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Thread: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    The other side of the neoliberal identity politics coin is the alt-right faux opposition to it, which is actually based on the same logic covered with pseudo-scientific language.

    Take the Google techbro guy who recently got fired. I read his "memo", and it's predictable trash. At one point he describes himself as a "classical liberal", and also rails against "cultural Marxism", which is indicative of a particular breed of alt-right neo-fascist. More specifically, it is a breed of mostly white males who are triggered by increasing numbers of women and minorities in their professions, and the general (often still inadequate) rise in the relative power they possess, which has been increasing slowly but surely over the past few decades.

    These people also follow a general line to become alt-right cause célèbre, making a lucrative career out of their alt-right neoliberal identity politics. There is some sort of "scandal" when they express their sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic views in public, they say it's about free speech being silenced, they're invited to alt-right media outlets (typically YouTube channels like Dave Rubin, Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, etc.), and they set up a Patreon account racking up tens of thousands of dollars a month, if not more.

    To be more specific about the alt-right identity politics: their "chosen" identity to imbue with reason, objectivity, rationality and special epistemic knowledge (often flowing into the normative), is what it generally perceived to be the "norm" in any particular society. Straight white men are typically on the top of the hierarchy - they are the ones who possess Reason whereas others are fools who don't understand basic facts and logic (this is the language they use).

    Take this tech bro's "memo", which is filled with bullshit "science" that's even worse than the Bell Curve crap, yet he genuinely believes he is biologically determined to be more reasonable and rational than women. When someone asked him about the racial dimension, he answered that he doesn't know enough about race science, but when he reads the Bell Curve he'll have his "facts" to ensure his position at the top of the identitarian hierarchy.

    So what you get is competing identity politics, one emanating from a place of lack of power (typically), and one emanating from a place of power (typically), and they both appeal to a distinctive kind of language though in terms of the underlying logic of they are the fundamentally the same: picking out particular identities and imbuing them with a kind of epistemic privilege when no such connection between the two exists.

    If you take a realistic view about this focusing on the sociological aspect, you'll see it for what it is (or at least, what it is also): a symbolic power struggle engaged in by competing actors typically grouped in relation to distinctive kinds of capital they possess for dominance over a particular field. Their identities are symbolic weapons employed in this struggle: "male", "female", "white", "black", etc.; they are all in a competition to be valorized within particular markets, in the quest for legitimizing its use as a particular form of capital, with which other forms (such as the economic) are the to be acquired.

    But that does not mean that there is an equal playing field, across the board. Yes, "minority" identities are dominant in some fields (particularly in some sectors of the academy, like African-American and gender studies departments), but on the whole they are still the marginalized minority (though increasing in power over the past decades).

    Given this, siding with alt-right identity politics which seeks to maintain the dominant position of the already dominant is not the "revolutionary" thing to do, as some people on the left think. If you oppose the logic underlying identity politics, call it out for what it is, while also not forgetting that both sides in the struggle are not equal.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    And here you go. He's already gone on the Peterson alt-right platform, so the Patreon is coming shortly. He'll soon earn more than he did at Google. And listen to what he says in the first couple minutes of the interview: he was triggered to write his memo after attending a diversity session at Google wherein they discussed ways of trying to hire more non-male, non-white employees. His instinctive reaction was that this is racist and sexist - against his chosen top identity biologically imbued with epistemic superiority: white males.

    He felt victimized, threatened and judged as an identity-class, so he felt compelled to write an incoherent screed against "cultural Marxism", seeking a safe space for his "classical liberal" views.

    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Haha he's also already gone on Stefan Molyneux as well.

    Yeah, the guy's an alt-right freak following a lucrative career path. And the idiots who identify with his pathetic little power plays will fund him more than Google ever did, so his basic thesis that white male alt-righters are a prosecuted minority punished for expressing their views is disproven by his own existence.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    This is a good read:

    So, about this Googler’s manifesto

    You have probably heard about the manifesto a Googler (not someone senior) published internally about, essentially, how women and men are intrinsically different and we should stop trying to make it possible for women to be engineers, it’s just not worth it.

