The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it. ... In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell

Monday, February 7, 2011

Does autism mean being more human?

I was threatening to write on this topic under my November post "Lack of social skills made us human". See also, or I should say - especially Emily Deans, M.D. comment!.
Here we go.

It is about people with Aspergers' or mild Autism working in business environment (software consultancy), intermingling with the "normal" office employees and the ensuing culture clash.

An interview with Thorkil Sonne on CBC Radio 1 (Canadian) a couple of months ago, has sparked my interest in this as around the same time I started researching some issue involving anthropology and society. The following article from The Independent titled "Better, faster... and no office politics: the company with the autistic specialists" is fairly close to what was told on Sonne's radio interview. Let me quote:

I know lots of companies with noisy, chaotic, open-plan offices, where the work is like fire-fighting most of the time, and people from Specialisterne wouldn’t be able to work there. That said, the environment they need is the kind of environment we should all be working in anyway.”

Remarkably, about 70 per cent of Specialisterne’s employees are stationed in client premises. I asked Sonne how easy it is for them to fit in with other working environments. “We create virtual Specialisterne environments in our clients’ offices. Everyone who will be in contact with our consultants is briefed about the conditions they require. They have to be nice to our people, avoid stressing them. In Denmark, we use a lot of irony and sarcasm, but people with autism can’t decode that. We make sure that the clients know how important it is to be direct, to outline tasks precisely and to stick to routines, particularly if any queries arise.”

“That’s how you avoid an ‘I only fly with Qantas’ freak-out?” I blurt. “Yes,” says Sonne. “We’ve never had a ‘freak-out’. In fact, saying what you mean, meaning what you say, being nice, avoiding stress are all good things in general for companies to take on board. Many have said to us that having one of our consultants has softened the atmosphere.”

It must actually be a relief to work with colleagues for whom office politics, backbiting and bitchiness are anathema. “Yes, they are a happy and loyal group, no one ever talks badly about anyone else. It’s nice to work with people who are honest, without filters. In fact I am working on a new management technique based on our experience with working conditions that are more open and direct.”

You do have to have the right environment for people with Asperger’s to function – there needs to be an acceptance that I am special, that I might not work regular hours, that I might have down periods – but if you have that in place, we can do any job.”

Most Specialisterne employees tend to work 20- to 25-hour weeks, but Jacobsen has brought his hours up to 35. “You really blossom here. I see it with so many Aspergerians who join the company and get proper training. I have a lot of friends at the company now, and we socialise and go out together in town. We know we all have that twist.”
Of course, some experts have identified autistic traits in people such as Mozart, Da Vinci, Newton, Einstein. If they were alive today, perhaps they would be recognised as having Asperger’s, and look at what they achieved. Unfortunately, there is such an emphasis on being a team player and social skills in the workplace that there is still this resistance.

Comments? We should draw our own conclusions, but I could not help noticing that the attributes of the corporate culture that the Specialisterne Aspergers' people found unbearable are the same that _I_ find unbearable! They are the same attributes and habits that most of my fellow engineers find unbearable!

More articles, links and comments on the subject of corporate culture, "baby boomers'" etc., can be found under "anthropology" search term .


dav0 said...

Try the Baron-Cohen test. I got 35

Stan (Heretic) said...


Nigel Kinbrum said...

I found you via Paleobuzz. What is this "human" of which you speak?

The world needs nerds. Both Sides Now: Nerds! :-D

Stan (Heretic) said...

- by "human" I meant the left hand side of the table in this post. Nerd? - me too! 8-:)

Jenna said...

HAHAHA interesting!

As a side note, have you heard that Introversion is associated with having a personality disorder?

(A high percentage of introverts are found to be Gifted too.)

Stan (Heretic) said...

Jenna, this link is interesting but experience presented in that Danish software company shows that American Psychiatric Association may have a slightly incomplete picture. Quote:

Facets of Detachment:

Social withdrawal is characterized by a preference for being alone to being with others; by reticence in social situations; by avoidance of social contacts and activity; and by lack of initiation of social contact....

My comment:

- Preference for being alone, rather than socializing - with whom? With the over-represented in our society the skill-less backstabbing dog-eat-dog types? With "Baboons"?

