Tag Archives: Asperger

The Softness And Fragility Of Baby Animals Caused Us The Same Intense Pain

I do not feel true sadness. I know that this is a strange claim. If I do not feel true sadness, how would I know what true sadness means? But, this need not be true. I have felt sad, at times, when I was young. I no longer feel that way. I would feel quite the same way if something happens to my child—if and when I have one. I think I would be sad beyond redemption. But, I cannot imagine this happening any other way. I do not know how common it is among normal human beings to not feel sad at all.

When I cry, it is out of anger, frustration, fear, or happiness. It is never out of sadness. I weep when I read, write, think or listen to something I deeply relate to. Along these lines:

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will see it. You’ll know it’s there. So, you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

Similarly, I have never known what it is like to miss someone. Many human experiences are closed to me. But, I relate to this essay: Continue reading

Summers is not entirely to blame for his social ineptitude

“Summers’s inability to get outside his own head landed him in fatally hot water. It reached the boiling point following his appearance at a conference sponsored by the National Bureau of Economic Research on women in science, which was held in Cambridge in mid-January 2005. There he suggested that the relatively small number of women in tenured positions in the physical sciences might in part be attributable to a lower frequency among women as compared to men of innate potential for doing science at the highest level. Aware that many women would not take kindly to these words, he was careful to leave open the alternative explanation that in the past many talented women had been strongly discouraged by their teachers from ever trying to master top-level mathematics and sciences.

Summers’s remarks might have gone unnoticed outside the meeting were it not for the presence of my former student, now a professor of biology at MIT, Nancy Hopkins. Over the past decade she had worked tirelessly and effectively to improve the working conditions of women scientists there. Before Nancy’s highly visible efforts, the salaries and space assignments of women at MIT were notably unequal to those of their male counterparts. But Nancy did not challenge Summers at the meeting. Instead she instantly bolted from the room, later saying Summers’s words made her sick, and soon appeared on national TV attacking him and setting off a firestorm of feminist anger. It did Nancy Hopkins no particular credit as a scientist to admit that the mere hypothesis that there might be genetic differences between male and female brains—and therefore differences in the distribution of one form of cognitive potential—made her sick. Anyone sincerely interested in understanding the imbalance in the representation of men and women in science must reasonably be prepared at least to consider the extent to which nature may figure, even with clear evidence that nurture is strongly implicated. To my regret, Summers, instead of standing firm, within a week apologized publicly three times for being candid about what might well be a fact of evolution that academia will have to live with. Except for the psychologist Steve Pinker, no prominent Harvard scientist voiced a word in Summers’s defense; I suspect the majority were fearful of being tarred with the brush of political incorrectness. If I were still a member of the faculty, the number of tenured scientists standing visibly behind the president in this matter would have literally doubled. But that would not have been enough to put out the flames. Apparently desperate, Summers soon contritely proposed a $50 million kitty to recruit more women to Harvard’s senior science faculty. The women-and-science firestorm by itself did not lead to Summers’s dismissal late last February as Harvard’s president. It was merely the culmination of hundreds of more private displays on his part of disregard for the social niceties that ordinarily permit human beings to work together for a common good. While academia almost expects its younger members to be brash and full of themselves, these qualities are most unbecoming in more seasoned members of the society, and generally fatal in leaders. Reading up on a topic the night before and then appearing at conferences with the bravado to suggest that one knows more than those who have spent their careers thinking about the issues at hand is no way for a president to act. Summers’s non-age-adjusted IQ, moreover, at age fifty-one is likely 5 to 10 points lower than when he was a twenty-year-old wunderkind. Harvard’s longstanding mandatory retirement age of fifty-five for academics was never a matter of arbitrary ageism but a recognition born of experience that as academics age they live more by old ideas and less by new ones. Summers, still acting as if he were the brightest person in the room, was bound to offend people who knew better.

It may be, however, that Summers is not entirely to blame for his social ineptitude. His repeated failures to comprehend the emotional states of those he presided over might be indicative of the genetic hand he was dealt as a mathematical economist—the very cards that endowed him with great quantitative intelligence may also have disabled the normal faculties for reading human faces and voices.

The social incapacity of mathematicians is no mere stereotype; many of the most brilliant are mild to full-blown cases of Asperger’s syndrome (the high-intelligence form of autism), perhaps the most genetically determined of known human behavioral “disabilities.” Like exceptional math aptitude, Asperger’s occurs five times more frequently in males than in females. The reason why must remain a mystery until further research shows how genes control the relative development and functioning of male and female brains. If Summers’s tactlessness does, in fact, have a genetic basis, much of the anger toward him should rightly yield to sympathy. No longer can his upbringing be blamed for failing to instill in him the graces of the civilized individual. In any case, all discussion should stop as to whether his dismissal was unduly precipitous—it was in all likelihood overdue. Whether those prominent individuals who promoted his candidacy should hang their heads in shame, however, is less obvious.

