Google and the memo on ‘biological’ differences

 

According to press reports, Google fired an employee who wrote an internal memo about alleged “biological” differences that would make women less suited for technological jobs. This much was predictable, as it should be.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said “portions of the memo violate our Code of Conduct and cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.”

We will not delve on the scientific merits, if any, or what some at Google are apparently calling the “manifesto.” The issue far exceeds our qualifications, even though we strongly suspect the theories, other than abhorrent, also lack any merit. But we wonder: what if there really were biological differences?

There have been previous attempts at proving these alleged differences, notoriously The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, a 1994 book by psychologist Richard J. Hernstein and political scientist Charles Murray. Among other things, the authors wrote about alleged differences in intelligence between races. A reawakened interest in the book should be reason for concern.

Less illustrious as we are than these higher minds, we believe that those “biological” differences are as irrelevant as the color of the skin or the eyes, which are of course biological differences, too. We do not need to review the appalling historical record that reached genocidal climax in the 20th century, the product of ideologies based on an eerily similar discourse.

As for women, we need look no further than the police section of news everywhere for crimes committed against them, often by close relatives. A new term has been coined to describe the murderous violence women suffer at the hands of men: femicide. (Perhaps those theorists of “biological differences” should review their ideas about the significance of those traits that set genders apart: on the face of things, it seems that quite a few men still have a lot to learn from women). More to the point, the pay gap and the shortage of women at top positions points to a persistent problem.

All of this should suffice to expand diversity programs in the workplace. There is simply too much injustice to make up for as to give in to dangerous ideological gibberish.

It’s Too Soon to Judge the Microsoft-LinkedIn deal

 

It is too early to tell if Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn for more than $26 billion will go the way of its purchase of Nokia, the Finnish mobile telephone company, a deal that tanked and had to be undone, sadly for all parties involved. Or if it will be like Skype, a stationary asset that has certainly a large user base but the market value of which has not grown significantly. Neither can we tell if it will, indeed, become a game changer. At this point, we don’t know. If there is one thing we can say, from our humble experience, there is this: when someone pays that amount of money, will want, and will feel entitled too, to see results soon. When those results are not forthcoming, there will be unbearable pressure on the acquired company (i.e., its employees) to “show the money,” and a lot of office disgruntlement will ensue. One reason why mergers and acquisitions end up making everyone miserable is not too different from what makes empires unhappy and causes them to collapse: the conquerors assure they will bring happiness and wellbeing for everyone, but they impose an alien culture and take away the freedom. After struggles that see the demise of a lot of jobs—not as bad as lives, but still—the parties decide to split. It happens all the time. Perhaps the boss of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, has his sight set on the very long term. Is this part of the struggle for supremacy against the other titans in the field: Google, Apple, and Facebook? Is Nadella the chess player that envisions the checkmate after the first couple of moves? To his credit, he was opposed to the Nokia acquisition. But he has now made an even bolder and more expensive move. In the meantime, we quote an analyst from Forbes: “For $26 billion, the acquirer should be getting something that either produces prodigious and rapidly expanding profits or has immeasurable strategic value. It’s not possible to argue LinkedIn offers either.” We will just wrap up by saying that it’s too soon to tell.

It’s Not You; It’s the Software

Software is causing people to snap. It is happening even to those who were born in the Internet era. The smartphones appear not to respond to our commands. They behave whimsically, and then some. Downloading music can feel like a struggle. And you can forget about it if the connection is slow. Or have you tried a search lately? “Google” has become a verb in conversational speech. But for how long are we going to say “Google it” when suggesting to run a search? Perhaps its days are numbered, if the browser ecosystem keeps expanding and adding functionality, like Alphabet. Apple, long the champion of simple software and design, is ceding that crown. Nothing about it is as simple as it used to, much less its software. Its iOS upgrades may often feel like downgrades instead. And if you have tried iTunes lately and have given up even before managing to browse, you are not alone. It is true that people are becoming avid for more functions. But the design is not keeping up pace. Internet of Things devices have mystified, frustrated and angered customers who were embracing its promises. Some did not even manage to connect them to the Internet. A company that has been revolutionary in so many aspects is leading the way on this score, too. Tesla is not only an example of what cars ideally should be. It also creates products that are meant to fit the habits of users, and not the other way around.