The Roman Philosopher Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE) was perhaps the first to note the universal trend that growth is slow but ruin is rapid. I call this tendency the "Seneca Effect."
Showing posts with label grokking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grokking. Show all posts

Monday, November 7, 2022

How to Beat Propaganda: the Grokking Strategy

We CAN beat propaganda, but it takes some effort to avoid falling prey to the simple, yet effective, methods that the powers that be (PTB) use to control us. You need first of all to understand that there is no such thing as an "authoritative source." All sources can be wrong, and many are there to trick you into believing that something is true when it is not. So, you need to listen to everybody and trust nobody. In this way, you can "grok" your information and not be grokked by the PTB.

I remember how, as a young scientist, I spent long hours at night perusing scientific journals in my department's library, at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. The administrators wisely kept the library open all night for us, students and postdocs, to nibble at the treasure of knowledge stored there. It was the equivalent of what we do today when "surfing the Web", it was just slower and more laborious. But it was a great experience: I soon learned that not all the articles found in scientific journals were trustworthy, nor were the scientists who had published them. When I started my career, frauds and lies in science were still rare, but even in "high-level" scientific journals, there were plenty of evident mistakes, unjustified assumptions, sloppy work, or, simply, irrelevant babbling. 

It was a different story when I was a student. As a student, you are supposed to be "trained." The term comes from the Latin "trahere, ‘to pull.’ It implies that your teachers can force you to learn whatever they think you must learn. So, you can pass exams in college without having understood anything of what you regurgitate to your examiners. But things change completely when you become a professional. You must learn to consult many sources and sift good information from the bad. If you are a good professional, you listen to everybody and trust nobody.

We can describe this attitude by the term "grokking," invented by sci-fi author Robert Anson Heinlein to indicate the kind of in-depth understanding that professionals have of their field. In Heinlein's fictional Mars, "to grok" also means "to drink." You assimilate knowledge just like you assimilate the water you drink. It is strictly related to the concept of "empathy" as discussed by Chuck Pezeshky in his blog. (It is also part of the concept of "virtual holobiont," but let me skip that, here).

The "grokking-style" learning is based on the idea that you don't trust a source just because it is "authoritative." No. You are the one who decides whether what you are being told is true or not. And you base your evaluation on having more than one source, and critically evaluating all of them. It applies to scientific research, but also to all kinds of information collection in ordinary life. Or, at least, it should apply if you want to really understand what you are learning. 

It is here that we have the problem, a big problem. Universities don't teach you how to grok. Probably, it is because the old saying is true: nothing worth learning can be taught. At least, not in the traditional way. Even good professionals are often completely naive when they leave their specialized field and are exposed to propaganda. Yet, it is not impossible to learn how to grok. It is a recursive affair: you must grok how to grok!

Nowadays, with a tsunami of propaganda submerging all of us, I am discovering that many people I know use the same grokking strategy that I use. Typically, we avoid TV and mainstream media, and we use aggregators, feed readers, and similar ways to access multiple sources. Many people seem to have developed this learning strategy by themselves. Not long ago, my good friend Anastassia showed me how she does it: she has hundreds of telegram channels she follows. She clicks on the titles of posts that seem interesting to her, reading them if they turn out to be really interesting. She doesn't trust any of them, but she listens to all of them. I have a feeling that there is some correlation between this style of learning and the fact that she is among the brightest people I know. 

Personally, I tend to use feed readers rather than Telegram (I described the method in a previous post), but it is the same idea. In addition, some blogs and sites are structured as aggregators, and they will do a good job for you by alerting you about new information arriving (a good one that I follow is Raul Ilargi's "Automatic Earth."). In any case, you want to be in control of what you receive: so, no Facebook, no Twitter, nothing like that, even search engines are biased. You don't want others to decide what you see. You want to be in control of the information you receive. You listen to everyone, and you trust no one. 

This method of managing information has the advantage that it makes you nearly invulnerable to propaganda. I say "nearly" because we are all human beings, and we all tend to believe in what we would like were true. But, surely, a good grokker is a hard target for the classic propaganda techniques that consist mainly in suppressing the sources of contrasting information. Then, by repeating the same thing, over and over, it becomes true (you surely remember Karl Rove's statement about "creating our own reality"). If you watch TV, you are their slave, but if you are reading this blog, you probably aren't. So far, it is still possible to collect a fan of information sources sufficiently distant from the official truth to be able to grok the situation. 

