Letters to a Young Programmer: 6

You are probably used to your fellow geeks doing somewhat weird things. Hey: Nobody’s perfect. All of us are on the spectrum, somewhere.

We’ve examined the subject of gender and are ready to tackle race from the safety of The Onion Router.

But not before we detour to examine one of Mencius Moldbug’s many catchy neologisms:

…there was an entire branch of philosophy called theodicy, whose goal was to figure out how God and evil could coexist. Doesn’t it strike you as completely and utterly obvious that the answer is “they don’t”? Why didn’t all these incredibly smart people – Aquinas and Leibniz and Pascal and so forth – just consider the null hypothesis?

I think the answer is that when you really believe in God, the belief that God is good and makes good things happen is completely woven into your cerebral cortex. If you were to stop believing in God, you would instantly solve the problem of explaining all the evil things that have happened in the world. You would also instantly create the problem of explaining all the good things that have happened. For which your present explanation is that they happened because they were good, and therefore God wanted them to happen.

Moldbug then points out that if you are raised with the belief that democracy is the sine qua non of governance, you are faced with a modern version of this conundrum:

Similarly, as a kid raised on the IHT and the Economist and other Georgetownist goodness, I had a simple, pretty explanation of the world. There were two kinds of governments: democratic ones and undemocratic ones. The first kind were good and the second kind were bad. …

And there is an even more upsetting observation, which is that the process of explaining why democracy isn’t perfect is remarkably similar to good old theodicy.

Perhaps we could call it demodicy – the problem of explaining how democracy can coexist with evil.

Progressive techies have their own variant of this behavior. The core progressive tenet is equality of humans. Yet humans of various races, especially blacks, are so unequally represented in tech.

By analogy with Moldbug’s idea, we could call the issue “negrodicy.” This is a terrible word. But it’s a much better analog of the concept of theodicy than demodicy. Demodicy is just an intellectual curiosity. We might get the general sense that democratic Egypt or Iraq or South Africa is badly governed. But Egypt and Iraq and South Africa are so far away.

Equality, on the other hand, is real and in your face and personal. Every day good progressives, who were raised on the Civil Rights movement, the marches through Southern towns, the Great Society: They come to work and see no blacks outside the workers in the bathroom, mail room, and kitchen.

They try to find explanations. Negrodicy. How about racism?

The trope among people not on the left is that progressives lay down the word “racism” like the guy down the street who didn’t know how to build a wall, used way too much mortar, and now has unsightly solidified gunk forever.

Despite my occasional mocking compliments, I don’t think my progressive coworkers are very good people, at least when it comes to politics. They are credulous, mendacious, self-righteous bullies.

But: They are not idiots. Crying “racist” is low class. So low class that there is a stereotype of a dark skinned person saying “thas RAYcis.”

Progressive nerds are the intelligentsia, or a least believe themselves to be. And they seek an intelligent explanation for the lack of black accomplishment in tech. Any article, even an offhand blog post, that provides such an explanation is avidly reshared.

A blog post by Marianne Williamson hit my inbox yesterday, shared with the following quote:

On a personal note, I didn’t even know if I had it in me to continue in this space. I was getting tired of encouraging black people to apply to work at companies that will never, ever, hire them. Tech is looking for a certain type of black person (the perfect description of this person can be found in this clip from Ocean’s 11). The hiring process in tech is all about, “who do you want to have an artisanal, organic, beer with?”. If the hiring manager doesn’t see you as a possible friend, the likelihood of getting hired is pretty slim. Black women aren’t high on the “friend list”.

Like most attempts at negrodicy, this is superficially plausible. Everyone knows Hipster Developers.

But (again, like most negrodicy) … this little anecdote is just ridiculous if you think about it. My own experience provides a forceful retort. I recently had the pleasure of catching up with a boyhood friend. He has a son, a teenager, a real whiz kid. Programs Java in an IDE. Makes awesome animated 3-D models with motion and momentum.

Easy to imagine a bright future in the software industry, which is sufficient to refute Williamson’s explanation. This kid has no discernable social skills. He’s spending his summer in front of a computer.

