Racism And Meritocracy

Eric Ries, TechCrunch, Nov 23, 2011
Commentary by Stephen Downes

I think this article makes two good points. The first is that there is a selection bias whether or not we are conscious of it. "This is partly a cognitive problem, that people harbor unconscious bias, and partly an organizational problem, that even a collection of unbiased actors can work together to accidentally create a biased system." The second is that the elimination of bias itself fosters diversity, and that bias is eliminated through fairness. It is important, not only that the selection be fair, but that it be known to be fair. I'm not convinced of the third point, that "when people are in a situation that defies stereotypes, reminding them of the stereotype diminishes their performance." I think systems that unfair, one way or another, produce less diverse results, and it is this unfairness, not mere 'reminding them', that causes the result. This item is worth reading in conjuction with another item summarizing a Bryan Caplan post on how elite professional service firms hire their staff: select only people from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, or (maybe) Stanford. As the Chronicle states, "You also can’t read this study without getting the feeling that the game is rigged."
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