Ramblings & ephemera

Extreme male brains

From Joe Clark’s “The extreme Google brain” (Fawny: 26 April 2009):

… Susan Pinker’s The Sexual Paradox, which explains, using scientific findings, why large majorities of girls and women behave almost identically at different stages of their lives – while large minorities of boys and men show vast variability compared to each other and to male norms.

Some of these boys and men exhibit extreme-male-brain tendencies, including an ability to focus obsessively for long periods of time, often on inanimate objects or abstractions (hence male domination of engineering and high-end law). Paradoxically, other male brains in these exceptional cases may have an ability to experiment with many options for short periods each. Pejoratively diagnosed as attention-deficit disorder, Pinker provides evidence this latter ability is actually a strength for some entrepreneurs.

The male brain, extreme or not, is compatible with visual design. It allows you to learn every font in the Letraset catalogue and work from a grid. In fact, the male-brain capacity for years-long single-mindedness explains why the heads of large ad agencies and design houses are overwhelmingly male. (It isn’t a sexist conspiracy.)

In the computer industry, extreme male brains permit years of concentration on hardware and software design, while also iterating those designs seemingly ad infinitum. The extreme male brain is really the extreme Google brain. It’s somewhat of a misnomer, because such is actually the average brain inside the company, but I will use that as a neologism.

Google was founded by extreme-male-brain nerds and, by all outward appearances, seems to hire only that type of person, not all of them male.

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