Autism, genius, and the power of obliviousness

There’s a link between autism and genius says a popular-press summary of recent research.

If you follow this sort of thing (and I do) most of what follows doesn’t come as much of a surprise. We get the usual thumbnail case studies about autistic savants. There’s an interesting thread about how child prodigies who are not autists rely on autism-like facilities for pattern recognition and hyperconcentration. There’s a sketch of research suggesting that non-autistic child-prodigies, like autists, tend to have exceptionally large working memories. Often, they have autistic relatives. Money quote: “Recent study led by a University of Edinburgh researcher found that in non-autistic adults, having more autism-linked genetic variants was associated with better cognitive function.”

But then I got to this: “In a way, this link to autism only deepens the prodigy mystery.” And my instant reaction was: “Mystery? There’s a mystery here? What?” Rereading, it seems that the authors (and other researchers) are mystified by the question of exactly how autism-like traits promote genius-level capabilities.

At which point I blinked and thought: “Eh? It’s right in front of you! How obvious does it have to get before you’ll see it?”

OK, now I have to lay out some credentials. (Sorry for the repetition, regulars; I’m writing the following with an eye on the high likelihood that the researchers won’t already know who I am.)

I am not an autist, and to my knowledge have no autistic relatives. I was thought to be a child prodigy with exceptional mathematical gifts; in 1975 I was the first high-school student in the institution’s memory to present original research at the annual meeting of the American Mathematical Society. Unusually large working memory, check. I’m pretty sure the authors would consider me a genius, unless they know a lot of people who have been all of: A-list software architects, New York Times bestselling authors also nominated for a Campbell Award, musicians good enough to do session work on two albums, world-championship-level players of strategy games, speakers who’ve drawn packed crowds on six continents, martial-arts instructors, sought-after advisors to investment bankers, and founders of successful reform movements that arguably changed history.

I also have the advantage that my peer network has been stiff with geniuses for forty years. I’ve logged a lot of time interacting with both autistic and non-autistic geniuses, and I’m anthropologically observant. So hear this:

Yes, there is an enabling superpower that autists have through damage and accident, but non-autists like me have to cultivate: not giving a shit about monkey social rituals.

Neurotypicals spend most of their cognitive bandwidth on mutual grooming and status-maintainance activity. They have great difficulty sustaining interest in anything that won’t yield a near-immediate social reward. By an autist’s standards (or mine) they’re almost always running in a hamster wheel as fast as they can, not getting anywhere.

The neurotypical human mind is designed to compete at this monkey status grind and has zero or only a vanishingly small amount of bandwidth to spare for anything else. Autists escape this trap by lacking the circuitry required to fully solve the other-minds problem; thus, even if their total processing capacity is average or subnormal, they have a lot more of it to spend on what neurotypicals interpret as weird savant talents.

Non-autists have it tougher. To do the genius thing, they have to be either so bright that they can do the monkey status grind with a tiny fraction of their cognitive capability, or train themselves into indifference so they basically don’t care if they lose the neurotypical social game.

Once you realize this it’s easy to understand why the incidence of socially-inept nerdiness doesn’t peak at the extreme high end of the IQ bell curve, but rather in the gifted-to-low-end-genius region closer to the median. I had my nose memorably rubbed in this one time when I was a guest speaker at the Institute for Advanced Study. Afternoon tea was not a nerdfest; it was a roomful of people who are good at the social game because they are good at just about anything they choose to pay attention to and the monkey status grind just isn’t very difficult. Not compared to, say, solving tensor equations.

The basic insight here is not original to me. The term “neurotypical” was actually coined by a very bright autist who then proceeded to write a hilarious fake DSM entry on how wacky and self-defeating “normal” cognitive function looks from his point of view. I looked at his site years ago, saw truth, and have been collecting related observations ever since.

So, contra the authors, I don’t think there’s any actual mystery here – just the awesome power of not caring what the (other) monkeys think. That gives us time to be excellent.

241 thoughts on “Autism, genius, and the power of obliviousness

  1. > The term “neurotypical” was actually coined by a very bright autist who then proceeded to wrote a hilarious fake DSM entry on how wacky and self-defeating “normal” cognitive function looks from his point of view

    I would love to read that. I guess it’s your broken link, but it’s… err… broken, and the wayback machine don’t seems to have a copy.

    • >I would love to read that. I guess it’s your broken link, but it’s… err… broken, and the wayback machine don’t seems to have a copy.

      Sorry, link now fixed.

  2. I wrote a wall of text and WordPress ate it. Aargh. Summary: @ESR throughout history status games changed from open, conscious, codified by etiquette and rules to something subtle and subconscious and not talked about. For example in languages with a T-V distinction you used to talk V up and T down. Today the employee greets the billionaire CEO as hi, Joe but there is still the status difference just more subtle. Therefore, today, processing status is both more difficult, and is probably done by a different feature of the brain.

    Having this subtle, complicated status is NOT a historically normal thing. Past societies worked like a typical army. Rank communicated in obvious ways. How hard it is for a solider to process this? Salute everybody who has a higher sign on their shoulder. Follow rules and exceed clearly communicated expectations and you will get promoted, too. Does your model really survive this angle?

    • >Does your model really survive this angle?

      I don’t think I see a challenge to it here. Do you actually have evidence that subtle status is “is probably done by a different feature of the brain”? How does that make sense when my basic posit is that most people spend their entire cognitive capacity (or close to it) on the monkey status grind?

  3. Yep. You nailed it for them ;)

    I forget when exactly I threw off my mental shackles, probably around 14. It was quite a shocking experience, but I felt my life and mind improve immeasurably.

    Of courser, I had to then engage in social ‘acting’ when walking among them, but this is not challenging in any way.

  4. Climbing the social ladder is climbing the pyramid of mediocrity as far as creative talent is concerned. No matter how high you climb, it’s still only mediocrity.

  5. This also fits with my observation that there used to be a lot of geniuses who were childhood invalids– sorry, I don’t have a list. However, these were people who had to find some way to entertain themselves that didn’t involve social games and running around. For many, it’ was books.

    Who knew that better medicine might lead to fewer geniuses?

    “they are good at just about anything they choose to pay attention to and the monkey status grind just isn’t very difficult.” Not very difficult if you have the right neurology for it. It seems to be quite difficult if you don’t have that neurology.

    • >Not very difficult if you have the right neurology for it. It seems to be quite difficult if you don’t have that neurology.

      Right. Unstated was that I didn’t see autistic behavior at the IAS faculty tea. Either it’s unusual that far up the bell curve in a way it’s not a bit lower down, or autists that bright have learned to run a serviceable emulation of social-monkey circuitry.

  6. I find it very unfortunate then that in the modern political climate actual autistics will suffer greatly at the hands of SJWs. They are purely incapable (unlike the geniuses that can switch on and off the autistic mode of thinking) of social signaling (monkey social rituals) that will be required to be allowed to practice your chosen discipline in the near future. They will be made to care and being autistic, they will be unable to, and therefore they will be destroyed, cruelly cut out of the activities for which they are actually so well suited.

  7. @Jason

    You put a remarkably high probability on the SJWs winning. From what I can see they are losing, hard.

  8. Non-autists have it tougher. To do the genius thing, they have to be either so bright that they can do the monkey status grind with a tiny fraction of their cognitive capability, or train themselves into indifference…

    I’m not claiming to be any kind of genius, but this sounds right to me. I feel like I have enough mental capacity to interact socially (x)or think about interesting problems.

    When I was just a kid, I remember that whenever I was in “problem solving mode” and trying to explain what I was thinking about, I would get a lot of quiet comments afterwards about how I was talking too loudly to be socially acceptable or making a lot of odd looking facial expressions and hand gestures or completely failing to realize that the person I was talking to was trying to politely signal that they were not interested in the conversation. On the other hand, if I made it a point to focus on social interactions, I or my parents would be complimented on what a nice, polite kid I was.

    I wonder how many people have the potential for near-genius level thought, but had the necessary mindset trained out of them as kids.

  9. Another possible data point to add to the mix:

    Study: Autistic kids more likely to be gender non-conforming

    Children on the autism spectrum are more than seven times more likely to show signs of gender variance, according to a study led by New York University.

    The study, published last month in Transgender Health, recruited the parents of 492 autistic children ages six to 18. When the researchers asked these parents whether their children often “wish to be the opposite sex,” a little over five percent of participants said yes, compared to less than one percent of the general population.

    […]

    It’s not clear why people on the autism spectrum are also more likely to question their gender identity. John Strang, the author of the 2014 study, told PrideSource that perhaps the children in his study were more likely to express gender non-conformity because they “were less worried about what people thought” and “weren’t really noticing the social expectations or the social biases” against transgender people.

    That seems to fit in with your observation about “monkey social rituals” not moving the needle on the Give-A-Shit Meter for autistic people. Perhaps “traditional gender roles” are part of those “monkey social rituals,” or perhaps gender identity is another thing that doesn’t blip the Give-A-Shit Meter for them.

    Would this sort of thing apply to non-autist geniuses as well? Thoughts?

    • >Would this sort of thing apply to non-autist geniuses as well?

      Dunno.

      For whatever it’s worth as an individual data point, I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a nanosecond of gender confusion in my entire life. It’s one of those phenomena like “stage fright” that I guess I have to believe in because I hear enough reports of it, but it’s alien to my experience.

  10. “Autists escape this trap by lacking the circuitry required to fully solve the other-minds problem; thus, even if their total processing capacity is average or subnormal, they have a lot more of it to spend on what neurotypicals interpret as weird savant talents.”

    CPU cycles pretty much nails it. Autism is an over-revving drive gear which can turn the most mundane facets of the NT world into non-terminating, non-repeating decimals.

    However, what that pinion happens to engage with may or may not be in the purview of those around them. Usually, it’s not, and sadly, the obsessive (and physically regressive) applications of such unhinged cognitive power far outweigh the socially acceptable ones. Art, Spelling Bee, Math Tabulation? Great! (Monkeys cheer!) Figuring out the harmonic standing waves between the grout lines on kitchen tile before allowing yourself to step in? Trying to serially interpolate complex wave patterns (waves, water, sound, voices, light), while the world races by? Seeing the negative of any visual scene as equally as the positive? Not so much. How easy is it to miss the obvious warning signs in NT society?

    Yes, all great, hyper-real powers of perception. Pretty amazing to behold. Crippling for the beholder.

  11. Do you think having a mild case of cerebral palsy may have been a factor for you in cultivating this sort of not-giving-a-shit attitude?

    • >Do you think having a mild case of cerebral palsy may have been a factor for you in cultivating this sort of not-giving-a-shit attitude?

      Oh, I’m certain of it.

      Anything that dooms you to being a pink monkey in a world of brown ones (or vice-versa) has the effect of making success at the conventional monkey status grind so difficult that you may well conclude it’s not worth the effort to try and go do other things.

  12. @ esr

    > The term “neurotypical” was actually coined by a very bright autist who then proceeded to wrote [sic] a hilarious fake DSM entry

    Yes, it’s good. And it even contains a bit that’s Hilarious in Hindsight: it lists “carrying a cellular phone” as a status symbol. Looks like the author didn’t suspect they’d become omnipresent. (A development I regret, BTW. I envy Keith Richards and RMS, who are
    in a position where no one can force them to carry one. Sigh.)

    > Rereading, it seems that the authors (and other researchers are mystified by the question of exactly how autism-like traits promote genius-level capabilities.

    You missed the closing parenthesis. I’m surprised, given your background in Lisp. ;-) Just an innocent joke, not intended as mockery.

    This nitpicking makes me wonder if I’m – barely – within the autism spectrum: I pay much attention to detail in certain matters, while being absent-minded in all others. Also, every dog or cat I see grabs my attention; isn’t that correlated with autism? And…

    @ Nancy Lebovitz and esr

    > “they are good at just about anything they choose to pay attention to and the monkey status grind just isn’t very difficult.” Not very difficult if you have the right neurology for it. It seems to be quite difficult if you don’t have that neurology.

    …in school, I’d routinely alienate my peers by engaging in zany antics. I wanted to stop, but it was stronger than me. Either I’m too dumb to reproduce normal primate behavior or I lack the neurology.

    Or maybe it’s true that there are multiple intelligences? I suspect that thesis is just another manifestation of postmodern relativism, but am open to it.

    • >I envy Keith Richards and RMS, who are in a position where no one can force them to carry one. Sigh.

      Interesting. Me, I never want to be without a Web browser in my pocket again. I like being able to chase down any random itch of curiosity as soon as I feel it.

  13. In which case a gene causing/related to autism spectrum disorders very well might be the mutation that resulted in behavioral modernity, marking the point where brains that likely originally exploded in size due to sexual selection (via the ability to manipulate social status in tribal politics, resulting in increased number of offspring) first diverted themselves to think about with other topics.

  14. I think you understate the level of cognition required to do social stuff well — it’s basically high level pattern recognition; something we have a lot of specialized circuitry for, but which is objectively hard (see how hard it is to get a computer to do this kind of thing). Autistic people tend to be bad at that kind of pattern recognition — but you’re absolutely right that not spending a lot of time in the attention/reaction loop frees up a lot of time for other pursuits, like getting good at math.

  15. >>Interesting. Me, I never want to be without a Web browser in my pocket again. I like being able to chase down any random itch of curiosity as soon as I feel it.

    I suspect that this phenomenon is changing the distribution in interesting ways. Having a super-connected-super-computer in your pocket both makes social-interaction-for-knowledge-transfer less important while effectively transferring the monkey social ritual dance.

    FWIW, I feel the same way. I find it astonishing historically to be able to follow so many intellectual paths when I get the scent. Of course, there is a zen-monk discipline of learning when to read and when to think.

  16. I’m apparently a genius, then? Pretty sure I’m on the low end of genius in that case, but social stuff isn’t hard at all to me. It can be counterproductive sometimes, but it’s not hard.

  17. I think Eric’s off the mark here; at most, “genius” and “no monkey games” are common-cause in autistics.

    In my view (as an “amateur” in the 19th-century sense), the underlying etiology of autism is that the gain on neural transmissions is turned up too high. This phenomenon alone can account for most of the strangely correlated displays of autism, including a hacker-standard level of learning speed (fire together, wire together), strong preference for routine (fast learning=instant habits), sensory issues (“speaker feedback” is easy to trigger), and ADHD-style distractability-to-hyperfocus. This very high level of activity is likely related to unusually low levels of synapse pruning in a positive-feedback cycle, with the high activity preventing pruning that would otherwise occur and the lack of pruning then providing additional cascade pathways. Some recent research indicates GABA/serotonin balance may be implicated.

    Either it’s unusual that far up the bell curve in a way it’s not a bit lower down, or autists that bright have learned to run a serviceable emulation of social-monkey circuitry.

    It’s the latter. I’m somewhere around 160±5, and emulation is exactly how I describe the monkey business. It’s automatic in the sense that riding a bicycle is automatic—unconscious, but by learning to fluency rather than by instinct. At this point in my life, I’m usually more amused than frustrated when I run across a scenario I don’t have a program for and things go sideways, both because I have an explanation and because it can be fun to watch NTs trip over themselves when their expectations are violated.

    Alice Maz has described an almost identical experience to mine, and I get a very similar sense from the fragmentary pieces I’ve seen from Meredith Patterson.

    • >I think Eric’s off the mark here; at most, “genius” and “no monkey games” are common-cause in autistics.

      I’m not sure what we’re in disagreement about. Do you mean that you think the cognitive-improvement effect of autism-related genes in non-autistic child prodigies is not mediated through indifference to the monkey status grind? Or something else?

      >I’m somewhere around 160±5, and emulation is exactly how I describe the monkey business.

      Interesting datum. But: I use emulation a significant amount of the time, even though I’m not an autist. I can definitely solve the other-minds problem, but I’m not very good at empathy, so I sometimes have to interpolate the way a very bright autist does.

  18. I don’t know what my IQ is. I’ve always thought it was pretty high, perhaps near the lower-limit of genius. However, I have realized that part of it was simply knowledge, starting from huge amounts of time reading science books when I was a kid (and driving the Grade 5/6 science teacher nearly mad, with smart-ass comments). Another major part of it was a love and extraordinary talent for programming.

    In any case, just before I saw this post, I was on the phone apologizing to the optician for making a wildly inappropriate comment on my way out on Friday… I told the Doctor that she was extraordinarily beautiful. I wasn’t trying to hit on her; it the same sort of comment as: “THAT is a beautiful car.”

    Anyway, I probably wouldn’t have made the comment if, the “day” before, I hadn’t done a 36-hour website-improvement run… hand-coding HTML with vi.

  19. > 36-hour website-improvement run… hand-coding HTML with vi.

    Real men whistle into an acoustic modem at 300 baud.

    I have never been formally diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum, but have in recent years self-diagnosed as an Aspie. I see enough traits in myself to recognize it. I have always had a negative opinion of monkey games, and a tendency to piss people off with my directness. A former co-worker who understood and appreciated it described it as “an annoying tendency to call a spade a ‘goddamn shovel’.” I have gotten into the habit of thanking my managers for helping to keep the “political crap” off of me so that I can concentrate on doing the work. This article resonates very well with my feeling that bandwidth must not be wasted on irrelevancies.

    And yes, our community is a refuge for social misfits, where no one gives a solitary shit about your race, gender, sexuality, etc. so long as you do good work (write good code or documentation, or HTML/CSS, or design good tests for QA, or anything else that can objectively be judged for its quality). And if you don’t do good work, we still don’t care about that other crap; just stop sucking up our bandwidth and get out of the way of the people who have work to do here… If we allow the SJWs their way, it will indeed be a tragedy, because we’ll take these currently very productive people and turn them into Untermenschen.

  20. Perhaps someone can give me some insight into myself. I have moderately severe Asperger’s with cognitive and social deficits. I don’t like and can’t do the social monkey stuff. I am quite capable of not giving a damn, but then I pay the price. Anything with math baffles me, science, computers, statistics, etc. I have no talents and no particular smarts. I earned a law degree and was able to hold a job for 20 yrs. writing certain legal documents adequately. I liked the work but not the monkey stuff, which was my downfall.

    Perhaps this is a stupid request. Dunning-Kruger maybe? I can get something out of this site and the comments more often than not, but realize I miss a lot.

    • >Perhaps someone can give me some insight into myself.

      That’s difficult in the abstract, without having a better notion of what kind of insight you want. You seem to have a pretty detailed model of your capabilities and limitations. What is your objective?

  21. Thank you for replying. I guess I’m trying to do some pattern matching. I clearly don’t fit the social monkey pattern. Nor do I fit the intellectually capable pattern like you and so many commenters. I have long suspected that I have the worst of both worlds — dealt a bad hand (I know it could have been worse). I seldom feel sorry for myself.

    I wonder if any of the people here who are much smarter than I am can tell me something I have missed about myself. Be it good or bad, I like to know where I stand and have good insights about myself. Better understanding should make me better able to cope with whatever I have to deal with.

  22. A2 greatly understates the severity of the pathology. “Nornal” syndrome entails an incessant demand for inappropriate attention at all times. This is especially evident when it occurs in a spouse, but is unfortunately frequent among “senior managers” in workplaces.

    The endless stream of useless memos and demands to meet irrelevant, carelessly contrived “performance” criteria provide clear evidence of ego-tripping and peer group pandering with an eye to a more lucrative, powerful and redundant “higher” position from which they can self-importantly drive the entire corporation into the dust, only to escape opprobrium with an “executive productivity bonus”.

    (PS: the cited article requires a proof-reader.)

  23. TheDividualist: to spare long commentaries from falling through a website’s software cracks into nullspace, type them into a note on your computer or smart phone, save it, the copy and paste into the text panel.

  24. Jorge: smart phones are excellent: you can block all calls, and use them for internet access 24/7, reading academic papers and for typing documents. That’s how I’m using mine right now.

