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AP Definitive Source | How to describe extremists who rallied in Charlottesville
The events in Charlottesville are an opportunity to take
another look at our terminology around “alt-right” and the way that we describe
the various r...
journalism  hate 
11 hours ago by jellis
AP Definitive Source | How to describe extremists who rallied in Charlottesville
Definitions; "the term 'alt-right' should be avoided"; "antifa" should be in quotes and also defined in the story.
white_hate  journalism  terminology  fascism  words  AP  style  from twitter
17 hours ago by macloo
The Actual Science of James Damore’s Google Memo
(The changed the headline 3 times for this, from „James Damore's Google Memo gets science all wrong“ to „The pernicious science of James Damores Google Memo“ to „The Actual Science of James Damore’s Google Memo“.)

IN EARLY AUGUST, a Google engineer named James Damore posted a document titled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” to an internal online discussion group. His memo was a calm attempt to point out all the ways Google has gone wrong in making gender representation among its employees a corporate priority. And then, on August 5, the memo jumped the fence. Nobody else was calm about it.

It wasn’t a screed or a rant, but, judging by his document, Damore clearly feels that some basic truths are getting ignored—silenced, even—by Google’s bosses. So in response, the engineer adopted a methodology at the core of Google’s culture: He went to look at the data. “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber” wants to be a discussion of ideas about diversity through solid, ineluctable science.

The core arguments run to this tune: Men and women have psychological differences that are a result of their underlying biology. Those differences make them differently suited to and interested in the work that is core to Google. Yet Google as a company is trying to create a technical, engineering, and leadership workforce with greater numbers of women than these differences can sustain, and it’s hurting the company.

Damore further says that anyone who tries to talk about that paradox gets silenced—which runs counter to Google’s stated goal of valuing and being friendly to difference. And, maybe helping make his point a little, last Monday Google fired him. Damore is now on a media tour, saying he was fired illegally for speaking truth to power. Hashtag Fired4Truth!

The problem is, the science in Damore’s memo is still very much in play, and his analysis of its implications is at best politically naive and at worst dangerous. The memo is a species of discourse peculiar to politically polarized times: cherry-picking scientific evidence to support a preexisting point of view. It’s an exercise not in rational argument but in rhetorical point scoring. And a careful walk through the science proves it.

The Incoherency Problem

Psychology as a field has been trying to figure out the differences between men and women, if any, for more than a century—paging Dr. Freud, as the saying goes. The results of these efforts are ambiguous. And psychologists are still working on it.

The science of difference is a mushball, and trying to understand differences among populations only makes it messier. Every cognitive or personality trait will have a wide distribution among a given population—sex, ethnicity, nationality, age, whatever—and those distributions may only vary slightly. Which means huge chunks of the population may overlap. For any given trait, men may be more different from each other than from women, let’s say.

That said, Damore’s assertion that men and women think different is actually pretty uncontroversial, and he cites a paper to back it up, from a team led by David Schmitt, a psychologist at Bradley University in Illinois and director of the International Sexuality Description Project. The 2008 article, “Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman? Sex Difference in Big Five Personality Traits Across 55 Cultures,” does indeed seem to show that women rate higher than men in neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

As always, the issue is the extent of the difference (and what causes it—more on that in a bit). Also, as Damore himself notes: Google hires individuals, not populations.

Damore argues that greater extraversion and agreeableness, on the whole, would make it harder for women to negotiate and stake out leadership positions in an organization, and that higher neuroticism would naturally lead to fewer women in high-stress jobs. The first-order criticism here is easy: Damore oversells the difference cited in the paper. As Schmitt tells WIRED via email, “These sex differences in neuroticism are not very large, with biological sex perhaps accounting for only 10 percent of the variance.” The other 90 percent, in other words, are the result of individual variation, environment, and upbringing.

It is unclear to me that this sex difference would play a role in success within the Google workplace.

A larger problem, though, is measuring the differences in the first place. Personality traits are nebulous, qualitative things, and psychologists still have a lot of different—often conflicting or contradictory—ways to measure them. In fact, the social sciences are rife with these kinds of disagreements, what sociologist Duncan Watts has called an “incoherency problem.” Very smart people studying the same things collect related, overlapping data and then say that data proves wildly different hypotheses, or fits into divergent theoretical frameworks. The incoherency problem makes it hard to know what social science is valid in a given situation.

