The Gift of Autism

Some recent blog posts about autism:

Autism, genius, and the power of obliviousness

“The A-Word”–when “autism” is used as an insult

A distinction must be made between high-functioning and low-functioning autism; this article discusses the former.

It seems like in today’s economy and society, autism and or autism-like traits are more of a gift than a curse. This is apparent when you look at the wage gap between STEM jobs, which favor analytical ability, introversion, and concentration, over social skills, compared to jobs in the service sector, which tend to require social skills but pay much less. There are exceptions like law, which can be a mixture of both, but it seems everyone who is getting rich or famous these days who is isn’t an entertainer or Tony Robbins, is somewhere on the autism spectrum.

From Eric Raymond:

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.

Social skills are being supplanted by competence, in today’s competitive ‘results-orientated’ economy and society. The jobs that pay the highest tend to require analytical ability more so than ‘people skills’. Algebraic geometry, theoretical physics, or philosophy may not have many direct ‘real world’ applications, but they signal superior intelligence. People who can understand complicated abstractions can apply those skills to any job where critical thinking is required, which for most high-paying jobs is a necessity, as well as get up to speed quickly, which for employers means higher productivity and less time and money spent training.

Some of the richest, most successful, most revered people in our economy – Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffett – are better known for their creations than pleasing others, and rightfully so: innovation is ultimately what advances society, not kissing ass. Of course, some ‘social skills’ are needed to be functional, but competence and talent, especially in Silicon Valley and in higher education, is valued more.

And if ‘Instagram culture’ is any indication, attractive women are embracing ‘nerd culture’, posting ‘memes’ about social awkwardness and introversion. Same for pop culture, with hugely successful shows like The Big Bang Theory that appropriate themes of autism. Neuro-typical-ness has become synonymous with ‘boring’, ‘superficiality’, ‘conformity’, ‘dull’, and ‘shallow’. Being autism-spectrum means being more interesting, using circumlocutions, and not conforming to out-dated social conventions.

Those who can defer short-term social gratification can be entrusted to tell the ‘truth’, not sugarcoat things with wishful thinking, affirmations, and delusions. INTJ people are not afraid to ruffle feathers to make themselves heard, and after many decades, online, the world is finally listening, as people ‘seek’ nerds and wonks for counsel (whether it’s on economics, history, relationship advice, science, math, physics, nutrition, coding, finance & investing, gym, video games, makeup, fashion, sociology, philosophy, political science, alternative ideologies, and so on), with these ‘nerds’ becoming rich successful in the process. As part of the rise of the esoteric celebrity, with the exception of some brands and ‘real’ celebrities, pretty much everyone on YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, Vine (any major social network) with a large following (over 10,000 followers or Karma points), is or was a ‘nerd’ in real life, only to achieve substantial fame online, which would likely not have been possible before 2008. Before 2008, these social networks either didn’t exist or were much smaller.

Philip E. Mason, a British scientist with a PHD in chemistry, known as Thunderf00t on Youtube, is one such example of a ‘STEM celebrity‘, with thousands of followers, who rose to online stardom not only only his knowledge of science but his willingness to skirt political correctness in much overdue criticism of SJW-feminism, which until the likes of Thunderf00t and Sargon of Akkad, for years went unchallenged. It doesn’t even have to be autism – it’s simply the ability to appeal to logic and reason over political correctness.

For example, I would be willing to wager that all these ‘Tumbler teens‘ who have hundreds of thousands of followers and are making more money than their parents, are probably ‘nerds’ in real life, only to become the center of the world in these burgeoning online ‘ecosystems’. Meanwhile, offline, people who may have been popular in high school in the 70’s and 80’s, decades later, deal with inflation-lagging wages, bills unpaid, all the while toiling in obscurity in unfullfilling jobs and a paycheck or two away from homelessness. Intellectualism is more than just reading books – it’s a pathway to fame and fortune – or at least online it is. And offline, it a pathway to job security:

…whether it’s oil falling from $100 in 2014 to $30 today, hurting lots of blue collar energy workers, or the housing bust of 2006-2009, which hurt blue collar construction workers. Or the rise of the low-paying service sector, replacing obsoleted but high-paying factory jobs. Meanwhile, high-IQ tech is doing better than ever, impervious to pretty much all macro conditions, save for a blip in 2000-2002 during the dotcom bubble or in 2008 during the recession. This dichotomy is also observed in the housing market, with real estate in high-IQ regions such as the Silicon Valley constantly making new highs, versus almost everywhere else still well-below the 2006 highs.

Is it fair? Maybe not. Or maybe it’s only ‘karmic justice’ in economic form after decades or even centuries of being marginalized by ‘mainstream society’.