Asperger's condition didn't seem to prevent those programmers from socialising (Asperger's - SOCIALIZING!!!) among people of their (our?) own type of consciousness. I think I can understand them perfectly though I am not an "Aspi".



Jenna said...

Yes, I thought it was rather humorous too! Perhaps I should have been a bit more explicit with tying together the humorous 'bits of information':

Gifted/Introvert (has a penchant for 'socially withdrawn' cough and reading)-AHA!-Personality disorder (say's professional retard parent/Doctor/majority)!

With regards, to Asperger's, one of my best friends (just to note, I don't have it) has Asperger's. He happens to spend the majority of his time inventing new musical instruments and being asked to the music department of University's to 'speak' to their students about his uncanny ability to stun the 'experts' with his wizardry. Funnily enough the only man who has been his best friend was an internationally renowned 'traveler' and storyteller, who many considered Gifted (up until the day he died he was having his brain examined). Funny that, two 'Gifted' people got on so well, one generally considered a social, (ahem) retard! And the other adept, and with 'reason' to be so. Hmmm.

Stan (Heretic) said...

Jenna, you should look into Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" - so many issues we are talking about is right there! I got an audio version, listening while driving to work. Incredible book!

Jenna said...

Sounds interesting, I will look it up. Thanks. All I have come across with regards, to Ayn Rand, is criticism, especially amongst evolutionary psychologists. I guess it's the 'reason'/'rational mind' part. :)

You might like, Kazimierz Dabrowski's theory of 'Positive Disintegration'. I like his view of 'personality development'.

Stan (Heretic) said...

Re: "You might like, Kazimierz Dabrowski's theory of 'Positive Disintegration'. I like his view of 'personality development'."

I was searching for this author since I remember all the debating and criticism he received in Poland in the 1970-ties, but I couldn't remember the exact name. Thanks for posting it!

His famous thesis went something like this (paraphrasing): "look at all those 'normal' people wasting their time socializing, wasting their lives drinking beer or vodka and never actually accomplishing anything"

That was (and probably still is) very politically incorrect, and he was uniformly criticized by virtually all leading Polish psychologists. They probably took it against themselves since in the communist system the higher you got the less skills you found. Hmm,I think there exist another system like that too...

Re: Ayn Rand

She was heavily criticized by collectivists, probably because her books exposed their shallowness and hypocrisy. All those enthusiasts of "sharing" - which whenever implemented in practice meant working for them by people like me, for free, while the propagators of sharing, the elites , contributing nothing of value themselves and even destroying wealth by their inept management! I used to liv in a communist country for the first 27 years of my life...

Jenna said...

HAHA (excluding that part where you say 'I used to liv in a communist country for the first 27 years of my life...').

Yes, I very much appreciate his views, as an ideal and I find it somewhat pragmatic, for me at least.

Here goes the narrative fallacy: I read the book's, 'The Myth of Mental Illness', by Thomas Szasz, and 'Sanity, Madness and the Family' by R.D. Laing, and many more sharing some central likeness. Zimbardo's 'Stanford prison experiment', and Bob Altermeyer's - The Authoritarians convinced me that there are just enough grounds to say that our *potentials* are to some degree, socially constructed, and so there is, the possibility that certain social relations can be deconstructed. The approach, is the magic ticket I guess. The Placebo treatment/studies has gone some way to convince me of how little *we* actually know about the human being. But I do think, 'development' has to start with the idea of the individual; this is where human diversity comes into the picture; and then there's the slight issue of consciousness and memetics (just another analogy?). From this point I draw a blank: what are the purposes of our story telling? Is thought an evolutionary mistake? Or just a matter of thinking on mass (in a much larger context than had been anticipated* biologically speaking (*probably not the correct choice of word?))? I guess I will ponder ever and anon, for sanity!

dav0 said...

Stan, this is worth a listen:


Stan (Heretic) said...


This audio lecture is fantastic and exactly on the topic! Will post in in the permanent link section, thanks!

JC said...

My favorite philosopher Seth has something to say about this topic.I'll let you find it as you read.

"backstabbing dog-eat-dog types? With "Baboons"? "......Seth would say they are your creation....that every thing and every one we encounter is our own creation.....actually he would say there is no's just us.