  25. Jerry: what are your interests?

    As an English/Maths/Science tutor, I early met a grade 5 boy who was so introverted he rarely spoke to anyone, including his parents. By encouraging him to write and speak about his interests and setting him challenging assignments based (initially) on them, I was able to draw him out of shell. I only met him for one hour on ea week, but by grade 6 he was so confident in speech-writing and public speaking that he was appointed school captain. He then won a scholarship to a top private school. (That’s when his parents decided that my services were no longer required. C’est la vie.)

  26. After reading through the fake DSM entry, I wonder: would an autistic person be GREAT socially, if they were given an easy way to quantify “social status” and then made it into an intellectual pursuit like every other technical topic. All that monkey grooming stuff really boils down to social status/power and alliance building/maintaining.

  27. For most of my young life had a deep desire to fit with other hamsters. They seemed to be having fun playing around the wheel and this was the expected thing to do.

    You look at that wheel, you look at the other hamsters and you start immediately thinking on what else you can do with these two things combined. It sucks. Too often breaks your family, brings financial unrest and no fun when you are too stubborn and only find happiness when that new wheel+hamster combo is finally achieved.

    You’d expect that life is fun afterwards but it isn’t. Can guarantee you that something new comes up next for such unfortunate souls to solve. Ignorance is bliss.

  28. Perhaps the autist problem with empathy is that so many people emote fake, lying emotions, not their true emotions. Or they communicate true and false emotions at the same time. What a tangled mess. Comprehending that other people lie all the time, wonder how much that would empower an autist.

  29. This sums it up quite succinctly. I have been thinking about similar things lately. I’ve been trying to write out some stuff to sort out my thoughts: Sort out some really *really* bad habits that I absorbed culturally (transmitted entirely innocuously by entirely well meaning people). What is it about our priorities, about the goals we are taught to value, and the way we are taught to engage the world, that *damage* and *inability* to properly absorb it would lead to spectacular flashes of success?

  30. My interests are in reading about a variety of things, mostly non-fiction. I don’t read between the lines well enough to appreciate most of fiction. I think people should say what they mean and mean what they say. Thus I also find it difficult to make conversation. I read preponderantly history, news, and politics. I follow some tech news. I regularly read A&D and learn from it if the topic is not over my head. In college I majored in sociology. Reading is, of course, a very solitary activity. I don’t do well in groups because I don’t fit in adequately. Oddly, I have been married to an extroverted woman for 27 yrs. Opposites attract, apparently.

    I went so far as to run for local school board with two others and was twice elected. There were big problems (created by incumbents) that needed to be addressed. Public speaking was at first almost impossible. I persisted and succeeded because I knew what I wanted to say and could usually prepare well enough. That was 20 yrs. ago. What I saw then and have seen of politics since have led me to despise it because of its domination by evil people. I still follow it from the sidelines out of morbid curiosity.

    Mine is a quiet (dull) life, but it is now peaceful, which is priceless.

    Thank you for your interest.

  31. PS – I was never interested in the monkey status games. In childhood, I *couldn’t* play them, and seemed to have an entirely different set of drives than most people. In adulthood, I’m not great at them, and have too many other things to do.

    To some extent, the habits I want to break are attempting to become even *more* asocial than I already am. :-P If my brain were a computer, I’d gladly erase that ridiculous desire to check the news, the responsiveness to manufactured FUD, and replace it with something useful, like the gaussian integral tables. It brings to mind that scene in one of the Sherlock Holmes novels where Holmes was proud of his obliviousness of modern astronomy: What possible use could it be to his chosen profession?

  32. I’ll have to think about the autism thing sometime. Have researchers shown that it actually is a *spectrum*? You would think that if only a few synaptic switches could be flipped, that there would be a Mendelian discreteness among {having it, having it (recessive), and not having it}. The more switches are involved, the closer to a continuous gaussian it would get. I’ve seen videos of autistic people who are obviously quite impaired and have real severe problems. I’m very much not, so I am reluctant to claim any of my traits as “autistic”.

    But I do wonder about it: My academic advisor is (I don’t mind it, and I recognize he is attempting to help) constantly trying to adjust some persistent bad social habits of mine. I don’t make eye contact when I’m talking to other people unless I make a conscious effort to do so (I naturally am looking at the pictures in my head, not the other guy in a conversation). According to him, I am too nerdy for grad school! I keep getting other subtle things wrong. When I was a kid, I was far weirder, and did have the strange hand-motion thing.

    • >Have researchers shown that it actually is a *spectrum*?

      Yes, the difference between mild and severe autism is dramatic and readily observable in a clinical setting.

      > I’m very much not, so I am reluctant to claim any of my traits as “autistic”.

      ams, I am not a clinical psychologist, but your self-description is such a textbook perfect presentation of mild autism that I have no trouble at all recognizing it and there is no doubt in my mind that a real clinical psychologist would agree.

  33. In support of your thesis, it’s been widely commented by scholars that physics geniuses, in particular, very frequently seem to have Autism-spectrum (Asperger’s) fathers – Einstein seems to fit this pattern. So they have some cultural Autism, if you like, but not the medical conditions.

  34. Yeah, this is a big no shit for me. I’m a shadow-autist and I’ve known for years that every human brain has high-speed “vector units” capable of tremendously high-speed, if specialized, cognition; and the problem that separates me from most everyone else is that my vector units specialize in math, C, Lisp, and visual arts where most people’s specialize in things like sports, following fashion trends, and keeping up with the bloody Kardashians.
    Also, the sort of person who has Kardashian-related dedicated hardware thinks this is a big mystery because they don’t WANT to know the truth. I’m not sure why, but I think it’s because the truth closes off possibilities. They say things like “the body is a mystery” because they can’t accept that expensive drugs, and not something simple like tincture of elderberry, are what’s needed to treat their dying aunt’s cancer. And “the mind is a mystery” because they can’t accept that the mind IS more like software running on a computer than it is like a magical interdimensional ghost teleoperating a body. And “autism is a mystery” because they want to believe they will one day be able to take their autistic kid to the Genius Bar and get a “normal” kid back.
    For fuck’s sake the international symbol for autism is A FUCKING PUZZLE PIECE. And you say that WE are deficient in understanding others? That WE lack a theory of mind? Fuck you. “Autism speaks”? More like “neurotypicals speak for autistics in pursuit of neurotypical ends”. We’re footballs in NT political games — that’s what “vaccines cause autism” is all about. And the culmination of “NTs speaking for autistics” is the disgusting fraud called facilitated communication.
    And that’s really what the “mystery” BS boils down to. I think it’s a figleaf for the long-suffering NT parents of autistic children to give them false hope. It still hasn’t occurred to most people, let alone press outlets, to listen to autistics’ takes on autistic thought and life. Maybe if they tried engaging us in dialogue, there would be more progress. It’s not all train timetables, Jeopardy! clues and Game of Thrones minutiae up here you know. Things like that are just simple pleasures we can rely on to bring us joy and remind us why life is great. We have deep thoughts too, it’s just hard for most of us to articulate them.

    • >It still hasn’t occurred to most people, let alone press outlets, to listen to autistics’ takes on autistic thought and life.

      Idiots.

      I know that’s true, and I cannot properly convey how pissed off being reminded of it makes me. And the refusal to listen, I’ve noticed, tends to be worst in exactly the people who honk loudest about diversity and inclusion. Heaven forfend they should be discomfited by trying to wrap themselves around the experience of someone who’s really different inside the head.

  35. Why stop at “monkey social rituals”? A great deal more is lost in autistic people, who are basically calculators who excel in specialization. A timely post, given AlphaGo’s victory.

    And when I emerged from my solitude and crossed over this bridge for the first time, I did not believe my eyes and looked and looked again and said at last: “That is an ear! An ear as big as a man!” I looked yet more closely: and in fact under the ear there moved something that was pitifully small and meagre and slender. And in truth, the monstrous ear sat upon a little, thin stalk — the stalk, however, was a man! By the use of a magnifying glass one could even discern a little, envious face as well; and once could discern, too, that a turgid little soul was dangling from the stalk. The people told me, however, that the great ear was not merely a man, but a great man, a genius. But I have never believed the people when they talked about great men — and I held to my belief that it was an inverse cripple, who had too little of everything and too much of one thing.

  36. Do you mean that you think the cognitive-improvement effect of autism-related genes in non-autistic child prodigies is not mediated through indifference to the monkey status grind?

    Correct. I believe that indifference to status games is a knock-on effect, two or three levels down, of the high neural gain that is the underlying cause of fast cognition and learning.

    I’m not very good at empathy, so I sometimes have to interpolate the way a very bright autist does.

    The conventional wisdom about autistics has been badly damaged by decades of the same sort of “science” that Ancel Keys brought to nutrition: NT researchers, most of them about “vaguely bright”, made casual observations, projected massive assumptions onto the subjects, and then declared the assumptions insights. As a specific example, “insensitivity to pain” is often listed as an autistic trait because autistic children did not provide the standard reaction to painful stimuli such as needle pricks. When a psychologist actually bothered to inspect an objective measure of distress, plasma cortisol levels, autistic children (who still typically showed little visible reaction) were shown to have ones of times higher than NT children.

    Similarly, autistic individuals who are able to function in social settings (who aren’t completely overwhelmed, for example) tend to be exquisitely empathetic. The conventional explanation of why we typically avoid eye contact (lack of interest in faces) was apparently installed without bothering to ask any of us, since the nearly universal self-report is that eye contact is emotionally overwhelming and distressing. I can walk past a group of unknown college students and accurately predict which couples will start dating within the next few weeks.

    However, it took me until I was 31 for me to realize that what I am missing is being able to assess others’ intention toward me, unless it’s logically obvious from the situation (such as a salesperson walking up). I’m stereotypically oblivious to romantic interest even when her best friends do anything short of stating the situation plainly.

    Most of the “interpolation” that I handle is in interpreting body language, which I do as a learned activity, and in which I can explicitly identify individual components on which I base my judgments; the first time I took Baron Cohen’s “Mind in the Eyes” test, I got 34/36 and disputed one of the other two.

    I’ve known for years that every human brain has high-speed “vector units” capable of tremendously high-speed, if specialized, cognition; and the problem that separates me from most everyone else is that my vector units specialize in math, C, Lisp, and visual arts where most people’s specialize in things like sports, following fashion trends, and keeping up with the bloody Kardashians.

    That’s been my analogy, except FPU instead of vector. In my case, though, I don’t think I really have any alternate dedicated circuits; I just have extra general-purpose capacity that can be turned to whatever I choose but that is decidedly less efficient on special-purpose tasks.

    Have researchers shown that it actually is a *spectrum*?

    Don’t discount runtime alterations. TMS has been shown to induce savant abilities in Joe Sixpack, and though I usually appear completely “normal”, if I’m stressed enough I can have a classical meltdown (while retaining complete self-awareness and -monitoring).

  37. And the refusal to listen, I’ve noticed, tends to be worst in exactly the people who honk loudest about diversity and inclusion. Heaven forfend they should be discomfited by trying to wrap themselves around the experience of someone who’s really different inside the head.

    Duh. Model that honking as a monkey game in which they attempt to gain status by standing in loco. The entire point is to grab attention for themselves.

  38. > ESR

    > Right. Unstated was that I didn’t see autistic behavior at the IAS faculty tea. Either it’s unusual that far up the bell curve in a way it’s not a bit lower down, or autists that bright have learned to run a serviceable emulation of social-monkey circuitry.

    Had to do that myself. Somewhere around 4th grade, having been yanked out of a private school due to a military move and moved into public school, I got pulled out of an environment where I’d already made friends, at an age where being different was BAD ™ and to add insult to injury, I had issues fitting into the social expectations.

    So years later, I finally made a determined effort, late 20’s early 30’s, to at least play the game enough to be able to get along with people, as well as recognize some of the benefits of some monkey games, and the need to play them to get help with things like health, etc.

    It’s not that hard, but I still have to turn the language wayyyyy down, because words I use without thinking about it get me pegged as “trying to impress people with how I speak”….

    > The Monster

    > Real men whistle into an acoustic modem at 300 baud.

    Shit, I thought I was the only one. Sure, I figured there were some other weirdos out there….

    > ESR

    > I know that’s true, and I cannot properly convey how pissed off being reminded of it makes me. And the refusal to listen, I’ve noticed, tends to be worst in exactly the people who honk loudest about diversity and inclusion. Heaven forfend they should be discomfited by trying to wrap themselves around the experience of someone who’s really different inside the head.

    They really don’t want anyone to think different, they just want them thinking differently than any traditional expectations that might have, for most of history, worked as a general rule for most people.

    > Chrostopher Smith

    > I can walk past a group of unknown college students and accurately predict which couples will start dating within the next few weeks.

    > However, it took me until I was 31 for me to realize that what I am missing is being able to assess others’ intention toward me, unless it’s logically obvious from the situation (such as a salesperson walking up). I’m stereotypically oblivious to romantic interest even when her best friends do anything short of stating the situation plainly.

    I’m not quite that sharp, but it was weird – if I was sitting outside a group I could see the dynamics as obviously as if strings were tied between people binding them….

    Once they start interacting with me though, concentrating on dealing with the conversation made it damn near impossible to tell if they were, for example, teasing me in a friendly way, or to hurt me. Thus the aforementioned practice – so I learned the hard way, through trial and error, what the expectations were so I didn’t have to think about them as much, and could pay attention to what was going on again.

  39. Pingback: Autism, genius, and the power of obliviousness | The Wentworth Report

  40. Like many on this board, I possess the trait you describe, but with one important distinction. It always was and is a part of who I am. I cannot turn it off, and do not view it as a either an advantage nor a detriment. It’s just the hand I was dealt in life, and it would never occur to me to either rue my fate or seek change. Mutation isn’t an error unless it gets you killed.

  41. @ esr

    > I never want to be without a Web browser in my pocket again. I like being able to chase down any random itch of curiosity as soon as I feel it.

    Fair enough. But I dislike both the course technology is taking – getting more and more invasive – and the lack of alternatives. Shouldn’t technology be all about choice and empowerment? And perhaps more importantly: can there be liberty without privacy?

    @ Geoffrey Tobin

    > Jorge: smart phones are excellent: you can block all calls, and use them for internet access 24/7

    Thanks for the suggestion, but I get enough of the Internet at home. (In fact, I probably should spend less time using it.) I’ll only abandon my dumbphone in favor of a smartphone when some employer forces me to; if I then block calls, (s)he’ll fire me.

    No rudeness was meant. I just have some very unusual views.

  42. @Christopher Smith

    Similarly, autistic individuals who are able to function in social settings (who aren’t completely overwhelmed, for example) tend to be exquisitely empathetic. The conventional explanation of why we typically avoid eye contact (lack of interest in faces) was apparently installed without bothering to ask any of us, since the nearly universal self-report is that eye contact is emotionally overwhelming and distressing. I can walk past a group of unknown college students and accurately predict which couples will start dating within the next few weeks.

    Autistics are sympathetic, not empathetic.

  43. @ESR

    >Do you actually have evidence that subtle status is “is probably done by a different feature of the brain”?

    No, at least not yet, just a hypothesis. But if we accept that this changed through history then processing it will require either different kinds or different amounts of resources.

    >How does that make sense when my basic posit is that most people spend their entire cognitive capacity (or close to it) on the monkey status grind?

    If it took less capacity back when status games were more formal and codified, it suggests that neurotypicals were smarter back then. But were they? The Flynn effect, although it really smells strange, suggests that at they were not. That means something is off. Either I am wrong that it was not simpler and easier, but that is something I could prove it was, for example, by showing how etiquette and vocabulary was fairly fixed / slow changing and you did not have to chase an ever changing vocabulary of slang and memes if you want to look cool. If it was easier, and if it took less brain resources, you would see smarter neurotypicals in the past, but you don’t and this suggests processing it does not tie up many resources.

    So what is left? All I have is a Sherlockholmesian evidence, what is left after everything unlikely is excluded. Because we don’t see smarter NT’s back when every rule to navigate social space was basically drilled into a richer kid by the strict governess at childhood and there were few things left to figure out, the only option left is that as status gaming moved from conscious to subconscious it ties up subconscious resources now and conscious resources are left untouched.

    Come to think of it is not a challenge of the model but perhaps a way to clarify it. Does a brain have a fixed set of resources and both conscious and subconscious tasks use them? So should we expect to see generally a dropping level of consciousness? Or if they use different resources, is much of the autistic genius subconscious insight not conscious logical thinking?

    Or it could be that I am entirely full of it and back when your coat advertised your social standing and your etiquette book prescribed how you talk people still played very subtle status games, perhaps even subtler than today as they had to work around the established hierarchy and rules. At least today you can say this popular band X sucks. I don’t think you could get away socially talking negatively about something upper class people liked a few generations ago. You couldn’t just try to pull an “I have a better than average taste” card, it was pretty clearly defined what the good taste of the upper classes is, so maybe you had to be really subtle about looking like having a little bit even better taste. So it could be even the other way around as I think it is. But my opinion is that back then most people did not care. They just followed the rules and accepted being a mostly average member of their class. I think. Would not a typical 19th century gentleman be content being mostly like every other gentleman, an acceptably good implementation of the generic widely accepted ideal of gentlemanhood? Would they subtly try to one-up each other?

    • >the only option left is that as status gaming moved from conscious to subconscious it ties up subconscious resources now and conscious resources are left untouched.

      I think you’re speculating way beyond what the evidence can support.

      I was going to write a much more detailed reply until I realized that would be making the same mistake.

  44. @Jeff Read

    With all respect, this is precisely why it would be wise for you to basically adopt an at least neutral stance in politics and social matters. The progressive and social justice values you support are precisely like fashion and football, are used like that, and you don’t know that because you are not specialized cognitively in realizing this. As Robin Hanson and Tyler Cowen explained, ideology boils down to which people should be admired and which people should be despised. http://www.overcomingbias.com/2008/07/is-ideology-abo.html You, by your own admittance, are not good playing that game. So stop. They are duping you, most likely.

    I am not even asking you to accept an opposing viewpoint – although you have probably noticed already that the Moldbuggian view is very autism-compatible – just asking you to be neutral about it because there is a fairly high chance that they are just taking advantage of you.

    For me the most obvious recent sign of this all was when Justin Trudeau was asked why half his government consists of women and he just said because it is 2015. Get it? Not because it is inherently right or correct, because if it was, it would have been right and correct in 2000 as well. It is simply that it is fashionable now. Its an idea whose time has come i.e. became fashionable enough to be used as a signalling device. Get it? Trudeau and his US versions are textbook cases of the high-status neurotypical assholes who use everything as a signalling device, like fashion and football. And they are using you. They basically consider you a useful idiot who is “not in on the joke”, who takes it all too seriously, who thinks they really mean all that. (Not that it could not be also said about the (pseudo-)right as well, but if you would start hating them all that would be a pretty acceptable starting point towards what I would consider a realistic political view. Start with hating them all, from left to right, and then slowly find ideas that can be exempted.)

    Here is my personal philosophy which maybe worths borrowing. Because I am not really good at figuring out signalling (so may be a bit on the spectrum myself) I just decided I am going to signal with things that have a utility beyond signalling as well. So I figured I will try to get rich, try to be smart / good in my profession and try to be physically strong, and I will try to make my family happy and well functioning. Maybe it does not work, maybe without emitting the necessary progressive signals and e.g. being really worried about who is getting oppressed this week I will never have high status, people will see me as hopelessly not “in”. But if I do everything else right and just mess up my signal-targeting, then I can still console myself that all those things are worthwhile on their own as well. While on the other hand if you focus on compassion maybe it works, but if not, you end up wasting yourself on others and have nothing for yourself and end up being embittered by an ungrateful world. At the very least be what in Tibet was called a king type bodhisattva. A king type bodhisattva is one who figures he must strengthen himself before he can focus on being compassionate with others. (The ferryman type bodhisattva travels together with others and the shepherd type lets others go first.) Get rich and powerful first then use it to support whatever social justicy cause you find worthwhile. That way if it turns out being bullshit, well, at least you are still rich and powerful.

