Aspies enjoy abstract conceptual frameworks immoderately. Most of the time this is okay, if off-putting to neurotypicals (“why do you have to constantly analyze everything?”), and sometimes it’s quite productive (e.g. engineering, programming). But this emotionality lends us to a couple of predictable sins which we must overcome.
The first bias is to conflate the map and the territory it describes. This is a tendency to forget that abstractions are approximations at the best of times, and often inaccurate. This bias is particularly strong when it relates to mental models we came up with for ourselves.
All non-trivial abstractions, to some degree, are leaky.
The Law of Leaky Abstractions
Maybe the examples Spolsky gives are helpful if you’re a crackerjack programmer, but they don’t do anything for me so I’ll supply my own using the textbook example of abstraction.
The second story (perhaps apocryphal) is supposed to have happened during the infancy of electric power generation. General Electric Co. was having trouble with one of its huge electric power generators and did not know what to do. On the front of the generator were lots of dials containing lots of information, and lots of screws that could be rotated clockwise or counterclockwise as the operator wished. Something on the other side of the wall of dials and screws was malfunctioning and no one knew what to do. So, as the story goes, they called in one of the early giants in the electric power industry. He looked at the dials and listened to the noises for a minute, then took a small pocket screwdriver out of his geek pack and rotated one screw 35 degrees counterclockwise. The problem immediately went away. He submitted a bill for $1,000 (a lot of money in those days) without any elaboration. The controller found the bill for two minutes’ work a little unsettling, and asked for further clarification. Back came the new bill:
Turning a screw 35 degrees counterclockwise: $0.75
Knowing which screw to turn and by how much: $999.25
If the actuating end of the screw valve had been sheared off or corroded away, the engineer would have become confused and needed to perform additional troubleshooting on the valve as well as whatever was causing the gross symptoms.
The second bias is reductionism, a tendency to reduce all phenomena to as few mental models as possible. This was best expressed in an analogy by a commenter at Vox Popoli:
A second error is to think there is only one conceptual map. For example, when looking at literal maps there are road maps, cadastral maps, topographical maps, geological maps, ocean navigation maps, aeronautical maps, etc. I believe it is useful to navigate reality using multiple conceptual maps, as each provides a different perspective.
Frankly, this is the best description of Asperger’s I’ve ever seen. See also: libertarianism, anarcho-capitalism, Atheism++, and of course Jeremy Bentham.
If there is hope,’ sez me, ‘it lies in the bronies.’ If there was hope, it MUST lie in the autists, because only there in those swarming disregarded *chans, 85 per cent of the interwebz, could the force to destroy the Two-faced Party ever be generated. The Party cannot be overthrown from within.
Therefore it is our duty to overcome these monochromatic ideological tendencies and become pragmatic, breeding adults, because no one else could have defeated Hillary and no one else will defeat Soros.