    Until about a week ago, you would have heard very little from me publicly about this, because (as a fairly senior Googler) my job would have been to deal with it internally, and confidentiality rules would have prevented me from saying much in public.

    But as it happens, (although this wasn’t the way I was planning on announcing it) I actually recently left Google?—?for entirely unrelated and actually really-good-news reasons which you can read about here. So when all of this broke, I was just as much on the outside as everyone else, and I know what was written in this only because it leaked and was published by Gizmodo.

    And since I’m no longer on the inside, and have no confidential information about any of this, the thing which I would have posted internally I’ll instead say right here, because it’s relevant not just to Google, but to everyone else in tech.

    So it seems that someone has seen fit to publish an internal manifesto about gender and our “ideological echo chamber.” I think it’s important that we make a couple of points clear.

    (1) Despite speaking very authoritatively, the author does not appear to understand gender.

    (2) Perhaps more interestingly, the author does not appear to understand engineering.

    (3) And most seriously, the author does not appear to understand the consequences of what he wrote, either for others or himself.

    1. I’m not going to spend any length of time on (1); if anyone wishes to provide details as to how nearly every statement about gender in that entire document is actively incorrect,¹ and flies directly in the face of all research done in the field for decades, they should go for it. But I am neither a biologist, a psychologist, nor a sociologist, so I’ll leave that to someone else.

    2. What I am is an engineer, and I was rather surprised that anyone has managed to make it this far without understanding some very basic points about what the job is. The manifesto talks about making “software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration” but that this is fundamentally limited by “how people-oriented certain roles and Google can be;” and even more surprisingly, it has an entire section titled “de-emphasize empathy,” as one of the proposed solutions.

    People who haven’t done engineering, or people who have done just the basics, sometimes think that what engineering looks like is sitting at your computer and hyper-optimizing an inner loop, or cleaning up a class API. We’ve all done this kind of thing, and for many of us (including me) it’s tremendous fun. And when you’re at the novice stages of engineering, this is the large bulk of your work: something straightforward and bounded which can be done right or wrong, and where you can hone your basic skills.

    But it’s not a coincidence that job titles at Google switch from numbers to words at a certain point. That’s precisely the point at which you have, in a way, completed your first apprenticeship: you can operate independently without close supervision. And this is the point where you start doing real engineering.
    Engineering is not the art of building devices; it’s the art of fixing problems. Devices are a means, not an end. Fixing problems means first of all understanding them?—?and since the whole purpose of the things we do is to fix problems in the outside world, problems involving people, that means that understanding people, and the ways in which they will interact with your system, is fundamental to every step of building a system. (This is so key that we have a bunch of entire job ladders?—?PM’s and UX’ers and so on?—?who have done nothing but specialize in those problems. But the presence of specialists doesn’t mean engineers are off the hook; far from it. Engineering leaders absolutely need to understand product deeply; it’s a core job requirement.)

    And once you’ve understood the system, and worked out what has to be built, do you retreat to a cave and start writing code? If you’re a hobbyist, yes. If you’re a professional, especially one working on systems that can use terms like “planet-scale” and “carrier-class” without the slightest exaggeration, then you’ll quickly find that the large bulk of your job is about coordinating and cooperating with other groups. It’s about making sure you’re all building one system, instead of twenty different ones; about making sure that dependencies and risks are managed, about designing the right modularity boundaries that make it easy to continue to innovate in the future, about preemptively managing the sorts of dangers that teams like SRE, Security, Privacy, and Abuse are the experts in catching before they turn your project into rubble.

    Essentially, engineering is all about cooperation, collaboration, and empathy for both your colleagues and your customers. If someone told you that engineering was a field where you could get away with not dealing with people or feelings, then I’m very sorry to tell you that you have been lied to. Solitary work is something that only happens at the most junior levels, and even then it’s only possible because someone senior to you?—?most likely your manager?—?has been putting in long hours to build up the social structures in your group that let you focus on code.

