SIO79: James Damore, Author of the Google Memo

On an episode of Dave Rubin, James Damore lamented the fact that no one on the left had been willing to have a long form discussion with him and that his previous ones had been edited to be misleading. So, I wanted to show that I, as a lefty, would be more than willing to have a long form, unedited discussion with him. Here is his original memo.

Here’s probably the best source of scientific refutations of his memo. Google Unconscious Bias Training I referenced. Really good source on sexism in tech.

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18 Replies to “SIO79: James Damore, Author of the Google Memo”

  1. Jesus Christ, James Darmore is ridiculous. I’m about an hour 15 mins in and I am amazed at his completely jumps around and keeps changing the subject. It’s like the perfect example of whataboutism.

  2. Thanks for getting Damore as a guest.

    I listened to the whole thing, and it was more boring…I guess…than outright controversial as far as interviews go. I’m not saying you were necessarily boring, but Damore was only substantively challenging or replying about half the time, and wandering about verbally the rest. He seems like a smart, level-headed person with their head in the wrong place, and seems to be guilty of a blind form of discrimination. He, at least from this interview, does not seem like someone who goes around really pushing his perspective as gospel. Now, I haven’t heard his other interviews, so maybe he’s a total ass, but he didn’t come off that way here.

    But I digress. Thomas, give yourself more credit: at one point you said you guess you were the far-left side of the argument. Don’t label yourself like that; being generally correct on the facts isn’t a matter of left or right. Don’t give them a reason to dismiss you because others make the mistake of attributing your views to a specific political perspective on the grounds of simple disagreement.

    1. What are you talking about,Thomas complete misunderstanding of computer science as subject just shows that you people don’t know anything about the subject you are talking about. The reason women are less in CS is because after 85 you could use C to code an algorithm,before that coder was basically a calculator job. Look at the list of Turing awards almost all men,they are the reason why you have internet,dynamic programming and AI. Also these things weren’t coded properly back then,it was all theory. When powerful computers came boys started coding powerful algorithms and it changed the field forever. CS is a maths subject with a heavy emphasis on theory,unlike nonsense called social science. Almost all the major research in CS was done during 50’s and 60’s in universities like MIT or Bell Labs and those institution were mostly men.

  3. Apparently this Thomas character never heard of behavioral sciences. He mines the one or two professionals in the field who sort of disagree with Damore, when the overwhelming majority have no problem with the claims made in his memo. I also love it when he says “why do you keep saying ‘many people’ think something?” when he himself is a walking example of everything Damore is referencing. You think it, ya dink! The most salient point I’ve taken from this is the kind of embodiment of the Begging The Question fallacy Thomas works with – he already knows all of the mainstream leftist claims are good and correct (not), and everything follows from that false assumption. Then he keeps demanding evidence for everything, when he has exactly none to back his claims. It’s Kafka bizarro world writ large. Then he says “you’ll have to give me sources”. It’s in the Fing memo, FFS. Ask any psychologist. Any!! Then he says “do you have support for that?” Really? Thomas hasn’t supported a single claim he made.

    And can anyone believe what a huge bigot this guy is? White fragility?? Can you imagine if he said Black anything? Of course not. He also thinks whitesplaining is a credible thing. What a dick. Ideas stand outside of melanin, you intellectual toddler.

    Look, he’s just not a fair-minded operator. You either think what Big Tom thinks or you’re stupid and subject to his disrespect and scorn. An awful, confused fellow with no interest in pursuing the truth and what is objectively true. Terrible conversationalist too. Zepps positively destroyed him.

    I’m not even a big Damore fan. I just don’t think he said anything offensive, and I’m 100% positive that the entirety of the leftist press straight up lied about what he actually said in his memo. AFAIC, that’s the most important part of the whole story. Damore is obviously not a sinister bigoted, mean person. I cannot say the same thing about Thomas. Hate to run into that goon at a party. Crap personality is crap.

  4. Your patience is tremendous. How do you put up with his doofus for almost 2 hours. I hope he doesn’t get a dime out of his lawsuit against Google.

  5. I’m late to the game, but well done, Thomas! You were polite, courteous, and professional. One thing I wish would have been expanded upon is what Damore means when he says ‘disenfranchised’ when talking about young, white, men. When he talked about them joining the KKK because they had been ‘disenfranchised’ my head just about broke my desk. When he talked about the social support the KKK provides by ‘forcing companies to hire certain people’, I would have loved to have him understand that yes, the KKK probably did do that, by excluding people of color. He is confusing privilege loss with ‘disenfranchisement’.

