Thanks for reaching out. I am safe and healthy, and I hope the current situation finds you safe as well. The timing is not insensitive at all, I am lucky to be working in an industry that is not significantly impacted by the sanitary crisis, because in most cases it is possible for us tech people to work from home, and we have teleconference software, Google Meet being one of the popular ones. :)
You are asking me if I would be interested in chatting about options for joining Google again, either in your growing Warsaw site or in other Google locations.
Since I left Google in 2014, I have undergone quite a bit of growth, certainly in technical skills, but also in the way that I see and understand the world, and how I can strive to make it better, and how technology can make it better, and how powerful tech companies such as Google can have an impact and use their power for good.
As a result, I would certainly be interested in helping Google make the world better. But I am not sure that what I have in mind is in line with what Google has in mind. If I were to work for Google again, in any capacity, I would first need the assurance that I am working in the right direction, and that my work will actually bring positive change. And so far, the direction that Google has taken in recent years does not give me that assurance. Let me guide you through a few examples.
All those items are pretty damning, if we are looking at how Google
impacts the world at large. But you could still have a chance at
appealing to the nerd in me, the person who loves technology and who
wants to make cool things. Because at least at Google we make
good tech, right? Well, about that...
How is it possible to be so short-sighted with regards to testing software as to fail to include black people in the Photos AI training set, with such an embarrassing result? How can I pretend to be one of the top engineers in the world if I'm working at a company that makes this kind of rookie mistake?
Oh, and wouldn't an initiative such as the Sojourn project, the one that was abandoned, have precisely prevented that fiasco, by making sure that an appropriately diverse sample of subjects would be submitted to the training set?
And it is far from the only example. There are other fundamental, elementary mistakes, some of which are much more related to my skill set and that I am much more qualified to talk about in detail, but since I am a systems engineer, these are not the things that get much publicity and are widely available on the Web. I will still give the following example:
This proposal, for the next standard of C++, which is a general-purpose programming language, lists hardware architectures, OS platforms, and environments that should be prioritized.
From a technical point of view, this is absolute nonsense. It is not the place of a programming language to prioritize hardware architectures or OS platforms. It is the job of a compiler for this language to implement the specification for various platforms and the implementation may be more or less optimized depending on the backend, but the language itself should be entirely agnostic.
And even if you accept the premise that it makes sense to define a list of priorities, let's take a look: none of the various BSD operating systems have made the list, despite having significant, vibrant communities and a long history of working, but Fuchsia, Google's own, not-ready-yet operating system, has. Hmmm. Also, there is a curious insistence on prioritizing little-endian hardware, which would be detrimental to a certain number of embedded systems and other platforms, but it so happens that Google uses none of them.
And it just so happens that out of the 17 authors of that document, 8 of them are working at Google.
So even in my narrow, restricted field, what I witness of Google's influence in the world is an attempt to infiltrate and subvert communities and standards committees, in order to influence them towards goals that directly benefit Google, and without any care or consideration for the rest of the community, or for the actual technical quality of the results.
So, after this long development, let me sum this up by saying that I
would be extremely glad to be offered a position at Google, if it was
in the executive committee, if I had direct control over a product that
I could actually make good, as in, good for the users and for the
world, not only for Google's shareholders. Or if it was in the ethics
committee, where I could actually influence the direction Google is
going, and had the power to make it stop ruining the world and
making life worse for everyone, in technical matters or otherwise. But
somehow I don't think it's what you were thinking about when you
reached out to me.
And if it's about taking up another tech position, where I need to pour my heart and soul into maintaining products that infringe on user privacy, undermine civil liberties, and threaten democracy and ultimately life on Earth, then it is probably safe to say that I would rather drag my scrotum across a mile of sandpaper than accept such a position.
Coarse-grained. (The sandpaper.)
You are directly responsible for none of the evils I listed above, so I beg you not to take this answer personally. However, I would certainly encourage you to read this e-mail again, and to show it to your coworkers who are also hunting for new talent, so that every single one of you can take a good look in the mirror, a deep breath, and a moment for introspection and reflection on your life choices.
I wish you the best,