is the mysterious woman in white, a black-haired spectre clad in a flowing white diaphanous dress. Various tales explain her haunting. Perhaps the most popular contends that she roams the cemetery searching for her dead son. Ed Warren, a self-taught demonologist, claims that he has seen the lady in white and that he even captured her on camera. According to him, one of the most popular tales about her is that she will appear in the middle of the road right in front of a vehicle. Then, when the distraught driver gets out, believing …

Sociology’s Stagnation Part II: Genetic Confounding

And in the naked light I saw Ten thousand people, maybe more People talking without speaking People hearing without listening The Sound of Silence, by Simon & Garfunkel Remember the financial crisis of 2008? Imagine another one hits in a few years and economists debate how we should respond. Some economists predict that increasing government spending now, say on infrastructure projects, will “stimulate” the economy by putting money in workers’ pockets. The workers then spend that money on goods, which signals to producers that they should start ramping up production, and so on. Others oppose the measure, arguing that the money has to come from somewhere, and that experts don’t know enough about how economies work to know that the investment will pay off. After some debate, government agents decide that a stimulus package is the way to go. Several years after the stimulus, they notice a modest growth rate and conclude that the injection of government money worked. As apparent as it might seem, there’s an obvious question left unanswered here: how would we …

Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and the Importance of Taking AI Risks Seriously

A recent public disagreement between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg was picked up widely in the media. It concerned their vastly different views on the topic of artificial intelligence. Musk has been saying for years that AI represents ‘an existential risk for human civilisation’; Zuckerberg believes that such claims are ‘irresponsible’. Some insisting that Elon Musk is wrong about AI focus on the benefits of artificial intelligence (as though the founder of Tesla isn’t aware of the benefits of, say, automated vehicles). It is undoubtedly true that AI has the potential to be the very best technological advancement of human history, and by a very large margin. Yet the obvious upsides do not somehow eliminate the possibility of existential risk. Others decided that Musk is simply trying to promote his personal brand as a tech superhero, and that he isn’t concerned about the future of humanity at all. If true, this would reveal a disappointingly flawed human being – and reveal absolutely nothing regarding the problem of artificial intelligence safety. From my perspective, the most …

Traditionalists and Activists are Both Wrong About Sex and Gender

Note: I had almost completed writing this essay when I became aware of President Donald Trump’s action to bar transgender individuals from serving in the United States military. This is blatant discrimination against the transgender community. As Sen. John McCain wrote following Trump’s announcement, “Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving. There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military—regardless of their gender identity. We should all be guided by the principle that any American who wants to serve our country and is able to meet the standards should have the opportunity to do so—and should be treated as the patriots they are.” Wading into the turbulent rapids of the politics of sex, gender, and gender identity requires a life vest. Inevitably, one is bound to upset one or another political current, be it transgender rights or support for traditional gender roles. If I cannot hope to achieve a rapprochement between the two sides, I can …