Two pathological aspie cognitive biases

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
Joel Spolsky

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.

Comment re: Curiosity and cognitive paradigms

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.


About Aeoli Pera

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35 Responses to Two pathological aspie cognitive biases

  1. everlastingphelps says:

    I think this is one particular place where I think it is a mistake to not make a distinction between the autists and the spergs. (I say that as someone who leans sperg.) There is a key fundamental difference that reads here.

    That difference is that spergs abstact everything, while autists are incapable of abstraction. That’s based on both psychology and what I’ve observed in both kinds of kids. For a sperg, everything is related to everything, everything can be an analogy or metaphor for something else, etc. For an autist, it’s exactly the opposite.

    JBP actually gave me the best example. If you go to your kitchen and move a chair in the breakfast nook, it’s your kitchen with the chair moved. To an autistic kid, that is an entirely new kitchen. That’s why they freak out about change. It isn’t “the old thing plus this.” It’s an entirely new thing. You moved the chair, and now the austic kid comes down for breakfast and finds out that there is an entirely new room where the kitchen is supposed to be.

    If you ask a sperg or a normie to draw a fire truck, they’ll draw a box, and a couple of wheels, and a ladder on top, with a siren horn. To an autist, he has to to draw a particular fire truck he saw, because he can’t abstract a fire truck to “truck plus ladder and siren.” He’s not capable of even that level of abstraction.

    Most times, they’ll both end up at the same result from different sides, but with abstractions, they are night and day.

    • Mycroft Jones says:

      Wow Phelps. Flipping amazing. I’m ashamed that your comment almost overshadows Aeolis original post, because Aeoli did an amazing post. Phelps, have you read about the brain as a Pierce engine? Linkage:

      I knew years ago that Schizophrenia and Autism were opposite ends of a spectrum, and EVERYONE is on that spectrum. Can you read those two links, and relate Aspergers to the Schizo/Autism spectrum as described there? Pretty please?

      • everlastingphelps says:

        I think that if you assume that schizophrenia is from a similar root as autism, it makes sense. I think schizophrenia is also related to the A/B decision making process. When we form a thought, there are two systems at work at the same time. The A system is very fast, and makes almost all of our decisions. It is entirely emotional and intuitive. I think it aligns very closely with the predictive method SSC was talking about. It’s the rhetoric mechanism. The other system, B, is the linear, logical, dialectic decision maker.

        The thing is, for most people most of the time, B is a slave to A. Because A has already decided, B doesn’t make an independent decision. B simply rationalizes what A has already decided emotionally. Once you crack that code, Scott Adams’ “Moist Robot” theory and Master Wizard system makes perfect sense. The Master Wizard only bothers talking to A, because B is going to figure out a way to make A happy.

        That’s the other point I wanted to make — SSC talks about surprise being the normal reaction to predictions (A decisions) being shown false. That isn’t true. Surprise is a reaction, but it isn’t the primary reaction. The primary is cognitive dissonance. “What I just saw/heard/felt wasn’t true.”

        So, spergs and autists. I think that spergs are generally people with very well developed, fairly independant B decision makers. They are people amenable to dialectic, but more importantly, their B decision maker will reliably overrule the A decision maker. This makes them look very logical, even though A can sometimes sneak through and win, especially when they are pressed for time.

        I think that autistics have a severely underdeveloped A decision maker. They seem logical because almost all decisions are being made by B, and B is linear, not predictive. Their B system gets very fast because they rely on it so much, but it is never as fast as A. If you need a B decision, they can reliably get to it, and faster than a normie, but they are hobbled by lacking that snap judgment system.

        • Edenist Whackjob says:

          Most people perform motivated reasoning and are stuck in their maps, resulting in stultified thinking with limited truth-value.

          Equanimity + openness to new map/territory integration == winning.

          • Mycroft Jones says:

            == winning if you don’t trigger the normies around you, who are NOT open to new maps. I guess that was implicit in what you said; after all, you are commenting here and not in some normie forum.

        • Mycroft Jones says:

          I couldn’t tell from your comment, did you read the two links I gave? You were describing things in terms that I couldn’t relate to the language used in those links.

          • everlastingphelps says:

            I read them. They aren’t in paradigms that fit with my knowledge, so they only way I can related to them is to either reconcile them with my paradigm, or discard my paradigm in favor of that one.

            I found many ways in which my paradigm aligns, and no reason to throw out either paradigm.