    All of these traits which the manifesto described as “female” are the core traits which make someone successful at engineering. Anyone can learn how to write code; hell, by the time someone reaches L7 or so, it’s expected that they have an essentially complete mastery of technique. The truly hard parts about this job are knowing which code to write, building the clear plan of what has to be done in order to achieve which goal, and building the consensus required to make that happen.

    All of which is why the conclusions of this manifesto are precisely backwards. It’s true that women are socialized to be better at paying attention to people’s emotional needs and so on?—?this is something that makes them better engineers, not worse ones. It’s a skillset that I did not start out with, and have had to learn through years upon years of grueling work. (And I should add that I’m very much an introvert; if you had asked me twenty years ago if I were suited to dealing with complex interpersonal issues day-to-day, I would have looked at you like you were mad.) But I learned it because it’s the heart of the job, and because it turns out that this is where the most extraordinary challenges and worthwhile results happen.

    3. That brings us, however, to point (3), the most serious point of all. I’m going to be even blunter than usual here, because I’m not subject to the usual maze of HR laws right now, and so I can say openly what I would normally only be allowed to say in very restricted fora. And this is addressed specifically to the author of this manifesto.
    What you just did was incredibly stupid and harmful. You just put out a manifesto inside the company arguing that some large fraction of your colleagues are at root not good enough to do their jobs, and that they’re only being kept in their jobs because of some political ideas. And worse than simply thinking these things or saying them in private, you’ve said them in a way that’s tried to legitimize this kind of thing across the company, causing other people to get up and say “wait, is that right?”

    I need to be very clear here: not only was nearly everything you said in that document wrong, the fact that you did that has caused significant harm to people across this company, and to the company’s entire ability to function. And being aware of that kind of consequence is also part of your job, as in fact it would be at pretty much any other job. I am no longer even at the company and I’ve had to spend half of the past day talking to people and cleaning up the mess you’ve made. I can’t even imagine how much time and emotional energy has been sunk into this, not to mention reputational harm more broadly.

    And as for its impact on you: Do you understand that at this point, I could not in good conscience assign anyone to work with you? I certainly couldn’t assign any women to deal with this, a good number of the people you might have to work with may simply punch you in the face, and even if there were a group of like-minded individuals I could put you with, nobody would be able to collaborate with them. You have just created a textbook hostile workplace environment.

    If you hadn’t written this manifesto, then maybe we’d be having a conversation about the skills you need to learn to not be blocked in your career?—?which are precisely the ones you described as “female skills.” But we are having a totally different conversation now. It doesn’t matter how good you are at writing code; there are plenty of other people who can do that. The negative impact on your colleagues you have created by your actions outweighs that tremendously.

    You talked about a need for discussion about ideas; you need to learn the difference between “I think we should adopt Go as our primary language” and “I think one-third of my colleagues are either biologically unsuited to do their jobs, or if not are exceptions and should be suspected of such until they can prove otherwise to each and every person’s satisfaction.” Not all ideas are the same, and not all conversations about ideas even have basic legitimacy.

    If you feel isolated by this, that your views are basically unwelcome in tech and can’t be spoken about… well, that’s a fair point. These views are fundamentally corrosive to any organization they show up in, drive people out, and I can’t think of any organization not specifically dedicated to those views that they would be welcome in. I’m afraid that’s likely to remain a serious problem for you for a long time to come. But our company is committed to maintaining a good environment for all of its people, and if one person is determined to thwart that, the solution is pretty clear.²

    I’m writing this here, in this message, because I’m no longer at the company and can say this sort of thing openly. But I want to make it very clear: if you were in my reporting chain, all of part (3) would have been replaced with a short “this is not acceptable” and maybe that last paragraph above. You would have heard part (3) in a much smaller meeting, including you, me, your manager, your HRBP, and someone from legal. And it would have ended with you being escorted from the building by security and told that your personal items will be mailed to you. And the fact that you think this was “all in the name of open discussion,” and don’t realize any of these deeper consequences, makes this worse, not better.

