We live in very twisted times indeed… an era where morons are deeply invested in portraying geniuses as helpless victims.
Here we have an article written by a guy who is NOT a software developer and of insufficient intellect to excel at anything beyond modern online journalism, a fast dying vocation, attempting to write an authoritative article about how people with Aspberger’s should really be thought of and treated as morons, not as people who are valuable and who have unique potential. Just to be clear… he’s also apparently not a clinical psychologist either.
…nope just a guy who’s greatest intellectual and technical achievement in life is writing about stuff. I wouldn’t be inclined to belittle Simon Parkinson’s intellect if he hadn’t also revealed himself to be a disaster at even his chosen vocation… journalism. In this article we have somebody who is either willfully dishonest and manipulative of the facts or just not bright enough to even reason about them clearly. The basis of his article is… a slide deck I wrote two years ago to present to a group of big company recruiters about how to look for and hire engineering talent outside of the usual industry formula. Of course the slide deck is just a list of bullet points that I intend to speak to, they contain no content of their own, but that didn’t stopSimon fromfabricating a vast warped fairy tale about the points in the slide-deck without hearing a single message I actually said about them. Of course being a brilliant, honest and high integrity journalist, Simon contacted me to get my take on what I said about those subjects? Nope, actually, he completely fabricated everything he attributed to me and I wholly deny having said or expressed ANY of the views he presumes to attribute to me in this highly dishonest article. Let’s just start with the phony premise of the piece;
In the ensuing outrage, a PowerPoint presentationwritten by St. John surfaced which included a slide in which he referred to engineers with Asperger syndrome as being “the holy grail” of hires. “They work like machines,” he wrote, “dont engage in politics, dont develop attitudes and never change jobs.”
So first this presentation didn’t “surface” from some secret embarrassing pit of shame buried on a TOR site, it’s posted proudly on my blog because I talk about these subjects publicly all the time. I am the source of MY PowerPoint Presentationbecause I proudly tell everyone what I actually think all the time… on MY BLOG. Second and most importantly our brilliant journalist fails to correctly parse the two words in the entire presentation that he presumes to fabricate his idiotic article about. The two words from my presentation are “Asperger’s Engineer”… see they appear in the same sentence side by side. In the English language, which Simon presumably has some mastery of, that means they are associated. I didn’t say anything about EVERYONE with Asperger’s, I only spoke about the SUBSET of people with Asperger’s who are ALSO engineers. Nobody, least of all me, was participating in the perpetuation of somestraw-manstereotype that everyone with Asperger’s is a future Bill Gates. So we have somebody who is either an idiot, dishonest or both taking extraordinary disingenuous liberties with my content and my views.
Fine I’m used to that, let’s set that BSaside and try to analyse the horrendous ignorance that he then presumes to foistoff as carefully researched and qualified journalism. Before we proceed let’s make sure everyone understands exactly what Autism is. Autism… according to the Autism Society… is;
It’s not a disease, it’s not a genetic disorder, we have NO IDEA what causes it… it may not even be an actual condition, just a bunch of uncommon personality traits that human beings grouped together and called a mental condition relatively recently. Most importantly after years of research that has FAILED to correlate these “symptoms” with any specific cause, it’s likely that Austim is NOT an actual physical disorder, just a broad group of common personality traits (often correlated to a low IQ) that humans decided to call a “condition”. Now “Asperger’s” another recently fabricated medical term is defined as follows;
“The condition is what doctors call a “high-functioning” type of ASD. This means the symptoms are less severe than other kinds of autism spectrum disorders.”
So “Asperger’s” is BY DEFINITION, a high-functioning condition. These people are NOT characterized as completely socially dysfunctional or developmentally retarded. They are just, “poor communicators”. Frankly that could be 99% of the population, it’s a wonder that they only think it applies to 1 in 68 people. Now Simon, who clearly isn’t autistic because he excels at communicating his ignorance says the following;
“The stereotype has been fully embraced by many software companies.”
