Saturday, April 20, 2013

So, You Hired An Engineer?

     Or a programmer.  Or most IT guys--  The CNN headline reads, "I hired someone with Asperger's -- now what?"

     Twenty years ago or earlier, many techies were just shy, awkward geeks.  Nobody told 'em they had a "syndrome" or expected them to, I don't know, freak out and start chewing up the carpet.  Nor did anyone think they were all that odd for not being especially sociable (outside their specialty) or athletic.

     The writer of the CNN article offers a well-informed layman's look at the topic and describes very high-functioning "Aspies" -- at which point, unless one has the empathy and breadth of friends of a slug, they're merely nerds.  Uber-nerds, perhaps, but still--  Not exotic space-aliens.

     As someone who comes painfully close to fitting the profile and who just spent over a dozen years working for a guy who manifestly did not (and wasn't comfy with folks who did), I'm both pleased and dismayed to read the CNN article.  As far as I know, I'm just a pretty typical example of Nerdus Technicalis; there's a jillion of us, mumblers who aren't good at eye contact but are happy to spend the day digging into and solving obscure problems that would bore most people to tears.  When did being detail-oriented become a "disability?" 

     Some disability.  Without nerds, our modern, high-tech world would grind to a halt.  Even low-tech doesn't fare so well -- what kind of personalities made armor for the knights of yore, do you suppose?

21 comments:

John Peddie (Toronto) said...


"When did being detail-oriented become a "disability?"

When the world began communicating in 140 character messages.

I mean, like, anything longer would be too hard, like, y'know, math 'n stuff.

McHairball said...

"When did being detail-oriented become a "disability?"

When having such a "disability" can prevent you from being able to purchase a firearm.…

Fuzzy Curmudgeon said...

Some years back, Time Magazine (I think) had a link to a 50-question test that evaluated your level of Asperger's.

I scored 45 out of 50.

So I've been jokingly referring to myself as "high-functioning Asperger's" ever since.

But yeah, this probably explains why I don't text much and why Twitter remains pretty much incomprehensible to me. And also why 140-character minds hate my documentation :)

Dave H said...

"When did being detail-oriented become a 'disability?'"

When society decided life was about feeling good about yourself. If somebody makes you feel like you're not the center of the universe, then obviously there's something wrong with them.

Feh.


Stingray said...

Amen, and thank you.

Able said...

What I'm annoyed about is that if I could spout of reams of 'data' on 'some guys who wear shorts and kick a ball' or some such I'd be er.. cool? Hip? happening? ... whatever it's called now, and get all the girls, but because I do it with clotting factors I'm a geek, and zilch!?! (and I like my needles sorted by gauge and colour because it looks better and I can find them, not because I'm OCD either)

Life just isn't fair!

Oh, and for the record, I can state categorically that according to the current clinical criteria there's NO ONE who hasn't got a 'mental illness' diagnosis of some strain or other with their name next to it. That and anyone who writes for CNN (or any MSM outlet) in general consider anyone who can figure out how to switch on their computer a nerd - so what's new?

Joseph said...

Geeks KNOW stuff...useful stuff at that. Always an admirable trait in my book.

Bubblehead Les. said...

Uh. I'm trying to be polite, since this hits close to home. I understand why the guy wrote the Article, since his Son has Aspergers, but I don't like the fact that he has to explain why we shouldn't be prejudiced.

You see, I have a Nephew, who's in the Navy. He's serving in Afghanistan as we speak. He's an EOD Tech, which means he has to go out and Disarm "Pressure Cooker" Bombs just like were used in Boston, along with anything else those Scum Bag Terrorists use to Kill and Maim People. I hope he comes home in one piece when his Tour is up to his Wife and soon to be born Baby. BTW, he has the SO Designator on his I.D., and those "In the Know" understand what one has to go through to get that.

And he was born with Aspergers.

And his Parents and Siblings went through a lot to raise him up well with his so-called "Disability."

They must have done something right, because the Navy KNEW about his "so-called Disability" and let him in anyway.

And gave him all the Schooling they could to be an EOD Tech, along with his SO Designator.

Which means he has an Olympian level of Fitness and Athleticism.

Which "Those in the Know" will understand HOW he got that way.

So, if anyone out there has a Problem with the Aspies, they better get Informed.

Charles Pergiel said...

Everyone is somewhere on the Asperger Spectrum, some have it a little more, some a little less.

I don't think there a jillion tech heads, at least in the US. A million, maybe, which would be 1/3 of 1%. Not sure if we really need any more. Could be wrong, but being as I am anti-social, I don't know that many people so I can't tell.