      • Heaviside says:

        I was reading an account by a person who had a UFOlogical experience, and the way he described his personality changing as a result was very similar to the symptoms of schizophrenia (if not to the same degree). I think it may often be the case that the concept of schizophrenia is just a way to avoid thinking about uncomfortable topics.

        • Mycroft Jones says:

          When your brain can see things that others can’t, it is convenient to throw the label “schizophrenic” around. But there is a big difference between people who CAN see things that others can’t, and schizophrenics, who see things that really aren’t there, generally non-stop, all the time.

    • bicebicebice says:

      Big if true.
      What would happen if you scheduled a moving chair every morning? Can that change the autist into an Autisté? Where do you draw the line of a perfectly natural reaction?

      • everlastingphelps says:

        More likely you turn them into a psychotic vegetable, as they use cognitive dissonance to deny that the world exists at all.

        • bicebicebice says:

          Heh I don’t think I worded my meaning properly.

          What if they make the schedule themselves? One schedule they make is where the chair moves to a position of their choosing at 7 in the morning for a week, the next week the chair moves to a random position of parent/adult/caretaker/whatever choosing, but at the same time, and in both instances you tell them what is going to happen in advance.

          Can this change them into more sort of “normal” if you just give them the answer to anything being that people use different schedules? Isn’t that true in a sense?

          “they use cognitive dissonance to deny that the world exists at all.” yeah well who doesn’t really seeing the absolute state of normietopia.

          • everlastingphelps says:

            “yeah well who doesn’t really seeing the absolute state of normietopia.”

            Now you are starting to grok. It’s cognitive dissonance all the way down for 99% of the population.

            • bicebicebice says:

              “didn’t get the memo” :D

              Guess i’ll have to capture a wild autist and experiment on him myself, reverse josef fritzl.

              cognitive dissonance
              the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change. = S A P E

  2. Akuma says:

    Aspie: “Do need me to do x? If yes, Fuck you pay me! If No, Fuck off and leave me alone!”

    You are far too nice to the Non-Aspies Aeoli. Considering that the fossil record shows that the Aspies are the normal ones there is no need to Quarter the NT or Saps generals in accordance with 4GW Principles. They only resist because their instinctual Gammatude won’t allow them to admit being wrong.

    P.s. When the next final solution comes the higher ranking ones and their quack psychiatrists ought to be beaten with rocks. Give Cain a dose of his own medicine.

  3. Akuma says:

    What if someone were both?

  4. Edenist Whackjob says:

    Meditation will clear a lot of this up – get on it, bro.

    • Akuma says:

      Meditation downregulates the amygdala. In am all white social group and environment it’s great, but I’ve known people to lose the boundary between races due to too much. I used to meditate a total of 2-4 hours a day.

  5. Edenist Whackjob says:

    Lots of good ideas on how accomplish the mission. No need to follow everything he says, but the general gist of coding bootcamp, put up stuff online, go to meetups, is solid advice.

    • Akuma says:

      Aeoli, if you get anything from Whackjob or I it’s this. Also please if you can rent a VPS and break the damn thing. I can tell you from experience many of the Linux admins know nothing.

      • Edenist Whackjob says:

        Getting a VPS and playing around is good advice, do that. Or run Linux in a VM on your own computer if you can’t afford Digital Ocean or whatever.

    • Edenist Whackjob says:

      Aeoli, with your IQ you could have a really attractive hybrid stack of JS ninja and Data Scientist up and running within a year. Now, that’s something that will make the recruiting officer overlook juniority, trust me. Apply Scott Adams talent stack thinking to IT – JS is big trend, AI as well, both == superstimulus to recruiter brain.

  6. Boneflour says:

    Leaky abstraction examples, EZ extreme edition:

    A refrigerator is a place for keeping food cold. Doesn’t matter what food, usually. However, put 17 gallons of hot soup in the fridge and see if you can abstract away “17 gallons of hot soup” into “food”. Whole fridge warms up past safe temperatures.

    You want to build a gaming computer. You hear that you need a motherboard, CPU, a good graphics card, a decent sized hard drive, a computer case, power supply, etc. You get all that and find out nothing plugs in. You had a good sized hard drive, too bad it was an external backup drive. Whoops! You needed a PCI-E graphics card, SATA internal hard drive, a full sized tower case, 700-watt power supply with 400 watts on the 12V rail, and your motherboard needs to support a specific range of chipsets.

  7. Heaviside says:

    There are things which are the opposite of “leaky abstractions”.

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