On the other hand, there are problems with this strategy. One is that, by abandoning the mainstream sources, you risk rolling down the other side of the disinformation hill. In this case, you'll find yourself fishing out rotten morsels from the soup of madness that often surrounds "alternative" news sources. You know, things like the moon landing hoax, graphene in the Covid vaccines, viruses that do not exist, and the like. It is bad information that comes in part from people who have gone Martian coconuts, and in part from paid disinformers who just want to trick you. As an example, Igor Chudov makes a good case for the "viruses do not exist" meme as a psyop created by the PTB. He even could identify the site that created the meme and diffused it. You risk "inverse grokking," which means that the powers that be are grokking you!

The other problem, much more serious, is that if you are a serious grokker, you place yourself outside the mainstream beliefs and views. You may find that your friends and family think that you are "strange," that when you walk toward someone you know in the street, she may cross the street to avoid getting close to you. And woe betides those who try to discuss with non-grokkers. You will be ignored (at best), ridiculed, and even insulted by people whom you thought were your best friends. I don't have to tell you that being in this situation can be bad for your mental health and, in some cases, for your physical survival. You may remember the ominous sentence about the unvaccinated, “what do we do with these people?” expressed by Canadian prime Minister Justin Trudeau. It sounds very much like what was said about the "Jewish Problem" in the 1930s. You know how some people thought they could solve it. Some solutions are truly final.  

So, knowledge carries a risk, something that has been known from the time of Adam and Eve. On the other hand, we are always seeking truth, an activity that every good person on this planet should pursue. And so, onward, fellow grokkers! All you have to lose is your ignorance. 

If you have time, you can tell me in the comments the way you use to gather and process information. I suspect that many readers of this blog are good grokkers, but many of them may use creative methods. 

In the following, some excerpts from a post by "John Carter" which inspired these reflections of mine. Note, though, that if you read his whole post, you may notice that not even he is completely immune from being grokked by reverse propaganda. Probably it is also my case.... alas. See also a recent post by Todd Hayen on "Off Guardian" that expresses very similar concepts. 

What Are Your Sources?

"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end with doubts, but if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties." - Francis Bacon

Excerpts from a post by John Carter on his blog, "Postcards from Barsoom"

"Where do you get your information from? What are your sources?"

I really hate this question.

Part of it is that a lot of the places I tend to go to collect information would strike the normie as batshit insane conspiracy sites. Once you're on the other side of the great hyperreality bifurcation, you're experiencing a world in which very fundamental assumptions of the old societal mainstream, ranging from 'what is true' to 'what is moral', are no longer taken for granted and, indeed, are widely rejected.

Another part of it is that a great deal of what gets circulated within the hydra originates with anonymous or pseudonymous writers. By the very nature of communicating one's thoughts from behind a veil, it is impossible to verify whether they really know what they're talking about. A normie used to the anodyne pronouncements of credentialed experts being fellated by talking heads on CNN will find the idea of taking seriously the words of random Internet schizos to be a bit jarring.

But the single biggest reason I dislike this question is that it's the wrong question. 'Sources' have absolutely nothing to do with how I gather information; and from what I've seen, that's true for most of us.

The general assumption in normieland seems to be that there are reliable and unreliable sources of information. The former carry the stamp of approval of established authorities, who go to great lengths to ensure that the information they communicate has been extensively vetted for accuracy, with obvious mistakes removed by dedicated teams devoted to the rigorous vetting of every piece of information that gets included. The latter consists of wild speculations, rumours, and crazed ramblings. There's some nuance there - most people will admit that politicians, bureaucrats, and corporate marketing executives will usually put some spin on the information they communicate - but in general the heuristic that gets applied is "there are reliable sources, and unreliable sources; all you need to do to have an accurate view of reality is to limit your information diet to the former and ignore the latter."


