The Empathy Gatekeepers of Code

If it's required of me, it's required of Google.

By Zed A. Shaw

The Empathy Gatekeepers of Code

Back in July, 2020 Google announced they were liberating university education by providing free courses in programming that Google would consider to be the same as a four year Bachelor of Science degree. Everyone applauded this and anyone who criticized this move was deemed a gatekeeper hell bent on preventing the poor struggling masses from entering the profession. All programmers do is change the size of buttons they claimed, so everything I and my peers worked hard to learn is useless and easily taught in just six python classes. All of my education is now worthless according to Google, and everyone who boosts a giant abusive monopoly is a champion of opening the Programming profession to everyone...but only Programming...not Management...taught by Google.

Did you notice that Google ignored Community Colleges? More people in positions of poverty attend Community College than any other system, but companies like Google repeatedly deny them entry into the profession solely on the basis of attending a Community College. So why didn't they simply announce they'll treat any degree from a Community College as the same as a degree from Harvard? That would have opened far more doors for the poor, and open them immediately. Everyone who already has a degree from a Community College could apply, and Google would make sure they get a job. Nope. Only Google's courses--that you have to spend your limited free time attending--get this special treatment.

Here, I'll give you another clue as to why Google would do this: Where's the course that replaces an MBA? I actually went to business school with a bunch of MBAs, and if there's one degree that is totally worthless it's the Masters of Business Administration. Google's really good at business, so why aren't they running a full, free, MBA replacement? Why aren't they opening the gates of business management to the poor? Many MBAs get their degrees online, part time, in 6 months, and mostly just have to look pretty and be able to talk a lot after they graduate. It's an easy target to educate people, and it'd most likely have more impact on actual cash money to the poor than six classes in Google specific Python.

Why? Because Google doesn't actually want to help the poor. Google wants to just look like they're helping the poor with the least probability that anyone who's actually poor would gain any amount of power. That's why the jobs are only offered in easily denied powerless positions to people who can't possibly pass any of the interviews. You think someone with a handful of Python classes can pass a famously classist technocratic Google interview? Google is incredibly famous for only hiring people from the Ivy League and Stanford. If you don't have one of those degrees you can't even get an interview--and if you do--some total douchebag programmer is going to just turn you down because you can't invert a binary tree on a whiteboard. Sure. Totally. Six Python courses is going to get people through that interview. Right.

Alright, fine, maybe you still believe that this isn't a total woke washing of Google's racist, sexist, and classist hiring past. Maybe you believe that the people who take these tiny "Bachelor's Degrees" will be able to invert a linked list in O(n) time only using their mind and a dry erase marker. Then answer this next question:

Where's the Ethics Classes?

Nearly everyone who applauded Google's move to open the gates of programming to the masses is also a proponent of the idea that every programmer must take anywhere from 1 to 20 courses in "soft skills" that teach "empathy". Depending on the author, this would be any combination of Ethics, History, Sociology, Art, Writing, Psychology, and about 20 books by dead white French guys who murdered learn empathy. This is in addition to the normally high requirements for a Bachelor's of Science in Computer Science. The idea is that if programmers are forced to spend half of their degree studying human beings then programmers will avoid creating the next Cambridge Analytica.

Weird. I thought gatekeeping was bad? I thought preventing people from entering the profession by adding bullshit requirements only harms the poor? Why is it that Google's tiny little BS in CS with zero ethics in it is lauded as the savior of humanity's poor, but if I go to a Community College I'm expected to spend half that degree taking literal bullshit gatekeeping classes about Existentialism?

More importantly, why didn't a single booster of Google's classes mention this? I tried to find one booster of Google on Twitter who even remotely criticized the lack of ethics education and not a single person could be found. The internet is vast so I'm sure one Empathy Gatekeeper demanded Google add 100 ethics classes, but I sure can't find them. You can find an endless stream of hot takes demanding programmers read nothing but Foucault and Derida to become good little Ghandi-Jesus-Buddhas, but not a single person demanding Google create a free degree in Ethics.

