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May 02, 2007

Vernon Smith on Being Aspergery

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Those fascinated by Aspergers Syndrome should find this video interview with Nobel economist Vernon Smith a treat. Link thanks to Tyler Cowen, whose visitors' comments are pretty fascinating too. Steve Sailer suspects that economists are especially prone to having Aspergers. I have my own hunch that many systems-lovin' eggheads have Aspergers.



posted by Michael at May 2, 2007


"Geniuses throughout history, including Albert Einstein, Andy Warhol....". Hah!

Posted by: dearieme on May 2, 2007 5:27 PM

Asperbergers is the current disease du jour, with rubbery symptoms and vague diagnoses. Diseases du jour are exploited by drug companies and medical wannabes. Just watch. There will be a Prozac for it before you know.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on May 2, 2007 7:48 PM

Regarding your hunch,
From here, a Carnegie Mellon U site, an excerpt:
"In an advanced course at Carnegie Mellon called "Building Virtual Worlds," that problem caused classmates to sideline her in group projects. And during a critical meeting to win approval for her customized major, electronic art, she intently circled the freckles on her arm with a marker. ... "The Asperger's population is much bigger than we think it is," according to Larry Powell, manager of disability services at Carnegie Mellon. "But students aren't disclosing that. It's kind of like, if you build it they will come. If we could put together systems that would adequately support these students, word would get around and more students would disclose it and would come. One of my issues is that I am an office of one with 264 students."

If you have an NYT account, the full story from last November is here.

As far as Mr. Wheeler's comment, if you can't even spell the condition, Asperger's not Asperbergers (I'll have my Asperberger well done, hold the mayo), how can you be taken seriously. I'm assuming Mr. Wheeler has never had the chance to meet and interact with someone with autism or Asperger's. I'm sure his opinion would change if that had happened.....well, I hope it would.

Posted by: DarkoV on May 3, 2007 8:00 AM

Dearieme, Richard -- Aspergers certainly is the diagnosis du jour, isn't it? Like you, I wonder when treatments in pill form will start to go on sale. At the same time, there are these slightly-bizarre people, and it can be kinda nice to have a name for their collection of quirks and tendencies ... I wonder if any kind of biological basis will be found for it, or whether it'll just be shown to be a pop-psych fad.

DarkoV -- Haven't I read somewhere that the software and engineering fields especially are noted for Aspergery populations? I wonder what other fields tend to attract 'em too. And I wonder which fields are least likely to have Aspergery inhabitants. I bet there aren't many Aspies who are cooks, for instance. Or actors, come to think of it.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 3, 2007 11:13 AM

DarkoV, thanks for correcting my spelling. It doesn't alter my thesis, however. My other favorite disease du jour is Tourette Syndrome, once considered rare, but now its "advocates" are claiming it affects one in a hundred. Pretty soon we'll have a national Tourette crisis. At my favorite eating place, a country inn nearby, the chef allegedly has Tourette Syndrome. The chef can get quite entertaining when orders flow in. He is, actually, one of my favorite people and treats me royally.

Posted by: Richard S. Wheeler on May 3, 2007 1:43 PM

Quite a few, yes, but we don't all assume everyone thinks the way we do, unlike some economists (not Vernon Smith). ;)

See, I always saw my enthusiasm for the European social democracy model as a way of trying to get away from that deriving-it-all-from-first principles stuff that works so well in physics and so lousy in the human world. Heck, you know, it's worked already. They've got less money but seem to enjoy life more. Enough with theoretical models and assume-a-spherical-cow (that's an inside math joke, sorry). They did it and it worked. Not perfectly, but Frenchies can enjoy a long lunch and thirty varieties of cheese, and die young from French food instead of stress, n'est pas?

Posted by: SFG on May 6, 2007 8:41 PM

The disease dujour? What a crock! If you for one single second had to watch someone you love struggle, and yes every damn day is a struggle for both of you, live with this you'd bite your tongue, you jacka**! I wish...I pray...I'd sell my soul for a pill to cure my daughter so don't you dare talk about something you have no comprehension of.

Posted by: Michele on May 10, 2007 6:21 PM

Michele -- Sorry to hear your daughter's struggling. But no need to get worked up. "Disease du jour" is just a way of acknowledging that diseases have their moments in the public sun. Breast cancer was big for a while, diabetes for another while, high blood pressure ... These days Aspergers is being talked about. There'll come a day when it isn't being disussed so much. None of which means that it doesn't exist or can't be serious. FWIW, I've known a number of people who have seemed to me like classic Aspies, and have read several books about the syndrome.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on May 10, 2007 7:00 PM

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