August 29, 2011

Women and Silicon Valley

Jaron Lanier reminisces about the early days of Silicon Valley in the New Statesman, with an angle I'd never heard before:
There were precious few girl nerds at the time. There was one who programmed a hit arcade game called Centipede for the first video game company, Atari, and a few others. There were, however, extraordinary female figures who served as the impresarios of social networking before there was an internet. It still seems wrong to name them, because it isn't clear if I would be talking about their private lives or their public contributions: I don't know how to draw a line. 
These irresistible creatures would sometimes date alpha nerds, but mostly brought the act of socialising into a society where it probably would not have occurred otherwise. A handful of them had an extraordinary, often unpaid degree of influence over what research was done, which companies came to be, who worked at them and what products were developed. 
That they are usually undescribed in histories of Silicon Valley is just another instance of what a fiction history can be. The advent of social networking software and oceans of digital memories of bits exchanged between people has only shifted the type of fiction we accept, not the degree of infidelity.

Histories of the Enlightenment have been written from the perspective of the women who hosted the salons. 

46 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm really not sure I understand what she is saying.

Can you please clarify, like a little bit more?

rob said...

A handful of them had an extraordinary, often unpaid degree of influence over what research was done, which companies came to be, who worked at them and what products were developed.

Of course they did If 10 nerds find out one girl's at a party, they all go. At least 9 of them will be stuck talking to other dudes.

Yosemite Brahms said...

"That they are usually undescribed in histories of Silicon Valley is just another instance of what a fiction history can be"

Non-sequitur? A history is not rendered "fiction" merely by being incomplete.

Anonymous said...

Having spent a small amount of time with Mr. Lanier in those days I can in all candor state that with or without female engineering talent Mr Lanier's prospects remained precisely the same.

CrankyProfessor said...

Alma Mahler!
Mahler...Gropius...Werfel

Anonymous said...

At least one fictional version is preserved -- in the movie The Social Network describing the origins of Facebook it is a Stanford co-ed who introduces Sean Parker to the brand new Facebook site.

Anonymous said...

I think we have to remember all the women who help Hitler achieve greatness as well, and the women in Stalin's life, the women in Mao's life, and let's not forget Pol Pot!

Oh, wait. Forget I said that. It's not in the script they gave me.

Luke Lea said...

Women make it happen. In my youth a big rock fight broke out between our middle-class neighborhood and the backstreet (=working-class) neighborhood through the woods. It mushroomed into a major battle with more combatants than you could count on both sides and, before you knew it, the little girls in our neighborhood were gathering up stones in the back alley and bringing them up to the front lines in baskets.

It was a totally spontaneous development. I was impressed.

josh said...

That is bizarre--and not the first time it has happened that by sheer coincidence(picking up a donated New Yorker at the train station and reading it while waiting)that I got fam. with someone I had never heard of--and then he is discussed by the Stever! Jason Lanier is a genius.His parents changed their names to sound more goy after a violent past in the Ukraine.One day Jason got beaten by bullies.His mother saw it unfold and yelled at the boys from inside the house. Later that day she was killed when she & his dad crashed their car.He was beset by guilt and wondered was the crash caused by the altercation that AM,or did his mom and dad fight in the car,or(what he settled on)did the car malfunction,as he learned that it had design flaws. He and his dad moved into the desert and tried to build a bizarre home which jason designed based on Fullers Domes.He went to a"vibrant" HS school which he exited a year later,in fear for his health(!)and so on. Lots of chaos,movement,change of plans. Yet he somehow gains a vast array of knowledge and becomes a SV bigshot. He owns a huge collection of archaic musical instruments and plays them all,supposedly.I wonder if Steve was writing this post as I was reading about this guy? His thing is,he doesnt like Facebook. Amen. When the Singularity comes can we get smart nano-pills so we can be like this guy,except for the 'getting beaten up a lot' stuff?

David said...

Montaigne would never have gotten off the ground without his female readers.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Okay, there are lots of liberal women who would never happen upon a Steve Sailer article that I'm going to forward this to.

