What I've learned by listening to a Googler

(Official title: Insights and learnings from Dr. Minh visit. What will I do next?)

The other day I was given a chance to listen to a lecture by an ex-Facebooker (now-Googler), Dr. Minh. He mostly spoke about his experience working at different companies in Japan, cultural differences between working at a Japanese and at a Western company as well as the unbiasing training that employees have to undergo now.

Traditional vs "Global" Japanese company

Dr. Minh began by talking about his experience in working at Dentsu, a traditional Japanese company. His experience mostly confirmed my preexisting beliefs formed by reading different blog posts, Quora answers and watching videos online: the workplace is structured in a very hierarchical (上下関係) way, there is heavy peer pressure to drink and participate in different activities that might not always be pleasant for everyone, etc.

Then he proceeded to talk about his experience working at Facebook and Google - and to be honest, I'm really impressed by their ability to make people want to work for them. While I'm not sure if I'd like to work there myself, the benefits sounded solid - while traditionally you might just expect to get a good salary and maybe a gym membership, Facebook's employees also get paid in equity (which makes it very similar to how most startups work), and get a lot of performance-based based on whether you've met the expectations, exceeded the expectations or redefined them.

One thing that was interesting for me personally to note was that the lecturer really demonstrated that an "average" employee doesn't really know or care about the politics of the company and the drama that might be happening around it in the news. I've asked him about the controversy that Google was involved in 2017-2018 and Dr. Minh didn't really know anything about it, which is however quite understandable - reading news and keeping track of the world's politics can be a very time-consuming hobby.

Action points

  • Try to search for a more "global" company when I'll be looking for a job since I feel like I'd agree with its worldview more

Unbiasing and subconsciousness training

One thing that interested me a lot in the lecture was a discussion on biases and training your subconsciousness to get what you want - since that's a topic that I'm into for quite a while now.

Apparently, at Facebook people have to go through a process called "unbiasing training" to remove unfair biases from people's head (like "men are better workers" or "women are better housewives"). While I agree that those statements sound egregious on their own, I'd argue that there are inherent differences between sexes and while on a personal level that doesn't mean much (you can meet women that are more "masculine" than a lot of guys as well as guys that are more "feminine" than most women), if we look at it from a more global viewpoint, the difference in Agreeableness [1] can be used to explain the fact that there are more men in prison [2] and more women in healthcare (but mostly in the lower income brackets)[3]. You could also use the difference in DNA and mating strategies to explain why women tend to be a bit more "stable" genetically (meaning less variation over generations) and men tend to be more "extreme" - but that would require a blog post on its own along with finding the proper references from anthropology journals.

That said, I definitely agree that it's useful to train our subconscious to make it so it takes better decisions without us having to consciously force them, and from Facebook's perspective I'd say that they're optimizing people very well for being good workers. I would, however, like to know how this procedure influences personal lives of the people that went through it: when you're working it might be useful to share opinions with the company you're working at, but you will not be working 24/7 - and subconscious training might change you as a person in general, which might either strengthen or weaken your family ties, etc.

I'd also like to know how the companies that do this deal with people that pinpoint the fact that it might seem very futuristic and 1984-ish to do something like this. While I understand the benefits of the procedure, I'd say that for some people it might seem like they are being "brainwashed" - and it'd be interesting for me to see a discussion that between such a person and a manager responsible for the unbiasing training.

Disclaimer: References are provided by a quick google search, I stopped reading about this topic a couple of months ago so I'm can't guarantee that my opinion will be the most up to date one. I am however open for debating it and think that (1) it's a very interesting topic for discussion and (2) provided that both parties prepare some reference materials it can be a very productive discussion that would enrich both of their lives

Action points

  • Read Factfullness
  • Bring up biases and mental models more in conversations, hoping that I'll find people that are also interested in them by doing this
  • (Maybe) Resume reading LessWrong
  • (Maybe) Find/Recompile my list of references that I can use to explain my possibly controversial opinions
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