Friday, September 23, 2011

Ignoring social mores

All pictures of lynchings are disturbing to me at some level but the one below haunts me like none other. It has the usual horrific scenes... the victims; the jubilant crowd; someone pointing with pride to the evil work. However the thing that stands out is the couple in the lower left. He has a tie on, she is conscious of being on camera but not ashamed. I do not know their story but it appears that they are on some sort of date... to see men murdered by a mob.

I cannot say that I would not have gone to look out of curiosity but I pray that I would have the decency to be ashamed of the entire thing including my curiosity and presence. Indeed if my image was captured for posterity at such a tragedy I might not be able to live with myself. Part of me wants to grab the people here who are the curious bystanders, the gawkers, the lookie-loos and demand an explanation of why they are not outraged.

So how does this apply to work and having ASD? For some reason that various scholars from multiple disciplines have studied, for centuries really, people as a whole can suspend their rational senses and act in inhumane ways with stunning rapidity. We tend to focus on the most egregious examples: lynchings; genocide; internment. But if anything Groupthink showed that this happens when the impact is not so high.

How often though, are those of us on the Spectrum left out of the mass movement? Not because of any immunity to racism or stupidity but simply because of a resistance to change? An adherence to 'the rules' as we learned them? This resistance may lead us to question mass delusions in business settings where an idea takes hold and suddenly the leadership and our peers believe that some idea or process will save the day. Our lack of joy, much less our outspoken skepticism, is seen as a betrayal; criticism and ostracism follow. It is painful but it does not mean that you were wrong.

I cannot offer a clear piece of advice because mob mentality cannot be broken down to simple actions. If you see someone pulled from a jail with the intention of being hanged by a mob be sure to speak up. On the other hand if the Director of your department calls a meeting excitedly talking about a new way to do business that involves semi-comical chanting and wearing taupe bandannas is pointing out that it is silly really worth losing your job? That is up to you.

For myself I can only say that more often than not I have spoken up and while I have the knowledge that I was true to myself I also know that it has kept me from better salaries, projects and positions. There are consequences to our actions.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Career Advice

I have a stock response for people who use the line "Do what you love!" as career advice.  Here it is:


Sorry, the internet seems to be censoring swear words today. Anyway, I hope you get the idea. First off it is a dicey proposition that whatever you love will be economically viable. For instance I love petting cats but cat sitting is not really that lucrative; I am sure my wife would be a little annoyed if I quit my job to go and pet cats.

But more that that, I have noticed that among the ASD crowd we love accumulating knowledge about something or somethings. Knowledge is great; I love knowledge... the money comes from the application of that knowledge. Just accumulating it is not as valuable. Sure you may carve a niche for yourself in a company as a go to person for a specific subject but that is an uncertain position.

One of my best positions was one where I was required to learn calculus, statistics, financial mathematics (really an extension of calculus and stats) and programming. Of course that was all in order for me to understand a system/series of programs that were poorly documented and understood. When I was done we had a baseline for another five years worth of work that I was involved in.

So my career advice to you is find a way to apply what you learn. You will enjoy the learning aspect of it and benefit from the security of being a subject matter expert on something your business values.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

RIP Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg

One of the greatest sources of literature on the web is Project Gutenberg. It's founder, Michael Hart, passed away Sept. 6th at the age of 64. You can find his obituary here:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Volunteer for MIT

MIT's Open Courseware is looking for someone to help them add subtitles to some video lectures in Electrical Engineering. I imagine this could be a remote job and rather interesting too:!/MITOCW/status/108230839736864768