Right… because the CONDITION IS A STEREOTYPE. It’s just a collection of attributes that we arbitrarily ascribe to people and call “Aspberger’s”. But since Simon is confused by English sentence structure he fails to grasp that the STEREOTYPE perfectly and consistently applies specifically to Asperger’s-Engineers… not justanybody diagnosed with Asperger’s or Autism. The word was coined as a medical term in 1994, just 22 years ago. I had been HIRING Asperger’s engineers (nerds) for almosta decade before they even FABRICATED the term. Prior to the recentinventionof the term, I came to be familiar with the sameset of symptoms under entirely different circumstances.
I’m a 5th Generation engineer. My family has been producing male engineers who founded technology companies and developed large patent portfolios at a young age since the late 1800’s. In the late 1970’s and 1980’s there were a number of studies on IQ development in which researchers conducted generational IQ testing on families with a history of producing “high IQ” people, in this case defined as engineers, founders and inventors. Both of my parents were teachers and they participated in these studies. I was identified at a young age as having an unusually high IQ and was exposedto a great number of tests designed to qualify the personality traits and mental approaches of people who were assessed to be “high IQ”. At that time one of the observations was that people who tended to score highly on IQ tests lay on a spectrum of personality traits that grew stronger the higher the IQ score. In essence a high IQ score is a personalitytype.
Many of the personality traits associated with a high IQ are compulsive and repetitive in nature. People with high IQ’s don’t get bored with seemingly mundane information as fast as highly social people do. Being highly social actually correlates directly with… wait for it… being stupid!
“Out of 45 dimensions of personality, 23 dimensions were not related to IQ. This included gregariousness, friendliness, assertiveness, poise, talkativeness, social understanding, warmth, pleasantness, empathy, cooperation, sympathy, conscientiousness, efficiency, dutifulness, purposefulness, cautiousness, rationality, perfectionism, calmness, impulse control, imperturbability, cool-headedness, and tranquility. These qualities were not directly relevant to IQ.”
So if smart people don’t tend to be social… what ARE they like?
“These findings suggest that a smaller anterior hippocampus contributes to an increased efficiency of neural processing that subserves overall intelligence.”
That’s right, “intelligence” is the result of RETARDED development of the hippocampus which is governed by specific genes. Why does a RETARDED hippocampus produce people with higher IQ’s? Because the hippocampus plays a very important role in early brain development. Its job is to help us decide what information is worth learning and what information is unimportant and should be forgotten. People with an underdeveloped hippocampus… are inefficient at “forgetting” irrelevant data. Everything is equally fascinating to a person with a RETARDED hippocampus. They don’t get bored with studying seemingly trivial information or from engaging in constant repetition. The fact that early hippocampus size and dimensions is governed genetically is important because it suggests that this trait serves an evolutionary purpose… it’s not an environmental accident.
As we all know the human brain is a remarkable organ. One of it’s most fascinating attributes is how it evolved to produce creatures as mentally versatile as us from apes. Proportionately speaking much of human anatomy is based on adaptations that enable us to give birth to GIANT brains. Despite the astounding relative size of a human brain when it is born compared to all other mammals, the human mind is still a fraction of its future size at birth. Massive genetic compromises took place in shaping the human brain to maximize it’s size and learning velocity at birth while still keeping it small enough to actually pass successfully though a human birth canal. One of the most fascinating compromises is the size of the hippocampus at birth. So to grossly simplify the observation, people born with a large hippocampus tend to be more social, more gregarious and faster at learning language thereby better preparing them to succeed and survive in a human civilization. People born with an underdeveloped hippocampus are less social, less accomplished at language but become better tool makers and inventors because of theirinability to differentiate “important” social information from “unimportant” other information. These people perform better at IQ tests which does not necessarily make them more successful in the real-world because they can also be viewed as socially dysfunctional.
As it turns out the classic stereotype of the absent minded professor or (nerd) actually has astrong genetic foundationin modern intelligence research.