    Of course it sounds like a very moral nihilist stance. The issue is, if you focus on understanding neurotypical psychology what you find is that a gigantic amount of what is called morality is just signalling. Very little is left. To give you an example, when you do something bad you feel ashamed even if no one saw it. Why? Originally, feeling ashamed is nothing but the proper reaction to being socially shamed. So conscience as such originates it society assigning low status to certain actions and at least a temporary low status to people who do them. And then we internalize that. We internalize it in childhood, our parents or teachers say “you should feel ashamed for doing that” and we do. So from this angle, conscience is nothing but status anxiety, it is the deep fear that people will shame us and marginalize us for our actions. This all got internalized in childhood. So while I am not saying justice is an entirely bunk concept or people should disregard ethics, at least they should disregard basically everything that originates with a pang in the conscience or a feeling of shame. They should base their ethics on something that does not come from the conscience because that is just status anxiety deeply internalized throughout childhood. For example, feeling ashamed over being privileged and over being formerly oblivious to it is not a proper base for ethical judgements. It just means some clever people made you feel low status because you managed to born somewhat higher status than some others. Nice trick but has nothing to do with ethics.

    Sorry for being a bit hijacky, but I felt this is important to say. If you suck at social games, the safest thing is to not have any political or social stance whatsoever. Don’t follow ideologies, the NTs in them are just using you.

  45. @TheDividualist
    ” As Robin Hanson and Tyler Cowen explained, ideology boils down to which people should be admired and which people should be despised.”

    No, ideology boils down to morals and the structure of society. Fashion boils down to admiration. I agree that there are simpletons who are unable to separate people from purpose, but stupidity is one of those things that are universal (and infinite).

    @TheDividualist
    “So I figured I will try to get rich, try to be smart / good in my profession and try to be physically strong, and I will try to make my family happy and well functioning.”

    Trying to get rich is nothing but trying to impress your peers and get their admiration. The attempts to get rich tend to negate all the other aims you state.

    @TheDividualist
    “Get rich and powerful first then use it to support whatever social justicy cause you find worthwhile. ”

    Sorry, but I have never seen that work. To get rich and powerful you will likely do more damage than your money can repair later. There is a lot of interesting history and literature written about characters who tried it and failed.

  46. On a more general note, the single most important thing people on the spectrum can decide is to try to do things that are worthwhile on their own but also seem to have some social signalling utility. They typically tend to decide to entirely disregard that later angle, but it is wrong because autism does not entirely turn off the human desire for respect, admiration and all that, just makes it harder to pursue it. On the other hand, being desperate for inclusion and trying to play the game will be a waste of life. The ideal thing is to go in between, to pursue things that may buy respect at least in the eyes of some people but also they have tremendous utility on their own to you as well. Pursue things that tend to give a better than “meh” impression on people but also if nobody noticed you doing it it should be something still worthwhile for its own value. Professional success, knowledge, money, physical fitness with a focus on strength, low-effort good looks (is it even hard to buy whatever clothes are in the shop window and get the haircut the barber himself has?) , sexual success, and not defecting on the to the small number of people close to you who are counting on you (and may return your loyalty one day, so, being a good nephew, not a generic good person) are generally both handy on their own and are useful for being respected by others. They will not catapult one to the heights of social success but an autist cannot really win that game either, and they are never much of a waste of time either.

  47. Self-diagnosed aspie here, my wife too.

    I’ve diagnosed myself through this test: http://www.rdos.net/eng/
    (used for research ?)

    Jerry, you might be interested in this test, not to know that you are a 131/200 asperger, whatever that means, but to recognize the gamut of asperger experiences.

    Through this test, I recognized a lot of different things that I didn’t think were related. I’ve accepted myself better, and have better accepted (not understood, I already understood them very well) my qualities and faults as a whole.
    And well, it’s been quite a good thing for my couple, as I accepted some quirks of my wife that I thought were… I don’t know… unexplainable / strange / ok, let’s accept this, but which were in fact quite typical of some aspergers.

  48. @Winter

    >No, ideology boils down to morals and the structure of society.

    Yes, and what is social structure if not the more ossified kind of status/admiration/despisal, with inherited advantages and disadvantages in the great competition? And what are morals, to a large extent, but internalized shame i.e. internalized social low-statusing as a punishment? So these are merely the expressions of the status game. And here are two really big ironies, one is that having those inherited disadvantages in the status game may be seen as morally wrong, but if you call anything morally wrong that is a move in the status game in and of itself, because you are collecting “goodness and caring” points, which contribute towards your high score. Civ 4 players call that cultural victory, I guess. The other big irony is this – any successful attempt to change the social structure, gives power hence status to the changers themselves, even if the change itself did not benefit them directly, the very fact of making a change does. I mean, have you ever wondered why is that a new mid manager is hired in a business they change even those things that worked well? Seemingly randomly? Because they can only advance higher through changing things.

  49. Winter,

    Sorry, but I have never seen that work. To get rich and powerful you will likely do more damage than your money can repair later.

    Bill Gates seems to have a fairly good go at it…

  50. “…good at the social game because they are good at just about anything they choose to pay attention to and the monkey status grind just isn’t very difficult.”

    This describes me. Alas, I have only about 125 IQ (tested about 25 years ago when I was 17). That doesn’t leave me much to spare for the demands of emulating monkey social interaction. I do that well too, though, and I’ve never outright failed at anything I’ve attempted.

    As I reviewed this, I find it interesting that I describe such emulation to be demanding. It may be that my opinion of that is biased because I was once an instructor — a job that’s a lot harder than it looks, and when done well requires very precise verbal communication and interaction with an audience. (Like ESR, I have lectured and never experienced stage fright.)

  51. @Day I think self-diags would also do some kind of a test for schizoid personality. There are several aspects of it that seem eerily familiar from geek circles esp. people who like D&D and fantasy should consider a test, and especially those who are more interested in daydreaming about it, making a fantasy world or making a really detailed character with a really fleshed out bio, as opposed to playing a lot, should do a schizoid test.

    I think autists are the opposite, they like to focus on actually playing and are the ultra-efficient RPG players who don’t want to accept that some ways of maxing out combat efficiency in gamey ways would be socially unacceptable or unworkable in a believable fantasy world. I think optimizing anything to death, including an RPG character is a telltale autism / Asperger sign (guess why programmers have to be warned against premature optimization, guess why Yudkowsky thinks intelligence equals optimization, but he may even be right, that is the real irony) while using materials like D&D for fueling basically a more intelligent version of daydreaming, or let’s say creative work (anything that requires a rich inner world from writing poems to composing music) may mean leaning towards schizoidism. But both, and also ADD, are in the “geek cluster”.

  52. I’ve diagnosed myself through this test: http://www.rdos.net/eng/

    Hmmm…. 140/200 HA!

    I’ve accepted myself better, and have better accepted (not understood, I already understood them very well) my qualities and faults as a whole.

    Same here, a few months ago I realized that nearly all of my “bad habits” that I had been hiding/suppressing for years were nearly textbook examples of autist/aspie behavior. Almost immediately I discovered things that I had been doing the whole time while barely conscious of them, which were also textbook examples.

  53. @Day “I’ve diagnosed myself through this test: http://www.rdos.net/eng/

    Interesting. I scored “137 – You are very likely neurodiverse (Aspie)”. But frankly a lot of the questions were difficult to answer because it’s hard to distinguish at this late date what I’m really like vs what I’ve learned to do to get along.

  54. @ESR

    >I think you’re speculating way beyond what the evidence can support.

    All right, one more attempt, a different angle. Let’s pick from history an autistic genius and try to check if he found social navigation easier or harder than they tend to find it today. The trick is making the correct pick, for example Newton wasn’t simply autistic but more like a real asshole. Maybe pick Darwin, who is considered autistic, just look at his pros and cons of marriage, but not a hostile type.

    So in Janet Browne’s bio of Darwin we find:

    “FitzRoy’s evident approval and encouragement of Darwin’s activities also generated an atmosphere in which the officers and crewmen felt it their duty—”captain’s orders”—to help him at every opportunity. Darwin carried “a son of halo of sanctity,” wrote Stokes, created by dining at FitzRoy’s table. He was the only person on board, for instance, who could address FitzRoy by his surname in the intimate manner of personal friends. He came from the cream of English intellectual society and unquestioningly took his place in its upper reaches. These social niceties were not lost on any of the people concerned, for it was precisely that kind of distinction that enabled nineteenth-century rela-tionships to run smoothly through the hierarchies on which they were based. On an English ship, when the social stratification was so much more pronounced, the overall success or failure in creating a unified, functioning body of men could very well depend on the minutiae of what people called each other or where they had gone to school. Because of this, it took a couple of months at sea before the junior officers felt they could stop calling Darwin “sir.” The change was achieved only by inventing the nickname “Philos,” standing for “Ship’s philosopher,” a label lightheartedly bestowed one day by FitzRoy. It was seized by his companions as one which would ease their interchanges with Darwin while still according him superior status. Being the captain’s friend meant everything.”

    Well, that sounds easy enough? Of course we could argue that upper-class autists still have it easier today, and perhaps he was lucky to have a captain around who really respects scientific work, but I still think many a rich Aspie kid at Harvard’s complex social environment has it probably far more difficult. The professors respecting and encouraging their lab work will buy no points at the Friday night party…

  55. So, we have many examples of successful talented people who may be a little bit awkward, who are all being diagnosed (or self-diagnosing) with a mental disorder. How sure are you that accepting this isn’t just accepting the culturally driven pathologization of being not (a popular social climber)?

    I’d be interested in if there are actual non-behavioral markers that are common among bright nerdy guys who didn’t fit culturally, mild-autistics, and more debilitating cases. Are the same brain-changes involved in both mild and severe autism, or are they distinct changes that end up doing *some* of the same things? (PS – don’t take this as a demand for answers from you specifically or a claim on your time. I’m going to do some digging of my own to answer this.) For that matter, I’m also sort of interested in the nerds of the world. What causes “nerdiness”? Where does the stereotypical image condense from, and how much of a distinct mode (or modes) are they/we, versus merely an exaggerated portion of a common unimodal distribution of personality traits? Has anyone seriously studied {any of: “nerds”, bright people, mild autistics} physiologically or neurologically?

    Also, I’d be very wary of diagnosing or getting diagnosed with anything in real life: For example, I’ve already got enough hoops to jump through to maintain my student pilot’s certificate, and the FAA demands near physical perfection. They get really squirrely about anything mental. Speculating on the internet behind a nickname is one thing, but in this day and age, where your (supposedly private) medical records are demanded and spammed all over the place for all sorts of illegitimate reasons, I wouldn’t want the potentially disqualifying black mark.

  56. Okay, I’m now aware that my goals are ironically in hypocritical conflict: Wanting fine-grained information about how people work under the hood, while at the same time not wanting to self-identify as anything that would qualify me (or my hypothetical examples) for such study (or for persecution/exclusion of various sorts).

  57. TheDividualist:

    I don’t agree with some of the liberal harassment taking place on college campuses — it violates the principle of Lehrfreiheit that universities — not just in the USA — are supposed to embrace and embody. I think people like Brianna Wu are farming the media for attention more than they are advocating for worthwhile social change. And I certainly don’t support all the “check your privilege”/”no YOU check YOUR privilege”, “cis people should all die in a fire”, etc. that mentally disturbed teenagers engage in on places like Tumblr. Nevertheless, the social-justice crowd is spot on about certain issues — like rape, harassment, and systemic racism and sexism — and it’s important that somebody flag these up.

    As for Moldbug, I don’t think he’s very friendly to autistics at all. You want to talk about duping people? Moldbug’s whole MO is playing an elaborate cup and ball game in order to seem smart and garner support from people who fancy themselves intellectuals by appealing to their baser instincts. What he advocates is corporate fascism — late-stage capitalism absent any democratic restraint, red in tooth and claw. But don’t worry; in this future world, you — the Silicon Valley nerds — will be in charge. (Except not really; look who’s pulling the strings in SV today: the moneyed interests, not the engineers — meet the new ruler, same as the old ruler.) He’s Donald Trump with hipster glasses on. (I am deeply suspicious that Trump’s entire campaign is long-form trolling.) If Moldbugian politics were taken seriously, autistics would find themselves either mercilessly exploited by their new brogrammer overlords, or even more in the line of fire.

    Moldbug and the SJWs both have to their credit the fact that they understand how power actually works. Moldbug appears to advocate for setting the right social conditions to transfer power to the “right” people; the SJWs appear to have actually succeeded in this in certain limited domains. Libertarians and social democrats do not seem to understand that there is quite a wide gulf between “is” and “ought” when it comes to power. Both the SJWs and the NRXs are firmly on the “is” side of things, and approach their relationship to power with an attitude of “How do we use what we know to achieve our own goals, at the expense of everyone else who clearly do not matter since we are obviously in the right?” That’s reason enough to be suspicious of their motives.

  58. I seem to be boring. My scores:

    Your neurodiverse (Aspie) score: 26 of 200
    Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 176 of 200
    You are very likely neurotypical

  59. @TheDividualist
    “Yes, and what is social structure if not the more ossified kind of status/admiration/despisal, with inherited advantages and disadvantages in the great competition?”

    You are confusing means and ends. The great competition is an innate motivation of humans to have a social life. That pervades all human endeavors. Ideology is utterly orthogonal to that urge.

  60. Your neurodiverse (Aspie) score: 93 of 200
    Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 118 of 200
    You seem to have both neurodiverse and neurotypical traits

    Does this count as being barely within the spectrum, or barely outside it?

  61. @Jorge Dujan
    The difference between barely within the spectrum and barely without falls below the noise floor. Though you caring about this distinction tips the scale towards you being in the spectrum.

  62. @ Christopher Smith – ‘As a specific example, “insensitivity to pain” is often listed as an autistic trait because autistic children did not provide the standard reaction to painful stimuli such as needle pricks.’

    This insight triggered a long-ago personal memory that had been eternally baffling. I once visited a martial arts studio to inquire about training for my oldest son. I was given a very serious and sincere presentation by the master who wished to make a final demonstration by applying force to a pressure point on my body, and he clearly expected some kind of flinch on my part. Literally nothing happened, and I just looked back at him with puzzlement on my face. I will never forget his facial expression though. He seemed to be torn between shock and fear.

    I sometimes wonder if that is how most NTs react to us.

    • > Literally nothing happened,

      This needn’t be autism. Some people have missing or physically inaccessible pressure points; there’s a significant amount of physical variation here. I’m quite difficult to tag that way, and there is another guy at my school who Sifu sometimes refers to as “the robot” because he’s way more difficult than me.

      At least one possibility is dense musculature overlying the nerve plexi; I think that protects a bunch of my pressure points, especially in my arms and legs. Another is that there’s variation in pain threshold that isn’t necessarily coupled to autistic-spectrum traits; I’m neurotypical but my pain threshold is quite high.

      A consequence of the latter is that when drilling with new students, especially children, I am fairly likely to instruct them “You have to hit me harder than that.” Seriously. Newbies need to get used to how it feels to actually strike flesh with power, otherwise they won’t be able to do it when it counts, being habituated to not using enough force. Besides, I’m amused by watching other guys (especially adolescent boys and young men) unwind punches into my ribs that they think are really hard and looking nonplussed when I don’t flinch.

      (Sifu actually values this. He calls me “The mook that walks” which is funny if you know that “mook” is Hokkienese for a man-sized wooden practice dummy.)

  63. This looks correct to me. I am a neurotypical with an extremely high IQ and my son is a classic Asperger’s diagnosis (also genius level IQ). His lack of social competence is quite clearly damage of some sort but my indifference to “monkey games” is consciously chosen so I can accomplish more of what I want to do. When I need to exhibit social competence, I do it well (my job as a consultant makes it necessary anyway), but I don’t regard it as an “emulation”–at the age of 13 or so, I decided to pay attention to social matters and become a more pleasant person to be around, but it was still developing a natural social capability I possessed, in contrast to my son, whose social competence is clearly cognitively difficult compensation for missing intuitions (fortunately, he is capable of functioning acceptably in society because his cognition is up to the task, but his social development lagged by several years and he only fully caught up in his mid-twenties).

    I also agree that in the very highest level intellectual environments (my experience is with MIT and Princeton) there is more social normality than at slightly lower ones, because the smartest people can handle social interaction without much of a reduction in the CPUs they need for other things.

  64. @TomA had something similar. A medical problem known for being very painful (unique enough to be identifying). Never felt the slightest twinge of pain, which confused the hell out of the people at the hospital.

  65. @Polymath: in the very highest level intellectual environments (my experience is with MIT and Princeton) there is more social normality than at slightly lower ones

    I can’t say about Princeton, but the juxtaposition of “MIT” and “social normality” is just hilarious to me based on my experience there. :-) But if you’re comparing it to other “tech schools” you may be right.

  66. I was talking about MIT faculty not MIT students. The former group is at a significantly higher level of IQ and is socially quote accomplished. Among MIT students, it was also observable that the very top students could be very eccentric but were almost always socially competent whenever they needed to be. The “hopeless nerds” who couldn’t manage normal social interactions were smart but not at the top.

  67. @ ESR – “This needn’t be autism. Some people have missing or physically inaccessible pressure points”

    My dendritic network seems to function normally, as I do sense feedback from fingertip and toe nerves when rockclimbing. When you are hanging on a 1/4 inch mantle with several hundred feet of air below you, the mind does not register pain, just resolve. I do not view this as dysfunction, it is simply a uniqueness in my genome.

  68. @Winter @Jeff Read @ESR

    @Winter – I am not going to argue, rather I will ask you to read the – very progressive – Jack M. Balkin’s The Constitution Of Status, Part 2 is the most important one: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/jbalkin/articles/status2.htm but please read the whole thing when you find the time to. (Protip: I just InstaPaper every interesting article and then read later on my Kindle in my bed comfortably. I would not have the patience to read all these stuff on computer screen. That is so far the most usable UI design for long online articles. Can recommend.) After that we can talk.

    Balkin is as progressive as possible, but he _gets_ it. You don’t have to out-prog him. He is prog enough. Unless you have good arguments / evidence otherwise, use this as a default position.

    @Jeff Read same for you. Balkin is 100% your man – but he _gets_ it, on a deep fundamental level. Read this, please.

    @ESR I think you should read it too, as it is despite the political position extremely insightful. Also, apologies for hijacking your non-political thread into something political but one cannot ever separate monkey status games from politics and Balkin gives a very good overview why and how not.

  69. @ESR

    About pain and pressure points – what makes you unusual is that your musculature is not made by standard body-building, weight-lifting methods. You tend to do bodyweight / functional training? “Gym muscles” are not good at resisting this, a karate chop to my upper trapezius would make me cry kinda, it is pretty tense and sensitive, due to a posture problem (i.e. not setting the shoulders back and down via engaging the mid and lower traps) I never really seem to get around to fully fix. I finally saw the light and moved away from isolated exercises to the Mark Rippetoe style classic barbell training but that too is controversial, I don’t know who has such a strong lower back that to accept that 60% of his training (barbell squat, deadlift, row) is going to stress that. Currently I simplified my training into deadlifts, overhead presses and rotating grip lat pulldowns, overhand in the top and underhand in the bottom range, making sure to always move the scapulae up and down to the full extent in both presses and pulldowns. This actually seems to work well as a heavy-weight rehab / therapy for my back, shoulder, traps while keeping up strength. This is a decent basic health program if you focus on scapulae up, down, and lockout in deadlifts. Pretty much saves the back from pain. Which is something people slouching over keyboards will sooner or later experience.

    • >what makes you unusual is that your musculature is not made by standard body-building, weight-lifting methods.

