Why the Tech Industry Needs More Autism

John Slegers
Oct 30, 2015 · 23 min read

What is Autism?

Psychologists, psychoanalysts and neuroscientists all commonly apply a triune model of the brain :

  • The Paleomammalian complex (aka “consciousness” aka “the Ego”) : where individual consciousness resides, and which is correlated to defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions.
  • The Neomammalian complex (aka “intuition” aka “the Super-ego”) : where collective consciousness resides, and which is highly correlated to the internalization of cultural rules, mainly taught by parents applying their guidance and influence.

How to recognize someone with Autism

Autism is considered a “spectrum”. This means that it exists in many variations. It also means that some variations have a significant overlap whereas other variations seem almost opposites. This makes it very difficult for many “Neurotypicals” (including qualified psychologists) to grasp what it means to be Autistic and how to recognize someone who is Autistic. Even if you know several Autistic people and have a strong theoretical background of what it means to be Autistic, you may totally fail to recognize the Autism of someone on the “other side” of the spectrum.

  • Behaving either in an extremely rigid or extremely chaotic fashion
  • Speaking either very slow or very fast
  • Using language that’s either unusually refined or unusually primitive
  • Having either a very monotonous or a very expressive voice
  • Being either extremely introverted or extremely extroverted
  • Being either intellectually challenged or intellectually gifted
  • Being either totally obsessed or completely disinterested in something
  • Coming off as either childishly naive or very wise
  • A very detail oriented mind
  • A spatially and visually mind oriented
  • Extreme honesty and/or directness in communication
  • Unusual interests and/or an unusual taste in multiple areas
  • Limited, atypical body language
  • Physical clumsiness
  • Compulsive acts like fidgeting, body rocking or hand flapping, especially under great stress or great concentration
  • Relating more with children, animals and/or even machines than with other adult humans

Autism is NOT a disorder

In the DSM-5, Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder. However, this notion is controversial and outdated. Many people who have been diagnosed with Autism do not consider their Autism a disorder and scientists are increasingly starting to join their ranks.

Changes in the scientific perception of Autism

Eugen Bleuler, a Swiss psychiatrist, was the first person to use the term Autism in 1911, as a reference to one group of symptoms of schizophrenia. Bleuler defined Autism as a detachment from reality associated with rich fantasy life:

Low-functioning versus high-functioning Autism

Some people with Autism have successful careers and a normal family life while others barely manage to take care of themselves in any meaningful way. As such, Autists are typically put into one of two different categories, depending on how self-sufficient they are : Low-functioning an High-functioning Autists.

Are Autistic people capable of empathy?

To answer that question, it’s important to define what you mean by “empathy”. The notion of empathy — as commonly understood — can be split up into three different concepts :

  • The brain subconsciously linking those physical sensations with conscious thoughts, which can be either positive of negative and are based on prior experience.
  • Rationally putting yourself in other people’s shoes; consciously and rationally processing the question what you would think and feel in another person’s situation

Do Autistic people live in their own little world?

Autistic people do live in their own world, but not in the way most people think they do.

Advantages of Autism

People with Autism often have exceptional memories, and can remember information they read weeks ago. They are also less likely to misremember something.

Autism and genius

Some of the world’s greatest engineers, programmers, scientists and artists are known to have been Autistic or believed to have been Autistic.

Autism and employment

With the current economic climate, companies have come to expect more from their employees than in previous decades. Most specifically, they expect employees to have a broad range of skills with at least moderate proficiency and at least one skill that stands out among other skills. To put it simply: companies are typically looking for generalists.

Autism and the tech industry

While companies in Silicon Valley may be more Autism-friendly in their corporate culture and recruitment process than most other companies, this does not apply to the tech industry at large. Even though it is well-known that Autistic people are often better programmers and engineers than their “Neurotypical” peers and how companies can nourish this potential, this knowledge has barely permeated the corporate cultures of tech companies worldwide.


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John Slegers

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PERSONALITY: - - - - - - rebel, geek, philosopher - - - - - - INTERESTS: programming, UX , design, human sciences, board gaming, movies, retro-futurism


how hackers start their afternoons.