Now here’s the good news… human brains grow fast and fill-out over time. There are lots of fascinating studies about the consequence of this, but in this context I’m going to presume to make the connection that people’s IQ tends to converge or normalize over time. In other words, wide disparities in intellectual potential measured among the young tend to converge with age. Those early differences in IQ and brain structure appear to have an indelible impact on our personalities and interests but in adulthood theyappear to fade. The nerdsbecome more social and the jocks get “smarter”.
So what I learned about intelligence before we invented the term “Asperger’s” to sweepingly include “anti-social” people who are poor communicators, is that a disinterest in socializing coupled with a repetitive fascination with seemingly unimportant information is a symptom of a high IQ personality. In this context the “social” people who are better at writing and talking than thinking want to broadly characterize people who don’t appear to be as social or gregarious as they are as the “retarded” ones… while they are normal and “high-functioning”. Because they have categorized these people as “dysfunctional”, wanting to hire them on purpose must be “exploitation”.
The modern rush to fabricate a medical condition and then (politely)characterize a broad segment of our society as “retarded victims” is a strange phenomena that will never cease to amaze me. In my personal case I was diagnosed at an early age as having severe dyslexia, I’m also left handed and left eyed but canwritewith my right hand.I use both a right and a left mouse at my computer when I’m working. Dyselexia and left-handedness (or weak right-handedness) are also genetically linked to an underdeveloped hippocampus at a young age.
“Many of the genes implicated in dyslexia play a role in general neural development. For example, dyslexia candidate genes DYX1C1, ROBO1 KIAA0319, and DCDC2 appear to be involved in neuronal migration. Animal models are especially useful in determining the function of these genes. For example, Gene knockdown in utero of DYX1C1 disrupts hippocampal development and causes impairments in auditory processing and spatial learning in rodents and mutations in DCDC2 impairs visuo-spatial memory, visual discrimination, and long-term memory in mice. The role of neuronal migration in dyslexia is reviewed in Galaburda (2005).“
Interestingly some of the genes linked to hippocampal development are also associated with myopia which itself correlates to an average 7 point increase in IQ. So those nerd glasses aren’t really a stereotype either.
“Taken together, our results provide evidence for a role of the RASGRF1 gene locus in hippocampus-dependent memory and, along with the previous association with myopia, point toward pleitropic effects of RASGRF1 genetic variations on complex neural function in humans.”
Now Simon thinks that Microsoft recruiting “Asperger’s Engineers” is a new special-needs program that that they are just launching to be charitable, but I was identified and hired by Microsoft when I was 25 with no formal education or even a high-school diploma in 1992. I was later promoted to management and received extensive formal training in Microsoft’s management and recruiting practices which DEFINITELY included learning how to identify and recruit others like myself regardless of our educational backgrounds or grades and included guidance on how to manage them… before Asperger’s was even defined as a medical condition. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that if Bill Gates was born today he would have beendiagnosed with Asperger’s at an early age. My particular proclivities for left-handedness and high aptitude for all things technical (22+ patents and climbing) have a strong genetic lineage in my family culminating in raising daughters who are also very technically accomplished and may-or-may-not share other interesting personality traits associated with people who achievemaximum SAT scores.
In later years as I came to run much larger technical organizations I was exposed to the high-tech world of “Leadership Development” in which big companies like Microsoft and many others perform extensive personality assays on their executivesat great expense and produce huge bound volumes of analysis on each persons leadership potential in various areas. Sitting on my desk as I write this I have several 300+ page binders titled “Leadership Development” that are comprehensive leadership assessments of my previous executive management teams at VC funded technology startups, produced by consultants at the behest of our investors and board members. These guys don’t leave anything to chance when it comes to investing millions of dollars in high-risk ventures. Not surprisingly these (very expensive) leadership assays tend to show a very high correlation between “Asberger’s” like personality traits (poor social and communications skills) and the most technically accomplished executives.