It make us totally responsibe for literally everything.We can't blame others if there are no others.

Jenna said...

JD, do you mean if one where to consider there are no others conceptually? (Might sound like a stupid question, but I just would like you to clarify.)

I like your point, but


'The limits of interpretation' (Peter Lomas)

comes to mind.

Jenna said...

I mean conceptually from an individuals perspective?

JC said...

Jenna,It would be difficult to clear up without extensive explanation.Stan is aquainted with the works of Seth so I was pointing out to him that any judgement we make of others is really self judgement since according to Seth all we experience is our own creation.

If you are interested in Seth's philosophy try "The Nature Of Personal Reality" by Jane Roberts

JC said...

Jenna,Social isolation experiments take place in the physical arena.Seth would be interested in how the physical world and the events in it are created.Those experiments would not be relevent to discussions on the nature of reality and what we experience....according to Seth's philosophy.

He would disagree with the members of the "Collective".....Alan Greenspan and Ayn Rand who believe there is a seperate material world "out there".He would argue that no seperate world exists....that it is all in consciousness and our own creation....but we do experience it as a seperate material's our own self created illusion.

Jenna said...

Hi, JC, thanks, I will look it up.

Stan (Heretic) said...

Re: ... enough grounds to say that our *potentials* are to some degree, socially constructed, and so there is, the possibility that certain social relations can be deconstructed.

I tried in the past to model it from that point of view and it got me nowhere. I could not get any useful prediction and it did not make me understand what drives other people. Every time I ended up facing too many variables to make any sense out of it. For example, every disfunctional (from my p.o.v.) person appeared to have a totally different childhood, upbringing and social background. I suspect that the same problem faced all great psychologists that subscribed to that, such as Sigismund Freud et al. They tried simplifying that mess by focusing upon only one aspect of the social upbringing. For example on sexuality. I believe it led them nowhere, that is it did not make their their theories useful or predictive of anything.

I only made a progress in my understanding of human psyche, and was able to make useful (in my business dealings) predictions regarding personalities, characters and outcomes, when I (a) learned more about myself, and (b) switched to Dozent's human-simian regression theory.

A "collectivist" or Ayn Rand's "wealth appropriators/looters" types are in this model, not a consequence of some social programming, but rather are actually a different family (or "species") of consciousness. As different from our "nomadic human" consciousness as dogs are different from cats.

When we look at this picture from the "we are all one" point of view, we get extremely frustrated by not being able to explain various pathologies. Standing from the species of consciousness point of view - one realizes that there are no pathologies!

And we are of course NOT one!!! We are also not better or worse than them! Just different!

From the point of view of the "species" model, I no longer feel compelled neither to judge others nor hate them - just as it wouldn't make a sense to judge which is "better": dogs or cats!


Stan (Heretic) said...

Re: ...any judgement we make of others is really self judgement since according to Seth all we experience is our own creation.

I begun reading Seth 20 years ago after I read his first text about parallel-universe theory. Back then no respectable physicist would touch that with a ten foot pole. Hugh Everett wrote it in the 1950-ties but it is only now slowly becoming the main interpretation of quantum mechanics, supperceeding Copenhagen.

JC, I am not sure that your "it is all in our head" interpretation is correct or plausible, but I think that Seth's "we create our own reality" - is! I think that I/we can bring on certain events and attract certain people by thinking certain beliefs. This brings more questions than answers. I am not sure what is my consciousness or whatever it is that experiences physical reality through Stan (Heretic) - in relation to the consciousness of our species, or to the wider consciousness.

What is Consciousness? Is it singular like an operating system software? What it "runs" on? Is it divided into tasks and processes that run supposedly independently but are really part of the same software execution stream?

JC said...

"And we are of course NOT one!!! We are also not better or worse than them! Just different!"

And as Seth would say....if that is what you believe then that is what you will experience.

Debating is a waste of time....trying to educate toxic personalities is a waste of time...

again....if that is what you believe then that is what you will experience..

Total responsibility is a tough thing to come to terms with....its all our creation.

Theories about personality,diet,anthropology have no basis in reality apart from what we impart to them through our beleifs.Our beliefs are the creators....we don't come to our beliefs from looking at facts and drawing conclusions....the beliefs come first. Seth's ideas not mine...but I agree with him.