    ¹ Nearly, but not every. One very important true statement which this manifesto makes is that male gender roles remain highly inflexible, and that this is a bug, not a feature. In fact, I suspect that this is the core bug which prompted everything else within this manifesto to be written. But the rest of the manifesto is basically about optimizing around the existence of this bug! Don’t optimize your bugs; fix them.

    ² Those of you wondering about the “paradox of tolerance” can check out this essay for more.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    The Google dudebro's "memo" is basically this:

    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Peterson by the way is a very sophisticated thinker, a true Scientist who only talks in Logic and Facts.

    That's why his belief that postmodernism is Marxism is Stalinism is a Scientific Account of the History of Postmodernism.

    Watch him expound upon it below, the Reason Man who is the Saint to the Google dudebro:

    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Fired Google engineer compares high-paid tech job to Soviet forced labor

    These people have some weird, pathological fears about Stalinism and Gulags.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Einstein on marxology:
    "In the realm of the seekers after truth there is no human authority.
    Whoever attempts to play the magistrate there founders on the laughter of the Gods."

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Someone's looking for a safe space:

    Another employee echoed some of the concerns Damore voiced in his memo about ideological diversity at Google. “I am a moderately conservative Googler, and I am and have been scared to share my beliefs,” the question reads. “The loud voice here is the liberal one. Conservative voices are hushed. What is leadership doing to ensure Googlers like me feel invited and accepted, not just tolerated or safe from angry mobs?”
    Incidentally, the notion of "ideological diversity" is incoherent nonsense. There is never full ideological diversity anywhere. Where are the Nazis? Where are the real Marxists? They are nowhere to be found. The "norm" is always some sort of liberal centrism (in places like Google, their targets). If you don't like it because you believe women and non-white people are biologically inferior and there is this strong need in you to voice that publicly, don't be surprised when you end up being fired if your workplace is dominated by the liberal consensus. It's different if you're at a place like Breitbart. Where is the ideological diversity there? How many old socialists do they have on staff?

    "Ideological diversity" is merely a means by which right-wingers want to break apart the places in society they don't have full control over; it never applies to themselves, and it never extends beyond their own narrow, reactionary beliefs (you never hear them call for increased ideological diversity by bringing, say, Hoxhaists into the mix).
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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    By the way, if you want to understand why more girls/women perform better at X subject(s), and go into X1 profession(s), and more boys/men perform better in Y subject(s), and go into Y1 profession(s), look into this thing called "sociology of education". There is a vast literature on most national education and profession outcomes spanning over a century, and guess what: there is no regularity that maps onto sex/gender as there is great variety across nations and historical periods.

    To give but one example, in the Soviet Union the numbers of girls/women who performed better in STEM subjects and then went into STEM fields for work vastly outnumbered those in the US, and those higher numbers still hold. Moreover, in some specific fields of STEM they outnumber boys/men (this is also true in, say, Iran, where 70% in engineering and tech are women).

    Now why did the tech dudebro who's so interested in scientific understanding, logic, rationality, empirical investigation - why did this guy not mention a single sociological analysis of these wide varieties across space and time? Could it be perhaps because pointing out this significant variety undermines the evolutionary psych and biology claims that there is some sort of innate, fixed "human nature" underlying law-like patterns of behavior that can be mapped onto certain identity markers like sex and race?

    Seems like it.

    So much for being interested in Objective Truth.
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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Good piece on why the memo, and evolutionary psychology, is bullshit (with reference to Gould/Lewontin): It’s a bad time to be a gender essentialist/evo psych advocate

    The piece referred to, written by an actual evolutionary biologist: The truth has got its boots on: What the evidence says about Mr. Damore’s Google memo
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    A more philosophical take on why the Google techbro, and evolutionary psychology more broadly, is idiotic: https://theoutline.com/post/2209/wha...ing-to-tell-us
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
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    Senior Voting Member Meridian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Not that this has anything to do with Damore or Google, but:

