a companion discussion area for blog.codinghorror.com

Software Developers and Asperger's Syndrome


#1

When I read Wesner Moise's post on Asperger's Syndrome, I wasn't surprised. Many of the best software developers I've known share some of the traits associated with Asperger's Syndrome:


This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/2006/01/software-developers-and-aspergers-syndrome.html

#2

Face it, the vast, vast, vast majority of people are, well, average. If we were all dysfunctional, there’d be no human race.

I partially agree with this. Clearly computers and geek culture have become somewhat mainstream now, primarily because of the internet.

But that wasn’t true in the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s… page through some of the articles in the Creative Computing archives (the top link) to see what I mean:

http://blog.codinghorror.com/the-best-of-creative-computing/


#3

Off the top of my head, I can name Doctors and Accountants as two professions that contain people even “weirder” than programmers.


#4

can name Doctors and Accountants as two professions that contain people even “weirder” than programmers.

Really? Do accountants go home and do a bunch of accounting for fun? Do doctors? Somehow I think that’s unlikely, but many programmers do exactly this.

Example. For better or worse, I spend nearly every waking hour (almost literally) in front of a computer. I have a hard time imagining accountants going home and cracking open their accounting ledger and sliding on their green visor, you know, ‘for fun’.

I think other professional fields can be asperger-y, but few as much as computer science.


#5

Really? Do accountants go home and do a bunch of accounting for fun? Do doctors? Somehow I think that’s unlikely, but many programmers do exactly this.

Is this really a sign of Asperger?

I’ve met some really weird, incredibly introverted docs and accountants. Just because some programmers do it for fun doesn’t mean they’re not socially average.

Not all programmers program after-hours, believe it or not.

I have a very hard time believing point #2 as being relevant. Ever met a woman who loves collecting something? Does that give her Asperger’s Syndrome, or something like it? Ever met someone who likes to work on cars? I have friends that can talk for hours about one of their favourite subjects. That makes them weird?

As for point #3, that qualifies as a serious problem. I can’t ever imagine any programmer ever being successful treating their job that literally. Code itself is totally abstract - it’s not real, it lives as magnetic code in a hard drive, for goodness sake. Which is precisely why so many programmers are so inept - it’s an incredibly abstract field.

#1 is too subjective to be useful. I once had a manager that couldn’t tell someone’s mood if you had a display on your forehead that scrolled your mood on it. That gives him Asperger’s?


#6

Jeff,

Thanks for that link to Wesner’s post, it’s interesting stuff. I recently linked to an online “test” for autism which I found interesting due to the kind of questions that it asks and the results, at least for me, seemed quite plausible. I know several people who would score much more highly than I did and I’m sure that as one moves towards that end of the spectrum things get much more challenging, but I quite like where I am, even if it isn’t quite “normal”. Personally I wouldn’t trade my focus and attention to detail for anything, least of all improved social skills :wink:


#7

Having been exposed to the academic world during graduate school and later, I think there are plenty of intelligent “weird and obsessive” people outside of software. Any profession where being eccentric isn’t detrimental as long as you’re highly skilled is fair game: academia, art, music, etc.


#8

“I once had a manager that couldn’t tell someone’s mood if you had a display on your forehead that scrolled your mood on it. That gives him Asperger’s?”

Well, yes, possibly, who knows. I don’t follow your logic. Most people are normal, therefore everyone is normal?


#9

Most of the coders I have worked with, including myself, have or do a lot of drugs. Perhaps, given that large quantities of illicit substances are consumed by the most educated folks and by their obviously affluent and highly educated children, perhaps one might be inclined to name ones affliction as a disorder, rather than the consequences of ones actions. This afford one less of a need for emotional response to emotionally charged stimuli, a reason foir ones eccentricity and cannot be so readily discerned by a pee-test ;p


#10

I have to show your post to my wife. I was trying to explain to her the other day how despite my outward appearance of being a totally hip normal sociable likable suave person, I still have certain obsessive compulsive tendencies. Especially when at the computer. :wink:


#11

I’m just glad my disorder is socially acceptable.


#12

Bleh.

I’ve never believed this. I’ve met lots of perfectly capable, very nice, very normal programmers. I’ve also met lots of totally dysfunctional, socially inept managers, grocery store clerks, teachers, salespeople, police officers(!), etc.

This is just something that programmers bring up occasionally to make themselves feel better. It’s a social case of assessing one’s programming skills far above the norm, even though that’s probably not true.

Face it, the vast, vast, vast majority of people are, well, average. If we were all dysfunctional, there’d be no human race.


#13

Particularly common interests are means of
transport (such as trains), computers, math
(particularly specific aspects, such as pi),
wikipedia, and dinosaurs.

Does anybody see a web site in there that looks out of place?


#14

Heh, yeah, it [wikipedia] was removed.


#15

To someone with Asperger Syndrome (AS), it’s the rest of the world who are all slightly sick… “our way” seems so much more functional. You’ve all got this constant obsessing with social status and your position in various groups, inability to concentrate on one thing at at time, excessive show of emotion for the smallest things, and so on.

I am quite happy to have AS and wouldn’t want to have it any other way.

http://isnt.autistics.org/


#16

Well, yes, possibly, who knows. I don’t follow your logic. Most people are normal, therefore everyone is normal?

Well, yeah. The only truly average is, well, what a proper sample of the population is like.

Or do you determine “average” the egotistical way - what you consider your own normal behaviours to be?


#17

I still don’t follow you. Consider tallness. Most people are around average height. A few people are very short or very tall. Do these short and tall people not exist? Perhaps they are just deluding themselves about their height?


#18

This is a subject I’ll be writing on in some depth when I start my blog about mid-year.

The problem with this subject is that there are too many assumptions being made about people being abnormal based on arrogant assumption.

So called ‘normal’ people can be amazingly dysfunctional - incapable of holding interests other than those prescribed by society, holding that what you want to believe is more important than established facts, ‘following the mob’, idolising low achievers, undervaluing real accomplishments, being exclusively consumers with no contribution to society and, here’s the clincher, forcing social dysfunction on other people that they cannot relate to by refusing to soc-i-a-l-i-se with them and cruelly ostracising them for their entire childhood for no good reason other than they themselves are too immature to relate to them in any meaningful way.

I think many people suspected of Asperger’s syndrome are actually just intelligent enough to have independent and creative thought and who take an interest in the world around them.

I suspect Asperger’s itself is, in this regard, something quite different to the popular image being put about.


#19

That’s me, baby! :stuck_out_tongue:


#20

It is clear to me that computer programmers evolved with their profession. You do something long enough and you realize that it completely consumed you and you become part of your profession. People have to be carefull about what they do. They eventually become it, whether it is doctors, accountants, programmers, police officers, etc. after doing something long enough. Since programmers require being very specialized and focused on one thing only, it is sort of deviated their personalities. It is a mutution of a sort. People in africa develop immunity to molaria because they are sucepted to it where is if you expose an american to molaria, it will have a fatal consequnces. Therefore if you allow your personality to change because you are not carefull and part of it is fun to be so narrowly focused and completely consumed by the process of programming, the result is social deviation. It is like when you put a frog in a cold water and start boiling the pot of water, the frog will not notice the increase in termperature and will get boiled with water. Similarly programmers when start to code do not notice changes that are happening to them as a result of programming and do not bother changing because it is fun, it gives them a competative edge, makes them feel powerful and superior then other people in some respects and they do not want to give that up. The result, they boil and do not even notice it…