When you're attempting to scale the walls of Chapel Perilous in the weird corners of the Internet, you don't have the luxury of relying on authoritative sources. The very concept of 'authoritative source' loses all meaning, and of necessity one develops a very different approach to information gathering and belief formation. Inside the datastream of the Internet, no one perspective is privileged as being unimpeachable. Nothing is to be trusted. Nothing is ever to be 100% believed. Everything one comes across, from any source, whether an established blogger with hundreds of thousands of daily readers or some rando in the comments section, is greeted with more or less the same response:

Here's what I do; and I suspect it's pretty much what the rest of you do, too:

I've got a variety of news aggregators I tend to go to, each more or less reflecting the worldview of the individual or team who maintains them through the lens of the topics that attract their attention. I skim these feeds and occasionally click on something if it catches my own attention. There are a few forums that I frequent, where various topics are discussed, and people share links to things they think are interesting together with whatever impressions they have of them. Social media plays a similar role; while I'm not on Twitter or Facebook, I do subscribe to a couple of hundred Telegram channels, some of which I'll peruse throughout the day, once again clicking on anything that looks interesting. Add to this an archipelago of blogs which provide some degree of original analysis, but are mostly the Internet's editorial page; in these cases, I gravitate towards those authors I find to be consistently interesting. Then there are podcasts and livestreams, most of which take the form of a free-ranging conversation between hosts and guests.

In most cases I have no idea about the identities or credentials of the authors, and I could generally care less. The contribution of an anon on 4chan can be every bit as insightful and correct as the analysis of a facefag whose CV I can review in detail. Equivalently, the facefag can be every bit as wrong as that of the shitposter. The salient detail is not the identity of the person originating the information, but the structure of the argument.

When perusing something, at the same time that I'm evaluating the information, I'm also evaluating the worldview that produced the information. What are the ideological biases of the author? Is he a libertarian, a post-liberal, an old-school leftist, a nationalist, a trad-Catholic, a deep ecologist, a neoliberal managerialist, a critical race theorist? Does the author have something to gain from what he's writing - is he trying to get me to buy something, or being paid to advance a perspective that will enrich his paymasters? The author's perspective is inseparable from the argument being put forward, as it structures what the author considers to be interesting, and what he believes to be axiomatically true and false - creating attentional foci and blind spots.

This doesn't mean that something is to be rejected or accepted merely because it conflicts or accords with a worldview I find personally agreeable - that's ultimately just a version of the 'authoritative source' mindset, one that leads straight into an echo chamber. In principle, valuable insights can come from almost anywhere. The purpose of the exercise is rather to discern the model of reality that produced the perspective leading to the information being organized as it has been.

All models are by their nature simplified schema that fail to capture the full complexity and nuance of the world. They emphasize some things and omit others. That's why it's important not to get overly attached to them. However, some models are more accurate than others, much more likely to correctly predict unfolding events. By foregrounding the models that produce the hot takes, one begins constantly testing these models against one another. As events unfold, one notices which models are more, and which less, accurate. New information can then be evaluated on the basis of the model that generated it, and its probability of being accurate weighted accordingly.

As this goes on, one inevitably begins to construct one's own model of reality, simply by combining the elements that seem to have worked from the models that one has been exposed to. There's nothing particularly special about having a model of reality - we all do, of necessity; the advantage lies rather in that this process becomes conscious and deliberate. One makes one's own model, rather than simply accepting whatever model is offered by 'authoritative sources'.

The normies still trapped in the mass media holodeck cling to the certainty that their 'reliable sources' can be trusted, and the result is that they inhabit a nightmare world of shifting illusions that has driven them quite entirely mad. It frequently happens that they wake up to one or another of the lies of which the control system is built, but having perceived the deception on a given topic, they react by looking for an authoritative source elsewhere that they can rely upon. Invariably in this case, they get trapped in a different lie - trading the regime ideology they've left behind for a new ideology, one that they accept whole as uncritically as the one they were raised with. That's what that boomer in the bar was looking for. His first instinct, upon being confronted with plausible arguments that he'd been systematically misled by the legacy media, was to reach for something he could trust. To trade one gospel for another.

In truth, there are no reliable sources, and there never have been. Paradoxically, it's only by letting go of the desire for reliability, by holding things conditionally rather than absolutely true, and by constructing one's own provisional reality model, that one can find one's sea legs on the shifting and uncertain waters, and successfully navigate the ocean of the real.