    But for Hegel, art is only an inaugural stage: to progress, you have to get past the bison in general and start thinking about generality in general; you have to graduate from art and become a philosopher. Bataille, writing after the 1940 discovery of the cave complex at Lascaux, writes that “the earliest prehistoric art surely marks the passage from animal to man.” Not just that: they’re a dramatisation of that passage, the first crisis of a humanity newly separated from the natural world. In his 1964 essay Eye and Mind, the phenomenologist Maurice Merleau-Ponty describes them as an “inarticulate cry.” More recently, the mathematician and ontologist Alain Badiou strikes a Hegelian tone in his 2006 Logics of Worlds: the first person to paint an image of a horse inaugurated the idea of Horseness, the same ideas with which we think today — they “initiated what abides, or what we abide within.”
    The cave paintings do not depict anything like "bisons in general", but particular scenes involving animals. The way they represent does not involve animals in general, or the having of abstract ideas. Cave painters employed a technique of representation in which marks constituted symbolic features of facts. The result is a system of two-dimensional representation that allows creativity and the depiction of scenes of arbitrary complexity. That shouldn't be confused with their having abstract ideas.

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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    And that article, like all too many others, runs together several different meanings of "meaning", too.

    The article also promotes a rather odd theory of the origin of 'universals', which sees in the sign (howsoever that is conceived) the origin of generality rather than seeing it in how we use certain words. Signs are dead; our use gives them life.
    The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Quote Originally Posted by Meridian View Post
    The cave paintings do not depict anything like "bisons in general", but particular scenes involving animals. The way they represent does not involve animals in general, or the having of abstract ideas. Cave painters employed a technique of representation in which marks constituted symbolic features of facts. The result is a system of two-dimensional representation that allows creativity and the depiction of scenes of arbitrary complexity. That shouldn't be confused with their having abstract ideas.
    Yes but what about the markings that do not fit the two-dimensional representation scheme? Don't they indicate abstract thought of some kind? Emphasis on indicate, as there is no way of knowing for sure, which I believe is the main point of the piece.

    Also, I don't see how cave paintings that consist of two-dimensional representations don't involve some degree of abstraction on the part of the painter?
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    Senior Voting Member Meridian's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Quote Originally Posted by Amoeba
    Yes but what about the markings that do not fit the two-dimensional representation scheme? Don't they indicate abstract thought of some kind? Emphasis on indicate, as there is no way of knowing it for sure, which I believe is the underlying thesis of the piece.
    Which, or what, are you referring to in particular? Either way, this depends on what you mean by having abstract thought. In a sense all picturing is the exercise of abstract thought. It presupposes a symbolism and a technique of representation. But what I am denying is that pictures involve 'abstract ideas', i.e. 'general ideas' of such things as bisons, horses, or animals. No such things are manifest in pictures. Rather, what is manifest are marks arranged in particular ways, the arrangement being shared with a particular scene.

    Also, I don't see how cave paintings that consist of two-dimensional representations don't involve some degree of abstraction on the part of the painter.
    The general question is whether the system of representation involves abstraction. If these pictures are part of a system of representation capable of depicting an unlimited number of possible scenes, accurately or inaccurately, then the system itself cannot involve abstraction. This would require that there were something non-abstract for comparison, but the system itself is applied without being compared to anything. The system includes any arrangement of its symbols, so it is neither abstract nor non-abstract.

    On the other hand, if we are talking of e.g. a particular sketch of an animal, then this could abstract or idealise away from details. For instance, with the stick figures of humans. But here it is important to note the difference between the representational technique in general and the particular picture. The representational technique can be minimalistic, for instance, in which case a specific picture might involve a low number of elements without any information being filtered away. What matters is that these elements are in the correct relation or relative configuration, and then it is e.g. an accurate portrayal of a specific animal.

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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Posted this in the wrong thread, so here it goes again:

    The Hegel/Bataille/Badiou references are pretty speculative regarding the extent of the abstraction involved, and reads way too much into it. Ironically the notion of "X in general" is a typically early modern/Enlightenment preoccupation (though you can see the origins of it in some of the presocratics). Kriss is close to committing the sin of anachronism he's accusing the evopsych folks of in that passage, but I think he's mainly referencing speculative musings about their "meaning" to demonstrate the variety of interpretations that are out there. He seems to conclude in any case with the in my view sensible position: the intentionality behind the markings is destined to be forever shrouded in mystery.