And of course no one in the Valley will care. They’ll snap him right up, probably give him the hard sell months before he graduates college. (In the actual real world we live in … the hiring process in tech is not about “who do you want to have an artisanal, organic, beer with.” If it were: I can assure you I wouldn’t be the Googler neoreactionary.) *

If you were to raise this point with one of your progressive coworkers, your objection would not receive honest and sober consideration. Which brings us back to Moldbug’s musings about theodicy:

Why didn’t all these incredibly smart people – Aquinas and Leibniz and Pascal and so forth – just consider the null hypothesis?

which is just a little too bloodless and high-minded. Like Isaac Asimov used to write. In Asimov’s books, everyone behaved rationally, and no one ever took disagreement personally, and if you have a good argument you can shut down the mob, as Hari Seldon did in his trial.

Real life is different. You can reason about why Aquinas and Pascal behaved by thinking about the folks you know. Can Yonatan Zunger state in public “ah, screw it, races have adapted in diverse environments for different selection pressures and what ya gonna do, man”?

No, of course not. Equality is the progressive’s creed, and deviating from it will cause devastating negative feedback from one’s superego and from one’s peers.

So if you tweak the progressive’s negrodicy — “hey my friend’s teenager is a computer genius but he’s not so into artisanal beer, would you advise he sell his computer on Ebay” — expect pushback. The progressive may not want to theorize with the single word “racism”, but he’ll happily use it to smear you.

Be careful in the real world. In this world, with a nice little proxy keeping us safe, we’re free to behave as we want.

We’re free to consider the possibility that the emperor is, in fact, naked.

We’re free to consider the null hypothesis.

* The entire article is worth reading. Williamson complains that she can’t get funded by venture capitalists — this at the close of the second decade in which VC funds have desperately thrown money at any semi-plausible entrepreneur.

You may also wonder if aggressively advertising one’s geek credentials (“My dad was a brewery worker who at 36 years old fell in love with C++ … We had a VAXmate in our living room. I was forced to learn basic code at age 8 … so I could publish the weekly newsletter I edited for the other kids in our apartment complex.”) is considered necessary, or good form, in tech circles. It is not.

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Asking Me To Watch Your Stupid Video Constitutes a “Microaggression”

If like me you receive endless exhortations to watch actors demonstrate “privilege”, you may find this compare/constrast checklist helpful.

Pushiness[a]:

– You are allowed to push your political views onto your coworkers, at your workplace, with no consequences and no pushback: Privilege
– You do not attempt to push your political views onto others. Doing so would cause you to be scorned and disciplined: Lack of Privilege

Popularity:
– When propagating your political views you are thanked for doing so: Privilege
– When propagating your political views you hide behind a proxy and use an alias: Lack of Privilege

Accuracy:
– Can say the most ridiculous, absurd things without criticism or jeopardizing your popularity: Privilege
– Afraid to say things which are true: Lack of Privilege

[a] I was going to say “bossiness”, but that has been banned by somebody, with, you know.

Frazelled

The Duck Emperor retweeted:

https://twitter.com/wargfranklin/status/617958835387392000

The full article being

My least favorite topic in the world is ‘Women in Tech’, so I am going to make this short but I think it’s something that needs to be said. This industry is fucked. Ever since I started speaking at conferences and contributing to open source projects I have been endlessly harassed. I’ve gotten hundreds of private messages on IRC and emails about sex, rape, and death threats. People emailing me saying they jerked off to my conference talk video (you’re welcome btw) is mild in comparison to sending photoshopped pictures of me covered in blood.

I personally have never used salacious images of females to achieve orgasm: but I have a friend who has done so. And my friend tells me that a video of a person giving a talk at a conference: is the least believable masturbation aid ever.

Warg Franklin says of this blatant Social Justice holy rolling:

https://twitter.com/wargfranklin/status/617959912346288129

Frazzell’s post is not a “narrative”. It is religious ecstacy; religious lunacy. I can, and do say: This has the same truth value as “People of the Reich: Today Polish murderers crossed the border and assaulted helpless Germans!”

Which doesn’t help. The tech industry is fucked. More than a counter-narrative is needed.