      Near as I can tell my musculature was built by genetics. My father was an exceptionally strong man for his size (5’11 and slender) and all my male siblings inherited high muscular efficiency and good tone.

      > You tend to do bodyweight / functional training?

      Martial arts is all the training I do, because other kinds would bore me to tears. Except I might take up weightlifting if I could find facilities and a good coach – there’s every reason to think I’d be good at that, I’m built rather like a power lifter.

  70. I think I could easily improve the design of the quiz.

    Visual, content, or both? I had to load it in a different browser window just so I could resize it, and it still bothered me…

    • >Visual, content, or both?

      Content. Some of the questions are very poorly phrased relative to the way we’re instructed to interpret the answer scale. It’s easy to see how to improve them.

  71. I’m a bit surprised no one had mentioned Richard Feynman as an example of learning the ability to ignore the status grind. Heck, one of his auto-biographies was entitled “What do *you* care what other people think?” which was apparently what his first wife, Arline, used to tell him when he got too worried about the opinions of his colleagues.

  72. I got 103 neurodiverse, 101 neurotypical. And was frustrated that they didn’t sum to 200… :p

    I agree with the sentiment that I can’t tell how much is what I learned over the years, but that goes both directions. I was a social outcast partially because I’m excessively risk averse when it comes to relationships, which I suspect is mostly because of parental issues.

    On a tangential note, I went from an ambivert on Meyer’s-briggs when I was young to an almost pure introvert now, so I suspect other things have changed as I’ve gotten older.

  73. @Linus Lieberman: “… autistic people, who are basically calculators who excel in specialization …”

    Has to be said: That came straight out of your arse.

  74. @Jeff Read

    Moldbug and the SJWs both have to their credit the fact that they understand how power actually works. Moldbug appears to advocate for setting the right social conditions to transfer power to the “right” people; the SJWs appear to have actually succeeded in this in certain limited domains.

    Neither Moldbug nor SJW’s know much about power, except that they don’t have it. Moldbug’s efforts are comical; he doesn’t even understand that “shit runs downhill”. The SJW’s on the other hand are better at figuring out who they are capable of bullying. Which is why they direct most of their energy at socially defenseless nerds, naive college students, etc.

    Libertarians and social democrats do not seem to understand that there is quite a wide gulf between “is” and “ought” when it comes to power.

    No, you don’t seem to understand that “when it comes to power”, “is” and “power” are exactly the same thing and “ought” is determined by “is”.

    • >Neither Moldbug nor SJW’s know much about power, except that they don’t have it.

      Snarky handwaving assertions is not how we do things here at A&D. Especially not handwaving assertions that are clearly false; the SJWs demonstrably have the power to destroy careers. Kindly up your game or leave.

  75. @Polymath: I was talking about MIT faculty not MIT students.

    I don’t know that that changes my response a lot. :-) I think there is a pretty wide variation even in the MIT faculty as regards “social normality”. (For an example of the not-normal end of the spectrum, look up the stories about Norbert Wiener. I knew a fair number of professors at MIT that fit that same profile.)

    It’s possible that the makeup of the faculty (and the student body, for that matter) has changed since I was there (mid-1980s).

  76. @aeawe

    Has to be said: That came straight out of your arse.

    Has to be said: it comes from years of experience with autistic people. Interestingly, though it supposedly came “straight out of [my] arse”, it got under your skin enough for you to respond to. So clearly you think there’s something to it, and you don’t have any response for that something. So good job. Or maybe you just have to make a little comment every time someone takes a shit.

  77. @Polymath: Among MIT students, it was also observable that the very top students could be very eccentric but were almost always socially competent whenever they needed to be. The “hopeless nerds” who couldn’t manage normal social interactions were smart but not at the top.

    It’s also possible that there is variation here by field of study. Basically, if you are very smart and have some spare CPU cycles, you could spend them on improving your social skills, or you could spend them on tackling more difficult problems in your field. So if a field’s most difficult problems are extremely hard, even a genius in the field might not have much CPU to spare for social skills, as compared with a field whose most difficult problems are easier. Or at least social skills that don’t have a direct usefulness in the field: the skill of explaining things clearly without coming across as condescending might be very well developed (Terence Tao comes to mind, for example), while other skills that have little or no practical usefulness but are common in monkey status games might not be.

  78. @esr

    Snarky handwaving assertions is not how we do things here at A&D. Especially not handwaving assertions that are clearly false; the SJWs demonstrably have the power to destroy careers. Kindly up your game or leave.

    That’s exactly what I just said..? Care to explain?

  79. Also it’s hardly “handwaving”. SJW’s pick on nerds precisely because nerds have even less power than they do. As I said in my post, shit runs downhill. If you can bully someone ipso facto you have power over them. So the SJW’s are not in fact redressing “power imbalances”, they are simply exercising their power on others, end of story. But it is a very small power; it is no secret that weaklings are twice as vicious to those underneath them.

    • >If you can bully someone ipso facto you have power over them.

      Then your previous claim that they “[don’t] know much about power, except that they don’t have it.” is false.

  80. Your suggestion is sound, but let me amplify. I have years of experience with psychologists/psychiatrists and questionnaire tests (the validity of many of which I am skeptical of). I have read enough to know (and had it explained to me by my current, excellent Dr.) that there is a variety of manifestations of Asperger’s and autism. All of these sources are valid.

    Nevertheless, when I saw the topic on A&D (which I have been reading since before ESR’s litigation-related hiatus), I couldn’t help myself. I thought that maybe the many brilliant people here would have some unusual insight or perspective to offer. I find so much interesting and high quality discourse here that I do not find elsewhere, which is not to say that there is nothing comparable elsewhere. I realize it’s a long shot, but you never know if you don’t ask.

    I don’t like to impose on anyone and realize that my intellectual level is below that of others. People can ignore me if I am too much bother or unworthy. I do try not to overdo it.

    Thanks to all for this great discussion.

  81. @esr

    Then your previous claim that they “[don’t] know much about power, except that they don’t have it.” is false.

    Well, I usually take it for granted that the reader is capable of reading out degrees for himself, being that this is a basic skill in reading comprehension. To the astute reader, “they don”t have it” means “they don’t have much”. In other words, the point of the sentence was that they feel a lack of power in themselves and act out on it, and that’s about as much as they know about the topic. Btw, this is a classic autistic trait you’re showing – overly literal reading, misdirected precision, etc.

    • >Btw, this is a classic autistic trait you’re showing – overly literal reading, misdirected precision, etc.

      You are trolling. Therefore, I shall henceforth ignore you. If you become sufficiently obnoxious, I will ban you.

  82. @esr

    Btw, it is also the mark of an autistic (or possibly just plain desperate) thinker to try to “catch out” others with some pseudo-error in the way they put something. Whereas someone who understands people and is willing to face what the person said always apprehends what is said, and then responds to exactly that.

  83. @esr

    You are trolling. Therefore, I shall henceforth ignore you. If you become sufficiently obnoxious, I will ban you.

    Pathetic. Not a single response to any of the points I put across. Even your opening shot was nothing more than a clumsy misread. Now I’m “trolling” because you went apeshit at the sight of the word “SJW” and rushed in without bothering to read the whole post.

    SJW’s are not powerful – nerds are just less powerful. Oh sorry, this hurts your feelings therefore troll. Cry more. What a disgusting capitulation for someone who poses as a thinker.

  84. @Liberman

    You aren’t even trying now.

    /me grabs some sticks and a bag of giant marshmallows

    We haven’t had a proper troll-roast in a while.

  85. @ Linus Lieberman

    You are new here. No one is capable of reading your mind. We take your words at face value, and Eric correctly pointed out an error in your stated words and logic. You have now become hypersensitive, taken offense, and are spewing ad hominem insults. This is strong evidence that you are unintelligent. This is not the place for you.

  86. @ Emanuel Rylke

    > The difference between barely within the spectrum and barely without falls below the noise floor.

    Thanks for your reply. You’re right: it’s silly to seek labels for oneself. As Paul Graham has argued, it’s best to keep one’s identity small.

    > Though you caring about this distinction tips the scale towards you being in the spectrum.

    Guess I’ll have to listen to Billy Cobham, then. (Just a bad joke.)

    @ esr

    > Martial arts is all the training I do, because other kinds would bore me to tears.

    I find this somewhat surprising: you’ve trained yourself for mindfulness; don’t you feel you could apply it to any activity, thus being able to savor even the blandest activities?

    No snark intended; it’s just that, not having cultivated mindfulness myself, I’d like to ratify or rectify my impressions about it.

    • >I find this somewhat surprising: you’ve trained yourself for mindfulness; don’t you feel you could apply it to any activity, thus being able to savor even the blandest activities?

      It doesn’t seem to work out that way in practice. If nothing about what I’m doing engages my brain I become bored and impatient rather quickly.

  87. NL:
    > It seems to be quite difficult if you don’t have that neurology.

    esr on 2016-03-14 at 12:02:42 said:
    > autists that bright have learned to run a serviceable emulation of social-monkey circuitry.

    In 2009 I was in Baghdad doing IT schtuff for the DoD, and ran a checkbox for Aspergers. I have many of the symptoms, including social awkwardness and an inability to read “social queues” er… cues. Either kind really. To the point where I’d been told in the past that I’d *totally* missed signals that certain attractive young ladies found me attractive.

    So I started to *really* pay attention to what other people were doing, and started *deliberately* trying to understand what was going on socially around me.

    Understand that at this time I’m living in a CHU in Camp Victory–surrounded by Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and FedEx Delver…I mean Air Force (I jest. Seriously, FedEx wouldn’t fly in. DHL would though…), as well as about 90% male contractors.

    Which is to say a LOT of status games, and a lot of mental, emotional and physical fucking with each other going on around me.

    So I’m talking to my manager, a former squid, and he starts fucking with me. The back part of my brain[1] starts telling me “Dude, he’s just messing with you”, but the front part of my brain[1] is off and ranting like a drunk schizophrenic on a street corner in New York.

    At other times I was starting to notice when people were done with the conversation but *I* wasn’t.

    The more tired I get the harder this is.

    However, getting better at this helpful in moving my career in more financially remunerative directions. As long as I don’t get too tired or too stressed.

    [1] to be taken metaphorically. I don’t know which part of the brain was involved.

  88. Brian Marshall on 2016-03-14 at 17:26:43 said:
    > Anyway, I probably wouldn’t have made the comment if, the “day” before, I
    > hadn’t done a 36-hour website-improvement run… hand-coding HTML with vi.

    Dude, you’re supposed to use vi to write the code that *generates* the HTML, not write it all by hand yourself.

  89. ams on 2016-03-14 at 21:02:15 said:
    > I don’t make eye contact when I’m talking to other people unless I make a conscious
    > effort to do so

    Look at their nose. Most folks don’t know the difference.

    Well, no, that may not be accurate. My father was big on looking people in the eye and HE couldn’t tell the difference.

  90. Winter on 2016-03-15 at 08:44:08 said:
    > No, ideology boils down to morals and the structure of society.

    So basically you’re calling me, and most of those who disagree with you *immoral*?

    Really?

    Wow.

  91. @TomA

    You are new here. No one is capable of reading your mind. We take your words at face value, and Eric correctly pointed out an error in your stated words and logic. You have now become hypersensitive, taken offense, and are spewing ad hominem insults. This is strong evidence that you are unintelligent. This is not the place for you.

    It is impossible for anyone to have ZERO power, but that’s how Eric chose to MISinterpret what I said. This is basic reading comprehension: eliminating interpretations that are obviously not what the other person meant. Eric is a shitty reader, and you are even worse.

    What just happened here is equivalent to saying “I’ve got no water” and having some bumbling fucking retard lurch forward with their big fat mouth and point out that you are WRONG WRONG WRONG I can proves it with the logics because you has THREE DROPS of water in your cup, and you said you have NO water. AHA! You WONG me logic smart hjurrrrrrrr

    It is impossible to take words at “face value”. All speech requires tremendous amounts of interpretation. You can’t have any kind of intelligent discussion without treating the other person’s words with the utmost care. Instead you give yourself a license to brutally skullfuck my words to death before thinking about them, guaranteeing that no progress is made in the conversation whatsoever.

  92. @TomA

    A smarter person would have simply noted that I was right and either added to the point or fucking moved on with their lives. But here I am, explaining basic principles of reading comprehension to you while you and Eric insist that the correct way to read is to fantasize any idiotic nonsense into the mind of the other person, no matter how implausible.

    The difference between you and me, is that I DO see reading as an exercise in “mind reading”. I mean, why the fuck else would you put these marks down on the page if you didn’t want me to read a bit of your mind? Even if it is a part of your mind that happens to be lying? Your approach to reading is that anything you take into your brain must support your inner delusions, something that can ONLY be accomplished if you either don’t read very much, or if you allow yourself the liberty of misinterpreting anything that doesn’t do so. Which is a pretty clever trick, if you ask me! After all, you need to maintain your ego somehow. But it’s also an old trick, and all to transparent to me.

  93. But it’s also an old trick, and all to transparent to me.

    He’s like a combination of Roger Phillips and a sophomore femynist studies major.

  94. @Christopher Smith

    Maybe if you opened a book once in your life you’d understand what I am talking about. SJW’s are correct: they are oppressed. The fact that they complain is proof enough. However, because you are an Christian (possibly illiterate?) knucklehead, you think that it follows from this that they deserve help. lol! Does the cow destined for my plate deserve help? We can surely agree that cows are severely oppressed. Though it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find that you can’t even get that far. And yet only “animal rights” morons think a cow deserves any more than to be mercilessly devoured by a human being.

  95. @esr:
    You are trolling. Therefore, I shall henceforth ignore you. If you become sufficiently obnoxious, I will ban you.

    To be fair, I think you did take him overly literally, and that up to that point he was being fairly sincere, if a bit of an asshole.

    But however he started out…

    You think like a woman.

    …he is now full-on trolling.

    • >To be fair, I think you did take him overly literally, and that up to that point he was being fairly sincere, if a bit of an asshole.

      It is written: “Those who refuse to cut others some Gricean slack should be unsurprised when no Gricean slack is cut unto them.”

  96. I’m also pleased to find that I’ve stamped out such a signature style on this forum that I can be instantly identified by any half-awake imbecile who cares to point their eyes at my posts for two seconds without reading anything. Unlike the scores of interchangeable nobodies around here who are all mutually indistinguishable.

  97. @Jon Brase

    …he is now full-on trolling.

    Did you stop to think how it is that women think? And why I might make that remark? No, you just knee-jerked out this tired self-defense mechanism.

    I actually feel a twinge of remorse having stormed into this thread because what Eric wrote originally is a kind little bit of bullshit to make it easier for autistics to make their way in life. I am autistic, so I know how perilous this sort of knowledge can be. But a thinker is supposed to be above this, or at least TRY, and here Eric is plodding along with the best of them like a good little Christian. Let’s be quite clear once and for all: Christians cannot be intellectuals, and Eric is a good little Christian plodder, one of many reasons he despises Nietzsche, and puts forward laughable Eastern gibberish in his place.

  98. @Christian Smith

    Can we get a little noise reduction in here?

    Certainly! Step 1: Stop making short, pointless replies to people you don’t wish to engage with on topics you have no understanding of. lol. I can tell from your reply that you don’t even know what the word “Christian” means, imbecile.

  99. @dtsund

    You don’t find this in any way funny. In fact, what I said annoys you, but you feel embarrassed that it got to you, so you make up this bullshit about it being “funny”. In fact, it IS funny! But not to you. This is what self-delusional idiots always do: pretend to be “lulzing” when they are seething inside.

  100. @William O’Blivion
    “So basically you’re calling me, and most of those who disagree with you *immoral*?”

    Sorry, but I am unable to reconstruct any chain of logic that leads from my statement to your conclusion. However, if you would state that there exist no (moral) believes or ideologies, but only hierarchies of admiration, I would call you amoral (and probably high on the psychopathy/narcicism scale).

    But you did not make such a claim that I know of.

  101. @winter

    As TheDividualist said, morals, ideologies etc assign value (or “admiration”). Pick a morality and you have an instant hierarchy. One reason why “equality” (a Christian belief) is total hokum.

  102. @Jeff Read
    “Bill Gates seems to have a fairly good go at it…”

    No. Under his “rule”, progress and innovation in ICT reduced to a crawl. A whole industry in crime developed due to the bad security practices of Microsoft.

    Only after the IE lock on the internet was broken and later ICT moved to mobile devices outside the control of MS did innovation take up again.

    Gates does not have enough money to ever make up for these lost decades..

  103. @Linus
    “Pick a morality and you have an instant hierarchy.”

    Pick a brownstone building and you have an instant hierarchy of stones. Therefore, buildings are nothing but items to pile up stones in a hierarchy.

    Or, an ant hill is nothing but a way for ants to show of their “strength” and “industry” in front of their peers. An ossified hall of fame.

    Does that make clear what I think about this “believe”?

  104. @winter

    Therefore, buildings are nothing but items to pile up stones in a hierarchy.

    Are you stupid? NOBODY SAID THIS. What was said was that ideology boils down to assignment of value. And indeed, a building does “boil down to” a bunch of stones. Your idea that you can cleanly separate people from purpose is retarded, rather like people who think that the law proscribes theft but not thieves.

  105. @winter

    Ultimately, what you believe is that you can separate the architecture and functionality of a building from the materials used, etc. In fact, you can’t, and by condemning a particular architectural style you also devalue the particular materials used. Of course, the materials in question might be deemed valuable elsewhere on another project, but in morality there is no elsewhere, since morality is intended to be universal!

  106. @winter

    Incidentally, this is why the law can never treat people as equals – because the whole POINT of the law is to proscribe certain kinds of people. Now, you will say “just don’t steal”. But by refraining from stealing he becomes a different person. So really what you mean is: we devalue you, but we think you are capable of becoming what we want you to become easily enough, and further we deem your objections to be of no consequence. Naturally, one can be (and many have been) put to death by the same sentiment.

  107. Based on the dissolution into derangement, along with style tells, I’m going to put the odds at 2:1 that our erstwhile Nietzsche fan is back, attempting to present a pseudo-normal shell but falling to pieces at the slightest contact with reality. The only reservations I have are the use of “lol.” and calling Eric a Christian.

  108. @Christoper Smith

    I know Eric is a “neopagan” or whatever. But 99% of his values are Christian. So boring having to explain everything to you like this.

  109. @Christopher Smith

    Also, why would calling Eric a Christian not be in line with being a “Nietzsche fan”. Pretty much proof positive that you don’t know anything about Nietzsche.

  110. @Christopher Smith

    In your mind I am a “fan” because I look to an intellectual giant for learning. Basically, an attitude of someone who thinks Nietzsche is of marginal importance in Western culture. In other words, a total lunkhead with a mental horizon of about 20 years.

  111. @Roger (aka Linus)
    “What was said was that ideology boils down to assignment of value.”

    Moral values (among other things). Ideology tells us how the world should look and why it is not good the way it is now.

    @Roger Philips
    “Ultimately, what you believe is that you can separate the architecture and functionality of a building from the materials used,”

    But you can. Functionally the same building can be constructed out of widely different materials. Certain materials are limited by weighr and maximal load, but that does not mean that one type of building must be constructed out of one type of materials.

    @Roger Philips
    I am curious how long it will take before you flip out again? You already started with name calling. I guess you will not be able to control yourself for another day.

  112. @ William O. B’Livion

    Dude, you’re supposed to use vi to write the code that *generates* the HTML, not write it all by hand yourself

    Oh, I am really happy with my setup. I have a bunch of small files with parts for the top (header, menu) and bottoms of the files. They rarely change.

    I have a big shell script. It is simple but repetitious…

    For every main part of the website, it assembles a few “tops”.

    For every page, it has a half-dozen lines that cat the appropriate “top”, “content-middle” and “bottom”, with some sed substitutions for titles and such, to make the web-page.

    When I “hand code the HTML/CSS”, it is just for the “content-middle” files – the layout and styling and such.