JC said...

Stan,Not that its all in you head because there is no head...just consciousness... but if Seth is right physical reality has no existence apart from consciousness which creates the experience we call physical reality.

I saw a special on public TV about the son of Hugh Everett who was trying to learn about his father by searching through his stuff and talking to his associates.The son is some kind of famous rock star.

"I am not sure what is my consciousness or whatever it is that experiences physical reality through Stan (Heretic) - in relation to the consciousness of our species, or to the wider consciousness."

Maybe this realization or knowing is what is often called enlightenment.Jean Klein has some interesting ideas abou this.

Stan (Heretic) said...

Who is Jean Klein?

JC, Currently I do believe that we are dealing with two separate species of consciousness: one socio-centric, and task-oriented individualistic. Yes, this believe has indeed created a certain reality for me by me, which I feel is far nicer than the reality I used to attract towards me by my previously thought - now discarded beliefs (in "oneness")! It is much nicer because it practically and instantaneously eliminated a simmering hatred out of my life.

Stan (Heretic) said...

Re: ... but if Seth is right physical reality has no existence apart from consciousness which creates the experience we call physical reality.

Yes but a simulated existence in consciousnes is also existence! So yes there is such a thing as head, hand, legs, body etc. Is it real - I believe it is as real as anything no more and no less. Please notice that it does not exclude at all the idea that it is simulated or "dreamed of" by some other higher form of consciousness.

Are we really dreaming this reality? Yes! (probably...) Is it real - as real as a dream! Is a dream (any dream) real? Well dreams are real to me. Many (if not most) of my new skills I learned through dreams. Dreams are a pattern of information. Like a software. Does a piece of software not exist?

Jenna said...

'Yes, this believe has indeed created a certain reality for me by me, which I feel is far nicer than the reality I used to attract towards me by my previously thought - now discarded beliefs (in "oneness")! It is much nicer because it practically and instantaneously eliminated a simmering hatred out of my life.'

I have just recently quit my Anthropology Degree, because I realized that the methodologies used are *somewhat* flawed, and then regarding the ethics of what the knowledge becomes. Questioning anthropological methodologies, founding its 'knowledge banks' forced me to question myself, and why I had been motivated to learn about 'Other', 'Culture' etc. I think I always thought of Anthropology as what it could provide for me to enable me to do for all or something other than 'I'; I then realized this was, is in some ways illusory.

I am in a difficult place now because, I have always been driven by quite idealistic notions of self, and 'other'. I was never encouraged by my family to pursue certain things, and I never believed I was able in ability to pursue certain fields of knowledge. But the funny thing is that I am now left with no actual skills from pursuing with a subscription to certain beliefs; and this leads me to look for useful skills, as I define useful, which leads me back to school.

My ideas now of what is useful goes against everything that I have been brought up to believe. Now I consider everything as relative despite being attacked, and despite having to attack (in some way) to protect myself.

I have no tools other than an awareness that language, and 'understanding' is not a tool to support myself, or at least only so far. And as my father has always said, it's not what you/they say, its what you/they do, that leads to an understanding of what is useful; which is individually defined of course. And I guess that that individual definition of what is useful to pursue or attract would be in line with 'natural' preferences, or strengths, which would reflect will. Misalignment would lead to neurosis of sorts.

So yes, I agree with everything that is being said. But I do wonder with regards, to Dozent's human-simian regression theory; how does Gender come into this idea, and also, family context. Because if baby boomers, or nomads are defined more from a biological basis rather than ideological, as a starting point; then what is your view of the family members; are siblings then all of one 'type'?

Maybe I am misunderstanding, so bare with me. I just don't have the years, or the education on my side!

Really appreciate your thoughts, thanks.

JC said...

" I just don't have the years, or the education on my side! "

That probably means you are closer to truth.All too often age and experience make us cautious,reserved,fearful,and suspicious.You listen to the inner voices we have long forgotten.

JC said...

Jean Klein link

Stan (Heretic) said...

Re: gender

I didn't come across any observations that would necessitate differentiating between genders, in the context of human-simian regression theory.

As for the issue of inheriting those traits: it seems not to be inheritable. I do not understand what determines the prevalence of one or the other in any society at any given time, like for example why do we have such a prevalence of "baby boomers" collectivistic types now in the United States and Canada?