Drang said...

Out of curiosity I did a Google search for "Do I have Aspergers?", and found a test or two. Scored high. Which I figure will happen for anyone who performs such a search.

Jeffro said...

Consider the source. Don't understand? Mock, and make everyone think like you.

skidmark said...

Relax! (Well, not too much.) It seems your anti-social tendencies are not such big indicators of becoming a terrist as we were led to believe.

http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/culturelab/2013/04/anatomy-violence-raine.html

It's them calm, cool, collected types that we need to fear. There goes a lifetime of wanting to be like Steve McQueen! :-(

stay safe.

hiswiserangel said...

I'm mom to two truly autistic daughters, and aunt to a brilliant Aspie nephew. I've been involved with the Autism community for almost 20 years and seen kids and adults who were scattered up and down the diagnostic spectrum. I do believe there is a fine line of diagnosis with Asperger's and that it's overdiagnosed. With real life high functioning autistics like Dr. Temple Grandin and fictional Aspie Dr. Sheldon Cooper, more people are becoming aware of the typical symptoms and using them to pigeonhole people they just don't get. Sometimes, "weird behavior" is just different.

Roberta X said...

Oh, very well put!

Most of these "named disorders" are traits found in the gen. pop., writ large and it's all too easy to overcategorize people. "Does this person function okay in daily life?" strikes me as a better criteria.

Drang said...

Takes all the fun out of it.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

"Most of these "named disorders" are traits found in the gen. pop., writ large and it's all too easy to overcategorize people. "Does this person function okay in daily life?" strikes me as a better criteria."

Or, as The Jargon File puts it:

"Many hackers have noticed that mainstream culture has shown a tendency to pathologize and medicalize normal variations in personality, especially those variations that make life more complicated for authority figures and conformists. Thus, hackers aware of the issue tend to be among those questioning whether ADD and AS actually exist; and if so whether they are really ‘diseases’ rather than extremes of a normal genetic variation like having freckles or being able to taste DPT. In either case, they have a sneaking tendency to wonder if these syndromes are over-diagnosed and over-treated. After all, people in authority will always be inconvenienced by schoolchildren or workers or citizens who are prickly, intelligent individualists — thus, any social system that depends on authority relationships will tend to helpfully ostracize and therapize and drug such ‘abnormal’ people until they are properly docile and stupid and ‘well-socialized’."

The Jack said...

I suppose a big part of "the news" is treating things as exotic and new.

Cause they could go "Here's some traits that everyone has to some degree, and many people you know probably have in even larger amounts, but in a few cases can be enough to impede general functioning in society."

Ah well. I'm an aero engineer and the bulk of my day job is spent working with other engineers so it does color things. Though none of them *seem* to be the pale-face nerd sterotype.

Jim said...

Every few years I read of a new "syndrome" with "symptoms" which, in an earlier time would have been called "personality traits."

Many of them were considered barely remarkable. "Ahh, he's just moody some times." "He reads a lot." "Funny, but she really likes math."

I wonder if the syndrome syndrome began to occur when grad students began to run out of other dissertation topics. And maybe when drug companies discovered it was hard to make money fixing personal traits but quite easy to do so if they were lumped into a named mental aberation.

Charles Pergiel said...

Syndrome syndrome. I like that.

HerrBGone said...

It was Wired Magazine. They called it the AQ Test.

http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/9.12/aqtest.html

I don't remember what I scored off the top of my head (I have it written down somewhere. Maybe I'll go look later.) but I scored extremely high. As a self DX (with subsequent confirmation) aspie I can say that, at least for me, it was an incredible relief. For the first time ever the rest of my life suddenly made sense.

Is it over-diagnosed? Maybe. I really have no way of knowing having not conducted any studies on the subject.

Do I want to be "cured?" NO. It's just the way I am. It's as much a part of me as the color of my beard or my choice of career. (I am a product designer and CAD SME in my day job and an inverter and general creative type in my spare time. That said, nobody would confuse me with Doc Brown.) Frankly, I consider it to be my secret superpower. I can often see pasterns that others miss. I sometimes make connections between seemingly unrelated things that lead to new innovations. There are several patents hanging on my office wall as a result. Some times I miss things in dealing with people that others have a hard time understanding. Sorry about that. I really am. But that's just another part of who I am. Let me stress that. WHO I am - not what…

Everyone has quirks and differences. If we didn't how could we tell each other apart?

And besides, eye contact is overrated!

HerrBGone said...

"patterns" With all that and a 134 IQ I still can't spell...