To finish, an updated list of the blogs I follow (UB)

  1. Anti-EmpireAlgora Blog
  2. Bracing Views
  3. Brownstone Institute
  4. Climate Etc.
  5. Clive Best
  6. ClubOrlov
  7. Collaborative Fund
  8. Consent Factory, Inc.
  9. Dr. Malcolm Kendrick
  10. Edward Slavsquat
  11. eugyppius: a plague chronicle
  12. Exapt Press
  13. Fear of a Microbial Planet
  14. Fight Aging!
  16. RSS feed
  17. Glenn Greenwald
  18. Gut Microbiota for Health
  20. Il Chimico Scettico
  21. Il Pedante
  22. Il Pedante
  23. imetatronink
  24. Impressions of a Holobiont
  25. It's About Empathy – Connection Ties Us Together
  26. Julian Jaynes Society
  27. Just Emil Kirkegaard Things
  28. Kelebekler Blog
  29. La cruna dell'ago
  30. La Cruna dell'Ago
  31. Lettera da Mosca
  32. Madam Mayo
  33. Marty's Mac 'n' Cheese
  34. Mattias Desmet
  35. Meryl’s COVID Newsletter
  37. Moon of Alabama
  38. Nuova Accademia Gnostica S.A.W. di Firenze
  39. OffGuardian
  40. oftwominds-Charles Hugh Smith
  41. Our Finite World
  42. Paolo Gulisano blog
  43. Patrick J. Buchanan – Official Website
  44. Peak Oil Barrel
  45. Peter Turchin
  46. Post-Woke
  47. Postcards From Barsoom
  48. Prof. Harald Walach
  49. Rational Ground – Clear Reasoning on National Policy for COVID-19
  50. Resistenze al nanomondo
  51. Resource Insights
  52. Retraction Watch
  53. Roy Spencer, PhD.
  54. Sebastian Rushworth M.D.
  55. Shrew Views
  56. Simon Sheridan
  57. Steve Kirsch's newsletter
  58. Tehran Times
  59. Tessa Fights Robots
  60. The age of loss
  61. The Automatic Earth
  63. The Inquisitive Biologist
  64. The New Normal
  65. The Philosophical Salon
  66. The Reading Junkie
  67. The Slavland Chronicles
  68. The Upheaval
  69. The van says…
  70. The Vineyard of the Saker
  71. Trust the Evidence
  72. Umanesimo e Scienza
  73. Unmasked
  74. Vinay Prasad's Observations and Thoughts

Note added after publication: Several people have expressed surprise at the fact that I placed 74 links in the list. "How can you follow so many blogs?" they ask. The fact it that I don't "follow" all of them. I skim through the list of titles and I open the links that I think are interesting. Then, I may or may not read the whole post -- some people publish posts that are so interesting that I can't miss them. But not all those linked here, only a minority Note also that almost all these links refer to single-author blogs which publish no more than one-two posts per week -- often even less frequently. I make an exception for "The Automatic Earth" by Raul Ilargi, which publishes daily, because it is so interesting. But some links that you see in the list above have already disappeared from the updated list. For instance, I removed "Tehran Times" -- too many posts, and too flatly aligned with the Iranian government. 

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Next Stage of Human Evolution: The Revenge of the Aspies


 I had never thought of Spock as a case of Asperger's syndrome (an "aspie"), in turn, a mild version of autism. But it is a concept that others had noted and that perfectly describes the way Spock behaves in the "Star Trek" series. Spock's character was so successful because he may have been perceived as a possible new stage in human evolution, someone who can use logic to resist the onslaught of manipulation and propaganda that's destroying our civilization. Star Trek also illustrated how emotion and rationality can be balanced by respecting and valuing diversity. Live long and prosper, fellow aspies!


I keep discovering new things that completely change my view of the world. The latest one was just a few days ago when I found that I am probably an aspie, a term that describes Asperger's syndrome, in turn, a variant of the broader spectrum of autism.

What brought this revelation for me was the book by Temple Grandin "Thinking in Images." (1995) (1) Grandin was born with a serious case of autism, a condition that made her life very difficult in her youth. I never experienced the same level of difficulties but, as I was reading the book, I started seeing myself in Grandin's shoes. Things like being clumsy in everyday tasks, finding it difficult to follow a group conversation, getting lost in your thoughts while other people speak to you, and more. 

