Am I people? I tend to think so...


Categories: Personal Autism

So, someone wrote recently to thank me for the blog postings, reminding me that I was doing them. My correspondant commented about people seeing the diagnosis, but not seeing that there’s a person in there.

Is there?

I have no idea. I don’t know what it’s like to be not-me. Maybe what I am is not the same kind of thing that the rest of you are. I can’t see how I could tell. And the thing is… I’m pretty sure the idea of not being of the same category as other people would upset most people. Me, I’m just curious. Neither answer would make me unhappy. As long as people grant that I have the same basic rights that they do, I don’t really care whether they think I’m of their kind or of some fundamentally different kind.

The “person inside” thing gets into a fuzzy boundary. Am I inside? Is there a thing between me and other people, and they can’t see me through it, or is it that they think they can’t see me because they see a thing which is obviously not-like-people, so they assume there’s a more people-like thing which is somehow obscured by it?

I’ve had a lot of trouble with things like this. People who are used to the relative complexity of other humans will look at me, and conclude that I am hiding my True Self from them, because no one is actually this simple. People have hidden motives, and disguise their intent, and so on; if you can’t see the hidden motives, that’s because someone is being exceptionally deceptive, not because they just don’t feel like hiding anything.

This leads to what I have dubbed the Onion Problem: People who try to peel away all the layers to find the onion. They run out of layers, and conclude that there is no onion, or that someone stole the onion. But wait; onions are made of layers. When people try to get past the outer “layer” of my behavior to figure out what’s inside it, they get confused, or angry, or otherwise fail to find what they’re looking for. Actually, it’s just me; I really am that shallow. I don’t have particularly great hidden depths; I don’t hide my state, I just don’t always see any reason to discuss it. There isn’t anything else.

Sure, sometimes I have complicated or multifaceted goals. I’ll usually explain them to avoid confusion. I’ll just tell people straight up “I am curious about and trying to learn about how people think, could you answer some questions for me?” It’s a non-trivial effort for me to ask the questions first.

So far as I can tell, I’m people; I’m just a very simple people, without a lot of the complexity and overhead that makes other people work. But for all I know, that’s actually a kind of not-people, and that complexity is really what makes people “real” people. In which case, I guess I’m a not-people which happens to be similar enough to pass most of the time. Later, when we have finished taking over your world, television will be a lot different.

Comments [archived]

From: Dave Leppik
Date: 2011-05-31 15:31:19 -0500

I wouldn’t call you simple. I’d call you differently complicated. :-)