Why is that? Surely if vast ethics training is required of programmers then everyone should have been incredibly angry at the complete lack of ethics training in Google's six Python classes?

Because Power

The demands for programmers to learn ethics while also ignoring the complete lack of ethics training for non-programmers is all about power. Nobody advocating for helping the poor actually wants anyone who's poor to be in power. They give out free, nearly useless, substandard education while at the same time demanding that existing workers learn to be more pliable and agreeable. They believe that if Programmers learn Empathy then everyone can use Empathic accusations to coerce programmers into doing what they want...which weirdly demonstrates a lack of empathy.

I'd be alright with this if the Empathy Gatekeepers were empathic human beings, but most Empathy Gatekeepers don't actually practice ethics or empathy, and the proof is in how unethically many Empathy Gatekeepers act toward Communism.

Ethics and Empathy don't give a fuck about your politics. Murdering 2 million people in the Killing Fields is the same as Genocide of immigrants at the US border is the same as Bombing little kids with drones which are all far worse than inventing Cambridge Analytica. If you're the type of person who thinks the Cambridge Analytica scandal is proof all programmers must learn Ethics, then how can you defend the mass murder of millions of people by Pol Pot? Stalin? Wrong is wrong. Murder is murder. There's no, "Oh but this murder of a little girl is allowed because Communism, but Facebook showing Russian Propaganda is the most evil thing in the world because Capitalism and so all programmers must be punished."

If the Empathy Gatekeepers actually had any empathy they wouldn't defend Police Unions, Pol Pot, Stalin, or any institution that causes so much human suffering. They'd be demanding the abolishing of all Police Unions in the US. They'd readily denounce every genocide--both capitalist and communist. But, they don't, so either their own ethics training is a failure, the demands for ethics training are actually about control, or soft skills don't actually solve the problem at all. It's most likely all three.

Hitler's Watercolors

Did you know that Hitler was a watercolor painter? He was originally planning on becoming an artist but failed out of school, and then went on to become a writer. He then went on to become a very popular public speaker and politician, and eventually lead one of the greatest and most evil massacres of human beings we've ever seen. His art, writings, and public speaking directly lead to the deaths of an estimated 20 million people in concentration camps.

Painter, writer, orator, and politician. Not programmer. Not mathematician. Not anything "technical". He was trained and accomplished in all of the soft skills that people put forward as requirements of programmers so that they don't become evil people, and Hitler became the most evil person in human history. Go back through history and look at the massacres and you'll never find a programmer. Not a single one. You can barely find any programmers in any positions of power in governments, yet for some reason all programmers need to learn ethics before they should ever be allowed to write a line of code?

As a programmer who is also a painter I can safely say that none of the skills put forward as "soft skills" produce empathic or ethical people. In fact, I'd say that the most manipulative evil people in the world are adept at using soft skills to manipulate the human condition for their own gains. If there's a politician you hate, they're probably a lawyer and literally trained in ethics, and how to circumvent ethics to bend the law to their will. If there's an artist you love there's a good chance they're secretly an incredibly terrible person. Most serial killers are incredibly good at using empathy to capture their victims. Quite often the people with the best soft skills end up being the most evil, fucked up, narcissistic pieces of shit you've ever known.

The idea that adding a series of empathy inducing classes to computer science education will produce a group of programmers with better personalities is then clearly false. Many people who have taken all of the proposed soft skills courses ended up being power hungry manipulators, defenders of genocides, perpetrators of genocides, or just a generally fucked up piece of shit. The education of ethics and empathy does not remove a sociopath's desire for power and abuse, and it doesn't make anyone a better person. It mostly only makes people better at appearing to be a better person.

It's A Political Gate

There's also the problem of where all of these programmers are supposed to take these classes. Empathy Gatekeepers lament the high cost of education, but then only trust courses taught at these same expensive institutions by the same expensive educators. They literally want everyone to be free to become a programmer, but programmers to study only approved courses from top notch institutions that cost tons of money. In a way, they want yet another classist social signal that a programmer is a person of quality who has studied all the top best philosophers at the best university before becoming a programmer. How exactly is that not the most offensive form of classism and gatekeeping?