Turn the clock back many centuries, and move the point of view to Aix-la-Chappelle …

Rise, and address Charlemagne, King of the Franks!

Sire: The Saxons are pagan beasts! They defile Christianity in every way possible! To wit: They dressed a woman as The Virgin Mary, and proceeded to copulate with her repeatedly!

That sounds bad.

And when they were done copulating, they started conjugating! They conjugated “Mary, Mother of God, is a whore” into every tense and case of Old Low German! Of which there are a phenomenal number!

If true, an abomination.

O King, they took my own child, to whom I gave birth, and tore it to shreds, saying to me, “turn the other cheek, Christ-lover!”

You’re a priest.

Yes!

You’re a man.

Yes!

You bore a child.

Yes! No! I have a friend who has done so! This is exactly what the Saxons do to Christians! Stop Saxonsplaining!

Sire, have you had enough? Shall I remove this person forthwith?

There is no reason to be upset at the good father’s understandable zeal.

I have been considering the problem of these Saxons.

I have made many plans concerning these Saxons.

When our holy friend speaks out against the Saxons, he does us a great service.

Dammit Jim! I’m a Doctor not a Neoreactionary

Ever thought that present society might be somewhat … dystopic?

Ever imagined what an alien culture would think of us? An alien culture like … the America of 1968?

* * *
ent_turning

(opening credits)

The USS Enterprise enters orbit around the planet Progtopia.

It is not very technologically advanced. But everyone is equal and no one offends another. Paradise!

Progtopia is really the most progressive place imaginable and the Enterprise’s crew admires it.

Except for Ensign Chekov, who laughs when told that Progtopians can marry trees.

(commercial break)

Captain Kirk meets a hot Progtopian.

Oh yeah baby.

But he disrespected her! And did not sign a consent form!

Kirk is thrown in jail. His communicator is taken away from him. He is given a brochure for an iPhone*.

Meanwhile the Enterprise crew discovers to their surprise that Progtopia has many problems:
– High crime
– Low birth rate
– Stagnation of technology
– Hatred of pink-skinned Progtopians

A Klingon imperial cruiser enters orbit around Progtopia.

(commercial break)

Kirk is placed in the same cell as Chekov.

Chekov notes that throwing people in jail for political crimes “was inwented in Russia.”

They form a plan.

Kirk hides in a corner. Chekov yells for a guard.

When the guard enters, Chekov says the captain has found some moss on the wall and Chekov wants to marry it.

Kirk notes that as commanding officer, he must preside over the wedding.

They are set free.

Meanwhile the chief officer of the Progtopian military is telling Spock that he cannot use any weapon more advanced than a fan, because to do otherwise would cast doubt on the ability of trees to act as soldiers.

Spock pronounces this “illogical”.

Kirk and Chekov enter a public square to discover Klingons, looting and abusing Progtopians in a contemptuous manner!

(commercial break)

Kirk and Chekov have no weapons but their fists.

Oh yeah baby.

They are thrown in jail again! The Klingons are legal residents on a path to citizenship!

Kirk asks if he could have his primitive useless phone back, as it contains ASCII pictures of Chekov’s beloved moss.

“Beam me up Scotty”

Kirk, Spock, and Chekov beam down to the same square, where a leering Klingon is taking goods without paying for them.

Kirk starts yelling and attracts a crowd. The Klingon smirks and says, just like everywhere else in the quadrant, Kirk can do nothing here.

Spock comes up behind him and uses the ol’ Vulcan nerve pinch.

Oh yeah baby.

“Commander Spock can render people unconscious, which I cannot do. But I would never tell him not to. Reality cannot be ignored just because it might hurt someone’s feelings.”

And because the truth was spoken to a few people in one tiny part of an entire planet, they all lived happily ever after.

Back on the Enterprise, Kirk asks Chekov if something is wrong.

“Kiptin … I must admit, I miss that moss.”

Lieutenant Sulu smiles enigmatically.

“Take us out gentlemen, at warp factor five.”

(closing credits)

* I wanted to write “Android” but couldn’t with a straight face, sorry guys.