I tried finding James Damore’s memo and it is already three quarters of the way down the memory hole so I thought I’d put it up in case anyone else wanted to read what he wrote. Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber. These are the conclusions.
I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another
member of their group (tribalism).
My concrete suggestions are to:
● De-moralize diversity.
○ As soon as we start to moralize an issue, we stop thinking about it in terms of costs and benefits, dismiss anyone that disagrees as immoral, and harshly punish those we see as villains to protect the “victims.”
● Stop alienating conservatives.
○ Viewpoint diversity is arguably the most important type of diversity and political orientation is one of the most fundamental and significant ways in which people view things differently.
○ In highly progressive environments, conservatives are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility. We should empower those with different ideologies to be able to express themselves.
○ Alienating conservatives is both non-inclusive and generally bad business because conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is required for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company.
● Confront Google’s biases.
○ I’ve mostly concentrated on how our biases cloud our thinking about diversity and inclusion, but our moral biases are farther reaching than that.
○ I would start by breaking down Googlegeist scores by political orientation and personality to give a fuller picture into how our biases are affecting our culture.
● Stop restricting programs and classes to certain genders or races.
○ These discriminatory practices are both unfair and divisive. Instead focus on some of the non-discriminatory practices I outlined. Have an open and honest discussion about the costs and benefits of our diversity programs.
○ Discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons, and school dropouts.
○ There’s currently very little transparency into the extent of our diversity programs which keeps it immune to criticism from those outside its ideological echo chamber.
○ These programs are highly politicized which further alienates non-progressives.
○ I realize that some of our programs may be precautions against government accusations of discrimination, but that can easily backfire since they incentivize illegal discrimination. Focus on psychological safety, not just race/gender diversity.
○ We should focus on psychological safety, which has shown positive effects and should (hopefully) not lead to unfair discrimination.
○ We need psychological safety and shared values to gain the benefits of diversity.
○ Having representative viewpoints is important for those designing and testing our products, but the benefits are less clear for those more removed from UX. De-emphasize empathy.
○ I’ve heard several calls for increased empathy on diversity issues. While I strongly support trying to understand how and why people think the way they do, relying on affective empathy—feeling another’s pain—causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases. Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.
● Prioritize intention.
○ Our focus on microaggressions and other unintentional transgressions increases our sensitivity, which is not universally positive: sensitivity increases both our tendency to take offence and our self censorship, leading to authoritarian policies. Speaking up without the fear of being harshly judged is central to psychological safety, but these practices can remove that safety by judging unintentional transgressions.
○ Microaggression training incorrectly and dangerously equates speech with violence and isn’t backed by evidence. Be open about the science of human nature.
○ Once we acknowledge that not all differences are socially constructed or due to discrimination, we open our eyes to a more accurate view of the human condition which is necessary if we actually want to solve problems. Reconsider making Unconscious Bias training mandatory for promo committees.
○ We haven’t been able to measure any effect of our Unconscious Bias training and it has the potential for overcorrecting or backlash, especially if made mandatory.
○ Some of the suggested methods of the current training (v2.3) are likely useful, but the political bias of the presentation is clear from the factual inaccuracies and the examples shown.
○ Spend more time on the many other types of biases besides stereotypes.
○ Stereotypes are much more accurate and responsive to new information than the training suggests (I’m not advocating for using stereotypes, I just pointing out the factual inaccuracy of what’s said in the training).
And here’s another interview.