Hope this works out for ya.

Anonymous said...

We've never heard the theory because it's properly filed alongside various self-esteem boosting stories of black and Muslim inventors. A certain class of tech journalist is so eager to find the mythical female computer scientist that he invents them from time to time.

Women are generally about as good at logic, mathematics, and abstract reasoning as men are at changing diapers.

trey said...

If only the historians would have given credit to the central roles women played as the muses of societal advancement, maybe we would have been spared much of the feeling that things just aren't quite natural in this feminist era.

Anonymous said...

OT: more propaganda from the elites



Yale Celebrates Anthropologist Franz Boas, Who Refuted Racism
http://opac.yale.edu/news/article.aspx?id=8794


Well, if Yaaaaaaale says so, I guess "racism" is "refuted" then! Nice to know that's all settled!

Kylie said...

Females as facilitators, no surprise there.

Now, females as innovators, that would be somewhat surprising.

Or is the point something else entirely? Apparently this is one of those social things I just don't get, thanks to my unseemly high AQ.

Luke Lea said...

re: Yale Celebrates Anthropologist Franz Boas

I went to the Yale site, which references "The Mind of Primitive Man" as Boas's landmark book. I had never read that book before (or much Boas for that matter) so I looked it up in Google books, where the full text is available for free. I open the first page and what do I discover? You guessed it, The mind of a primitive man.

Hard to believe this guy was writing this kind of prose in the 20th century.

Anonymous said...

lmao Luke

That's the funniest story I've ever heard. Where do you live? And how old were you guys when this happened?

skiffle said...

"think we have to remember all the women who help Hitler achieve greatness as well, and the women in Stalin's life, the women in Mao's life, and let's not forget Pol Pot!

Oh, wait. Forget I said that. It's not in the script they gave me."

Oh blow it out your nose, you poor victimized script reader.
Women have been blamed for men's faults from time immemorial. It's in the Bible of course.
They were occasionally credited with the good achievements of some men too, but that has always been equally unprovable in most cases.
It's only in the past few decades the "movement" emphasized the positive. IMO, one good thing about the "women's movement" is that (in its better modes) it forces people to take responsibility for their own actions. Yeah, I know we've been reading different scripts but that's what I always took from what I read or heard.

Charlotte said...

"Women are generally about as good at logic, mathematics, and abstract reasoning as men are at changing diapers"

Grace Hopper was not a myth. Neither is my sister, who is doing six digits as a computer programmer, having learned on the job many ago. Neither is my Ph.D. in physics friend who is a top NASA administrator and mother of three. She's one among a number of such women that I know personally. Another was a Chinese Indonesian who awed them at Verizon. I never understood what she did, but it included wearing 4 in high heels, working 18 hr days, and saving whole departments from demise. Atrracted a lot men but never married or had kids. The NASA lady changed diapers but had the good sense not to include it on her resume.

Yeah, yeah, I get statistics. But life is composed of interactions with individuals, and the minute you start to look at someone with an IQ of 140 plus, and who has manifested that intelligence, as a diaper expert above all, you are in for some hard knocks. It shows insurity on your part, too, and that should be a bit embarrassing, and quite a turn off for the woman. Are you married? Significant other? Does she have a detectable IQ? Have you checked her diaper views? Be alert, man, or you'll be caught off guard.

Oh, and btw, many men change diapers very well. Maybe because they've had so much pracitce changing tires.

rho said...

Jaron Lanier's You Are Not A Gadget is pretty good. It reminds me of Cliff Stoll's Silicon Snake Oil in its skeptical view of technology cheerleaders. It's probably not coincidental that the two authors are also remarkably similar in that they're both tremendously smart fellows with wide-ranging interests that only happen to include tech.

Well worth a read.

Duncan said...

It's an interesting article but in the end just another ways of saying men and women complement each other. A truism if there ever was one.

I think another concept I find is that the men who really succeed and become alpha-nerd are the ones who can split the difference between the male and female mind.

green mamba said...