I believe that the real reason Empathy Gatekeepers are demanding all programmers study the most expensive possible courses is to be able to identify the programmers who are most like them politically. It has nothing to do with improving the world or making programmers be better people, and everything to do with being able to exclude any programmers who didn't study Post-Communist Socio-political Theory at Brown. I have no idea how the poor are supposed to go do that but, hey, maybe Google can offer up the 20 required courses?

Why Only Programmers?

I could go on for a whole other essay on the offensive belief that programmers are robotic and lacking humanity. It's truly bizarre that the same people who think I'm a robot because I know C++ also think that I'll somehow stop being a robot once I read Deleuze. I thought programming was all about changing the size of buttons? How is it that something as insignificant as coding skills can also destroy the Democratic party, and be so psychologically influential that it removes the emotions of anyone who learns it?

Empathy Gatekeepers are simply attacking a weak target. Programmers are viewed as easily manipulated because they're stereotyped into being emotionless robots (which is entirely untrue). The Empathy Gatekeepers wouldn't dare demand that the Democratic Party stop letting rich people and banks pick their candidates (a clear ethical empathy violation), because they know it wouldn't go anywhere. The people running American political parties are more powerful than all of the Empathy Gatekeepers, so rather than attack the people who actually run things, they go for easy targets like common working programmers who they think lack the soft skills to defend against the Empathy Gatekeeper's superior ethical intellect.

95% of programmers aren't in charge of anything. Programmers have largely been considered replaceable worker drone cogs throughout the history of Programming as a profession. Until recently they were paid far less than almost anyone else at a company if you go by hourly wages, had zero control over their work, were forced to work long hours, had almost no employment protections, and the victims of vast wage suppression collusion. Programmers have so little power they don't even get to pick the text editor they want to use. When your boss--who's not a programmer--threatens to fire you for not using Eclipse, you have zero power.

It's entirely unethical and lacking of empathy to go to a group of people who are at a power disadvantage in their jobs and demand that they take extra classes to learn to be even better at doing what they're told so that they can then unionize and ... not do what they're told? Oh, but only if you already have a four year degree and not if you get a Google abbreviated four year degree. If you go through Google's Woke Washed Academy then you are clearly a good person because you were probably poor, so that means you have empathy. But, always remember that if you're poor and pay for your four year degree yourself then you aren't poor and should have to take the ethics classes to be a good programmer who will do what Empathy Gatekeepers want and not do what your boss wants even though that means you'd be poor again.

Got it? Good. I'm glad I've cleared this all up.

The Power First

I most likely trained millions and millions of programmers for free. I was one of the early proponents of everyone learning to code (but not becoming a programmer). I also was an advocate for programmers learning statistics before there was even the concept of Data Science. I also want everyone to learn to paint, so I'm working on a free painting course as well. You'd be hard pressed to find any programmer who's helped as many people with free courses, so if you think I'm saying that we should stop helping the poor you'd be dead wrong. My past accomplishments in this far outpace nearly every Empathy Gatekeeper you will ever read.

I am definitely not against a person learning empathy and ethics. I agree it should be something everyone studies. I think people should learn statistics, art, writing, and many things that make surviving life just a little easier. What I am against is ethical gatekeeping of a group of people with zero power while boosting corporations, managers, politicians, lawyers, venture capitalists, and anyone else in actual positions of power. Demanding programmers study ethics won't do anything but exclude people from the profession, and specifically exclude the poor.

If Empathy Gatekeepers actually wanted to improve the technology profession's ethical behavior then they'd start holding corporations and the managers to these standards first. They'd start at the top, speaking truth to actual power, and go on a rampage whenever a FAANG company fucks up ethically. Yet, you don't see that.

The Empathy Gatekeepers sit silent when corporations and managers are unethical, because if the Empathy Gatekeepers said anything bad then none of the FAANGs would hire them to be a totally useless Developer Evangelists using their good looks and Empathy Training(TM) to sell garbage technology to unsuspecting programmers.

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