          —James D Watson, Avoid Boring People

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-movie“There is a similar Lisbeth Salander in my life, so I know first-hand how complex this character is. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on their thought processes, they behave or think in opposition to your expectations. Sometimes these people look like pretty flowers, but when you try to pick them, you discover stinging nettles in your grasp. Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures. She is able to clearly process information and formulate solutions to problems because she does not have to wade through social constraints or emotional conflict. She sees ‘patterns’ that defy ordinary comprehension. Lacking emotional insight, she relies on logic to determin a course of action. Her ‘gift’ of a photographic memory presents another problem because her brain must constantly process and analyse information, like a computer, and can’t relax or shut down to provide a mental resting place. Lisbeth is the most complex literary protagonist I’ve ever encountered.”Inside The Mind Of Lisbeth Salander

“Most people with Asperger’s are fairly ordinary people and are not necessarily either incredibly brilliant nor completely socially clueless. However, there is a not infrequent form of high functioning Asperger’s whose hallmarks include various kinds of specialized intelligence in a person who, despite their brilliance, simultaneously lacks the basic ability to read basic social cues and to conform to “normal” social standards and expectations. If you have ever known a person like this, you know that part of their repertoire of survival skills is an uncanny ability to get under your skin, into your thoughts, and win a place in your life, even though they are so supremely difficult and hard to deal with. Lisbeth is just like that in the way she captures Blomkvist emotionally, to the point that he can’t stop thinking about her, even though there is no rational explanation for why he would want to remain involved with her.”Does Lisbeth Salander Have Asperger Syndrome?

Book List, 2013

586132906_1372174129I am not much of an altruist, but I have listed the books I found interesting in 2013, here. Some of these books are, of course, tangentially relevant, but still great. Some works I have listed are not great, but still very informative. But, the large majority of these works are pretty damn good.

Evolutionary Psychology


Charles Darwin-The Descent Of Man

Jerome H. Barkow, Leda Cosmides, John Tooby-The Adapted Mind

Robert Wright-The Moral Animal

David C. Geary-The Origin Of Mind

Carl N Degler- In Search of Human Nature

Eric M. Gander-On Our Minds

David M. Buss-Evolutionary Psychology-The New Science Of Mind

David M. Buss-The Handbook Of Evolutionary Psychology

Hatermi And Mcdermott- Man Is by Nature a Political Animal Continue reading

New Year’s Baby

Today is my birthday. I was a New Year’s baby.  What did I learn in all these years? A lot. I was never a lazy boy. 

The most radical shift in my thinking in 2013 has its roots in an encounter over a year ago. It was an afternoon in December I interviewed Tyler Cowen. I knew that Tyler is a colleague of Bryan Caplan, and has an astronomical IQ. Bryan influenced my thinking more than any other intellectual, of past or present. I had not read much of Tyler because I found his views too anti-capitalistic for my tastes. But, I pulled a few all-nighters and read all the books of Tyler that I could lay my hands on—except “Create Your Own Economy”. 

I remember that day. I was late for the talk, but I was being instinctively fair. I stood there on the stairs, watching the girls in the registration counter. A very young girl held a pen close to her chin. She looked like a doll. I asked her, “But, it was supposed to begin at 3 O’ Clock.” She said, “It was supposed to begin at 3, but some people who are supposed to come are caught in a traffic jam. It will begin at 3:30.” It began at 4. I once told her that I will write about her in my darling novel. Since then she has been annoying me saying that she wants to see what I had written about her.

After the talk, I walked down. While I was drinking coffee alone, on a table, I saw the PR girl of CCS entering the room. She stood near the door, her eyes flitting around the room. Then she walked to me, and started talking. I thought, laughing inside, “These PR ladies. They have such sharp eyes.” They can spot their prey in a room full of people, in the fraction of a second. I do not know how they do it, but I know that they do it. When they want me to plug their boss, the PR lady is sweet and talkative. But, her boss is grim and joyless. I tell myself, ‘My novel will profit’.

Unlike the typical Delhi intellectual, Tyler was extremely well-read—and a decent fellow. For instance, he did not lose his temper, or walk away when I disagreed with him. His books were among the best that I have read, but he was still too moderate to interest me much. But, it was only in January I read “Create Your Own Economy”. It was on Asperger’s Syndrome. When I read it, everything that happened in my life fell into place, after a lifetime of not fitting in. I spent the whole year thinking about it.