Your daily round-up of some of the other stories in the news
Google fires writer of ‘sexist’ memo
Google has fired a staffer who circulated a controversial 10-page memo criticising the tech giant’s diversity practices and claiming that biological differences between men and women are the reason for the gender imbalance at Google.
CEO Sundar Pichai said in a statement: “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK. It is contrary to our basic values and our Code of Conduct, which expects ‘each Googler to do their utmost to create a workplace culture that is free of harassment, intimidation, bias and unlawful discrimination’.”
The memo sparked a furious backlash on social media, with one former senior Googler, Yonatan Zunger, pointing out that in sharing the memo, its author had “just created a textbook hostile workplace environment”.
Scientists pointed out that the memo’s author had also built his arguments on discredited theories, with Angela Saini writing in the Guardian that “psychological studies show that there are only the tiniest gaps if any, between the sexes, including areas such as mathematical ability and verbal fluency”, and adding: “The science cited in the Google engineer’s memo is flawed.”
Pentagon warns it could shoot down drones
US pilots of consumer drones, be warned: the Department of Defense has said that US military bases have been given permission to shoot down your drone if it flies too close or overhead.
It’s already illegal to fly a consumer drone within 400ft of a US military facility, and now you not only risk a fine and a possible criminal charge, but also seeing your drone shot out of the sky.
Jeff Davis at the Pentagon told reporters on Monday that the military “retain the right of self-defence. And when it comes to … drones operating over military installations, this new guidance does afford us the ability to take action to stop those threats.”
“Action” includes tracking, disabling and destroying drones, he added. Davis pointed out that guidance on proper use of drones is available on the FAA’s website.
EU plans giant solar plant in the Sahara
Writing this column in grey, chilly London, the thought of solar energy powering Europe seems unlikely – but the EU is looking to build a giant solar farm in the Tunisian Sahara desert that could one day provide power for Europe, according to Popular Mechanics.
The planned 4.5GW plant, which TuNur Ltd has applied to build in south-west Tunisia, could help Europe reduce its dependence on fossil fuels by 2020.
The plans are for the plant to collect solar energy via mirrors that reflect sunlight on to a central collector, from where it would be transmitted to European countries via undersea cables connecting it to the grid at points in Italy, France and Malta.
Daniel Rich of TuNur told Digital Trends: “This will help Europe meet its Paris Climate Agreement emissions reduction commitments quickly and cost-effectively.”
Catch up with all of today’s stories on Naked Security
7 comments on “News in brief: Google fires memo writer; drones could be shot down; EU plans giant Sahara solar plant”
Funny thing about the type of solar plant they will build (I like solar by the way). It will create a hot spot, that will create an upward draft over itself, which will pull in cool air, which will attract bugs and birds that would not have otherwise come there. They will all be incinerated. If they do a panel and not mirror, this would be avoided, but not make as much power.
I smell a rat here: this story seems like unsubstantiated PR. The Popular Mechanics web link doesn’t seem to give any details other than the TuNur web link, which doesn’t seem to give any details except for a claim of a power generation capacity up to 4.5GW – according to this article, possibly ready by 2020. But AFAIK the world’s most powerful plant of this sort (CSP, or concentrated solar power) to date is well under 10% of that capacity, and took four years to build in California.
I suppose it’s possible that a 12x bigger plant could be done in three years in a remote part of Tunisia, together with the transmission network to get it to the coast and then under the Med to Europe…
…but is that likely or just big talk?
Sorry, Google, men and women are different. Common sense AND science say so. I hope he successfully sues for wrongful termination.
To be honest, as a woman in technology, I do find it highly discriminating that I am offered more opportunities due to my gender, and not necessarily just my skills. I was going to end up in a STEM domain no matter what; encouraging people to join a domain they wouldn’t find exciting without the extra incentives would just lead to people unhappy about a job they chose simply because so many people pushed them towards it.
I do enjoy the ease of getting employed, however, I believe it’s highly unfair. If anyone should receive help in joining STEM , it should be someone from a low income background who may not be able to otherwise.
“Angela Saini is a freelance science journalist and author.”
A freelance journalist writes: “Indeed, psychological studies show that there are only the tiniest gaps, if any, between the sexes, including areas such as mathematical ability and verbal fluency.” and “I was told by a prominent American researcher into sex difference that he no longer refers to brains as sexually dimorphic, because the science simply doesn’t support this. ”
Resulting in: “The science cited in the Google engineer’s memo is flawed.”
And after I read the memo, it’s almost the same thing:
“On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:
– They’re universal across human cultures
– They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
– Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males
– The underlying traits are highly heritable
– They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective”
Is this an amarican thing? Just stating “facts” (both sides) and taking them as truths..?
Saying that “the science [..] is flawed”, if both sides are just talking about their opionion without providing any reliable (scientific) proof, is just nonsensical to me..
In this specific case I have to be on the memo guys side, as it seems to me that he just wrote his opinion and that google should “treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).”
And even if someone disagrees with his opinion he shouln’t be fired for tyring to create a better workplace for everyone..
There are kids and animals on military bases; both protected species. With what will the DOD be shooting down drones? Lasers? As an occasional skeet (sporting clays) shooter, I can’t see drone shooting with projectiles becoming a thing in the populated areas on a military base.
I find it ironic that we are told to celebrate diversity yet we are unallowed to acknowledge that women and men are diverse, or at least that “the tiniest gaps”, i.e. small details, don’t have significant effects? Of course, I have not seen the memo so I am unsure of the specific content/context in which the engineer wrote, but the firing of the engineer smacks more of political correctness than eliminating true discrimination or harassment. Why not a corporate response of: “Yes, women are different, which is precisely why we encourage a diverse workplace, and seek to recruit top talent of both genders”?