I noticed many cases when children of individualistic parents are collectivistic regressors or vice versa. The best example are American and Europen baby boomers generation. The opposite cases seems to happen as well. I have seen many children of skill-less collectivistic parents (e.g. many government employees and communist appartchiks, free loaders and other social parasites) who turned up to be highly individualistic and very gifted.

Re: your education

In my experience it may be a good decision to change the course only if you find that your professors are not knowledgeable enough for you, are not charismatic or just mediocre.

(you should also ask Dav0 about his educational experience in this matter...)

Your decision was probably correct. I found that what really matters in education is to find some really smart professor that can teach you something unique and valuable as opposed to just marking your grades as happens in some mediocre universities.

As to the choice of the discipline, my personal preference are hard sciences rather than "soft sciences" (humanities). We live in the age of technology and science and I believe that those will be the skills that will be sought out, will be almost always found useful and will lead to well paid work.

The current anti-science anti-engineering reversal in the USA, in the UK and other Western countries (except Germany) is a temporary "hiccup" by the baby boomers' management elites. I think it will rectify itself as soon as the present generation retires and we emerge out of the "Greater Depression".

Therefore my recommendation would be to study something that involves engineering, medicine, science, or mathematics/statistics. The skills that _human_ societies value (as opposed to the regressors' run societies) are those related to our survival, thus my recommendation above. The skills involving various forms of art are also very important as they train our imagination and intuitive intelligence.

Skills that collectivists-regressors value the most are obedience, compliance to rules, social interaction and a distorted version of "teamwork" because those skills form the basis of their social "herd"-like groups.

I hope it helps,

Jenna said...


Stan (Heretic) said...


dav0 said...

Re (you should also ask Dav0 about his educational experience in this matter...):

Flowers are red young man and green leaves are green. There is no need to see flowers any other way, than the way they always have been seen...


Jenna said...

I, like.

Stan (Heretic) said...

Re: flowers are red

Dav0 didn't quite finish his post, let me do it for him:

flowers are red - harry chapin

Jenna said...

Yes, I looked it up, I appreciate very much; not quite sure which side of the spectrum I now am on, though.


dav0 said...

Jenna, I think that the fact you're not singing the mantra and actually have doubts means that there's hope for you yet.

Stan, I didn't finish the post deliberately. The second part was intentionally overstated in it's absence.

Jenna said...

Which mantra?

dav0 said...

Flowers are red...

Jenna said...


blogblog said...

My score is 45.

Interestingly enough I'm also regarded as very friendly and quite sociable. This is because I have learned to be interested in other people.

The most important thing for a person with Asperger's is to get into the right job. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are prime examples of turning obsessive behavioural characteristics into exceptional success.

Jenna said...

Stan (Heretic) said...

Hi blogblog,

You are a champion! Welcome to our Club of Nerds, hey would you like to become the chairman? 8-:)

You are absolutely right about the importance of suitable jobs (not just any jobs) for people like that. Once they find a proper place they can really shine and keep building this civilisation. I would add also that it is important to find a mentor or mentors early on. It is difficult (or was until the internet) because we have been so isolated. Most of my energy (at school) used to be wasted on dealing with people who neither shared my interests, skills, hobbies, passions or were putting roadblocks. Very few would share. I am sure it is a common experience.

Hi Jenna

This article is fascinating! It makes me think that we are dealing with 2 distinct phenomena:

1) Some cases of Aspergers being the symptom of some neurological damage in the childhood.

2) in some other cases, the Aspergers' symptoms of withdrawal from the society and uncomminicativeness may be a conscious or unconscious protective reaction against some toxic (to us) habits and customs of the dominant society.

It certainly was in my case. For people who have real skills and technical or scientific interests, all those time-consuming and useless social games and social power plays seem an utter waste of time and energy. Furthermore, there seems to be something more at play than just conditioning and habits. I think this situation has all the characteristics of dealing with the two distinct species (of consciousness).

Behavior of the other types seemed to me not only inappropriate personally, but also felt totally unnatural, it was like being forced to walk on all four. Contrary to one's own species!

