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.