What clinched it was when Grandin said that most autistic people love Star Trek, especially the cold logic of first officer Spock. That's me: a Trekkie if there has ever been one. So, I concluded that I am a probable case of Asperger's, although in a mild form -- the kind familiarly know as "Aspie." (BTW, I have also been a member of ASPO, the association for the study of peak oil. Maybe that was a premonition, but it is another story!)

On the fact of considering myself an aspie, I know that there is such a thing as "confirmation bias," typically operating with horoscopes. You may also remember Jerome K. Jerome's book "Three Men in a Boat" where the protagonist describes how he became convinced to have all kinds of possible ailments (except the housemaid's knee) by reading a book of medical symptoms. Maybe I am just a little eccentric, as university professors often are. But I think there is something real in my self-diagnosis of mild autism. 

It is not just character that makes me behave in a certain way: my mind really clicks a little different. Let me give you just an example: I can't remember street names. It is not a choice. Really, I can't. Call it "toponymic dyslexia" if you like (a term I invented), but it is the way my mind works. With a few exceptions, such as the street where I live, my mental map of my town is purely visual, not verbal -- it contains no street names. As far as I can tell, I have always been like this.

That's not an impairment, I have no difficulties in orienting myself in my city. But people find strange, and sometimes maddening, that I go completely blank when they tell me something that has to do with a specific street name that they think everyone should know. I didn't find this symptom described exactly in this way as typical of autism, but it agrees with Grandin's description of how she doesn't think verbally, but by images.

There is more that I could tell you, but let me just add that my wife confirms my interpretation. When I told her, a few days ago, about having discovered I am an aspie, she was a little surprised at the idea of having lived with a neuropath for more than 40 years, without realizing it! But then she thought about that for a while and she said that, yes, that's what I am. She agrees that the term "aspie" describes me very well. 


Empathy and Autism

Autism is strongly related to the concept of "empathy" and autistic people are often supposed to be unable to feel empathy toward other people. But is it true? And what is empathy, exactly? It is often defined as the capability of "stepping into someone else's shoes." That's a necessary social skill: if we can't do that, we are bound to make people angry at us. Even worse, if we don't understand how Earth's ecosystem (aka Gaia) works, we are bound to make the Goddess angry at us. And that could be much worse. But what are we doing wrong, exactly? And what would it mean to do it right?

It is a subject that I have been discussing a lot with the "Empathy Guru," Chuck Pezeshky. We are even planning to write a book together on it. As you can imagine from the photo, working with Chuck may be a lot of fun, and his blog is a mine of ideas and concepts about empathy (a fundamental one being, "as we relate, so we think." It applies very well to aspies). 
It is a complex matter and, here, I can only summarize my views (not necessarily Chuck's ones) by referring to a rather abused metaphor, that of Zen story of how you can excel in the art of archery by "becoming the arrow." An even better way is to use the term that Robert A. Heinlein invented in one of his novels: "grokking," nowadays becoming common with Earthlings (especially with the one named Chuck Pezeshky).
"To grok" is a verb in the Martian language,  It is impossible to translate it exactly in earthling languages, but it means that you become the person, the animal, or the object you are trying to understand. 

Perhaps the best way to recursively grok grokking is to refer to an extremely ancient kind of earthling lore called "Shape-Shifting," the capability of wizards and deities to take the shape of other humans or animals. Of course, ancient wizards couldn't actually transform themselves into -- say -- stags. But grokking stags meant gaining something of the powers of the stags. Wearing a horned hat surely helped. The image on the left shows an ancient horned wizard from the Gundestrup Cauldron. That style of dressing seems to be still popular, nowadays, as some recent events showed. But let me not go into that. 
So, empathy means grokking and how do aspies fare with that? They are often described as people who can't feel empathy, but I think that is wrong. They are not cold-blooded, reptile-like individuals, unable to feel anything. Not at all! Aspies are potential, and sometimes real, hyper-grokkers.

Think about that: Spock, the prototypical aspie, is not someone who doesn't feel anything. He just uses logic to dominate emotion. The same is true for me, although I am not so glacial as Spock (and I am not even the first officer of a starship!). And it is true also of Temple Grandin who is a compassionate individual who dedicated much of her life to reduce the suffering of livestock. (1) That's true for most Aspies who are not impaired individuals, just people who behave a little differently from those we call "neurotypicals."

