Diversity Hires: Pressure on High Tech

Google Sign

Google Sign

GigaOm has a good overview of the recent diversity data released by major tech companies after a push by Jesse Jackson. The data shows women, and blacks underrepresented compared to total US population ratios, but no comparison to Silicon Valley-specific numbers. Asians are massively overrepresented, but this reflects the large number of Indian and Chinese engineers who have migrated to the Bay Area. There is no data on age, which would likely show a deficiency of older workers.

This is a fine example of the conflict between meritocratic equality of opportunity and equality of outcome proponents. The lack of representation of women and blacks in computer science and engineering courses, majors, and graduates means it is impossible for all or even one company to recruit enough qualified women or minority workers to show proportional representation. Great pressure to do so would mean compromising quality and hiring less capable employees, and less capable programmers are actually worse than useless to a team — they hold back progress on a task. A super-programmer is capable of producing 100x as much valuable output as a mediocre programmer, and a bad programmer produces output that actually decreases the viability of the product.

The apparent belief of our bureaucratic masters is that there is a binary function: qualified or unqualified. A company which hires the objectively best candidate for a job is not protected from claims of discrimination; the bar must be set low enough so that there is a pool of “qualified” candidates, and the hiring should prefer the candidates from underrepresented classes until the workforce is representative. This views employees as replaceable cogs that each have the same value to the work product, very much an old industrial union idea — where those who did more were pressured to stop overachieving so as to make slackers look average.

This is, of course, a recipe for failure in a competitive, international marketplace. We all await their efforts to equalize men in nursing and teaching, as well as all the other fields where there are notable group differences in interest and ability.

Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples OrganizationsDeath by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations

[From Death by HR: How Affirmative Action Cripples Organizations,  available now in Kindle and trade paperback.]

The first review is in: by Elmer T. Jones, author of The Employment Game. Here’s the condensed version; view the entire review here.

Corporate HR Scrambles to Halt Publication of “Death by HR”

Nobody gets a job through HR. The purpose of HR is to protect their parent organization against lawsuits for running afoul of the government’s diversity extortion bureaus. HR kills companies by blanketing industry with onerous gender and race labor compliance rules and forcing companies to hire useless HR staff to process the associated paperwork… a tour de force… carefully explains to CEOs how HR poisons their companies and what steps they may take to marginalize this threat… It is time to turn the tide against this madness, and Death by HR is an important research tool… All CEOs should read this book. If you are a mere worker drone but care about your company, you should forward an anonymous copy to him.


Looking back on the early PC from 2005

When I studied at MIT I was present for the beginnings of the PC — but until I went into the EECS Dept. in 1983 it was mostly through accidental contacts. I didn’t really get into it myself until around 1978, when I started subscribing to Byte and Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Computer Calisthenics and Orthodontia. By 1980 I had built my own video board and S-100 bus CP/M machine (housed in a found-on-the-street filing cabinet which still smelled slightly of cat piss.)

This morning in the Mercury News I read a review of What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry. It set off some memories of that era and mentioned some of the people I ran into. Here’s some people I haven’t yet mentioned in this chronicle:

Jim Warren: I met Jim when I moved to California in 1997. He told me some wonderful but unrepeatable stories about drug use and sex orgies among the local professoriate and the early PC movement. Besides being a founder of the West Coast Computer Faire and Dr. Dobbs, he was instrumental in helping to pass the first law requiring public electronic access to California government records.

Larry Tesler & Ed Birss: I was a huge fan of the Mac the moment I first saw one at MIT during Apple’s recruiting swing. I interviewed with Ed, who gave me one of the original posters for the Mac; I passed his interview but later was told they had decided to require a Master’s degree for all new hires. Ed went on the head the Taligent team and the ill-fated, dead-end Mac object-oriented operating system efforts. Larry I met several weeks later — he was rushed, I was late (the bus from BBN was delayed by a blizzard), and it was clear nothing was going to come of my proposal to make Scheme a supported language on the Mac. Years later I tangled with Larry on the mailing list for brainstorming Dylan, where he supported a “C++-like” syntax and didn’t enjoy our purist OOP criticisms. Larry was head of Apple’s Advanced Technology Division for years, and eventually Chief Scientist.

Gordon Eubanks: I was interviewing at Think (the Think C people) up in Burlington and somehow (lost in hazy memory) ended up being interviewed by Symantec as well — this may have been when Think was being bought by Symantec. Had a long and enjoyable chat with Gordon. Gordon ran Symantec for many years after, successfully resisting incorporation in Microsoft’s empire — they are now well-known for their Norton Antivirus and other products. He’s now CEO at Oblix.

John McCarthy: even though I was at MIT’s AI Lab, my only contact with McCarthy is via a Usenet group focused on British Columbia, where we occasionally discussed the politics of logging and environmentalism’s increasing resemblance to a religious movement. He has been one of the world’s pre-eminent iconoclasts; the Wikipedia entry on him says he comments from a “right-wing perspective,” which is just silly. His parents were Communist Party members and his perspective is post-Left, post-Right, and all his. It is now Conventional Wisdom that any disagreement with the lemminglike orthodoxy of what is now called Progressive Thought makes you right-wing.

Ah well, it was long ago, and now our machines are made of sealed modules we can’t modify with a little wire-wrap magic as we used to. The software is complex beyond any one person’s understanding and often misbehaves in impossible-to-understand ways. Pioneers are tied down by a thousand threads of committees, patents, backward-compatibility, and API issues….

But I just got a Fluke Intellitone 100 kit, which will let me trace the dead POTS lines in the house.