Friday, January 30, 2009

Herding cats   posted by Razib @ 1/30/2009 07:02:00 PM

Just watched the film Today's Man, which is about an individual, Nicky Gottlieb, with Asperger Syndrome. Near the end of the film he attends a meeting with others who are not "neurotypicals." Gottlieb has some weird ticks throughout the film which shows quite clearly that he's not "all there" (or, more precisely, no one else is there in his own mind). But it was really interesting to see a meeting of people with the same lack of normal social skills...they all seemed "out of sync" with each other (or, perhaps they were in sync in a different way which I wasn't able to perceive). The most peculiar aspect for me was that physically these were all human beings, but their manner, gestures (or lack of) and social fluidity was almost like that of alien species. I've met people who have major social skill deficits before, but I haven't observed dozens trying to interact. The closest thing I've seen in my own life are interactions with Singularitarians and some Perl Mongers. But these events & groups were tied together by a common theme or topic around which verbal exchanges invariably circled in a structured manner. Nicky Gottlieb going to be a meeting with other individuals suffering Asperger Syndrome and talking about their lack of social skills and attempting to grapple with the fact that most humans view them as abnormal freaks was different. It was like peering into the psychology of a species running radically different software.

Note: I'm not too interested in whether there really is unitary Asperger Syndrome rooted in specific neurological dysfunctions. Rather, it's clear that a minority of humans are noticeably socially retarded enough that when they interact together with others who lack normal social skills the communal synergy, or lack thereof, is definitely not a scene you see everyday.