    Most of the work is writing the content itself, trying to make it readable by old coots and people that don’t do much reading.

    When I am editing, I can insert a comma into a “content-middle file and save it, run the create script and refresh the page in the browser in about 3 seconds. I like it.

    http://www.bcplacer.com

  113. @winter

    Moral values (among other things). Ideology tells us how the world should look and why it is not good the way it is now.

    Jesus fucking Christ. “Tells us how the world should look and why it is not good the way it is now” EQUALS valuing states of the world. You bonehead! Are you getting adequate nutrition up there in the north? Do you want us to send you some food parcels?

    But you can. Functionally the same building can be constructed out of widely different materials. Certain materials are limited by weighr and maximal load, but that does not mean that one type of building must be constructed out of one type of materials.

    Nobody said there was only one type you fucking blockhead! By choosing an architectural style, you exclude certain building materials. THE END. Be there fucking substitutions or not. You are chronically incapable of following any sort of analogy. A society that prohibits theft oppresses thieves and no amount of making up dumb bullshit I didn’t say will change that.

  114. @Roger Philips
    The old Roger is back again. That did not take long. But you can keep up longer every time, it seems.

    Just keep practicing. One day you might be able to participate in a normal conversation for a whole day. And maybe even contribute an insight or two. Would that not be marvelous?

    • >But you can keep up longer every time, it seems.

      Actually I think his half-life has been decreasing. Current sockpuppet is now banned.

      The wreck of Roger is a sad thing. He was always prickly, but I rather liked him before he went foaming nuts.

  115. @TheDividualist
    “I think autists are the opposite, they like to focus on actually playing and are the ultra-efficient RPG players who don’t want to accept that some ways of maxing out combat efficiency in gamey ways would be socially unacceptable or unworkable in a believable fantasy world.”
    Anecdote: once while playing “Vampire: Dark Ages” (where we play vampires during the dark ages, yes), after an attack which killed lots of our city citizens (who are herd-like resources for vampires), I proposed we hypnotize each citizen we met, to have them go breed their mate (or whoever they could) so as to replenish our citizen stock in ten years. The idea seemed stunning to my co-players, even strange. Yet we adopted it for its sheer efficiency.
    I recognize now that this was a socially unacceptable act in our world (but probably quite acceptable from the point of view of a vampire).

    “I’ve diagnosed myself”
    For the record, aspie: 114/200, neurotypical: 94/200, but I find more telling the repartition between the different dimensions.

    @Michael
    “But frankly a lot of the questions were difficult to answer because it’s hard to distinguish at this late date what I’m really like vs what I’ve learned to do to get along”
    Exactly. What I realized is that where I had textbook aspie reactions when I was younger, I have now analyzed/interiorized the “correct” reactions ; we could really build a test with two dimensions: original behaviour + learnt behaviour.

    @esr
    “I think I could easily improve the design of the quiz.”
    I have no stake in that particular test. I would welcome a better built test.
    The shortcomings of the other tests were mainly: no way to answer “I don’t know”, no way to answer “sometimes”, no way to answer “before”, not enough questions to have a better than crude result.
    I would like this test to be auto-learning (newly tested people by professionals enrich the vectorial space of the test known solutions; ie professionally diagnosed aspies data should be used to build a gauss repartition so as to be able to improve the test precision), and auto-adaptative (when you have answered enough questions, the questions themselves are picked to explore your position nuances and make the result more precise).

    @ams
    “How sure are you that accepting this isn’t just accepting the culturally driven pathologization of being not (a popular social climber)?”
    I’m not sure I’m onto the right point. If I’m not, please disregard my comment.
    I don’t care what others think. Differently said, who would be accepting? A group cannot accept anything (an idea I learnt here from esr), only an individual may.
    So… I don’t accept to take as a base idea that a particular trait is pathological in nature (even if I may accept this as a proxy for a more profund idea when needed) ; and I would ask for more precisions if somebody were to use this idea without more profund justifications.

  116. > Btw, it is also the mark of an autistic (or possibly just plain desperate) thinker to try to “catch out” others with some pseudo-error in the way they put something.

    There’s nothing desperate or pseudo about it. It is the mark of critical thinkers to detect a naïve expression that is superficially accurate, such that it produces correct results in the overwhelming majority of cases, but because it’s expressed inaccurately, when it fails, it fails spectacularly.

    Code with that sort of bug is far more dangerous than the sort that has an outright syntax error and won’t compile at all, or syntactically-correct, but logically obviously flawed, which defect will be detected with the most trivial test cases. This is the kind of bug that you have to be really careful to write test cases to catch, and for that you have to understand what kinds of sloppy abstractions people will use.

    Laws written sloppily can literally get innocent people killed, as can technical specs for various kinds of equipment.

    It is a mark of sloppy thinkers to call this dedication to precise expression “pedantry”, “nit-picking”, “grammar Nazi”, and similar pejoratives designed to make critical thinking be seen as “uncool” and “mean”, and socially punish anyone who dares to engage in it.

  117. @The Monster:

    It is a mark of sloppy thinkers to call this dedication to precise expression “pedantry”, “nit-picking”, “grammar Nazi”, and similar pejoratives designed to make critical thinking be seen as “uncool” and “mean”, and socially punish anyone who dares to engage in it.

    A few decades ago, I stumbled into a behavior that I use fairly consistently with good results. When somebody gives me incorrect information that costs me time, I tell them “You lied to me.”

    Most competent people take this as a true statement of fact and apologize for the misunderstanding, and it’s over immediately.

    The people who take exception to this plain talk are the people who would have tried to weasel out of any responsibility for the cock-up anyway, so then, instead of arguing over exactly how bad the misinformation was, the argument becomes about whether it was intentional or not. Essentially, they immediately cede any other arguments by saying “I didn’t do it on purpose!” and then I respond with “Doesn’t matter — it cost me the same amount of time as if you had.” Sometimes, people who don’t like being called liars will up their game to avoid such labelling in the future…

    It works equally well with the sort of mamby-pamby manager who thinks everybody should just get along, because the proper response to “I’m sure John didn’t deliberately mislead you.” is identical.

  118. >A few decades ago, I stumbled into a behavior that I use fairly consistently with good results. When somebody gives me incorrect information that costs me time, I tell them “You lied to me.”

    I’m really not sure what this gets you.

    >Most competent people take this as a true statement of fact and apologize for the misunderstanding, and it’s over immediately.

    Competent people will be inclined to admit “I screwed up, I apologize”. So why accuse them of lying? What happens when you run into a competent person who takes truth telling very seriously? You’ve just picked a fight with the person most potentially valuable.

  119. Having a child who has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, I can attest anecdotally that ESR’s observations make a lot of sense. Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that while I am not autistic, I do share a lot of traits with the Aspies, as does my wife. In retrospect, it is not surprising, I suppose, that most of our kids have those tendencies, including one full-blown Aspie, who could recite the Lord’s Prayer and sing Twinkle, Twinkle before age 2, and who is now a very talented writer and video producer, but has also had a lot of problems functioning in “normal” day-to-day life.

    I have always wavered between being able to reasonably navigate social intricacies and being oblivious to them or deliberately ignoring them, but I’m also finding another trait that I suspect strongly correlates with these other traits… in addition to being nerdy in the traditional sense, having great aptitude with math and software development, having an intense interest in music, enjoying science fiction and all those other things that were well-documented in “The Hacker’s Dictionary”, I have also had some problems filtering sensory input, which have only gotten worse, especially in the last few years (I’m now 50).

    I’m finding it harder and harder to filter out background noise and other stimuli, especially sound, but including smells and movement, often to the point of distraction. On top of that, I’ve always had mild misophonia, but that is getting significantly worse over time (I’d say the last 5-10 years) and I now find it pretty difficult to work in the normal cubicle environment without headphones and music, often cranked up pretty loud out of necessity. Although, I would often listen to music out of choice, I also now find it a necessity to avoid having to go find an empty meeting room to hide out in.

    Another seemingly, and surprisingly strong correlation to these traits is that I’m left-handed. Many of my very best friends in my life have been lefties, including my wife. Interestingly, though, none of my kids are lefties. As far as the gender-confusion thing, it’s never been an issue for me, but I’ve seen evidence over the years that it also correlates with these traits as well. While, I never suffered from gender issues of any kind, I would admit that, all other things being equal, I’m generally more comfortable in the company of women than men. I think it’s fair to say that my wife is the same way in reverse.

    I am also a self-confessed spelling and grammar Nazi. It’s something else I find very find very difficult to tune out or ignore. I have clear memories of being this way even when I was 5. I think it’s a trait that has probably helped me a lot as software developer, and I greatly value the ability to communicate clearly and correctly, but it’s definitely a mixed blessing.

    Over time, I’ve come to believe more and more that there is a whole range of traits that don’t seem to have an obvious connection, but which strongly correlate. I think Eric put his finger on some of that in his description of the “typical hacker” way back when he put together the Jargon file, but I think if he were to compile those descriptions today, he would be able to add several more traits, as have been described above, that strongly correlate with the “hacker” personality, and that there is probably some underlying neurological or otherwise physiological connection to these tendencies.

  120. I take it that this Roger Philips/Linus Lieberman was an ex-Regular? It *was* a bit tedious.

    Hmmm. My 140 on that quiz says I’m very likely NT. That means I’m “normal”, and just weird. Not sure how to take that.

    @Brian: I like the way you’ve set up your page generation. Big fan of letting the computer do the repetitious fiddly bits. I do something similar with XML –> HTML conversions with the sites I am administrating.

    • >I take it that this Roger Philips/Linus Lieberman was an ex-Regular?

      He was, until he went crazy. This latest manifestation was nowhere near as bad as he gets – at his worst it’s a kind of profanity-laced schizoid word salad with little relationship to any kind of sense. We watched his mind disintegrate for months via blog comments before it got to the point where I had to ban him the first time. He has since resurfaced two or three times, usually with a handle that’s an anagram of his real name – “Shopgirl Peril” was one I remember.

      He starts out merely obnoxious each time, degrading fairly rapidly towards incoherence. His style and fixations are pretty easy to recognize.

      It’s a damned, damned shame. Roger was never actually pleasant, but he was occasionally capable of incisive thinking (which is more than most people manage). I liked him, before he went full schizo.

  121. @ esr

    > [Mindfulness] doesn’t seem to work out that way in practice.

    I’m rectifying my impression. Thanks.

    > If nothing about what I’m doing engages my brain I become bored and impatient rather quickly.

    Hmmm… from “Dancing with the Gods” I gather you practice, or have practiced, zazen. When you were a beginner, did zazen somehow engage you despite its static nature? Or did you stoically force yourself through it (“No pain, no gain”), out of a ferreous determination to “alter and broaden [your] perceptions”?

    • >Or did you stoically force yourself through it (“No pain, no gain”), out of a ferreous determination to “alter and broaden [your] perceptions”?

      That, basically. Fortunately, I didn’t have to force myself for very long; I found the still place early, no later than age 14 or thereabouts. It helped that I had previously had primary mystical appearances that I recognized as somehow important even though I had no generative model of why.

      The cultural zeitgeist of the late 1960s and early 1970s helped, too. There probably hasn’t been any time in the history of the West, before or since, that would have been as supportive of vision quest.

  122. @Greg:

    > I’m really not sure what this gets you.

    It forestalls the possibility that some idiot will try to put me on the defensive, at which point I’ll blow up badly because I’m already unhappy about lost time due to his incompetence/inattention/malice/whatever.

    > Competent people will be inclined to admit “I screwed up, I apologize”. So why accuse them of lying?

    Competent people separate the emotion from the facts. So if “You lied to me” is delivered in a non-angry context, it is invariably taken reasonably well. But part of that may be the part of the country I live in — YMMV. Also, when I realize that I’ve given someone bad information, the first thing that comes out of my mouth is “I lied to you.” so it’s not like I apply this selectively.

    > What happens when you run into a competent person who takes truth telling very seriously? You’ve just picked a fight with the person most potentially valuable.

    If they take truth telling seriously, then perhaps they should work harder to always deliver the truth. That would be awesome. Seriously. It’s not my job to dictate how they follow their morals, but if they’re going to ditch their morals later just to fuck with me, then they weren’t really all that moral anyway, now were they?

  123. @ Roger Philips return & exit

    I also failed to recognize Roger’s return (no anagram this time), but the Nietzsche reference was a clear tip-off. Like Eric, I am saddened by his psychological condition, but his continued return to us is a demonstration of fealty and affection for A&D. I’m thinking that Roger’s derangement is habitual rather than malicious, and could represent another aspect of the Aspie syndrome. His attacks may be more about brain wiring than volitional intent; e.g. hardware versus software defect.

    • >I’m thinking that Roger’s derangement is habitual rather than malicious

      I think what we’ve seen fits the clinical profile of disorganized schizophrenia rather than autism, but yes.

      I wan’t being loose or metaphorical when I described his worst postings as “schizoid word salad”; word salad is, believe it or not, a clinical term for one of the commonest symptoms of mental disorders. The formal Latinate name for it is “schizophasia”.

      I still vividly remember the cold shock I felt a couple of years back on reading one of Roger’s furtherest-gone comments a few years back and recognizing schizophasia from descriptions and examples I’d read. It’s not something I had ever expected to encounter in real life, and it really drove home the difference between merely having a fixated, deranged belief system and having actual damage or degradation of the cognitive machinery underneath it.

  124. > The wreck of Roger is a sad thing

    What does it say about me that the above sentence made me think of this?

    Re: “You lied to me.”
    Nope. The word “lied” has a very specific meaning. It is quite possible for someone to tell an untruth without lying; contrariwise, one can tell a lie that is the truth. Call me a liar when in reality I’m just misinformed, and we’re going to have a … conversation about that, which will not be pleasant at all.

    But I guess that’s just me being picky about word meanings again, pedantic prick that I am.

  125. The word “lied” has a very specific meaning. It is quite possible for someone to tell an untruth without lying; contrariwise, one can tell a lie that is the truth.

    Absolutely. But taking the map/territory thing too literally here can mask the entire reason why lying is considered bad.

    Call me a liar when in reality I’m just misinformed, and we’re going to have a … conversation about that, which will not be pleasant at all.

    There’s a difference between being misinformed and being the source of misinformation. If I ask you how you think Joe’s routine works and you’re wrong, that’s one thing. If I ask you a specific question about something you designed, and the answer is incorrect (e.g. rather than “I don’t remember; I’ll have to check.”), even then there may still be an out later, e.g. “Well, that’s what it’s supposed to do. Let me look into it.”

    But if, for example, I have emailed you a technical question, and you’ve responded, and I’ve waste a week based on your assertion, and when I explain it’s not working, your final answer is something like “oh, yeah. No, it can’t possibly do that.” then you’re right — we’re going to have unpleasant words. But those are going to happen whether I call you a liar or not, and once you’ve wasted a week of my time, “liar” is one of the kindest things you’ll be called.

    But I guess that’s just me being picky about word meanings again, pedantic prick that I am.

    This is the point — pedantic pricks like you generally aren’t going to misinform me in such a way. If they can’t remember, they’ll either say they can’t remember, or they’ll go double-check themselves immediately after they mis-inform me.

    If someone is going to be a pedantic prick and a huge timesink, I’ll explain loudly to anybody in earshot then they’d be much more suitable for a job somewhere else.

  126. >I still vividly remember the cold shock I felt a couple of years back on reading one of Roger’s furtherest-gone comments a few years back and recognizing schizophasia from descriptions and examples I’d read.

    Do you remember the particular post and if so, would you be willing to share which one it was? Even a narrower time frame would be helpful. Though I remember Roger’s banning well I had already been filtering out his comments for some time and I’m deeply curious to read exactly what he said to trigger your recognition.

  127. @ESR

    I don’t think “schizoid” fits. This personality type or disorder is extremely commonly misunderstood because people confuse this with “schizophrenic” or the textbook horror-book murderous “schizo” (which also comes from the later).

    In reality “schizoid” is not much more than a certain detachment from the world, an avoidant, perhaps cold, indifferent, disinterested personality, a generic aloofness, often with a lack of joy and very easily confused with depression, combined with a rich inner life, fantasy, imagination, inner escapism, daydreaming etc. there is nothing about it that would generate streams of expletives.

    I once proposed with a comment at SSC and it surprised me how popular it became that personality disorders should be seen as more extreme version as normal personality types and this is probably the good way to categorize personality types, as lighter versions of disorders.

    If that model is acceptable, then I would be the non-disordered moderate schizoid – good inner imagination and a bit too indifferent, a bit too disinterested in social situations, just a bit of a generic cold fish. This is very easy to confuse with Asperger traits, the core difference is narrow specialization vs. generalist imagination and also perhaps the finds socializing difficult vs. is a bit indifferent to it and bored and unfazed by it. Similarly a person who has often self-esteem doubts – very common with women – may not be depressed as a disorder or illness but could be said to have a depressive personality. Similarly, there are non-disordered manic, narcissistic personalities. And so on. I think this models has uses and Roger is anything but schizoid, because a schizoid is rarely passionate or worked up – can’t be bothered, usually.

  128. How about this korean artist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RI-jnllfPXs is this autism? Raw talent? Or just hard work at its maximum fruition?

    Never heard of any other artist doing such a thing. Drawing pretty much anything from complex angles (fish’s eye, worm view, bird’s eye), complex machinery, anatomy of animals, people and environments without even sketching it and no guidelines. All from memory.

  129. > But taking the map/territory thing too literally here can mask the entire reason why lying is considered bad.

    Irrelevant. I don’t care whether some other behavior is considered bad. That doesn’t make it the same bad behavior. If you think I got something wrong, say so. We can have a conversation about that, and if you make your case, I’ll freely admit I screwed up and owe you a week of your life back you can’t get.

    If you want to make up a word that includes both of these concepts, and use that word instead, we can still have a civilized conversation about what you think I did wrong.

    But if you accuse me of lying, the conversation is no longer about what I did wrong. It’s about you bearing false witness against me. Which, to bring it back full circle, is why lying is considered bad. False accusation of guilt is the specific brand of lie that was forbidden in the Ten Commandments because it could get people killed. Even when it doesn’t go that far, it can get them black-balled, because few employers want to hire a “liar” (exceptions for law firms and political operations, of course).

    Yes, an honest mistake can waste as much of your time as an outright lie would. But you lying about it being a lie only compounds the problem. (And because you’ve made it clear that you’re willing to call me “liar” even when I’m honestly mistaken, you’ll be lying if you use that word. You’ve already confessed to the entire Internet that you’re a meta-liar.)

  130. Irrelevant. I don’t care whether some other behavior is considered bad.

    My honest reaction (and it is honest; as I said I stumbled onto it, and I could conceivably try to avoid using it, but that might actually be more difficult) that “you lied” is not irrelevant to the fact that I am extremely annoyed that you cost me a boat load of time by telling me an untruth.

    If you think I got something wrong, say so. We can have a conversation about that, and if you make your case, I’ll freely admit I screwed up and owe you a week of your life back you can’t get.

    Yeah, I’m never that impressed with that “buck stops here” thing. Doesn’t mean a damn thing, and usually gets me even more riled up. Which is one of the reasons I’m happier having the conversation about whether it is a lie or not.

    But if you accuse me of lying, the conversation is no longer about what I did wrong. It’s about you bearing false witness against me.

    What false witness? (In your example) you swore to me that something was true, and didn’t bother to check it knowing full well I was going to act on your words. The difference between that and lying to me lies solely inside your mind.

    Literally. It boils down to your intentions, which are unknown to and unknowable by an outsider.

    You may protest your innocence all you want. You may be right. Doesn’t change the outcome. Especially if it happens repeatedly, or if you stand to somehow profit when I look bad.

    False accusation of guilt is the specific brand of lie that was forbidden in the Ten Commandments because it could get people killed.

