Given these abysmal figures, the idea that diversity at Google (or most other tech firms) is even modestly encroaching on computing’s incumbents is laughable. To object to Google’s diversity efforts is to ignore that they are already feeble to begin with.
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The Googler’s complaints assume that all is well in the world of computing technology, such that any efforts to introduce different voices into the field only risk undermining its incontrovertible success and effectiveness. But is the world that companies like Google have brought about really one worthy of blind praise, such that anyone should be tempted to believe that the status quo is worth maintaining, let alone celebrating?
Many things are easier and even better thanks to Google search (or maps, or docs)—or Facebook, or smartphones, or any of the other wares technology companies put on offer. But overall, the contemporary, technologized world is also in many ways a hellscape whose repetitive delights have blinded the public to its ills.
Products have been transformed into services given away “free” as an excuse to extract data from users. That data is woven into an invisible lattice of coercion and control—not to mention as a source of enormous profit when sold to advertisers or other interested parties. Apps and websites are designed for maximum compulsion, because more attention means more content, and more content means more data and thereby more value. All that data is kept forever on servers corporations control, and which are engineered—if that’s the right word for it—in a way that makes them susceptible to attack and theft.
Thanks to the global accessibility of the internet, these services strive for universal deployment. Google and Facebook have billions of “customers” who are also the source of their actual products: the data they resell or broker. The leverage of scale also demands that everyone use the same service, which dumps millions together in unholy community. Online abuse is one consequence, as are the campaigns of misdirection and “fake news” that have become the front for a new cold war.
Because of that universal leverage, work of all kinds has also been upset by or consolidated in computing services. Retail, travel, entertainment, and transportation, of course, but even professions like real estate, law, and education appear to be at risk of dismantlement via automation and global dissemination. This sea change is excused by platitudes about “innovation” and “disruption.”
All told, the business of computing is infiltrated with a fantasy of global power and wealth that naturally coheres to the entrenched power of men over generations. To mistake such good fortune for inborn ability is to ignore the existence of history.
Men—mostly white, but sometimes Asian—have so dominated technology that it’s difficult even to ponder turning the tables. If you rolled back the clock and computing were as black as hip-hop, if it had been built from the ground up by African American culture, what would it feel like to live in that alternate future—in today’s alternate present? Now run the same thought experiment for a computing forged by a group that represents the general population, brown of average color, even of sex, and multitudinous of gender identity.