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One for the timeline

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 5, 2010 1:26 UTC (Sun) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
In reply to: One for the timeline by nix
Parent article: The dark side of open source conferences

Whoa! Nobody here was trying to connect Asperger's or autism with the touching incidents or violent crime. There's no excuse for the folks who do that.


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One for the timeline

Posted Dec 5, 2010 2:56 UTC (Sun) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

"IMO, the kind of men who go in to software engineering suffer a lack of healthy interaction with women who are their peers, and it may be that the high incidence of empathy disorders in our field is involved. "

If you weren't trying to say that the high incidence of empathy disorders in our field was related to a lack of healthy interaction with women who are their peers, and that that has something to do with incidents of sexual harassment or assault at conferences, what were you trying to say? Because that sounds awfully like "We wouldn't have so many problems if it weren't for all the autists".

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 5, 2010 6:01 UTC (Sun) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510) [Link]

If you choose to read something that nasty into my writing, that's your problem. Get therapy.

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 5, 2010 13:54 UTC (Sun) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

I'll admit that I'm not naturally well-disposed towards you, but I'm genuinely having trouble working out any reading of your statement that doesn't imply that autism is part of the problem. What /did/ you mean?

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 5, 2010 20:00 UTC (Sun) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510) [Link]

Sure, we don't get along, Matt, but IMO this one was over the top and an apology might be in order. See my comment here. Essentially I am calling for childhood and early adulthood social education to get over the issue that as a class we may lie lower on a scale of emotional maturity (without having a diagnosable spectrum disorder) and that our social interaction with women, again as a class, may suffer from it.

This is in not any way meant to excuse criminal activity, because you can be expected to know it's wrong action even if you are for some reason disposed to it. But we need to consider why some people grow are becoming that sort of criminal. What are we doing wrong with them as a society?

So, none of this was meant as "get rid of them" or "we'd be better off without them".

Thanks

Bruce

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 5, 2010 21:07 UTC (Sun) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

I'm sorry, I'm really still not seeing it. What does "the high incidence of empathy disorders in our field" mean if it's not referring to autistic spectrum disorders? I just don't understand why you'd bring this up other than to suggest that the problem is related to lack of empathy, despite the evidence being that it's not those lacking empathy who are the problem.

(And that's "Matthew", not "Matt")

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 5, 2010 22:42 UTC (Sun) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510) [Link]

What it means is that as a class we're not on the spectrum but we're probably below the midpoint in empathy. There is some truth in the caricatures of programmers and akiba kei.

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 5, 2010 22:52 UTC (Sun) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

If you weren't referring to diagnosable conditions, then your use of the word "disorder" was inappropriate and misleading and would explain why multiple people have interpreted your writing in a way other than your intended meaning. On the other hand, I'm still really not convinced that lack of empathy has anything to do with the issues discussed in the original article, and I don't think you've done a terribly good job of explaining the relevance.

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 6, 2010 1:12 UTC (Mon) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510) [Link]

"Empathy disorder" doesn't have to be so severe as to be diagnosable as Asperger's or autism. So, it is not necessary for you to go right to the extreme and assume that I mean autism, which I did not write.

Below the level of diagnosable disorder there can be mild deficits, and I suspect that as a class we suffer from mild deficits, organic or as some artifact of upbringing, and that remediation in early education is possible, and that there should be more of it.

Do you have a theory about the mindset and background of the perps? Certainly there is some problem with their socialization if they can objectify a woman.

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 6, 2010 2:11 UTC (Mon) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

Asperger's is a pretty long way from Autism, and it's also pretty much the least life-affecting empathy disorder (other than autistic spectrum disorders, narcissism and psychopathy are in the list as well - but given that there's no evidence they're more widespread in the computing world than elsewhere, you presumably weren't referring to them). Disorder pretty much by definition refers to a diagnosable condition, so it's natural to assume that you're referring to Asperger's or high-functioning Autism.

"Do you have a theory about the mindset and background of the perps? Certainly there is some problem with their socialization if they can objectify a woman."

When women complain about men sexually propositioning them in the middle of a crowded city my first assumption isn't that the men in question are borderline spectrum, it's that society as a whole is pretty bad at enforcing reasonable behaviour standards. I'd be fascinated to see your evidence that these events are more common at open source conferences than at events attended by people who don't fall into the stereotypical "Software developer who's never met a girl" category.

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 6, 2010 4:14 UTC (Mon) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510) [Link]

my first assumption isn't that the men in question are borderline spectrum, it's that society as a whole is pretty bad at enforcing reasonable behaviour standards.

The assumption here is that the only reason people do perform bad behavior is that society does not completely enforce a specific rule against it. It seems to be ignoring the potential of socializing people to act in a moral and equitable fashion even in the absence of the violent compulsion of law.