    The punishment for false accusation was typically to have the accuser be subject to the same penalty he was trying to have the accused subject to. Since all I’m trying to do is to get people to stop wasting my time, that’s not much of a penalty, really.

    Even when it doesn’t go that far, it can get them black-balled, because few employers want to hire a “liar” (exceptions for law firms and political operations, of course).

    Of course not. Nobody wants to hire anybody who wastes time by promulgating inaccuracies, either, and mostly for the same reasons.

    But you lying about it being a lie only compounds the problem. (And because you’ve made it clear that you’re willing to call me “liar” even when I’m honestly mistaken, you’ll be lying if you use that word. You’ve already confessed to the entire Internet that you’re a meta-liar.)

    You’re still begging the question. How do I know you’re “honestly mistaken?” If your point is that we should presume good faith on the part of others, then you should presume that my declaration of “liar” is my honest in-the-moment feeling about your betrayal. (Which, actually, it usually is, and learning to express this properly in the moment has greatly simplified my life.)

    If you can’t presume that, then why should I presume anything positive about you?

  131. >It forestalls the possibility that some idiot will try to put me on the defensive, at which point I’ll blow up badly because I’m already unhappy about lost time due to his incompetence/inattention/malice/whatever.

    So it’s a pre-emptive tantrum.

  132. >You’re still begging the question. How do I know you’re “honestly mistaken?” If your point is that we should presume good faith on the part of others, then you should presume that my declaration of “liar” is my honest in-the-moment feeling about your betrayal. (Which, actually, it usually is, and learning to express this properly in the moment has greatly simplified my life.)

    >If you can’t presume that, then why should I presume anything positive about you?

    My initial question is answered to my satisfaction. I know what it gets you.

    Left alone. That guy- don’t bother him, he’s not worth the trouble.

    (I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt that your intention is not to deliberately intimidate, to make people too afraid to give you a wrong answer.)

  133. @TomA

    Hardware = mental conditions, volition = software is a gigantically complicated philosophical rabbit hole, just saying :-) Suffice to say, this way, literally, probably not entirely true or not the entirety of truth.

    I am not an expert. But it is really interesting that mental illnesses e.g. depression have HW (pillz) and SW (CBT) treatments. Suggests the HW/SW separation is a poor model to model brains. There is a such a thing as neuroplasticity and I don’t know how to formulate it properly but basically that is not only a thing that happens to exist but more or less a necessary precondition for cognition because brains are incapable of the kind of information storage a HDD is capable of i.e. only superficial physical change, they are perhaps more like an abacus where storing information has to be done through serious physical changes. Putting it differently, even the kind of artificial neural networks researched today don’t really fit into the classic HW/SW split. I know the HW/SW split is seductive, but it is a prime target for playing “rationalist taboo” and basically explain these things without using those words. A safe assumption is that for example when you have a big SW change like convert to or deconvert from a religion, the connections between various parts of the brain physically change. For example this has been actually proved with addiction and recovery.

    But I get it. We are back to the old philosophical conundrum of “free will”, the whole thing about what is people can help and cannot help, what are responsible for and not, what they deserve to be judged for, rewarded for, punished for…

    I don’t have a full solution. If we work from a brain perspective, it is fairly obvious we have to use Anatta i.e. the idea that the self, ego, or person is something that consists of changing parts, that we are not indivisible, not individuals but dividuals, there is no truly fixed personal identity, because it is just cells and connections and there is no super-cell that is an unchanging “me”. It seems to me neither affirming nor denying the idea of personal responsibility, free will, and fair rewards or punishments works fully. We cannot deny it, because empirically incentives work and a non-cruel punishment or non-excessive reward that causes a behavior change that is socially beneficial can be called fair or even “deserved”. We cannot affirm it fully, because there is no fundamental “I” who is responsible and deserves blame or praise in the absolute sense.

    I think the only solution of this conundrum is some kind of a dissolution, not a solution. It’s just a calculation. 1 unit of pain was caused to someone which changed his behavior and he stopped causing 2 units of pain on others. As humans like to labor under the illusion of fixed persons and egos, we like to call it “it was his fault, he deserved that”. But it is just a roundabout way to say “it worked suitably well”. There is not much more, I am afraid. There is no cosmic scale of justice, because there is no unchanging person, I or subject. Just cells, or skandhas. Justice, fairness, desert, responsibility, free will, can help, cannot help are just approximations of well-functioning and preferably uncruel and proportionate ways to change behavior in a useful way.

  134. > (In your example) you swore to me that something was true, and didn’t bother to check it knowing full well I was going to act on your words. The difference between that and lying to me lies solely inside your mind.

    No, it was your example, not mine, which you concocted after you made it clear that you don’t care whether people are actually being dishonest before you routinely accuse them of “lying”. Your subsequent comments have only reiterated that you don’t care to distinguish between honest mistakes and lying:

    > How do I know you’re “honestly mistaken?” if your point is that we should presume good faith on the part of others, then you should presume that my declaration of “liar” is my honest in-the-moment feeling about your betrayal.

    But you’ve made it quite clear that it’s not an honest in-the-moment feeling; it’s a consistent policy of yours:

    >A few decades ago, I stumbled into a behavior that I use fairly consistently with good results. When somebody gives me incorrect information that costs me time, I tell them “You lied to me.”

    The very first time, when you “stumbled”, you got credit for an honest, in-the-moment reaction to having your time wasted. When you made it into a policy, you forfeited the presumption of good faith. You’ve told us you deliberately use manipulative language without any concern about whether you’re telling the truth or not when you call someone else a liar. By your own standards
    > swore to me that something was true, and didn’t bother to check it
    … you’re lying when you accuse people of lying without checking to see if it’s an honest mistake first.

    If it’s an honest mistake, someone can say “I looked at the source file for my module but didn’t realize the $foo library was changed last November; someone recompiled my module with the new library code and it caused …” But when you open with “you lied to me”, you’re not interested in how the other person got the bad info they gave you, you’re accusing them of dishonesty.

  135. “There’s a sketch of research suggesting that non-autistic child-prodigies, like autists, tend to have exceptionally large working memories.”

    Here’s a question about that which I’ve been meaning to ask you for some time:

    I don’t learn all that quickly relative to people who I’m pretty sure aren’t smarter than me. Instead, there seems to be this long awkward period in the beginning stages of acquiring a new skill during which I fall behind, then things start to click into place and I make up lost ground.

    My best guess for why this might be the case is that my ratio of working memory/overall cognitive ability isn’t very good. That’d explain why I come across as dumber than I actually am initially, because I have a hard time juggling lot’s of details in my working memory (relative to others in my IQ bracket, not the human baseline).

    Eventually, when System 2 starts to take over, I’m able to bring more of my resources to bear and things even out.

    I think there might be a deep insight lurking here, at the intersection of working memory and attention. I have also observed that I have a very difficult time focusing and finding flow states, even for activities I tend to enjoy. Contrariwise, a lot of “ultralearners” like Elon Musk and Josh Waitzkin describe having a profound, sometimes near-pathological ability to focus intensely for long periods of time.

    But the causal arrow could run two ways: either my bad working memory is the result of a deeper inability to focus, or my focus suffers because my working memory is perpetually bogged down.

    • >But the causal arrow could run two ways: either my bad working memory is the result of a deeper inability to focus, or my focus suffers because my working memory is perpetually bogged down.

      I’m not sure anybody knows enough of the right kind of neurology to resolve this. I certainly don’t.

  136. @Greg:

    So it’s a pre-emptive tantrum.

    Not exact, but not terribly unfair.

    My initial question is answered to my satisfaction. I know what it gets you.

    Left alone. That guy- don’t bother him, he’s not worth the trouble.

    Nah, that misses the mark completely. If I seek out knowledge from you because you’re supposedly the expert, dodging me is unlikely to be either helpful or in your job description.

    Conversely, if you seek out help from me, I’m happy to give it where I can, and if I wake up in the middle of the night and realize that I might have misled you, I’ll get up and send an email. A lot of people have thanked me for my mentorship and helpfulness.

    @The Monster:

    No, it was your example, not mine, which you concocted after you made it clear that you don’t care whether people are actually being dishonest before you routinely accuse them of “lying”.

    OK, my example, or rather (more anon) your interpretation of my example. In any case, I have found that my emotions sometimes don’t care, and found that trying to keep that bottled up often backfires. I am consistent about it, but it’s hardly routine. It’s probably been 3 years since I accused someone of lying to me. He probably would have kept doing it, but they fired him.

    When you made it into a policy, you forfeited the presumption of good faith.

    Perhaps you misunderstand (or perhaps not). I originally had a policy that I tried to “be nice” and not say what I was feeling. That didn’t work at all — one subsequent stupid comment from the miscreant in the necessary conversation, and my lizard brain would take over: “Here, let me handle this” and then I would say or do shit that was _really_ problematic.

    People who have better control over their lizard brains may be able to afford the luxury of not letting on how they really feel. For me it’s better to have a policy of only slightly mitigating my thoughts as they come out of my mouth rather than completely holding them in. This way I say “You lied to me.” instead of later saying something like “you lying sack of shit — is that what your mother taught you?”

    You’ve told us you deliberately use manipulative language without any concern about whether you’re telling the truth or not when you call someone else a liar.

    It’s hardly manipulative to let someone know how you feel about their actions in no uncertain terms. It feels much more manipulative and emotionally draining to me whenever I try to pretend like I believe them when I don’t.

    By your own standards
    > swore to me that something was true, and didn’t bother to check it
    … you’re lying when you accuse people of lying without checking to see if it’s an honest mistake first.

    You’re conveniently forgetting that in the example, the other party’s mistake wasn’t rectified for a really long time, and my mistake… Well, if they can convince me it’s a mistake it will be rectified then and there.

    If it’s an honest mistake, someone can say “I looked at the source file for my module but didn’t realize the $foo library was changed last November; someone recompiled my module with the new library code and it caused …”

    That doesn’t sound like the kind of honest mistake that I’m talking about or that I’ve ever accused someone of lying about.

    But when you open with “you lied to me”, you’re not interested in how the other person got the bad info they gave you, you’re accusing them of dishonesty.

    Well, the most concrete, realistic example I concocted had a preamble like this:

    There’s a difference between being misinformed and being the source of misinformation. If I ask you how you think Joe’s routine works and you’re wrong, that’s one thing. If I ask you a specific question about something you designed, and the answer is incorrect (e.g. rather than “I don’t remember; I’ll have to check.”), even then there may still be an out later, e.g. “Well, that’s what it’s supposed to do. Let me look into it.”

    I’m pretty careful. You usually have to work pretty hard to waste enough of my time (including insuring that it’s completely unusable under any realistic scenario) for me to get too worked up. Once you’ve put in all that effort, yeah, if you care about whether or not I think you’re a liar, it’s up to you to put in the effort to show me you’re not.

  137. >if you care about whether or not I think you’re a liar, it’s up to you to put in the effort to show me you’re not.

    I don’t give a crap what you think, but if you accuse me of dishonesty, there are consequences.

  138. @esr:
    >Roger was never actually pleasant, but he was occasionally capable of incisive thinking

    That was actually my impression of “Linus” this time before he blew up and people recognized him as Roger. He seems to be fairly stable and coherent in general with the tendency to lapse into craziness when angered.

  139. @The Monster:

    I don’t give a crap what you think, but if you accuse me of dishonesty, there are consequences.

    Threats are awesome. Especially the unelucidated ones that harken back to honor cultures. Yeah, I grew up in Texas. Yeah, I still calls ’em like I sees ’em. Or more to the point, I started calling ’em like I see ’em many years ago and haven’t looked back.

    Here’s the thing, to bring it full circle back to Eric’s post. It’s great you don’t care what I think. It’s even better when you stop caring what those whom I might influence think, and then you’re freed from worrying about anything I might say.

  140. I don’t want to carry any potential argument further, suspect I know why Patrick does what he does and why he’s had success with it (sorry your coworkers suck so hard that tactics like that are warranted), I just poked my nose in because it reminded me a bit too much of a former coworker.

    Italian from the Bronx. Very much so. Smart, too, but he had this thing…. with every new person he worked with he had some way of showing them that he was the Italian from the Bronx alpha king silverback asshole. So don’t go trying anything.

    Made him somewhat less than ideal to work with on a professional level, though he did turn off the act once he knew you well. He worked for the city gov’t of NY for many years, which, well, from what I’ve heard that approach to coworkers might have been necessary to get anything done. (Not that he was working for the city when he worked with me….)

    Anyway, not caring about monkey social rituals is only a superpower if you’re in an environment where you are sheltered from monkey social rituals, where you don’t need to play them to survive. Without the sheltering environment….

    Professional or collegial environments, or the like, are needed to activate the superpower.

  141. @Greg:

    (sorry your coworkers suck so hard that tactics like that are warranted),

    Actually, they don’t at the moment, but in the past there have certainly been times where there were problems.

    he had some way of showing them that he was the Italian from the Bronx alpha king silverback asshole. So don’t go trying anything.

    Yeah, that sort of thing is wearing. At one point I was in Canada on a work permit, and calculating exactly how bad it would be to sell most of what I owned and take the rest of it and my young family back across the border and down to Texas and maybe work at a McDonald’s or something until the economy picked back up. All due to one particular manager. That man managed to completely burn out my employment-related fear circuits.

    where you are sheltered from monkey social rituals

    But this particular manager would make it a point to fire people on a whim and insure that everybody knew it was a whim. And some other places I have been since then have had bad monkey rituals, as well, so I couldn’t claim that I’ve never seen such. I’ve been put on double-secret probation and had letters put in my permanent record a couple of times.

    Professional or collegial environments, or the like, are needed to activate the superpower.

    When I was younger, my eccentricities were often tolerated, probably much more than most peoples’, for the simple reason that successful businesses tend to tolerate people who deliver, especially if their only sin is to call out bullshit when they see it. Of course, there is a difference between being tolerated and getting ahead…

    Where I am now is much better, which is probably why I’ve been there for almost 10 years now. That’s probably double my previous record. I think I’m better, as well — time has taken off a few of the rough edges.

    [what the SJW’s did to comet guy] That nullifies the superpower.

    I never really thought I had a superpower. The fact that coping strategies have to be developed, the fact that some things that others accept as “business as usual” bother me a lot, the fact that I can see that occasional loss of control isn’t actually a _good_ thing, and the fact that working where I fit in means that I’m nowhere near the worst mis-fit (e.g. co-worker suicide) all point to me needing some form of a, as they say these days, “safe space.” But I don’t demand its creation; I find and/or help create it myself.

    Which is a partly a long-winded way of saying it would never occur to me to wear such a shirt to work, never mind when representing my workplace on television. I suppose it would be fashionable to call me a victim-blamer, but honestly that entire scenario played exactly according to script.

    I may also someday have a scenario that plays out according to script, but it won’t be that particular script. I dunno, maybe something more like dongle-gate (although dongle-gate itself has probably immunized us from having something _exactly_ like dongle-gate crop up any time soon, I’m sure there are some variant memes hanging out waiting for the right time to strike).

    But whatever the script is, from my side it will be kept as quiet as possible, and it is extremely unlikely there would be lawsuits or threatening letters or anything else explicitly designed to invoke the Streisand effect.

  142. > Threats are awesome.

    It’s not a threat. If a co-worker impugns my character by accusing me of dishonesty, I have to defend myself. Failing to do so means implicitly assenting to the charge.

    Frankly, I’m surprised you’ve been able to make a policy out of accusing people of lying without your employer recognizing what a threat you represent to them in terms of lawsuits over libel/slander/defamation by allowing you to repeatedly make such baseless allegations, creating a hostile work environment for your co-workers.

    > It’s great you don’t care what I think. It’s even better when you stop caring what those whom I might influence think, and then you’re freed from worrying about anything I might say.

    There are reasons why libel/slander/defamation are actionable. I don’t have the luxury of not caring what my employer (or other potential employers) think. Unless I win the Powerball jackpot and become independently wealthy, I can’t risk having people believe I’m dishonest.

  143. @The Monster:

    You left it unclear what you meant by consequences. If all you meant is legal action, sure, people can make things unpleasant for each other, but in general this is not usually nearly as serious as you make it out to be. For a start, if I call you a liar to your face with no witnesses, it’s not defamation.

    I suppose you could try to call it a hostile work environment, but that’s unlikely to actually be a winning lottery ticket if I’m not your manager and you’ve managed to be lazy and passive-aggressive enough to bring me to a boil once or twice.

    If I tell your manager that you lied to me, there’s always the small chance that you could convince a jury that it was defamation, but you’d probably have to prove that my characterization of your actions as deliberate caused you problems that went above and beyond those that would have occurred if I merely reported your actions neutrally, and before all that, you’d have to get past the judge deciding whether my characterization of you actions as deliberate was a fact or a protected opinion. In this instance, the fact that I’m a known hot-head wouldn’t actually work in your favor — the employer would either roll their eyes and do nothing, or would agree with me that your behavior was egregious and would dot their i’s and cross their t’s before taking any action, so you’d be very unlikely to show that my characterization of your actions, rather than the actions themselves, caused you grief.

    You’d also probably have to prove that your actions weren’t deliberate. Finally, everything that transpired would be made public, for future potential employers to see.

    > without your employer recognizing what a threat

    And this is why I don’t work for knee-jerk companies. Because it really isn’t that much of a threat.

    > I don’t have the luxury of not caring what my employer (or other potential employers) think.

    If you are doing a good job and your employer doesn’t know the actual score, you want a new one anyway. If other potential employers think you’re dishonest, it’s probably because of that lawsuit you filed, not because I told them.

    > I can’t risk having people believe I’m dishonest.

    Then try really hard to not say things that aren’t true, try to fix it when you do, and don’t be silly enough to think that the best way to defend your honor is to insure that the entire world knows that it was questioned in some backwater somewhere.

  144. You’re a fortunate guy, Patrick. I can’t imagine one business (out of the dozen or so that I’ve worked with) that would retain you, given your confessed behavior.

    An accusation of *lying* is a pretty serious thing. It should be.

    To lie is to intentionally mislead another with an untruth. Intent and mindfulness are key elements.

    You are evidently prepared to accuse another of a serious breech of social trust, without proof.

    I don’t consider that a defensible position.

  145. > You left it unclear what you meant by consequences.

    That’s because the moment you make the accusation, regardless of how I respond, there are consequences:

    0) If I do nothing in response, your accusation stands, and I am considered to be dishonest. That could cost me my job. This is not a hypothetical matter: I work in an industry where dishonesty could get people sent to jail and/or forced to pay huge fines levied by a federal agency (almost without exception rubber-stamped by the actual judicial system whenever anyone bothers to appeal the agency’s rulings).

    1) If I respond by challenging your allegation, then my employer gets to decide which of us is right and wrong. Whoever is wrong (possibly both of us) might very well lose their job.

    1.1) After one or both of us loses his job, there might be some kind of judicial action(s) naming both the other of us and the employer as co-defendants. (The employer knowing this affects how option 1 plays out.)

    These are all “consequences” of you accusing me of dishonesty.

    >don’t be silly enough to think that the best way to defend your honor is to insure that the entire world knows that it was questioned in some backwater somewhere.

    If you accuse me of dishonesty, what happened “in some backwater” is irrelevant. The fact that you directly threatened my employment by alleging I’ve breached the corporate code of conduct requires that I respond to your accusation with a vigorous denial and a demand that you either produce evidence to back it up, or retract the accusation with an apology at least as public as the original accusation. Anything less than that means that my reputation with my employer is irrevocably tainted.

    Management may never officially say so, but it will always be in the back of their minds that I’m a lying liar who lies, so they’ll be looking for excuses to get rid of me. Even if I am not fired outright, I might get lower performance reviews, resulting in reduced raises. The accusation of dishonesty takes money out of my pocket.