The impulse to apply those theories to explain human behavior is as strong as it is misguided. Women as a group score higher on neuroticism in Schmitt’s meta-analysis, sure, but he doesn’t buy that you can predict the population-level effects of that difference. “It is unclear to me that this sex difference would play a role in success within the Google workplace (in particular, not being able to handle stresses of leadership in the workplace. That’s a huge stretch to me),” writes Schmitt. So, yes, that’s the researcher Damore cites disagreeing with Damore.

Damore does this over and over again, holding up social science that tries to quantify human variation to support his view of the world. In general, he notes, women prefer to work with people and men prefer to work with things—the implication being that Google is a more thing-oriented workplace, so it just makes sense that fewer women would want to work there. Again, the central assertion here is fairly uncontroversial. “On average—and I emphasize that, on average—men are more interested in thing-oriented occupations and fields, and that difference is actually quite large,” says Richard Lippa, a psychologist at Cal State Fullerton and another of the researchers who Damore cites.

But trying to use that data to explain gender disparities in the workplace is irrelevant at best. “I would assume that women in technical positions at Google are more thing-oriented than the average woman,” Lippa says. “But then an interesting question is, are they more thing-oriented than the average male Google employee? I don’t know the answer to that.”

Semantics aren’t helping here. Is coding a thing- or people-oriented job? What about when you do it in a corporation with 72,000 people? When you’re managing a team of engineers? When you’re trying to marshal support for your proposed expenditure of person-hours versus someone else’s? Which is more thing-oriented, deep neural networks or database optimization?

And maybe the most important question: How useful are psychological studies of the general population when you’re talking about Googlers?

Nature vs. Nurture

Damore essentially forecloses the possibility of changing sex roles and representation at Google—or anywhere, really—by asserting that not only are the differences between men and women significant but that they are at least in part intrinsic. Damore doesn’t assert that biology is the only factor in play, and no scientist does either. But how important biology is to psychology is—again—in heavy dispute.

Here’s Damore’s take: “On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways.”

Nothing to argue about here. If men and women didn’t differ biologically, it would make sexual reproduction very difficult indeed. Also, men and women differ in height (on average), bone mass (on average), and fat, muscle, and body hair distribution (on average). No one thinks those differences are socially constructed.

Damore, though, is saying that differences in cognitive or personality traits—if they exist at all—have both social and biological origins. And those biological origins, he says, are exactly what scientists would predict from an evolutionary perspective.

Evolutionary psychology and its forebear, sociobiology, are themselves problematic fields. Two decades ago evo-psych was all the rage. It’s essential argument: Males and females across species have faced different kinds of pressures on their ability to successfully reproduce—the mechanism, simplistically, through which evolution operates. Those pressures lead to different mating strategies for males and females, which in turn show up as biological and psychological differences—distinctions present in men and women today.

The problem with that set of logical inferences is that it provides a convenient excuse to paint a veneer of shaky science onto “me Tarzan, you Jane” stereotypes. It’s the scientific equivalent of a lazy stand-up comedian joking about how all men dance like this—the idea that nature hardwires our differences. In fact, evolutionary biologists today race to point out that the nature-versus-nurture dichotomy is outdated. No serious scientist finds it to be a credible model.


Internal Messages Show Some Googlers Supported Fired Engineer’s Manifesto

In 2005, Lawrence Summers, then president of Harvard, suggested publicly that women might not have as much “innate ability” as men to succeed in academic disciplines that require advanced mathematical abilities. In response, psychologists got together to assess more than 100 years of work and present a consensus statement about whether Summers was right. They concluded that a wide range of sociocultural forces contribute to sex difference in STEM achievement and ability, including family, neighborhood, school influences, training experiences, cultural … [more]
Google  Googlememo  Feminism  Journalism  db 
18 hours ago by walt74
Common Ownership And The New Antitrust Movement – People's Policy Project
Antitrust books written for popular audiences often begin with a story or two about the illusion of choice that pervades our consumer markets. In one such story, the reader is asked to think about all the beers they can find at their local supermarket: Budweiser, Corona, Stella Artois, Michelob, Pilsener, Busch, and Rolling Rock, to name a few. It is then revealed that this cornucopia of options is really just the brand portfolio of a single company, AB InBev, that produces nearly half of the beer consumed in the country.
politics  economics  americana  journalism  argument 
21 hours ago by kmt
How SB Nation Profits Off An Army Of Exploited Workers
Little pay, high-pressure and the constant threat of being replaced might be the sports site's dirty secret to success.
media  journalism 
yesterday by jorgebarba

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