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Comparing the Ideological Bubbles of Google and the Elite University

Google and our elite universities appear to inhabit the same ideological bubble and intone the same diversity mantras.  And that is not surprising, because almost everyone at Google is a product of the modern university and those at its HR department the likely product of its more PC inflected half—the humanities or soft social sciences.  And Google must live within the world of mainstream media and government regulation, and these two sectors are also dominated by elite university graduates of the last quarter century.

But nevertheless the institutions and their employees operate under different constraints.  Google is the  elite university without tenure and the elite university is Google without market discipline. You might think that tenure is the more important obstacle to enforcing an orthodoxy like modern diversity policy.  After all, a professor at an elite university would not be fired for making the largely accurate factual claims about the average differences in temperament between women and men that the Googler did in the memo that got him sacked. Nor would she be let go for arguing that it would be better to judge people as individuals and hire on merit alone.

But her claims, however factually justified, or morally compelling, would nevertheless have no effect on the entrenched elite university culture of racial, ethnic and gender, preferences nor on its general atmosphere of perfervid leftism in these matters—an atmosphere reinforced by a bureaucracy devoted to diversity orthodoxy.  The only concrete result would be that the professor would not be put on faculty hiring committees or allowed otherwise to participate in the administration of the university.

And while no professor would be fired for making these points, it would be an almost insuperable obstacle to being hired to base any scholarship on a reflection on the relevance of biological differences between men and women or indeed on moral arguments against diversity.  In fact, law professors interested in combining sociobiology and law are warned to desist when they seek employment at elite universities, because an interest in sociobiology might be taken as an openness to considering such differences.  I have that information on good authority.

The market, however, poses a greater constraint on the diversity policies of tech companies. If the ideological bubble at Google harms the culture of Google, competitors will benefit. If it hires less than the best for diversity reasons, its output will suffer.  One might respond that given that other companies inhabit the same ideological bubble, Google will suffer no comparative disadvantage.

But start-ups don’t have to follow the diversity orthodoxy.  And for Google the greatest risk is that some start-up will disrupt the world again before Google does. When Larry Page and Sergei Brin wrote the code that changed the world out of a garage, they did not need to worry about diversity mandates. Travis Kalanick was famously politically incorrect in creating Uber as one of the fastest growing companies in the world. And companies in Asia do not face the same ideological pressures but in the modern world they can disrupt businesses in the United States. Thus, the diversity orthodoxy is likely to transform Google less than than it has the modern university even if Google feels it must fire an incautious engineer.

Reader Discussion

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on August 10, 2017 at 20:19:29 pm

John:

Sadly, I think you are quite correct.

As most of the employee base of the Google-ites ? Facbook-ers, etc ar also victims of the past 40 years of digntiy / self esteem educational regime, The Google-ites will probably suffer no adverse effects.

What else is ther ( although someone from m-Soft did publish a list of alternatives to Google). Then again M-Soft is no bastion of liberty either.

Thank God, I still am in possession of a bloody "flip-phone"

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gabe
on August 12, 2017 at 19:13:23 pm

Yes, but now that they have reached near monopoly status, they don't have to innovate that well to stifle many would-be challengers or disruptors.

It is also disturbing the vast amount of information that they now hold on American -- browsing histories, financial information, internet searches, purchases, email communications, personal information, etc.

So it is not just, "Oh well, if they enforce political agendas they will get displaced." They won't, and there is certainly a real danger of combining a political/social agenda with power of holding that much data.

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Marc
on August 12, 2017 at 19:16:23 pm

And while no professor would be fired for making these points,

Like Lawrence Summers, Harvard 2006
What was his point, that on average women don't perform as well with mathematics as men.

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somebody.
on August 12, 2017 at 19:28:37 pm

I tried switching to DuckDuckGo thanks to this mess but I'm afraid Google's results and design seem a lot better so I will probably wind up switching back.

Shouldn't competition also impact the college world? There are about 100 liberal colleges for each with a right-wing slant; doesn't this mean right-leaning colleges like Hillsdale are bound to increase revenues while liberal colleges will decline?

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David H Dennis
on August 12, 2017 at 19:44:06 pm

"And while no professor would be fired for making these points"

Lawrence Summers was not available for comment

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bill-o
on August 12, 2017 at 20:13:30 pm

It's a sad comment on society that the closed minded nature of University radicalism not only infects weak minded undergrads but this same drivel follows them into the real world.
Once upon a time a small cadre of crazed lefty professors haunted the social studies department. They preached soft Marxism disguised as Labor studies or sociological preaching and students knew to nod and smile at the off color jokes and get the easy 'A' s and concentrate on the real courses.
Then a bad things happened, the radicalized graduated and in turn educated a new generation of students. Over time the degree to which teacher and student were leftist increased through an evolutionary process until the damage became almost total.
Welcome to that day.

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Bingo bill
on August 13, 2017 at 10:47:36 am

Summers retains his position as a tenured professor at Harvard. He was removed from administration-- a combination that is completely consistent with my analysis.

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John O. McGinnis
on August 13, 2017 at 17:40:24 pm

What's really creepy to me is the fact that although on Facebook I have a pseudonym, and although there are a lot of people I have never even contacted on any social forum, or even texted..or written to or known about for 20 years,, even 50 years Facebook keeps suggesting them as "friends". This can only come about because at an unseen level, these tech giants are ceaselessly mining us with algorithms of unspeakable power and selling our personal information, and only a fraction of that which they hold on us . I made the mistake of briefly signing onto Facebook messenger..and very soon after, a whole bunch more of my phonebook contacts were suggested as "friends"- meaning to me my smartphone Android Google platform buy and sells information with Facebook. The likes of Google truly are on the way to being Big Brother, and they want to be.

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Peter Gee
on August 17, 2017 at 00:32:16 am

[…] was trying to point out that cultural taboos cloud corporate thinking about gender diversity. The Liberty Lawsite compared the Google bubble with the University bubble. At Hoover, Richard Epstein discusses the rigid […]

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Image of “DIVERSITY: The Invention of a Concept” | American Elephants
“DIVERSITY: The Invention of a Concept” | American Elephants

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.