These conversations can be very difficult to have while maintaining personal sovereignty and…
Reuben Ogbonna
101

Thank you for the thoughtful response. Mine is a long response. I’ve split it up into 3 parts:

  1. Clarification on a couple things from my original response
  2. New discussion
  3. Where I believe there is a contradiction/flaw in your reasoning (I could be wrong about this, so I welcome feedback)

I should clarify 2 things, because I think there is some agreement in areas where you think we differ:

  1. My original response doesn’t preclude talent development after hiring. So, we’re on the same page on that.
  2. As for forecasting potential, this certainly should be part of the hiring and interviewing process of getting the best talent. I didn’t specifically mention this before, because I assumed it was understood. I assumed it was understood because it is common knowledge that employers make hires, not for today, but for the future months and years. Hence, I would want the employer to do as good a merit-based assessment as it can, to hire who they think is the best talent to hire over the years that they expect to employ that person, with the least amount of resources that they have to expend over the same years, in terms of talent development. Such a person may be studying at the University of Idaho, instead of MIT, and employers should take that into account. All of this was summarized in my original response was as follows: “focus at the point of hiring, should be to look for talent wherever it is and finding the most efficient way to do so.” Later on in this post, I also touch on the notion of why efficiency is important.

New discussion:

  1. You ask if diversity is the means, what is the end? I would take a step back and say that diversity is not the means. In my worldview, the end is to the seek the truth/achieve enlightenment, and talent is the means to that. Note that I refer to talent here in the sense of qualities/traits, rather than individuals.
  2. We have only scratched the surface on the knowledge there is to be obtained about the world we live in, and there is infinitely more knowledge to be obtained. Talent is the means to obtaining more knowledge. Let us search for talent wherever it may be. It happens to be that our current way of assessing talent is not optimal, and that may be why some people like Tom Mueller, aren’t discovered earlier in their careers. So, let’s optimize the talent search further, so that we are able to discover such talent sooner. To translate this specifically in the context of employer recruiting, it means that we should reduce and eliminate bias in searching for talent at the point of hire, without introducing new biases. Reducing and eliminating bias in this manner, may not result in representation similar to proportions associated with the general population. But, as alluded to before, diversity/representation is not the means or the goal. Does this mean that we shouldn’t care about people who don’t make the cut at various stages in life? No, we should care. I discuss more about this in point 5.
  3. In the original post, I use the following statement: “a more accurate statement might be “potential is everywhere, but opportunity isn’t””. I specifically worded it as “more accurate statement might be” for 2 reasons:
  4. 1) because it is demonstrably more nuanced than “talent is everywhere, but opportunity isn’t”. I demonstrated this in my previous post.
  5. 2) because it isn’t the most accurate statement one can come up with. The most accurate statement is that we don’t know if the distribution of potential is equally distributed or not, but we do know for sure opportunity isn’t equally distributed because of a whole host of reasons (funding of schools is different, etc). Anyone who says potential is distributed evenly everywhere, is making an assumption. One step to finding out if potential is indeed evenly distributed, is to level the playing field in terms of opportunity at every stage of life, by subjecting the allocation to an opportunity function like the following in the most efficient manner: MAX(talent and future potential exhibited, basic standard of living). The reason I say “most efficient manner” is that we don’t live in a world with infinite resources. We live in a world where resources are scarce, and we want to allocate them as efficiently possible, using an opportunity function. Why am I then suggesting that a function like the one I listed is one that is desirable? Here’s an extreme example for illustrative purposes:
  6. Given limited resources, we would probably give math lessons to a kid with average cognitive function, rather than to a kid with severe cognitive disability because the former would be able to do something with it, while the latter probably won’t. In other words, we’d probably choose to more efficiently allocate opportunity, based on the talent and future potential exhibited. At the same time, we probably want someone with severe cognitive disability to at least have the opportunity of a basic standard of living (food, shelter, healthcare, etc.). Hence, my function includes that as a parameter as well.

Where I believe there is a contradiction/flaw in your reasoning:

  1. Let me give an example, and tie it back to the opportunity function example I gave earlier. This example uses your assumption that potential is evenly distributed, regardless of factors such as class/race/gender/geography etc.. Let’s suppose that there are 2 people available for a computer programmer job. 1 is a black CS graduate with perfect grades, a year of internship experience and multiple coding projects under his/her belt, and 1 is a black high school dropout with no CS background. Now, let’s also suppose that the black CS graduate with all As comes from wealthy background, with a stable home environment, and with access to computers from a very young age. Let’s suppose the black high school dropout came from a single parent household, and he/she is in and out of work, trying to make a buck. By your assumptions about distribution in potential, it is reasonable to assume that the black college graduate and the black high school dropout really have the same long-term potential. Class differences separate them, and if only the black high school dropout had the same training, background, and access as the college graduate, he/she would be doing well too. So, here’s the important question: should the company advertising the computer programmer job pick the black high school dropout, and develop that person into a programmer, by giving years of training to catch up? Let’s examine possible answers to this question:
  2. a) If your answer is that the black college graduate should be hired over the black high school dropout, then your reasoning is probably remarkably similar to that of my opportunity function, in the sense that “focus at the point of hiring, should be to look for talent wherever it is and finding the most efficient way to do so”. If this is indeed your reasoning, then it contradicts your own reasoning when the examples start to involve both whites and blacks. In other words, if your reasoning switches at the point where racial representation becomes the issue at hand, then it backs up my point that perhaps your goal is indeed representation, and that the goal is couched in generalized merit-based lingo such as talent and potential.
  3. b) If your answer is that the black high school dropout should indeed be hired, then you’re essentially saying that at the point of hire, employers should be hiring people with the least training and training them subsequently, considering the assumption that potential is indeed evenly distributed by class/race/gender/geography etc. These are the people left behind because of their unfortunate circumstances, and by your own words, corporations “must invest resources into matching potential with opportunity where it currently does not exist”. Although you actually stated it, I don’t think anyone, including yourself, seriously considers this as an option.

As mentioned earlier, feel free to give feedback. Thank you.