    This is very much analogous to the casual allegation of “racism”, “sexism”, etc. thrown about by SJWs, to which the only proper response is an immediate “No, you don’t get to throw out a casual -ism charge and go on like that. Back it up or take it back!”. No further conversation on any other topic may take place when these charges are leveled; they cannot be allowed to go unanswered. The SJW will try to go on to something else, but we must not give in. We must insist that the charge be proven or retracted, not just asserted. The people who believe they can get away with these tactics must learn that if they do not have strong evidence to support such claims, they should not make them in the first place.

    On some level, those who play these cards have always known their purpose is to end conversation; they just think it’s a one-sided deal to shut up their opponent. They need to come to the understanding that such accusations shut them up as well. The price for bearing false witness has to be high enough that it becomes a losing proposition.

    One of these days, your “consistent” practice of accusing your co-workers of dishonesty will lead you to target someone like me, who isn’t having it. When that day comes, and the consequences follow, you can’t say you weren’t warned.

  146. @Dan:

    When I have said “you lied to me” (other than in at least partial jest and smiling with people I know well who would say the same to me), it is because there was a serious breach of social trust. The proof that “mistakes were made” was self-evident. That those mistakes were not one-shot deals was also self-evident. That, at a minimum, there was willful negligence was also self-evident. I could honestly and most likely believably tell a jury that my goodwill had been severely tested over a period of time.

    In some cases, my willingness to impart motive to the actions was what it took for people to seriously consider the ramifications of their behavior and start taking others into account. In other cases, well… those people are no longer around to bother me, even though my management is unlikely to view me as the most rational judge of character.

    Is it “moral” to call out bad behavior by explaining that you are interpreting it in the worst possible light? Possibly not, but it works for me.

    If there are mitigating circumstances, you will hear them and can discuss them. You should, of course, offer a sincere apology when affront is taken. (This is easy for me, because I’m really not trying to piss people off.). If the behavior changes, you’re done and they may even thank you later. If the behavior doesn’t change, then they probably were lying.

    Could somebody with better social skills achieve the same result with less collateral damge on all sides? Undoubtedly, but I learned a long time ago I’m not that person, even if I can sometimes emulate him for brief periods these days.

    In one sense, of course, you’re correct that I am fortunate (or as the SJWs say, priviliged) that my coping mechanism seems to work well. This is why I shared it. Don’t do it if you have better skills than me. But if you, like me, might completely and inappropriately fly off the handle at a stupid answer to a question like “Why would you do such a thing?” then you, too, might be better off getting all the inappropriateness over and done with up front.

  147. No, I used the term “fortunate” with respect to the fact that nobody fired your ass already.

    I would have.

    I wrestling with the formulation of “lying” that is rattling around inside your head, but it is in serious conflict with mine. I wouldn’t tolerate your behavior.

  148. RE: the ongoing ethical debate of calling someone a liar to their face

    I’m with Dan on this, but I will use more clarity in hopes of putting this subtopic to bed.

    I’m a professional in my field. I do not lie as a matter of core function. If you accuse me of lying to my face, I will calmly give you one opportunity to remedy the situation. If you then persist, I will put you in the hospital.

    That you have not yet encountered someone like me is evidence that you have used this technique rarely, or that manhood really is in decline in our society.

  149. @TomA – that certainly is some unequivocal clarity there ;)

    I wouldn’t resort to violence over Patrick’s behavior, but I would certainly

    a) publicly expose his inappropriate abuse of such an accusation.
    b) terminate his employment if such behavior persisted unrepentantly.

    • >I wouldn’t resort to violence over Patrick’s behavior

      I might, but only if the context were such that I had no realistic prospect of applying nonviolent sanctions.

  150. @The Monster:

    If I tell you to your face that I think you’re lying with no witnesses, then there is no there there. You have no legal cause of action. You can ignore me or try to convince me with your speech and action that I am wrong, or do as Dan suggests and make sure that everybody knows that I’m unhappy with you, but that seems unlikely to be helpful.

    @Dan:

    > No, I used the term “fortunate” with respect to the fact that nobody fired your ass already.

    I understood that. I also understand that SJWs would say that the fact that I can get away with behavior that they don’t believe others would makes me privileged. Maybe my understanding on that latter is wrong.

    > a) publicly expose his inappropriate abuse of such an accusation.

    Sure, if you really want to call attention to the fact that I have good reason to be extremely unhappy with your inappropriate actions, by all means tell everybody that I privately expressed that unhappiness in a manner you consider inappropriate.

    > b) terminate his employment if such behavior persisted unrepentantly.

    And this is why I make it a point to leave a job if I don’t feel like I can trust my management implicitly. If the trust is there, there will be no accusations, accurate or not.

    @TomA:

    Yes, let’s put this to bed.

    First of all, no one is being accused of lying who has not engaged in (IMO) egregiously bad behavior. Second, telling someone they are lying to their face with no witnesses is not legally actionable. (Sure, Dan, it could get me fired. Anything could get me fired, because I live in a right to work state. The fact that in 36 years of continuous employment, the only time I was let go was when the entire company shut down must mean that a lot of people don’t have sticks shoved quite so far up their asses about this particular issue.)

    Third, if someone like TomA clocks me because I told them to their face with no witnesses that they were lying, then all of a sudden they will have worse problems than the fact that I don’t see any reason to believe them.

    And finally, once we get past all that, if I don’t eventually see eye to eye with the employee, and later I tell a manager that I think he is lying — well, I’ve apparently been right about that in the past.

  151. @esr:

    > I might, but only if the context were such that I had no realistic prospect of applying nonviolent sanctions.

    This seems unlikely to be tested — as I tried to make clear, it seems highly unlikely that I would get sideways in this manner with anybody commenting here, because you’re all responsible adults.

    But if this is ever tested, it would likely be in a scenario where the violence would have eventually occurred anyway. My (admittedly anecdotal) evidence says that when I put it out there at the start of an interaction, then I’m much calmer and able to calm down the other person during the rest of the interaction than I would have been if I had spent half an hour bottling up what I really felt while listening to bullshit being spewed. That tends to lead to situations that are very difficult to deescalate.

    Likewise, if I’m on the receiving end of a dressing-down, I want to hear it all at the beginning. Don’t sugar-coat it; no mamby-pamby allusions that require me to drag the problem out in the open.

    Maybe I’m weird in this, but it seems to work. Let’s get the worst accusations out of the way and then see if we can rebuild some sort of trust, rather than try in vain to not really discuss what we are discussing for an hour or two.

  152. I’d like to chime in with two thoughts tied to the “you lied” discussion.

    First, @Dan / @TheMonster:

    Go back an re-read Patrick’s original wording (happily, it’s the first time he posted in this thread). When I read that originally, it struck me that reading just what was there didn’t provide me with any indication of what sort of tone/posture this was coupled with. The same words could be delivered either as a bullying invasion of personal space and screaming “YOU LIED TO ME!!”, or a shriveled, no eye contact, near-whisper “… and you lied to me.”

    Realizing that the accusation could be either highly confrontational or seeking to avoid it, I could then consider Patrick’s thesis: does this behavior curtail further conflict (or at least channel it in actionable directions)? Naturally, the hyper-aggressive confrontation won’t—mostly from the fact any further escalation would be into physical violence—but in all other cases I can see this method working mostly as advertised [well, also as long as it doesn’t appear to be an emotional meltdown, i.e. neither uncharacteristically meek nor confrontational].

    Second, @Patrick Maupin:

    …point to me needing some form of a, as they say these days, “safe space.” But I don’t demand its creation; I find and/or help create it myself.

    May I suggest that the most significant aspect of the modern “safe space” movement is that while seeking to exclude certain groups/opinions, they also wish to present themselves as [nominally] public areas? In order to simultaneously provide a more playful tone and recognition that unsafe spaces will always exist, may I suggest using the phrase “psychic pillow fort” instead?

  153. @Alex K.

    As you have noted, delivery is key. Delivery is always key, which is, in fact, one of the reasons this coping mechanism works for me. If I say the worst possible thing I think about the situation up front, when I’m still in control of my delivery, then my stress dissipates and all my brain cells that were busy holding it in are free to help with managing the response, whatever form that response might take, so I remain in control of my delivery.

    However, taking their writings at face value, it seems unlikely that either Dan or The Monster will be persuaded that any delivery of this message is acceptable, so I’ll probably just have to agree to disagree with them on that.

    That’s a good point about safe spaces, so yeah, I’ll cop to needing and finding/building a psychic pillow fort. Are you accepting contributions for the trademark registration? Do you have a business plan yet?

  154. > I might, but only if the context were such that I had no realistic prospect of applying nonviolent sanctions.

    Okay, what gives? That comment isn’t showing up in chronological order. I wouldn’t care, except that if I take a look at these comment threads I usually scroll down to the last comment I can remember from last time I looked and start from there.

    Do admins have a direct reply button the rest of us don’t?

  155. > As far as I know I have the same reply option you do.

    The only choice I have is a single “Leave a Reply” box at the very bottom of the thread.

  156. > If I tell you to your face that I think you’re lying with no witnesses, then there is no there there

    Then you get the opportunity to hear from me in private that I do not appreciate being falsely accused of lying, that if you ever make such an accusation before any witnesses you will have crossed the Rubicon; and as an added bonus you’ll get ONE chance to tell me you’ll never do it again even in private. If you argue with me the way you have here, I will have to assume you intend to make such false accusations in the future, and act accordingly to defend myself against the unwarranted attacks.

    @Alex K.
    I have difficulty imagining any circumstances under which someone can falsely accuse me of lying without it being an unwarranted attack on my character. (One may well exist, but I’m not able to come up with one right now.) If they are obviously joking with me, I will simply say I don’t find such jokes funny.

  157. Meta: I realize that the significance I place on the distinction between “you told me something that was not true” and “you lied to me” could be exactly the sort of thing that normal people don’t get worked up so much about, and perhaps I wouldn’t have as much sensitivity to this if I weren’t on the spectrum. But I also know lots of people take offense at having their honesty questioned.

    Certain accusations are so damaging that one ought not make them without very strong proof.

  158. @The Monster:

    Then you get the opportunity to hear from me in private that I do not appreciate being falsely accused of lying, that if you ever make such an accusation before any witnesses you will have crossed the Rubicon; and as an added bonus you’ll get ONE chance to tell me you’ll never do it again even in private.

    Again, it never gets to the accusation without a certain amount of up-front intransigence, so we probably wouldn’t get there. But if we did, and you told me this, the honest response would be that I’m sorry if you’re offended, but I honestly cannot tell whether or not what you did is deliberate, so please explain to me how to tell the difference and how we can insure it doesn’t happen again.

    And if you persisted in demanding further assurances about an unknowable future before answering my questions, I would explain that, as this is the first time, I’m not telling anybody anything until I get a clearer idea of what transpired and whether it will happen again.

    But unless you can disabuse me of the lingering suspicion that you lied to me, I’m not giving any assurances that, no matter your future conduct, I would never under any possible circumstances tell anybody that I consider it dishonest. Yes, I’m sure that you know you’re trustworthy, but if your first reaction to the news that your actions have caused me to doubt your trustworthiness is an ultimatum, that’s quite unlikely to score you too many redemptive points.

    If we came to an impasse, I’d walk away and whether anybody else knew anything about it would be up to you — either by repeating the same sort of thing and confirming my suspicions, or by directly telling others yourself.

    > the distinction between “you told me something that was not true” and “you lied to me”

    Nah. People get worked up about it. But the public/private distinction is, perhaps, bigger than you seem to allow for. FWIW, the closest I came to getting fired was probably when a co-worker misappropriated one of my personal pieces of test equipment, and lied through his teeth to an audience about how he had purchased it and I was lying about how it was mine.

  159. > But unless you can disabuse me of the lingering suspicion that you lied to me,

    Your “lingering suspicion” does not warrant an accusation. It’s not up to me to prove I didn’t lie, it’s up to you to either have strong evidence that I did or not fucking accuse me in the first place.

    >I’m not giving any assurances that, no matter your future conduct, I would never under any possible circumstances tell anybody that I consider it dishonest

    I wouldn’t ask you to promise that. I would at this point have explained exactly what I’ve explained to you in this thread. You would understand that if I think there’s any chance you’ll do it again,that requires that I take appropriate action to protect myself from your demonstrated propensity to lie about lying.

    [That means I’m going to be contacting some people to make them aware of the trouble you’re creating for the company, so that there’s no room for error on anyone’s part. And if you’re lucky, they’ll give you one chance to apologize to me and promise you’ll never do that again before they figure you’re a loose cannon they can’t afford to have go off again.]

    I simply say: “If I believe you are willing to again falsely accuse me of dishonesty, that will force me to defend myself, which is not likely to end well for you. Right now, I do believe that, because you have clearly stated that you feel justified in making such allegations. What might you be willing to do to change my belief?” It’s up to you to figure out the formula. If I have to spell it out for you, then I figure you probably don’t mean it anyway, and you’ll be having that conversation with HR about hostile work environments.

  160. @The Monster:

    I keep getting the feeling that you (and perhaps Dan, as well) inhabit a completely different universe than the one I do. Perhaps you’re right about how it would go down in your universe, but your description of the sequence of events is completely foreign to my experience with HR, and I’ve had a fair amount.

    Your apparent faith in your HR department is touching. In this hypothetical situation, I would hope they they would at least justify this faith by gently explaining to you what legally constitutes a hostile work environment, or better yet that you would consult an employment lawyer before saying anything to anybody.

    Of course, if you did report it, I would expect to get a talking to, because that’s what happens whenever anybody goes to HR, and I would gauge my chances and figure out whether or not to dust off my resume. In all probability, they’d put us in the same room and make us shake hands and make up. Hell, I wound up taking the guy who lied through his teeth by accusing me of lying (about a verifiable fact) out to lunch afterwards. (His self-justification for lying was that he incorrectly assumed that I was lying and that he could sort of make a right out of two wrongs. People are crazy — what are you going to do?)

    In a former job, I even sent an email to a bullying corporate counsel that he apparently misinterpreted as a threat and forwarded to HR. There was no there there, either, so nothing ever came of that, except that if he saw me in the hallway, he’d turn and go the other way.

    But the thing is, most HR departments would add verbiage to both of our files based on interviews with us as well as others. At least in the places I’ve worked, the verbiage added to your file would most likely indicate that one of your co-workers was so disappointed with your mis-truths that he was suspicious they might be deliberate, and that that co-worker was so restrained that he graciously took it up with you rather than publicly voicing his suspicions, and that you then went completely non-linear. The verbiage added to my file would probably indicate that I’ve been counseled that my hyperbole was unhelpful and that I should share any future concerns I might have about you with management, rather than with you directly, and to let them handle it.

    Also, FWIW, at the places I’ve worked, the fact that you apparently think that you’ve spelled things out clearly probably wouldn’t go well for you — statements like ” force me to defend myself, which is not likely to end well for you” or your earlier “if you accuse me of dishonesty, there are consequences.” will actually probably get you a much worse grilling from HR than the one I’ll receive.

  161. > statements like ” force me to defend myself, which is not likely to end well for you” or your earlier “if you accuse me of dishonesty, there are consequences.” will actually probably get you a much worse grilling from HR than the one I’ll receive.

    Yes, if you’re bound and determined to take those statements out of context, then imply they refer to threats of violence rather than what I’ve already explained they mean, then you might be able to persuade the HR guys that I’m the one with the problem instead of you. But by your own standards, you’re lying when you do that, which makes you a hypocrite:

    >the guy who lied through his teeth by accusing me of lying (about a verifiable fact) out to lunch afterwards. (His self-justification for lying was that he incorrectly assumed that I was lying and that he could sort of make a right out of two wrongs. People are crazy — what are you going to do?)

    You’ve spent this whole sub-thread justifying lying through your teeth by accusing people of lying when you’ve clearly stated you can’t prove whether they’re lying instead of honestly wrong, and now you’re whining about someone doing it to you.

    I could not have made up better proof of how wrong your position is if I tried. You convict yourself with your own testimony. The prosecution rests.

  162. I’m not taking anything out of context, and I’m not going to lie to HR or anybody else about what you said or did. I’m explaining that these same words, presented by you, not me, to HR, could cause you more grief than the rest of it put together. Look, two other guys on this thread have intimated they would consider violence in similar circumstances, and, despite your unshakeable belief in your own clarity, those words, even in context, do not suggest at first blush that you wouldn’t.

    As far as the guy who lied about me, sure, you can view my relating of the relevant tale as whining, but that completely misses both my emotion and any possible lesson. I’m just explaining that in the real world, in arguably much worse cases than what we have been discussing, e.g. easily caught out misstatements about verifiable facts in front of witnesses rather than private questioning of motives, sometimes, maybe even most of the time, nothing happens.

    And that’s a good thing.

  163. @Patrick Maupin, @The Monster:

    At this point you’ve both firmly established yourselves on my “Do Not Hire” list.

    Frankly, you both sound so difficult to get along with I wouldn’t want either of you anywhere near my team (or any other team that my team has to work with, for that matter).

  164. > At this point you’ve both firmly established yourselves on my “Do Not Hire” list.

    If you’re OK with people making false allegations of dishonesty about your employees, you’re on my “Do not Apply” list.

  165. >Autists escape this trap by lacking the circuitry required to fully solve the other-minds problem

    NT emotional reactions are almost all special-cased. For reading each other they assume they special-case the same way, which works out okay, enough of the time. Autists lack the casing machinery, and most lack the raw memory to work with the full list, even if anyone had bothered to write them all down.

    >Rank communicated in obvious ways. How hard it is for a solider to process this? Salute everybody who has a higher sign on their shoulder. Follow rules and exceed clearly communicated expectations and you will get promoted, too.

    Historically, this did help, but usually the monkeys would then spend all the spare cycles on trying to hack the system. Usually failing and getting a fist upside the head.
    Because,
    >They have great difficulty sustaining interest in anything that won’t yield a near-immediate social reward.
    when relieved of the burden, they immediately create a new one.

    >And the refusal to listen, I’ve noticed, tends to be worst in exactly the people who honk loudest about diversity and inclusion.

    Indeed. On the plus side, it lets us know they aren’t serious about it, in case we weren’t sure.

    • >when relieved of the burden, they immediately create a new one.

      That’s right. Neurotypicals relentlessly proliferate social-status games because it’s the only thing most of them can manage to be interested in. So supposing social-status games were either more more less of a cognitive burden in the past is looking at the wrong end of the stick. In reality, neurotypicals immediately respond to any accidental decrease in cognitive burden by re-complexifying the status game somewhere else until they are once again operating at limit.

  166. @Jeff L:

    > At this point you’ve both firmly established yourselves on my “Do Not Hire” list….

    Darn, and I was going to ask you for a job, ’cause Dan just fired me.

    But seriously, the free market has provided. I work at a place that is great for me and similarly damaged individuals (and even quite a few neurotypicals) for the simple reason that they provide, as per Alex K.’s description, a “psychic pillow fort.”

    In the past, I have worked at a few really toxic places. The worst one had a “mandated culture of respect” which merely meant that there were all sorts of really bad things simmering right below the surface, and all sorts of passive-aggressive behavior, because true respect is earned.

    Where I have worked for the past decade is a breath of fresh air, and part of that is because it’s safe to call someone out for what you perceive as bad behavior, and then to hash it out with them. The few who don’t fit in are encouraged to leave, and most of them manage to take the hint and do so under their own steam. The attrition rate seems low; I don’t know the exact number, but judging by the number of going-away lunches I attend, it must be around 2 or 3% annually.

    We even have a few gen-X’ers and millenials (of both sexes) who are doing great, because we manage (IMO) to avoid both being toxic and sugar-coating the real world.

    If he’s as competent as I suspect he is, someone like The Monster would certainly be welcome as well, and he probably wouldn’t get cross-wise with anyone. But if he did, he’d find out that part of the cost of maintaining the psychic pillow fort that provides bright but inept people with gainful employment is that there will be other people around who are inept in different ways.