The real breakthrough for me was the realization that not only I do not have to be like them or conform to them but also that I am simply NOT of their kind! That is perfectly alright! I can now actually sympatize with them, no hatred at all. Not any more!

Stan (Heretic)

Jenna said...

Jenna said...

Jenna said...

I've just started reading Rand's 'The Fountainhead', really nice perspective.

Jenna said...

I really apologize, my 'comments' are more like spam. But, I have found a load of articles which may be relevant to your ideas. I found them fascinating and insightful, perhaps they are useful. I have picked out what seem like the most relevant ones, but there are quite a few. (Just to note: I am as of today making it a rule not to spam up your comment sections. (The links don't work properly, but if you copy and paste titles of articles, you should easily find them online):

The Mouse Trap: synaptic plasticity: angelman's/autism and psychosis

The Mouse Trap: Low Latent Inhibition,
high faith in intuition and psychosis/creativity

Eidetic Illuminations: Creative States of Consciousness

The Mouse Trap: The Default Brain Network: implications for Autism and Schizophrenia

The Mouse Trap: Badcock on Edge: the
imprinted gene theory of ASD/ PSD

In a Novel Theory of Mental Disorders,
Parents’ Genes Are in Competition -

The Mouse Trap: Autism and
Schizophrenia: a minicolumnar deficit?

The Mouse Trap: CNVs and Autism/

The Mouse Trap: Autism and
Schizophrenia: Chris Frith on my side

The Mouse Trap: Art and Insanity:
is there risk involved in artistic creation?

The Mouse Trap: Art and Insanity:
is there risk involved in artistic creation?

The Mouse Trap: Brain Feminization
of males with schizophrenia?

The Mouse Trap: Autism, the middle
cingulate and reputation management

The Mouse Trap: Autism: a cognitive
style and not a deficit

The Mouse Trap: Autism: difference
or disease?

The Mouse Trap: Autism / Psychosis:
Agency and Joint Attention

The Mouse Trap: Psychosis and Autism as Diametrical Disorders of the Social Brain: converging evidence!!

The Mouse Trap: Auitsm, Valproate and Mania/Psychosis

The Mouse Trap: IQ matters...or does it?

Books: None of the Above :
The New Yorker

The Mouse Trap: Rasing Successful kids

The Mouse Trap: cortex maturation:
lag, span and thickness: ADHD,
Schizophrenia, autism , IQ

The Mouse Trap: Schizophrenia:
sensory gating and extracting meaning
from noise

The Mouse Trap: 'Right brain thinking'
and 'diffuse thinking' linked as the
'creative thinking' style

The Mouse Trap: The right brain/ left brain asymmetry debate

The Mouse Trap: Good Mood +
Intuition = Magical Thinking =

The Mouse Trap: True Lies:
More thoughts on Autism
and Schizophrenia

The Mouse Trap: Art and Insanity

The Mouse Trap: Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder: The propensity towards psychosis

The Mouse Trap: Schizophrenia, Religion,
Autism and the Indian culture (alternate
title: Life, The Universe and Everything)

The Mouse Trap: Schizophrenia and Autism: The Two Cultures.

The Mouse Trap: Gender bias in Math
skills : a case of Traits Vs. Environment/Effort feedback?

The Mouse Trap: Alien Vs Predator :
would eugenics and mate selction
divide us in two?

The Mouse Trap: Belief about Intelligence :
how it affects performance and how
it is formed

Stan (Heretic) said...

Hi Jenna,

Thanks for the titles, I will have a look at it as soon as have more time.

You are very welcome to post as many comments as you like, the links and information you are posting are valuable and may be helpful. It's a good place to keep the references in a more-less permanent form and easily accessible. I often do that too (i.e. posting something on this blog) even if I may have no intention of discuss a topic immediately.

To embed a formatting code in your post or a comment, you can use many of the standard html tags, for example <b>this makes it bold</b>.

To make it a live link, in this example, type it as:

<a href="">Heretic</a>

which will come out, after saving and sending as this:


Note: you cannot normally type the less-than < and greater-than > characters directly unless you want them to form those tags. If you want to use them as normal characters, type them like this: &#60; and &#62; respectively (see this ASCII reference )

(you can use "Preview" button to check it before sending)

Stan (Heretic)