    I'll reply to you in more detail later, but just to answer your question, I was referring to these kinds of markings: http://www.cuevadelapileta.org/descu...ev/pectini.jpg
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    Senior Voting Member Rosa Lichtenstein's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Of course, this touches on the knotty problem of the nature of 'abstract thought', a 'concept' that lacks any rationale, if understood philosophically. WTF is 'abstract thought' other than the use of general nouns (in linguistic functions)?
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    Paperback Writer RevForum Administrator Amoeba's Avatar
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    Default Re: Some thoughts on the Google tech bro fired for his anti-diversity memo

    Quote Originally Posted by Meridian View Post
    Which, or what, are you referring to in particular?
    So, yeah, I meant these: http://www.cuevadelapileta.org/descu...ev/pectini.jpg

    Either way, this depends on what you mean by having abstract thought. In a sense all picturing is the exercise of abstract thought. It presupposes a symbolism and a technique of representation. But what I am denying is that pictures involve 'abstract ideas', i.e. 'general ideas' of such things as bisons, horses, or animals. No such things are manifest in pictures. Rather, what is manifest are marks arranged in particular ways, the arrangement being shared with a particular scene.
    Defining abstract thought can become tricky, as Rosa suggests, so I won't bother trying.

    But I don't understand what you mean by pictures not involving abstract ideas in the sense of general ideas of object that are depicted in them. A painter who paints a horse surely has some conception of "horse" in mind when they are making the painting, no? A child who draws a lion surely has some notion of "lions" as a specific kind of animal, right?

    How are these conceptions not exemplifications of abstract thought, irrespective of whether they're brought under a particular class or genus? And how can we possibly know whether the person who drew those bison made the move to bring them under a particular class (be it animal or some other sort of classification scheme that may seem completely alien to us, like the one Foucault discusses in Words and Things)?

    I think the underlying point of Kriss is that we can't know, though as noted in the passages referring to speculative hypotheses like Hegel's he makes a substantive claim regarding the nature of the abstract thought that I feel is unwarranted.

    The general question is whether the system of representation involves abstraction. If these pictures are part of a system of representation capable of depicting an unlimited number of possible scenes, accurately or inaccurately, then the system itself cannot involve abstraction. This would require that there were something non-abstract for comparison, but the system itself is applied without being compared to anything. The system includes any arrangement of its symbols, so it is neither abstract nor non-abstract.
    I don't know what this means...

    How does the number of possible scenes in which bison are drawn have any bearing on whether there's some level of abstract thought involved in drawing them? Is the something non-abstract to which it is compared not the actual material being of the bison that inspired the drawing? How then can you say that the system does not involve comparison to non-abstract entities?

    How is the arrangement of symbols neither abstract nor non-abstract, when it clearly involves both (the abstract in the drawing, the non-abstract in the object of the bison on which the drawing is based)?

    I can sort of see what you're trying to say with the random markings, but even with those: how do you know the symbols do not refer to non-abstract entities? Kriss references a scholar who claims to have decoded what they mean, and if they're right there's references to the moon and other material objects in them. That's basically a language, no?

    On the other hand, if we are talking of e.g. a particular sketch of an animal, then this could abstract or idealise away from details. For instance, with the stick figures of humans. But here it is important to note the difference between the representational technique in general and the particular picture. The representational technique can be minimalistic, for instance, in which case a specific picture might involve a low number of elements without any information being filtered away. What matters is that these elements are in the correct relation or relative configuration, and then it is e.g. an accurate portrayal of a specific animal.
    But how does the accuracy of the picture have anything to do with whether or not there is abstraction involved? Consider abstract, impressionist art, which does not appear to have any non-abstract entity for comparison; yet you wouldn't say it isn't abstract for that reason, or that its non-abstractness has something to do with the low level of detail that it depicts, or its relation to other elements of depiction?

    Again, I am not sure I read what you said right so forgive any misunderstandings.
    To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.

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