Note: This is part II of a three part series in response to Google’s recent firing of James Damore. Part I can be read here.
I read James Damore’s pro-diversity memo a day or two before he was fired. I found it inspiring and called him a hero in a post on my personal Facebook page. To me, it was a courageous move to voice a well-supported yet unpopular opinion in the face of a hostile audience that would surely seek to cost him his career for expressing such views. Damore’s memo was anonymous, but as a Harvard PhD working as an engineer for Google, I am certain that he was bright enough to realize that his job would be on the line regardless. He put skin in the game and paid a price for a noble and righteous cause.
Even so, I was still stunned when I heard that Damore had indeed been canned. The ideological intolerance of Silicon Valley should not surprise anyone, but it somehow continues to amaze me.
I was beside myself. Outraged! Furious! And I vowed to never use Google again!
With God as my witness, I began my retreat from the world’s second most valuable brand. I would rid myself of them completely! It would only be a matter of time and Google searches!
Oops! Uh… Bing searches!
First, I deleted Google Chrome and started using Firefox as my primary web browser. After a few painful moments of Firefox, I decided to do a quick Google search (I mean Bing search!) to see what other browsers there were to choose from.
Since I already knew from experience that Internet Explorer was not going to be an option, I eventually decided to download Opera. This would wind up being my only successful scaling back of my Google usage.
I set Bing as my primary search engine. Then quickly switched to Yahoo!. Then DuckDuckGo. Things were not going as swimmingly as I had anticipated.
My next step was to figure out what other products and services Google owned, so I could eliminate those from my life too. As I was typing what products and services does Google own into DuckDuckGo, I realized Gmail is owned by Google. This was discouraging. After a nightmarish DuckDuckGo search for a list of Google products, I discovered that YouTube was also Google’s property.
About twenty-five minutes had gone by. It felt like three hours. I was defeated.
Quitting YouTube? That was not going to happen. Where would I watch James Damore interviews about how bigoted Google is?
I restored Google as my search engine, and have been too lazy to reinstall Chrome. Opera isn’t actually that bad.
I then realized something important that I hope the executives in Silicon Valley will realize too.
Despite a concerted effort to dissociate myself from a group that I hated, quality performance made me forget my prejudices. Smooth web browsing, flawless email services, and the best video-sharing website in the known universe made all my hate wither away and die. My outrage was no match for my desire to live in comfort and convenience.
One of James Damore’s central points in his memo is that bias and discrimination do not account for all demographic outcomes in the workplace. He humbly and carefully writes the following statements in separate sections of the document:
- “At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story.”
- “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.”
As Damore says, there are factors outside of our prejudices that contribute to the way things work themselves out.
But my experience takes this even further. Even with explicit bias and a willful intent to discriminate, I wound up giving up on my hate because of superior performance. I absolutely have some issues with Google, but I am not going to make my daily life worse to spite them.
And I believe that this is part of the human condition that Damore referenced.
We are all semi-rational animals that just want a few basic things out of life. We want to experience love, we want our attention to be occupied, we want to survive, and we want to accomplish it all with as little effort and pain and as much satisfaction and pleasure as possible. Hate certainly has the potential to overcome us, but if we are left to fend for ourselves, it will rarely have enough influence that we take petty stands which make our lives more difficult.
If I can’t stop using Google because of how excellent their services are, how could it become widespread for companies and organizations to discriminate against certain groups despite individuals within those groups being equipped to offer greater profits, products, labor, ideas, and services?
Would a KKK member dying of thirst turn down a fresh glass of water offered to him by black person? Would a Communist give up his iPhone after realizing it was created in a system of free market Capitalism? Would a feminist reject her ideal partner because he or she does not support putting women in combat roles in the military? Would an anarchist refuse a policeman’s assistance if his life were in danger?
Undoubtedly, there are instances in which prejudice overcomes reason and causes people to hurt themselves and others out of nothing but hate. I recognize that, and Damore did repeatedly in his memo too. But generally speaking, not many people have the energy or the will power to act on their biases. A utopian world in which no one acts stupidly will never exist, so it deserves no consideration.
It is safe to assume that Google’s workforce is exceptionally smart, even taking their silly social and political views into account. That a company loaded with intelligent and ambitious people could actively (or subconsciously) engage in race or gender based discrimination to the detriment of Google itself is just something I cannot believe takes place.
Illustrated by me using Google, environmentalists driving cars, and anti-immigration activists benefiting from cheap labor, the free market and liberty make principled discrimination more difficult than any law or diversity training ever could.
Acting against one’s own self-interest for the sake of silly principle makes the world a worse place. I hope Google learns this lesson and rethinks their attitude before it becomes even more pervasive in American life.