If you’re at all interested in “tech” or “tech culture” then you’ve no doubt heard about the pc-considered-harmful post written last week by a (mostly) anonymous Google employee. In that post, the employee suggests that there might be biological, “innate” reasons why women aren’t flocking to software jobs. He then goes on to say that the full-court-press for diversity at Google is damaging the company. He suggests that the company consider diversity as a scientific issue, deserving of research and development, rather than as a moral issue which must be addressed to the satisfaction of the high priests regardless of cost.
Needless to say, the pitchforks have come out for this guy. He’s getting death threats. Google has made the usual “that’s not who we are” public response. He’s being called “The Manifestbro”, the word “bro” of course used to dehumanize him and prepare him for the inevitable consequences of extrajudicial unpersonhood in much the same manner that racial epithets were used in the Jim Crow South. All of this was eminently predictable; perhaps not to the insulated, isolated Googler who wrote the memo, but to everybody who lives in the real world outside the Google Bubble with its scarcity, misery, and psuedo-sharia lose-your-job courts of acceptable discourse. To quote Stilgar from Dune, this dude put himself in the way of the Harkonnen fist. It’s sad to watch, and it’s ironic that his employer is probably going to take real steps to crucify a fellow who loves Google so much that he’s willing to sacrifice his own career for the general good of the company, but this sort of thing happens all the time in the post-Kulturkampf world and as such it’s no more interesting than the thirty-ninth time a Christian was martyred in a Roman arena.
Here’s what I did find interesting: a former Distinguished Engineer at Google named Yonatan Zunger decided to write a lengthy screed detailing how and why he’d have walked that unfortunate, naive engineer right out the door. I think his post was probably meant to be nothing more than a public declaration of fealty to the golden calf of progressive thinking, an affirmation of group membership similar to the various abuse heaped on Trotsky after the fact by anybody who wanted to be found alive the next morning.
These impassioned reiterations of the status quo have become much more common lately, and most of them, the Zunger piece not excluded, boil down to The Progressive Theology Is Never Wrong And Here’s Another Reason For That Unchallenged Supremacy Which Had Probably Not Occurred To You Until Right Now. Five hundred years ago, scientists used to regularly write pieces about how you could Clearly See The Existence Of The Christian God In The Design Of The Hummingbird Nectar Tube. Their purpose then, as now, was to provide preemptive evidence against any future charges of heresy — and then, as now, they were utterly ineffective.
Yet this pile-on piece is much more than that. It’s a completely accidental, but utterly truthful, explanation of why modern software is so thoroughly, horrifyingly bad. It’s also a graphic reminder that nerds are gonna nerd, so to speak, with all the positive and negative consequences that result. So what I would like to do is ignore most of the crap on both sides about whether or not women should be programmers and focus on the inadvertent, but hugely relevant, revelations in Mr. Zunger’s post. You don’t have to be a programmer to click the jump; in fact, if you know nothing about computers, this will help you understand why computers and websites and whatnot are so hard to use.