"That is bizarre--and not the first time it has happened that by sheer coincidence(picking up a donated New Yorker at the train station and reading it while waiting)that I got fam. with someone I had never heard of--and then he is discussed by the Stever!

It's called synchronicity. A smart Swiss guy coined the term.

Anonymous said...

"The mind of a primitive man."

Pretty interesting Luke. A couple of observations:
1)Pride in achievement is naive and no indicator of value. Good so we can stop trying to find the great black ____.
2)Virgin soil epidemics are horribad, but didn't the European miracle happen right after the black death?
3)Muslims and Africa: This one gets actually fairly close to HBD, he is implicitly suggesting that there is a genetic component to cultural behavior.

Kylie said...

""Women are generally about as good at logic, mathematics, and abstract reasoning as men are at changing diapers."

Charlotte, in responding to the preceding remark, you write,

"Yeah, yeah, I get statistics. But life is composed of interactions with individuals, and the minute you start to look at someone with an IQ of 140 plus, and who has manifested that intelligence, as a diaper expert above all, you are in for some hard knocks."

But whoever wrote that comment specified "women generally". So why try to counter an argument about generalities with examples of specific individuals? Apples and oranges and frankly, more emotive than logical.

"It shows insurity[?] on your part, too, and that should be a bit embarrassing, and quite a turn off for the woman. Are you married? Significant other? Does she have a detectable IQ? Have you checked her diaper views?"

Actually, I think you are the one who should be embarrassed here. After recasting the comment to serve your own agenda, you then go straight into a very unseemly personal attack mode. Let me repeat, the comment referred very specifically to "women generally" and frankly, my experience and observation have led me to the same conclusion--this, despite my closest girlfriend earning a good living utilizing her razor-sharp analytical abilities as some sort of computer program troubleshooter. Nor is she the only woman I know like that. But they are still comparatively rare.

"Be alert, man, or you'll be caught off guard."

Pot, meet kettle, as they say.

S.Anonyia said...

To the person talking about women supposedly not being blamed for anything bad, it's been well documented that women's support was a crucial part of Hitler's rise to power (and he actively recruited them with promises of family bonuses). Nobody has ever glossed over that so stop whining about nothing.

Dahlia said...

I was thinking of women and the Steveophere last night when reading Half Sigma's blog posts about Paul Campos and his book, The Obesity Myth.

For those interested in evolution, presumably what the Steveosphere is about, Campos espouses an elegant theory that respects the axiom that we are products of millions of years of evolution and we have been extremely well designed. He seems to bring the facts to bear and what he says should get a fair hearing by us.

And yet, HS's readers shrieked (significant overlap with the "manosphere"). The thousandth rant against fat women commenced and that was the end of the discussion. The Undiscovered Jew, the biggest proponent of the view that "game" is an attractive Trojan horse for introducing men to human biodiversity, complained loudest.

This is the second instance I'm aware of where these particular types of men have shown a lack of understanding of evolution and disrespect for the process: they hold the belief that it is very fallible and easily undermined.

So, in addition to making the Steveophere coarser and more inhospitable, they bring the level of intellectual discourse down.

I believe more strongly than before that Half Sigma is correct when he says the majority of people who believe in racial differences do so because they personally benefit. If they are found to be losers in any other regard, they then believe that "evolution isn't working or has been subverted".

Dahlia said...

I want to add that I'm not holding myself out as a scientist or of the caliber of a GNXP writer, but one should at least believe this one fundamental: people have been superiorly designed by evolution and are extremely hard to subvert.

Anonymous said...

Neither is my Ph.D. in physics friend who is a top NASA administrator and mother of three.

NASA administrators are rent-seeking bureaucrats who have held back space access for decades.

Anonymous said...

First, a great quote of wisdom:

"Women have always been the guardians of wisdom and humanity which makes them natural, but usually secret, rulers."- Charlotte Wolff (1904-1986)

------

"It's only in the past few decades the "movement" emphasized the positive."