  6. According to him, men are more stress tolerant than women at work. However, he was the one who got extremely stressed about the diversity training and politics at Google to the point he couldn’t focus on his duties as a SWE.

    If he was a status-driven, goal-oriented, stress-tolerant software engineer, why would he have spent a month or so writing and circulating the memo? Who has time for something like that in real life?

    For one thing this guy didn’t even major in CS and SWE. He’s a biology major. He said to David Pakman that he’s not passionate about coding and he still doesn’t know what’s best for him at this point. Lack of passion is the biggest reason he said that women drop out coding. So following his own theory, he was going to drop out of coding too. He wasn’t qualified to be there at Google by the standard he set up himself.

    That makes me wonder, why does he care so much about who gets to do coding? Why was he so much into “fixing” the culture at Google?

    Maybe he had other agenda.

  7. Around minute 12..
    reason for people joining a gang. Thomas.. your argument is wrong. People join gangs for the brotherhood they get there, the fraternity, the respect and because they have a common anger against some other group (the other gang, police, or other race). I know people who have joined small gangs and I have watch the documentaries. “Economics reason”.. you mean the Mafia, Mobs. But street gangs fight with other dudes, they steal, kill and get high. By saying that is their income source sounds like you are somehow justifying what they do. KKK is as bad as any of these latino gangs like the Salvatruchas in Cali and other gangs all over USA and LatAm. They are both cruel and bad. Don’t draw a line.

  8. At around the 1:01 mark, you said affirmative action points given to minority college applicants is extremely small and, hence, insignificant. But a few minutes ago you were arguing that a computer model showed that a one point out of one hundred advantage has huge results. Which is it? Do very small benefits have big results or not. Pick a position and stick with it.

  9. Well, that was amusing.

    On the early part where you both really realized you did not know much about the KKK, I thought that you should read books written by David Neiwert. His newspaper career began with covering Richard Butler’s neo-nazi “church” in Sandpoint, ID. he writes about some of the extreme groups with a deep dive into their history, family, etc. Check out In God’s Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest, Death on the Fourth of July: The Story of a Killing, a Trial, and Hate Crime in America and And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border.

    By the way, the human computers did not use “mental” math as Damore claims. They were highly skilled with the tools used in applied math, plus they used actual mechanical calculators. As an engineering student I interned at a large manufacturing company, in the actual factory. It was an older building, and was scheduled to be torn down in a few years. It had some empty rooms, one was the one that had contained the “computers”. The Marchant mechanical calculators were still on the desks.

    This was in the late 1970s, when my computer classes still included carrying around boxes of cards. (I actually put FORTRAN down for my other language for grad school admission, I got in)

    A good read, in addition to Hidden Figures, is Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt. It is a bit more local to you (JPL in Pasadena).

    Finally, Damore seems to still believe the myth that a software engineer goes into cubicle and just creates code by their lonesome. I am married to a very successful software engineer, and that is so far from the truth. There are many social skills required to create large software projects, for example the project that they are working on now has over twenty million lines of code. There needs to be communication and cooperation with the customers, company hierarchy, vendors and on and on. Some days consist of just meetings. The complexity of large software projects are explained in a podcast by a computer engineer here:
    https://www.cmpod.net/are-software-bugs-inevitable-part-1-fortran-and-the-denver-airport-baggage-disaster-curious-minds-podcast/

    1. If you think Human Computers were “highly skilled with the tools used in applied math”,then you have set a pretty low bar.

      “Finally, Damore seems to still believe the myth that a software engineer goes into cubicle and just creates code by their lonesome. ”

      It’s not a myth,just depends on the company you are working in. Google operates like a university meaning it has a bottom up structure. That’s why you see so many Google products that have same application. In Google things like reducing time and memory complexity actually matter and no that doesn’t require team work,usually just an idea. Just look at all the Turing Award winners and most of their algorithms can be coded in C with in 200 lines. An average coder can easily write 1000-2000 lines in Higher languages like Java or Python. Look at the latest trend in AI which is deep learning,all the major algorithms from Alexnet to DNC can be written within 500 lines max on Tensorflow. And that’s usually the job of a Google engineer.
      I am not denying that some projects do require codes with million lines but most of them are application based and almost always have a front end that as I am sure you know requires a lot of work. Google is not in that field,Page Search was back end and even in android they give lot of freedom to developers. Their best subsidiary is Deep Mind and all their papers are authored by max 2-3 people.

      1. There are different levels of projects. Small applications can be done by a single person, though they need to make sure that they are compatible with other applications. Compatibility across different platforms adds complexity (over thirty years ago I had to deal with someone who was tasked with getting a graphic from a Cyber computer to display/print on a VAX minicomputer, it took him at least four attempts to make the “metafile” work, and that was only after I called him up to ask to speak to his supervisor when the third attempt failed).

