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One for the timeline

One for the timeline

Posted Dec 5, 2010 21:07 UTC (Sun) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
In reply to: One for the timeline by BrucePerens
Parent article: The dark side of open source conferences

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")


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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.


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