But why do aspies give the impression that they are the opposite of what they really are? It is because shape shifting/grokking is associated with the "imprisoning metamorphosis," The risk of turning oneself into something or someone else is to become that person or animal. Worse, the wizard may be unable to change back to his/her original form. In a modern version, this problem was masterfully described by Ursula le Guin in her Earthsea books. 

Grokking another mind is empathy in its purest form. And it is dangerous: mystics try that with God and they risk being burned to ashes by the pure brightness of God's spirit. With other humans, that's not the problem but, if you grok an evil person, you may become evil. If you grok a deranged person, you may become deranged in the same way. And if someone whom you grok wants you to do something bad, he or she may succeed at that.

It is a risk aspies run, so they put up a shield that protects their inside feelings. Sometimes, this shield becomes so heavy to be impenetrable. It is when a person becomes dysfunctional: too much protection shuts them off from the rest of the world. But, without shields, aspies would be an easy target for those predators who exploit empathy for their personal advantage. These people are called "psychopaths." (in short, "psychos").

Psychos are the exact opposite of aspies in terms of personality. Normally, they have little or no emphatic skills and, for them, other people are valuable only as tools. You can say that psychos are vampires of the mind: they will try to devour other people's souls if they have a chance to. 

The strategies of psychos are rarely subtle. Typically, they use intimidation. But they may exploit other weaknesses: greed, lust, pride, and vanity, as much as positive qualities such as kindness and compassion. Often, psychopaths tend to gang together to amplify their powers. National governments are typically colonized by psychopaths of the worst kind.

Now you can see how the counter-strategy of aspies works. Their personality is a defensive/evasive mechanism against psychopathic predators. They can "tune out," at least from the most blatant manipulation methods, for instance by their capability of intensely concentrating on something. It is what makes them poor socialites, but good scientists. It works especially well against government propaganda.

I understand that this is a controversial interpretation and I can't prove that it is correct. You could object, for instance, that autistic people just can't read some non verbal signals that are clear to "normal" people. And how would that be a barrier? It looks like a handicap. Besides, the fact that I can't remember street names, as I noted, is a barrier against exactly what?

True. But, as a rebuttal I could say that there may be several kinds of barriers that aspies build, not all of them are effective and some are counterproductive.  On the whole, I do think that my explanation works best for that fraction of aspies who are on the mild side of the spectrum of the condition, as Temple Grandin is. In that case, you may see autism not as a pathology, but as an ability. 

Of course, it is a delicate balance that these aspies seek for. If their barrier is truly impassable, they become dysfunctional people, useless to themselves and to others. If they can't keep the barrier strong enough, then they can be manipulated just like normal people. But when it works, the mechanism is effective as defense against the many attempts of manipulation that you face every day.


The Arms Race in the Social Holobiont

Why is it that there are psychopaths and aspies in the world? I think it is the result of an evolutionary mechanism. The human society can be described in terms of a "social holobiont" that changes and evolves all the time. A holobiont is an entity composed of various elements normally in symbiosis with each other. But, at times an unbalance develops, some elements of the holobiont become parasites of others, and the system must change and adapt to regain some balance.

In small social groups, as in the tribal societies where our ancestors lived, psychos may have played a useful role for the group. Their aggressive tendencies may have helped the tribe in war or in other occasions when the tribe needed to act fast and with all the members had to agree on some plan: migration, for instance. 

But, with larger societies, the role of psychos changed from symbionts to parasites. No more just the local big men, they became god-kings, then absolute rulers who pretended not just obedience, but uniformity of thought. With the development of mass media, the psychos in charge found that they could get whatever they wanted by hurling at the rest of the people the monster of the year to hate, just like, in the old days, the Detroit automakers would convince people to buy a new car using the trick of the "model of the year." It is the way our society works, nowadays. Psychos are social super-parasites that force all the other to follow a continuous emotional roller-coaster generated by the media. 

Of course, the dominance of psychopaths on society is generating tremendous damage to everybody and everything. It is pushing us toward disastrous choices in all fields, from developing nuclear weapons to polluting everything, and overexploiting all resources. 