Exaggerated you mean? I mean, the Ada Lovelace Day!

And the disparagement of men?
Mozart's sister was held back by her daddy, while Emmy Noether became a mathematician on her own?

"IMO, one good thing about the "women's movement" is that (in its better modes) it forces people to take responsibility for their own actions. "

O_O

"but that has always been equally unprovable in most cases."

lol, it is akin to saying, "sexism hurts women equally, so let's just call it even stevens, but seriously, we need more female role models."

-------------------

"But life is composed of interactions with individuals"

and diaper changing.

"It shows insurity on your part"

Thank you, that brought color back to my face after reading about the women you wrote of.

Miley Cyrax said...

@Charlotte

"I never understood what she did, but it included wearing 4 in high heels, working 18 hr days, and saving whole departments from demise."

I have always found it funny when the wearing of heels by women is brandished as some praise-worthy , courageous achievement.

Anonymous said...

Women are generally about as good at logic, mathematics, and abstract reasoning as men are at changing diapers.

Men may not have the inclination to change them but when they do, they can do it as good as a woman, its a simple learned skill.

Anonymous said...

Now imagine what could have happened if the Bay Area had been prevented from becoming so aggressively difficult to raise a family in.

Alma Mahler would never have stayed there. There are always a lot of proto-Almas around. They always leave.

Anonymous said...

> as men are at changing diapers.

"Women are generally about as good at logic, mathematics, and abstract reasoning as men are at changing diapers."

You mean, on average, they are about the same? Strong statement for this blog. I would not go so far!

I get it that men need to disclaim diaper-changing ability in order to maintain a masculine persona, in the same way as some women can't let themselves be seen as knowing how to change a flat tire; and in either case many men or wormen actually talk themselves into believing they are incapable of such.

But give us some evidence, even an personal anecdote, of a man who had even the tiniest emotional connection to a child, and who does not let "appearance" get in his way, yet who has the slightest problem skill-wise changing diapers.

I think you cannot. And I think your aspersions on women's "general" capabilities at logic, etc, are similarly doubtful.

Mr. Anon said...

"Charlotte said...

Neither is my Ph.D. in physics friend who is a top NASA administrator and mother of three."

A Ph.D. in physics, and yet she is not working as a physicist, but as an administrator. This is a common career track for women in technical organizations: get a technical degree, do as little technical work as possible, get promoted into management by a management that is desperate to hire women into management positions.

This example doesn't exactly make your point.

Anonymous said...

I caught you Sailer. This post was written by your wife or daughter. It's a fugazi.

The last sentence is a dead giveaway. Sounds like chit chatty Gore Vidal in an apron, while stirring the white sauce in the kitchen of his Tuscany villa.

Anonymous said...

GOP is the silly-con alley.

kopseer said...

Charlotte,
without doubting what you said, I have a few remarks. I personally have a PhD and 4 masters degrees, so pls. don't try to belittle or shame me like you did the commenter you pissed on.

Most women are not interested in tech or much appreciate it. Any moron can observe this. When travelling by train, plane or car, the comfort and aesthetics govern for them.

Your female wizards you mention seem to gravitate towards management. Nothing new there. The guys we are talking about are the plasma-physicists who spend 40 years labouring away at say the transport problem or the Sausage instability of a plasma. They are not career or income consciouss and you will be hard-pressed to find women there. Most intelligent women I met, and I have a genuine few, not just the many over-indulged flakes, think of themselves as being more worthy than men with similar intelligence or education. They have a higher sense of entitlement. Call it vanity, and usually eye managementt positions from a young age onwards. Grinding through a research department is the last thing on their minds.

My father has a 160+ IQ. He was an asshole, a non-existent father who caused us children an enormous amount of emotional distress. We are navigating life without having received the crucial guidance of a father. Nowadays I could give a shit whether someone has a PhD or is 140+ IQ (was I supposed to be impressed?). I hope your friend does the diapers properly and leaves the soul of that kid intact, at least the kid will then be able to escape that highly-charged household without too much emotional damage.