    I have explained an ineptness and a workaround; anybody who feels that’s the worst thing in the world should certainly not apply where I work, because there are other damaged individuals there with their own weaknesses and workarounds.

    But… If you really want to work for a company where HR is given the kind of power that The Monster apparently thinks they have or should have, you should consider that many, if not most, of the HR people who have or aspire to that much power are SJWs.

  167. @ James Noyes

    Brian: I like the way you’ve set up your page generation.

    Linux is wonderful when you can (help) solve a problem by manipulating text files – the basic tools from the seventies – sed, grep, awk…

  168. I’ve had a few professionals initially suspect that I have some form of autism and then dismiss that after getting to know me for a bit.

    My experience matches @Christopher Smith’s first post. However, subsequent comments have led me to an interesting realization:

    a) I feel the pain of social disapproval or rejection as much as anybody (perhaps more).
    b) I don’t have a similar gain on social accolades. If anything, social praise tends to trigger my emotional anxiety response.

    This leads to an interesting case where I can’t enjoy winning, and I can’t stand losing, I might as well not play. Or, more specifically, the satisfaction I would get would only be that of mastering an intellectual challenge, and there are lots more intellectually-satisfying tasks to engage in than playing the monkey dance.

  169. a) I feel the pain of social disapproval or rejection as much as anybody (perhaps more).
    b) I don’t have a similar gain on social accolades. If anything, social praise tends to trigger my emotional anxiety response

    Similar. I think the no-win aspect to case (b) is that I then suspect that either some sort of response is expected or that my own position and expectations of me have changed in a way that I don’t know how to anticipate or quickly adapt to.

  170. Profoundly relevant to this thread:

    An Experimental Autism Treatment Cost Me My Marriage

    “Before the T.M.S., I had fantasized that the emotional cues I was missing in my autism would bring me closer to people. The reality was very different. The signals I now picked up about what my fellow humans were feeling overwhelmed me. They seemed scared, alarmed, worried and even greedy. The beauty I envisioned was nowhere to be found.”

  171. The signals I now picked up about what my fellow humans were feeling overwhelmed me. They seemed scared, alarmed, worried and even greedy.

    I got there through Instapundit and was thinking about it in a separate context from here. I am curious to what extent he was (1) actually hyperaware of others’ true signals, having learned to interpret and then having already-processed information available immediately, (2) experiencing a massive shift in salience that had a basis in reality but did not accurately correspond to others’ emotions and intentions, or (3) hallucinating. The last seems to be a very common failure mode among paranoid non-autistic “normal” individuals (endemic to SJWdom, for example), and I wonder if there might be some insight to be gleaned.

  172. @ Christopher Smith – “I wonder if there might be some insight to be gleaned.”

    My first reaction to this article was WTF. To summarize . . . was broken, got fixed, fix was bad.

    We don’t get to choose our genetics, so fretting about a mutational consequence seems absurd to me. Play the hand you’ve been dealt and max out as best you can. Affluence has made this sort of self-absorbed naval gazing a national pastime. My guess is that if this guy had survived a gauntlet of true hardship in his life, this bout of relationship trauma wouldn’t seem so dramatic.

  173. > We don’t get to choose our genetics, so fretting about a mutational consequence seems absurd to me. Play the hand you’ve been dealt and max out as best you can.

    If a red/green-color-blind man could undergo some kind of therapy to allow him to distinguish those two colors from one another, I wouldn’t call it “absurd”. But I know of deaf advocates who consider cochlear implant surgery “genocide” against the “deaf community”, which really encapsulates what’s wrong with throwing words like “genocide” around so casually.

    > Affluence has made this sort of self-absorbed naval gazing a national pastime.
    Not sure what staring at ships has to do with it. Maybe you meant “navel-gazing”, unless you think only people rich enough to shop for yachts are affluent enough to be affected.

  174. >“Before the T.M.S., I had fantasized that the emotional cues I was missing in my autism would bring me closer to people. The reality was very different. The signals I now picked up about what my fellow humans were feeling overwhelmed me. They seemed scared, alarmed, worried and even greedy. The beauty I envisioned was nowhere to be found.”

    Read that article via Insty. Might mark me as a terrible person, but I actually found this part absolutely hilarious. This is the perfect place to deploy the Bruce-Willis-leaning-out-a-broken-window meme, “Welcome to the party, pal!”

  175. esr on 2016-03-20 at 13:51:53 said:
    > An Experimental Autism Treatment Cost Me My Marriage
    It took me five years to find a new balance and stability

    I wonder if he started smoking dope, wearing his hair long and listening to that Rock and Roll music?

    (in otherwords he really seems to be describing late adolescence)

  176. >(in otherwords he really seems to be describing late adolescence)

    Which makes sense, because late adolescence is a pretty good parallel to what he was experiencing.

    However, he had also had the problem of dealing with certain foolish illusions he’d built up for himself. Thus the mockery- deflating illusions is a good thing to do, but anyone who has convinced himself that beauty is that common or that *easy* really, really needs some deflation.

  177. “I’ve diagnosed myself through this test: http://www.rdos.net/eng/

    Interesting quiz. I’m 40/200, well over on the neurotypical side, with high perception, social, and communication skills.

    [img]http://www.rdos.net/eng/poly10a.php?p1=14&p2=40&p3=24&p4=13&p5=28&p6=8&p7=25&p8=35&p9=0&p10=7[/img]

    Reading some of the earlier comments, I’m now wondering if I am more of an outlier on this blog than I had thought!

    • >Reading some of the earlier comments, I’m now wondering if I am more of an outlier on this blog than I had thought!

      Your results were rather similar to mine.

  178. “Your results were rather similar to mine.”

    And quite different from those implied by many other posters’ comments.

    Eric, you’ve spent a lot of time publicly with the highly-educated geek population. Do you feel that your neurotypical, extroverted, public-speaking, socially-active style is common among geeks? Uncommon, but not rare? Highly unusual?

    I’m somewhat outside geek culture now that I’ve left software engineering and switched to a business/marketing role. I’m surrounded by neurotypicals (e.g., brand managers, creatives, etc.) every day. But that is not what I recall from memories of my time in engineering.

    I remember always befriending the secretaries in the engineering companies where I worked because they were the “normal” people in the office. I have the interest in technical topics and geek humor, but not the social isolation or awkwardness.

    • >Do you feel that your neurotypical, extroverted, public-speaking, socially-active style is common among geeks?

      Absolutely not. It’s as rare as a blue moon.

      Much of my odd career trajectory becomes understandable on the model that I’m one of the few natural candidates to be Speaker-to-Neurotypicals for a large population of people with aspie and high-functioning-autist traits, even if not the full clinical syndromes.

      It’s a little weirder than that, because I do actually have some of the autism-spectrum traits myself – the ability to hyperconcentrate and the pattern-recognition acuity are the biggies. But either I have them in a different way than aspies or I’m a really really well-compensated aspie. The latter is possible but I doubt it – I think I’m something else rather more like a shadow Tourette’s case.

  179. >>”Do you feel that your is common among geeks?”
    >”Absolutely not. [Neurotypical, extroverted, public-speaking, socially-active style is] as rare as a blue moon.”

    Thanks for confirming that.

    >”Much of my odd career trajectory becomes understandable on the model that I’m one of the few natural candidates to be Speaker-to-Neurotypicals for a large population of people with aspie and high-functioning-autist traits, even if not the full clinical syndromes.”

    I love that phrase “Speaker-to-Neurotypicals”. It captures your situation–and mine–extremely well. (And yes, of course I get the Ringworld reference.)

    You have just helped me understand my own career trajectory. Superficially it’s very different from yours, but the underlying pattern is strikingly parallel.

    During my 10 years of doing software development, I always wanted to do the requirements and design. Coding was less interesting, and I always hated debugging. The really fun part was meeting with users to find out what they wanted, building prototypes, and demoing prototypes for users to get more feedback. I also enjoyed getting up in front of a developers’ design meeting, leading discussion, and capturing it on a whiteboard.

    I kept trying to move from a position as a coder to one that was more of a software architect or requirements & design lead, but never found one. At the time I thought I just wasn’t a member of the old boys’ club, and those positions went to members in good standing. (In my last software role, engineers were forbidden from meeting with users! This makes sense in general given the usual engineer personality, but in my case it was a waste of a useful personality trait and skill set.)

    But now I think I was overlooked for software design leader roles because I was outside the attitude and behavior pattern that other techies found comfortable. It would have been very easy for others to pigeonhole the one person on the team who was always willing to write the requirements document, but who didn’t want to do forced-march debugging, as “not a real techie” or “not skilled enough to lead the project”. Writing docs is low-status, y’know…

    I ended up going back to business school, going the MBA route, and doing market research in the corporate world. This is a field that involves a lot of data analysis, statistical modeling, Excel/SPSS use, and so forth, so it’s a good fit for the analytical mindset. And while most of the market research people I’ve worked with over the past 10+ years appear to be neurotypicals rather than aspies, they still tend to be data-focused rather than outward-focused. (Less true of those from anthropology backgrounds, but even those still tend to be introverts, or at least less effective at interacting with peers.)

    And that is why I am the one person in the research group who can get up in front of 50 people for 2 1/2 hours and have them eating out of my hand. That’s why I have started getting invitations to be guest speaker at partner organizations and market research conferences. It’s why I’m about to be elected president of my local ham radio club.

    I really am Speaker-to-Neurotypicals, or even more accurately, Speaker-to-Suits. And that has happened because there aren’t many people that can master both complex data analysis in technical fields and *also* translate it for Normals.

    Thank you again for an insight I had not reached on my own.

    • >I kept trying to move from a position as a coder to one that was more of a software architect or requirements & design lead, but never found one.

      That’s a shame. I am software-architect guy, and I confirm that it’s the role natural to someone with your constellation of traits. The main difference I see between us is that while I dislike debugging pretty strongly, I like coding rather more than you seem to. Like you, I write documentation very cheerfully – I think one reason my projects tend to get wide deployment is that I’m painstaking about getting that right.

      If you had continued as a software developer, I suspect your coping strategy for your dislike of debugging would have paralleled mine – that is, investing heavily in regression and functional testing and static checking up front so as to minimize your defect load.

      >Thank you again for an insight I had not reached on my own.

      Glad to be of service.

  180. “If you had continued as a software developer, I suspect your coping strategy for your dislike of debugging would have paralleled mine – that is, investing heavily in regression and functional testing and static checking up front so as to minimize your defect load.”

    That’s absolutely correct. Even in my new career, I am very process-driven, trying to design, improve, and implement new processes that reduce everyone’s workload. I’d rather invest more time up front to reduce the need to spend time on boring tasks later.

    I am good enough at this to get recruited to help with process-development work that isn’t directly related to my actual job responsibilities.

  181. The main difference I see between us is that while I dislike debugging pretty strongly, I like coding rather more than you seem to.

    Many programmers rely heavily on debugging, but I find that the best ones often don’t, and often hate it, even though they could be very good at it if they wanted to. The surface reason is pretty simple — if it requires debugging, they screwed up and didn’t think everything through, so debugging is a mark of failure, even if only internal.

    But I think that is a proxy for, and somewhat masks, the real reason. Excellent coders can hold plenty of state in their heads, and they usually write code that doesn’t need to be directly debugged, because they have other resources such as test cases and print statements that they can bring to bear with a vengeance, so some (most?) of them only reach for a debugger as a last resort.

    These coders take to heart the admonition to always step through your program once; they just usually have the capability to do it mentally rather than with a debugger.

    So when someone like that finally reaches for a debugger, he knows there is a good chance he has a serious problem, and the state explosion he has to manage going from the abstract to the concrete is going to take an unknown/unknowable amount of time. And it’s sensitive time — the wrong real-world interruption at the wrong time could set him back a lot. So this contributes to his distaste for debugging.

    Every programmer should have some familiarity with a debugger, and some people have to use them on a daily basis, e.g. just to load code into an embedded target.

    Really good programmers should also have a really good understanding of the capabilities and limitations of debuggers, but in my experience, people who know all the intricacies of a particular debugger like the back of their hands often aren’t very good programmers — the accurate preflight mental code walkthrough is either something they haven’t learned or something they simply aren’t capable of.

    That’s not always the case, though — some really good people have had to spend a lot of time debugging other peoples’ stuff, and others just maintain the debugger muscle memory from their early days as programmers.

    At one point, I was really, really good with a particular debugger. That was because, at the time, I was writing code that interacted with other code with ill-defined boundaries and relatively poor documentation — that I didn’t have the source code to. E.g. Windows 3.1/95/98. It did stupid shit. For example, you could ask the VxD subsystem to queue a task for later execution, and it put it on a system-wide LIFO.

  182. Thank you for this insight.

    That so many ‘boffins’ nowadays base their sense of self on a pathology ( aspergers as a social movement ) seemed terribly wrong.

    Boffinry used to be cultivated by UK Grammar Schools where my Father found intellectual sanctuary – shuttered by socialism by the Compresive ‘reform’ of UK education.

    I was forced to attend the local fight club, or rather ‘Comprehensive’ which in my fathers day would have been for apprentices andd hairdressers.

    Years of beatings and fear certainly toughened me up but also wasted my precious youthful years.

    20 years later, I am a survivor, still a bit broken and socially isolated.

    Everybody wants me to ‘get diagnosed’ when I can see their social emotions generally have no integrity and find the necessary emotional dishonesty hard work.

    Monkey grooming *heh*

  183. I took that test, very much not sure if I’ve been a high-functioning Aspie all this time. When I read about symptoms, the ones I identify with are odd social skills, not looking people in the eye when conversing, using $5 words when 25c ones will do, unusually high interest in odd topics. The ones I don’t identify with are disliking changes to routine, not picking up on subtle inflections, odd facial expressions, poor handwriting, and overstimulation from bright lights, textures, etc. Trouble is, whenever I read these symptoms lists, I get the feeling I’m reading a horoscope (cue Amazing Randi) (cue unusual pattern recognition skills). And I never find any text talking about how to misdiagnose these; there’s never anything saying “these traits might also just mean X”.

    FWIW:
    Your neurodiverse (Aspie) score: 66 of 200
    Your neurotypical (non-autistic) score: 153 of 200
    You are very likely neurotypical

    I suppose this rules out Aspie, but FAIK it does not rule out HF-Aspie.

    I’ve been a programmer since age 10. I used to prefer programming to talking because I found it easier to predict what a computer would do than a person. I also really liked the subject of program correctness, and dreamed of somehow automating the conversion of stuff we say we want a computer to do, into working code. Lately, though, I find myself doing more talking or writing to people, and relatively little programming; it’s almost as if I’ve tired of coding, and want to move on to other topics. Case in point: the later thread about Urbit has me skimming the comments about the language tiredly; I can’t bring myself to grow fascinated with what appears to be a fascinating language.

    Conversely, I’m more interested in how the commenters talk about it. It’s as if I’ve grown fascinated with different theories of mind, and the dynamics of diplomacy and persuasion. At the same time, I’ve never been good at sales, and have been sort of slowly forced into it by circumstance; these days, I’m commonly developing software alongside a customer, in a way that makes me have to “sell” what I’m doing. I find it arduous, mostly because I feel like I’m having to simulate their mind. (I’ve had people accuse me of “overthinking” when I do this.)

    • >I suppose this rules out Aspie, but FAIK it does not rule out HF-Aspie.

      FWIW, having interacted with you face-to-face, I don’t think you’re either an autist or NFA. I think you’re just a very bright neurotypical.

  184. The psychiatrist who diagnosed me with Asperger’s says that my case is one of moderate severity. He says that mental problems can be mild, moderate, or severe just like physical ailments. He maintains that the most important thing is to do the best we can with whatever we are, regardless of labels. We should not allow the labels to define us.

    The label gave me a theoretical framework for understanding myself and explaining myself to others. My own experience tells me that a skilled clinician’s opinion is worth more than the results of any test questionnaire. There being no foolproof test nor any targeted treatment as there is for some conditions, e.g., hypertension, all we can do is to know ourselves and make the best of our circumstances.

  185. There is (at least) one more variable involved; noise level.

    I am autistic enough that I was diagnosed back in the late 70s before it became popular.

    I’m rather smart when alone or in a one-on-one setting. Probably still in the top decile or so if in a group of ~10, but put me in a crowded bar and I can _maybe_ outsmart your average border collie. This because all the bandwidth is occupied with desperately trying to filter and make sense of the sensory inputs.

  186. >I’m rather smart when alone or in a one-on-one setting. Probably still in the top decile or so if in a group of ~10, but put me in a crowded bar and I can _maybe_ outsmart your average border collie. This because all the bandwidth is occupied with desperately trying to filter and make sense of the sensory inputs.

    Many neurotypicals are prone to that same problem, except the awful mind-killing noises are inside their own heads.

    • >Many neurotypicals are prone to that same problem, except the awful mind-killing noises are inside their own heads.

      Bingo. Cue Zen metaphors about drunken monkeys.

  187. I wonder at what level this social mind-killing thing operates?

    Is it a the level of sensory processing? If so, the malfunction is that autonomic filtering is not switched on, and working memory is overloaded with analysis tasks (see: Low Latent Inhibition).

    Is it at the paleomammalian level? Ie does the amygdala shut off smartness when you are in the inferior social position? I remember reading about how dominant gorillas have more serotonin in ther brains. More neurochems == better processing.

    Is it at the hormonal level? Cf Amy Cuddy, and “power posing”. Different hormones == different cognition.

    Is it at the cognitive schema level? For instance, I spend a lot of cycles trying to figure out whether I am right or society is right on a given issue. Anti-dote would be adoption of things like Stoicism or Buddhism, which allow you to bypass these struggles entirely.

    My answer is: all of them (probably).

  188. Also, a tip for random smarties who can’t get along with standard-protocol humans: channel your intelligence into humor. It is the most effective way to interface with normal people. Then, your various tribal circuits will kick in and tell you that you are part of the group, freeing up more bandwidth to do more of the same.

  189. Maybe a bit controversial, but I would recommend the PUA manual “Primal seduction” by Steve Jabba for advice on “inner game”. Ie getting to a socially dominant place in your head.

  190. ‘It’s one of those phenomena like “stage fright” that I guess I have to believe in because I hear enough reports of it, but it’s alien to my experience.’

    I think stage fright and socially-induced stupidity have the same root cause: feeling that your own will is in competition with some kind of collective will, a Stirnerian spook that you might call Social Programming. If you see yourself as above Social Programming, or have found a synergy with it, there will be no stage fright.

    Or rather, stage fright is actually a subset of this socially-induced stupidity.

    Maybe we could name it. Socipidity?

    If you go before a crowd and feel fully justified in expressing your voice, there will be no fear. Unless it’s some kind of sensory-processing issue. But in most cases it’s probably this struggle between “my will” and “the collective will”. Very Nietzchean :)

  191. “I am not an expert. But it is really interesting that mental illnesses e.g. depression have HW (pillz) and SW (CBT) treatments. Suggests the HW/SW separation is a poor model to model brains. There is a such a thing as neuroplasticity and I don’t know how to formulate it properly but basically that is not only a thing that happens to exist but more or less a necessary precondition for cognition because brains are incapable of the kind of information storage a HDD is capable of i.e. only superficial physical change, they are perhaps more like an abacus where storing information has to be done through serious physical changes.”

    Is the name written in frosting on a birthday cake an ingredient or signal?

  192. “But the causal arrow could run two ways: either my bad working memory is the result of a deeper inability to focus, or my focus suffers because my working memory is perpetually bogged down.”

    Isn’t there an easy way to test this?

    Do you do better on working memory tasks when taking Adderall?

    And, if you remove distractions and things requiring analysis, do you focus better?

  193. Pingback: Sentences (#53) | Neoreactive

  194. Unless you’re able to show how exactly “autism-like facilities for pattern recognition and hyperconcentration” relate to monkey rituals, you really haven’t solved the mystery, have you, genius.

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