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 6, 2010 4:30 UTC (Mon) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

...whereas your assumption is that people engage in sexual harassment because they lack empathy? That would be a solid and reasonable position if it weren't contradicted by reality. For the most part people either engage in sexual harassment because they're unaware of strong social prohibitions against it (primarily because there *aren't* strong social prohibitions against it yet), or because they're bad people. An anti-harassment policy means the first group has no excuse, and makes it easier to get rid of the second.

Working with people with empathy disorders to improve their social abilities is a wonderful goal and, having spent a couple of years doing so in the past, I wholeheartedly approve of any effort to do so. I also wholeheartedly approve of work to reduce our society's dependence upon oil. I think they're pretty much equally relevant to the problem that the parent article discusses.

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 6, 2010 6:11 UTC (Mon) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510) [Link]

or because they're bad people.

Right. How do bad people happen? Especially regarding this particular crime, which isn't an economic one. It's not because we don't do a good enough job of enforcing behavioral rules. It's because they get bad parental examples and bad social education.

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 6, 2010 12:56 UTC (Mon) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239) [Link]

You seem to be arguing by assertion rather than citation, but where do empathy disorders come into it?

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 6, 2010 19:48 UTC (Mon) by Zomb (guest, #23391) [Link]

Agreed. While Bruce is mostly right about the social education and the results for the personal skills of many engineers, his conclusion is based purely on correlation. Which is not an appropriate way to find a proof; in fact, it doesn't usually prove anything.

Correlation "analytics" found that computer gaming is the main and only cause of school rampages, or that we need more (sea) pirates in order to get the climate stable again.

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 8, 2010 8:46 UTC (Wed) by k8to (subscriber, #15413) [Link]

Let it go, please.

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 13, 2010 20:39 UTC (Mon) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

How can you tell who is going to be 'in the class of programmers' when very young? (Well, unless you're me, hooked from the age of five. But note: not an abuser, the very thought makes me feel ill. In this I am quite normal, one would hope. Football players, now... ;} )

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 13, 2010 20:33 UTC (Mon) by nix (subscriber, #2304) [Link]

For what it's worth I didn't think you meant that... but it's plain that it could be misread that way, so I clarified as best I could.

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 5, 2010 14:38 UTC (Sun) by paulj (subscriber, #341) [Link]

I also read your comment "it may be that the high incidence of empathy disorders in our field is involved" as implicating at least those with ASD (e.g. there are documented correlations between higher rates of ASD and engineering/science; hence ASD is likely the disorder most people think of in reading your comment). Other commenters in other sub-threads in this article have made similarish remarks.

I'd also be interested if you could clarify your remark. While at the same time rejecting any casual claim (intended or perceived) that ASDers may be more responsible for the sexual abuse (note that this does not mean that no abusers have ASD).

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 5, 2010 19:50 UTC (Sun) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510) [Link]

Sure. If you look in my comments for the action I am calling for, it is childhood and early adulthood social education for healthy interaction between men and women who are peers in age and intellectual development. It is my firm belief that the crimes mentioned in the timeline are not committed by men who have ever learned to have a healthy social peer relationship with women, rather they are coming from men who objectify women, which is an illness brought about (IMO) by poor social education and probably bad parential examples.

I am not saying that the criminals have a diagnosable spectrum disorder. However, I think that as a class men who go in for programming may score lower on a scale of emotional maturity than the general population.

Computer programming, (and I guess science and engineering) provides a world of justice for the adept that does not exist in their human interactions. If you write your program correctly, it works, otherwise it doesn't. This is very attractive to folks who have much more difficulty finding justice in the world around them because their actions in that world do not result in the expected outcomes.

I think that as a class they might need some early remediation. That's all.

Thanks

Bruce

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 6, 2010 9:00 UTC (Mon) by paulj (subscriber, #341) [Link]

Whether you intend it or not, this still sounds like you're referring to ASD, because you're explicitly tying together the emotional disorders that might lead men to abuse women and the disorders that are more prevalent to programming, i.e. ASD.

Again, where is the evidence that these disorders intersect? Given that sexual abuse apparently occurs just as much outside of ASD-biased areas like programming conferences, indeed is likely far *more* prevalent outside (you yourself referenced the tailhook scandal). It's quite possible that, if anything, ASD-biased areas see *less* abuse. The connection you make (at least in the minds of a few readers, and not unreasonably) between abuse and ASD is both less than fully justified and somewhat prejudicial to ASDers, who may not to be blame for any of this.

I agree an ASD-biased area might have other social-interaction issues, that might lead to certain groups being under-represented (e.g. women). But we should be very careful about conflating things...

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 6, 2010 15:57 UTC (Mon) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510) [Link]

Well, the evidence is that these crimes are not committed by people with ASD, their tension level would be so high that they'd avoid the situation. So can you just assume I'm referring to something other than ASD?

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 6, 2010 16:14 UTC (Mon) by paulj (subscriber, #341) [Link]

I might have assumed that, except you explicitly referred to those disorders peculiar to programmers - which would be ASD. Perhaps instead you could avoid that instead? :)


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