Is it possible that the growing number of aspies is a manifestation of society moving toward a certain degree of resistance to this kind of manipulation? For sure, the growth has been unbelievably fast. Autism was nearly unknown 50 years ago, today about one person in 30 is born autistic in the US, an increase of nearly a factor of 300. In part, it is also the result of better detection techniques, but it is also true that there are many unrecognized mild cases, so aspies are not anymore a tiny minority of handicapped people.

This is, again, a controversial proposal. Assuming that autism is a genetic trait, as it seems to be, according to the standard interpretation of evolution by natural selection, you might well object that it is hard to see how genetic evolution could lead to such a rapid change in just 50 years. And you would have to assume that the aspies have more children than the non aspie -- hard to maintain, to say the least. 

What I can say on this point is that the modern views on evolution allow for much faster change than the traditional Neo-Darwinian version. Concepts such as horizontal gene transfer and epigenetics have completely changed our views (if you want a hint of the complexity of the evolution of the human brain, just take a look at this review!) Once you note how the human mind is affected by the microbiome of the human holobiont, you understand how the human mind is plastic. It can change, and change a lot as the result of changes in the chemical and physical environment. Besides, the behavior of a human being is a complex mix of cultural and genetic factors. In mild cases of autism, cultural factors may be important and we know that they can change very fast.

In the human societal holobiont, we can see aspies and psychos as two levels of a trophic chain where psychos are the predator and aspies are the prey. As in biological ecosystems, say, rabbits and foxes, in the social holobiont predators and prey are locked together in an arms race where they keep trying to improve their survival chances. So, the increasing number of aspies might be the result of society rebalancing itself to counteract the excessive power of psychos. A society where most people are aspies would be much less sensitive to propaganda and could be managed according to reason for the advantage of everyone. 

Is it possible? As usual, complex systems have always ways to surprise you, and the human society is one of the most complex systems known. So, it may well surprise us for its adaptive capabilities. Think of the command deck of the Enterprise in Star Trek. The rational approach of Spock (the aspie) was balanced, complemented, and enhanced by the approach of Captain Kirk. He was not a psychopath, but a person who could be driven by emotions and who needed some rational complement. The Enterprise was an example of a well-balanced holobiont. It perfectly illustrated the awesome power of diversity and reciprocal respect that's the strength of all holobionts, including the societal one. And don't forget that Greta Thunberg is an aspie, too!

And so, live long and prosper, fellow aspies!



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(1) Temple Grandin's book "Thinking in Images" is a remarkable book, even for those who are not aspies. It is, clearly, something different from the average self-help book. The first chapters are hard to describe: they are "strange" -- the author wanders among many different subjects, giving the impression that you are really reading something written by someone whose mind works differently from yours. But, as you progress, you start understanding what Grandin wants to say. The first chapters are a sort of test. As it is typical for aspies/autistic people, she is not opening herself to you right away. You have to read through more than half of the book before she really starts opening up herself and her inner thoughts to the reader. If you arrive to that point, you start understanding that she respects the reader and that she asks respect from the reader. She never opens up herself completely, but enough for the reader to appreciate her as a human being, a little different from the average, but worth of respect for her caring attitude for humankind and all living beings. 

(2). World leaders are typical examples of psychopaths, with a few exceptions. One may be Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia, who has been described as suffering of the Asperger's disease in the Western media. That was intended as an insult, but perhaps it is not so wrong as a description of Putin's personality. If you examine Putin's speeches, you will note that he never uses the kind of aggressive demonizing of enemies that Western leaders use all the time. He looks cold and rational, but occasionally he may show his feelings, as when he was shown to weep at a military parade. In the West, this behavior was understood as an especially devious trick. That would have been the case if Putin were a psychopath (imagine Donald Trump weeping at a parade!). But if Putin is an aspie, then an occasional puncturing of his defensive barrier might generate this behavior. Incidentally, have you noticed how all Russians seem to have some aspects of aspies? Try to ask for directions in the streets of Moscow, and you'll understand what I mean! In any case, that's not meant to disparage the Russians -- not at all! Once you pass the barrier, the Russians are the best people in the world. In fact, all the people in the world are the best people in the world once you come to know them well.