Anonymous said...

"Neither is my Ph.D. in physics friend who is a top NASA administrator and mother of three."

So what's she doing about diversity and Islamophobia?

"I have always found it funny when the wearing of heels by women is brandished as some praise-worthy , courageous achievement."

It'll be talked of as foot-binding is done today. "The patriarchy forced women to wear heels or else no hubby for you! And all these expensive burdens on women with the wage gap!"

Anonymous said...

Heelwearing is metonymic for the effort and planning involved in maintaining an attractive feminine appearance. You guys bitch if we look dowdy, and you bitch if we are catty to each other, but then you bitch if we have some nice public approval of the work that goes into looking nice, which we mostly do for you. There's no pleasing you, you suck. (Cue a bunch of near-virgins claiming they like "the natural look." "The natural look" is expensive and time-consuming, especially because you have to hide your work.)

Anonymous said...

Charlotte:

Our current world is one in which we encourage* women to go into STEM fields, and men to get in touch with their feminine side and act/dress like gays (metrosexual, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy).

We humbly submit that the reverse encouragement would be better for the world.

What if women were encouraged to get in touch with their feminine side, to be submissive and pleasant, to find a provider male to take care of them and to get married early and bear children?

What if men were encouraged to get in touch with their masculine side, to study long and hard hours, to become good providers and fathers, to learn marksmanship and self-defense, to work with their fellows to build things of significance?

Yes. A few super intelligent, disproportionately mouthy women may find this environment less to their liking. But even they usually regret it when they are childless at age 40. Said women more than any others actually need societal encouragement to get in touch with their feminine side, as they are liable to not reproduce otherwise.

Put another way: it would be really amazing if all the people interested in gender-typical behavior could self-segregate to one island, and every feminine man and masculine woman could self-segregate to another island. We could see what the relative reproduction rates, general comity, and long term civilizational stability would be like.

That is, if self-segregation of this sort were actually allowed by the US federal government. A silver lining to the current crisis is that the USSA won't make it out of this decade intact. Which kind of proves the point about "long term civilizational stability".

* Yes, putting it on TV is indeed "encouraging" it, which is why there was so much outrage over giving Starkey a platform, which is why Steve Sailer doesn't have his own TV show.

Truman Capote said...

Um, Gore does not live in Tuscany. He lives in Ravello, on the Amalfi coast in southern Italy, i.e. about 500km from Tuscany.

David said...

>Another was a Chinese Indonesian who awed them at Verizon. I never understood what she did, but it included wearing 4 in high heels, working 18 hr days, and saving whole departments from demise.<

There are a lot of women like this in the corporate world. They stride up and down the corridors, tap tap tapping those heels, and attend endless meetings, on and off site. They make high 5 figures or low-to-mid 6 figures. But I could never figure out what they do/make/build/create, except a lot of hot air and hard-ons. (Sorry.)

Maybe one of these hard-charging career gals will tell us exactly what it is they do, sans a lot of jargon? Nah.

Anonymous said...

Changing diapers... a simple learned skill.

It is indeed. But I think the original commenter used the phrase "changing diapers" as a synecdoche for the ten thousand small tasks involved in caring for a small child. Leave it to the Steve-O-sphere to take things literally.

While some men can do these 10,000 things as well as most women, most find them much more difficult to master than the rather simple task of changing a diaper, so I'd say the gender gap here is fairly wide.

Cennbeorc

Anonymous said...

Another was a Chinese Indonesian who awed them at Verizon. I never understood what she did, but it included wearing 4 in high heels

And being really self-conscious about being short.

David said...

Gore Vidal moved out of Ravello after his long-time lover Howard died a few years ago, and now he lives only in Los Angeles. He is wheelchair-bound and, frankly, not looking or sounding great lately.

Kylie said...

" You guys bitch if we look dowdy, and you bitch if we are catty to each other, but then you bitch if we have some nice public approval of the work that goes into looking nice, which we mostly do for you. There's no pleasing you, you suck."

You're cute when you get mad.