There’s been much discussion about “wokeism”, and I think a definition might help to clarify things. My followers on Twitter helped me with this.

When you Google it, the top two results contain radically different definitions. I googled “wokeism” and got:

The first result:

“Wokeism is weaponized personal grievances masquerading as a genuine social concern. It’s defined by its fraudulent nature, as being distinct from legitimate social grievances.”

The second result:

“Woke (/ˈwoʊk/ WOHK) is an adjective derived from African-American Vernacular English (AAVE) meaning “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination”. Beginning in the 2010s, it came to encompass a broader awareness of social inequalities such as sexism, and has also been used as shorthand for American Left ideas involving identity politics and social justice, such as the notion of white privilege and slavery reparations for African Americans.”

The first result is absolute stupidity, ironically perhaps a “weaponized personal grievance.”

The second result is better, but I believe “alert to racial prejudice and discrimination” doesn’t fully cover what people mean when they say someone is woke, but rather a definition to retreat to when more controversial components of wokeism are challenged, a la the Motte-and-bailey fallacy.

A common thing I’ll hear from woke people is about “representation”. I don’t want to strawman, so let me find some exact quotes.

I tried googling “wokeism in tech”, but this got me mostly people complaining about wokeism in tech, hopefully the jump to “diversity in tech” isn’t too much, and yielded this page as the top result:

Diversity in tech is all about bringing more perspectives to a traditionally homogeneous and often non-inclusive industry. Today, women and people of color lack representation — Google, for example, reported that just 5.5% of new hires in 2020 were Black+ (and just 6.6% were Latinx+). Diversity rates have been increasing over the years, but not quickly enough.


The tech industry is undeniably dominated by men. Diversity in tech statistics show that year after year, women are underpaid and underrepresented. Women make up only 25% of computer-science related jobs, according to the Pew Research Center. Women are even less represented in engineering, making up just 14% of the workforce.

One might say, so what? The page attempts a “business” related answer, but it’s clear that’s not really why (if it were, they would give facts and studies instead of anecdotes) The real answer is on the page.

You may be wondering why diversity in tech is so important. There are moral reasons, such as increased equality, for emphasizing diversity in tech.

Equality is commonly used to mean two different things, “equality of opportunity” and “equality of outcome”.

Imagine a 100m race between me and Usain Bolt. Equality of opportunity would mean that we both start off at the same place, and both have to run the same 100m. I will never win. For equality of outcome, we might have to weigh Usain down with 100 lbs or give me a 50m head start to get a world where we each have a 50% chance of winning the race.

With all the talk of “representation”, I had imagined that meant woke people desired equality of outcome. This is an ought statement and can’t be challenged with science, so I thought this is where we leave it.

But then I asked the woke. Overwhelmingly (in Twitter poll), it turns out the woke state a preference for equality of opportunity over outcome!

This was surprising since the quotes above are all complaints about unequal outcomes, and implicitly assume it’s due to the “non-inclusive” nature of the industry without exploring other hypotheses.

After a bit more digging, I got to the core belief of wokeism:

With true equality of opportunity, we will see equality of outcome. If we don’t see equality of outcome, it is because we don’t have equality of opportunity.

The crazy thing about this belief is that it’s factually false, not just an opinion.

Factually false beliefs do a better job binding people together than true beliefs. Which cult has more traction: the “earth is round” cult or the “earth is flat” cult?

Of course, if you are “woke” you won’t see this belief as false, and regardless of what I write here I doubt I will change your mind. But this explains what is observed with respect to the Inquisition style tactics. Believe in the blank slate hypothesis, or else:

In 2020, an open letter to the Linguistic Society of America requesting the removal of Pinker from its list of LSA Fellows and its list of media experts was signed by hundreds of academics. The letter accused Pinker of a “pattern of drowning out the voices of people suffering from racist and sexist violence, in particular in the immediate aftermath of violent acts and/or protests against the systems that created them,” citing as examples six tweets and a phrase used in his 2011 book.

Update: I’ve gotten replies suggesting that while equality of opportunity may not lead 100% to equality of outcome, it will at least get us closer to it, perhaps a soft wokeism. There’s actually evidence of the opposite, at least for the gender gap in tech. Meaning as equality of opportunity increases, observed outcomes diverge.

If your axiom is blank slatism, you will continually make wrong predictions.