        I only speak as a user who did lots of applied engineering mathematics who was declared the major “code breaker” for a graphics program being developed over thirty years ago. At that time “ease of use” and “user experience” was not the biggest priority. While they did improve “ease of use”… I was often dismayed that it was solved by “loss of function.” (fortunately that program is lost to history, most recently I have used Mathematica, and it does merge the applied math with graphics very nicely… and I don’t have to write the code to do Simpson’s Rule or Euler’s Method: it is just contained in this expensive much more than a few thousand lines of code program).

        Also I get to hear rants from dear spouse about a paper based quality control test system that is being converted to a database on a complex piece of mechanical hardware. Lots of meetings. Some of them are trying to convince a company bigwig that it would not be wise to store the database “in the cloud” that could leak industrial secrets to their competitors.

        The more you want software to do, the more complex it gets. I am pretty sure that the Google AI software for self-driving cars has lots more than a few thousand lines. There seems to be those annoying philosophy puzzles about run away trolleys being tossed about.

        (note: I am older, so I speak from a time before many of you were born. One reason I had to stop working is because my first born had seizures… and then other medical issues like a severe genetic heart condition requiring open heart surgery and autism. The stuff Damore said about autism was also laughable, lots more eye rolls, so good reading on that is John Elder Robison’s Look Me In the Eye and Raising Cubby… by the way one can get lots of reading done in medical facility waiting rooms)

        “Just look at all the Turing Award winners and most of their algorithms can be coded in C with in 200 lines.”

        What Turing Award winners? Link to them, because I have only heard about silly attempts. Also, as an uber nerd I need actual evidence. My oldest kid had seizures and could not speak when he was three years old, so I got bombarded with the idiotic “vaccines causes autism” early on. No one could explain why my kid got seizures before he got any vaccine. I got lots of nasty grams on a listserv email list because I wrote a post that chelation was dangerous. Just two weeks before Roy Kerry killed a five year old kid with push chelation just because of autism (takes a while to load):
        http://oracknows.blogspot.com/2005/08/sadly-it-was-only-matter-of-time.html

        I am infamous for my question after someone claims diseases declined before the vaccine. Example from yesterday:
        http://thesciencepost.com/local-cherry-orchard-only-hires-anti-vaccers-production-increases-by-340/#comment-3581499481

        So, yeah… I am not a fan of argument from blatant assertion.

        1. “What Turing Award winners? Link to them, because I have only heard about silly attempts.”

          Dijkstra work in Graph theory and greedy technique,even Bachman and the AI winter that was caused by Minsky’s book was a wrong view of his argument. Which basically was that a single layer Neural Network can not learn something like XOR,he never criticized the approach. Again basic maths concepts that were missing from AI research of 60’s and it looked like a victory for Chomsky’s innate argument until Geoff Hinton came up with back propagation.

          “The more you want software to do, the more complex it gets. I am pretty sure that the Google AI software for self-driving cars has lots more than a few thousand lines. There seems to be those annoying philosophy puzzles about run away trolleys being tossed about.”

          Yes but even in AI car case,it is very bottom up. For example Google has teams working on image processing and they might come up with a better algorithm on other hand the AI team might be able to get some success in Reinforcement Learning which basically answers that philosophical question. Also the best algorithm used for object recognition can be written in less than 100 lines. In the end most work on Google car is learning which is unfortunate and huge problem in AI.

          I personally like working alone or at max 3 people and this could be a result of the way universities work.

          ” Some of them are trying to convince a company bigwig that it would not be wise to store the database “in the cloud” that could leak industrial secrets to their competitors.”

          Well there is no denying that cloud is the future,there is a lot of research going on in cryptography because of security issue. I think people worry too much,my profs used to tell me that same thing happened when internet came.

          1. Not a link in sight. Total fail. (30% is not a “win”) Also, I know how to recognize the baffle with bovine excrement method, hence the need to provide actual citations (with a link, you made a claim, therefore you need to provide evidence of that claim, not a word salad)

            Argument by blatant assertion is always a fail. Name dropping does not help, but hinder. As does your neglect of basic grammar. Um, yeah… it seems obvious that the 1960s AI research is why I can recognize a phone robot with just two questions. Again, total fail.

            Bungle, bungle, bungle. That is all you have. You seem to neglect that subroutines and functions are part of the line count.

            If Damore was one of your colleagues, I now understand why him being fired was not a great loss for Google’s business plans. Obviously, you are on his same level.

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