All posts filed under: Science / Tech

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 …

Is Sex a Dirty Word?

In Birka, Sweden, Viking bones from grave B581 until recently were categorized as “anomalous” where “…the gender of the skeleton appeared at odds with the martial objects buried with it.” (emphasis added).5,12 Contemporaneously, in Lewes, East Sussex, England, the Priory school has ordered girls to don trousers in order to make the school uniform gender neutral. Piers Morgan, prominent UK TV figure, and Priory school sixth form “Old Boy,” has said, “Let boys be boys and girls be girls, and stop confusing them in this ridiculous way.”30 Commenting upon gendered language, Arwa Mahdawi stated, “We are more aware of the problems of gendered language than ever and, as the use of the singular they demonstrates, we are taking steps to fix it. At the same time, however, we seem to be creating a gendering of language as the popularity of words such as mansplain and girlboss demonstrate.”19 The term “gender” is misapplied, gender neutrality questioned, and “gendered language” on the rise. So what does all of this have to do with sex? This paper will …

Internet Infrastructure is the New Battleground for Free Speech

In early August, Google engineer James Damore made headlines when his skeptical critique of Google’s diversity agenda was leaked to the public. While most of the tech media had a collective meltdown, Quillette published an intelligent response by four respected academics, defending some of the science underpinning Damore’s arguments. Unfortunately, it didn’t stay online for very long. The site was promptly hit by a denial of service attack which rendered it inaccessible for about a day. Whether the attack was the work of some left-leaning script kiddie offended by the support for Damore, or a false-flag operation designed to make us assume as much, we will likely never know. Whatever the motivation, the fact remains that person or persons unknown were able to unilaterally, albeit only temporarily, decide what legally-published content was allowed to appear online. The normal solution to attacks such as this is to enlist the services of a company like CloudFlare, who can defend a site by concealing its true location within a much larger network. This was presumably what the administrators …

How Animal Genes Go into Battle to Dominate Their Offspring

The burdens of becoming parents are often shared unequally between male and female animals. This is particularly true of species that give birth to live young, where male duties such as defending the breeding territory and building dens or nests rarely compare with the ordeals of pregnancy and labour. You might have thought that animals just “accept” this imbalance and get on with it. But actually, they compete over how much each parent contributes. This isn’t like the competition to win a mate, with locking horns or displays of plumage. Instead this remarkable battle takes place at the level of the genes. It now appears it may have evolved very early in animal evolution, perhaps among the first child-bearing animals. What is more, it may even help to explain why animals diversified into different lineages. Creatures great and small One arena in which this battle plays out is over the size of offspring. In principle it’s in both a mother’s and father’s interests to produce bigger newborns, since they are more likely to prevail in …

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 …

Genetics, Fear, and the Slippery Slope of Moral Authoritarianism

I write this essay as a newly minted geneticist, trained especially in the societal implications and ethics of genetics. As the Google memo saga unfolded last month, I was reminded of social pressures I was subject to in my own training at the University of Washington. I was also reminded of the lines of this song, by Malvina Reynolds: And the people in the houses All went to the university, Where they were put in boxes And they came out all the same, And there’s doctors and lawyers, And business executives, And they’re all made out of ticky tacky And they all look just the same1 I graduated from the University of Washington’s public health genetics doctoral program in December 2016, for which, in addition to my dissertation, I took two years of courses in genetics, ethics, law, and various social sciences, woven together to appreciate how genetics is construed by scientists and the public. As one might expect, eugenics was well-covered ground in the public health genetics program. Many warnings were offered up to …

The Case for Psychedelics

Disclaimer: In this piece we are offering a broad-brush advocacy for therapeutic psychedelic use coupled with rigorous scientific research. However we are research psychologists, not medical practitioners and we are not offering tailored medical or mental health advice. Furthermore, outside of narrow religious and research use, any psychedelic use is illegal in the U.S., and we do not recommend breaking the law. Imagine a substance so powerful that, when used in the correct context, it could permanently change your personality in the direction of greater openness and inspire flow states of heightened creativity. It could help treat the depression or mood disorder that you’ve had to endure despite countless ineffective therapies. Indeed, although the substance is technically a drug, it could help you break addictions to other drugs. Finally, this substance could give you some of the most meaningful experiences of your life, including mystical ones imbued with an unrivaled sense of clarity, unity with your surroundings, and profound knowledge experienced at an intuitive level. If you were a religious sort, it could deeply strengthen …