What’s really tragic andirritatingto me about this piece and the other Asperger’s-as-victims promoters is that they do a terrible disservice to people who really have these personality traits by validating the popular beliefthat there is something wrong with them. This statement from one of the interviewees in the article captures it all.
“Autism is seen like some sort of mental superpower where we can see math in the air,” he says. “In my experience, this isnt really the case. Mathematics-heavy programming is something that takes me a while to do.”
Who is making this kid TRY to pursue mathematics-heavy programming? He’s doing it to himself! Normal people don’t challenge themselves constantlyto tackle mathematics-heavy programming if they can avoid it, yet this poor kid thinks he’s disadvantaged because he’s DOING it for no externally driven reason but doesn’t find it easy!!!Throughout the article Simon AND this kid portray him as some kind of misunderstood VICTIM of Autism. Simon… an IDIOT who manages to be completely incompetentat his life’schosen profession of journalism… has this poor kid characterizing HIMSELF as the retard!Give this kid a few years of being this way about math programming and I guarantee that everyone will eventually think he was always a math genius.
Look at what they did to this poor kids mind:
“For Gillmer, the greatest challenge of living with the disorder is the self-doubt and loneliness. “I constantly worry that I’m not making sense.”
Somebody needs to tell this poor kid that “other people” don’t understand him because they’re STUPID not because thereis anything wrong with him. He won’t be lonely the minute he finds a job at a tech-startup founded by others like him where he will discover that the anti-social lifestyle of coding 80hrs/wk with other equally intelligent and dedicated people is extremely satisfyingfor people with his personality. He should stop taking career advice from people who can’t get through an 8hr work day without watching at least 4 episodes of Family Guy every night and partying with as many friends as possible to recover from the stress and exhaustion of trying to use their mindsfor a tiny fraction of their waking lives. I worked with many kids like Gillmer in the game industry back in the 1990’s. Their names where John Carmack and Tim Sweeney and that nerdy anti-social awkwardness? They almost ALL grow out of it, and despite having made more money than any of them will ever need in life… they also still work constantly and will never stop because they’re doing exactly what they love.
Don’t let the idiots define you Gillmer, we’re the ones who pioneered the greatestinventions and built the greatest technology companies in history.
The sad thing is that a great number of “normal” parents have these kids and have no idea what they are or how to raise them. Somebody diagnosesthem with Asperger’s or ADD and the parents proceed to raise the kids thinking he/she is some kind of retard. Maybe sometimes it’s true, maybe many if not most really do have no intellectual potential, but if even the “socially functional” peoplelike Simon Parkinsons here can manage to get paid writing total garbage as a journalist I see no value whatsoever in characterizing anybody elseas a special category of useless and dysfunctional. I do know that many “normal” parents have no real idea whether or not their kid has any special potential as a technologist, thereare very few environments that bring out that potential other than technology startups. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with parents of kids I wanted to recruit that basically went like this;
“Look I know you think your kid is weird, dysfunctional and hopeless, I appreciate that you are trying to warn me, can you just humor me and let me put this kid in a intense tech setting and see if he/she surprises you?”
Not ALL of them will magically thrive, but enough do to make it worth shouting as loudly as possible that trying to characterize these people as dysfunctional victims who are somehow being exploited by doing what they love is a terriblesocietal crime that should be loudly spoken out about. You “socially functional” people are not qualified to identify them or understand how they should be trained or employed. They’re not like you, they don’t like the stuff you like, they don’t relax the way you relax, they don’t “burn out” the way you burn out, they don’t value balance the same way you do. Try to get it through those bloatedHippocampal lobes of yours that Asperger’s engineers are fundamentally different from you which is why you can’t understand the way they communicate naturally. They communicate with each other just fine and they build companies like Apple, Microsoft and Googlegiven the opportunity. You are the idiots, not them.
Update: I’d like to thank everyone reading this article who provided me with a barrage of feedback on every typo, run-on sentence, imprecisely stated factoid, poor use of hyphenation and commas and suggested ways to optimize the loading time of my blog page.